Books Published by Berggruen Institute Fellows

The Berggruen Institute Fellows program is building a legacy of ground-breaking research studying the great transformations with 25 books published by its Fellows springing from their fellowship since the inception of the program in 2015.

Rachel S. Bauch

Sungmoon Kim. Theorizing Confucian Virtue Politics: The Political Philosophy of Mencius and Xunzi. Cambridge University Press. (2020)
Surprisingly little is known about what ancient Confucian thinkers struggled with in their own social and political contexts and how these struggles contributed to the establishment and further development of classical Confucian political theory. Leading scholar of comparative political theory, Sungmoon Kim offers a systematic philosophical account of the political theories of Mencius and Xunzi, investigating both their agreements and disagreements as the champions of the Confucian Way against the backdrop of the prevailing realpolitik of the late Warring States period. Together, they contributed to the formation of Confucian virtue politics, in which concerns about political order and stability and concerns about moral character and moral enhancement are deeply intertwined. By presenting their political philosophies in terms of constitutionalism, Kim shows how they each developed the ability to authorize the ruler's legitimate use of power in domestic and interstate politics in ways consistent with their distinctive accounts of human nature.
Tongdong Bai. Against Political Equality: The Confucian Case. Princeton University Press. (2019)
What might a viable political alternative to liberal democracy look like? In Against Political Equality, Tongdong Bai offers a possibility inspired by Confucian ideas. Bai argues that domestic governance influenced by Confucianism can embrace the liberal aspects of democracy along with the democratic ideas of equal opportunities and governmental accountability to the people. Confucianism would give more political decision-making power to those with the moral, practical, and intellectual capabilities of caring for the people. While most democratic thinkers still focus on strengthening equality to cure the ills of democracy, the proposed hybrid regime—made up of Confucian-inspired meritocratic characteristics combined with democratic elements and a quasi-liberal system of laws and rights—recognizes that egalitarian qualities sometimes conflict with good governance and the protection of liberties and defends liberal aspects by restricting democratic ones. Bai applies his views to the international realm by supporting a hierarchical order based on how humane each state is toward its own and other peoples, and on the principle of international interventions whereby humane responsibilities override sovereignty.

Exploring the deficiencies posed by many liberal democracies, Against Political Equality presents a novel Confucian-engendered alternative for solving today’s political problems. Tongdong Bai is the Dongfang Professor of Philosophy at Fudan University in Shanghai and a Global Professor of Law at New York University School of Law. He is also the author of China: The Political Philosophy of the Middle Kingdom.

(Publisher's Discount: 30% off with code BAI1:
Josh Berson. The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food. MIT Press. (2019)
Humans are eating more meat than ever. Despite ubiquitous Sweetgreen franchises and the example set by celebrity vegans, demand for meat is projected to grow at twice the rate of demand for plant-based foods over the next thirty years. Between 1960 and 2010, per capita meat consumption in the developing world more than doubled; in China, meat consumption grew ninefold. It has even been claimed that meat made us human—that our disproportionately large human brains evolved because our early human ancestors ate meat. In The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food, Josh Berson argues that not only did meat not make us human, but the contemporary increase in demand for meat is driven as much by economic insecurity as by affluence. Considering the full sweep of meat's history, Berson concludes provocatively that the future is not necessarily carnivorous.

Berson, an anthropologist and historian, argues that we have the relationship between biology and capitalism backward. We may associate meat-eating with wealth, but in fact, meat-eating is a sign of poverty; cheap meat—hunger killing, easy to prepare, eaten on the go—enables a capitalism defined by inequality. To answer the meat question, says Berson, we need to think about meat-eating in a way that goes beyond Paleo diets and PETA protests to address the deeply entwined economic and political lives of humans and animals past, present, and future. Josh Berson is an independent social scientist. He has held research appointments at the Berggruen Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, among other places. He is the author of Computable Bodies: Instrumented Life and the Human Somatic Niche.

(Publisher's Discount: 30% off with code MITPR:
Sam Fleischacker. Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy. University of Chicago Press. (2019)
We’re torn, today, over what to think about empathy. On the one hand, everyone talks about the need for it; there seems to be a new book on it every week; and we hold it up as the key to bridging divides between hostile groups. On the other hand, we say, “You can’t know what it’s like to be me,” and we insist on the importance of perspective and difference. Some psychologists add that empathy reinforces our divisions into closed, xenophobic tribes, and directs us to help only individuals we see or whose stories we know, rather than doing things that would benefit larger numbers of people.

