Epistemology of truth Reading and Thinking

Should we cancel Picasso? If the New Puritans have their way, nothing will be left except the ignorance with which they started


1) Alex Needham (Compiled by), ‘Notoriously cruel’: should we cancel Picasso? Collectors, artists, critics and curators decide; He was the 20th century’s most influential artist – but he was also a monstrous misogynist. On the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death, we ask: is it time to mothball the master?” The Guardian, April 7, 2023 (14:50 BST);)

2) “Picasso was a genius—and a beast. Can the two be separated? It’s the wrong question to ask, says “Monsters”, a provocative new book by Claire Dederer,” The Economist, April 5, 2023;

Picasso by all accounts would be viewed as a sexual predator today. Should he be canceled?

The New Stalinists would comb through history and cancel all the people who don’t measure up to their high (21st century) moral standards, and who are the objects of their self-righteous contempt.

The phenomenon is not new in history.

In fact, history reveals where this misguided impulse to control the thoughts of others can lead. George Orwell’s Nineteen-eighty-four highlighted the mindset of those who would control what others think.

What, we can imagine, do the New Stalinists know of history?

George Santayana described the problem succinctly:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Of course you can never remember what you have never learned. Or, in the words of San Francisco’s legendary columnist, Herb Caen, “You can never return to where you have never been.”

If the New Stalinists succeed in cleansing our history of offensive people and offensive facts, what will be left?

We can look to Soviet and Russian history, and now “Putin’s Russian history”, for suggestive examples. Stalin’s crimes are erased. Those who documented Stalin’s crimes, like the Russian NGO “Memorial”, are banned.

There is a lot to be learned from history.

If we don’t learn and repeat past mistakes, we should  at least bear in mind another quote from Santayana:

“A country without a memory is a country of madmen.”

The Spirit of Voltaire

By James Rowles

James Rowles is a writer, teacher, international lawyer, and international development expert.

He is particularly interested in the Epistemology of Truth, and how mass propaganda, social media, and other phenomena shape the nature of consciousness and the ascertainment of facts in the world today.

James holds an undergraduate degree in History (Modern Europe) and law degrees from Stanford University, and a Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) in International Law from Harvard Law School, where he has also taught as a Lecturer on Law.

James is a polyglot, who speaks fluent French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish, and also knows other languages. His regular if not daily reading includes U.S. newspapers, the Guardian, die Welt, Le Monde, El País, and Veja.

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