starting from zero!

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs project is “reimagining cities to improve quality of life.” But what might “quality of life” actually mean? As Emily Badger notes in a recent essay about the tech visionaries of the urban,  It’s … unclear what you’d optimize an entire city for. Technologists describe noble aspirations like...

more on offensive ideas

In response to my previous post on this subject, my friend Chad Wellmon sent me a link to a (paywalled) essay by his colleague Elizabeth Barnes on the value of responding to offensive ideas. Barnes makes a useful distinction between ideas that are deeply offensive but not widely or seriously held — an argument in defense of rape, for...

conversation and equality

When I spoke at Duke a couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to visit with some of the students of Walter Sinnot-Armstrong. (Walter is a delightful fellow, by the way, and has a book coming out later this year, Think Again, that I am presumptuous enough to see as an excellent sequel to How to Think.) The students were supposed to...

farewell to Twitter?

A few weeks ago I deleted my private Twitter account — it was a good way to keep up with friends, but I found it impossible to control it (via disabled RTs, muted strings, etc.) well enough to prevent the frustration from exceeding the pleasure. That left me just with my public account, which I have been using primarily for linking to...

why I got it wrong

Obviously it’s good to admit you’re wrong when you’re wrong — because we’re all gonna be wrong, often — but it’s even better to try to understand how you went astray in the first place. So why did I misinterpret Graeber and Wengrow’s argument? I think I did so because I have seen all too often a series of steps...

hunters, farmers, and time

In a wonderful review-essay in the most recent issue of The New Atlantis, Adam Roberts argues that farmers were the first time-travelers: It is certainly possible to imagine our hunter-gatherer ancestors living in some bestial, continuous present of consciousness, their experience of time pricked out with moments of intensity — the...

rewriting ancient history

This fascinating article by David Graeber and David Wengrow challenges a strongly established historical account — one, they say, having its origins primarily in the work of Rousseau — that posits, in the early human era, egalitarian hunter-gatherer cultures displaced by farming cultures that brought technological...

back in the saddle

Hi. I’m back. Not sure how much I’ll be posting, but I have a great many ideas that I want to try out, so please join me in the comments. A few little notes about what I’ve been up to:  My book How to Think came out last fall.  My book The Year of Our Lord 1943: Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis will be out in August.  My...

redirecting to Pinboard

I had thought that I might be able to resume at least some blogging here, but it’s just not going to happen. Too much to do — and soon I will begin blogging in support of my forthcoming book How to Think. Please keep an eye on that site, if thinking is the kind of thing you’re into. I am still of course fascinated by...

Can anyone help me understand Ephraim Radner?

While I’m on the twofold subject of (a) reading outside my speciality and (b) asking for help, I want to say something about the theologian Ephraim Radner. Several people I know and admire very much have encouraged me to read Radner, whom they in turn admire very much, and for a good many years now I have tried, repeatedly. But...

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