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Fri, 21 Jan 2022
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How the untimely death of RG Collingwood changed the course of philosophy forever

RG Collingwood philosphy
© Nation Portrait Gallery, London. Painting Cortesy Teresa Smith
Robin George Collingwood, philosopher (1889 - 1943)
In the 20th century an unfortunate gulf opened up in philosophy between the "continental" and "analytic" schools. Even if you've never studied the subject, you might well have heard of this one split. But as the British moral philosopher Bernard Williams once pointed out, the very characterisation of this gulf is odd — one school being characterised by its qualities, the other geographically, like dividing cars between four-wheel drive models and those made in Japan.

Unsurprisingly, no one has come up with a satisfactory way of drawing the line between them. Broadly speaking, however, one can say that the continental school has its roots in the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, and encompasses a range of diverse traditions, including the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre, the structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure, the postmodernism of Jean-François Lyotard and the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida. The analytic school, meanwhile, has its roots in the work of Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein and has been until fairly recently much more narrowly focused, concentrating mainly on logic and language.

Comment: More on this remarkable thinker: MindMatters: The Triumph of Irrationalism and the Death of Metaphysics

Red Flag

As a former US intelligence officer, I see a red flag in the CIA's latest anti-Russia playbook

© Washington Post
Reports that the CIA is running training programs to prepare Ukrainian forces for unconventional warfare bear an uncanny similarity to a long-exposed Cold War-era project. If history is any judge, it is likely to end the same way.

A tranche of allegations recently published in the press, ostensibly sourced to "five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative," claims that America's top spy agency has been, since 2015, conducting training for select Ukrainian military and security personnel. According to the speculation, the program aims to develop skillsets associated with unconventional warfare (UW), a form of conflict often referred to as insurgency. These reports say that the training takes place in the US, and is overseen by the CIA's paramilitary arm, the Special Activities Division.

An unconventional approach

The Department of Defense defines UW as:
"activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt or overthrow an occupying power or government by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary or guerrilla force in a denied area."
The term 'guerrilla force' is further defined as:
"a group of irregular, predominantly indigenous personnel organized along military lines to conduct military and paramilitary operations in enemy-held, hostile, or denied territory."


Metal plate inserted into 2,000 year-old Peruvian warrior's skull may be oldest evidence of surgery

closeup skull surgery elongated peru
© Museum of Osteology
Silver and gold were typically used for this type of procedure,' a spokesperson for the SKELETONS: Museum of Osteology exhibit told the Daily Star
The 2,000 year old skull of a Peruvian warrior was found to have been fused together with metal in one of the world's oldest examples of advanced surgery, according to a museum.

The Museum of Osteology in Oklahoma says the skull, which is in its collection, is reported to have been that of a man who was injured during battle before having some of the earliest forms of surgery to implant a piece of metal in his head to repair the fracture.

Experts told the Daily Star that the man survived the surgery, with the skull now a key piece of evidence in proving that ancient peoples were capable of performing advanced surgeries.



Early hominid in China had biggest known brain of the time

Homo remains from Xujiayao, Shanxi, China
© Wikimedia Org
Homo remains from Xujiayao, Shanxi, China
BEIJING -- A study showed that the ancient relatives of modern humans in northern China may have had an "Einstein's brain" at the time they lived 200,000 to 160,000 years ago.

An international team led by Chinese archaeologists found that the cranial capacity of this hominin reached 1,700 cubic centimeters, an estimate made on the basis of skull fossils excavated in the 1970s from Xujiayao site.

"It is the largest big-headed hominin ever in the Middle Pleistocene," said Wu Xiujie, a researcher at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Wu's team reconstructed a fairly complete posterior cranium with three fragmented bones from the same young adult.

Xujiayao hominid's brain was slightly smaller than that of its close relative "Xuchang Man," estimated at about 1,800 cubic centimeters, but the former lived approximately 60,000 years earlier than the latter, according to the study published in the latest volume of Journal of Human Evolution.

Treasure Chest

2,000-year-old Celtic hoard of gold 'rainbow cups' discovered in Germany

Celtic coins
© M. Pilekić/MWFK montage
A selection of the 41 Celtic coins discovered in Brandenburg, Germany.
A volunteer archaeologist has discovered an ancient stash of Celtic coins, whose "value must have been immense," in Brandenburg, a state in northeastern Germany.

The 41 gold coins were minted more than 2,000 years ago, and are the first known Celtic gold treasure in Brandenburg, Manja Schüle, the Minister of Culture in Brandenburg announced in December 2021.

The coins are curved, a feature that inspired the German name "regenbogenschüsselchen," which translates to "rainbow cups." Just like the legend that there's a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, "in popular belief, rainbow cups were found where a rainbow touched the Earth," Marjanko Pilekić, a numismatist and research assistant at the Coin Cabinet of the Schloss Friedenstein Gotha Foundation in Germany, who studied the hoard, told Live Science in an email.

Comment: See: And check out SOTT radio's: MindMatters: America Before: Comets, Catastrophes, Mounds and Mythology


Pathologizing politics: The difference between pathocracy studies and the F-scale

Cartoon culturalmarxism
© twitter
In the maiden post to this substack I acknowledged a real danger of studying pathocracy, against which one had to be vigilant: the convenient confirmation bias of using the psychopath label to pathologize and stigmatize one's political rivals. Toward clearing some conceptual underbrush, in this regard, it would be useful to contrast pathocracy studies, as discussed here, with an earlier effort - aimed precisely at pathologizing political rivals. For, a genuinely impartial observer might well ask: what is the difference between the pathocracy illuminating ambitions of this substack, and related intellectual efforts, and the pathologizing of political rivals, under the rubric of the authoritarian personality research, as conducted by the Frankfurt School in the U.S. in the aftermath of WWII?

