Untranslatable Tuesdays – Work

work-final

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. For  the fourth in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Work, with an abridged entry by Pascal David:

FRENCH       travail, oeuvre

GERMAN     Arbeit, Werk

GREEK       ponos, ergon

LATIN         labor, opus

The human activity that falls under the category of “work,” at least in some of its uses, is linked to pain (the French word travail derives from the Latin word for an instrument of torture), to labor (Lat. labor [the load], Eng. “labor”), and to accomplishment, to the notion of putting to work (Gr. ergasomai [ἐϱγάζομαι], Lat. opus, Fr. mise en oeuvre, Eng. “work,” Ger. Werk), which is not necessarily the oppo­site of leisure but can be its partner. With Hegel, work (Ger. Arbeit) becomes a philosophical concept, but it designates self-realization (whether the course of history or the life of God) rather than a reality that is exclusively or even primarily anthropological.

What does work mean to you?

PUP News of the World, April 18, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


k10177In today’s world, economic instability seems commonplace, but does it have to be? What are the key factors contributing to this problem and how do they vary between countries? Fragile by Design demonstrates that chronic banking crises and scarce credit are not accidents due to unforeseen circumstances. Rather, these fluctuations result from the complex bargains made between politicians, bankers, bank shareholders, depositors, debtors, and taxpayers. The well-being of banking systems depends on the abilities of political institutions to balance and limit how coalitions of these various groups influence government regulations.

Fragile by Design is a revealing exploration of the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

The book was recently reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, where the reviewer said,

“Brilliant….[I]f you are looking for a rich history of banking over the last couple of centuries and the role played by politics in that evolution, there is no better study. It deserves to become a classic.”

― Liaquat Ahamed, New York Times Book Review

Fragile by Design was also mentioned in another article for the New York Times  found here.

Beyond the New York Times, Fragile by Design was mentioned in a piece by the AEI Ideas blog by economic writer James Pethokoukis. You can find that article here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the economy and what makes it tick, start reading Chapter 1 of Fragile by Design here.


Fall2014International_April18We don’t know many people who would hope to be called a coward. It’s a deep insult that carries a lot of weight and can easily offend.  Not so surprisingly, there is an incredible amount of history and cultural context related to this word that we lose sight of in this day and age. What exactly is cowardice? When terrorists are called cowards, does it mean the same as when the term is applied to soldiers? Our forthcoming book Cowardice by Chris Walsh seeks to examine and explain this commonly understood insult.  Bringing together sources from court-martial cases to literary and film classics such as Dante’s Inferno, The Red Badge of Courage, and The Thin Red Line, Cowardice recounts the great harm that both cowards and the fear of seeming cowardly have done, and traces the idea of cowardice’s power to its evolutionary roots. But Chris Walsh also shows that this power has faded, most dramatically on the battlefield. Misconduct that earlier might have been punished as cowardice has more recently often been treated medically, as an adverse reaction to trauma, and Walsh explores a parallel therapeutic shift that reaches beyond war, into the realms of politics, crime, philosophy, religion, and love.

Although the book has not yet been released, author Chris Walsh has recently written on the topic of cowardice for Salon magazine as well as the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Judging by Walsh’s work on the subject, Cowardice is sure to be an impressing work on the topic of cowardice. Look out for this release in October of this year!


k10068Although quantum mechanics may not be the simplest topic of study, we can still understand the fact that made Einstein’s incredible contributions to the subject.  Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone reveals for the first time the full significance of Albert Einstein’s contributions to quantum theory. Einstein famously rejected quantum mechanics, observing that God does not play dice. But, in fact, he thought more about the nature of atoms, molecules, and the emission and absorption of light–the core of what we now know as quantum theory–than he did about relativity.