So, which is it? Is empathy essential to cosmopolitanism, and a valuable moral instrument, or does it blur the differences among people, reinforce ethnocentrism, and distract us from fair and effective moral action? Being Me Being You argues that the answer to that question depends on what conception of empathy we have. It recommends the “projective” conception of empathy, introduced by the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher and economist Adam Smith, as against the “contagious” conception of empathy to be found in the writings of his contemporary and friend David Hume. Smith developed a conception of empathy by which it is not merely an instrument for moral action, but a key component of what it is to be human. For Smith, however, empathy is also crucial to our having distinctive perspectives — to what today we call “difference”; empathy enables our common humanity and our distinctiveness to come together. Relatedly, Smith showed how it could help us combine our cosmopolitan aspirations with our local loyalties, and how it could make for public policies that are sensitive to each person’s different needs and aspirations. In all these ways, Smith’s empathy-centered humanism remains invaluable today.
Nathan Gardels & Nicolas Berggruen (2019). Renovating Democracy: Governing in the Age of Globalization and Digital Capitalism. University of California Press.
The rise of populism in the West and the rise of China in the East have stirred a rethinking how democratic systems work—and how they fail. The impact of globalism and digital capitalism is forcing worldwide attention to the starker divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” challenging how we think about the social contract.

With fierce clarity and conviction, Renovating Democracy tears down our basic structures and challenges us to conceive of an alternative framework for governance. To truly renovate our global systems, the authors argue for empowering participation without populism by integrating social networks and direct democracy into the system with new mediating institutions that complement representative government. They outline steps to reconfigure the social contract to protect workers instead of jobs, shifting from a “redistribution” after wealth to “pre-distribution” with the aim to enhance the skills and assets of those less well-off. Lastly, they argue for harnessing globalization through “positive nationalism” at home while advocating for global cooperation—specifically with a partnership with China—to create a viable rules-based world order.

Thought provoking and persuasive, Renovating Democracy serves as a point of departure that deepens and expands the discourse for positive change in governance.
Chunsong Gan. A Concise Reader of Chinese Culture. China Social Sciences Press. (2019)
Chunsong Gan uses the mutual interactions between Chinese and Western culture as a point of departure in order to concisely introduce the origins and evolution of Chinese culture at the aspects of constitution, thinking, values and atheistic. This book also analyzes utensil culture, constitution culture and ideology culture, which were perfected by absorbing classic arguments from academia. As such, the book offers an essential guide to understanding the development, civilization and key ideologies in Chinese history, and will thus help to promote Chinese culture and increase cultural awareness.
Eliza Griswold. Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America. Maximillan. (2018);
Pulitzer Prize (2019)
Griswold is the Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for Amity and Prosperity. Grizwold tells the story of the energy boom’s impact on a small town at the edge of Appalachia and one woman’s transformation from a struggling single parent to an unlikely activist. Stacey Haney is a local nurse working hard to raise two kids and keep up her small farm when the fracking boom comes to her hometown of Amity, Pennsylvania. Intrigued by reports of lucrative natural gas leases in her neighbors’ mailboxes, she strikes a deal with a Texas-based energy company. Soon trucks begin rumbling past her small farm, a fenced-off drill site rises on an adjacent hilltop, and domestic animals and pets start to die. When mysterious sicknesses begin to afflict her children, she appeals to the company for help. Its representatives insist that nothing is wrong.

Alarmed by her children’s illnesses, Haney joins with neighbors and a committed husband-and-wife legal team to investigate what’s really in the water and air. Against local opposition, Haney and her allies doggedly pursue their case in court and begin to expose the damage that’s being done to the land her family has lived on for centuries. Soon a community that has long been suspicious of outsiders faces wrenching new questions about who is responsible for their fate, and for redressing it: The faceless corporations that are poisoning the land? The environmentalists who fail to see their economic distress? A federal government that is mandated to protect but fails on the job? Drawing on seven years of immersive reporting, Griswold reveals what happens when an imperiled town faces a crisis of values, and a family wagers everything on an improbable quest for justice.
Peter Hershock & Roger Ames, editors. Philosophies of Place: An Intercultural Conversation. University of Hawaii Press. (2019)
Humanity takes up space. Human beings, like many other species, also transform spaces. What is perhaps uniquely human is the disposition to qualitatively transform spaces into places that are charged with distinctive kinds of intergenerational significance. There is a profound, felt difference between a house as domestic space and a home as familial place or between the summit of a mountain one has climbed for the first time and the “same” rock pinnacle celebrated in ancestral narratives.

