Artist | Content Creator | Pantheist | Bohemian | Philosopher | Anti-Authoritarian, Pro-Decentralization/Localism| http://www.instagram.com/kevinshau/
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Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), painted by Anna Rosina Lisiewska in 1768

The arts in the German Lands were dominated by foreign influences for decades. Due to Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s influence on the German artistic and architectural developments of the eighteenth century, historians have frequently referenced the ‘tyranny of Greece over Germany.’ This comes from a 1935 book by the English scholar Eliza Marian Butler. The classical models of Greece (or purported to come from ancient Greece) dominated aesthetic tastes but faced increasing competition as the eighteenth century transitioned into the nineteenth. Notions of German-ness and vernacular aesthetic styles, which found in Herder’s philosophy a way to push against the flattening out…


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Weimar’s Courtyard of the Muses (1860), painted by Theobald Freiherr von Oer

In a world descending into the chaos brought about by the French Revolution, German culture was on the ascendency at the same time that the German Lands were declining politically. The decentralized nature of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation necessitated the organic, bottom-up, growth of local centers. Each duchy, principality, and bishopric had to have its own palace, theater, university, and library. A decentralized cosmopolitanism emerged strong enough to weather the tumult of over two decades of French invasions and meddling. Germany was an idea — an ideal, developed to its greatest cultural extent by liberal (in…


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Group of the Dead (c.1550) by Jacopo Pontormo

In 1989, a painting called Portrait of a Halberdier sold at auction for over $35 million dollars. This was not a painting by an Impressionist or 20th century master, but a rare occasion when a top-quality painting by an outstanding Old Master painter was sold. The portrait was by a master of that last phase of Renaissance painting, Mannerism — characterized by exaggerated features and gestures — Jacopo Pontormo (1494–1557).

Pontormo’s name should rank as highly as that of Leonardo da Vinci or Sandro Botticelli (both of whom had works which sold for enormous amounts of money in recent years)…


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Geography of Plants — Naturgemälde Image (1807)

Art and Nature make life worth living. The interconnectedness of all things and phenomena — and the attempts to understand this from an aesthetic perspective, one which emphasizes a sense of creative exploration — is at the heart of an authentic environmentalist movement. This is one which was developed two centuries ago by one of the greatest minds in science, one of the greatest explorers, and one of the most gifted intellectuals to ever walk the earth — the Prussian natural philosopher Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). The shattering of old regimes and expansion of intellectual circles which accompanied the emergence…


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A path through the woods — Brown County State Park, Indiana (Kevin Shau Photography, 2020)

Philosophical studies bring both the delight of a search for wisdom and the danger of entrapment in the world of abstractions, veritable castles in the sky. While overtly arguing against those who proclaim themselves wise (the sophists), many philosophers — in particular, the postmodernists — are sophists themselves. They revel in increasingly distant realms of abstraction and emphasize the importance of the ‘right’ kind of rhetoric as well as speak like the elites of a secretive religious order using terminology coined and used in the ivory tower of academe. This distinction between those who seeks to present themselves as purveyors…


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An Enlightenment Salon — center of intellectual discourse outside the traditional institutions in Eighteenth-Century Europe

Like the Republic of Letters in the Age of Enlightenment, our own Digital Age had its own loose group of intellectuals associating with each other outside the dominant institutions — the Intellectual Dark Web. Though battered by numerous attacks in the media, this remains the most important intellectual development of recent decades. The term ‘Intellectual Dark Web’ was coined, semi-jokingly by mathematician Eric Weinstein a few years back for a group of thinkers increasingly associated with an alternative sense-making apparatus and critiques of dominant narratives. The Election of 2020 proved to be especially contentious for those associated with this network…


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School of Athens (1509–1511), painted by Raphael — Plato and Aristotle are the central figures

Thales of Miletus and Aristotle deserve to be remembered as the first true philosophers outside the East. The former because of his emphasis on experimentation coupled with the use of theory for practical purposes; the latter for laying the foundations of experience-based learning in which theory plays a practical role. Histories of philosophy, particularly those of the West, will emphasize the importance of Socrates and Plato. However, I would argue that the two of them actually belong to a very different category — that of Sophists.

The Sophists were a label applied to a group of paid teachers who focused…


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Seizing the Italian Relics’ (1815) -cartoon by George Cruikshank

In a couple recent podcasts and in a tweet, the mathematician and public intellectual Eric Weinstein said that the ‘idealism of every age is usually the cover story of its thefts.’ He expanded on that concept for criticism of the contemporary political and cultural landscape (referring to the far-left extreme as ‘Wokistan’ and the far-right extreme as ‘MAGAstan’). He furthermore traces the dynamic back to such ideas as ‘manifest destiny’ in the nineteenth century. I would like to take it back further. The beginning of modern era is 1789 — the year the cataclysmic French Revolution began. The very notions…


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My Studiolo —© Kevin Shau Photography (2021)

Interior design is a subject ripe for abuse, particularly when it comes to those with excess space. The ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality popular in American culture, indeed part of the mainstream since the 1950s, has exacerbated the worst elements of interior design while avant-garde minimalist design remained rather disconnected until recently. An artist and philosopher myself, I wanted to take inspiration from those who came before — those who not only wrote about interior design but lived it as well. Kamo no Chomei (c.1155–1216) was a Japanese monk, minimalist, and early tiny house enthusiast. Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) was…


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Watercolor and Ink picture (by George Munger) of the United States Capitol after the Burning of Washington in 1814

On 24 August 1814, the United States Capitol was overrun and burned. In the aftermath, President James Madison and Secretary of State and War James Monroe rallied the people in the face of this national emergency. On 6 January 2021, the United States Capitol was overrun for the second time in its history. Though the physical damage was far less severe, the political damage remains far worse. While the damage caused in 1814 was due to a foreign threat during a time of war, the 2021 Storming of the United States Capitol consisted of a mob of Trump supporters influenced…

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