Category Archives: Generalist’s Work

Is There a Desert or a Garden Underneath the Kudzu of Nuance?

I like this essay by Kieran Healy a lot, even though I am probably the kind of person who habitually calls for nuance. What this helps me to understand is what I am doing when I make that nearly instinctive … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Generalist's Work, Oh Not Again He's Going to Tell Us It's a Complex System | 1 Comment

Playing the Odds

The idea that higher education makes you a better person in some respect has long been its soft underbelly. The proposition makes most current faculty and administrators uncomfortable, especially at the smaller teaching-centered colleges that are prone to invoke tropes … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Defining "Liberal Arts", Generalist's Work, Swarthmore | 10 Comments

Fighting Words

Days pass, and issues go by, and increasingly by the time I’ve thought something through for myself, the online conversation, if that’s the right word for it, has moved on. One exchange that keeps sticking with me is about the … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Digital Humanities, Generalist's Work | 4 Comments

Frame(d)

High Anxiety In modernity, dread only takes a holiday once in a while. Right now Mr. Dread is hard at work all around the world, and he’s not just sticking to the big geopolitical dramas or some single-issue fear. He’s … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Generalist's Work, Oh Not Again He's Going to Tell Us It's a Complex System, Politics, Swarthmore | 8 Comments

Teleology and the Fermi Paradox

I sometimes joke to my students that “teleology” is one of those things like “functionalism” that humanist intellectuals now instinctively recoil from or hiss at without even bothering to explain any longer to a witness who is less in-the-know what … Continue reading

Posted in Defining "Liberal Arts", Generalist's Work, Sheer Raw Geekery | 5 Comments

A Different Diversity

Following on Carl Edgar Blake II’s description of his abilities, let’s go back to the question of whether faculty in higher education ought to have doctorates, whether doctoral study in some form roughly resembling its present structure is the best … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Defining "Liberal Arts", Generalist's Work, Swarthmore | 2 Comments

Particularism as a Big Idea

One of the interesting points about Jared Diamond’s books that has come up recently at Savage Minds is that cultural anthropologists don’t write “big books” much any longer, that the disciplinary vision of cultural and social anthropology is now so … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Books, Generalist's Work, Oh Not Again He's Going to Tell Us It's a Complex System | 10 Comments

More on Menand

Almost back to feeling normal, so I thought I’d return to my somewhat fever-delirious notes on the Menand talk last week at Swarthmore and see what I could pull out of them. Menand’s talk, following some of his recent writing, … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Digital Humanities, Generalist's Work, Swarthmore | 2 Comments

On Diamond (Not Again!)

I don’t really mean to get drawn into recurrent arguments about Jared Diamond’s work, because my actual feelings about the actual books are rather mixed and indifferent. Guns, Germs and Steel reads well, it’s a useful teaching book for fueling … Continue reading

Posted in Academia, Books, Cleaning Out the Augean Stables, Generalist's Work | 4 Comments

Moore’s Law (Munitions Edition)

Let’s say twenty years ago I’d written a science fiction novel about how a futuristic nation has a massive force of flying robot bombs that are programmed with some target parameters and just fly around 24/7 on patrol looking for … Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Generalist's Work, Politics | 21 Comments