The contributors to this volume draw on resources from Asian, European, and North American traditions of thought to engage in intercultural reflection on the significance of place in philosophy and of the place of philosophy itself in the cultural, social, economic, and political domains of contemporary life. The conversation of place that results explores the meaning of intercultural philosophy, the critical interplay of place and personal identity, the meaning of appropriate emplacement, the shared place of politics and religion, and the nature of the emotionally emplaced body.
Andrew March. The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought. Harvard University Press. (2019)
A political theorist teases out the century-old ideological transformation at the heart of contemporary discourse in Muslim nations undergoing political change. The Arab Spring precipitated a crisis in political Islam. In Egypt Islamists have been crushed. In Turkey they have descended into authoritarianism. In Tunisia they govern but without the label of “political Islam.” Andrew March explores how, before this crisis, Islamists developed a unique theory of popular sovereignty, one that promised to determine the future of democracy in the Middle East.

This began with the claim of divine sovereignty, the demand to restore the sharīʿa in modern societies. But prominent theorists of political Islam also advanced another principle, the Quranic notion that God’s authority on earth rests not with sultans or with scholars’ interpretation of written law but with the entirety of the Muslim people, the umma. Drawing on this argument, utopian theorists such as Abū’l-Aʿlā Mawdūdī and Sayyid Quṭb released into the intellectual bloodstream the doctrine of the caliphate of man: while God is sovereign, He has appointed the multitude of believers as His vicegerent. The Caliphate of Man argues that the doctrine of the universal human caliphate underpins a specific democratic theory, a kind of Islamic republic of virtue in which the people have authority over the government and religious leaders. But is this an ideal regime destined to survive only as theory?
Tenzin Priyadarshi. Running Towards Mystery. Random House. (2019)
“Enlightened beings only appear to come and go, making themselves available for a time in this faltering world, but in reality they are never gone. Enlightened beings are always present here and now if you truly yearn to see them…”

Born in India to a prominent Hindu Brahmin family, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi was only six years old when he began having visions of a mysterious mountain peak, and of men with shaved heads wearing robes the color of sunset. “It was as vivid as if I were watching a scene from life,” he writes. And so at the age of ten, he ran away from boarding school to find this place–taking a train to the end of the line and then boarding a bus to wherever it went. Strangely enough, he ended up at a Buddhist monastery that was the place of his dreams. His frantic parents sent scouts to find him and, after two weeks, located him and brought him home. But he continued to have visions and feel a strong pull to a spiritual life in a tradition that he had never heard of as a child. Today, he is a revered monk and teacher as well as President & CEO of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he works to build bridges among communities and religions. He is also director of the Ethics Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.

