Monday, July 1, 2013

Peter J. Steinberger

Peter J. Steinberger is the Robert H. and Blanche Day Ellis Professor of Humanities and Political Science at Reed College, where he also served as dean of the faculty from 1997 to 2010. He is the author of The Idea of the State, The Concept of Political Judgment, Logic and Politics: Hegel's Philosophy of Right, and Ideology and the Urban Crisis, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and other general interest publications. Steinberger's new book is The Problem with God: Why Atheists, True Believers, and Even Agnostics Must All Be Wrong.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Steinberger's reply:
I am currently reading – actually for the second time, but this time far more closely – Robert Brandom’s Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism. If the world of modern philosophy has long been divided into two quite distinct camps that pay very little attention to one another – “analytic” and “continental” respectively – Brandom is, along with others in the so-called “Pittsburgh School” such as Wilfrid Sellars and John McDowell, one of the very few analytic philosophers who has been seriously interested in and influenced by the continental tradition. While I myself am a political philosopher rather than a philosopher per se, my approach, like Brandom’s, is to consider a range of continental materials from a (roughly) analytic perspective. Moreover, for many years my work has also been deeply committed to something that seems to me rather like Brandom’s inferentialism according to which both claims and intelligible actions are embedded in, and to be understood in light of, larger structures of metaphysical presupposition that manifest themselves in more or less shared conceptual systems. Articulating Reasons is a presented as a brief and more accessible version of Brandom’s major work, Making it Explicit; but while it is indeed much shorter and less technical than the larger book, its accessibility is not of a sort that would or should attract the general reader – or so I think.

I’m also reading, at bedtime, a mystery by Fred Vargas entitled Sans feu ni lieu. I like mystery novels a lot and my French friends have long recommended Vargas – who is, by the way, a woman, not a man. So far, it’s pretty good.

None of this, by the way, has whole lot to do with The Problem With God – a book that’s very different in all kinds of ways from anything that I’ve done previously.
Learn more about The Problem with God at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue