The Talmud Is Finally Now Available Online

In South Korea, where I live, the Talmud is a bestseller. Just a few years ago the New Yorker's Ross Armud reported on the improbable publishing success, in this small east Asian country, of Judaism's "dense compilation of oral laws annotated with rabbinical discussions, consisting of about two and a half million words." Some of those words dealing with such pressing questions as, "If you find a cake with a pottery shard in it, can you keep it? Do you have to report the discovery of a pile of fruit? What do you do if you find an item built into the wall of your house?"

The much shorter "Korean Talmud," Armud writes, with its parables, aphorisms, and topics that run the gamut "from business ethics to sex advice," makes a reader feel like "the last player in a game of telephone." But Joshua Foer, the science writer who co-founded Atlas Obscura, might say that the Jewish Talmud has long left even Jewish readers in a similar state of befuddlement — if, indeed, they could find the text at all. Looking to get a handle on the Talmud himself back in 2010, he found that, shockingly, the internet had almost nothing to offer him. And so he began working, alongside an ex-Google engineer collaborator named Brett Lockspeiser, to correct that absence.

"Last year, after years of work and negotiations, Foer and Lockspeiser finally succeeded in their quest," writes the Washington Post's Noah Smith. "Through a nonprofit they created called Sefaria, the men are bringing the Talmud online in modern English, and free of charge." Sefaria's library, available on the web as well as in app form, now includes a variety of texts from Genesis and the Kabbalah to philosophy and modern works — and of course the Talmud, the centerpiece of the collection, the relevant resources for which had not been in the public domain and thus required no small amount of negotiation to make free.

Sefaria's creators have combined all this with a feature called "source sheets," which allow "any user on the site to compile and share a selection of relevant texts, from Sefaria or outside, surrounding a given issue or question." (Smith points to the most popular source sheet thus far, "Is One Permitted to Punch a White Supremacist in the Face?") At about 160 million words with 1.7 million intertextual links and counting, the site has made a greater volume of Jewish texts far more accessible than ever before. Readers, even non-Orthodox ones, have been discovering them in English, but if Sefaria wants to increase their traffic further still, they might consider uploading some Korean translations as well.

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Book about Women in Philosophy by Women in Philosophy: Help Crowdfund It

This past summer, we highlighted the Encyclopedia of Concise Concepts by Women Philosophers, a resource that aims to introduce “women philosophers who mostly have been omitted from the philosophical canon despite their historical and philosophical influence.” Now, in a similar vein, comes a book being edited by Rebecca Buxton (Oxford) and Lisa Whiting (Durham). The Philosopher Queens is essentially "a book about women in philosophy by women in philosophy." On this crowdfunding page, Buxton and Whiting elaborate:

For all the young women and girls sitting in philosophy class wondering where the women are, this is the book for you. This collection of 21 chapters, each on a prominent woman in philosophy, looks at the impact that women have had on the field throughout history. From Hypatia to Angela Davis, The Philosopher Queens will be a guide to these badass women and how their amazing ideas have changed the world.

This book is written both for newcomers to philosophy, as well as all those professors who know that they could still learn a thing or two. This book is also for those many people who have told us that there are no great women philosophers. Please pledge, read this book and then feel free to get back to us.

The two of us are young women who have studied and loved philosophy for many years. This book is borne out of frustration with the total lack of recognition for women in philosophy, not only its history but its current teaching.

Each chapter is written by a woman working in philosophy today. Our chapters and contributing authors include:

Hypatia by Lisa Whiting
Lalleshwari by Shalini Sinha
Anne Conway by Julia Bocherding
Mary Astell by Simone Webb
Mary Wollstonecraft by Sandrine Bergès
Harriet Taylor Mill by Helen McCabe
Christine Ladd-Franklin by Sara Uckelman
Mary Anne Evans by Clare Carlisle
Edith Stein by Jae Hetterley
Hannah Arendt by Rebecca Buxton
Simone de Beauvoir by Kate Kirkpatrick
Iris Murdoch by Fay Niker
Elizabeth Anscombe by Hannah Carnegy-Arbuthnott
Mary Warnock by Gulzaar Barn
Iris Marion Young by Desiree Lim
Anita L Allen by Ilhan Dahir
Azizah Y. al-Hibri by Nima Dahir
... and more exciting chapters yet to be announced.