Running Toward Mystery is The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi’s profound account of his lifelong journey as a seeker. At its heart is a story of striving for the unseen, the vital importance of mentors in that search, and of the many remarkable teachers he met along the way, among them the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Mother Teresa. “Teachers come and go on their own schedule,” Priyadarshi writes. “I clearly wasn’t in charge of the timetable and it wasn’t my place to specify how a teacher should teach…” But arrive they did, at the right time, in the right way, to impart the lessons that shaped a life of seeking, devotion, and deep human connection across all barriers. Running Toward Mystery is at once the bracing and beautiful story of a singular life compelled to contemplation, and the riveting narrative of just how exciting that journey can be.
Tingyang Zhao. Redefining A Philosophy for World Governance. Palgrave Macmillan. (2019)
This Key Concepts pivot discusses the contemporary relevance of the ancient Chinese concept of Tianxia or ‘All-Under-Heaven’ and argues the case for a new global political philosophy. ‘All-under-heaven’ is a conceptualization of the world as the composition of three realms: the physical, psychological and political, which places inclusivity and harmony at the heart of a global world view above other considerations, transcending the notion of nation state. In a highly interconnected and globalized world, the idea of Tianxia can offer a new 21st century vision of international relations and world order, based on a harmonized global organization defined by the “all-inclusiveness principle.” Promoting the ontology of co-existence and relational rationality hand in hand with rational risk aversion in a globalized world, this pivot makes the case that Tianxia could offer a new vision for contemporary world order, redefining the universality and legitimacy of politics.
Roger T. Ames. Human Becomings: Theorizing "Persons" for Confucian Role Ethics. Albany: State University of New York, forthcoming. Chinese translation by Ouyang Xiao, Peking University Press. (Forthcoming)
A default individualism constitutes a major underlying and entrenched conceptual problem that is exacerbating the current human predicament. Indeed, this foundational individualism is appealed to first in defining what it means to be a moral person, and then is extended as a determinate of what it means for this putatively moral person to act justly. The presupposition that defines persons ideally as free, autonomous, rational, and properly self-interested individuals is ubiquitous in much if not most of modern Western moral and political philosophy. And it takes on an analogous form at the extended level of corporate culture and the sovereign state. This foundational individualism with its roots deep in the Western philosophical narrative, dilutes our sense of moral responsibility by allowing us, in some important degree, to describe, analyze, and evaluate individual persons—psychologically, politically, and morally—in isolation from others. Yet this putative foundational individual is at every level not only an ontological fiction, but moreover, because the individual so defined provides the moral and political justification for an increasingly libertarian economic and political system, it has become an insidious fiction.

When we look for the cultural resources necessary to respond to the global and national predicament, we must anticipate the need for a shift in our values, intentions, and practices that takes us from the preponderance of finite games played among self-interested, single actors to a new pattern of infinite games played through the strengthening of those relationships at every level of scale—personal, communal, corporate, and those among nation states as well. We need to move from finite to infinite games to face and hopefully overcome what are the shared challenges of our day. Priority must be given to those values and practices that will support replacing the familiar competitive pattern of single actors pursing their own self-interest, with the collaboration of players strengthening possibilities for coordinated flourishing across national, ethnic and religious boundaries.

The substance of this monograph is to argue that the Confucian tradition, and particularly, the Confucian conception of relationally-constituted persons as “human becomings,” has an important contribution to make in this effort as we struggle to deal with our current human predicament. We are in urgent need of a more inclusive world cultural order drawing upon all of our resources that can provide the change in our values and practices necessary to guarantee a future for all of our children and grandchildren.
Roger T. Ames, Yajun Chen & Peter D. Hershock (Eds.) (forthcoming). Confucianism and Deweyan Pragmatism: Resources for a New Geopolitics of Interdependence. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. (Forthcoming)
Great transformations are reshaping trade, international relations, social organization, and the human experience. These epochal changes are taking place at accelerating rates and at all scales of human endeavor, from the geopolitical to the personal, and will dramatically affect not only our lives, but those of our children and grandchildren. These epochal transformations compel newly critical reflection on the interdependence between economics and social justice, between cultural diversity and political plurality, between the evolving sources of the self and the resources for good governance. Recently, within academic circles, the many resonances between Deweyan pragmatism and Confucian philosophy have been much noticed. Both traditions emphasize the primacy of experience, the importance of vital relationality, and the moral roots of good governance.