A compelling blend of physics, biography, and the history of science, Einstein and the Quantum shares the untold story of how Einstein–not Max Planck or Niels Bohr–was the driving force behind early quantum theory. It paints a vivid portrait of the iconic physicist as he grappled with the apparently contradictory nature of the atomic world, in which its invisible constituents defy the categories of classical physics, behaving simultaneously as both particle and wave. And it demonstrates how Einstein’s later work on the emission and absorption of light, and on atomic gases, led directly to Erwin Schrödinger’s breakthrough to the modern form of quantum mechanics. The book sheds light on why Einstein ultimately renounced his own brilliant work on quantum theory, due to his deep belief in science as something objective and eternal.

A book unlike any other, Einstein and the Quantum offers a completely new perspective on the scientific achievements of the greatest intellect of the twentieth century, showing how Einstein’s contributions to the development of quantum theory are more significant, perhaps, than even his legendary work on relativity.

Einstein and the Quantum was recently reviewed in the April issue of Physics today.

“Einstein and the Quantum is delightful to read, with numerous historical details that were new to me and cham1ing vignettes of Einstein and his colleagues. By avoiding mathematics, Stone makes his book accessible to general readers, but even physicists who are well versed in Einstein and his physics are likely to find new insights into the most remarkable mind of the modern era.”–Daniel Kleppner, Physics Today

Want to start reading? Check out the Introduction to Einstein and the Quantum today.


k10195Thankfully, volcanic eruptions aren’t something we commonly have to deal with, but for this reason we can lose sight of the devastating and life-changing affects they can have.When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years. Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

The year following Tambora’s eruption became known as the “Year without a Summer,” when weather anomalies in Europe and New England ruined crops, displaced millions, and spawned chaos and disease. Here, for the first time, Gillen D’Arcy Wood traces Tambora’s full global and historical reach: how the volcano’s three-year climate change regime initiated the first worldwide cholera pandemic, expanded opium markets in China, set the stage for Ireland’s Great Famine, and plunged the United States into its first economic depression. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster, inspired by Tambora’s terrifying storms, embodied the fears and misery of global humanity during this transformational period, the most recent sustained climate crisis the world has faced.

Tambora was recently reviewed in Nature magazine, which said

“Wood broadens our understanding beyond the ‘year without a summer’ cliché….Wood’s command of the scientific literature is impressive, and more than matched by his knowledge of world history during this horrific episode of catastrophic global climate change. With the mass of information he has assimilated, he skillfully weaves a tale full of human and cultural interest….”― Ted Nield, Nature

Author Gillen D’Arcy Woods also wrote a piece on climate change for Grist which you can find here.

Interested in learning more about this devastating natural disaster? Start reading the Introduction to Tambora here.

 

Untranslatable Tuesdays – Polis

Cassin polis graphic

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. For  week three in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Polis (Greek):

POLIS, POLITEIA (GREEK)

ENGLISH               city-state, state, society, nation

FRENCH                 cité, État, société, nation

What’s your favourite untranslatable word?

 

A bird book goes to Africa, part 2

Last year we posted about Rick Ludkin’s trip to Kenya to teach students about their avian neighbors. He returned this winter with more copies of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania, to continue his mission, though with a slight twist. Here’s part of his report:

This year was quite different from last year. In 2013 I spent most of my time with grade 6, 7, and 8 students teaching them how to use a field guide and binoculars and how to band birds we were catching. This year I did the same thing except that much more time was spent with the adults in the community. [Don't worry, the students weren't neglected; we ran the Bird Club every weekend for them.]

Working with the adult community was incredibly exciting. Most of them were completely unaware of the richness of their birdlife – and they began to take pride in the great variety around them. Most of the them had never used binoculars and it was a treat to watch their wonderment as they figured out how to use them. But I think it was their unbridled enthusiasm for their avian heritage that was the most rewarding for me.

Here are some pictures showing some of the action in the various events we ran for them. I trained a group of 5 local folks to help me with the banding, to run the bird club when I’m in Canada, and to run the workshops for the community.

Click the thumbnails above to view larger photos.

It is incredibly rewarding to know copies of The Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania are used in this positive outreach. Thank you, Rick, for all you are doing!

