Category Archives: Volume 5, no. 1 (2010)

On the Oral-Formulaic Theory and its Application in the Poetic Edda: The Cases of Alvíssmál and Hávamál

The aim of this essay is to make some considerations concerning the usage and the development of the Oral-Formulaic Theory since its initial stage in the field of Eddic studies. Doing so I will comment on the most relevant problems and scholarly views I encountered while I was dealing with the subject, and in some cases give my own interpretation of them. In the second part of the paper I will then discuss more in detail the Eddic poems Alvíssmál and Hávamál from an oral-formulaic point of view.

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The “Third Reich” in the German Legal, Philosophical and Political Thinking

The idea that after the Nazi (“national-socialist”) takeover the German political propaganda machine strongly supported the naming of their land the “Third Reich” (Drittes Reich) is a misperception shared by many historians, political scientists as well as lawyers all around the world even today.[1]

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In Praise of Illusions: Giacomo Leopardi‘s Ultraphilosophy

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837) is better known as a remarkable poet and writer than a philosophical thinker. However, he followed closely the philosophical developments of his time, was profoundly critical of it, and even formulated a rather complex, albeit unsystematic, philosophical response, mainly in his chronological diaries, the Zibaldone di pensieri, but also in many of his novels, dialogues and essays. The aim of this paper is to elucidate the core of Leopardi‘s existential critique of the philosophical views dominating the late eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, in particular those found in German Idealism and Romanticism, and provide an introduction to the Leopardian ‘ultraphilosophy’, as he chose to call it himself, a kind of philosophy meant to overcome the ills of the ‘progressive’ philosophy of his day.

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How Can Small States Like Iceland Work Effectively With International Financial Institutions?

Conducting a constructive relationship with international financial institutions (IFIs) can be a challenge for small states like Iceland. Iceland is a member of the World Bank Group and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but not a member of the regional development banks, i.e.: the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the African Development Bank. IFIs work both with the governments of emerging market economies in formulating and supporting policy reforms as well as with the private sector as private sector lead projects can help boost economic reconstruction in emerging markets. But can small states work effectively in partnership with IFIs? This article will discuss the challenges faced by small states in working with IFIs both when supporting government reforms in emerging market economies as well as when promoting private sector activities and investment in those economies.

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Imagine A Collective Landscape

Iceland plays a key role in the circumpolar context. The research investigates the fields of both the icelandic cultural landscape perception and the icelandic cultural identity. It considers the book Ultima thule; or, a summer in Iceland and Ólafur Elíasson’s art works as two sides of the same medal: the Iceland on the brain concept (F. Burton). The transition from a cultural identity to a collective landscape identity is investigated by analysing Imagine, J. Lennon’s song which inspired Yõko Ono’s work of art titled Imagine Peace Tower.

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Compensating the Crashers

As soon as the dust began to settle after the greatest economic crisis since 1929, the very first thing to surface in the field of finance was greed. Unabated, shameless, and, what is more, the very thing that had caused the whole system to topple in the first place. In this article I will briefly discuss executive pay-structure and how it can actually work against the company’s interest, as well as try to identify the reasons why companies choose to maintain this seemingly unsuitable structure.

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Eight Noble Opinions and the Economic Crisis: Four Literary-philosophical Sketches à la Eduardo Galeano

Four literary-philosophical skecthes are presented here in order to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the official English translation of one of Eduardo Galeano’s most important books: Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-glass World. Each of these four sketches deals with the current economic crisis, each from a different perspective of analysis, and attempts to make use of the vibrant and creative sylistic devices characterising Galeano’s works, particularly Upside Down.

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The Transcendental Character of Money: An Exposition of Marx’s Argument in the Grundrisse

An exposition of Karl Marx’s argument in the Grundrisse for the logical development of money, this essay is divided into three parts. Since Marx is concerned to distinguish himself and his method from that of the seventeenth century political economists, I begin my paper with a brief reflection on “the scientifically correct method” or the “theoretical method” (Grundrisse 101 and 102). The second part of this paper considers how Marx justifies beginning his reflection with the concept of production in general. To understand the importance that Marx attributes to production, one must also appreciate the way in which distribution, exchange, and consumption belong to the sphere of production. In the remaining pages of this section of my paper, then, I attempt to reconstruct Marx’s argument for the way in which these concepts (distribution, exchange, and consumption) are to be understood in relation to the sphere of production.

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After the Financial Crisis: The Ethics and Economics Debate Revisited

The recent international events, with a major financial crisis all over the world, involve important questions about the relation between ethics and economics and the responsibilities of the economic market in relation to broader social and political concerns. In this paper I will present some of the dimensions of the debate between ethics and economics that are behind the fundamental issue of the role of ethical responsibilities in the financial crisis. I want to argue for a close link between ethics and economics which can be presented as a challenge to the traditional view that there should be a strict separation between ethical and economic rationality.