In this volume, a cadre of distinguished scholars came together in December 2017 under the aegis of the Berggruen Research Center and the Fudan University’s Dewey Center to reflect on Confucianism and Deweyan pragmatism as possible resources for a new geopolitics that begins from an ontology of interdependence, recognizing the irreducibly ecological nature of the human experience at every level. How can the cosmologically grounded political philosophy of Deweyan pragmatism and Confucian philosophy be brought to bear practically and concretely on the challenges of contemporary governance, including challenges to foreign policy and international relations? How might these philosophical traditions assist us in making the much-needed transition from merely securing the conditions of non-exclusion to enhancing qualities of inclusion by activating our cultural differences to make a difference?
Chunsong Gan & Roger T. Ames (Eds.) What is Tianxia? 什么是天下?[in Chinese]. CITIC Press. (Forthcoming)
A perfect storm is gathering on the horizon: climate change, food and water shortages, environmental degradation, pandemics, energy shortage, terrorism, unprecedented population migrations, nuclear proliferation, gross income inequities, massive species extinction, and so on. Humanity as a species to respond effectively to this human exacerbated predicament will require a radical change in our values, our intentions, and our practices. At the same time, with the precipitous rise of China over the span of just one generation, we are experiencing the effects of a dramatic and accelerating reconfiguration of economic and political power in the world. The rise of Asia and China in particular has ushered in a new geopolitical order, but what about the prevailing cultural order long dominated by a powerful liberalism? Question: What impact will Confucianism—a philosophy that begins from the primacy of vital relationality—have on the evolving world culture in the ensuing decades? How will its values play into the ongoing transformation of the geopolitical order?

The idea tianxia 天下—conventionally translated as “all-under-Heaven”—is a familiar term in everyday Chinese parlance that simply means “the world.” But tianxia is also a geopolitical term found throughout the canonical literature that has a deeper philosophical and historical meaning. Over the past few decades, the meaning of this technical term—sometimes referred to as “All- under-the-World System” (tianxiatixi 天下体系)—has been much debated, primarily but not only in the Chinese literature, as a possible Chinese framework for thinking about a new and evolving world order and a new model of world governance.

In March, 2018, the Berggruen Research Center at Peking University, seeking to address the issue of the influence of the exponential rise of East Asia on the world economic and political order, convened a conference entitled “What is tianxia? The East-Asia Context.” At this conference, the core invitees were primarily representatives of the East-Asian Confucian cultures in which the shared notion of tianxia is understood in importantly different ways. This volume is a collection of the revised papers from this conference.
Peter D. Hershock. Intelligence Revolution: Challenges of Humane Presence in an Era of Artificial Agents and Smart Services (Under review with Oxford University Press).
The Intelligence Revolution explores how the confluence of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence are reshaping the human experience. Like the Copernican revolution, which decentered humanity in the cosmos, the intelligence revolution is dissolving once-foundational certainties and opening entirely new realms of opportunity. The results are almost sure to be mixed. Smart cities will be more efficient and more livable; smart health care can potentially reach and benefit the half of humanity that now lacks even basic health services. Yet, smart services and the algorithmic tailoring of individual experience have the potential to first supplement and eventually supplant intelligent human practices, rendering human intelligence superfluous. The Intelligence Revolution begins with a concise history of artificial intelligence, robotics and the data explosion that resulted from the internet and the smartphone, and then looks forward from current state-of-the-art technologies into humanity’s smart future and the ethical dilemmas that will characterize it. The second half of the book considers who we need to be present as in order to contribute to resolving these dilemmas and ensure that the intelligence revolution enables a profound re-centering of the human and the realization of more equitably shared and humane global futures.
Peter D. Hershock & Roger T. Ames (Eds.). Human “Beings” or Human “Becomings?” A Conversation with Confucianism on the Concept of Person. State University of New York Press. (Forthcoming)
Humans, at least since the first uses of fire, have been technological animals. The inventions of the wheel, the compass, the printing press, the internal combustion engine and the telephone each have dramatically changed humanity’s relationship to the world, as well as our relationships with one another. Yet, the transformations of human experience being precipitated by technology today are unprecedented.

We now know that human activity is capable of affecting planetary processes like climate. Humanity is experimenting with cloning, gene editing and other forms of bio-engineering, mapping the neuro-topography of thought with functional magnetic resonance imaging, and realizing new kinds of human-machine interactions. Most profoundly, perhaps, artificial intelligence and related technical developments like machine learning and big data are blurring boundaries both between the commercial and the political, and between the technical and the ethical.

