What We Are Reading Today: Groundless Belief by Michael Williams

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Updated 29 December 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Groundless Belief by Michael Williams

Inspired by the work of Wilfrid Sellars, Michael Williams launches an all-out attack on what he calls “phenomenalism,” the idea that our knowledge of the world rests on a perceptual or experiential foundation. The point of this wider-than-normal usage of the term “phenomenalism,” according to which even some forms of direct realism deserve to be called phenomenalistic, is to call attention to important continuities of thought between theories often thought to be competitors. 

Williams’s target is not phenomenalism in its classical sense-datum and reductionist form but empiricism generally. Williams examines and rejects the idea that, unless our beliefs are answerable to a “given” element in experience, objective knowledge will be impossible.

Groundless Belief was first published in 1977. This second edition contains a new afterword in which Williams places his arguments in the context of some current discussions of coherentism versus the Myth of the Given and explains their relation to subsequent developments in his own epistemological  views.


What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

Updated 02 February 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Trading at the Speed of Light by Donald MacKenzie

In today’s financial markets, trading floors on which brokers buy and sell shares face- to-face have increasingly been replaced by lightning-fast electronic systems that use algorithms to execute astounding volumes of transactions.

“Trading at the Speed of Light” tells the story of this epic transformation.

Donald MacKenzie shows how in the 1990s, in what were then the disreputable margins of the US financial system, a new approach to trading — automated high-frequency trading or HFT— began and then spread throughout the world.


What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Updated 31 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Urban Brain

Edited by Nikolas Rose & Des Fitzgerald

Most of the world’s people now live in cities and millions have moved from the countryside to the rapidly growing megacities of the global south.

How does the urban experience shape the mental lives of those living in and moving to cities today? Sociologists study cities as centers of personal progress and social innovation, but also exclusion, racism, and inequality. Psychiatrists try to explain the high rates of mental disorders among urban dwellers, especially migrants.

But the split between the social and life sciences has hindered understanding of how urban experience is written into the bodies and brains of urbanites.


What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Updated 30 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: What Happened To You?

Edited by Bruce D. Perry, Oprah Winfrey

“What Happened to You?” provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns which many of us struggle to understand. This book is going to change the way you see your life.

When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. The book tells us that it’s time we started asking a different question.

Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Winfrey shares stories from her own past, understanding through experience the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma and adversity at a young age. In conversation throughout the book, she and Dr. Perry focus on understanding people, behavior, and ourselves.


What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Updated 28 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: Talking Cure; An Essay on the Civilizing Power of Conversation

Edited by Paula Marantz Cohen

“Talking Cure” is a timely and enticing excursion into the art of good conversation. Paula Marantz Cohen reveals how conversation connects us in ways that social media never can and explains why simply talking to each other freely and without guile may be the cure to what ails our troubled society. 

Drawing on her lifelong immersion in literature and culture and her decades of experience as a teacher and critic, Cohen argues that we learn to converse in our families and then carry that knowledge into a broader world where we encounter diverse opinions and sensibilities.

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What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

Updated 24 January 2023

What We Are Reading Today: The Land Beneath the Ice by David J. Drewry

From the moment explorers set foot on the ice of Antarctica in the early nineteenth century, they desired to learn what lay beneath.

David J. Drewry provides an insider’s account of the ambitious and often hazardous radar mapping expeditions that he and fellow glaciologists undertook during the height of the Cold War, when concerns about global climate change were first emerging and scientists were finally able to peer into the Antarctic ice and take its measure.

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