What Sets Italian Americans Off From Other Immigrants?


Each immigrant group possesses its own strategies for survival and success. For Italians, theirs rested upon two pillars: work and family. Italian immigrants helped provide the labor for American factories and mines and helped build roads, dams, tunnels, and other infrastructure. Their work provided them a small economic foothold in American society and allowed them to provide for their families, which stood at the core of Italian-American life.

Another paradox is that although Italian Americans tend to respect authority, especially the authority of parents and elders, they also harbor a suspicion of broader authority figures, such as politicians and the Catholic hierarchy. This stems from the distrust of such authority in Italy. In America, the family stood as a bulwark against the larger, sometimes hostile, institutions. Respect for authority within the family; suspicion of authority outside of the community.

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Vincent J. Cannato — Humanities

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Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated


It is quite interesting to know that Spinoza was excommunicated from his community even before any of his books were published.

The document concludes with the warning that “no one should communicate with him, not even in writing, nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor [come] within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him.”

Among the boldest elements of Spinoza’s philosophy is his conception of God. Spinoza’s God, as presented in the Ethics, is a far cry from the traditional God of the Abrahamic religions. What Spinoza calls “God or Nature” (Deus sive Natura) lacks all of the psychological and ethical attributes of a providential deity. His God is not some personal agent endowed with will and understanding and even emotions, capable of having preferences and making informed choices. Spinoza’s God does not formulate plans, issue commands, have expectations, or make judgments. Neither does Spinoza’s God possess anything like moral character. His God is neither good nor wise nor just. It is a category mistake to think of God in normative or value terms. What God is, for Spinoza, is Nature itself—the infinite, eternal, and necessarily existing substance of the universe. God or Nature just is; and whatever else is, is “in” or a part of God or Nature. Put another way, there is only Nature and its power; and everything that happens, happens in and byNature. There is no transcendent or even immanent supernatural deity; there is nothing whatsoever outside of or distinct from Nature and independent of its processes.

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Steven Nadler — Humanities

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The Art of Thinking in Other People’s Heads


We feel multiple sensations while browsing through a newspaper. Today’s needull is a masterful article discusses how light reading has grown into prominence.

The piece satirizes just the condition Benjamin had identified: a public yanked from one sensation to the next, unable to assimilate anything and unable to stop. “Wherever a newspaper lies / there I must hurry—out of greed / for paper, always more paper.”

Comparisons between Hitler’s Germany and our own time are rightly regarded with suspicion, but the critique of the feuilleton is relevant to an age in which the abundance of news and opinion seems somehow to have left us less informed and more close-minded. One reason for this is that the news has become a cultural product, one that glibly reinforces its consumers’ worldview. The world doesn’t appear until after the press. Benjamin’s critique suggests that this situation is not technologically determined, nor the product of overt manipulation, but the result of the subjection of ideas to the logic of the marketplace.

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Alexander Stern — Humanities

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