To learn more about Rick’s work in Kenya and his birding adventures in North America, check out his blog, Ruthven Park Nature Blog.

 

Princeton University Press’s best-selling audio books

The Five Elements of Effective ThinkingWe’re changing things up a bit. Each week we list the best-selling titles according to BookScan, but today we’re focusing on our audio titles. These are Princeton University Press’s best-selling audio books for the final quarter of 2013. Click through to listen to samples or to add them to your book queue.

  1. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward Burger & Michael Starbird
  2. Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
  3. Einstein and the Quantum by A. Douglas Stone
  4. Lost Enlightenment by S. Frederick Starr
  5. The Founders’ Dilemmas by Noam Wasserman

 

2014 Lawrence Stone Lecture Series to Feature Lorraine Daston

This year’s Lawrence Stone Lecture Series, featuring Lorraine Daston, will be held April 29 thru May 1. Entitled “Rules: A Short History of What We Live By,” the lecture will feature three different sessions:

April 29 — Rules of Iron, Rules of Lead: A Prehistory of an Indispensable and Impossible Genre

April 30 — Rules Go Rigid: Natural Laws, Calculations, and Algorithms

May 1 — Rules, Rationality, and Reasonableness

The events will be held in 010 East Pyne Building at 4:30 p.m.

The lecture series is co-sponsored by Princeton University Press, Princeton University’s History Department, and the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. The Center was founded by former chair of the History Department, Lawrence Stone (1919-91). Each year, the lecture series features Princeton’s Lawrence Stone Visiting Professor, and the professor’s three lectures are then included in a book published by Princeton University Press.

Lorraine Daston is the executive director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin as well as a visiting professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

april 15 lecture

PUP News of the World: April 11, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


Covers

DELPHI

Our first stop in this week’s News of the World takes us around the world from our Princeton and Oxford offices. It also takes us back a bit — we’re talking a jump back to A.D.

The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the “omphalos”–the “center” or “navel”–of the ancient world for more than 1000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi’s oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods in gold, ivory, bronze, marble, and stone; and to take part in athletic and musical competitions. This book provides the first comprehensive narrative history of this extraordinary sanctuary and city, from its founding to its modern rediscovery, to show more clearly than ever before why Delphi was one of the most important places in the ancient world for so long.

Michael Scott’s richly illustrated Delphi covers the whole history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship with a wide variety of religious practices, to the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies.

Delphi was reviewed in the Wall Street Journal:

“Judicious, measured and thorough…Mr. Scott, like Pausanias before him, is a handy companion to what remains—and what we can only wish was still to be seen.”   – Brendan Boyle

Read Delphi‘s prologue and Chapter One here.

 FRAGILE BY DESIGN

The United States has had twelve systemic banking crises since 1840. In contrast, the United States’ northern neighbors in Canada haven’t had one. How can that be?

PUP’s Fragile by Design examines the ways that politics inevitably intrudes into bank regulation. Authors Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber combine political history and economics to examine how coalitions of politicians, bankers, and other interest groups form, why some endure while others are undermined, and how they generate policies that determine who gets to be a banker, who has access to credit, and who pays for bank bailouts and rescues.

This title was reviewed in the New York Times Book Review:

“Brilliant….[I]f you are looking for a rich history of banking over the last couple of centuries and the role played by politics in that evolution, there is no better study. It deserves to become a classic.”   — Liaquat Ahamed

Fragile by Design was also mentioned in another New York Times Book Review article. Read Chapter One of the book here.

 

  THE GREAT ESCAPE

The inequality debate has gained new momentum in the US in recent months. However, PUP author Angus Deaton takes this conversation to a broader level as he discusses the remarkable story of how, starting 250 years ago, some parts of the world began to experience sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today’s hugely unequal world.

The world is a better place than it used to be. People are wealthier and healthier, and live longer lives. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many have left gaping inequalities between people and between nations. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and he addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts–including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions–that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape.

