Between the Rare Oases of Thought: On Thomas Bernhard and the Mind

goethedies- book revieew.jpg

ON ANY GIVEN DAY, even the best and most productive of days, the ratio of circumstantial to concentrated mental activity in our minds is astonishingly, dismayingly high. Eddies of shallow memory, constant stimulation (both physical and digital), animal instincts, passing moods — these all constantly prevent us from engaging in concerted thought or perception. One of the signal pleasures of reading is that it allows us to escape the shapelessness of everyday consciousness. Good books offer us a concentrated arrangement of thoughts and perceptions — a reality that is far less superfluous than our own……

from Pocket

Liked? Read the Complete Article-author’s website.

Mind blown! 10 philosophy books guaranteed to make you think differently

Philosophy doesn’t have to be all Hegel and Frege, you know; like all disciplines, it might get finicky and complex for the layperson once you start scratching well below the crust, but above all else philosophy is about thinking deeply.

from Pocket
via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

Pierre Bourdieu On the State: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1989-1992 (Book Review)

Piere Bordieu
This valuable collection of lectures represents Pierre Bourdieu’s thoughts on the state as expressed in lectures given at the Collège de France from 1989 to 1992. The book is 433 pages in length and contains two helpful appendixes: (1) “Course summaries as published in the Annuaire of the Collège de France 1989-1990, 1990-1991, 1991-1992”; (2) “Position of the lectures on the state in Pierre Bourdieu’s work”. The lectures themselves are a veritable treasure trove of insights, reflections, and emendations of theories that Bourdieu finds useful. It contains trenchant critiques of theories he finds lacking. The reader will also find discussions of the rich body of empirical work that Bourdieu and his research associates conducted, including references to Kabyle peasant life in Algeria, where he conducted his early fieldwork.

In the lectures delivered between 1989 and 1990, Bourdieu emphasized the state’s ability to create and monopolize symbolic capital. In “Politics as a Vocation”, Max Weber famously defined the state as a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Establishing and reproducing the state requires constant attention to legitimating the use of force. Bourdieu took this as his point of departure, modifying Weber’s definition of the state as an organization that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical and symbolic violence over a definite territory and over the totality of the corresponding population.” (This definition is found in a number of Bourdieu’s works).

Bourdieu inquired into the many ways that the state ensures the reproduction of its most fundamental self-representations and political categories by framing the categories of public perception, experience, thought, and speech. For example, he explains how the state creates logical conformism through encouraging adherence to the basic categories of thought. This logical conformism must continually be reproduced because it is the condition for moral conformism and social solidarity.

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

What are the boundaries of today’s journalism, and how is the rise of digital changing who defines them? (Book Review)

Boundaries of journalismAfter hearing about the topic of our new book Boundaries of Journalism, one of Matt’s colleagues stopped in to chat. He had just had a hotly contested debate over whether television sports reporters counted as journalists. He was making the argument that they did, and he looked to Matt apparently to sort things out.

If only it were as simple as consulting some master table to provide a yes-or-no, in-or-out kind of answer! But playing referee is not what is interesting about studying the boundaries of journalism. Instead, what’s much more vital is looking at the messiness and asking:Just what are we fighting over?

We came to the book because we were both interested in the same questions about boundaries. Readers of Nieman Lab are well familiar with the parade of new faces and ideas about journalism accompanying the rise of digital media. But what does it all mean? And how can we study it?

We saw the need to clarify how to think about boundaries, and we enlisted an international cast of journalism scholars to help. Before getting into what we wrote, it is important to start with why we wrote it. Exploring the boundaries of journalism is not an intellectual exercise relevant only to those of us in the academy. Definitions matter, because how we think about the issue of boundaries has real consequences. Matt makes this case in the introduction to the book:

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

Kosambi on The Gita (Makrand Paranjape)

Kosambi
Makarand Paranjpe analyzes Kosambi’s writings on the Gita in his book Myth and Reality.

