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The Uncivil Servant: Richard Wagner, Made (Too) Simple

by Mitchell Abidor   Discussed in this essay: Being Wagner: The Story of the Most Provocative Composer Who Ever Lived, by Simon Callow. Vintage, 232 pages, 2017   IN THIS AGE of doorstop biographies, the actor and biographer Simon Callow’s breezy 200+ pages on Richard Wagner, Being Wagner, appear to be a quirky, quixotic venture. How to squeeze so tumultuous a […]

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Why I’m Not (Still) a Marxist

BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE, NO MATTER THEIR CLASS by Lawrence Bush   I AM A SOCIALIST. I want to see the social and cooperative capacities of human beings cultivated at least as much as our individualistic and competitive tendencies, and I want to see an economic system developed that reckons justly with the reality that […]

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February 24: Queer Theory and Anti-Zionism

Judith Butler, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who is one of American academia’s most ardent critics of Israel and Zionism and a leading queer theorist, was born in Cleveland on this date in 1956. “Gender Trouble, published in 1990, made Butler a star,” writes Molly Fischer in New York magazine. “It introduced ‘performativity,’ the idea […]

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February 19: Logically Speaking

Ruth Bacan Marcus, a groundbreaking logician and professor of philosopher at Yale University, died at 90 on this date in 2012. She came to prominence with a 1946 article in The Journal of Symbolic Logic in which she proposed a formula for positing a connection between possibility and actuality. Her Barcan formula translates into words […]

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The Donald Trump of Philosophy

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Genius of Judaism by Bernard-Henri Lévy. Random House, 2017, 256 pages. WHEN BERNARD-HENRI Lévy burst onto the philosophical scene in the late 1970s as the leading voice of repentant young leftists known as the New Philosophers, the phenomenon was something of a mystery here in the U.S. […]

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December 10: Averroes and the Jews

Medieval Spanish Muslim philosopher Averroes (Abul Walid Muhammed Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd), whose writings were generally condemned by the Moors and preserved for the ages only in Hebrew translation (or transliteration) by Jewish scholars, died in Marrakesh on this date in 1198. Averroes was a key figure in the transitional period in which science and […]

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November 25: Nelson Goodman and the Grue Paradox

Philosopher Henry Nelson Goodman, who taught at Harvard from 1968 until 1977, where he founded Project Zero to develop arts learning as a serious cognitive discipline, died at 92 on this date in 1998. Goodman’s chief contributions came in the fields of logic, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of art. He is perhaps […]

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November 24: The Lens Grinder

Philosopher Baruch Spinoza was born in the Netherlands on this date in 1632. He made his living as a lens grinder and turned down numerous teaching positions while writing and developing the philosophical outlook that would be explicated (in part through mathematical argument) in Ethics, published after his death in 1677, a book described by […]

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August 6: Theodor Adorno

Philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, a member of the Marxist Frankfurt School of critical thought who strongly influenced the European post-war left, died at 65 on this date in 1969. Adorno left Germany in 1934 and lived out the Nazi era in Oxford, New York, and southern California, where he wrote his best-known books, Dialectic of […]

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