Category: Books

Nietzsche, Youth, and Hubris

From Twilight of the Idols: To live alone one must be an animal or a god — says Aristotle. There is yet a third case: one must be both — a philosopher. (R.J. Hollingdale translation, 1968.)  True — but why does Nietzsche assume that Aristotle had not thought of that? My suggestion: the hubris of exceptional youth. Nietzsche completed Twilight of the Idols...

A Few Thoughts from Marcus Aurelius

From the “truer words were never spoken” file, a few wise aphorisms from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Yes, keep on degrading yourself, soul. But soon your chance at dignity will be gone. Everyone gets one life. Yours is almost used up, and instead of treating yourself with respect, you have entrusted your own happiness to the souls of others. (II.6) The best...

Plato: Mythologist or Philosopher?

Apropos of a discussion of Plato’s intentions in his depiction of Socrates, and specifically the notable ways that Plato’s Socrates differs both from Xenophon’s contemporaneous depiction and from the historical figure later Socratic philosophers, such as the Stoics, had in mind, a friend who views Plato with some skepticism confronted me with this provocative question: Is Plato a philosopher or an artist? Is...

Thoughts Upon Reading Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”

“August 2, 1914: Germany has declared war on Russia. Went swimming in the afternoon.” (Franz Kafka, diary entry) Tuesday morning, needing something to read while my graduate students wrote their midterm exam, and having been somewhat guiltily perusing Kafka’s diaries lately — I hope he doesn’t mind, though I suspect he does — I selected a rereading of “The Metamorphosis” as my amusement....

Nietzsche on Jews and Germans

A couple of days ago, I spent an idle hour rifling through Nietzsche’s Gay Science, one of my personal favorites among his books. Reading various familiar but half-forgotten aphorisms almost at random, I came across the following excellent passage discussing a very “German” topic on which Nietzsche is always profound, scholars. Specifically, Nietzsche is addressing the problem of the scholar through the lens...

Dr. McConnell and Mr. Trump Part VI: The Press Conference

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, falsifying my Jekyll and Hyde hypothesis that they are actually the same person, have appeared together at a press conference, where they reassured everyone…that they are actually the same person. I understand your doubts: McConnell is a mealy-mouthed, vowel-swallowing, conniving turtle, whereas Trump is a crude, thought-disintegrating, pinwheel-hat-level vulgarian. Ergo, Jekyll and Hyde. So when it’s time for...

The snow was general

Tuesday morning, I gave my final pre-midterm lecture in my Twentieth Century English Fiction class, completing Joyce’s Dubliners with an analysis of the final pages of “The Dead.” Joyce’s perspective is ultimately deeply flawed in my view, but there’s no denying that the man knew how to finish a story. I may have been a little more animated during this lecture, given my penchant for going out with a bang, but for...

Upon Reading “Heart of Darkness”

Plato informs us that Socrates, awaiting execution in his prison cell, devoted some of his time to writing verse. Socrates — that supreme dialectician and debunker of the Muses, writing poetry! Recalling that for the ancient Greeks, the battle of Philosophy vs. Poetry was a prime manifestation of what we now call Reason vs. Revelation, we are startled, right there in the pages of the Phaedo, to...

Read The Case Against Public Education Now!

We artificially restrain our boys and girls from developing themselves into young adults, so that by the time they reach the proper physical age for leaping headlong into life, they are so ill-suited to do so that they almost crave the fettered boredom of high school as a means of avoiding a world for which they (correctly) feel utterly unprepared. Again, the crime...

How Democracies Perish, Deathbed Edition

This is the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of How Democracies Perish, an analysis of the spread of world communism by Jean-François Revel, one of freedom’s most serious French defenders since Tocqueville. At the heart of this work, Revel details “The Tools of Communist Expansion,” among which the most relevant for understanding our current situation comes in Chapter 16, “Ideological Warfare and Disinformation.”...