Cultura & Literatura
The American Scholar

The American Scholar

Summer 2020

Inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous speech, The American Scholar is the quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932.

United States
Phi Beta Kappa Society
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4 Edições

nesta edição

2 minutos
viral days

IF LIFE AS WE HAVE COME TO KNOW IT in the past few months has led you to ponder your new relationship to the world, then perhaps a few articles herein will aid you in this pursuit, as they have me. In “Guardian of the Glaciers,” a report by Alex Basaraba on the growing movement to attribute personhood, or legal status, to parts of nature such as mountains and rivers, he points to Ecuador’s recognition in its constitution of “Nature or Pachamama, a reference to the earth mother goddess of the indigenous Andean peoples.” The constitution grants her “the right to exist, persist, and maintain and regenerate its life cycles.” My own inchoate notion is that nature, or the earth, or what I did not know to call Pachamama has,…

6 minutos

The Conscious Robot Reading “No Ghost in the Machine” in the Spring issue of the SCHOLAR, I waited in vain for Mark Halpern to establish the salient features of human thought, of which he declares robots not capable. Underlying his reasoning is the idea of our self-awareness, our consciousness—of all that we do, including our thought processes. This self-awareness leads to the notions of volition and free will. So, the question posed on the magazine’s cover—Will robots ever think?—should be: Will robots ever achieve consciousness? That question may be unanswerable. Do we know where the sense of self comes from? Coleridge’s definition of the “primary imagination” suggests an answer: “the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception, and … a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation…

16 minutos
a fragile peace

As an unofficial state, Western Sahara doesn’t really exist—and being tiny and well behaved, it is easy to ignore. THE WAR OVER Western Sahara might be the world’s least-known long-term conflict. For more than four decades, an ethnic Sahrawi state-in-exile has been struggling, without success, for international recognition while waging a daily battle for survival in a featureless desert subject to subzero winters and summers so hot and still that cigarette smoke seems to congeal. Its capital, Raibouni, looks like something children made and then discarded: half-melted sand structures and brightly colored shipping containers, their metal blooming with rust, baking in the sun. The desert, relentless, encroaches, dusting every surface, crevice, and corner with sand. The Sahrawis, a mix of Arab Muslim and indigenous Saharan Berber tribes who over centuries developed their…

4 minutos
works in progress

Steel Amid the Fire In 2014, New York–based photographer Natalie Keyssar traveled to Venezuela to document a growing wave of antigovernment protests. She immediately fell in love with the country, and what began as a routine news assignment grew into an ongoing photo series, Hazme un Milagrito (“Make Me a Little Miracle”). Named for a song about revered Venezuelan saint Maria Lionza, the series focuses primarily on the situation from a woman’s perspective. While acknowledging that she will never fully understand the Venezuelan experience, Keyssar hopes that her photos reflect “a complexity and humanity and sense of reverence for beauty that goes beyond traditional news coverage.”—JAYNE ROSS “The crisis in Venezuela is a profoundly important story with rippling effects that take a vast toll on the country, but the Venezuelan people are…

2 minutos
journey interrupted

Before turning against the fascists, the writer MARIO RIGONI STERN (1921–2008), a native of Asiago, in the northeast of Italy, served as a sergeant in Mussolini’s army. The experience informed his haunting memoir, The Sergeant in the Snow, the first of his many books. JOHN PENUEL has been a devoted translator of Rigoni Stern’s work for many years (two of his translations have appeared previously in these pages). Here is a passage from a new translation of Rigoni Stern’s story “In the Last Winter of War.” One morning, when it was still dark, and the camp, buried in snow, was enveloped in total silence, the noncommissioned officer roused the third crew. The crew members were to go down to the Trofaiach station, board the civilian train, and go to Eisenerz, where…

5 minutos
what time is it?

THE AGE OF THE EARTH has intrigued people for a long time. Aristotle thought that our planet had existed forever, while a careful reading of biblical accounts suggested to theologians that it was created in 4004 BCE. In modern times, radiometric dating makes it possible to determine the age of rocks and fossils, so we now know with confidence that Earth is 4.54 billion years old. Since a timespan so vast is difficult to contemplate, I find it useful to shrink it down to a single year, which starts with Earth’s formation on January 1. We can then look back on the events in this Earth Year from the vantage point of midnight on December 31—a stratagem that lets us view the history of our planet in its proper perspective. For…