Deaton’s recent book, The Great Escape, was reviewed this week by Bill Gates on his blog, Gates Notes:

“If you want to learn about why human welfare overall has gone up so much over time, you should read The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality“     – Bill Gates

 Check out the video below, and preview the introduction here

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TAMBORA

When Indonesia’s Mount Tambora erupted in 1815, it unleashed the most destructive wave of extreme weather the world has witnessed in thousands of years. The volcano’s massive sulfate dust cloud enveloped the Earth, cooling temperatures and disrupting major weather systems for more than three years.

Amid devastating storms, drought, and floods, communities worldwide endured famine, disease, and civil unrest on a catastrophic scale. On the eve of the bicentenary of the great eruption, Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s Tambora tells the extraordinary story of the weather chaos it wrought, weaving the latest climate science with the social history of this frightening period to offer a cautionary tale about the potential tragic impacts of drastic climate change in our own century.

Tambora is reviewed in the Asian Review of Books. Wood also contributes a piece to The Conversation. Check out Chapter One here.

THE SOUL OF THE WORLD

We are excited to report that a PUP book was listed as the fourth best-selling book at the Oxford Literary Festival. Robert Scruton’s The Soul of the World defends the experience of the sacred against today’s fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive–and to understand what we are–is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things.

Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life–and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?

View Chapter One here.

Princeton University Press Europe at the Oxford Literary Festival 2014

 

By Hannah Dummett, Princeton University Press Europe intern

McCall SmithLast Sunday marked the end of the 2014 Oxford Literary Festival: “bigger, better and more ambitious than ever”. A whirlwind nine days of authors, talks, photographers, book signings and  lunches, and amongst all of it the Princeton authors met with full auditoriums and avid audiences, often followed by a glass of Prosecco in the green room.

The Soul of the World author Roger Scruton had the audience in stitches of laughter (perhaps not what you’d expect from a talk by a philosopher) as he shed light on his idea of the sacred, at the same time as shamelessly, and hilariously, plugging his new books. Meanwhile, David Edmonds entered a lively discussion with Nigel Warburton. The audience were eager to join in and soon the topic of moral dilemma had led to a debate on the fate of flight MH370.

As one of the festival’s better-known authors, Alexander McCall Smith was hounded by the ‘literary paparazzi’, and one of our publicists was even coerced into being used as a photographer’s assistant (read: prop-holder). Over at Christ Church, Averil Cameron took us back more than 2500 years in time and explained why Byzantium is key to our understanding of other historical periods. Michael Scott argued his own case for the Greek city of Delphi – and gave us all a reason to visit this summer.

His book may be over 800 pages long, but Robert Bartlett kept things succinct and made sure that his audience were keen to discover what the other 700 pages hold in store. He was even awarded a printed apology from the Oxford Mail’s Jeremy Smith after he commented on Bartlett’s “modest attire” while introducing the talk. Husband and wife astronomer/authors Jacqueline and Simon Mitton, both struck down with a virus picked up on a recent cruise, put on a brave face despite their illness and managed to plunge their audience into the depths of the history of the universe, visiting far-away galaxies via new-born stars and black holes.

The increasingly relevant topic of narcissism and self-love was examined by Simon Blackburn, discussing his new book Mirror, Mirror, and political journalist Edmund Fawcett kept the audience listening with an absorbing talk on differing forms of liberalism. To top it off, the “charming, charismatic” Ian Goldin gave an excellent lecture on how the recent financial crash could have an extreme effect on a wide range of factors in our everyday lives. We’ve been out of the office again this week, this time for London Book Fair – the fun is non-stop this month!