You can learn more about the project and give it some financial support here. The project so far has 184 backers and has received 27% of its desired funding.

via Daily Nous

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R. Crumb Illustrates Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea: Existentialism Meets Underground Comics

Sartre’s novel Nausea introduced his philosophical view as a form of illness to a WWII readership. “Nausea is existence revealing itself—and experience is not pleasant to see,” he wrote in his own summary of his first book, published in 1938. The novel’s dramatization of Historian Roquentin' s crisis presents a case of existential sickness as mostly involuntary.

Though published before his many Marxist books and essays, Nausea connects the malaise to a certain class experience. “I have no troubles,” thinks Roquentin in Robert Crumb’s short adaptation of the book above, “I have money like a capitalist, no boss, no wife, no children; I exist, that’s all…. And that trouble is so vague, so metaphysical that I am ashamed of it.” Nausea, in one sense, is bourgeoise alienation, while Roquentin’s conversation partner, the Self-Taught Man, confesses a naïve humanist idealism.

The characters alone, some critics suggest, imbue the book with a subtle parody. As he listens to the Self-Taught Man’s troubles and ruminates on his own, Crumb’s Roquentin grows more Sartre-like. Significantly, the Self-Taught Man takes on a Crumb-like demeanor and aspect. Their dialogue moves briskly, the scene resembling My Dinner with Andre with less banter and more neurosis. Sartre’s tone lends itself well to Crumb’s obsessive, tightly-composed panels.

Crumb’s literary interpretations have gravitated toward other anxious writers like Charles Bukowski and Franz Kafka, as well as the murder and incest of the book of Genesis. The underground comics legend is right at home with Sartrean dread and despair. Crumb became famous for Fritz the Cat, an animated film version of his raunchy hipster, what many called his grossly sexist and racist sex fantasies, and the drawing and slogan “Keep on Truckin’.” He was a figure of 60s and 70s counterculture, but that’s never where he belonged.

Crumb was a Sartrean protagonist , even when he “often portrayed himself in his work as naked... and priapic.” In an an interview with Crumb The Guardian describes him:

his words are depressive and lugubrious, and yet he appears mellow, laughing easily through his existential nausea. The most terrible stories amuse him as much as they pain him. He tells me how a best friend killed himself by swallowing four bottles of paper correction fluid, and he chortles. He talks of his own despair, and giggles. He admits that he could never have imagined a life quite so fulfilled—with Aline, and his beloved daughter Sophie, also a cartoonist, and success and money—and says he's still miserable as hell, and laughs.

He is a little Roquentin, a little bit Sartre, a little bit Self-Taught man, applying to his reading of literature and philosophy an LSD-assisted, sex-positive, and unavoidably controversial and depressive sensibility. See the full Crumb-illustrated Nausea here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

See Albert Camus’ Historic Lecture, “The Human Crisis,” Performed by Actor Viggo Mortensen

Back in 2016, New York City staged a month-long festival celebrating Albert Camus' historic visit to NYC in 1946. One event in the festival featured actor Viggo Mortensen giving a reading of Camus' lecture,“La Crise de l’homme” ("The Human Crisis") at Columbia University--the very same place where Camus delivered the lecture 70 years earlier--down to the very day (March 28, 1946). The reading was initially captured on a cell phone, and broadcast live using Facebook live video. But then came a more polished recording, courtesy of Columbia's Maison Française. Note that Mortensen takes the stage around the 11:45 mark.

"The Human Crisis" will be added to our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free. You can download major works by Camus as free audiobooks if you sign up for a 30-Day Free Trial with Find more information on that program here.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in April, 2016.

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What Is Stoicism? A Short Introduction to the Ancient Philosophy That Can Help You Cope with Our Modern Times

The word “stoic” (from the Greek stoa) has come to mean a few things in popular parlance, most of them related directly to the ancient Greek, then Roman, philosophy from which the term derives. Stoic people seem unmovable. They stay cool in a crisis and “keep calm and carry on” when others lose their heads. For several, perhaps obvious, reasons, these qualities of “calm, resilience, and emotional stability” are particularly needed in a time like ours, says Alain de Botton in his School of Life video above.

