Books, music, etc. from January 2015

Decent books

Melzer’s Philosophy Between the Lines was quite good, and should settle the argument as to whether or not esotericism was common throughout most of philosophical history. Now the question is, how much can we know about what historical philosophers actually thought? Should we bother to try to figure that out?

Morris’ The Measure of Civilization is perhaps the most useful book I’ve read so far on the great divergence (“Why did the industrial revolution happen in Britain rather than China?”). Read this one instead of Why the West Rules, for Now. Hopefully I’ll be blogging about this later.

Shermer’s The Moral Arc was not well-argued. Read the comparable section of Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature instead.

Favorite albums discovered this month

Movies I loved this month

  • Iñárritu, Birdman (2014)
  • Miller, Foxcatcher (2014)
  • Chazelle, Whiplash (2014)
  • Chandor, A Most Violent Year (2014)
  • Gilroy, Nightcrawler (2014)
  • Clément, Purple Noon (1960)

Luke stuff elsewhere


  1. Leon says

    I found a 2007 article of Melzer’s (‘On the Pedagogical Motive for Esoteric Writing’) overblown in its stated conclusions, compared with what the evidence seemed to warrant. The article conflated

    1. Obscurity, speaking in fables, non-clarity, indirectness. Multiple layers to one’s teaching. This possibly for the sake of pedagogy.


    2. Teachings for the public versus teachings for the initiates/elite/true disciples. Two contradictory or opposed layers to one’s teaching.

    The first of these seems to me to describe art of all kinds (e.g. fiction writing) where the creator has a didactic purpose, but artfully weaves this into their work. “Ars est celare artem” and all that.

    Most of the evidence in the article concerned (1), but Melzer writes as though almost everyone [else] has radically misunderstood Western intellectual history by ignoring the pervasiveness of (2). This conclusion has an alluring conspiratorial feel to it. Reading a critical review (NDPR) of ‘Philosophy Between the Lines’, which makes a similar point, leads me to feel quite skeptical toward Melzer’s project.

    • Luke says

      I haven’t read the article, so maybe this isn’t covered there, but… what about all the contemporary testimonial evidence that (2) was commonplace?

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