The bigger picture

Poltics and personal life, science and religion

Michael Steinberg

Michael Steinberg
Location
Rochester, New York, US
Birthday
June 20
Bio
I am a writer ("The fiction of a thinkable world: Body, meaning, and the culture of capitalism" [Monthly Review Press 2005]; "A new biology of religion: Spiritual practice and the life of the body" [Praeger, 2012]) and an attorney. I'm most interested in how we got into our present-day mess and how we can't separate our self-image from the experience of the world.

MY RECENT POSTS

NOVEMBER 24, 2013 12:20PM

In defense of Mr. Kant

Not long ago Episcopalian priest and regular Guardian columnist Giles Fraser took on Immanuel Kant. The immediate impetus for the article, or at least its excuse, was the widely-reported story that two Russians in a bar came to blows over the proper interpretation of Kant’s philosophy; one shotRead full post »

NOVEMBER 11, 2013 12:53PM

What is self-consciousness for?

There’s nothing more fundamental to the experience of a human life than the fact that it is experience, and self-conscious experience at that; we present or represent perceptions and actions and in the same moment we constitute a subjectivity that stands in some relation to those presentations.Read full post »

After going viral the reaction: Russell Brand’s New Statesman essay has been labeled sexist, vacuous, adolescent, and simply wrong-headed. And I can see why it puts people off. Brand’s public persona of self-mockery shading into self-loathing sounds too much like having his cake and eatin… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 25, 2013 10:42PM

A little philosophy that upends a whole lot

If you have a London Review of Books subscription it's well worth working through Galen Strawson's "Real naturalism" in the latest issue. (If you're not it's unavailable, unfortunately.) Strawson has been reworking this piece for a while, but has stayed true to the seemingly paradoxical point that a… Read full post »

JUNE 3, 2013 4:03PM

In lieu of a post

Electoral democracy is more widespread than ever, yet at the same time our freely elected governments have shown themselves to be deaf to the needs of their citizens and even to the future habitability of the planet. This paradox makes it increasingly clear that the political triumphs of the past cen… Read full post »

OCTOBER 27, 2012 10:37AM

Why values never win out over markets

We have values that ought to trump market imperatives. That is one of the overriding themes of popular Harvard professor Michael Sandel’s What Money Can’t Buy, and there can hardly be anyone who would want to live in a world where every detail of common life is driven by market forces.
Read full post »

OCTOBER 3, 2012 11:28AM

When religion is all that remains

Nothing excuses mob violence, of course, but it is still important to ask where it might come from, especially when it seems so disproportionate to the cause. What do you take from someone when you mock their religion? It's… Read full post »

SEPTEMBER 24, 2012 10:26PM

Mitt Romney vs. Brigham Young

It's not proper for me to reproduce it here, but a piece of mine contrasting Mitt Romney's social vision with the communitarian ethos of nineteenth-century Mormonism is on the Guardian website.

SEPTEMBER 2, 2012 2:55PM

Where are the other modernities?

I am looking forward to the American publication of Pankaj Mishra's new book, From the Ruins of Empire, which has already attracted a good deal of attention in Britain and in Mishra's native India. Focused on the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, and looking at… Read full post »

AUGUST 26, 2012 2:22PM

I believe what I see

Even though I’m deeply committed to my temple and to my practice, I’m not any more of a believer than I ever have been, or any less for that matter. Not long ago I heard two friends at the temple talking about periods of doubt, and my reaction was along the… Read full post »

JULY 20, 2012 12:16PM

Why the world is mad, part one

I'll be posting soon about my newest book, A New Biology of Religion. Right now I'm finishing up a new manuscript and thought I would share a tiny piece of the draft:

There is no room within the structures of modernity for commonality on any subject but the exclusion of the common.…

Read full post »

Editor’s Pick
MAY 8, 2012 7:07PM

On the Stoop with Maurice Sendak

Long ago now, around 1968 or 1969, I paid a visit to Maurice Sendak. It was something of a spur of the moment decision, or rather a sudden decision followed by agonies of hesitation. Sendak was living in the West Village, and he was nothing like the famous man he was… Read full post »

