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Archive for the 'History' Category

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Part 2 of a Q&A with Michael Shenefelt and Heidi White, authors of If A, then B

If A, Then BIn If A, Then B: How the World Discovered Logic, Michael Shenefelt and Heidi White track the emergence and expansion of logic as a field of study. Today we have the second half of a Q&A with Shenefelt and White, who both teach Great Books at NYU’s Liberal Studies Program (read the first half here). In today’s half, Shenefelt and White explain their claim that, throughout history, the development of logic has reflected larger social changes happening in the world. And be sure to check out the book’s website!

Q: All your discussion of the historical roots of logic makes it sound like logic is all a consequence of the ancient world’s history.

Michael Shenefelt: It’s also a consequence of the modern world’s history. Consider the Industrial Revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. That’s what finally generated the logic that runs your computer—symbolic logic. The first fully symbolic systems came from George Boole and Augustus De Morgan in England in 1847, just as the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. Both thinkers said explicitly that they were seeking a way to make reasoning “mechanical.” Industrialization showed a whole generation of thinkers the immense power of mechanical operations, especially in the manufacture of cloth, and some wanted to achieve a similar effect in reasoning. A similar impulse also led to the development of abstract algebra, and this so-called mechanical effect in algebra was much stressed by John Stuart Mill. Later in the century, when Germany industrialized, you see the eminent figures of Gottlob Frege, George Cantor, and Richard Dedekind—great names in logic and mathematics. And when the Fiat automobile company was manufacturing cars in Turin, Italy, Giuseppe Peano started working at the University of Turin; Peano’s notation still underlies a lot of symbolic logic. Industrialization and symbolic logic were intimately connected. And then there’s the case of the United States. When the United States industrialized in the wake of the Civil War, Charles Sanders Peirce worked out a symbolic logic of his own and pointed out that logic problems might be solved using electrical switches.
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Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Part 1 of a Q&A with Michael Shenefelt and Heidi White, authors of If A, Then B

If A, Then BIn If A, Then B: How the World Discovered Logic, Michael Shenefelt and Heidi White track the emergence and expansion of logic as a field of study. Today we have the first half of a Q&A with Shenefelt and White, who both teach Great Books at NYU’s Liberal Studies Program, in which the two authors discuss the origins of logic, look at some of logic’s many uses, and give a convincing case for why studying logic is a valuable thing to do. And be sure to check out the book’s website!

Question: Why do you say logic comes out of politics?

Heidi White: Formal logic began as a reaction to political failure in ancient Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. Many Athenians blamed the city’s defeat in the long war with Sparta on tricky and deceptive reasoning in the Athenian Assembly; they believed demagogues had misled the voters into endorsing a disastrous military campaign. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? The philosopher Plato complained about this tricky and deceptive reasoning all the time. He was relentless in insisting on the difference between persuasion that relied on dubious reasons or a lack of evidence and persuasion that was well reasoned and well supported. And in the end, he came to the view that good government had to rely on genuine knowledge, and knowledge had to be based on sound argument. His student Aristotle then zeroed in on formal deductive logic as a crucial part of sound reasoning.
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Lawrence Friedman discusses The Lives of Erich Fromm on The Leonard Lopate Show

Lawrence Friedman on Erich Fromm

Earlier this week, Lawrence Friedman, author of The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet, appeared on The Leonard Lopate Show, to discuss the book and the life and legacy of Erich Fromm:

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

David A. Nibert – New Welfarism, Veganism, and Capitalism

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway by 1 PM TODAY for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today, in the final day of our Book Giveaway, we have “New Welfarism, Veganism, and Capitalism,” another excerpt from Animal Oppression and Human Violence. In this concluding chapter, Nibert explains why veganism is a global imperative, and how we can work around the barriers to this goal thrown up by the capitalist system.
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Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

David A. Nibert – A History of Domesecration, Part 2

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today we have the second half of a guest post by David A. Nibert (read the first half here). In this post, Nibert argues that the pervasive presence of domesecration in modern society has profoundly negative effects on humans as well as animals.

