Category Archives: Books

Thomas Huxley: Making the ‘Man of Science’

Reading: Paul White, Thomas Huxley: Making the ‘Man of Science’ (CUP 2002). In a sense, this book is about the term “scientist”. Thomas Huxley regarded it as a crass Americanism, a term that belittled anyone who devoted their life toward … Continue reading

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Minds as predictive engines

(Reading Andy Clark, Surfing Uncertainty (Oxford UP 2015)) I’m no longer sure I know what an “ordinary” theory of mind would look like, but I’m guessing that it would resemble an organized camp of explorers. The explorers, or our senses, venture … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Meanings of life / death / social & moral stuff, Metaphysical musings | Leave a comment

Chronic dysfunctions of systems

W. G. Sebald, in Austerlitz: And several times, said Austerlitz, birds which had lost their way in the library forest flew into the mirror images of the trees in the reading room windows, struck the glass with a dull thud, … Continue reading

Posted in Books | 3 Comments

Review of Sloterdijk by Pieter Lemmens

Thank you to the ever-reading Rick Krause, who forwarded to me this excellent review of Sloterdijk by Pieter Lemmens. An excerpt from his conclusion: …Foams is written in a rich and playful style. His tone is jovial and detached, ironic yet … Continue reading

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

The Challenge of Being Vertical

Sloterdijk, Peter. You Must Change Your Life, translated by Wieland Hoban (Polity, 2013) We construct for ourselves ideals that taunt us, pull us upwards, and change our lives. This is fixed; but the the nature of those ideals, as well … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Meanings of life / death / social & moral stuff | Leave a comment

“I read as one who abdicates.”

Fernando Pessoa, writing (or reading) as Bernardo Soares in The Book of Disquiet: I read and am liberated. I acquire objectivity. I cease being myself and so scattered. And what I read, instead of being like a nearly invisible suit … Continue reading

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Artefactual language as the enabler of Spirit

Cultural information rains down on the landscape of our genetically endowed mental capacities, mouldering the paths along which future information must travel, eroding and shaping the patterns of our thoughts and reactions (Distin 2011, 177-8) Chasing down some of Sloterdijk’s … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Historical episodes | Leave a comment

The Hope of Concepts (or, some sorely needed arch support)

(Loosely reflecting while re-reading Peter Sloterdijk’s You Must Change Your Life…) As in Spheres, PS’s aim is to create (or at least open up a space for) a new life-support system for humans, a post-religious quasi-religion grounded in practice and … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Meanings of life / death / social & moral stuff, Metaphysical musings | 2 Comments

Enlightenment now

(Reading Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now) I am totally down with this book. Its main thesis is that the core values of the Enlightenment – Reason, Science, and Humanism – have resulted in human life being better in every measurable way. … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Historical episodes, Items of the academy / learning | Leave a comment

Hadot, Sloterdijk, and the Idol of Eternity

I have recently read both Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life and Sloterdijk’s The Art of Philosophy. Both books place at their centers an ideal of the philosopher as one who is able to lift themselves from their … Continue reading

Posted in Books | 15 Comments

Review of The Square and the Tower

Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower is a caution against seeing our new, networked world as an unalloyed blessings. Human history (and NF’s book) is filled with examples of networks and hierarchies, many worth celebrating and equally many worth … Continue reading

Posted in Books | 1 Comment

Niall Ferguson’s Hegelian aspirations

I have just started reading Niall Ferguson’s new book, The Square and the Tower. This comes after reading some of his other books, and hearing him in interviews. He’s an extraordinarily well-read, well-spoken, and intelligent fellow – and, I gather, … Continue reading

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Work in progress

I’m slowly working on a book that tries to integrate what I’m learning about history with what I know (or think I know!) about early modern philosophy, and thought I’d post an excerpt that covers, in a general way, putting … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Historical episodes | Leave a comment

Philosophy as enchantment?

[What follows is a version of an address recently given at the Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference, where a good time was had by all.] In a lecture at the University of Munich in 1919 – the year before he died – … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Historical episodes, Items of the academy / learning, Meanings of life / death / social & moral stuff | 5 Comments

Philosophy and its history

Philosophy and its History: aims and methods in the study of early modern philosophy, edited by Mogens Laerke, Justin E. H. Smith, and Eric Schliesser (Oxford UP, 2013). For the longest time, philosophers were interested in their own history only … Continue reading

Posted in Books, Historical episodes, Items of the academy / learning | Leave a comment