What I’m reading (or just read)

1. Middlemarch. As I mentioned before in this blog, I have been leading a reading group on George Eliot’s masterpiece. We will be discussing Book V tonight. Here’s a nice quote that bears on my blog’s themes: “[The] egoism which enters into our theories does not affect their sincerity; rather, the more our egoism is satisfied, the more robust is our belief.” True, isn’t it?

2. Everything is Obvious (*Once You Know the Answer): How Common Sense Fails Us by Duncan Watts. Very good so far. The subtitle tells it all. As the blurb says, the book is about “how common sense reasoning and history conspire to mislead us into believing that we understand more about the world of human behavior than we do; and in turn, why attempts to predict, manage, or manipulate social and economic systems so often go awry.” Definitely speaks to the limitations of opinion (since common sense is a type of opinion/doxa in Plato’s sense.)

3. Battling to the End by Rene Girard. A book on the important of the Prussian war strategist Clausewitz (of all people) for understanding the contemporary crisis and its basis in total war and the duel. I read it far to hastily when it came out and am reading much more carefully this time around in preparation for my presentation at the Colloquium on Violence and Religion in July. I still can’t tell if this is Girard’s best book or worst book — I am only two chapters in. I will figure it out and write a review later on. (As a side note I actually participated in a study group at Stanford with Girard when he was working though some of these ideas.)

4. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. This just came out yesterday and I haven’t received my copy yet, but if Lewis’ previous books are any indication, I will finish this book within a day or two of starting it. I have read an excerpt and (again) Lewis’ books always make useful case studies for some of the epistemological ideas that I explore in this blog. If you told me Michael Lewis’ next book was on sock manufacturing, I would still guess it would be a gripping read.

5. The Up side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success by Megan McArdle. I just finished this one. A couple of people I respect let me know that this would be a book that I would like and they were definitely right. The book is on failure, which turns out to be an engaging and informative theme — much like my favorite subject: ignorance!

6. Physics by Aristotle, translated by Joe Sachs. I spend the rest of the semester on Aristotle and just reread Books 1 and 3 in preparation for the Ancient Greek Philosophy Class I am teaching. Hopefully I will be able to communicate my excitement in reengaging the great Aristotle!

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