In the United States, the relentless quest for profits through the exploitation of domesecrated animals was primarily responsible for the continual expropriation of Native American lands for expanding ranching enterprises. Once indigenous peoples, buffalo and other “obstacles” were cleared from the Great Plains – territory U.S. leaders once promised to Native Americans in perpetuity – wealthy investors flooded the region with cows and sheep. Railways and giant slaughterhouses, constructed and staffed by oppressed immigrants, allowed the rise of the powerful U.S. “meat” industry. Not long after Blackmar’s drivel about the “service” animals were “rendering” to humans, Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle provided a true picture of the nightmarish condition of domesecrated animals in Chicago slaughterhouses and the predatory treatment of the workers there.
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Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

David A. Nibert – A History of Domesecration, Part 1

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, Professor of Sociology at Wittenberg University. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence!

Today we have the first half of a guest post by David A. Nibert, in which he explains how he first came to be aware of the issues he discusses in his book, and delves into the history of the phenomenon of “widespread and systemic oppression of other animals by humans.”

I never thought much about other animals or food production when I was younger. As a college sociology student in the early 1970s, I learned about racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression – but scarcely a word was mentioned about the oppression of other animals. Professors spouted the traditional prattle about the virtues of animal “domestication” and the “mutually beneficial partnership” that resulted. This perspective has remained largely unchanged for decades and reflects a statement made in 1896 by Frank Wilson Blackmar, who later would become president of the American Sociological Association.

The domestication of animals led to a great improvement in the race. It gave an increased food supply through milk and the flesh of animals. . . . One after another animals have rendered service to man. They are used for food or clothing, or to carry burdens and draw loads. The advantage of their domestication cannot be too greatly estimated.
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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Read the Introduction of Animal Oppression and Human Violence

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert. We’ll be featuring content from the book and original posts from the author all week! Today, we have Nibert’s Introduction to Animal Oppression and Human Violence, in which he explains his argument against the “obvious and unassailable” view of the positive role that domesticating animals has played in human development. And be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence.

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, by David A. Nibert

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert

Animal Oppression and Human Violence

This week our featured book is Animal Oppression and Human Violence, by David A. Nibert. Throughout the week, we will be featuring the book and its author here on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Animal Oppression and Human Violence. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on April 19th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Our giveaway is now complete and the winners have been notified via email. Thanks to all who participated!

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp – The Dalai Lamas and the Origins of Reincarnate Lamas

The Tibetan History Reader

This week our featured books are Sources of Tibetan Tradition, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, and The Tibetan History Reader, Edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer.

Today, we’ve got an excerpt from The Tibetan History Reader: “The Dalai Lamas and the Origins of Reincarnate Lamas,” by Leonard W. J. van der Kuijp. In this essay, van der Kuijp looks at the history of the Dalai Lamas and, in particular, when they came to be “associated with the most important Buddhist celestial being in Tibet.”

The Dalai Lamas and the Origins of Reincarnate Lamas, from The Tibetan History Reader

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

The Epic of King Gesar

Sources of Tibetan Tradition

This week our featured books are Sources of Tibetan Tradition, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, and The Tibetan History Reader, Edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer.

Today, we have a few excerpts from the Epic of King Gesar, “often described as the Tibetan national epic and as the longest poem in the world,” taken from Sources of Tibetan Tradition.

The Epic of King Gesar, excerpted from Sources of Tibetan Tradition

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

“History as Myth,” by Peter Schwieger

The Tibetan History Reader

This week our featured books are Sources of Tibetan Tradition, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, and The Tibetan History Reader, Edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer.

Today, we have a fascinating essay by Peter Schwieger, “History as Myth: On the Appropriation of the Past in Tibetan Culture,” excerpted from The Tibetan History Reader. In his essay, Schwieger asks, “What role has historical writing played in the conservation of Tibetan society?”

Tibetan History as Myth, from The Tibetan History Reader

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Timeline of Tibet

Sources of Tibetan Tradition

This week our featured books are Sources of Tibetan Tradition, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, and The Tibetan History Reader, Edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer. You can enter our book giveaway for a chance to win FREE copies of both books.

In today’s Tibet-themed post, we have an excerpt from Sources of Tibetan Tradition: a timeline detailing important events in Tibetan history, beginning in 247 B.C.E. with Nyatri Tsenpo’s election as king and ending in 1951 C.E. with the “Seventeen-Point Agreement.” (The Tibetan History Reader also contains this timeline.)

