Category: Books

Jot Notes from Underground

If you want a perfect synopsis of our political reality today, and where we are headed, read Brave New World. If you want to grasp the psychological weakness that precipitated the fall of modern civilization, read King Lear. If you want to know the mind of the bureaucratic expert class that is manipulating mass opinion and electoral politics in the name of advancing...

“The whole secret of life in two pages of print!”

Here is an enthusiastic rant about socialists by Razumihin, Dostoevsky’s crystallization of the good-natured man of common sense, in Crime and Punishment: I’ll show you their pamphlets. Everything with them is ‘the influence of environment,’ and nothing else. Their favourite phrase! From which it follows that, if society is normally organised, all crime will cease at once, since there will be nothing to...

How I Feel Today

A few hours ago, I concluded an e-mail reply to a reader about COVID-19, experts, “flattening the curve,” and the abuse of statistics, with this exhausted summary: “I’m getting tired of this story, since there is nothing left to save here, no one left to persuade, and no benefit to be had from muttering common sense into the ether. Slaves want to be...

Is Coronavirus Our Anthrax Bomb?

Just a simple musing, courtesy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Chapter 16. The speaker is Mustapha Mond, World Controller for Western Europe. Mass production demanded the shift. Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered. Still, in spite of...

Critical Modernism

Recently, a student with whom I frequently discuss books and ideas mentioned in an e-mail — God forbid that two humans should meet in the same room these days — that she had just read Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (a book that is extremely popular here in Korea), and was keen to discuss it with me. As I have been a sort of...

Limits Imposed and Removed

Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite modern writers, published two distinct but similar poems called “Limits,” dealing with roughly the same philosophical theme, namely the gradual narrowing of our remaining experience as we grow older. I wish to discuss the shorter of the two poems, which, although less well-known, is the one I prefer. I begin with Borges’ work itself, which I...

Ancient Common Sense on Education

Every page of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius offers something profound, something personally challenging, something lovely, or something disputable in the most ennobling sense of the word, namely the sense of engaging the reader in thoughtful discussion with a deeply probing and relentlessly frank mind.  Interestingly, the work — actually a collection of short observations written for himself, rather than for a public...

Weekend Reflections: Eric Hoffer and America’s Collapse

Both the revolutionary and the creative individual are perpetual juveniles. The revolutionary does not grow up because he cannot grow, while the creative individual cannot grow up because he keeps growing. — Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, p. 62 Elizabeth Warren, an old Marxist windbag, is trying to distinguish herself from Bernie Sanders, an old Marxist windbag, by claiming that she...

Progressive Life Imitates Dystopian Art

A few weeks ago, New York legislators passed a new state abortion law essentially declaring open season on all living fetuses up to the moment of birth. (I wrote about it here.) In celebration of this triumph of the religion of death, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, apparently in symbolic honor of the needles used to exterminate life, had the World Trade Center...

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....