 

What’s in a name?: Gregory Clark examines how ancestry and names still determine social outcomes

 

By Hannah Lucas, Princeton University Press intern

son also risesEarlier this year, an Icelandic 15-year-old formally known on official documents as ‘Girl’ won the right to have her first name recognised by the authorities as Blaer. It was previously illegal for the name Blaer to be given to girls; it was restricted to use as a boy’s name. This case emphasises the ongoing regulations on first names in a number of countries, such as Germany, Sweden, China and Japan- in Germany, for instance, surnames are banned as first names. These constraints purportedly serve to protect children from distress, should their parents choose an inappropriate name. Yet how much does a name affect us as we go through life? We are assigned a first name, but our surname follows as a legacy of our family’s history. Indeed, names and the ancestral background that they evoke have ascribed social status for many years, whether this is restricting or elevating. The everyday significance of surnames and ancestry may have diminished from the historical rigid traditions of lineage, but it has not gone away, as Gregory Clark explores in The Son Also Rises. Clark uses modern Scandinavia as one of his areas of study, parallel to a diverse selection of cases, including fourteenth-century England and Qing Dynasty China.

The Son Also Rises deals with the potentialities of choice and predetermination in relation to ancestry and social mobility. As exemplified in the case of ‘Girl’, or Blaer as she is now known, modern-day Iceland – among many – impedes the choice of parents in the naming of their child, acting as a predetermining factor not dissimilar to that of a family history. Clark offers a fascinating insight into the significance of being out of control of the naming process, and how much these circumstances affect movement on the social ladder. He explores the influence of ancestors’ names and reputations on their descendants, and how long it takes to dislodge these connections, ultimately examining society’s response to whether ‘A rose / By any other name would smell as sweet’.

The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark was published last month.

 

Show Me the Money: PUP Authors on the Role of Wealth in Politics

How much can your buck get you in politics today? A forthcoming paper by PUP author Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page puts a finer point on the idea that money can enhance your influence on political policy. In fact, the authors give us an actual number for gauging that influence. Fifteen times — that is how much more important the collective preferences of “economic elites” are than those of other citizens, Gilens and Page found. Yes, you read that correctly.

Gilens and Page’s paper, which will run in Perspectives on Politics, explains how they came to this conclusion, studying “1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change.” They write:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In a recent article on the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, PUP author and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institution, Larry Bartels, examines Gilens and Page’s findings and other research that contributes to what we know about the effects of money on political influence. Check out the article for Bartels’ take on this issue.

In this midterm election year, following the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, money is on everyone’s minds. Looking to brush up on the theories and research behind these issues? You can read more from Bartels and Gilens — we invite you to read the sample chapters and other supplementary materials from their award-winning Princeton University Press books. We have also included a peek at political scientists Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady’s systematic examination of political voice in America.

 

 bookjacketRead Chapter One here. Using a vast swath of data spanning the past six decades, Unequal Democracy debunks many myths about politics in contemporary America, using the widening gap between the rich and the poor to shed disturbing light on the workings of American democracy. Larry Bartels shows the gap between the rich and poor has increased greatly under Republican administrations and decreased slightly under Democrats, leaving America grossly unequal. This is not simply the result of economic forces, but the product of broad-reaching policy choices in a political system dominated by partisan ideologies and the interests of the wealthy. In this interview, Bartels answers tough questions about the effect of money in America.

 

bookjacket “We are the 99%” has quickly become the slogan of our political era as growing numbers of Americans express concern about the disappearing middle class and the ever-widening gap between the super-rich and everyone else. Has America really entered a New Gilded Age? What are the political consequences of the growing income gap? Can democracy survive such vast economic inequality? These questions dominate our political moment–and Larry Bartels provides answers backed by sobering data.Princeton Shorts are brief selections taken from influential Princeton University Press books and produced exclusively in ebook format. Providing unmatched insight into important contemporary issues or timeless passages from classic works of the past, Princeton Shorts enable you to be an instant expert in a world where information is everywhere but quality is at a premium.