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The Economic Crisis Seen from Israel: Cause and Effect

Put it briefly, the current economic crisis, primarily affecting the Western world, is the direct consequence of the United States of America’s strategic approach to Middle East conflict resolution, mostly as conducted at the time of the two Bush Administrations, 1988-1992 and 2001-2009. It begins in the summer of 1990, when President George Bush amassed in Saudi Arabia an army of half a million US soldiers who took over the capital – American style. While the US military goal was to prepare there for an offensive intended to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and, if possible, Iraq, the Muslims living in Riyadh considered American social behavior in their city to be offensive to the Muslim way of life.  Hence it created an anti-American sentiment that ultimately paved the way for a vanguard of Islamic Fundamentalists to carry out 9/11. Their intention was to oust Western influence from the Middle East, but instead of getting the message, the son of President George Bush went after them, seeking to stamp Islamic Fundamentalism out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, etc.

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Learning from Bjartur About Today’s Icelandic Economic Crisis

Economies are complex systems resulting from human action but not from human design. The economic success of Iceland in recent decades was the result of the development of good institutions combined with a positive global economic climate. The recent economic downturn, not just in Iceland but around the world, should be a reminder that good institutions matter and should serve as an exhortation to continue building good institutions rather than dismissing them in favor of institutions that generate poverty.

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Past, Present and Future of Social Democracy: The Debate (?) in Italy and the Nordic Experience

 

Does a debate on Social Democracy – its history, its present state, and its future perspectives – exist today in Italy? This is the very first question that one wonders about, when analysing the Italian contributions on such a political tradition, as they are few and not particularly innovative. Such a paucity can be explained by the weak “rootedness” of this political tradition in Italian history, due to the existence, until 1991, of a strong communist party (PCI), which identified in Democratic Socialism one of its main enemies. But what about the following developments of the communist party, which became first PDS, Democratic Party of the Left, then DS, Democrats of the Left, and finally PD, Democratic Party)? Was the leadership – who, in spite of all the changes in the party name, has remained more or less the same – moved by the fall of the Berlin wall to approach Democratic Socialism?

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Applying the Fraud Triangle Model to the Global Credit Crisis

The premise of this paper is that the unwarranted corporate collapses and failures which occurred during the, currently ongoing, ‘credit crisis’ arise from failures in the decision making processes of the organisation. This paper is written primarily from a legal corporate governance perspective and looks at how the law could allow, what in hindsight appears to be, staggering follies. As such this paper is focussed on the microeconomics of the debacle rather than upon the macroeconomic triggers. The rationale for this approach is that the law cannot regulate behaviour on a mass scale, law acts against the individual rather than the group. There are various reasons for this assumption ranging from the necessity of justice and fairness to practical logistics. However it is the working assumption of this paper that for law to be effective it has to act against individuals and so can only pursue a microeconomic approach.

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Fyrirlestur um bókina Hávamál. La voce di Odino.

(Presented on 29 September 2009 as part of the 2009-2010 lectures at the National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavík)

Ég er rosalega ánægður að fá að kynna fyrsta verk mitt: Hávamál. La Voce di Odino. Það kann ef til vill að hljóma undarlega að Ítali eins og ég skuli taka að sér að fjalla um eitt mikilvægustu rita norrænna þjóða. Ég ætla því að greina frá hvernig suðrænum manni gat dottið í hug að þýða Hávamál yfir á ítölsku.

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Ian Carter, Anna Elisabetta Galeotti & Valeria Ottonelli (eds.), Eguale Rispetto (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2008)

The key to this collection of articles is its title: Equal Respect. According to the editors, the essays are intended to shed light on the following questions, from a philosophical perspective: “What does respect for persons indicate? What is the basis of respect for others? What is the relationship between respect and other political values? How should the request for respect of citizens be translated into the public sphere and the rights of obligations of citizens?” (XIII)[1] Unsurprisingly, the milestones around which most of the articles relate are Kant, Williams, Rawls and Sen.

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Eligio Resta, Diritto Vivente (Bari: Editori Laterza, 2008)

Eligio Resta is the accomplished author of many books of philosophy of law, and his new volume certainly succeeds in keeping with the high standard of quality that fellow scholars and Italian readers have come to expect from him. The title itself, Living Law, gives us a first idea of what the book is about. Professor Resta endeavours to explain what sort of life enlivens the law, and how this life self-differentiates from the law’s cold and rigid enforcement.Dealing with life in the field of law means not only dealing with life within the law, but also with the life of the law.

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Jan Olof Bengtsson, The Worldview of Personalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006)

Bengtsson ends his study thus: “There are good reasons for giving them [the personalists] a hearing again.” He makes his case in a good and demanding book.

As philosophers fall into obscurity, their place taken by others who in their turn will follow them, almost inevitably valuable ideas are lost. Bengtsson’s effort is to show the origins of (almost exclusively) American and British personalism in Jacobi and Schelling (who are better remembered than are those they influenced).

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Flavio Baroncelli, Mi manda Platone, edited by Annalisa Siri and Emilio Mazza (Genoa: il melangolo, 2009)

Typically, professional philosophers no longer read philosophy books written by their colleagues; they use them. They review them. They select passages. They extract arguments. They build theories or new books upon them. They build theories or new books against them. Very rarely, and quite unexpectedly, they read them, purely and simply. As a matter of academic life, these books are not even written to be read purely and simply. On the contrary, they are written precisely for the various uses that can be expected of them within academia. Very rarely, after all, are such books not rhetorically challenged, lengthy, full of jargon, taxing, pretentious, of limited enjoyment and, at least to non-professionals, plainly boring.