But how do we acquire these qualities, according to the Stoics? And what philosophers should we consult to learn about them? One of the most prolific of Stoic philosophers, the Roman writer and statesman Seneca, advised a typical course of action. In a letter to his friend Lucilius, who feared a potentially career-ending lawsuit, Seneca counseled that rather than resting in hopes of a happy outcome, his friend should assume that the worst will come to pass, and that, no matter what, he can survive it.

The goal is not to make Debbie Downers of us all, but to convince us that we are stronger than we think—that even our worst fears needn't mean the end of the world. Seneca’s stoicism is a thoroughgoing realism that asks us to account for the entire range of possible outcomes—even the absolute worst we can imagine—rather than only those things we want or have previously experienced. In this way, we will not be caught off-guard when bad things come to pass, because we have already made a certain peace with them.

Rather than a pessimistic philosophy, Seneca’s thought seems entirely practical, a means of piercing our pleasant illusions and comfortable bubbles of self-regard, and considering ourselves just as subject to misfortune as anyone else in the world, and just as capable of enduring it as well.

To partake of Seneca’s wisdom yourself, consider reading this online three-volume collection of his letters, The Tao of Seneca. And for a longer list of Stoic thinkers, ancient and modern, see this post from Ryan Holiday of the Daily Stoic, a blog that offers useful Stoic advice for contemporary people.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Learn the History of Indian Philosophy in a 62 Episode Series from The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps: The Buddha, Bhagavad-Gita, Non Violence & More

The belief in a singular, coherent “Western tradition” in philosophy has led to a very insular, Eurocentric view in philosophy departments, as Jay L. Garfield and Bryan W. Van Norden write in a New York Times op-ed. "No other humanities discipline demonstrates this systemic neglect of most of the civilizations in its domain," they argue, "The present situation is hard to justify morally, politically, epistemically or as good educational and research training practice.” In his follow-up book Taking Back Philosophy Van Norden argues that educational institutions should “live up to their cosmopolitan ideals” by expanding the canon and teaching non-Western philosophical traditions.

One philosophy educator, Peter Adamson, professor of philosophy at the LMU in Munich and King’s College London, has taken up the challenge of teaching global philosophical traditions through his popular podcast The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, with series on the Islamic World, Africana, and India. With expert co-authors and guests, Adamson’s podcasts help us navigate cultural and historical differences without watering down the substance of diverse bodies of thought.

These surveys of non-Western traditions aim to be as exhaustive as the podcast's coverage of Classical, Later Antiquity, and Medieval periods in Europe. We’ve featured Adamson's podcasts on Islamic and Indian philosophy in an earlier post. Now we revisit his series on Indian philosophy, which has grown substantially in the interval, from thirty-two to sixty-two episodes, divided into three categories—“Origins,” “Age of the Sutra,” and “Buddhists and Jains."

Indian Philosophy—Origins

Indian Philosophy—Age of the Sutra

Indian Philosophy—Buddhists and Jains

Very broadly, much Indian philosophy can be understood as a centuries-long conflict between the six orthodox Vedic schools (astika) and the heterodox (nastika) schools, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Carvaka, a materialist philosophy that denied all metaphysical doctrines. While some strains among these schools of thought can be associated with individual names, like Kanada, Patañjali, or Nagarjuna, much ancient Indian philosophy “is represented by a mass of texts,” as Luke Muehlhauser writes in his short guide, “for which the authors and dates of composition are mostly unknown.”

Adamson’s free podcast survey of Indian philosophy makes for entertaining, informative listening. You can download every episode in .zip form at the links above. Or find links to the individual episodes right below. To keep up with trends in the study of Indian philosophy in English, be sure to follow the Indian Philosophy Blog. And for an excellent list of “Readings on the Less Commonly Taught Philosophies (LCTP),” see this post by Bryan Van Norden here.


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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

When Jean-Paul Sartre Had a Bad Mescaline Trip and Then Hallucinated That He Was Being Followed by Crabs

Image by Thierry Ehrmann via Flickr Commons

Sometimes when confronted with strange new ideas, people will exclaim, “you must be on drugs!”—a charge often levied at philosophers by those who would rather dismiss their ideas as hallucinations than take them seriously. But, then, to be fair, sometimes philosophers are on drugs. Take Jean-Paul Sartre. “Before Hunter S. Thompson was driving around in convertibles stocked full of acid, cocaine, mescaline and tequila,” notes Critical Theory, Sartre almost approached the gonzo journalist’s habitual intake.