 

 bookjacketPreview the introduction here. Can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? Affluence and Influence definitively explores how political inequality in the United States has evolved over the last several decades and how this growing disparity has been shaped by interest groups, parties, and elections.With sharp analysis and an impressive range of data, Martin Gilens looks at thousands of proposed policy changes, and the degree of support for each among poor, middle-class, and affluent Americans. His findings are staggering: when preferences of low- or middle-income Americans diverge from those of the affluent, there is virtually no relationship between policy outcomes and the desires of less advantaged groups. In contrast, affluent Americans’ preferences exhibit a substantial relationship with policy outcomes whether their preferences are shared by lower-income groups or not. Yet Gilens also shows that under specific circumstances the preferences of the middle class and, to a lesser extent, the poor, do seem to matter. In particular, impending elections–especially presidential elections–and an even partisan division in Congress mitigate representational inequality and boost responsiveness to the preferences of the broader public.

 

bookjacketRead Chapter One here. Politically active individuals and organizations make huge investments of time, energy, and money to influence everything from election outcomes to congressional subcommittee hearings to local school politics, while other groups and individual citizens seem woefully underrepresented in our political system.Drawing on numerous in-depth surveys of members of the public as well as the largest database of interest organizations ever created–representing more than thirty-five thousand organizations over a twenty-five-year period — The Unheavenly Chorus conclusively demonstrates that American democracy is marred by deeply ingrained and persistent class-based political inequality. The well educated and affluent are active in many ways to make their voices heard, while the less advantaged are not. This book reveals how the political voices of organized interests are even less representative than those of individuals, how political advantage is handed down across generations, how recruitment to political activity perpetuates and exaggerates existing biases, how political voice on the Internet replicates these inequalities–and more.

 

Untranslatable Tuesdays – Kitsch

kitsche-final2

To mark the publication of Dictionary of Untranslatables: A Philosophical Lexicon, we are delighted to share a series of playful graphics by our design team which illustrate some of the most interesting terms from the Dictionary. This second week in the “Untranslatable Tuesdays” series we present Kitsch (German):

ENGLISH      junk art, garish art, kitsch

The word Kitsch is German in origin and had previously been translated into French as art de pacotille (junk art) or art tape-á-l’oeil (garish art), but the original term has now become firmly established in all European languages. Used as an adjective, kitsch or kitschy qualifies cultural products intended for the masses and appreciated by them….As a kind of debased popularization, it offers a decadent model that is all the more alluring for being so easily accessible. This is, at least, what its detractors say.

PUP Book Chosen for Princeton Pre-Read

For incoming Princeton University freshmen, the first piece of required reading will come from the shelves here at Princeton University Press. As part of the university’s Pre-Read program, which was initiated last year by President Christopher L. Eisgruber, members of the class of 2018 will be reading Meaning in Life and Why It Matters by Susan Wolf.

So, what is the idea behind this book? When we pick up a friend from the airport, bake a chocolate cake, or visit a loved one in the hospital, we’re not doing it for our own self-interest or for the greater good. In fact, the reasons and things that make our lives worth living often have nothing to do with the egoistic or altruistic motives that most people, including philosophers, think drive people to act. According to Susan Wolf, meaningfulness—not happiness or morality—makes our lives worth living.

In Meaning in Life and Why It Matters, Wolf argues that meaning comes from loving objects worthy of love and engaging with them in a positive way. That is, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love—and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness is an essential element of human well-being.

Princeton reports on the choice of Wolf’s book in a recent article, which includes the president’s thoughts on this year’s selection:

“It is a superb example of engaged, ethical writing, and I hope that it will introduce the freshmen to the kinds of scholarship they will encounter at Princeton,” President Eisgruber says. “The book also includes short critical comments by four distinguished scholars, along with reply from Wolf — as such, it models for students how one can disagree with a thesis in a way that is simultaneously rigorous, constructive and collegial. Finally, a key point in Wolf’s argument pertains to the objectivity of value and why it matters; that question is important, and it inspires lively argument among undergraduates.”

Read the full story from Princeton here.

 

Meaning in Life

 

Looking to find out more about this year’s selection?

Read the introduction of Meaning in Life and Why It Matters for yourself here. You can also check out a review of the book on the New York Times‘ Opinionator blog.