Walter Benjamin –

Staden är realiserandet av mänsklighetens gamla dröm om labyrinten. Flanören utforskar utan att veta om det denna realitet.

Flanören intimt förknippad med Charles Baudelaires poesi fascinerar Benjamin och intar en central plats i passage arbetet. Flanören är en rotlös människa som älskar att villa bort sig på gatorna och låta sig ledas av tillfälligheter och söka efter hemliga platser. Genom detta förtroliga umgänge med tingen får han ett särskilt intimt förhållande till den moderna miljön, så här beskriver Benjamin honom.

Men de stora reminiscenser, den historiska frossbrytningen, de är småsaker som han flanören överlåter åt den resande som tror sig kunna angripa platsens skyddsande med ett militäriskt lösenord. Vår vän får tiga när hans steg närmar sig har platsen redan blivit livlig, stumt, själlöst, ger dess blotta närhet honom tecken och anvisningar. Han står framför Notre Dame de Lorette och hans skosulor minns, här är platsen där man tidigare spände extra hästen, le cheval de reinforce, framför omnibussen som färdades upp för Rue de Martyr mot Montmartre. Fortfarande skulle han ofta vilja ge hela sitt vetande för Balzacs eller Gavarni hemvist, för platsen där ett överfall ägt rum eller en barrikad rests, för vittringen av en tröskel eller känselmedvetandet av en stenplatta, såsom första bästa sällskapshund bär de med sig.




Exhibition: Rebeldía de Nobel

The photographer Kim Manresa is based in Barcelona and works in a documentary style with a strong social commitment. In his reports he often follows people that fight for themselves or for others. For more than a decade, Manresa has together with the journalist Xavi Ayén interviewed Nobel Laureates in Literature about their social egagement, which resulted in the book Rebeldía de Nobel. These stories make the basis for this exhibition.

What is a literary rebellion? Can literature change the world? To read and write is a slow pursuit, and often a solitary one. Still reading and writing are often seen as something threatening. Texts have been censored and banned, authors have been threatened, persecuted and even imprisoned for what they write.

In the photo exhibition Literary Rebellion, twelve Nobel Laureates in Literature are depcited in the Spanish photographer Kim Manresa’s gripping and beautiful images. The authors have in different ways used their writing as a way to question, create change and make resistance. Through their literature, they have in different ways worked to create and maintain spaces for the free word.

In the exhibit we ask ourselves how the power of literature to change the world can be expressed in individual authorships, and show examples of authors that have been noted for their ability to jolt their readers. Their ways of writing and acting as authors have had different consequences depending on their societies; some have been forced to write from exile.

Some examples are seemingly more obvious, like Svetlana Alexievich or Herta Müller, but others are more harmless at a first glance. The everyday and sometimes humourous poetry of Wisława Szymborskas can appear far from resistance and rebellion, but expresses an ideal of freedom that fends away totalitarian ideologies.


Richard H. Thaler – Nobel Prize Banquet Speech 2017

Your Majesties, your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, dear laureates, ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank everyone that made this prize possible. It is truly humbling to join the astonishing list of prior laureates.

My feelings of insecurity are compounded by the invidious comparisons with this year’s fellow laureates. Discoveries of colliding black holes, genes that know the time of day, and images of biomolecules at the atomic level using ”cryo-electron microscopy” are rather daunting.

So what did I discover to get up here? I discovered the presence of human life in a place where economists thought it did not exist: the economy.

You might think this to be a rather obvious observation. Customers are human and so are employees. Indeed, even CEOs are usually human. How could economists have missed this?

Of course, economists do engage with other humans on a regular basis, and often find their behavior to be deeply flawed. At economist dinner parties one can often hear them ridiculing the flawed economic choices made by their spouses, Deans, students, political leaders, and even members of the Economics Nobel Prize committee. But these decision making flaws did not make their way into economic theories.

Instead, economic models were populated with ”agents.” These economic agents behave more like robots than humans. They solve problems like a super computer, have the willpower of saint, are free of emotion, and have little regard for their fellow agents. The technical term for these folks is homo economicus but I like to call them Econs.

Over the past 40 years, along with many colleagues, I have been trying to figure out how to do economics with Humans instead of Econs. We Humans are absent minded, a bit over weight, we procrastinate about saving for retirement, and – crucially – we are influenced by many supposedly irrelevant factors: how questions are phrased, what happened yesterday, what’s the default.

To be sure, we still need traditional economic theories. But to make accurate predictions we need to enrich those models by adding insights from other social sciences. Incorporating human behavior into economic models improves the accuracy of economics, just as ”cryo-electron microscopy” improves the resolution of images in biochemistry.

Once we acknowledge that humans are fallible creatures, we can ask how to help them make better decisions. As Cass Sunstein and I have argued, we can often do so via simple nudges that point people in the right direction, but don’t force people to do anything.

We need these helpful nudges now more than ever. Consider the most important economic issues facing the world such as climate change; health care; an aging population; half the world in poverty; xenophobia; and threats to world peace. Each of these problems is, at its heart, about the behavior of humans.

But in these times when all news seems to be bad – or fake – I can report on progress. Around the world, governments and NGOs are working with behavioral scientists to design and test scientifically informed interventions and the nudges are working! People are being helped to save more for retirement, more poor kids (and especially girls) are going to school and are getting free lunches without being stigmatized, peasant farmers are getting more reliable harvests, and all of us are being successfully nudged to use less energy. And we are only getting started!