According to Annie Cohen-Solal, who wrote a biography of Sartre, his daily drug consumption was thus: two packs of cigarettes, several tobacco pipes, over a quart of alcohol (wine, beer, vodka, whisky etc.), two hundred milligrams of amphetamines, fifteen grams of aspirin, a boat load of barbiturates, some coffee, tea, and a few “heavy” meals (whatever those might have been). 

These details should not unduly influence our reading of Sartre's work. Like Thompson, no matter how physically debilitating the booze and drugs might have been for him, they didn’t seem to cramp his productivity or intellectual vigor. But his one and only experience with mescaline almost sent him careening over the edge, and certainly contributed to an important motif in his work afterward.

While working on a book about the imagination, Sartre sought to have an hallucinatory experience. He got the chance in 1935 when an old friend, Dr. Daniel Lagache, invited him into an experiment at Sainte-Anne’s hospital in Paris, where he was injected with mescaline and observed under controlled conditions. “Sartre does not appear to have had a bad trip in the classic sense of suffering a major and prolonged panic attack,” Gary Cox writes in his Sartre biography. “But it was not a good trip and he did not enjoy it.”

The most ill effects came afterward: “His visual faculties remained distorted for weeks.” Sartre saw houses with “leering faces, all eyes and jaws.” Clock faces took on the features of owls. He confided in his partner Simone de Beauvoir that “he feared that one day he would no longer know” whether or not these were hallucinations. They were, however, not the worst aftereffects. As Sartre told political science professor John Gerassi in a 1971 interview, crabs began to follow him around. He described the experience as “a nervous breakdown.” The crabs followed him “all the time,” he said, “I mean they followed me in the streets, into class.”

I got used to them. I would wake up in the morning and say, “Good morning, my little ones, how did you sleep?” I would talk to them all the time, or I would say, “OK guys, we’re going into class now, so we have to be still and quiet,” and they would be there, around my desk, absolutely still, until the bell rang.

This went on for a year before Sartre went to see his friend Jacques Lacan for psychoanalysis. “We concluded, “ he says, “that it was a fear of becoming alone.” While he had previously confessed a fear of sea creatures, especially crabs, that went back to his childhood, after the mescaline trip, crabs featured prominently in his work, as Peter Royle shows at Philosophy Now.

We find several references to crabs in his short story collection The Wall and in his famous essay “Existentialism is a Humanism.” Samir Chopra quotes crab passages in Sartre’s first novel Nausea. (“At first I avoided them by writing about them,” he told Gerassi, “in effect, by defining life as nausea.”) “In one of his short stories, ‘Erostratus,’” notes Royle, “Sartre creates a character, Paul Hilbert, who looks down on human beings from a height and sees them as crabs.” The most striking use of the “crab motif” comes from his 1959 play The Condemned of Altona, in which the protagonist Frantz imagines that by the Thirtieth Century, humans have become crabs sitting in judgment of the people of the Twentieth.

Crab images, Royle argues, “point to important philosophical ideas,” including “the possibility of ignominy inherent in the concept of freedom itself” and the “reprehensible ‘crabs’ who decline to assume their freedom” and thus scuttle around mindlessly in groups. Crustaceans continued to haunt the philosopher. While the effects of the mescaline eventually dissipated, “when he was feeling down,” writes Cox, Sartre would get the “recurrent feeling, the delusion, that he was being pursued by a giant lobster, always just out of sight... perpetually about to arrive.”

One of the “great, darkly comic features of Sartre folklore,” the huge, invisible lobster invites much speculation about Sartre’s mental health. But perhaps it was only the monstrous embodiment of his own feelings of mauvaise foi, given vivid form by a lingering psychotropic hangover and a daily diet of uppers and downers—a reminder of the “anxiety, anguish, dread, apprehension, fear of pain, fear of death… [and] fundamental absurdity of existence.” As Royle writes, Sartre, always fond of puns, “could only have been intrigued” by the French word for lobster, homard, which sounds like “homme-ard,” a coinage that might suggest something like “a bad man.”

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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