August 18, 2011


Robert Alter, The Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes: A Translation with Commentary (New York: Norton, 2010) ("Watch your step when you go to the house of God, for understanding is more favored than the offering of sacrifice by fools, for they do not know even how to do evil.").

Annette C. Baier, The Cautious Jealous Virtue: Hume on Justice (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London, England, 2010) ("This books looks at Hume's famous account of justice in his Treatise, at its relation to other virtues, at changes to what he says about it and its fellow virtues in his Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (EPM), and on to some of his remarks about justice n his Essays, and in his History of England. . . ." "Hume's account of what justice is, and how it relates to the rest of morality, has been much discussed. Morality for Hume is a matter of approbation for a set of character traits, rather than obedience to a set of action-guiding rules, but the virtues he calls artificial do consist in willingness to keep rules directing us how to act, so they form the deontological element in Hume's ethics. The rules we are to keep depend in the established customs in our own society, customs that enable us to trust each other in some important matters. Rules allocating property vary a lot from society to society, and they, along with promise-keeping, constitute the core of what Hume in the Treatise terms 'justice.' What counts as a binding promise varies less from society to society, but there are some variations, in matters such as the need for witnesses. I look at the differences between these two parts of what Hume first takes justice to comprise . . . , and find promise-keeping to be more natural than he allows." "My title is taken from Hume's characterization of justice in EPM, and some of my attention is given to the sense in which it is cautious n and jealous, It is cautious since it constrains our freedom to do as we please, and we are rightly cautious about accepting such restraints. It is jealous, since it decrees each person's due, and we are jealous of our due, resent being denied it and are apt to compare it with what others are getting. We resent unfairness and injustice, to ourselves and to others, and Hume regards the capacity for resentment as an innate one. . . . " Id. at vii-viii.).

Philipp Blom, A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment (New York: Basic Books, 2010) (From the bookjacket: "From the 1750s to the 1770s, the paris salon of Baron Paul Thiry Holbach was an epicenter of debate, intellectual daring, and revolutionary ideas, uniting around one table vivid personalities such as Denis Diderot, Laurence Sterne, David Hume, Adam Smith, Horace Walpole, Benjamin Franklin, the impish Ferdinando Galiani, the radical ex-priest Guillaume Raynal, the Italian Count Beccaria, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who later turned against his friends." "It was a moment of astonishing radicalism in European thought, so uncompromising and bold that it was viciously opposed by rival philosophers such as Voltaire and the turncoat Rousseau, and finally suppressed by Robespierre and his Revolutionary henchmen. This climatic moment in Western history has largely been forgotten by historians who have looked no further than what the official version of events showed." ". . . Blom retraces the fortunes and characters of this exceptional group of friends and brings to life their startling ideas. Brilliant minds full of wit, courage, and humanity, their thinking created a different and radical French Enlightenment based on atheism, passion, empathy, and a compelling insightful perspective on society. A startling relevant work of narrative history, A Wicked Company forces us to confront with new eyes the foundational debates about modern society and its future.").

Roberto Bolano, Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003, edited by Ignacio Echevarria, translated from the Spanish by Natasha Wimmer (New York: New Directions, 2011).

Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism (Oxford & New York: Clarendon Press/Oxford University Press, 2006) ("The core constructivist conviction that we have concerned with in this book is that knowledge is constructed by societies in ways that reflect their contingent social needs and interests. We have isolated three distinct ideas that this conviction might interestingly amount to and we have examined the case that can be made for them." On the negative side, there look to be severe objections to each and every version of a constructivism about knowledge that we have examined. A constructivism about truth is incoherent. A constructivism about justification is scarcely any better. And there seem to be decisive objections to the idea that we cannot explain belief through epistemic reason alone." "On the positive side, we failed to find any good arguments for the constructivist views. In the case of a relativism about justification, what appears initially to be a seductive argument fails to hold up under scrutiny." Id. at 129. "The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief about how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective. Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that recent philosophy has uncovered powerful reason for rejecting them." Id. at 130-131.).

Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (LOndon & New York: Routledge, 1993, 2011).