Sources of Tibetan Tradition – Timeline of Tibetan History

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Book Giveaway: Sources of Tibetan Tradition and The Tibetan History Reader

The Tibetan History Reader

This week our featured books are Sources of Tibetan Tradition, edited by Kurtis R. Schaeffer, Matthew T. Kapstein, and Gray Tuttle, and The Tibetan History Reader, Edited by Gray Tuttle and Kurtis R. Schaeffer.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring the books and their editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of BOTH Sourcebook of Tibetan Tradition and The Tibetan History Reader.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on April 19th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Andrew Nathan on His First Trip to China

My First Trip to China, Andrew NathanMy First Trip to China: Scholars, Diplomats, and Journalists Reflect on their First Encounters with China, edited by Kin-ming Liu, includes an essay by Andrew Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and more recently the author of China’s Search for Security.

In the essay, which is also posted on an accompanying site hosted on China File, describes his first trip to Maoist-dominated China in 1973. Nathan writes:

A three-week program of visits to production brigades, factories, industrial exhibitions, neighborhood committees, department stores, schools, universities, and the occasional classic tourist site, moving from Guangzhou to Beijing, then to Shanghai, Hangzhou, and back to Guangzhou. At each unit we sat in an arc of chairs or around a table, received a jiandan jieshao (simple introduction) from a “leading cadre,” took detailed notes, asked earnest questions, and walked through the facility trying to peer behind the façade of Maoist correctness for signs of real life.

Among other things Nathan, who traveled with other professors and young U.S. scholar, came under suspicion from Chinese academics for a reference he made in his book as well as Chinese officials who thought he was taking taking photographs of propaganda posters.

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Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Lawrence J. Friedman on Annis Freeman, Erich Fromm, and The Art of Loving

The Lives of Erich Fromm

This week our featured book is The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman. Today, we have an excerpt from The Lives of Erich Fromm in which Friedman discusses Annis Freeman and Fromm’s The Art of Loving. Stay tuned for more great content on Erich Fromm coming up this week, and remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of The Lives of Erich Fromm.

The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet — Lawrence J. Friedman by Columbia University Press

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a FREE copy of The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet, by Lawrence J. Friedman

The Lives of Erich Fromm

This week our featured book is The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of The Lives of Erich Fromm here on our blog, on our Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to the winner of our Book Giveaway.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail lf2413@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Interview with Marianne Hirsch, Author of “The Generation of Postmemory”

Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of PostmemoryThe following is an interview with Marianne Hirsch, author of The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust

Question: “Postmemory” – what is it? The description of your book claims that we can inherit other people’s memories, how so?

Marianne Hirsch: “Postmemory” describes the relationship that the “generation after” bears to the personal, collective, and cultural trauma of those who came before — to experiences they “remember” only by means of the stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up. But these experiences were transmitted to them so deeply and affectively as to seem to constitute memories in their own right. As I see it, the connection to the past that I define as postmemory is mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation. To grow up with overwhelming inherited memories, to be dominated by narratives that preceded one´s birth or one´s consciousness, is to risk having one´s own life stories displaced, even evacuated, by our ancestors. It is to be shaped, however indirectly, by traumatic fragments of events that still defy narrative reconstruction and exceed comprehension. These events happened in the past, but their effects continue into the present.

I first used the term “postmemory” in an article on Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the early 1990’s. Since then I’ve been trying to define and refine it, on the basis of personal experience and my reading and viewing of the work of writers and artists of what we might think of as the “postgenerations.”

Q: Why did you write this book? Are there personal stakes for you?

MH: Indeed, there was a moment, in the 1980’s, when I first began to wonder why certain stories that my parents had told me, or scenes they had evoked about what they always referred to as “the war,” were more vibrant and more vivid in my memories than moments I recalled from my own childhood. Their accounts had the textures and qualities of memories for me, but they were clearly not my memories: I had not experienced any of them directly. I felt that I needed a term to describe this indirect form of recollection, its belatedness and its multiple mediations. And I realized then that my experiences were not at all unique. Not only did I share them with other descendants of Holocaust survivors, but they described a larger cultural phenomenon common to my generation – a generation dominated by histories we did not ourselves live through. Memories are not just personal or familial. They are, as I describe in the book, more broadly affiliative – mediated by public images and stories that are transmitted to us from overpowering historical events like the Holocaust.

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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Charles B. Strozier on memorializing 9/11

The Critical Pulse, Jeffrey Williams and Heather SteffenIn an op-ed that appeared today in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles B. Strozier, author of Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses, and Scott Gabriel Knowles wrote about the responsibility of memorials and museums to keep important historical events like those of September 11, 2001 alive in the public memory.

