A Perfect Storm of Vitriol: A Review of Norman Finkelstein’s I’ll Burn that Bridge When I Get to It! (2023)

WRITINGS > FINISHED [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Norman Finkelstein’s I’ll Burn that Bridge When I Get to It! Heretical Thoughts on Identity Politics, Cancel Culture, and Academic Freedom (2023) is an important book that ought to be read by anyone trying to figure out what the hell has happened to “progressive” America these past few years.
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A “Great Conversation” Model of University DEI: At the University of Chicago, for Example

WRITINGS > FINISHED [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

The “Great Conversation” model of the university presupposes an intellectual posture of skepticism and humility that is incompatible with claims of epistemic privilege, the notion that some individuals or groups have greater inherent access to truth. UChicago DEI initiatives should reflect this by incorporating perspectives that question all aspects of DEI. Not doing so results in a “Great Monologue” that impedes the quest for truth and diminishes the possibility of truth-based activism, as well as denigrates those holding currently unfashionable views. Continue reading

The Truth of Muhammad al-Dura: A Response to James Fallows

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Whether or not a particular 12-year-old boy died at the hands of Israeli soldiers, the image of Mohammed al-Dura is an authentic symbol of the Israeli occupation. Avoiding this harsh truth does a disservice to Israel and the Jewish people, as well as to the Palestinians, hinders the quest for peace, and endangers everyone if the wrong lessons are drawn from the al-Dura incident. Continue reading

Agent in Athens, Patient in Jerusalem: The Cosmic (Sense of) Self in Greek and Hebrew Culture and their Descendents

WRITINGS > Unfinished

This essay is a generalization about idealizations.  As such, it is necessarily imperfect and incorrect.  In some ways it says too little.  In other ways it says too much.  Nonetheless, my hope is that this essay still says something true, something that begins to get at some of the ways that Greek and Hebrew civilizations spawned “senses of self” (or even more radically, actual “selves”) that were fundamentally different from, perhaps even antithetical to, one another — just as they also spawned “worldviews” (or even actual “worlds”) that were fundamentally different and perhaps antithetical.  As such, this essay is an exploration in what might be called “historical cultural psychology” — an examination of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constituted one another in two historically-important civilizations.  And to the extent Athens and Jerusalem live on in at least two contemporary civilizations, this essay is also an exploration of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constitute one another today. Continue reading

Mediating Mormonism: The Book of Mormon in Mormon Culture and Cognition

WRITINGS > FINISHED

The dissertation proposed is an effort to further the development of an overarching model of the “textual mediation of culture and cognition” through an initial interdisciplinary case study of the dialectical relationship which has existed between the Book of Mormon and Mormonism since the publication of the former and the founding of the latter in 1830.
     As currently conceived, the analysis will proceed in three parts. Part One will set the scene by laying out the theoretical background of the study and the historical background on Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. With these basic perspectives and facts in hand, Part Two will move in two opposite directions, conducting first an “imagined community” analysis which examines the ways in which the Book of Mormon has participated in the “social construction of Mormon realities” (text → context), and then an “interpretive community” analysis which examines the ways in which Mormonism has participated in the “social construction of Book of Mormon textualities” (context → text). Finally, Part Three will resolve this “Hegelian contradiction” by reconceptualizing both the issues and insights of Part Two in terms of: (1) textual mediation of Mormon culture (group habits of thought ↔ individual habits of thought); (2) textual mediation of Mormon cognition (individual habits of thought ↔ individual episodes of thought); and (3) textual mediation of Mormonism (group habits of thought ↔ individual episodes of thought). The conclusion will suggest how these three can be regimented as facets of one total phenomenon, the “textual mediation of Mormon culture-and-cognition”.
     To the extent it is successful, the proposed study will: (1) promote a paradigm shift already underway by documenting the insufficiency of “social construction of reality” and “social construction of textuality” approaches to “myth” and the necessity of a “textual mediation” approach; (2) provide a basis for future studies of textual mediation both by contributing to our understanding of exactly what is happening when a text functions mythically and by serving as a prototypical analysis; and (3) shed light on the historical phenomenon that is Mormonism. Continue reading

Read, Think, Listen, Speak: A Guide for New Students

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Welcome to the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. You and your classmates are about to embark upon a voyage. A voyage that adults in Chicagoland have embarked upon for 50 years. A voyage that, experience shows, may literally change your life. To help you get your “sea legs,” as it were, I offer the following words of advice. Continue reading

The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults Archive Highlights

WRITINGS > FINISHED

Produced as part of the preparation for the Basic Program’s 50th Anniversary (1996–1997), four volumes of the highlights of archival material gathered from various sources concerning the origins and development of the Great Books Movement with emphasis on the role of the University of Chicago in general and the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults in particular.

  • Volume 1: Internal Documents
  • Volume 2: Public Documents
  • Volume 3: Press
  • Volume 4: 1958-59 Self-Study
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Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’: Non-sense Not Nonsense

WRITINGS > FINISHED [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Although Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is traditionally considered to be ‘nonsense’, such a characterization ultimately rests on a Western folk notion of language as fundamentally semantico-referential. A more semiotically- and pragmatically-informed view of language and language-use, however, is capable of describing in considerable detail both the means by which a text such as “Jabberwocky” “makes sense” and the ends to which such a text can be put. Indeed, such a view shows that some discursive ends are particularly suited to attainment by means of so-called “nonsense” texts such as Jabberwocky. This paper outlines such a view and applies it to “Jabberwocky”, which is thus seen to make both denotational and interactional “sense”. Continue reading