A. C. Grayling, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible: Conceived Selected Redacted Arranged Worked And In Part Written by A. C. Graying (New York: Walker & Co., 2011) ( From "Epistle to the Reader": "All who read this book, therefore, if they read with care, may come to be more than they were before. This is not praise of the work itself, but of its attentive readers, for the worth to be found in it will come from their minds. If there is anyone who learns nothing from this book that will not be attributable to faults in it, but to that reader's excellence. If readers judge candidly, none among them can be harmed or offended by what it asks them to consider. Yet all who come hungry to these granaries of the harvest made by their fellows and forebears, will find nourishment here." Id. at (unnumbered). From "Genesis":"Dare to know: that is the motto of enlightenment." Id. at 2. From "Proverbs": "Chapter 22: Books 1. Something is learned every time a book is opened. 2. A book may be as great a thing as a battle. 3. Books are ships that traverse the seas of time. 4. Books cannot always please, however good; minds are not always craving for food. 5. Books give no wisdom where there was not wisdom before. 6. Rather a study full of books than a purse full of money. 8. The best companions are good books. 9. The books that help most are those that prompt most thought. 10. The virtue of books is to be readable. 11. There is no frigate like a book to take us to lands far away. 12. Wear the old coat and buy the new book. 13. The world may know me by my book, and my book by me. 14. Word by word the great books are written. 15. The reader's fancy makes the fate of books." Id. at 363. 'Chapter 96: Liars 1. Liars begin by deceiving others, and end by deceiving themselves. 2. Old folk and great travellers lies by licence; lawyers lie for pay. . . . Id. at 382-383.).

Russell Hardin, David Hume: Moral and Political Theorist (Oxford & New York: Oxford U. Press, 2007) ("Hume is a contributor to the theory of liberal distrust, which has essentially two parts defined by two different causal structures. The first is the problem of knaves who use office to benefit themselves in abusive ways. The second is the problem of parties that can gain control of government. There is apparently, in general, no simple coordination device to block such party action." "James Madison expanded the focus of liberal distrust to include not only a monarch but also to include an entire government. He wanted a weak national government primarily because such a government would not be able to intrude in the lives of individuals and would not have the power to impose, for example, a mercantilist economic policy. It could block local or state-level intrusions into the economy but could make none of its own. The constitution he helped design is well over two centuries old and, as weak as it might initially have been, the state that it founded has become extraordinarily powerful, and it regularly intrudes into the economy, especially to benefit particular groups--such as farmers, the paper industry, the steel industry . . . and so on. There are active groups that would like to gain control of the US government to impose a religious ideology. Such groups have gained some control over the Republican party. Coordinating against such politics depends on democratic mobilization of the citizenry and of certain agencies of government, It is not yet clear where there is a convention strong enough to force government to stay out of many personal activities and civil liberties." "This is not an issue that Hume addresses, largely because his view of the motivations of officials is quite sanguine. He speaks of 'the persons, whom we call civil magistrates, king and their ministers, our governors and rules, who being indifferent persons to the greater part of the state, have no interest or but a remote one, in any act of injustice; and being satisfy'd with their present condition, and with their part in society, have an immediate interest in every execution of justice, which is so necessary to the upholding to society'. It is stunningly naive for the empiricist Hume to believe that this describes the worlds in which we live. Hume's dual convention for the successful operation of government needs yet a third convention to block any large interest from gaining control of government and using it in their own interest. Hume's omission here is the single biggest flaw in his political theory." Id. at 101-102 (citations omitted).).

F. A. Hayek, The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 13: Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason: Text and Documents, edited by Bruce Caldwell (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2010) (From Chapter Eleven, 'The Source of the Scientific Hubris: L'Ecole Polytechnique': "Never will man penetrate deeper into error than when he is continuing on a road which had led him to great success.' Id. at 170, 170.).

Adina Hoffman & Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza (Jewish Encounters) (New York: Nextbook/Schocken, 2011) (See Anthony Julius, "A Pileup of Secrets," NYT Book Review, Sunday, 5/29/2011. ).

Julia Kristeva, Hatred and Forgiveness, translated from the French by Jeanine Herman (New York: Columbia U. Press, 2010) ("International news offers a dramatic example with which to touch on, if only briefly, the second problem: indeed there is not better illustration of the perverse exercise of the law than the tortures at Abu Ghraib Prison involving a few 'lost sheep' of the American contingent in Iraq. Specialists in international law, political scientists, and sociologists have already said everything about this abjection. As for me, I will say that the conscious application of legal procedure, through its laxity and negligence, allowed the transgressions, when they did not demand them: the military police of this prison never acquainted themselves with the Geneva Conventions; moreover, the brutalities against the prisoners were part of a sophisticated system taught to British and American intelligence specialists, meant to break down 'resistance to interrogations,' notably by including humiliation of a sexual nature. Question: what individual, 'instructed' this way, can refuse to take part in these perverse practices? However brutal, my question is meant to show a psychoanalyst's vigilance, because I am convinced that certain deviations of modern society, known as the 'society of the spectacle,' and the 'deculpabilization of transgression,' risk increasing the number of 'lost sheep'. I don not know what the results of the psychological examinations of the guilty parties at Abu Ghraib were, but to hear their reproaches these young people from Maryland or Pennsylvania, Lyndie England--from whom feminist parity did not request so much zeal--and her friend Charles Graner, do not seem so distinct from the average American, or even the average inhabitant of the global planet, the humanoid 'instructed' by television reality shows worldwide, and various sites on the Internet." Id. at 175.).

