In Theory is a column in Ceasefire Magazine that introduces and reflects on major figures in cultural/political/literary theory (Agamben 1 2; Althusser 1 2; Amin 1 2; Appadurai 1; Aristotle 1 2; Badiou 1 2; Bakhtin 1 2; Bakunin 1 2 3; Barthes 1 2 3 4 5 6; Baudrillard 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14; Benjamin 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8; Deleuze 1; and Marcuse 1) in addition to discussing general topics such as anarchism, asymmetrical war, autonomism, commodity fetishism, global cities, local knowledge, peacekeeping, and precarity.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
The cosmos is also within us, we're made of star-stuff. We are a way for the cosmos, to know itself.
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a thirteen-part television series of one hour shows written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter, that was aired at the tail end of 1980 and was - at the time - the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. It is best introduced by an audio excerpt of one of his books, The Pale Blue Dot. Inside is a complete annotated collection of the series. [more inside]
If you want to take a relation of violent extortion, sheer power, and turn it into something moral, and most of all, make it seem like the victims are to blame, you turn it into a relation of debt. Naked Capitalism talks to David Graeber about his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Previously. And more generally. Bonus Graeber classic: "Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You!" [more inside]
Past Thinking about Earth-Like Planets and Life [pdf], presenting a brief history of thought on finding extraterrestrial life-like phenomena, is the first chapter of James Kasting's new book, How to Find a Habitable Planet. He participated in a discussion on BBC's The Forum.
Philosophy (digested). Julian Baggini reads philosophy classics, so you don't have to. Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, Ayer (“Sex is empirically verifiable, it’s only love that ain’t”). OK, its a rip-off of John Crace (prev) but at least these are books you should have read.
Tautology isn't just a good idea, it's also the law. From the "Berkeley Sure Is Nutty" Department: "In a philosophical effort to come up with a city law that no one could ever break, conceptual artist Jonathon Keats wants Berkeley to legally acknowledge Aristotle's law, commonly expressed as A=A."
The Independent has a report that excavations at Herculaneum has brought forth some 850 papyri and "Among the works, which academics hope to read using the new equipment, are the lost works of Aristotle (his 30 dialogues, referred to by other authors, but lost in antiquity), scientific works by Archimedes, mathematical treatises by Euclid, philosophical work by Epicurus, masterpieces by the Greek poets Simonides and Alcaeus, erotic poems by Philodemus, lesbian erotic poetry by Sappho, the lost sections of Virgil's Juvenilia, comedies by Terence, tragedies by Seneca and works by the Roman poets Ennius, Accius, Catullus, Gallus, Macer and Varus."