They believe that, while no expense has been spared in the creation of the 9/11 memorial, it’s too abstract to fulfill its intended purpose:

The Manhattan memorial is . . . disturbingly macabre and unnecessarily abstract. It features water falling 30 feet (for no particular symbolic reason) into a pair of giant, ominous, square holes. Its two representations of the building “footprints” are exactly alike, a redundancy that reflects the towers but evokes no real memorial significance. Only the names of the dead, etched in marble, have the kind of meaning likely to touch visitors; the names of Todd Beamer (the Flight 93 passenger who famously called out, “Let’s roll!”) and Father Mychal Judge (the chaplain of the New York City Fire Department) have been rubbed so often that they have already been repaired more than once.

There were missed opportunities to embrace the clash of opinions in a democracy instead of postmodern abstraction and bland patriotism. Why not preserve the piece of the outer wall of one tower that stood majestically on the pile, which former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello described as a “relic of destruction” and “in its own way, a masterpiece”? And why not include some of the beautiful and spontaneous personal memorials from Union Square, some of which are preserved in the New York State Museum in Albany and the New York City Archives (of all places)?

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Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Media Alert! Ross Melnick’s American Showman

Ross Melnick, American ShowmanAmerican Showman: Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel and the Birth of the Entertainment Industry, 1908-1935, Ross Melnick’s biography of one of the most colorful characters in the entertainment industry in the early 20th century, has been generating a good deal of buzz, with great reviews in a number of important newspapers. We’ve collected excerpts from some of these reviews here. And make sure you don’t miss our interview with Ross Melnick on “Roxy” Rothafel, the art of presenting silent films, and what goes into writing a biography.

From the Washington Post’s Book World:

Such wizards gave 100 percent of themselves, and some, like Roxy, died early by doing so. Second only in prestige to Florenz Ziegfeld, Roxy micromanaged every detail of the theaters he oversaw, from the creases in the ushers’ trousers, to the hiring of talent, to the frame-by-frame editing of the films exhibited. When he clashed with corporate spreadsheets, censors or others, he simply quit and went on to exert his magic in a bigger theater — or on a radio microphone for a massive international audience, who considered his voice a balm to their harried souls. The Great Depression (and perhaps personal arrogance) finally blindsided him, but, as long as the ’20s roared, his name meant a standard of quality and cultural uplift in the forum of mass entertainment.

In this 52nd volume of Columbia University Press’s outstanding Film and Culture series, Melnick has placed his subject in a huge context, chronicling not only Roxy but also the movie and music businesses, the rise of radio, issues of anti-Semitism, the development of New York and much more during the first third of the 20th century. His writing clarifies, his judgments are eminently reasonable and his research is spectacular.

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Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Gertrude Stein, Alan Dershowitz, Barbara Will, and the Controversy at the Met

Barbara Will, Unlikely Collaborator The recent opening of The Steins Collect at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has ignited a controversyregarding Gertrude Stein’s fascist past. At the center of this debate is Barbara Will’s recent book Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma.

As Will’s book reveals, Stein, herself a Jew, supported various Vichy policies and in fact translated several of Marshal Philippe Pétain’s speeches. Moreover, she had a close relationship with Bernard Fay, who was director of the Bibliothèque Nationale during the Vichy regime and overseer of the repression of French freemasons. It is through Fay’s protection that Stein was able to remain in France.

Initially, the Met made no mention of Stein’s Vichy past but, as reported in the New York Times, after objections they decided to add a few sentences to the final wall text of the exhibition, describing how Gertrude Stein’s affiliation with Bernard Fäy, the Vichy collaborator and Nazi agent, contributed to the protection of Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas in France during the war. They also direct people to Barbara Will’s Unlikely Collaborator.

The story was also covered in the New Yorker, and in an interview Will suggests:

In a sense, the curators dropped the ball by not recognizing and anticipating this response. If one asks how and why this art survived the war [and] specifically, the art in Gertrude’s collection—then the issue of Gertrude Steins’s Vichy commitments becomes very important indeed. Why was Stein’s apartment, where most of the art was stored, left undisturbed during the war? The only firm answer we have—with documented proof—is that Bernard Faÿ kept his eye on the apartment and intervened when it looked like the seals on the doors were going to be broken and the Nazis were going to seize the art works.

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