John Levi Martin, Social Structure (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2009) ("New York's political elite was, from a relatively early date, predominantly composed of lawyers. But in Pennsylvania, elites were much less likely to be lawyers, and more likely to be merchants, doctors, and (increasingly) printers." "While printing is perhaps the ideological occupation par excellence, making a career in law generally required the support of a lawyer patron (the word might be explicitly used by an applicant), since in a world without law schools and with only sporadic examinations, the only way to become a lawyer was to clerk for one and get his endorsement. . . . It was frequently the case that aspiring Federalists had studied law with a more established Federalist (e.g., Hamilton's lieutenant Robert Troup studying with John Jay or Monroe with Jefferson. . . .). Thus the New York political system was in the hands of professionals who tended to be concentrated in a tiny portion of the state, and who lacked any organic relation to class or sectional interests, as did the Virginia planters, or to the fraternity of elite schools, as did the Massachusetts clergy, or to religion as did the Pennsylvania Quakers and Anglicans. They were primed to organize themselves in hierarchical factions as opposed to bocs of those sharing a common regional interest." Id. at 301 (citations omitted). From the book jacket: "Social Structure is a book that examines how structural forms spontaneously arise form social relationships. Offering major insights into the building blocks of social life, it identifies which locally emergent structures have the capacity to grown into larger ones and show how structural tendencies associated with smaller structures shape and constrain patterns of larger structures. The book them investigates the role of such structures have played in the emergence of the modern nation-state." "[John Levi Martin] finds that the relationships best suited to forming larger structures are those that thrive in conditions of inequality; that are incomplete and as sparse as possible, and thereby avoid the problem of completion in which interacting members are required ti establish too many relationships; and that abhor transitivity rather than assuming it. Social Structure argues that these 'patronage' relationships, which often serve as means of loose coordination in the absence of strong states, are nevertheless the scaffolding of the social structures most distinctive to the modern states, namely the command army and the political party.").

