Category Archives: Historical episodes

3QD: Our very own annus mirabilis

This isn’t the first time universities have shut down from fear of pestilence. In 1665, “it pleased the Almighty God in his just severity to visit this towne of Cambridge with the plague of pestilence”, and Cambridge University was closed. … Continue reading

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The impact of Boris Hessen

Reading: Gerardo Ienna and Giulia Rispoli, “Boris Hessen at the Crossroads of Science and Ideology from International Circulation to the Soviet Context”, Society and Politics, 2019, 13:37-63. [These are just some preliminary notes on a very complex story I am … Continue reading

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Hobbes and coins

Thomas Hobbes saw humans as purely mechanical devices. External objects press against us in one way or another, setting off a chain reaction of interior pulleys, wheels, and ratchets that engage one another and result in some version of “Cuckoo!” … Continue reading

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What we know when we know particulars

Some reflections on the early sections of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: If we try to think about what is most obvious in our experience, and what the most basic elements of knowledge are, we turn to sense perception. For it … Continue reading

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On the Other Delphic Maxims

Now up at Aeon. The conclusion: The fact that the great majority of maxims on the list can still serve us today is itself worth further reflection. There is no denying that our lives have changed a lot in the … Continue reading

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Say, whatever happened to Casearius?

Readers of Spinoza’s letters will recall the name “Casearius”. Johannes Casearius lived in the same house in Rijnsburg as Spinoza, and Spinoza taught him Cartesian philosophy, an effort which led in part to Spinoza’s book, The Principles of Cartesian Philosophy. … Continue reading

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A New Liberal Arts

The traditional liberal arts (logic, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) arose for two reasons: to preserve knowledge and to render young men fit for positions of influence. Knowledge had pretty much been wiped out in western Europe with … Continue reading

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