"I was taking notes, but then I realized I was just underlining all the racist and sexist parts. So . . . I stopped," said someone else in my class. W...more"I was taking notes, but then I realized I was just underlining all the racist and sexist parts. So . . . I stopped," said someone else in my class. Which is basically how I feel. Get it together, Rousseau.(less)
Among other things, this collection is quite good at making you (me) confront your (my) internalized misogyny.
The other things, in no particular orde...moreAmong other things, this collection is quite good at making you (me) confront your (my) internalized misogyny.
The other things, in no particular order -
Stephanie Lewis (David Lewis' widow) is a delightful and engaging person.
I particularly appreciated Karen Warren's essay, which discusses the struggles and the triumphs of a career in philosophy.
This collection is good at giving you an idea of what it's like to be a professional philosopher, too. Sometimes that can look hazy and amorphous, and I guess it's still a bit hazy - but reading this gives you more of an idea about what the job can be like.
I was using "The Uses of Anger" and "Eye to Eye" for an essay about anger, so thought I might as well, you know, read the rest of the book. Since it w...moreI was using "The Uses of Anger" and "Eye to Eye" for an essay about anger, so thought I might as well, you know, read the rest of the book. Since it was there.
It's Audre Lorde, I don't know what you want me to say.(less)
This mostly served to prime me for in-class discussions and lend some context to the professor's lectures, or suggest examples. So I didn't really eng...moreThis mostly served to prime me for in-class discussions and lend some context to the professor's lectures, or suggest examples. So I didn't really engage with it. Part of me feels like it's mostly just a chance for Elster to show off his erudition: "Look at all the pertinent historical trivia I know!"(less)
So, I knew the broad strokes because of that Alexander Waugh group bio. But, after all, as (I think?) Bill Lycan said, Wittgenstein is unusual in 20th...moreSo, I knew the broad strokes because of that Alexander Waugh group bio. But, after all, as (I think?) Bill Lycan said, Wittgenstein is unusual in 20th century philosophers in English in that he, you know, had an interesting life. (TBH - if the only options are "boring" and "Wittgenstein" I will choose boring every time.)
What is the point of even writing about this book. It is exactly what you think it is. Oh, but, interestingly, Ray Monk quite liked the Derek Jarman movie. (So did I.)(less)
Obviously, this is a seminal work in philosophy but it is such a slog to get through. Also, I was more than ready for Hume and Kant by the time I hit...moreObviously, this is a seminal work in philosophy but it is such a slog to get through. Also, I was more than ready for Hume and Kant by the time I hit the halfway point.(less)
The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it implied - as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels - that this new type of criminal, who is in actual fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or feel that he is doing wrong. In this respect, the evidence in the Eichmann case was even more convincing than the evidence in the trial of the major war criminals, whose pleas of a clear conscience could be dismissed more easily because they combined with the argument of obedience to "superior orders" various boasts about occasional disobedience. But although the bad faith of the defendants was manifest, the only ground on which guilty conscience could actually be proved was the fact that the Nazis, and especially the criminal organizations to which Eichmann belonged, had been so very busy destroying the evidence of their crimes during the last months of the war. And this ground was rather shaky. It proved no more than recgonition that the law of mass murder, because of its novelty, was not yet accepted by other nations; or, in the language of the Nazis, that they had lost their fight to "liberate" mankind from the "rule of subhumans," especially from the domination of the Elders of Zion; or, in ordinary language, it proved no more than the admission of defeat. Would any one of them have suffered from a guilty conscience if they had won?
(from the Epilogue)
There aren't a lot of funny parts in this book, as you might imagine, but Arendt's description of Italy's noncooperation re: getting rid of their Jews is kind of hilarious in a Terry Gilliam black comedy kind of way. (less)
Phil of social science is really not my thing, but there's enough of a normative project here that I could skip the formal stuff and still find the bo...morePhil of social science is really not my thing, but there's enough of a normative project here that I could skip the formal stuff and still find the book useful and interesting.(less)
This is the first book in the Thinking in Action series I've read, and I look forward to picking my way through the (many, many, many) others (over th...moreThis is the first book in the Thinking in Action series I've read, and I look forward to picking my way through the (many, many, many) others (over the next two hundred years) (seriously, there are so many of them). It's called On Manners, and the cover has a complicated looking place setting, but Stohr follows Judith Martin's distinction between "etiquette" and "manners":
Miss Manners uses the word "manners" to refer to the principles underlying any system of etiquette, and "etiquette" to refer to the particular rules used to express these principles. . . . Because etiquette rules are fashioned to pertain to a particular time and social setting, they are subject to development and change. However, the principles of manners from which they derive their authority remain constant and universal. Even directly contradictory rules of etiquette prevailing in different societies at the same time, or at different times in the same society, may derive their authority from the same principle of manners.