Perry Miller, The Life of the Mind in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965) ("By this time, a curious combination had been formed in the religious mind, which almost defies analysis. Because the intellect and the 'speculative' had become equated with the nonspiritual, then the intellectual could be declared a threat to nationality, and so 'un-practible.' Whereas the union of spirituality, symbolized by the heart, with the perpetuation of American institutions was the peculiar discovery of American Christianity. And somewhere in the 1840's the magic word conservative emerged to connote this assemblage of ideas." Id. at 69. "The mass of people in rural or frontier regions cherished around 1800 an ingrained hostility to the law as a profession. Interestingly enough, this aversion did not spring exclusively from those who were caught up in the [Religious] Revival or from that minority which still remembered Tom Paine: the majority simply hated the law as an artificial imposition on their intelligence and judges as agents of constraint. . . ." "It was not that the American people were positively resolved on becoming lawless, in the manner of cinema badmen, but they did profoundly believe that the mystery of the law was a gigantic conspiracy of the learned against their helpless integrity. . . ." Id. at 102. "A phenomenon of fundamental importance for both the social and intellectual history of America is the amazing rise, within three or four decades, of the legal profession from its chaotic condition of around 1790 to a position of political and intellectual domination. Had this triumph been achieved merely as a professional advance in prestige and wealth, it would deserve only our passing notice; but it was expressed through a massive philosophical formulation, culminating in the voluminous commentaries of [David] Hoffman, [James] Kent, and [Joseph] Story. Progressively unfolded in the wide-ranging opinions of such judges as [John] Marshall and {Lemuel] Shaw, hammer3e out before the bench in the classic arguments of famous lawyers who to the people were figures as majestic as Finney or Beecher, the formation of American law is this era embraces a mental adventure of heroic proportions." "It was the more remarkable for being accomplished in the face of the widespread hostility of ordinary American to the very concept of law and more specifically their bitter antagonism to the very Common Law.. . . " Id. at 109. "Joseph Story was the most vigorous in beating down the surge of vulgarity with the guild, and for this reason was cordially hated by the majority of practitioners. In 1821, even while congratulating the country on the immense progress already made, he denounced the prevailing ignorance of general principles, the looseness of our declaration and pleadings, our aberrations from a settled and technical phraseology, 'and a neglect of appropriate averments, which not only deprive our pleadings of just pretension to elegance and symmetry, but subject them to the coarser imputation of slovenliness.' We must not, he kept insisting, 'rest satisfied with mediocrity, when excellence is within reach.' Yet Story was not alone in his insistence upon scholarship. Edward Ingraham, for instance, in Philadelphia in 1828 excoriated those dolts who seek in the law as a resting place, 'however unacquainted with the proper preparatory studies, or even a common English education.' The Carolina Law Journal in 1830 pointed out that since the legislature now require a thorough schooling for physicians, so 'it should be equally rigid in exacting proper qualifications on the part of the gentlemen of the bar.'" "Again and again the lawyers impressed upon the democracy the idea that to attain distinction at the bar required so severe an intellectual discipline that few could even hope top measure up to it. . . ." Id. at 136. "Midway through his career at the Philadelphia Bar, Horace Binney, in a mood of candor, declared that the practice of law added nothing to the lawyer's intellect. He is concerned to win, but win or lose, he forgets the case as soon as he has been paid. The physician learns new facts, increases his knowledge from every patient, 'but the lawyer's facts are unproductive of all benefits, except to the fortunate client.' All of this, conceded the sage, justifies the 'sneer which is commonly directed against the mere lawyer'." Id. at 182. (italics added). "David Hoffman addressed himself against this anti-intellectualism more than did Kent of Story. In 1836, he pleaded that a liberal mind must discover its zeal by collecting from the range of science and art whatever may embellish it. In his last valiant appeal, his Circular of 1844, he stood at Thermopylae: he would have naught to do with the notion that law students are to be merely mechanical artisans. No attorney could be 'a good and lasting one' who was not versed in the reasons of the law. 'I therefore cannot acquiesce in, and never will yield to the vulgar error of putting practice before and above theory--it is an unnatural inversion of the established order of nature--an ignorant and slovenly way of urging young men on to attempts far beyond the powers of the human mind'." "Hoffman knew the enemy, if only because he the veteran instructor of young attorneys, lacked the judicial immunity of Kent and Story. The American Jurist for 1839 saluted Hoffman's service to legal education, but objected to this prologues on the nature of man and of society. The student, said this critic, has no need to study the properties of the sea anemone or the metaphysical theories of Descartes, much less to be confounded by theological preliminaries about moral liberty and free agency." Id. at 182-183. "Men of the majestic era of John Marshall--for whom Hoffman spoke--were simply bewildered at this rising insistence upon practicality. They never held that lawyers should not test their learning in the courts, that they should not seek to win decisions. But, that, with their erudition in the Common Law, in civil law and in equity, they should ever conceive of themselves as mere technicians--this notion they repudiated. . . ." Id. at 184. The contest between the intellectual approach, on the one hand, and the anti-intellectual (or practical, or experiential) approach, on the other hand, to legal education is a very long-running one. With any modern-day Storys or Kents unlikely to receive judicial confirmation, and few modern-day Hoffmans unlikely to receive faculty positions, anti-intellectualism continues it ascent in the law; and law move further and further toward the intellectual margins and have as much intellectual relevance as accountants and dentists. The only hope is that law students will want more from the law than a paycheck and, then, be motivated to take responsibility for their education. In America, the intellectual approach to anything is the road less travelled . . . yet it is the road that will truly make all the difference.).

