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Orange

The Stereotypical Christians of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ by Laura Leonard.

The series’ groundbreaking diversity disappoints in the realm of religion.

More at CT.

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Gambit

The Seven Gambit by Richard Fernandez.

Just as soon as Israel accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Hamas fired 47 rockets killing one Israeli citizen. Anyone who has followed the conflict could have predicted this with certainty; the point of a ceasefire — for a terrorist organization — is to break it for exactly the same reason it purposely attacks women and children.

Dr. Anna Geifman tried to explain that the reason why innocents are selected as terror targets is because “children are the last consecrated absolute”. That is just why they must be killed in the cruelest way possible. For “militant nihilism strives to ruin first and foremost what their contemporaries hold sacred”.

Nihilism isn’t the absence of a belief. It is something subtly different: it is the belief in nothing. The most powerful weapon of terrorism is therefore the unyielding No. “No I will not give up. No I will not tell the truth. No I will not play fair. No I will not spare children. No I will not stop even if you surrender to me; I will not cease even if you give me everything you have, up to and including your children’s lives. Nothing short of destroying me absolutely can make me stop. And therefore I will defeat you even if you kill me. Because I will make you pay the price in guilt for annihilating me.”

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(via Maverick Philosopher.)

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Hatred

Inside Brandeis’s Anti-Israel Listserv by Adam Kredo.

Brandeis University officials are working to distance themselves from a virulently anti-Israel internal listserv that shows a group of professors lashing out at the Jewish state in bizarre terms and attacking Brandeis’ Jewish leadership.

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Related: Old-Fashioned Jew Hatred Is Back by Alex VanNess.

As the violence between Israel and Hamas escalates, anti-Semitism fills Internet boards and in some cases, it spills out on the streets. Animosity towards Israel is bringing out anti-Semitism on levels not seen since Nazi Germany.

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Self

Jim Holt reviews Self by Barry Dainton, and Me, Myself and Why: Searching for the Science of the Self by Jennifer Ouellette.

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Spontaneity

Think before You Act: Against the Modern Cult of Spontaneity by Steven Poole.

Truly living in the moment and being utterly spontaneous would render you unable to make and keep promises, or to formulate any kind of plan for helping yourself or others.

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Myopia

America’s Middle-Class Myopia by Peter Augustine Lawler.

How our cultural fixation on the welfare of the middle class blinds us to a deeper view of human freedom and flourishing.

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Kant

TLS reviews Acting on Principle: An Essay on Kantian Ethics by Onora O’Neill.

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Hell

Hell-bent by Kathryn Gin Lum.

Younger Christians may be ditching doctrines of fire and brimstone – but will Christianity ever get rid of hell entirely?

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Madness

Madness in Madison by W. Lee Hansen.

The University of Wisconsin’s latest diversity plan calls for “equity” in high-demand majors and the distribution of grades.

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Secrets

Secrets of the Creative Brain by Nancy Andreasen.

A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

More at Atlantic.

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Liberalism

Reclaiming Liberalism by Edmund Fawcett.

Liberalism is not dead – its ideals are more important than ever – but it must change radically to survive in the future.

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Higher Ed

Conservatives & Higher Ed by Steven F. Hayward.

The social scientist Neil Gross made a splash last year with his book Why Are Professors Liberal, and Why Do Conservatives Care?, which, among other things, attempted to refute the claim that conservatives face ideological discrimination in academic hiring. There is some quantitative evidence (with more on the way soon) of ideological discrimination, which Gross grudgingly acknowledges, but he then goes to great lengths to argue that it is vastly overestimated.

He may be partly right, but not for the reasons his data-rich analysis lays out. Furthermore, Gross does not begin to reach the more important dimensions of the ideological shape of today’s humanities and social science departments that come into play before you even reach the fever swamps of race, class, and gender.

Liberals have pushed back against the charge of ideological discrimination in hiring with an entirely valid point: You guys don’t show up! There simply aren’t many conservative graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. If the top 200 universities set out to hire a conservative for each of their humanities departments, they’d run out after about 75; in some departments, they might run out of qualified conservative job candidates after about two. And if you can’t find newly minted Ph.D.’s for tenure track jobs, you have to poach the thin ranks of conservatives already in academia somewhere, leading to no net increase in conservative presence in universities. But while liberals can’t be blamed wholly for this, they can be blamed for acquiescing in, when not actively causing, the degradation of the humanities and social sciences in ways make academic track jobs repellent to many intellectual conservatives. Understanding what has taken place requires a three-part analysis.

More at TNC.

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Laughter

What’s So Funny? by Mary Beard.