APRIL 30, 2012 7:29PM

Things I am trying to learn

Since getting back from India my practice has been getting deeper. I don't mean this as a boast, though I guess it sounds like one. I just find myself more interested in meditating and doing japam, they give me real pleasure, and it seems to me that I am doing it… Read full post »

APRIL 2, 2012 5:00PM

What's been keeping me

I really do mean to write more here but things always seem to get in the way. I've been correcting proofs for the upcoming publication of A New Biology of Religion and beginning to write a book on our relationship with the Enlightenment, The Secret History of Reason, or, The BirthRead full post »

DECEMBER 13, 2011 9:52PM

Getting religion wrong

A friend of mine, a gifted primatologist not yet working in her field, recently posted an image on Facebook purporting to show the difference between "science" and "faith" in a pair of flowcharts. I don't feel like squeezing the image into this page; you can see it here. But the "science"… Read full post »

NOVEMBER 21, 2011 10:44AM

The neuroscience of consensus

I haven't been writing too much these days. One of the reasons is my involvement in Occupy Rochester here in upstate New York. It's been both time-consuming and exhilarating, as anyone who's been involved with the movement can tell you. Rochester's is not quite an occupation like the others, at least… Read full post »

How is it that corporations ended up as people? It's a pretty strange rule of law, but it's not completely absurd. In reality, the personhood of corporations is a legal fiction that got beyond itself. How that happened tells us as much about ourselves and our world… Read full post »

OCTOBER 4, 2011 5:19PM

Good reading

I've been busy for the past weeks getting a manuscript in shape for the publisher--so much so that all I can hope now is that it doesn't suck--but I hope to return to blogging soon. In the mean time. let me call your attention to "Some films in which Kitty DawsonRead full post »

JULY 31, 2011 2:24PM

I feel at home here

I suppose it was kind of strange that I could walk into a Hindu temple in my late fifties and feel at once that I belonged. Ours is an unusual temple, as temples go, and it's probably easier for a Westerner to feel at home there than it is in most… Read full post »

MAY 7, 2011 6:21PM

Is altruism all in your genes?

Richard Dawkins and other proponents of "selfish gene" theories are faced with a problem. If organisms are merely ways for genes to propagate themselves, and if they must compete with all of their conspecifics for advantages in reproduction, why is it that so many animals cooperate with and even sacr… Read full post »

Hypocrisy is the bread and butter of politics, and the politics of humanitarianism is no exception. Whatever one might think about the intervention (or is it simply a war?) in Libya, the rhetoric used to justify it is little more than disingenuous window dressing.  
 
All you really have to d… Read full post »

APRIL 10, 2011 11:15AM

Authenticity is not always necessary

To promote their new Cloud Drive service Amazon are offering some really cheap classical MP3 collections, and last week I spent 99 cents for the stangely-titled and strangely-programmed "The 99 Most Essential Spring Classics." (It's still available here.) What attracted me was one of the eight hours… Read full post »

APRIL 6, 2011 6:45PM

Are brains necessary?

You can't swing a cat these days without hitting yet another book about the brain. The way we hear it, everything about the mind and the way we live and act and feel—all of this goes on in the brain, and now that we've got all these nifty brain scanning machines… Read full post »

MARCH 19, 2011 6:56PM

Acting, not thinking

 For a temple dedicated to the Goddess ours devotes a lot of time and attention to her consort and co-equal, the god Shiva. A few weeks ago we celebrated Maha Shivarathri, the most auspicious of all days to honor and propitiate this most fearsome and disconcerting of Hindu deities. The festival… Read full post »

FEBRUARY 6, 2011 3:44PM

Theory of mind isn't even a theory

This month yet another book is coming out "explaining" religion as a once-useful evolutionary adaptation. Jesse Bering's The Belief Instinct argues that religion is a side-effect of Theory of Mind.

What is Theory of Mind? To quote from an excerpt on Slate, it's a "scientific term" for our ability to… Read full post »