Louis Jones in Threepenny Review:
This picture of a self-purposed universe blossoming in empty time-space makes me think of a Klein bottle, one of those fanciful geometric objects like a Möbius strip illustrating a topological paradox. A Klein bottle’s neck stretches out and swings around and gropes behind to reenter itself, pass through its own belly, and open its mouth onto its own outer wall: so its outside surface is continuous with its inside surface, paradoxically. As a picture, it seems to embody the philosophers’ teleological universe, whose final goal, Mind, is an end that always abided in its beginning. Like a Klein bottle, the floating, self-decreeing universe’s head is thrust up its posterior, an image to mimic the satiric caricature of all of us deep thinkers, us philosophes, who make so much of Mind. Mind, I have to admit, does seem to me numinous. Maybe it’s a weak-headedness of my own, but frankly, I’ve always been attracted to solipsism as an ontological doctrine, the utterly subjective, almost impolite position that I, alone in my forest clearing, am like Vishnu creator and preserver of the Universe. Solipsism has a terrific logical self-consistency, but it’s a very hard topic to discuss freely. Just try broaching the topic with somebody. See what happens.
Robert Paul Wolff:
Now, let us remember. Piketty is a man of the left, an advisor to the French Socialist Party and to its 2007 presidential candidate, Ségolène Royal. It is surely not democratic socialism that Piketty fears, at least not the rather tepid version that now passes for socialism in France. My speculation — and it really is only that — is that Piketty fears a right-wing uprising, a revanchist resurgence of the fascism that always lurks below the surface in modern Europe. [Just today, as I have been writing these words, I read that in local elections, the far right National Front party of Marine Le Pen has won upset victories in ten or eleven towns over the socialist candidates.] We on the left here in America have never had a viable nationally competitive socialist party [although, to be sure, my grandfather won election on a socialist ticket to the New York City Board of Alderman in 1917 -- our family's proudest day], so we may long for an uprising from the left. But we have also never suffered a fascist putsch. Well, as I say, this is all just speculation.
Over the last few years I’ve listened to a bunch of the Teaching Company’s Great Courses lecture sets. In my experience they are uniformly good. The lectures seem to be prepared with the medium in mind and are pitched at just the right level of complexity for a half-distracted listener to stay tuned in while hanging out the washing or jogging or whatever. Frederick Gregory’s The Darwinian Revolution and Thomas Williams’ Philosophy in the Middle Ages were particular highlights for me.
I recently discovered an alternative way of buying TTC courses. Audible.com stock a significant portion of TTC’s catalogue as audiobooks. These can be purchased using Audible’s annual plans, the biggest of which gives you 24 audiobooks (plus one for free when you join). That plan costs $229.50 USD at the moment, and TTC courses count as one audiobook each no matter how long they are. That works out at a flat rate of a bit over $9 per course.
$9 USD is vastly cheaper than the sometimes stratospheric prices of the courses when they are not on sale. The massive 40+ hour courses such as Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition or Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition usually retail for $300+ for the audio, so the Audible option represents remarkable value.
Australian listeners are free set up accounts at the US site, and the exchange rate at the moment is no barrier.