More Book Advice from a Nonexistent Bookstore

So, if last round was the Greatest Hits, this time’s for the album tracks and rarities—not everything here will be to everybody’s taste, some of these will be to almost nobody’s taste (well, except maybe yours, Asher), and at least a few of them should be loved by none. Continue reading

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Book Advice from a Nonexistent Bookstore

Now that Newman Books is closed, DC doesn’t have a really good philosophy/theology bookshop. Okay, granted, Newman’s selection could be pretty spotty at times,* and Kramerbooks can be surprisingly good,** but that’s beside the point for those of us who want our critical Latin editions of Ockham and Scotus, 5 different translations of Augustine, more stuff on the Reformation than most stores devote to religion, or a whole section on Aquinas. We want our bookstore, complete with people who know a critical edition from a public domain Latin version. It’s something you just can’t get from Amazon—well, along with the feeling you get from not sending money to Satan’s minions—and will be sorely missed.

But. But! I’m gonna give you the next best thing: a series of lists (what is this, Buzzfeed?) of books worth reading on any number of philosophical*** topics, complete with caveats, explanations, and my own opinions, which are completely right and you should never question ever because they’re right. Some of these are syllabi for imagined courses I’ll never get to teach, but have always wanted to—a few of them I’ve been developing since reading Plato’s Republic, scarily enough—while others are just “look, don’t read bad translations like I did, try these instead.” It’s advice I’d give to hypothetical customers or students, written up in a big ol’ binder at the front of the store that you could whack me over the head with when you disagreed with something I said.

You don’t get the binder, but you do get my opinions. Sorry ’bout that. Continue reading

On Reading All of Augustine

“The man who claims to have read all of Augustine is a liar”

And, of course, Isidore of Seville is pretty close to right. I haven’t touched the Ennarations on the Psalms, nor about half the other sermons, nor a couple other minor works, but 30-odd other volumes? Not right short, I undertake! Now that I’m all but done with this super-secret press project I’ve been working on for a year and a half now (because of course there won’t be any revisions at all…), it’s time for a few observations:

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Exile, Occupation, Persecution: The Birth of Philosophers

Bertrand Russell, Typical Philosopher

Time to pick up where I left off last time—why so many of The Greats come from less-than-ideal circumstances. While today’s philosopher is stereotyped as a rather comfortable man in his armchair complete with tweed, pipe, and beard, it seems that most philosophers, especially before Kant, spent some time on the run, hungry, alone, forsaken, and with the law at their heels. For a few of them, there was a jail cell and executioner rather than departmental office and publisher.

I’m all about historical narratives around here, so let’s whip up another one—how philosophers found themselves on the wrong end of The Man: Continue reading

Underrated Philosophers III: Blaise Pascal

This here is the absolute high point of anything I will ever write about underrated philosophers. Sure, there are others like Ramon Llull who are less known, some who get misinterpreted (Wittgenstein, anyone?), some who are so stunningly original that nobody quite realized the significance of what they were saying at the time (Dante), but none who are a combination of all the above like Pascal.

I’ve wanted to write about Pascal since I started this silly blog.* Okay, probably since before then. Pascal is my favorite philosopher by far, which is hard to explain to people; he’s also the one who’s most criminally ignored, which is hard for those of us who love him to explain. Continue reading

The Complete History of Philosophy, Abridged

This, perhaps more than anything else, may be my biggest scholarly disagreement with how philosophy is practiced today.  Sure, I have much bigger gripes on a personal and professional level—the casual sexism for starters—but this is less depressing.

Philosophy has a history, and its history shapes how we do things.  The problem is that each side of the philosophical turf war has its own narrative, and these narratives . . . well, they’ve got issues. Continue reading

Why the Intern Liked Your Book

Okay, enough with the snark, it’s been done already.  I’m pretty sure a goodly number of the people who read this and aren’t looking for insightful commentary on Yves Klein’s monochromes (which accounts for a shocking amount of the traffic ’round these here parts) will have to publish academic books at some part of their tenured lives.  What follows is a short list of things, from my standpoint as The First Person Who Reads Your Proposal, that you might want to know. Continue reading

Your Book Will Not Sell

Another Great Authorial Self-Delusion popped: if you’re publishing with an academic press, don’t expect to get rich from it.  Heck, count yourself lucky if your book doesn’t get remaindered.

Yes, fine, you’ve seen the numbers, you get it, your contract offers you royalties of 5-10% on every sale—but academic books are expensive, right?  That money has to add up!
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Intentio Lectoris: The State and Art

Google Penance time.*  The Search Engine Juggernaut has been referring more than a couple people looking for information on Umberto Eco’s essay to Ye Olde Humble Blogge, so I guess I should probably give those people a hand.

First, at least part of the essay is on Google Books.  Have a looksee there—Eco’s a good writer, and, in this case, the horse’s mouth is as good a place to hear things from as any.

You’ve read Eco now?  Yes?  Good.  No?  Do it later, you won’t regret it.

Interpretive theories—especially those relating to “constructive” interpretation**—have many applications, most notably in aesthetic criticism and, thanks to Ronald Dworkin, jurisprudence.  Now, while I think Dworkin overstates how far you can take interpretation in law, language, and aesthetics (I may explain why later, for the three people who would ever be interested in hearing why), I do think he raises an important point: the kind of interpretation one does in legal practice is very similar, formally speaking, to the kind one does in aesthetic criticism.  Thus, before I start ranting about Hart, Kripkenstein, and rule-guided behavior, let’s have some art. Continue reading