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Ernesto Kiza, Tödliche Grenzen – Die fatalen Auswirkungen europäischer Zuwanderungspolitik (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2008)

To begin with, the author included his moral judgment already in the title, the ”fatal consequences of the European politics towards immigrants” (incidentally, the full title of Kiza’s volume reads as follows: Tödliche Grenzen – Die fatalen Auswirkungen europäischer Zuwanderungspolitik. Eine theoretisch-empirische Untersuchung von Todesfällen illegalisierter Migranten im Kontext neuer Migrationsdynamiken und restriktiver Migrationspolitiken). This is an irritating approach for a research which was pursued in order to obtain a PhD degree in political science. Do I, as a reader, want to be told what I have to think, or has the author so little confidence in his findings that he has to tell me as well how I have to read it?

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Felice Vinci, The Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales; The Iliad, They Odyssey, and the Migration of Myth (Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 2006)

Felice Vinci’s Baltic Origins of Homer’s Epic Tales was my first introduction to this body of scholarship which I found to be deeply intriguing and thought provoking. Vinci makes the argument that the Homeric tales show evidence that these well known myths took place in the Nordic regions rather than in the Mediterranean as commonly understood. His evidence is linguistic and geographic. For instance, he walks through key components of the tales illustrating that the geographies of The Faroe Islands, Norway, and Sweden, match the described details of the Ogygia, Scheria, and Ithaca remarkably closely, and certainly more closely than anything near the Mediterranean.

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Giacomo Tripodi (ed.), Iliad and Odyssey in the North of Europe – Proceedings of the Workshop “Toija and the roots of European civilisation”, Toija, Finland, August 10th 2007 (Messina: Armando Siciliano Editore, 2009)

Classical scholarship has profited, upon occasion, from the contributions of talented or inspired outsiders. Particularly notable in these regards, in the case of Homeric studies, have been the insights, and the detailed work, of Heinrich Schliemann, Milman Parry, and Michael Ventris. One wants never to disavow or disdain what may prove to be brilliant or helpful additions to the inevitably partly speculative domains of investigation into the early literature and the archaeology of the Hellenic peoples. At the same time these same territories have attracted more than their share of wild, sometimes completely crackpot would-be contributions, from people with more time on their hands and enthusiasm for Homeric or legendary topics than skill or sense. How to tell the difference, or to separate wheat from chaff?

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Thomas Jefferson, I dilemmi della democrazia americana, translated and edited by Alberto Giordano, with a preface by Dino Cofrancesco (Novi Ligure: Città del Silenzio, 2007)

The history of the Italian Republic has been a history of a remarkable cultural, social, economic, and legal progress for almost thirty years. Of course, many serious issues were left unattended (organized crime and the limits of political immorality rate among the foremost); but, on the whole, the balance was not so bad (our Constitution and our laws concerning judicature, divorce, abortion, and the national health service, for instance, were taken as examples by other European countries coming out from dictatorships and cultural depression). Terrorism, in the 1970s-1980s, was (taken as) a major drawback; in any case, terrorists on both extremes were finally, and utterly, defeated with the sole arms of the rule of law (no “special renditions”, no torture, no special military tribunals were resorted to as “necessary evils”, like in the dark global times following September 11), supported by a conscious and responsible civil society. The political establishment, however, did not grow up in morality, responsibility, and sense for the common good at the same pace of the most advanced sectors of civil society.

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S. Morra, C. Gobbo, Z. Marini, R. Sheese (eds.), Cognitive Psychology: Neo-Piagetian Perspectives (New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2008).

It was with great enthusiasm that I read this comprehensive textbook comprising analysis and comparisons of concepts across theories of four decades of neo-piagetian research and perspectives. This book, which is a joint effort of Italian and Canadian authors and scientists, is the first of its kind, taking the reader through a myriad of cognitive developmental theories where the light is cast on information processing and the capacity of human working memory as it gradually develops from infancy on. For an experienced developmental psychologist – implementing intelligence testing as contemporary custom prescribes, as well as teaching undergraduate students – most of whom are becoming teachers and psychologists – the contents of developmental psychology, this analysis on cognitive growth of the human mind, and a comprehensive overview of neo-piagetian research is bound to fall into fertile soil.

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“Dracula in Iceland”. An Interview with Marinella Lorinczi

NM. You can be considered one of today’s most important Dracula scholars, especially for studies such as Dracula & Company. The Appeal of the North in Bram Stoker’s Novels (1998), Transylvania and the Balkans as Multiethnic Regions in the Works of Bram Stoker (1996), A Sea Landscape with Victorian Ladies. Three Essays on Dracula (1995), or In the Dragon’s Labyrinth. An Introduction to Dracula (1992). But, how did an esteemed university teacher of Romanian and Romance linguistics, indeed the disciple of Iorgu Iordan, develop an interest in Dracula? And why is Dracula still so popular today?

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