Today’s post was originally published on LARB Channel Marginalia.
By Bruce B. Lawrence
Marshall Hodgson was both a genius and a visionary. While he may have seemed to be just another university professor, at once restless, innovative, and genial, he was also an academic Übermensch with a global agenda. He wanted to change the world by changing the way we saw, understood, and engaged Islam within world history. Born in 1922, he was drafted but as a Quaker refused to fight in World War II. After serving five years in detention camp, he returned to school, graduating from the University of Chicago with a PhD in the early 1950s. He had been teaching from the notes that became The Venture of Islam for over a decade before his demise in 1968. Forty-six years after his death, and 40 years since the posthumous publication of his magnum opus, his legacy remains puzzling. Was he ahead of his time, or has he been overtaken by the Cold War and its aftermath, including the horror of 9/11, along with its own, persistent aftermath? Continue reading
Today’s post, an essay by philosopher Alain de Botton, is from LARB Channel Marginalia. It was published last week – if you missed it, we’ve reproduced it here in full. The above photo is a screenshot of one of The School of Life’s new YouTube videos. The video is included in the below post.
By Alain de Botton
Traditionally, philosophy has been nervous around the idea of communication. Reaching out has not been high on the agenda. Academic philosophers have frequently erected barriers to wider participation: abstruse vocabulary and hypercomplex arguments have seemed to guarantee intelligence — all of which is a great pity.
Philosophy is simply the pursuit of wisdom. And though it’s a rather abstract term, the concept of “wisdom” isn’t mysterious. Being wise means attempting to live and die well, leading as good a life as possible within the troubled conditions of existence. The goal of wisdom is fulfilment. So a philosopher or “person devoted to wisdom” is someone who strives for systematic expertise at working out how one may best find individual and collective fulfillment. Continue reading
Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia.
By Andrew B. Irvine
Almost all the arts of life are enhanced when performed with unselfconscious spontaneity — think shooting hoops, playing a complicated musical passage, dining with friends. The moment we try not to try is often the moment performance collapses in a counterproductive muddle. This “paradox of wu-wei,” as Edward Slingerland calls it, can be explained as the goal of trying not to try. This ambitious book reprises much of the author’s previous work on classical Chinese philosophical cultivation of wu-wei (see his 2003 book, Effortless action) and broadens the scope of his previous engagement with cognitive science, particularly notions of embodied mind. Slingerland seeks to address a popular audience that is both fascinated and frustrated by the paradox of wu-wei, and thus far the book has received good press here, here, and here. Continue reading
Photo: Ernest and Celestine, New Video Group, 2014
Today’s post was originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia.
By Ted Scheinman
We were both light in the head from a five-mile hike that had verged on a vision quest — too many miles with too little water under a cloudless sky at Calabasas Peak. It therefore took me a moment to adjust when we found ourselves later that evening strolling through rings of bunting-balloons, a grand promenade of red, white, and blue arches that slipped into the distance, suggesting a Homeric archery contest produced by Marvel. Continue reading
The Marginalia Review of Books, a LARB Channel, does great interviews over on their main site – this one was originally posted last week, but deserves a listen.
MRB editor-in-chief Timothy Michael Law talks to Sebastian Brock in Oxford. Formerly Reader in Syriac Studies in the Oriental Institute in Oxford and currently Professorial Fellow at Wolfson College, Brock is widely recognized as the world’s leading authority on Syriac language and history. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and in 2009 received the honor of the Leverhulme Medal and Prize. The Medal is awarded every three years for “a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in a field within the humanities and social sciences.” Continue reading
Below is an excerpt from a review of Mark Harris’s The Nature of Creation, originally published by LARB Channel Marginalia earlier today.
In 2003, an international research group successfully mapped the human genome, exposing for the first time the mass of genetic information encoded in human DNA. This event changed the ideological landscape of conversations on the Bible and science, in part because it produced genetic evidence for the evolutionary relationships between humans and many other species. This explosion of genetic data has prompted many questions about human origins and demands a renewed examination of the biblical text and of Christian theology. Meanwhile, recent work in biblical studies has encouraged new readings of creation literature — particularly in the book of Genesis — thereby reconfiguring the Bible’s relationship to science. Yet, few scholars are competent in both the hard sciences and biblical studies. Even fewer approach the confluence of these two fields without a predetermined agenda to promote. Mark Harris, however, is competent — he is trained in both physics and theology — and even-handed in his new book, The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science. Continue reading
Non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians, have spoken Arabic since before the revelation of the Qur’an. Was there an Arabic Bible before the rise of Islam? Or, did the appearance of the Arabic Qur’an shape the Arabic Bible? These are among the questions addressed in Sidney Griffith’s masterful book, The Bible in Arabic. Continue reading
Marginalia’s interview with Elizabeth Johnson, part of their ongoing series of radio-style interviews, was published today. Elizabeth Johnson is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, and author of many bestselling books, including Quest for the Living God. Her new book is Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love. The book’s title comes from chapter 12 of Job: “Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea, will declare to you [that they come from the hand of God.]”
The beginning of the essay over on Marginalia, by Rowan Williams:
When we say that something is true or adequate, what are we claiming?
We might be implying that we have captured the essence of what we are talking about, that we are representing exhaustively or isomorphically the structure of the object. Increasingly, though, philosophical discourse has rendered such a claim problematic, and in connection with language about God it is especially difficult: such claims can be morally objectionable as well as philosophically over-ambitious. Continue reading
(With today’s post, the LARB Blog continues featuring content from its new Channels Project. The LARB Channels — which include the websites Avidly, Marginalia and Boom — are a community of independent online magazines specializing in literary criticism, politics, science and culture, supported by the Los Angeles Review of Books. Today’s post comes from Marginalia, an international, open access review of literature and culture in the nexus of history, theology, and religion.)
Last week, Marginalia published this essay on the risks and rewards of translating poetry – we think it deserves a read. The essay, written by Rachel Tzvia Back, records the challenges of translating Tuvia Ruebner from Hebrew to English. Translating Ruebner is particularly compelling, Back notes, because of “the fact that Ruebner’s poetry and poetic sensibility occupied from the very beginning a place of being ‘always already in translation,’ a place of in-betweenness, doubleness and fragmentation.” Continue reading