The range of modern writing on laughter is truly daunting. My own university library holds around 150 books with “laughter” somewhere in the title, all published in English in the first decade of the 21st century. Leaving aside assorted memoirs, novels, and collections of poetry that managed to squeeze the word into the subtitle (Love, Laughter and Tears in Paris at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School and the like), these books range from popular psychology and self-help manuals, through the philosophy of humor and the anatomy of the joke, to the history of the chuckle, the chortle, the snigger, and the giggle in almost any period or place you can imagine, right back to the origins of laughter in the caves of primitive humans.

Behind these books, both weighty and popular, is an even wider array of specialist articles and papers investigating yet more aspects of the subject, in ever finer detail: the use of laughter in health education films in Dutch colonial Java, the sound of laughter in the novels of James Joyce, that old chestnut of when, and how, babies first start to laugh or smile.

There is, in short, far too much written—and still being written—on the subject of laughter for any one person to master; nor, frankly, would it be worthwhile to try. Confronted with the product of centuries of analysis and investigation, one is tempting to suggest that it is not so much laughter that defines the human species, as Aristotle is supposed to have claimed, but rather the drive to debate and theorize laughter.

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Death?

Michael Fitzpatrick reviews Culture and the Death of God by Terry Eagleton.

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Storyteller

Sigmund Freud, the Never-Ending Storyteller by William Giraldi.

With Sigmund Freud, there are always two ways to begin. Here’s the first: Sigmund Freud was the genius of the twentieth century, without whom we would not know ourselves as intimately as we do. And here’s the second: Sigmund Freud was a colossal fraud who ruined innumerable lives. Freud long ago became a messiah to some and a pernicious phony to others. But no matter your stance, it’s difficult to deny the insistent reasons we’re still squabbling about this man, nor is it easy to dismiss the reality that Freud’s ideas had a torsional influence on nearly every element of twentieth-?century thought. Modernity just doesn’t seem possible without him.

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Related: Here’s a review of Becoming Freud by Adam Phillips.

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Sacrament

Sacrament by Ross Andersen.

Wine is an elixir, a miracle-worker and shapeshifter – no wonder even the most secular of us hold it sacred still.

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Nothing

Know Nothing by Michael Robbins.

Nick Spencer begins his spirited history of atheism with a fairy tale. Once upon a time, people lived in ignorant superstition, offering sacrifices to monsters in the sky. Then some clever folks used special weapons called “science” and “reason” to show that the monsters had never really existed in the first place. Some of these clever folks were killed for daring to say this, but they persevered, and now only really stupid people believe in the monsters.

Spencer’s point, of course, is that this received wisdom is naive nonsense—it gets the history of science and the nature of religious belief wrong, setting up an opposition between reason and faith that the church fathers would have found rather puzzling. (Spencer focuses on Europe, whence modern atheism arose, and hence on Judeo-Christianity.) Few historians take this myth seriously, but it retains its hold on the vulgar atheist imagination. To believe it requires the misconception that religion exists primarily to provide explanations of natural phenomena. (“You seriously believe in God?” “Well, how do you explain thunder?”)

A formal definition of religion is notoriously difficult to formulate, but it must surely involve reference to a particular way of life, practices oriented toward a conception of how one should live. “You must change your life,” as the broken statue of the god Apollo seems to say in Rilke’s poem. Science does not—it isn’t designed to—recommend approaches to what Emerson calls “the conduct of life.” Nevertheless, Richard Dawkins claims that religion “is a scientific theory,” “a competing explanation for facts about the universe and life.” This is—if you’ll forgive my theological jargon—bullshit.

More at Slate.

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Galileo

Faking Galileo by Massimo Mazzotti.

Art forgeries have long been the stuff of thrillers, with fake da Vincis or Vermeers fooling connoisseurs, roiling the art world, and moving millions of dollars. We don’t think of ancient books driving such grand forgery, intrigue, and schadenfreude. This is changing thanks in part to a clever forgery of Galileo’s landmark book Sidereus Nuncius, published in Venice in 1610. Arguably one of the most extraordinary scientific publications of all times, Sidereus Nuncius turned Galileo into the brightest new star of Western science. Four centuries later, a faked copy of this book has disarmed a generation of Galileo experts, and raised a host of intriguing questions about the social nature of scholarly authentication, the precariousness of truth, and the revelatory power of fakes.

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Certainty?

Science Is Not About Certainty by Carlo Rovelli.

The separation of science and the humanities is relatively new—and detrimental to both.

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Enlightenment

Edward Feser reviews The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters by Anthony Pagden.

You can read an excerpt here.