What We Are Reading Today: Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza

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Updated 09 July 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza

Author: Gilles Deleuze

In this remarkable work, Gilles Deleuze, the renowned French philosopher, reflects on one of the thinkers of the past who most influenced his own sweeping reconfiguration of the tasks of philosophy. For Deleuze, Spinoza, along with Nietzsche and Lucretius, conceived of philosophy as an enterprise of liberation and radical demystification. He locates in Spinoza “a set of affects, a kinetic determination, an impulse” and makes Spinoza into “an encounter, a passion.”
Expressionism in Philosophy was the culmination of a series of monographic studies by Deleuze (on Hume, Bergson, Nietzsche, Proust, Kant, and Sacher-Masoch) and prepared the transition from these abstract treatments of historical schemes of experience to the nomadology of Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus, co-authored with Félix Guattari). Thus, Expressionism in Philosophy is both a pivotal reading of Spinoza’s work and a crucial text within the development of Deleuze’s thought.


What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Updated 16 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Extraction Ecologies and the Literature of the Long Exhaustion

Author: Elizabeth Carolyn Miller

The 1830s to the 1930s saw the rise of large-scale industrial mining in the British imperial world. Elizabeth Carolyn Miller examines how literature of this era reckoned with a new vision of civilization where humans are dependent on finite, nonrenewable stores of earthly resources, and traces how the threatening horizon of resource exhaustion worked its way into narrative form.
Britain was the first nation to transition to industry based on fossil fuels, which put its novelists and other writers in the remarkable position of mediating the emergence of extraction-based life.
Miller looks at works like Hard Times, The Mill on the Floss, and Sons and Lovers, showing how the provincial realist novel’s longstanding reliance on marriage and inheritance plots transforms against the backdrop of exhaustion to withhold the promise of reproductive futurity. She explores how adventure stories like Treasure Island and Heart of Darkness reorient fictional space toward the resource frontier.


What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi

Updated 14 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Paracelsus; Selected Writings by B Jolande Jacobi

The enigmatic 16th-century Swiss physician and natural philosopher Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus, is known for the almost superhuman energy with which he produced his innumerable writings, for his remarkable achievements in the development of science, and for his reputation as a visionary (not to mention sorcerer) and alchemist.

Little is known of his biography beyond his legendary achievements, and the details of his life have been filled in over the centuries by his admirers. This richly illustrated anthology presents in modernized language a selection of the moral thought of a man who was not only a self-willed genius charged with the dynamism of an impetuous and turbulent age but also in many ways a humble seeker after truth, who deeply influenced C. G. Jung and his followers.


What We Are Reading Today: Cogs and Monsters by Diane Coyle

Updated 14 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Cogs and Monsters by Diane Coyle

Digital technology, big data, big tech, machine learning, and AI are revolutionizing both the tools of economics and the phenomena it seeks to measure, understand, and shape. In Cogs and Monsters, Diane Coyle explores the enormous problems—but also opportunities—facing economics today if it is to respond effectively to these dizzying changes and help policymakers solve the world’s crises, from pandemic recovery and inequality to slow growth and the climate emergency.

Mainstream economics, Coyle says, still assumes people are “cogs”—self-interested, calculating, independent agents interacting in defined contexts. But the digital economy is much more characterized by “monsters”—untethered, snowballing, and socially influenced unknowns. What is worse, by treating people as cogs, economics is creating its own monsters, leaving itself without the tools to understand the new problems it faces.


What We Are Reading Today: Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic by Andrew W. Appel

Updated 13 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic by Andrew W. Appel

Between inventing the concept of a universal computer in 1936 and breaking the German Enigma code during World War II, Alan Turing (1912–1954), the British founder of computer science and artificial intelligence, came to Princeton University to study mathematical logic.

Some of the greatest logicians in the world—including Alonzo Church, Kurt Godel, John von Neumann, and Stephen Kleene—were at Princeton in the 1930s, and they were working on ideas that would lay the groundwork for what would become known as computer science.

This book presents a facsimile of the original typescript of Turing’s fascinating and influential 1938 Princeton PhD thesis, one of the key documents in the history of mathematics and computer science. The book also features essays by Andrew Appel and Solomon Feferman that explain the still-unfolding significance of the ideas Turing developed at Princeton.

A work of philosophy as well as mathematics, Turing’s thesis envisions a practical goal—a logical system to formalize mathematical proofs so they can be checked mechanically.


What We Are Reading Today: Power to the People by Audrey Kurth Cronin

Updated 10 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Power to the People by Audrey Kurth Cronin

Never have so many possessed the means to be so lethal. The diffusion of modern technology to ordinary people has given them access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolized by the state. In recent years, states have attempted to stem the flow of such weapons to individuals and nonstate groups, but their efforts are failing.

As Audrey Kurth Cronin explains in Power to the People, what we are seeing now is an exacerbation of an age-old trend, according to a review on goodreads.com.

Over the centuries, the most surprising developments in warfare have occurred because of advances in technologies combined with changes in who can use them. Indeed, accessible innovations in destructive force have long driven new patterns of political violence.