Tagged: philosophic life

Limbo’s Greatest Hits: #4

2019 has been a peculiarly difficult year for me in some ways. Most if not all of the trouble stems from an innocent moment of carelessness back in January. Specifically, on January 23rd, walking home from my office, I casually stepped out to cross the street at a busy corner — an intersection I cross every single day — and somehow my right...

The Art of Uncertainty, Part One

Even in today’s deteriorated educational climate, many university students are still surprisingly susceptible to confusion and self-doubt about “meaning of life” questions. In other words, they are still capable of responding to life as tender spirits, rather than merely as products on the assembly line at the worker-unit factory. In fact, such confusion and self-doubt, though now treated as grounds for a trip...

On Being Slow

We live in the age of speed. From our technology to our politics, getting things done quickly, without “dragging one’s feet,” has become the definitive virtue of modern existence; and I say “existence,” rather than life, since speed and life have very little to do with one another. This age we call “modernity” will likely be remembered, by the inhabitants of some future...

A Taste for Expensive Things

How much would you pay for the most valuable thing in the world? If you are a believer in the free market, you might immediately have noticed that the question is deceptive, as it implies that there is a “most valuable thing,” independent of your judgment of its worth to you, whereas all advocates of economic liberty understand that there is no value...

“Injustice” vs. Responsibility

After being convicted and condemned to death by a jury of hundreds of his fellow Athenians, Socrates, awaiting execution, was offered a chance to escape from prison and live in exile. He rejected the plan, primarily on the grounds that by choosing to live in Athens his whole life, to marry and raise his children there, and to practice his preferred way of...

On Not Being Like Them

They will not understand you. Can you live with being misunderstood?  They will find you disappointing, frustrating, and an unnecessary burden. Can you live with being a disappointment? They will hate much of what you do, typically the very things you regard as most definitive of you. Can you accept being hated, and hated not for your accidents, but for your essence? Do...

Radical Moderation

A student who sometimes visits me in search of advice and direction for her life, and who has come to view me as something of a role model, recently asked, in an effort to understand how I maintain my peculiar form of extreme focus, “Are you moderate?” My immediate response was to reiterate an expression I have adopted as a kind of personal...

The Significance of Suffering

Recently, a bright-eyed, enthusiastic Korean student asked me for winter reading recommendations. To choose appropriately, I engaged her in two hours’ general conversation aimed at gaining a better understanding of her character. At one point, I asked her the half-whimsical question, “If you were on a plane that was about to crash, whom would you want sitting next to you?” Her eyes widened...

Concluding Unscientific Postscript to “The Dangerous Idealization of Material Success”

My recent article, “The Dangerous Idealization of Material Success,” was calibrated and fully intended to rattle the cages of my so-called “conservative” friends by calling into question one of the central pieties of the late modern advocacy for liberty, namely the implicit belief in commercial success as an indication of virtue, and of the successful businessman as an exemplary human, and even statesman....

On Letting Go of Friends

Throughout my teaching life, spanning twenty-five years, I have frequently had the honor of serving as private counselor or mentor to students struggling with personal problems — usually problems of an existential, as opposed to practical, nature. I seem to have a knack for attracting young people who are a little outside modernity’s social norms, whether temperamentally, intellectually, or both. One reason for...