Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Paris Revisited

As I wrote in the entry after this one, the attack on Paris by the Islamic State was an attack on Thinking itself. Paris is a city of philosophy and humanism. Since my first stay there in 1970 I have been in love with this city and its cafes. Here is what I wrote 5 years ago about Paris...


Notre Dame
Photo by Jack

We love Paris in the Springtime, having enjoyed two merry months of May here in 1993 and 1995. We also spent a hot August, 1998 visiting Amy between stays in Amsterdam and Belgium. We visited Paris again with Mom for Thanksgiving, 1999, having dinner with Amy at Les Bookinistes; and visiting the Louvre. On our first visit we stayed on the Right Bank with the Killian brothers, took in the haunts of cemeteries where Chopin, Balzac, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison are buried, and experienced the leisure of afternoon and evening cafe life. We also attended the French Open at Roland Garros once as guests of Lindsay Lee, who played three rounds of tennis qualifiers before losing to rising sensation Amelie Mauresmo. In 1995 we stayed first at the Boileau near the Bois de B. When Darryl returned to the U.S., Jack moved to the Hotel Unic on Rue du Montparnasse to enjoy all the pleasures of the Left Bank, including strolls through the Luxembourg Gardens, followed by a trip to Annecy and the French Alps.

Some of our favorite places:

Les Deux Magots

Where: 170 blvd, St Germain, 6th

Métro stop: St-Germain-des-Prés.

Open: 8h - 02h Daily; closed second week of January. Named after the two wooden statues (the two magots) which still dominate the room, Les Deux Magots is one the most famous cafés in Paris. Jean-Paul Sartre, and Hemingway were both patrons in an earlier era. Its rival - Café de Flore - is just next door.

Musée d'Orsay

Place Des Vosges
Panorama of the square (collage). A large version of the panorama is also available.

Le Marais

Les Archives Nationales
A typical street of the Marais district

Get a good start with morning croissants from the local bakery
In just a few words :
The Marais is one of the most ancient and picturesque parts of Paris, characterized by its unique 17th century buildings and elegant stores and restaurants. For visitors who wish to explore Paris on foot, this is an excellent point from which to do so, for the marvellous Marais district includes the Place des Vosges, Picasso Museum, Carnavalet Museum, Hotel de Ville and of course the Louvre.

Neighborhood description:
The Marais, situated on the Right Bank in roughly the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements, was once a marshland and is a quartier which has retained many of its tiny streets and hints at how old Paris looked. This area was once a centre of high culture.
The center of the Marais, this is a lively neighborhood with a strong alternative lifestyle scene as well as lots of trendy bars, shops, and restaurants. The rue des Rosiers is a centerpiece of Jewish lifestyle in Paris and the Ile St. Louis and the Ile de la Cité are the oldest parts of Paris.
Undoubtedly one of the most picturesque districts, the Marais a wonderful place to stroll. Fashionable bars, shops and restaurants line the streets.
Here you will find the lovely Square Place des Voges, built by Henry IV. From 1832-48 Victor Hugo lived at a house at No 6, which has now been turned into a municipal museum. Today, the arcades around the place are occupied by expensive galleries and shops, and cafés filled with people drinking little cups of coffee and air-kissing immaculate passersby.
A sweeter, quieter extension of the ancient Marais neighborhood which is centered in the 4th, the 3rd is possibly one of the best places to live in Paris.
There are several good open air markets, a gigantic covered flea market, and lots of great speciality food stores, especially along rue de Bretagne.
The main focus for contemporary art in France is also in this part of town, at the Pompidou Centre. The Pompidou Centre, also known simply as Beaubourg, is all about modern and contemporary 20th-century art. Thanks in part to its vigorous schedule of temporary exhibitions, it has become the most visited cultural site in Paris.The design of the Pompidou has drawn critical comment since construction began in 1972. To keep the exhibition halls uncluttered, the architects put the building's 'insides' on the outside, with each duct, pipe and vent painted its own telltale colour: elevators and escalators are red, electrical circuitry yellow, plumbing green and air-conditioning blue.
The museums of the 3rd are among the best anywhere, including the Musée Picasso which contains both the master's works and his collections, and the almost undefinable Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers which has on display the first prototypes of almost every important invention, including the first monoplane, numerous artifacts from the creation of the Statue of Liberty, and of course, Foucault's Pendulum. 
The Musée Carnavalet offers the visitor a large collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, prints and decorative arts on the history of Paris since its origins to the present time. Since 1989, the Musée Carnavalet has been considerably enlarged by the addition of the Hôtel Le Pelletier de Saint-Fargeau, the vast 17th century residence situated at 29 rue de Sévigné presenting the major collections devoted to the revolutionary period as well as works from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Within walking distance:
- Place des Vosges
- Picasso Museum
- Carnavallet Museum
- Hotel de Ville
- Louvre Museum
- Beaubourg Center
Under the archs of the Places des Vosges
Open air Markets :
Marché Enfants rouges 
39 rue de Bretagne.
From Tuesday to Saturday form 8.00 am to 1.00 pm and from 4.00 pm to 7.30 pm (up to 8.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays)
Sunday from 8.00 am to 2.00 pm
Metro : Filles-du-Calvaire
Marché Baudoyer
Place Baudoyer
Wednesday from 3.00 pm to 8.00 pm,

Saturday from 7.00 am to 3.00 pm
Metro : Hôtel-de-Ville

- Clothes market 
Carreau du Temple - Rue Perrée
Tuesday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm
Sunday from 9 am to 12 am
Metro : Temple or Arts et Metiers 