For those unfamiliar with this chapter in intellectual history, the Frankfurt School (sometimes called cultural Marxists, though consciousness Marxists, might be more accurate1), which had fled Germany following the rise of Hitler, eventually landed in America as Jewish refugees. They were quite careful, even during the U.S. alliance with Stalin, to not make a great display of their Marxism. As their institutional biographer Martin Jay noted, "critical theory" became their in-group code-word for Marxism.2 In the aftermath of the war, they undertook an extended study of what they characterized as the authoritarian personality, the most famous manifestation of which was the book published in 1950 by leading Frankfurt thinker, Theodor Adorno, going by the same name.3


Rare African script holds clues to the evolution of writing

Writing evolves to become simpler and more efficient, according to a new study based on the analysis of an isolated West African writing system.

Vai Script
© The image was used with permission from the first page of MS17817 from the British Library
Scan of Via script from https://digitalorientalist.com/2019/09/10/encountering-the-vai-script.
The world's very first invention of writing took place over 5000 years ago in the Middle East, before it was reinvented in China and Central America. Today, almost all human activities — from education to political systems and computer code — rely on this technology.

But despite its impact on daily life, we know little about how writing evolved in its earliest years. With so few sites of origin, the first traces of writing are fragmentary or missing altogether.

In a study just published in Current Anthropology, a team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, showed that writing very quickly becomes 'compressed' for efficient reading and writing.

To arrive at this insight they turned to a rare African writing system that has fascinated outsiders since the early 19th century.


Extremely rare 2000-year-old wooden figure unearthed in a Buckinghamshire ditch

wooden figure
© HS2
Rare Roman wooden figure uncovered by HS2 archaeologists in Buckinghamshire.
An extremely rare, carved wooden figure from the early Roman era has been discovered in a waterlogged ditch during work on the HS2 project.

The discovery was made by experts from Infra Archaeology, working for HS2's contractor Fusion JV.

The 67cm tall statue is made of a single piece of wood. Given its age and substance, archaeologists said its preservation was "amazing," but the absence of oxygen in the ditch helped prevent decay over many generations.

The style of the carving and the tunic-like clothing suggests the figure could date from the early Roman period almost 2,000 years ago.

Comment: See also:


Earliest human remains in eastern Africa dated to more than 230,000 years ago

Omo-Kibish geological formation
© Céline Vidal
A view of the Omo-Kibish geological formation in southwestern Ethiopia.
The age of the oldest fossils in eastern Africa widely recognised as representing our species, Homo sapiens, has long been uncertain. Now, dating of a massive volcanic eruption in Ethiopia reveals they are much older than previously thought.

The remains - known as Omo I - were found in Ethiopia in the late 1960s, and scientists have been attempting to date them precisely ever since, by using the chemical fingerprints of volcanic ash layers found above and below the sediments in which the fossils were found.

An international team of scientists, led by the University of Cambridge, has reassessed the age of the Omo I remains - and Homo sapiens as a species. Earlier attempts to date the fossils suggested they were less than 200,000 years old, but the new research shows they must be older than a colossal volcanic eruption that took place 230,000 years ago. The results are reported in the journal Nature.

The Omo I remains were found in the Omo Kibish Formation in southwestern Ethiopia, within the East African Rift valley. The region is an area of high volcanic activity, and a rich source of early human remains and artefacts such as stone tools. By dating the layers of volcanic ash above and below where archaeological and fossil materials are found, scientists identified Omo I as the earliest evidence of our species, Homo sapiens.


Mysterious ancient tombs reveal 4,500-year-old highway network in north-west Arabia

Ancient Tomb
© Bahrain News Agency
Madinah - (BNA): Archaeologists, affiliated to the University of Western Australia (UWA), have determined that the people who lived in ancient north-west Arabia have built long-distance 'funerary avenues', major pathways flanked by thousands of burial monuments that linked oases and pastures.

The findings suggest a high degree of social and economic connection between the region's populations in the third millennium BC, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The publication of the findings in The Holocene the journal caps a year of tremendous progress by the UWA team, working under the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), in shedding light on the lives of the ancient inhabitants of Arabia.

The existence of the funerary avenues suggests that complex social horizons existed 4,500 years ago across a huge swathe of the Arabian Peninsula. The findings add to the steady progress by archaeologists working under the auspices of RCU in understanding the hidden story of the ancient kingdoms and earlier societies of north Arabia.

The UWA team's work is part of a wider effort that includes 13 archaeological and conservation project teams from around the world collaborating with Saudi experts in AlUla and neighbouring Khaybar counties in Saudi Arabia.

Amr Al-Madani, CEO of RCU, said: "The more we learn about the ancient inhabitants of north-west Arabia, the more we are inspired by the way our mission reflects their mindset: they lived in harmony with nature, honoured their predecessors, and reached out to the wider world. The work done by our archaeological teams in 2021 demonstrates that Saudi Arabia is a home for top-flight science - and we look forward to hosting more research teams in 2022."