Dr. Pangloss on Science and the Humanities

Steven Pinker’s latest article in The New Republic seems designed to enrage the very audience that it wants to assuage: “neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians.” In seeking to convince these hardy defenders of the humanities that modern science is not in fact the enemy,┬áDr. Pangloss, er, Pinker paints a rosy picture of our […]


Article Fever: On Scholarly Reading

The archive, Jacques Derrida tells us in his 1995 book Archive Fever, “is not only the stockroom and the conservatory for archivable contents of the past which would exist in any case, and just the same, without the archive. [. . .] No, the technical structure of the archiving archive also determines [both] the structure […]


Brooks’ “Practical University”

In his latest New York Times editorial, David Brooks encourages online education companies to impart not only technical knowledge but also what he calls “practical knowledge.” The “practical [online] university” of the future, he claims, should not only teach students what to do, i.e. technical skills, but also how to apply those skills in a […]


“Dear Michel” (an excerpt from the archives)

While sifting through the papers of the Bavarian SPD leader Waldemar von Knoeringen at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn a few months ago, I came across a heart-rending letter from May 22, 1946. Writing almost exactly one year after the Nazi capitulation, Knoeringen’s old comrade from the Neu Beginnen group Eugen Nerdinger tries to […]


Minecraft! Reflections by Two Scholars Who Should Know Better

When the full version of Minecraft, a computer game by Mojang, turned one year old last month, we thought that it would be fun to share our experiences of and reflections on this thing that’s been haunting our dreams. We should begin by admitting that we’ve only tried single-player mode; entering into a war of […]


What Darwin and Turing Missed

In a recent article for The Atlantic, the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett compares the work of computer pioneer Alan Turing to Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection. What both Darwin and Turing realized, argues Dennett, was that the operations of any complex system can be reduced to the apparently mindless repetition of its individual […]


The Austere Option

Matt Taibbi, blogging for Rolling Stone, recently posted a thoughtful critique of European and American calls for “austerity” in response to the global economic crisis. His basic point is that the burden of proposed austerity measures — cuts to welfare, public services, and government spending in general — falls disproportionately on the shoulders of the […]