D. D. Kosambi attempted precisely such a reading of one of India’s most enduring literary texts, the Bhagawad Gita. In an essay called “Social and Economic Aspects of the Bhagawad-Gita,” published as the inaugural essay in Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture (1962), he argues at great length that the Gita is a text of “slippery opportunism” whose utility “derives from its peculiar fundamental defect, namely dexterity in seeming to reconcile the irreconcilable.” Composed between 150-350 A.D. and inserted into the Mahabharata corpus later, the Gita, according to Kosambi, served a peculiar class function which made so many leading exponents of Indian culture, including Sankara, Ramanuja, Jnanesvar, Gandhi, Tilak, Aurobindo, and others, return to it again and again. Kosambi believes that:

THE GITA FURNISHED THE ONE SCRIPTURAL SOURCE WHICH COULD BE USED WITHOUT VIOLENCE TO ACCEPTED BRAHMIN METHODOLOGY, TO DRAW INSPIRATION AND JUSTIFICATION FOR SOCIAL ACTIONS IN SOME WAY DISAGREEABLE TO A BRANCH OF THE RULING CLASS UPON WHOSE MERCY THE BRAHMINS DEPENDED AT THE MOMENT. (Emphasis in the Original)

In other words, the Gita is a synthetic text that manages to incorporate a wide diversity of complex and, often, contradictory doctrines. Kosambi believes that such a text could only be written at a certain period during which the competition over the surpluses produced wasn’t so intolerable as to result in class conflict:

FUSION AND TOLERANCE BECOME IMPOSSIBLE WHEN THE CRISIS DEEPENS, WHEN THERE IS NOT ENOUGH OF THE SURPLUS PRODUCT TO GO AROUND, AND THE SYNTHETIC METHOD DOES NOT LEAD TO INCREASED PRODUCTION. (Emphasis in the Original)

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

Voltaire’s Vine and Other Philosophies: How Gardens Inspired Great Writers (Book Review, David E. Cooper, LARB)

In Praise of Gardens

PEOPLE WHO LEAD what Damon Young calls “philosophical lives” – philosophers as the Ancients understood the term – do not need to be card-carrying professional philosophers. His book is a set of 11 elegant “portraits,” framed by opening and closing chapters, of the philosophical lives of writers he admires. With only a few exceptions – Jane Austen, Voltaire, Emily Dickinson – the 11 literary figures are not among those that first come to mind as writers who have been inspired by gardens. They do not include the authors of novels in which gardens have a prominent role – Goethe’s Elective Affinities, say, or Giorgio Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. There is no place for such distinguished garden essayists as Joseph Addison, Horace Walpole, and Karel Čapek, nor for garden makers – from Pliny to Vita Sackville-West – who lovingly chronicled their projects.

If Young’s selection of great writers is unexpected, it is also eclectic. Austen, Marcel Proust, George Orwell, Dickinson, and Friedrich Nietzsche cannot often have kept company within the covers of a single book. No explanation is given for this selection, and the portraits are discrete, with no attempt, until the final page, to compare and contrast the writers discussed.

Especially when the essays are as lucid and entertaining as those in Voltaire’s Vine, there should be no objection as such to an unusual and eclectic choice of subjects. More troubling, however, is that several of them really do not belong in a book sub-titled “How Gardens Inspired Great Writers.” The concern here is not that only some of the writers, as Young concedes, “regularly got their fingernails dirty.” (Though this makes it difficult to understand how one newspaper reviewer could describe the book as showing how “in working with the soil you see life’s big picture.”) For it is clearly possible to engage with, and be inspired by, a garden without wielding a spade, or even a pair of secateurs. One doesn’t envisage the refined owners of the Chinese literati gardens of Suzhou as grubbing about in the soil. The problem, rather, is that Young’s writers who kept their fingernails clean were only marginally, if at all, affected and inspired by gardens.

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.

The Definitive Reading List of the 14 Best Books of 2014 Overall (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings,

From the origin of the universe to the unusual stories behind people’s tattoos, by way of secular spirituality, the hummingbird effect, and Werner Herzog.

I consider my annual best-of reading lists a kind of Old Year’s resolutions in reverse — unlike traditional resolutions, which lay out an aspirational list of priorities for the new year, these represent a look back at the books that proved themselves most worth prioritizing over the setting year. After such reverse-resolution reading lists for the best children’s books, art, design, and photography books, science books, philosophy and psychology books, bestbiographies, memoirs, and history books, here comes the annual wholly subjective selection of the fourteen most rewarding books of 2014 overall, in no particular order. (See last year’s selections here.)

from Pocket

via Did you enjoy this article? Then read the full version from the author’s website.