Berfrois

January 2013

How can we reconcile virtue ethics and contractarianism?

How can we reconcile virtue ethics and contractarianism?

Tapping a Blast Furnace, Graham Sunderland, 1941-42 by Massimo Pigliucci A really fascinating and, as we shall see in a moment, somewhat nasty dispute has exploded in the philosophical public sphere, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see why – both sides have a very good...

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Why did the capitalist counter-revolution of the late 20th century prove to be so successful?

Why did the capitalist counter-revolution of the late 20th century prove to be so successful?

While there are a number of plausible labels that might be attached to the 20th century, in terms of social history it was clearly the age of the working class. For the first time, working people who lacked property became a major and sustained political force.

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Why should not everyone be able to use all the available knowledge that humans have created?

Why should not everyone be able to use all the available knowledge that humans have created?

Aaron Swartz From The New York Review of Books: Since the sad death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, there has been a lot of discussion of the extent to which the criminal prosecution hanging over him contributed to his suicide. Some have pointed their fingers at MIT, suggesting that,...

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How to Teach with Guerrillas

How to Teach with Guerrillas

In fall 2009, an exhibition, public talk, and workshops by the Guerrilla Girls were presented at the Acadia University Art Gallery. Coincidentally, Gender and Development was being offered in the same semester. This provided an opportunity for a cross-disciplinary collaborative project that engaged students outside the classroom.

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“God is seven!”

“God is seven!”

by Justin E. H. Smith Different people, different closets. I don’t quite know how to say it delicately so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I believe in God. Apart from periodic spells of foolish pride, I have believed in God all my life. Even...

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Daniel Tutt: Atheism

Daniel Tutt: Atheism

Warkton, Northamptonshire: Monument by Vangelder, 1775, John Piper, 1964 by Daniel Tutt Difficult Atheism: Tracing the Death of God in Contemporary Continental Thought, by Christopher Watkin, Edinburgh University Press, 224 pp. Declaring oneself an “atheist” just isn’t what it used to be. Growing numbers of Generation Y prefer to...

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Sues Race

Sues Race

Helprin’s latest novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow, can be read as an elegy for the American Century. Helprin’s emphasis on invidividual responsibility, as well as his backwards-lookingness, over-the-topness, and magical thinking, give us a window into the Republican Party he supports.

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The Example of Georgia

The Example of Georgia

by Irakli Zurab Kakabadze Naira Gelashvili is in her own right one of the leading Georgian writers and literary critics of last 40 years or so.  Her writings have been very popular and controversial through the last 25 years when she came out as one of the leaders of...

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Katrina van Grouw: Every Minute Part of the Avian Skeleton

Katrina van Grouw: Every Minute Part of the Avian Skeleton

I began by anatomical investigations on a dead Mallard which I found washed up on the beach, lovingly stripping off each layer of muscle, boiling up and reassembling the skeleton. Then, everything was drawn; from several angles. There were several mishaps: like when I glued a small bone to...

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‘Never a sufficiently long lull in history’

‘Never a sufficiently long lull in history’

Girl and Three Men’s Heads, Edvard Munch From The New York Times: I’ve been living in complete silence for months, I might say for years, with just the usual dull sounds you hear at the outskirts of town, the occasional echo of steps in the corridor and, further off,...

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game game

game game

Creators of electronic literature are progressing toward a more pervasive employment of the “ludic” — of the spirit of play inhabiting not just the writing, and not just the programming, but both in an elaborate, symbiotic combination. The tradition of “ludic” writing is well-rehearsed in criticism of electronic literature,...

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The Scent of a Monad

The Scent of a Monad

Louis Riel by Justin E. H. Smith This is a translation of Louis Riel’s Mémoire sur les Monades, composed in prison while awaiting execution. Riel was hanged in Regina in November, 1885. To read the original French, go here. For a brief biography of Riel, go here. Riel’s version...

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Why is Turkey jailing more journalists than China?

Why is Turkey jailing more journalists than China?

Photograph via IFEX From Columbia Journalism Review: Award-winning investigative reporter Ahmet Sik is no stranger to danger. In 1998, he was hospitalized after a pro-police mob, furious about a murder conviction against several cops in a torture case, attacked the victim’s lawyers, the prosecutor, and journalists. In 2009, he...

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If lucifer-matches were blunderbusses…

If lucifer-matches were blunderbusses…

An innocent-looking little book lies on our parlour-table, an extensive demand for which would imply that English households abound in perils, and are hourly at the mercy of emergencies. Harmless as it looks, its purpose is alarming. It is called "Household Surgery; or, Hints on Emergencies."

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Super Dupa

Super Dupa

Mariah Carey and Whitney Huston From Pitchfork: There was, of course, a lot to love about pop in the late 90s: I was entranced by the weird, warped sound of anything Timbaland had a hand in, from Missy Elliott’s “The Rain” to Aaliyah’s singles– even then, there didn’t seem...

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“What do you know about gold?”

“What do you know about gold?”

Goldfinger, United Artists, 1964 From Virgina Quarterly Review: How did Paul Dehn become the preeminent screenwriter of the Cold War? Like most information about screenwriters, the answer might as well be top secret. There exists no biographical dictionary of screenwriters. The number of good biographies of screenwriters can probably...

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Logan K. Young on The Replacements

I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October...

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Tyranny Is a Growth Industry by Vladimir Savich and Zachary Bos

Tyranny is a growth industry. Each day brings exciting new developments. These events imprint themselves upon the world in the form of newspapers, magazines,...

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Tjoa Shze Hui: 1920s

Of the many witticisms that make up The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, one voiced by Picasso really gets under the skin. He says...

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Elias Tezapsidis on Lorentzen, Batuman, Lerner, Smallwood and Stein

Contemporary narrators feel entitled to their own realities now more than ever. The internet has created this fascinating binary, one in which individuals can...

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Henry Giardina on Bob Hope

All mythical creatures need an origin story. The Bob Hope character springs into being, Athena-like, from out of the head of Preston Sturges in...

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Mattilda B. Sycamore: Yearning From Spurning

One problem with gentrification is that it always gets worse. But then I go into a Hooters, and it’s a vintage clothing store. A...

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Alexander McGregor
Alexander McGregor: Trauma

Following World War II, the German philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch”: to write poetry after Auschwitz is...

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John Crutchfield: Chords

But music, even bad music, is a symptom of hope, is it not? Naturally one would prefer the music to be good, but any...

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Menachem Feuer on Robin Williams

Regardless of whether you are from Europe, the United States, Asia, or Africa, we can all agree that there is something special about the...

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Reality Principles: Berfrois Interviews Frank Smecker

I don't know if I ever wanted to become a theorist. I struggle with this position. For me, it's a hystericized — and therefore...

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Albert Rolls: Which (Side) Are You On, Man?

James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine,...

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Keith Doubt
Keith Doubt on Serbia

The intellectual integrity of cultural anthropology is based largely on its commitment to cultural relativism as a principled notion. Cultural relativism is the principle...

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A Gosse in Woolf’s Clothing by Andre Gerard

On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows:...

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Andrew Gallix: Let’s Go!

Retro-futurism, as we now call it, came out of the closet in the late '70s due to the widespread feeling that there was indeed...

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