This collection of essays drawn from Berggruen workshops at Stanford University (2016) and the Confucius Research Institute (2017) is an initial response to these questions from within Sinitic philosophical traditions. These traditions—Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist—afford distinctive resources for conceiving of persons as relationally constituted and for developing a shared moral compass to guide our efforts to resolve global human predicaments in full recognition of our interdependence. In addition to their intrinsic merits as perspectives on the human experience, these traditions of thought and practice have the practical merit of being part of the cultural inheritance of roughly one sixth of humanity. The sheer size of China’s population and the fact that it will, in the coming decades, become home to the world’s largest national economy mean, among other things, that Chinese perspectives must be integral to our shared efforts to resolve the global predicaments that humanity will be facing in this and coming generations.
Tobias Rees. After Ethos. Duke University Press. (2018)
For most of the twentieth century, anthropologists understood themselves as ethnographers. The art of anthropology was the fieldwork-based description of faraway others—of how social structures secretly organized the living-together of a given society, of how a people had endowed the world surrounding them with cultural meaning. While the poetics and politics of anthropology have changed dramatically over the course of a century, the basic equation of anthropology with ethnography—as well as the definition of the human as a social and cultural being—has remained so evident that the possibility of questioning it occurred to hardly anyone.

In After Ethnos, Rees endeavors to decouple anthropology from ethnography—and the human from society and culture—and explores the manifold possibilities of practicing a question-based rather than an answer-based anthropology that emanates from this decoupling. What emerges
from Rees's provocations is a new understanding of anthropology as a philosophically and poetically inclined, fieldwork-based investigation of what it could mean to be human when the established concepts of the human on which anthropology has been built increasingly fail us.
Sungmoon Kim (2018). Democracy after Virtue: Toward Pragmatic Democracy. Oxford University Press.
In the past two decades contemporary Confucian political theory has been propelled by the dialectical conversation between Confucianism and democracy and, more recently, between Confucian democracy and Confucian meritocracy. However, the absence of a shared point of reference in developing Confucian democratic theory has made it extremely difficult to understand whether the disagreement between Confucian democrats and Confucian meritocrats is merely a political one or is also of philosophical significance. Democracy after Virtue explores a normative Confucian democratic theory that justifies democracy on pragmatic grounds, both as a political system and as a way of life in East Asia, with special attention to Confucianism, a dominant cultural tradition in the region, as well as to the value pluralism and moral conflict that increasingly characterize the circumstances of East Asian politics. It presents “pragmatic Confucian democracy” as a fresh normative framework that can help (1) identify the social circumstances that require a democracy as a political system in a Confucian society, (2) explain the internal connection between two dimensions of democracy that are commonly presented in political science as being at odds with each other, (3) make sense of the value of democracy coherently with reference to its two dimensions, (4) illuminate the theoretical connection between democratic procedures and the outcomes they produce, and (5) articulate distinctively Confucian democratic principles of justice in criminal punishment, economic distribution, and international relations (humanitarian intervention in particular) from a pragmatic standpoint.
Adrienne Mayor (2018). Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology. Princeton University Press.
The fascinating untold story of how the ancients imagined robots and other forms of artificial life—and even invented real automated machines. The first robot to walk the earth was a bronze giant called Talos. This wondrous machine was created not by MIT Robotics Lab, but by Hephaestus, the Greek god of invention. More than 2,500 years ago, long before medieval automata, and centuries before technology made self-moving devices possible, Greek mythology was exploring ideas about creating artificial life—and grappling with still-unresolved ethical concerns about biotechne, “life through craft.” In this compelling, richly illustrated book, Adrienne Mayor tells the fascinating story of how ancient Greek, Roman, Indian, and Chinese myths envisioned artificial life, automata, self-moving devices, and human enhancements—and how these visions relate to and reflect the ancient invention of real animated machines. As early as Homer, Greeks were imagining robotic servants, animated statues, and even ancient versions of Artificial Intelligence, while in Indian legend, Buddha’s precious relics were defended by robot warriors copied from Greco-Roman designs for real automata. Mythic automata appear in tales about Jason and the Argonauts, Medea, Daedalus, Prometheus, and Pandora, and many of these machines are described as being built with the same materials and methods that human artisans used to make tools and statues. And, indeed, many sophisticated animated devices were actually built in antiquity, reaching a climax with the creation of a host of automata in the ancient city of learning, Alexandria, the original Silicon Valley.

A groundbreaking account of the earliest expressions of the timeless impulse to create artificial life, Gods and Robots reveals how some of today’s most advanced innovations in robotics and AI were foreshadowed in ancient myth—and how science has always been driven by imagination. This is mythology for the age of AI.

