What I’m Reading
We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever by Benjamin Mee (interesting)
The Gulf War Did Not Take Place by Jean Baudrillard (this book is the inspiration for Wag the Dog. ridiculous at times but an insightful dissection of the incentives faced by generals and politicians. you should read this)
Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Koren Zailckas (doesn’t have the conclusion the book deserves but a good, easy read on addiction and (female) youth culture)
The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill by Molly Worthen (apparently Yale has a Grand Strategy class; unfortunately, the writer is not quite talented enough to pull this book or its subject off. Charlie on the other hand is fascinating.)
The Poverty of Historicism by Karl Popper (I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one if anyone can help)
Wikipedia’s philosophy on rules is a good way to think about your life
Damien Hirst cuts out the middleman of the art industry (NYT)
Do you speedread by chance?
My cousin is Damien Hirst’s personal assistant. Talk about an interesting job.
Regarding Popper: I have not read The Poverty of Historicism but I have read volume 1 of The Open Society. (I just finished it last week.) It contains an extensive discussion of historicism in the context of Plato’s philosophy. Maybe that would help with Poverty.
In a few sentences, my impression is that historicism over-emphasizes the need for a golden past (or golden future) at the expense of the needs of the present. Historicism looks at human experience through the lens of great persons/countries/institutions/etc. and all but ignores individuals. The most common forms of historicist philosophies are tribalism (chosen group), fascism (chosen race), and Marxism (chosen class). Another point to keep in mind is that Popper was writing against the Nazis and fascists of 1930-1940’s Europe.
I hope it helps.
I’m sure you’ve heard you’re on VA again.
I just realized that for some reason, aside from ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X,’ I have spent my life completely missing out on reading (auto)biographies. It’s an odd thing, too, because I am usually so much more interested in a person’s life and what they did to get to where they are now – the more hidden details – than his or her current projects, especially if those are well documented elsewhere.
Now that I am at a school with an excellent library, my reading has picked up even more. I saw ‘Smashed’ some years ago at Target and finished that this weekend, and now I’m delving into ‘The Man On Whom Nothing Was Lost’ — thanks for the recommendations.
In the first paragraph of Poppers’ book, he mentions (to paraphrase)”Physical laws…are valid anywhere and always, ruled by a system of physical uni formalities invariable throughout space and time.”
Yet, there is no “theory of everything” in physics. Even Einstein has been proven wrong on several of his theories. String theory, loop quantum gravity, its any ones best guess. Its estimated we know of only 4% of the matter that makes us the universe. We cannot explain the acceleration of the expansion of our universe. “Out there”, time and space are not constants, but dynamic. Our physical understanding is therefore dependent on our physical situation. The novelty of the psychical universe (and how absolutely little we know about it) can be presumed to far exceed that of a half million years of human existence.
What Popper is saying is that scientific and physical laws are consistent and concrete. He’s saying that in comparison to very general and subjective social theories like “democracies never fight other democracies” or “patriarchy” or class oppression. It goes to his concept of falsifiability. He’s not saying that science has a theory of everything, just that science has a theory on hundreds and thousands of somethings and that’s what makes it infinitely more trustworthy than historicism.
Does that make sense?
Poverty of Historicism is best read with the understanding Popper’s aim is to refute the logical ‘proof’ that a socialist revolution will occur. He explains why this is bunk with logical arguments. He argues like a Mathematician/Scientist so his approach is eccentric for historiography.