Berfrois

Justin E. H. Smith: The Search for Intelligent Life

Justin E. H. Smith: The Search for Intelligent Life

It is hard to read about SETI and more recent related projects looking for intelligent life in the stars without discerning in them certain silent presuppositions about what counts or should count as intelligent life on earth.

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Contingent and Necessary

Contingent and Necessary

by Justin E. H. Smith There is a familiar distinction in philosophy between contingent and necessary truths. Truths of the latter sort are those the negation of which implies a contradiction, or those that are true simply in virtue of the meaning of the words involved. For example, “A...

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A Tear

A Tear

From Evolution of household articles, animals etc. according to Darwin’s doctrine, Fr. Schmidt. Via Wellcome Library From The Threepenny Review: I remain stuck with the fact that Darwin cannot explain the origin of The Origin of Species. The story of evolution would be very different if the narrator weren’t...

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“But-but-but, but-but-but…”

“But-but-but, but-but-but…”

Surely no one makes the case for orthophemism as a virtue of public speech more clearly than Cicero: "When you speak of the anus," he writes, "you call it by a name that is not its own; why not rather call it by its own [i.e.,...

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To the extent that music involves repetition, it is all rooted in poetry…

To the extent that music involves repetition, it is all rooted in poetry…

by Justin E. H. Smith If cultural studies were not so wrapped up in the vapid and fleeting, to the point where they forget all about Baudelaire’s injunction to find ‘the eternal in the ephemeral’, they might just be able to discern some important truths about the sacred character...

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Liberating Angels by Justin E. H. Smith

Liberating Angels by Justin E. H. Smith

The Good and Evil Angels, William Blake, c.1805 by Justin E. H. Smith God, on a certain widespread understanding, is an imaginary friend for the childish and simpleminded. Those so accused will often defend themselves: but I don’t mean a white-bearded old-man God. I just mean, you know, something. A...

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The Russell Doctrine

The Russell Doctrine

The Fight For The Standard, Richard Ansdell, 1847 by Bertrand Russell I. The principle that it is always wrong to employ force against another human being has been held in its extreme form by Quakersand by Tolstoï, but has been rejected by the great majority of mankind as inconsistent...

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Radical Love

Radical Love

No one can love anymore because of an overabundance of reaction formation. No one wants to owe anything to their desire(s); to other people’s desires. Hence why Žižek (who I normally can’t stand) warned, “Don’t be afraid to really want what you desire” at an Occupy Wall Street rally...

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From the Fog

From the Fog

A Philosopher, Jacopo Tintoretto, 1570 From 3:AM: ‘Point to the fog. Now point away from it. Now brush your teeth. (Philosophy as a type of activity) ‘Seduction is the premature ejaculation of the future. It works best after brushing your teeth.’ ‘Always attach yourself...

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‘The deep-freeze was full for years to come’

‘The deep-freeze was full for years to come’

Herb and Harry were the names of our two steers, the one a Hereford, the other a Holstein. They did not do much but stand, bovine and stoic, from one day to the next. They sculpted strange rolling shapes into the salt lick with their fat blue tongues, and...

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Is philosophy more like ballet or more like dance?

Is philosophy more like ballet or more like dance?

On a certain plausible --but ultimately unsatisfactory-- definition, ‘philosophy’ is simply a proper noun. It describes a particular tradition, just like the terms ‘ballet’ and ‘butoh’. It would be odd to claim that there is an indigenous tradition of Polynesian ballet, not because anyone believes that Polynesians are inherently...

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What Is Forgetting?

What Is Forgetting?

The Virtue Wagon, Paul Klee, 1922 by Lauren Berlant Not unintentional forgetting, but of a thing that insists on being in the flow of things. It could be the forgetting of a dream you can’t stop because you’re in it, or of a sense that the world is converging...

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If They Say Why by Agustin Fuentes and Aku Visala

If They Say Why by Agustin Fuentes and Aku Visala

This debate is a good example of why ‘human nature’ is still a relevant concept. What does biology actually say about the origins of human morality and its flexibility? Is it true that we are slaves to our biological imperatives or can we use our flexible minds to significantly...

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Tamar Aylat-Yaguri on Kierkegaard and Judaism

Tamar Aylat-Yaguri on Kierkegaard and Judaism

When Johannes Climacus defines Christianity in the Postscript, he writes:

Christianity is spirit; spirit is inwardness; inwardness is subjectivity; subjectivity is essentially passion, and at its maximum an infinite, personally interested passion for one’s eternal happiness.

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Badiou’s Break?

Badiou’s Break?

Philosophy Consoling Boethius and Fortune Turning the Wheel, attributed to Henri de Vulcop, c.1470 From Notre Dame Philosophical Review: What are we to make of the recent ascendance of Alain Badiou to the position of general representative of French philosophy in the Anglophone humanities? There are multiple possible explanations,...

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j/j hastain: rebellion

j/j hastain: rebellion

When Yaweh advanced into Ezekiel in the form of penetration, the four wings of the chariot became instantly erect and bloodshot and then fell directly into limpness.

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