So I would like to end with a simple toast. This is phrase I write when asked to sign books. It is simple idea, but an important one, because we are only human.

[End of manuscript]

So I would like to end this with the toast I promised, using a phrase I write when I am asked to sign books. That phrase which is meant as a plea is ‘Nudge for good’. To night we will modify that phrase to honour Alfred Nobel. So, please raise your glasses and join with me in a toast – in the proper Swedish manner of course – no clinking:

Nudge  for the greatest benefit of mankind!

Thank you.

[End of transcript, as per video stream at SVT Swedish Public Broadcasting]

Bertrand Russell – My Religious Reminiscences, Essays

The intellectual temper of the ’nineties was very different from that of my father’s youth: in some ways better, but in many ways worse. There was no longer, among the abler young men, any preoccupation with the details of the Christian faith; they were almost all Agnostics, and not interested in discussions as to the divinity of Christ, or in the details of Biblical criticism. I remember a feeling of contempt when I learned that Henry Sidgwick as a young man, being desirous of knowing whether God exists, thought it neces- sary, as a first step, to learn Semitic languages, which seemed to me to show an insufficient sense of logical relevance. But I was willing, as were most of my friends, to listen to a metaphysical argument for or against God or immortality or free will; and it was only after acquiring a new logic that I ceased to think such arguments worth examining.

The non-academic heroes of the ’nineties—Ibsen, Strindberg, Nietzsche, and (for a time) Oscar Wilde—differed very greatly from those of the previ- ous generation. The great men of the ’sixties were all ‘good’ men: they were patient, painstaking, in favour of change only when a detailed and careful investigation had persuaded them that it was necessary in some particular respect. They advocated reforms, and in general their advocacy was success- ful, so that the world improved very fast; but their temper was not that of rebels. I do not mean that no great rebels existed; Marx and Dostoievsky, to mention only two, did most of their best work in the ’sixties. But these men were almost unknown among cultured people in their own day, and their influence belongs to a much later date. The men who commanded respect in England in the ’sixties—Darwin, Huxley, Newman, the authors of Essays and Reviews, etc.—were not fundamentally at war with society; they could meet, as they did in the ‘Metaphysical Society’, to discuss urbanely whether there is a God. At the end they divided; and Sir Mountstuart Grant Duff, on being asked afterwards whether there is a God, replied: ‘Yes, we had a very good majority.’ In those days democracy ruled even over Heaven.

But in the ’nineties young men desired something more sweeping and passionate, more bold and less bland. The impulse towards destruction and violence which has swept over the world began in the sphere of literature. Ibsen, Strindberg, and Nietzsche were angry men—not primarily angry about this or that, but just angry. And so they each found an outlook on life that justified anger. The young admired their passion, and found in it an outlet for their own feelings of revolt against parental authority. The assertion of freedom seemed sufficiently noble to justify violence; the violence duly ensued, but freedom was lost in the process.

(The Rationalist Annual, 1938, published by C. A. Watts & Co., Ltd.)

Bertand Russell – My mental development (Cambridge)

Cambridge opened to me a new world of infinite delight. For the first time I found that, when I uttered my thoughts, they seemed to be accepted as worth considering. Whitehead, who had examined me for entrance scholar- ships, had mentioned me to various people a year or two senior to me, with the result that within a week I met a number who became my life-long friends. Whitehead, who was already a Fellow and Lecturer, was amazingly kind, but was too much my senior to be a close personal friend until some years later. I found a group of contemporaries, who were able, rather earnest, hard-working, but interested in many things outside their academic work— poetry, philosophy, politics, ethics, indeed the whole world of mental adven- ture. We used to stay up discussing till very late on Saturday nights, meet for a late breakfast on Sunday, and then go for an all-day walk. Able young men had not yet adopted the pose of cynical superiority which came in some years later, and was first made fashionable in Cambridge by Lytton Strachey. The world seemed hopeful and solid; we all felt convinced that nineteenth- century progress would continue, and that we ourselves should be able to contribute something of value. For those who have been young since 1914 it must be difficult to imagine the happiness of those days. Continue reading ”Bertand Russell – My mental development (Cambridge)”

Bertnard Russell – My mental development (reading, speak thoughts)

During these years I read widely, but as my reading was not directed, much of it was futile. I read much bad poetry, especially Tennyson and Byron; at last, at the age of seventeen, I came upon Shelley, whom no one had told me about. He remained for many years the man I loved most among great men of the past. I read a great deal of Carlyle, and admired Past and Present, but not Sartor Resartus. ‘The Everlasting Yea’ seemed to me sentimental nonsense. The man with whom I most nearly agreed was Mill. His Political Economy, Liberty, and Subjection of Women influenced me profoundly. I made elaborate notes on the whole of his Logic, but could not accept his theory that mathematical propositions are empirical generalizations, though I did not know what else they could be.

All this was before I went to Cambridge. Except during the three months when I had the Agnostic tutor mentioned above, I found no one to speak to about my thoughts. At home I concealed my religious doubts. Once I said that I was a Utilitarian, but was met with such a blast of ridicule that I never again spoke of my opinions at home.