The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

February 23, 2014

February 23, 1950

Rebecca Goldstein (February 23, 1950) writes philosophy, biographies, and novels.

Why does a philosopher write novels? Here is a quote that addresses that question. She was teaching at Barnard College, teaching "courses in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, the rationalists, the empiricists, and the ancient Greeks." (We quote whoever writes up those Goodreads blurbs.) Goldstein had already won a National Science Foundation Fellowship at this point. She had not yet been awarded her MacArthur Genius grant (1996).

It was some time during her tenure at Barnard that, quite to her own surprise, she used a summer vacation to write her first novel, The Mind-Body Problem (1983) As she described it,

"To me the process is still mysterious. I had just come through a very emotional time, having not only become a mother but having also lost my father, whom I adored. In the course of grieving for my father and glorying in my daughter, I found that the very formal, very precise questions I had been trained to analyze weren’t gripping me the way they once had. Suddenly, I was asking the most `unprofessional’ sorts of questions (I would have snickered at them as a graduate student), such as how does all this philosophy I’ve studied help me to deal with the brute contingencies of life? How does it relate to life as it’s really lived? I wanted to confront such questions in my writing, and I wanted to confront them in a way that would insert `real life’ intimately into the intellectual struggle. In short I wanted to write a philosophically motivated novel."

She would write more fiction--

The Late-Summer Passion of a Woman of Mind, (1989) 
The Dark Sister, (1991)
Strange Attractors: Stories(1993) received a National Jewish Book Honor Award 
Mazel, (1995) recipient of the  National Jewish Book Award 
Properties of Light: A Novel of Love, Betrayal, and Quantum Physics (2000)
36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction (2009)

and non-fiction:

Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (2005) named one of the best books of the year by Discover magazine

Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (2006)

Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away (March, 2014)

Her novel  Mazel features a certain "
Professor Potts" who "had been evicted from her lower Manhattan apartment, and she, the pit bull, and a few skulking cats had set up home in Professor Potts's office in Milbank Hall." 

Potts is a Wittgensteinian. Mazel is defined in the novel text as: "Mazel[:]...the fundamental principle of cosmic abandon...Mazel exists only to wreck havoc on the natural order, into which it weaves its way like smoke, coupling and uncoupling events for no reason that goes beyond itself, the causa sui of chance and disorder."

Mazel sounds right, but surely it is unrealistic to set up a fictional situation wherein a professor is allowed to live in her university office with her pets. Unless, she is married to Stephen Pinker. Which she is, second time for them both. Sounds to me like something is working in America, if these two intellectuals hooked up.

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