Category: Ideas and Reflections

Uncle George Died Yesterday

I received an e-mail from one of my sisters this morning, informing me that my oldest living uncle died last night, “peacefully in his sleep.” Peacefully in one’s sleep seems like a good way to go. It lacks poignancy and drama, to be sure. But the poignant and dramatic death is, it seems to me, too highly prized among humans — and only...

Weekend Reflections: Comic Book Culture; Modern Conservatives; “True” Conservatism

Marvel Comics superhero Stan Lee died recently. In response to this news, Bill Maher, an iconoclastic moron comedian who pretends to be a social commentator, took his usual contrarian stance: In a blog post to his website Saturday, the late night host wrote, “America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie,...

Modern Conservatism: Defining One’s Terms

A dear friend sent me an e-mail the other day in which he lamented the incoherence of “modern conservatives” (his well-chosen term), with their endless compromises on fundamental principles, their willingness to support politicians who contradict everything these people claim to believe in, and their unwillingness to defend free markets and property rights with consistency and clarity. His thoughts, perfectly in line with...

Freud vs. Plato on Eros

In my recent piece, “On Freud,” I said of the “father of modern psychology”: He saw his theory as a more scientific version of Plato’s tripartite soul. He was in fact Plato for auto-mechanics. And for all his titillating and supposedly shocking nonsense about sex, he was oblivious to Eros, which is the specifically human manifestation of sexuality, and the key to mankind’s...

Your Homework Reading Assignment, If You Please

During his final sane months, in a whirlwind of productivity, Nietzsche wrote three important works, the greatest of which was Twilight of the Idols, or, How to Philosophize with the Hammer, a terse but sweeping synopsis of his entire philosophy. Though in form a small book, in content, implications, and influence, it is enormous as only a handful of works have ever been....

On Freud

Recently, as sometimes happens, a friendly reader mentioned Freud and Freudian psychology in connection with a topic of mutual interest, in this case related to my essay, “Life Lived vs. Life Unlived.” As is my wont, I took this reference as a good opportunity to clarify for my friend, and also to summarize for myself, my general assessment of Sigmund Freud’s psychology. Please, in...

Modern Demagoguery, or Why Trump Is Not To Blame

History always and understandably focuses its judgment, criticism, and disdain on the famous leaders who “caused all the damage”: the demagogues, cult figures, or scheming rhetoricians who exploited human weakness and/or difficult times for their own benefit. Rarely do we consider the fuel that powered the destructive excesses of these historic leaders, namely the populations that fell for the demagoguery, joined the cult,...

On Elections and The Fall

Today, Americans voted in a midterm election that has been cast by both teams…er, I mean parties, as a referendum on Donald Trump. Hence the results will establish exactly what the 2016 presidential election established, namely whether American voters prefer a mindless drift into communism or a mindless drift into mindlessness; servitude or stupidity; destitution and mob amorality or greed and vulgar populism....

Life Lived vs. Life Unlived

Yesterday, a university junior I had not seen in a while stopped by my office to talk about her life these days, or rather her frustrated sense that she was not really living a life, but merely, as she put it, “enduring” one. She expressed concern that her existence, consisting almost entirely of study perceived as an obligation, a part-time job perceived as...

Free Speech vs. Licentious Speech (Part II)

In Part I of this discussion, I addressed the mistaken view that the alleged suppression of non-progressive (or any other) opinion by a privately-owned internet platform such as Google or Facebook constitutes a violation of the right to free speech. There is another, more subtle argument I have encountered recently, however, one more in the spirit of John Stuart Mill, namely that although...