What would Plato Tweet?

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With cerebral momentum from yesterday’s post on why philosophy won’t go away, let’s move on to another question raised by the same author, Rebecca Goldstein: what would Plato Tweet?

Goldstein likens the modern social media attention-seeking frenzy to the ancient Greek striving for kleos, which, as students will remember from CC101, is somewhat equivalent to “glory”. Goldstein does well to flesh out the definition:

The word comes from the old Homeric word for “I hear,” and it meant a kind of auditory renown. Vulgarly speaking, it was fame. But it also could mean the glorious deed that merited the fame, as well as the poem that sang of the deed and so produced the fame. The medium, the message, and the impact: all merged into one shining concept.

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Ascending to the Heavens in a Claustrophobic Box

Apparently, elevators have been much more essential to the development of our modern nation’s urban layout and cultural life than we ever thought to give them credit for. As the elevator enthusiasts of academia maintain, the invention of the elevator paved the way for a new, innovative high-rise style of architecture.


The Woolworth Building in New York, completed in 1913 and rising up to 792 feet in the sky.

Not only this, but elevators have also been credited by its appreciators for reshaping the social hierarchy of commercial and residential buildings. Originally, the top floors of, let’s say, a large house were reserved for those expected to hike up several flights of stairs–namely, this demographic included servants and staff. Before elevators, the well-off folks dwelled on bottom floors.

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On Marshall Berman, Marxist Intellectual of New York

Last fall, Marshall Berman, a Jewish American philosopher, Marxist humanist writer and professor of political science at The City College of New York, passed away. Vladislav Davidzon writes about his late teacher in Tablet Magazine, painting a portrait of him as a brilliant nonconformist and engaging teacher:

In hindsight, I am impressed by how neatly he synthesized the brackish world of 19th-century Russian revolutionary politics for American undergraduates, light-years removed from it. I see, on opening my notes from that autumn, that the first line I wrote down in my notebook in that class might be taken for Marshall’s credo. “Must we wait for after the revolution for joy?” This was followed by a resounding “No!”

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Why philosophy won’t go away

Are you living an examined life?

No, really, are you? In between texting while walking, daydreaming while note-taking, scrolling while sleeping, and sleeping while strolling, are you living an examined life?

It’s ok if you are not. Few are. But it’s an important question to ask oneself, and that’s why philosophy matters.

Clancy Martin, in his review of Rebecca Goldstein’s book, Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away, discusses questions that science cannot answer but philosophy can. Some extracts:

Goldstein wisely doesn’t take philosophy’s revival for granted in a culture committed to an increasingly materialistic worldview—materialistic in the philosophical sense, meaning convinced that the scientific study of matter in motion holds the answers to all our questions. The impetus for Goldstein’s ingenious, entertaining, and challenging new book is the theoretical version of the very practical problem I confronted when I graduated from college: Now that we have science, do we really need philosophy? Doesn’t science “bake bread” (not to mention make money) in a way that philosophy never has? Science is responsible for the grand upward march of civilization—so we are often told—but what accomplishments can philosophy claim?

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Keeping Kids Awake in the Classroom

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A Picture of Human Knowledge


On Friday of the week before Spring Break, Prof. Green was speaking with his classes about the importance of “human knowledge.” What brought that topic to mind? Well, on his way to work, walking down Beacon Street through Coolidge Corner, he’d seen the book pictured above propped up by some unknown person, against a lamp post outside a Russian bookstore. Read More »

e.e. cummings, the fearless

It seems impossible, sometimes, to delight in the new and exciting. Look at early critics’ and the general public’s reaction to most of modernism for instance. Scorned, scandalized, generally rejected (thank god enough liked it to keep it preserved). And the new can be exhausting in whole other ways. Most of us moved towns even countries to go to school at Boston University. Sometimes, most of the time, that’s excellent, and sometimes, especially when finals and papers rear their ugly heads, we’re homesick. It’s Spring Break now: some of us have stayed in Boston to take advantage of the studentless city; some of us are in all kinds of exotic locations enjoying the sun, the culture, what you will; and some of us answered the call and went home. Those times when we’re homesick, it can be helpful to look at the old and to comfort ourselves with that which is familiar, but we at Core always think turning to something new from the past can help guide us now, through anything.

Susan Cheever, who wrote an essay on E. E. Cummings (e. e. cummings) for Vanity Fair had a similar experience. Caught in a school she didn’t like that seemed to suck her soul out (not at all like BU but maybe like midterms), she desperately needed some inspiration, some drive. And in walks a famous poet, an old friend of her fathers.

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Dogs are not People


In a recent book, How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain, Dr. Gregory Bernes discusses his study (previously featured in a core blog post here) in which MRI brain scans of dogs were explored and showed human like emotions. However, not all dog enthusiasts have wholeheartedly accepted Bernes work and let him by without critique.

Colin Dayan of the Boston Review finds flaw in the tendency of Bernes and others to compare man’s best friend to young children in an effort to enhance our appreciation of them. At first, one may assume that Dayan is speaking against dogs but this is not the case. He writes that, “The urge to characterize dogs as like ourselves speaks to our failure of imagination”. Instead, he believes that the intelligence of dogs should be appreciated for what it is: different.

Perhaps animality is what we should be thinking about and not claims for humanity. Dogs live on the track between the mental and the physical and seem to tease out a near-mystical disintegration of the bounds between them. Their knowing has everything to do with perception, an unprecedented attentiveness that unleashes another kind of intelligibility beyond the world of the human.

Read the full article here.


The Graduate Student Classics Department Conference

Alright guys, it’s time to get excited about death.

Now death is a natural part of life, a part that can overcome even the greatest but can leave the weakest stronger than ever imagined. Gilgamesh taught us that if nothing else. But for those of us who didn’t learn enough from our discussion section, have no fear! The Classics Department is here! This year, the Graduate Student Conference has a special focus on Death and Mortality in the Ancient World. Fantastic.

Here’s a complete schedule:

9:30-10:15: Registration and Continental Breakfast
10:15-10:30: Opening Remarks
10:30-11:30: Panel 1 (Richard Hutchins and Reina E. Callier)
11:30-12:30: Panel 2 (Ronald Orr and Kristin Harper)
12:30-1:30: Lunch
1:30-2:30: Keynote Address (Professor Maria Liston)
2:30-3:30: Panel 3 (William Smith III and Daniel Poochigian)

Kristin Harper will be speaking directly about Aeneas’ transformations after his experiences with death, Reina E. Callier is going to bring Ovid into the mix, basically magic.

If you’re in town this break, check it out! Free food, wonderful speakers, and great company. Besides, our very own writing tutor Colin Pang will be there, and we at Core always support our own.

Let us know if you have any questions below and hope to see you there!

Progressing through Poetry

The late 19th and early 20th century gave birth to some of our world’s favorite poets and poetry, something that could be written off as simple proximity, but we at Core believe what makes these writers so important was not only the still resonating effects of political and societal changes they commented on but also because of the interconnectivity of the poets of that time, a connectivity that breached the rest of the 20th century and still has not come to an end.

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