All entries by this author

Review of Breaking the Spell of Dharma *

Oct 29th, 2003 | Filed by

Siriyavan Anand discusses Meera Nanda’s plea for secularising India.… Read the rest

Ruse Reviews Dawkins *

Oct 29th, 2003 | Filed by

And asks some rather odd questions in the process.… Read the rest

The Turning Point

Oct 29th, 2003 12:30 am | By

I’m a sucker for situations like the one Colin McGinn describes in this article in Prospect. People from what he calls ‘an academically disinclined background’ who get their minds awakened as adolescents, and develop and keep intellectual interests of some sort. I always find that setup tremendously moving.

There is for instance a beautiful bit in the movie ‘Gods and Monsters’ in which the director James Whale, played stunningly by Ian McKellen, ponders his own mysterious emergence from a grimly unaesthetic background. Where did he get all that imagination and love of beauty, he wonders, in McKellen’s beautiful reedy voice. ‘How did I get that way, where did it come from?’ He’s not denigrating his parents, merely wondering at his … Read the rest

Oh If Only Chiang Had Won… *

Oct 28th, 2003 | Filed by

Counter-factuals are easy to win, David Stanway points out.… Read the rest

Colin McGinn on Harnessing Mental Energy *

Oct 28th, 2003 | Filed by

‘What I liked most about philosophy was its extremely non-local character.’… Read the rest

Postmodernism, Science and Religious Fundamentalism:

Oct 28th, 2003 | By Meera Nanda

Religious Fundamentalisms, Modernist and Postmodernist

Recently I was invited to a conference of scholars of science-studies at the beautiful, lake-side campus of Cornell University. The agenda of this conference was to examine the influence of science studies on the wider “polity and the world” outside confines of the Ivory Tower. The conferees considered the influence of their discipline on just about every social movement that dealt with such things as biotech and computers to music (or rather, sound, as in “sound studies”). Completely missing from the agenda, even in this post-9/11 world that we live in, was any reference to the family of reactionary social movements that is making full use of the core ideas of science studies. I refer … Read the rest

Culture Meets the Market *

Oct 27th, 2003 | Filed by

The Sarastro couldn’t sing the low notes, but could swing on a trapeze.… Read the rest

Put That Book Down and Join the Group

Oct 26th, 2003 6:47 pm | By

This is a hilarious bit of reading. (Which I would have missed, despite entrenched habit of perusing the Guardian, but for Norm Geras’ always-interesting site, where you can vote for your own favourite novels, to the tune of three.) Lashings of sarcasm and mockery in Catherine Bennett’s look at Jane Root, BBC2, and the Big Read.

To ignore books is easy. So is burning them. You just need a match. But to make independent reading sound dull and great books look stupid, to transform literature into a vehicle for celebrities, polls, lists, voting opportunities and confected rivalries, to get books confidently debated by experts who have never read them, to set up a competition between Winnie the Pooh and War

Read the rest

Bad Writing

Oct 26th, 2003 | By

Ophelia Benson

It may seem like an exercise in administering corporal punishment to a deceased equine quadruped, to say harsh things about academic Bad Writing – but of course it’s not, for the cogent reason that the horse is not dead. Academic Bad Writing is indeed old news, and no secret. But it is also on-going: a thriving, flourishing, burgeoning industry with all too much product. The market is saturated, indeed the water is up over the second floor windows, but the rain keeps falling. The vampire keeps waking up every night to find fresh blood, so all we can do is keep pounding away on the stake through the heart.

Of course, one reason academic bad writing is evergreen … Read the rest

The Big Read *

Oct 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Ew, reading is solitary – quick, let’s get the group involved!… Read the rest

What the Mind Does *

Oct 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Consider the link between thinking and inferring.… Read the rest

A Credulous People *

Oct 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Only 5% of Americans realize there is no life after death.… Read the rest

Silly Ideas About Compensation *

Oct 26th, 2003 | Filed by

Paying executives 532 times as much as the bottom workers is not actually all that useful.… Read the rest

Spiked on Eagleton *

Oct 25th, 2003 | Filed by

He is fed up with cultural theory, but not quite fed up enough.… Read the rest

Ian Buruma on the Israeli Left *

Oct 24th, 2003 | Filed by

The Left is rich and Ashkenazi, the working class is Sephardic and religious – so the left dwindles.… Read the rest

Globalisation Means Americanisation *

Oct 24th, 2003 | Filed by

Sonja Hegasy has fallen for the Enlightenment myth, Mona Abaza says.… Read the rest

Fanonian Rhetoric on Globalisation *

Oct 24th, 2003 | Filed by

The wretched of the earth like new music and clothes, just as the rich do.… Read the rest


Oct 23rd, 2003 6:55 pm | By

A few more thoughts on ‘difficulty’ and bad writing. The result of reading another introduction, this one to the anthology Critical Terms for Literary Study. Thomas McLaughlin has some interestingly symptomatic things to say.

So the very project of theory is unsettling. It brings assumptions into question…And…it does so in what is often a forbidding and arcane style. Many readers are frightened off by the difficulty of theory, which they can then dismiss as an effort to cover up in an artifically difficult style the fact that it has nothing to say…Of course theory is difficult – sometimes for compelling reasons, sometimes because of offensive self-indulgence – but simply assuming that it is all empty rhetoric ultimately keeps you

Read the rest

The Pope as an Absolute Monarch *

Oct 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

John Paul II reasserted and even amplified the doctrine of ‘Papal infallibility.’… Read the rest

Ma Teresa a Celebrity, Yes, But Not a Saint *

Oct 23rd, 2003 | Filed by

India’s Science and Rationalists’ Association held a demonstration to protest against the beatification… Read the rest