Nicholas Phillipson, Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2010) ("Throughout his life, and in spite of legitimate suspicions about his religious beliefs, Smith's rhetoric and moral philosophy was to become closely associated with moderate Presbyterian ideas of polite education." "Lawyers too were thinking seriously about their calling and their place in public life. Culloden and the Duke of Cumberland's ruthless campaign to exterminate Jacobitism with the sword had revived longstanding fears that the Crown would attempt to pacify the Highlands by conquest. The lawyers, led by Duncan Forbes, the Lord President of the Court of Session, responded to this threat by arguing that the causes of the rebellion had more to do with the structure of clan society than with the ambitions and treachery of a few Highland chiefs, and that the problem of pacifying the Highlands could be better addressed by encouraging civility, commerce and economic improvements than by the use of military force. No one understood this better than William Crosse, Professor of Civil Law at Glasgow and, for a short while, Smith's colleague. He had written a paper on the subject for General Bland, the Commander-in-Chief of HM Forces in Scotland, pointing out that, geographically the Highlands were barren as well as inaccessible and unfit for Corn Culture, [because they afforded] nothing but a coarse kind of grass fit for pasturing the low siz'd cattle of the Country.' Its people 'are always busy'd in grazing and defending their own or attacking & carrying off the cattle belonging to their Neighbours.' Blood-ties turned private quarrels into lethal blood-feuds, which were idealized in legend and song. It was a barbarous form of civilization not unlike the 'parcel of Robbers and Banditti' of ancient Greece and Rome 'that by some strange accidents got themselves form'd into regular Governments and grew to be masters of the world'. As he put it, '[their] way of living [flowed] as naturally from the present condition of their Class, as our does from a more regular Government . . . It is our own fault they have continu'd so long in this way.' Crosse was thinking of Highland culture and the laws and institutions on which it was founded in economic terms, and was proposing that its problems should be considered in historically rather than in narrowly legal terms. It was no coincidence that some senior lawyers had begun to ask whether the present state of legal education was appropriate to present needs. Some thought that advocates, like moderate ministers, should be educated as gentlemen. As the new Lord President, Robert Dundas of Arniston, told the Faculty in 1748, 'Over and above being careful to learn thoroughly the principles of the Roman Law and the Laws of Nature and Nations, they should take pains to acquire the other Sciences and accomplishments becoming the Character of Gentlemen' and, above all, 'that rational & manly eloquence' should be the mark of their profession. Henry Home agreed but had other ideas about how this should be accomplished. As we shall see, he was to find Smith's view about jurisprudence very much to his taste." Id. at 84-85.).

Simon Schama, Scribble, Scribble, Scribble: Writing on Politics, Ice Cream, Churchill, and My Mother (New York: Ecco, 2011) (From "Virtual Annihilation: Anti-Semitism on the Web": "I do not mean to suggest, of course, that the digital world is typified by the engineered delivery of the irrational; only that it is not exactly inhospitable to its propagation. Cyberspace is itself the work of much cerebration, but its most elaborate fabulists are certainly devoted to the primacy of the visceral over the logical. They know their market. Against instantly summoned, electronically pulsing apparitions--the Celtic crosses of the White Power organizations such as Aryan Resistance, or Stormfront, the mid-1990s creation of the ex-Klansman Don Black--reasoned argument is handicapped, especially in any competition for the attention of alienated adolescents, for whom the appeal of barbarian action is precisely its violent rejection of bookishness. The ultimate Gothic fantasists, the mass murderers of Columbine High School, are known to have been visitors to these websites." "It is commonplace now to observe, with Jay Bolter, that the triumph of the Web represents the overthrow --for good or for ill-- not just the linear narratives, but also of the entire system of Baconian and Cartesian systems of classification, with their explicit commitment to hierarchies of knowledge. The universe of deep cyberspace is akin to whatever lies way beyond the orderly alignment of the planets in our own relatively parochial solar system. Instead it launches the traveller along pathways of links to indeterminate destinations, to the wormholes of epistemology; and along the route the digital argonaut is exposed to a furiously oncoming welter of incoherently arranged bodies of information. The engineers of hate-sites know this, and they depend on catching the aimless surfer who might stumble, for example, on an ostensibly orientalist health site called Bambo Delight, including (really) the Skinny Buddaa Weight Loss Method, and be directed through a single link to the neo-Nazi Police Patriot site designed by Jew Watch and Stormfront." Id. at 86, 91-92. Human history does not move forward in a lineally progressive fashion. There was The Dark Age and, yes, eventually there was The Enlightenment. Human history may not be circular, but it is certainly looping back to another dark(er) age.).

Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Conflict of Law, Foreign and Domestic, in regard to Contracts, Rights, and Remedies, and Especially in regard to marriages, Divorces, Wills, Successions, and Judgments, 2d. ed., (1841) (Union, New Jersey: The Lawbook Exchange, 2001).

Hugh Trevor-Roper, History and the Enlightenment (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press, 2010).

Alfred I. Tauber, Freud, The Reluctant Philosopher (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2010).