Monday, March 02, 2009

There's bibliophilia, and then there's...

I'm as guilty as anyone of buying all the Berlinalia that anyone slapped between two covers and marketed (e.g.). But I can recognize that an as excess, not to be repeated.

On the other hand, Berlin was an inspires-intense-loyalty charismatic thinker, not an inspires-serious-thought rigorous philosopher. It seems to me that publishing Berlin's juvenilia is a bit more in his spirit than publishing Rawls' senior thesis on religion from the days when he was religious is in Rawls' spirit.
John Rawls never published anything about his own religious beliefs, but after his death two texts were discovered which shed extraordinary light on the subject. A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith is Rawls’s undergraduate senior thesis, submitted in December 1942, just before he entered the army. At that time Rawls was deeply religious; the thesis is a significant work of theological ethics, of interest both in itself and because of its relation to his mature writings. “On My Religion,” a short statement drafted in 1997, describes the history of his religious beliefs and attitudes toward religion, including his abandonment of orthodoxy during World War II.

The present volume includes these two texts, together with an Introduction by Joshua Cohen and Thomas Nagel, which discusses their relation to Rawls’s published work, and an essay by Robert Merrihew Adams, which places the thesis in its theological context.

The texts display the profound engagement with religion that forms the background of Rawls’s later views on the importance of separating religion and politics. Moreover, the moral and social convictions that the thesis expresses in religious form are related in illuminating ways to the central ideas of Rawls’s later writings. His notions of sin, faith, and community are simultaneously moral and theological, and prefigure the moral outlook found in Theory of Justice.

I'm sure I'll read the Cohen and Nagel pieces at some point, as well as "On My Religion." Ordinarily wanting to read three essays in a book would be more than enough for me to buy it-- and my book-buying habit dovetails with a certain collectors' completism. (Why else is J.S. Mill's System of Logic on my shelves?) But I'm determined to be strong and not buy A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith , as the act of publishing it seems to me to indicate something unhealthy.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I'm going to live forever, cancer-free; part of a continuing series

via Pejman Yousefzadeh, the latest in the parade of good news about the health benefits of the nectar of the gods.
A cup of joe a day may help keep skin cancer away: A new study shows that caffeine helps kill off human cells damaged by ultraviolet light, one of the key triggers of several types of skin cancer.

The finding, detailed in Feb. 26 online issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, could one day lead to the development of caffeine creams or ointments to help reverse the effects of UV damage in humans and prevent some skin cancers.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers, which rarely metastasize or cause death, are the most common form of cancer in humans, with more than 1 million new cases occurring each year in the United States alone. (Melanoma is, however, one of the deadlier cancers.)

Exposure to ultraviolet light is one of the most important factors in causing nonmelanoma cancers. The rays cause DNA damage to skin cells, which then mutate or become cancerous.

Several studies have shown that people who regularly drink coffee or tea seem to have lower incidences of nonmelanoma skin cancers. One recent study of more than 90,000 Caucasian women found that with each additional cup of caffeinated coffee consumed, there was an associated 5 percent decreased risk of developing one of these skin cancers (decaf coffee had no effect).