CC BC NC ND 2.0 Petri Damstén / Flickr. Some rights reserved

A recent scandal over a scientific article once again raises thorny issues of who produces expert knowledge — and why.

A new academic paper claims to have identified a correlation between the body-mass index of post-Soviet officials and political corruption. Some people find it amusing, yet this kind of research is not only misguided, but also harmful.

Last month, an academic journal, Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, published an article “Obesity of politicians and corruption in post‐Soviet countries”. The article claims to identify a useful relationship between the body-mass index of politicians in post-Soviet states and political corruption. …

At 34, I have a congenital ventricular septal heart defect that has not been operated on. There is a tiny hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of my heart. It doesn’t bother me too much except that it keeps me aware of my mortality.

Displaced by war from Luhansk in 2014, I have since lived in different places in Ukraine, UK, and Germany. I am currently a visiting scholar at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

When I was sixteen, the senior surgeon of the major clinic in the Luhansk province told my parents and me that without…

An Anarchist Perspective

Lecture Hall. Flickr

The university is a hierarchical institution that protects the elites by awarding them cultural capital and whitewashing their reputation. It upholds existing inequalities and indoctrinates students into the reigning ideology. Universities serve the vested interests of the state, corporations and wealthy donors. They control and distribute knowledge in ways that empower the rich to get richer.

Hierarchy is baked into the structure and mission of the university. The elites go to university in order to distinguish themselves from ordinary folks.

The university provides formal education that helps run the system and extend its life. It inculcates entitlement and defines the…

Urbex — Power Plant Elettricita (IT) by Raphael Panhuber/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

On social media, I have recently come across an ‘anti-capitalist love note’, reassuring its readers that they are much more than their productivity. This criticism of economic output as a measure of human worth will strike a chord with many people. Material production influences the kind of person you are, but it does not justify or invalidate your existence. No capitalist accounting can do justice to being human. You need no reason or apology for living life in freedom, and productivity is not your friend.

The cult of productivity has led to extensive damage and misery, as those who enthusiastically…

One of the reasons why anarchists are seen as a self-absorbed bunch is that they do not trust the idea of political representation. The media and the powers that be create an illusion that the majority of population are deeply invested in elections and keen to cast their vote for a candidate or a party that would “defend” their interests. Since there is a belief that a liberal democracy empowers its citizens through representation, anarchism is dismissed as an antisocial perspective. This seems to be wrong since it disenfranchises the electorate and widens a rift between state institutions and the…

Library. Flickr

In academia, peer-reviewed publications are a coveted achievement. To publish a scholarly article, researchers submit their work to established journals whose professional editors first check whether the manuscript meets the basic requirements of the journal and then forward it to peers who can provide expert feedback and assess the quality of research in question. Most peer review is “double blind,” which means that the author does not know who is reviewing their work, and the readers do not know the author. This anonymity is supposed to ensure impartial judgment.

In the carnival culture of online voyeurism, however, everything sacred eventually…

Why the Body Both Helps and Hinders Our Understanding of the World

Photo by William Warby/Flickr

In Phenomenology of Perception (1945), Maurice Merleau-Ponty argued that we are our bodies. [1] Today embodiment is one of the key ideas in cognitive psychology. From this perspective, sensory impressions, emotions and even abstract thoughts are the product of the body. The mind is part of the body. In its turn, the body interacts with its environment and cannot be abstracted from the world in which it is situated. All meaning emerges through the interaction between the body and its environment. Merleau-Ponty suggests that we make sense ‘by being this body and this situation’ (p. 525).

There is a curious…

Sarah Vaughan by William P Gottlieb. Courtesy Wikipedia

To make sense of human voices, we rely on senses beyond hearing. The songs of Taylor Swift can be sweet and soft. Lady Gaga’s singing feels dark. Johnny Cash’s voice was low and rough. That’s because voice is not just sound: it can be seen and heard, but also tasted and touched. The sound we hear in voice creates ‘multisensory images’ — drawing in perceptions from many senses, not just one.

The phenomenon of multisensory perception can help us to understand why we assign metaphorical properties of softness, roughness or depth to voice. Think of a politician whose voice is…

In analytic philosophy, any meaning can be expressed in language. In his book Expression and Meaning (1979), UC Berkeley philosopher John Searle calls this idea ‘the principle of expressibility, the principle that whatever can be meant can be said’. Moreover, in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), Ludwig Wittgenstein suggests that ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’.

Outside the hermetically sealed field of logical positivism, the limits of natural language when it comes to meaning-making have long been recognised in both the arts and sciences. Psychology and linguistics acknowledge that language is not a perfect medium. It…

Pavlo Shopin

English lecturer at the Pedagogical Dragomanov University; language teacher and translator

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