Now, as anyone who reads a Miss Manners column knows, half the questions boil down to "how good do I have to be around this person in light of x, y, and z?" So there's quite a lot of ethical philosophy at work in questions of manners, and Stohr hits all the big names: Kant, Aristotle, Austen (they are comedies of manners, after all).
Actually, since questions of manners are basically questions about how to treat people, I think that this would be a great text for a survey course in ethics. (Obviously, readings from more canonical texts would be incorporated also! But On Manners would be a lovely unifying point.)
She loses a star for, I think, giving utilitarians kind of short shrift. Not practically, as far as I can tell, but there's more nuance to most kinds of utilitarianism than presented here. But this is, really, quite a charming little book of philosophy. It's rather small and approachable and wouldn't require a huge philosophical background. Stohr's illustrative points are all from literature: Seinfeld, Jane Austen, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Oh, and Martha Stewart. She also does a good job of clearly explaining the basic positions of Kant and Aristotle, which is no small feat since they are both tough (although Kant's ethics are much easier than his other work . . . mostly). I think this is a well-made book, both thoughtful and interesting, and written with a light touch.(less)
Sartre's organization is a little too fluid and/or specious to really work for me as serious philosophy - at the same time, it makes his work kind of...moreSartre's organization is a little too fluid and/or specious to really work for me as serious philosophy - at the same time, it makes his work kind of endearing. Because! He is! SO EXCITED! And also really angry about some things (hint: Nazis). I know that this is considered less of a "problem" in French, and I'm certain that my own biases are for very clearly structured works of philosophy - which plays into my reaction to this work.
Poetic Justice, like Nussbaum's earlier work (a collection of essays) Love's Knowledge is a marriage of philosophy and literature, although this book...morePoetic Justice, like Nussbaum's earlier work (a collection of essays) Love's Knowledge is a marriage of philosophy and literature, although this book - which is sort of a long essay, actually - is, as one might guess from its brevity, much more focused. Poetic Justice is, more or less, about literature's role in creating compassionate critical thinkers, and how that makes for a better society.(less)
Marcuse has such a high opinion of art and art's potential that I was at times reminded, almost against my will, of Schopenhauer - although thankfully...moreMarcuse has such a high opinion of art and art's potential that I was at times reminded, almost against my will, of Schopenhauer - although thankfully Marcuse sidesteps Schopenhauer's quasi-ecstatic mysticism and sees art as very much engaged with liberation. He also avoids arguing that all art has utilitarian obligations (or rather, he seems to argue that "art for art's sake" is an ethical use of art - it's a bit complicated). The book is also quite quotable.
On Oedipus Rex and eternal art:
Great literature knows a guiltless guilt which finds its first authentic expression in Oedipus Rex. Here is the domain of that which is changeable and that which is not. Obviously there are societies in which people no longer believe in oracles, and there may be societies in which there is no incest taboo, but it is difficult to imagine a society which has abolished what is called chance or fate, the encounter at the crossroads, the encounter of the lovers, but also the encounter with hell.
Tragedy and the revolution (tragedy often bothers me, ethically):
Tragedy is always and everywhere while the satyr play follows it always and everywhere; joy vanishes faster than sorrow. This insight, inexorably expressed in art, may well shatter faith in progress but it may also keep alive another image and another goal of praxis, namely the reconstruction of society and nature under the principle of increasing the human potential for happiness. The revolution is for the sake of life, not death.
And the point of the essay:
Inasmuch as art preserves, with the promise of happiness, the memory of the goals that failed, it can enter, as a "regulative idea," the desperate struggle for changing the world. Against all fetishism of the productive forces, against the continued enslavement of individuals by the objective conditions (which remain those of domination), art represents the ultimate goal of all revolutions: the freedom and happiness of the individual.