Reads

Of all the pricks against which the philosophically-minded person must kick, few are as galling as the persistent tendency of booksellers to shelve the works of Ayn Rand in their ever-dwindling philosophy sections. It’s bad enough that the works of Aristotle and Plato must compete for shelf space with titles like The Simpsons and Philosophy and the works of Bernard-Henri Lévy. (More…)

Mega media-scholar Robert McChesney has been accused, with some justice, of being an over-producer. His histories of American media going back to the founding of the Republic pretty much set the tone for that area of scholarship in Communications, sending him around the country and sometimes around the planet with severe critiques and dire warnings. (More…)

At a symposium sponsored by NASA in 1993, science fiction writer Vernor Vinge postulated that within thirty years, we would create a sentient artificial entity with superhuman intelligence. “Shortly after, the human era will be ended,” he concluded. This event, which he termed “the singularity” would change the balance of power on this planet, as humans would not be the smartest beings in the world. (More…)

The sentiment of Continental Europe towards Islam — I do not speak of England — is still one of social hostility and political aggression. In spite of all the changes which have affected religious thought in Catholic Europe, and of the modern doctrine of tolerance, none of the nations by which Islam is immediately confronted by have changed anything of their policy, since they first resolved to recover “Christian lands lost to the infidel.” (More…)

The world is on the cusp of the greatest transformation of the nature of work since the industrial revolution of the 19th century, if not, arguably, since the invention of the wheel. The confluence of developments in cybernetics, robotics, and artificial intelligence will, in all likelihood, result in transformations so profound as to rewrite the rules governing human societies, if it does not wipe them out entirely. (More…)

I for one regret that the old Pax Romana was broken up by the Arabs; and hold that in the long run there was more life in that Byzantine decline than in that Semitic revival. And I will add what I cannot here develop or defend; that in the long run it is best that the Pax Romana should return; and that the suzerainty of those lands at least will have to be Christian, and neither Moslem nor Jewish. (More…)

The most important trend in recent historiography of the Cold War has been an expansion in interest in subjects outside tthe politico-military, and the economic. Twenty years ago, when Heide Fehrenbach published Cinema in Democratizing Germany, the perception that cultural issues were secondary was still widespread among scholars (particularly historians) of the postwar era. (More…)

Sometimes, you can’t tell how much a book has moved you until many years after you first encounter it. This past October, I took a trip Flagstaff, a town I’d somehow managed not to visit in fourteen years of living in Arizona. After a mostly sleepless night of coughing, I forced myself to drive north towards the Grand Canyon. That’s when I remembered Tony Hillerman. (More…)

The pale, yellow light of the waning day streamed through the dusty window panes of the little cigar shop, and across the bench where old Hans Fritzsche worked and hummed the melody of Der Freiheit the while. (More…)

Gandhi was deeply affected by the writings of Leo Tolstoy, and in particular, a letter he wrote in reply to the editor of the magazine Free Hindustan. He would ultimately translate the piece into Gujarati, and disseminate it across the Indian Diaspora. (More…)

When attempting to assess the work of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, one is tempted to do as Richard Bernstein did in a piece about Habermas in the 1980s and write two columns: one showing what a sympathetic, the other what an unsympathetic critic would say. (More…)

There’s a point in Don Letts’ Clash documentary Westway to the World where bassist Paul Simonon talks about the uncertainty that they all felt about their status after they’d signed their first record contract with CBS Records (for £100,000) in January 1977. (More…)