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

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

Science Shouldn’t Be Objective

So why does flying my SSK Freak Flag™ and denying the objectivity of science get me hate mail? What is it that we really prize when we say something is objective, and why is attacking that Bad?

For starters, I’m not even going to really go into intelligent design, climate change denying, anti-vax, or paleo diet hooha. If you’re looking for support in your quest to unmask the Vast Scientific Conspiracy, look elsewhere, and if you’re supporting any of these things (or any other pseudoscience), I’d suggest revising the background assumptions that govern the foundational rules behind the discursive field of your form of life.*

So, my objection to objectivity is this: not only is it not true that science is objective, but the term “objective” is really masking a whole bushel of values that we ought to embrace, but, because we value our form of empirical inquiry acting as if it’s value-neutral or even value-free, we claim that it’s objective, and seek to behave in a way that we believe people engaged in an objective form of empirical, inductive reasoning based on observation ought to behave. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei Is a Bad, Bad Man

If anyone from the Chinese censorship office is reading this: 草泥马.  The title of this post is meant ironically, and there’s a special place reserved for the likes of you.  Forgive the unprofessional language, but you can go straight to Hell.  What you do is evil, and the civilized peoples of the world, including most of your fellow citizens, will never forgive you for it.  I know one Anglophone philosopher on the Internet means nothing to you, seeing as you have no scruples about silencing thousands of other voices, but there you have it: the truth, and nothing but.

For the rest of you, whom I have no doubt I like much more,* it’s time for radical philosophy, art, and odd curatorial decisions.** Continue reading

Print Ain’t Dead Yet

Fine, yes, I know, everyone in publishing is obsessed with this whole e-book thing.  Lots are even saying it’s going to doom the industry (yeah right).  Heck, I had a few profs (who, granted, still use WordPerfect because their typewriters got taken away) who thought e-books were another sign of the decline of Western civilization.

Okay, it’s none of the above.  If publishers just did the work of putting ink on paper, perhaps—but most things publishing houses do happens long before a drop of ink finds the paper.  However, there are a few reasons why the printed book is here to stay.
Continue reading

Ebooks and Philosophy: Odd Writings and Aphorisms

It’s no secret that philosophers are often odd people.  They also write strangely sometimes, too.

“No, really?  We didn’t notice.”  Yes, I know philosophical writing is notoriously bad—there’s a reason I put a pot leaf sticker on my copy of Heidegger’s Being and Time*—but some philosophers (oddly enough, often the ones who could actually write) use very odd formats for their works.  Though several philosophers have peculiar styles they’re associated with—Plato’s dialogues, Nietzsche’s aphorisms, Aquinas’ disputed questions—two thinkers seem to have writings that beg to be dealt with in a way electronic publishing could do a better job of than print media ever could.

Continue reading

The Medieval Ebook, Part II: Writing in the Margins

As I mentioned last time, the odd writings you find in the margins of medieval books (and, for that matter, in between the lines or on loose sheets of paper inserted between the pages) are often of great importance.  Known as marginal or interlinear glosses (or, if on loose paper, extras), these notes, asides, and corrections took on a life of their own, sometimes rivaling the importance of the book they were written in.  Perhaps the most famous collections based largely on these writings would be the Catena Aurea of Thomas Aquinas, one of many such catenae aureae compiled by late antique and medieval authors, and the four books of Peter Lombard’s Sentences—though most any Scholastic writing on philosophical or theological  matters will cite glosses or extras at some point or other.

Royal 10 E IV   f. 59v   Rabbit shooting

We've lost a lot since we decided "*" was good enough.

Which brings me to the point I was making at the end of my previous post.  If you have a copy of the books/papers being cited at your fingertips, in parallel with a paper or essay using them, then, rather than having some artifact of scholarship divorced from its roots, you can see the organic growth and web of relationships between source text and new work.  Though this would be helpful enough if you could click on a citation in a paper and be taken directly to the location cited, the reverse—reading a book or paper and seeing who and what cites it as you’re reading it—could be more interesting and fruitful. Continue reading

A Thought on Electronic Publishing, Returning to Form (Part 1)

This post is part 1 of (at least) two; the second part is located here.

“Everyone” in publishing (well, other than at my small academic press where people still submit things in WordPerfect) seems to be all excited/worried/up-in-arms about the Impending Ebook Revolution.  It may happen, for obvious reasons.  It may not happen, again for obvious reasons.  I’m not a tech blogger, nor an industry pundit, nor even a cranky old emeritus professor who causes Bossman to say things about people who submit in WordPerfect before dumping it onto the production editor, so I’d suggest finding one of those if you want to know why ebooks are The Next Big Thing/The End of the World.

Rather, I was thinking about why someone would prefer electronic reading material to print.  Much of this will be addressed in later posts, but one thing that struck me as a potentially interesting consequence of electronic book downloading is how similar it is (or could be) to how reading materials were bound in the middle ages.

Yes, really. Continue reading