front cover of Abysmal
A Critique of Cartographic Reason
Gunnar Olsson
University of Chicago Press, 2007

People rely on reason to think about and navigate the abstract world of human relations in much the same way they rely on maps to study and traverse the physical world. Starting from that simple observation, renowned geographer Gunnar Olsson offers in Abysmal an astonishingly erudite critique of the way human thought and action have become deeply immersed in the rhetoric of cartography and how this cartographic reasoning allows the powerful to map out other people’s lives.

A spectacular reading of Western philosophy, religion, and mythology that draws on early maps and atlases, Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, Gilgamesh, and Marcel Duchamp, Abysmal is itself a minimalist guide to the terrain of Western culture. Olsson roams widely but always returns to the problems inherent in reason, to question the outdated assumptions and fixed ideas that thinking cartographically entails. A work of ambition, scope, and sharp wit, Abysmal will appeal to an eclectic audience—to geographers and cartographers, but also to anyone interested in the history of ideas, culture, and art.


front cover of After Parmenides
After Parmenides
Idealism, Realism, and Epistemic Constructivism
Tom Rockmore
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Engages with one of the oldest philosophical problems—the relationship between thought and being—and offers a fresh perspective with which to approach the long history of this puzzle.

In After Parmenides, Tom Rockmore takes us all the way back to the beginning of Western philosophy, when Parmenides asserted that thought and being are the same. This idea created a division between what the mind constructs as knowable entities and the idea that there is also a mind-independent real, which we can know or fail to know. Rockmore argues that we need to give up on the idea of knowing the real as it is, and instead focus on the objects of cognition that our mind constructs. Though we cannot know mind-independent objects as they “really” are, we can and do know objects as they appear to us.

After Parmenides charts the continual engagement with these ideas of the real and the knowable throughout philosophical history from Plato and Aristotle to Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, and others. This ambitious book shows how new connections can be made in the history of philosophy when it is reread through a new lens.

front cover of Altarity
Mark C. Taylor
University of Chicago Press, 1987
Readers familiar with Mark C. Taylor's previous writing will immediately recognize Altarity as a remarkable synthetic project. This work combines the analytic depth and detail of Taylor's earlier studies of Kierkegaard and Hegel with the philosophical and theological scope of his highly acclaimed Erring.

In Altarity, Taylor develops a genealogy of otherness and difference that is based on the principle of creative juxtaposition. Rather than relying on a historical or chronological survey of crucial moments in modern philosophical thinking, he explores the complex question of difference through the strategies of contrast, resonance, and design. Taylor brings together the work of thinkers as diverse as Hegel, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Lacan, Bataille, Kristeva, Levinas, Blanchot, Derrida, and Kierkegaard to fashion a broad intellectual scheme.
Situated in an interdisciplinary discourse, Altarity signifies a harnessing of continental and American habits of intellectual thought and illustrates the singularity that emerges from such a configuration. As such, the book functions as a mirror of our intellectual moment and offers the academy a rigorous way of acknowledging the limitations of its own interpretive practices.

front cover of Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II
Artists, Intellectuals, and World War II
The Pontigny Encounters at Mount Holyoke College, 1942-1944
Christopher E. G. Benfey
University of Massachusetts Press, 2006
Sixty years ago, at the height of World War II, an extraordinary series of gatherings took place at Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts. During the summers of 1942–1944, leading Europeanfigures in the arts and sciences met at the college with their American counterparts for urgent conversations about the future of human civilization in a precarious world.

Two Sorbonne professors, the distinguished medievalist Gustave Cohen and the existentialist philosopher Jean Wahl, organized these "Pontigny" sessions, named after an abbey in Burgundy where similar symposia had been held in the decades before the war. Among the participants—many of whom were Jewish or had Jewish backgrounds—were the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Rachel Bespaloff, the poets Marianne Moore and Wallace Stevens, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and the linguist Roman Jakobson, and the painters Marc Chagall and Robert Motherwell.

In this collection of original essays, Stanley Cavell and Jacques Derrida lead an international group of scholars—including Jed Perl, Mary Ann Caws, Jeffrey Mehlman, and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl—in assessing the lasting impact and contemporary significance of Pontigny-en- Amérique. Rachel Bespaloff, a tragicfigure who wrote a major work on the Iliad, is restored to her rightful place beside Arendt and Simone Weil. Anyone interested in the "intellectual resistance" of Francophone intellectuals and artists, and the inspiring support from such Americanfigures as Stevens and Moore, will want to read this pioneering work of scholarship and historical re-creation.

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