The Marché des Enfants Rouges

The Pompidou Center / Beaubourg

The Picasso Museum
Good to know before you go
Shops everywhere take all the major credit cards: Visa, EuroCard, MasterCard, American Express. At each transaction, the sales person must give you a receipt which you should keep safely. Only cheques drawn on French banks will be accepted and generally proof of identity is requested. You can also pay in euros of course, although it is best to avoid the larger denomination banknotes.
Museum opening times:
As a rule, museums are open from 9 or 10am until 5 or 6pm. Others open later and close at 8 or 9pm. Closing day is most usually Monday or Tuesday, with a few exceptions. Some are even open 7 days a week, such as some of the major monuments which can even be visited as late as 11pm or midnight.
Don't forget too that on public holidays many museums and monuments are closed. It's a good idea to check beforehand.
In France all prices include service and taxes, with approximately 15% of the price corresponding to the service. However, if the waiter or waitress has been especially attentive, you can leave him or her a tip to show your appreciation. Around 5 to 10% of the bill is usual.
Events in Paris: There are 3 specialist magazines that relay the full list of what's on in Paris in French. They are on sale every Wednesday in all newspaper kiosks and newsagents': Pariscope ,L'Officiel des spectacles and Zurban . For English-speakers, tryTime Out .

The Carnavalet Museum

One of the numerous art galleries of the Marais district

Some of our photos from stays in Paris:

See also:

Paris.Org and



Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Attack on Thinking

Yesterday's attack on Paris was an attack on thinking and reason. It was an attack on the ideas of the Enlightenment; an attack on Voltaire, on Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; an attack on philosophy.

Religious fanaticism has always despised reason and the intellect. What religion demands is unquestioning faith. Whenever one examines the details of laws and tenets of religions, often established centuries ago, the result is awareness of absurdity, or at least that such laws that are no longer meaningful or reasonable. The laws of most religions are a product of their times, of the prejudices  or the hardships of the culture in which they were written. 

Of course, Marx was correct in his assessment of how religion came to be the tool of people in power to consolidate their authority. Promise people a happy afterlife and they will suffer gladly to increase the power of your state. Rulers luxuriate in the devoted work of their citizens who believe the state religion. Illusion is a persuasive elixir.  

As many religions now ignore the unreasonable and absurd laws of their sacred texts, religious fanaticism with its insistence on the letter of religious law appears mad. We think those who practice such fundamentalism are out of touch with reality, psychopaths, fools. Yet, especially in the case of fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist Christianity, both of which seek to control those outside of the religion, extremism is becoming more pronounced and widespread. In the U.S. presidential candidates like Marco Rubio attack philosophy, telling people to weld rather than think for themselves. Rubio recommends building a huge army to confront Islamist fundamentalism much the same way that the Islamic State seeks to build a powerful caliphate. 

Is it possible, as Eleanor Roosevelt and other great liberals and philosophers thought, to elevate human rights above the oppressive tenets of many world religions? Did world leaders make a mistake in establishing a Jewish state in the very heart of the Islamic Middle-East? Is it possible to have most of the world's countries teach human rights and respect for others over the narrow-minded views of specific religions? Are we able to praise what is good, creative, and loving in religions, while ruling out those laws and restrictions of religion that contradict our human rights? Can we convince those brought up in this or that religion that thinking for ourselves is essential to becoming fully realized persons? Is it even possible to have religious leaders around the world give up the paternalism and male-oriented prejudices ingrained in so many scriptures? 

Philosophy is not the enemy. The enemy is the rut of out-dated dogma. The enemy is the idea that war ever makes things better, that might makes right.  The enemy is intolerance and the failure to recognize and respect the human rights of others. The enemy is materialism that requires the suffering of many to succeed. Compassion for our fellow humans is the most essential need these days-- compassion for others, compassion for all living beings, compassion for the planet itself. 


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948 at the Palais de Chaillot, Paris. (click)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Meaning of Life

What, people ask me, is the meaning of life? You are a philosopher, they say, if anyone knows, it must be you.
Well, yes, I do know. It isn't a puzzle at all. The answer is right before our eyes and all our other senses.
Still we have to get rid of the obstacles to seeing what is in front of our noses. We have to admit, finally, that a dogmatic god, invisible and unimaginable is a logical as well as an existential impossibility. At best, god is an idea created by those in power to stay in power. Descartes was incorrect when he surmised that a finite being could not, by imaginative extension, come up with the idea of an infinite, all powerful, omniscient being. And Freud was correct in seeing the idea as a glorified Daddy beyond reproach, a fantasy and a wish unfulfilled.
Without a god, without illusions, without invisible spirits guiding our every move, what is left for us? Why, pleasure is what is left. The meaning of life resides in the pleasures we experience-- and what a banquet of pleasures they are. There are pleasures aplenty for everyone, if only the greed, the dogma, the lust for power, and all the hindrances to a life of pleasure are removed.
If you require a well written or well conceived philosophy of pleasure, I suggest Epicurus as your guide, though there are several other brilliant versions
For myself, I have only to think of music, of the free availability of excellent performances of Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart; of art and literature; of walks in nature; Of the changing of the seasons; of the thousands of orgasms I've enjoyed, and the passions of sex with a host of others; of cheese, chocolate, and wine; of swimming in the stream of life, or rowing merrily upon it. Make your own list, please.
Life is meaningless only to those who fail to experience its joys. Eliminate greed, and religious dogma, eliminate fighting over material possessions or seeking power over others, and there is ample delight in life for all living beings on the planet. Don't be too fruitful- forget about multiplying hungry beings in a limited world of goods- and there you have it.
Happiness, logically impossible to pursue in itself, follows like the night the day if we find our meaning in our pleasures.