Adrienne Mayor is the author, most recently, of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World and The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy, which was a finalist for the National Book Award (both Princeton). She is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University and lives in Palo Alto, California.
Samuel Moyn. Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World. Harvard University Press. (2018)
The age of human rights has been kindest to the rich. Even as state violations of political rights garnered unprecedented attention due to human rights campaigns, a commitment to material equality disappeared. In its place, market fundamentalism has emerged as the dominant force in national and global economies. In this provocative book, Samuel Moyn analyzes how and why we chose to make human rights our highest ideals while simultaneously neglecting the demands of a broader social and economic justice.
In a pioneering history of rights stretching back to the Bible, Not Enough charts how twentieth- century welfare states, concerned about both abject poverty and soaring wealth, resolved to fulfill their citizens’ most basic needs without forgetting to contain how much the rich could tower over the rest. In the wake of two world wars and the collapse of empires, new states tried to take welfare beyond its original European and American homelands and went so far as to challenge inequality on a global scale. But their plans were foiled as a neoliberal faith in markets triumphed instead.

Moyn places the career of the human rights movement in relation to this disturbing shift from the egalitarian politics of yesterday to the neoliberal globalization of today. Exploring why the rise of human rights has occurred alongside enduring and exploding inequality, and why activists came to seek remedies for indigence without challenging wealth, Not Enough calls for more ambitious ideals and movements to achieve a humane and equitable world.
Viren Murthy, Fabian Schäfer & Maz Ward (Eds.). Confronting Capital and Empire: Rethinking Kyoto School Philosophy. Brill. (2017).
Confronting Capital and Empire inquires into the relationship between philosophy, politics and capitalism by rethinking Kyoto School philosophy in relation to history. The Kyoto School was an influential group of Japanese philosophers loosely related to Kyoto Imperial University’s philosophy department, including such diverse thinkers as Nishida Kitarō, Tanabe Hajime, Nakai Masakazu and Tosaka Jun.

Confronting Capital and Empire presents a new perspective on the Kyoto School by bringing the school into dialogue with Marx and the underlying questions of Marxist theory. The volume brings together essays that analyse Kyoto School thinkers through a Marxian and/or critical theoretical perspective, asking: in what ways did Kyoto School thinkers engage with their historical moment? What were the political possibilities immanent in their thought? And how does Kyoto School philosophy speak to the pressing historical and political questions of our own moment?
Viren Murthy & Joyce C.H. Liu (Eds.). East-Asian Marxisms and Their Trajectories. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. (2017)
In this volume, leading scholars from around the world suggest that radical ideologies have shaped complex historical processes in East Asia by examining how intellectuals and activists interpreted, rethought and criticized Marxism in East Asia. The contributors to this volume ask how we can use Marxism to understand East Asia in a global capitalist world, and where the problems that Marxism highlighted, including imperialism, domination and inequality, are increasingly prevalent.

The volume draws on various disciplines to reinterpret Marx and shed light on the complex dynamics of global capitalism in various historical/national contexts. The distinguished contributors illuminate, rethink and make accessible highly complex Marxist concepts, such as the question of class contradiction, the temporalities of capitalism, real and formal subsumption, relative surplus value and the commodity form, the question of class and the proletariat.

At a time when people around the world are struggling to cope with the crises of global capitalism, this volume on regional responses to capitalism is especially welcome. It will be of interest to students and scholars of East Asian studies, social and political theory, sociology and globalization studies.
Stephen Angle & Justin Tiwald (2017). Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction. Wiley.
Neo-Confucianism is a philosophically sophisticated tradition weaving classical Confucianism together with themes from Buddhism and Daoism. It began in China around the eleventh century CE, played a leading role in East Asian cultures over the last millennium, and has had a profound influence on modern Chinese society.

Based on the latest scholarship but presented in accessible language, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction is organized around themes that are central in Neo-Confucian philosophy, including the structure of the cosmos, human nature, ways of knowing, personal cultivation, and approaches to governance. The authors thus accomplish two things at once: they present the Neo-Confucians in their own, distinctive terms; and they enable contemporary readers to grasp what is at stake in the great Neo-Confucian debates.

This novel structure gives both students and scholars in philosophy, religion, history, and cultural studies a new window into one of the world's most important philosophical traditions.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.