A Rarely Realized Classroom Ideal

Last night, in my graduate seminar–which carries the snappy title ‘From Schopenhauer to Freud (Via Nietzsche): Depth Psychology and Philosophy‘–my students and I spent the entire two hours of our class meeting time reading and discussing Section 354 of Nietzsche‘s The Gay Science. We each had a copy of the section in front of us; IContinue reading “A Rarely Realized Classroom Ideal”

Philosophy As ‘Ways Of Seeing Things’

In Confessions of a Philosopher (Random House, 1997, pp. 399-400) Bryan Magee writes: [T]he most important things great philosophers have to give us are to be got at not by analysing the logic of their arguments or their use of concepts but by looking at reality in the light of what it is saying….”Is reality illuminated forContinue reading “Philosophy As ‘Ways Of Seeing Things’”

Narnia’s Pevensies And Personal Identity

Readers of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe will remember the novel’s dramatic ending: Peter, Lucy, Edmund, and Susan, now all grown up and ruling as noble and just kings and queens of the land of Narnia, set out to hunt a mysterious stag; their hunt leads them into the woods,Continue reading “Narnia’s Pevensies And Personal Identity”

Wittgenstein’s Lion And Solaris

Kris Kelvin, Snow, Gibrarian, and Sartorius are all puzzled and perplexed; as other educated and intelligent residents of Station Solaris–a sophisticated scientific laboratory–have been before them. They are stumped and bewildered by their interactions with the planet Solaris, with the ocean that covers its surface, the one that plays host to mimoids and symmetriads andContinue reading “Wittgenstein’s Lion And Solaris”

Late Work And Shying Away From Decay And Death

In ‘Late Francis Bacon: Spirit and Substance‘ Colm Tóibín writes: It would be easy to imagine…that Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice was written toward the end of his life. In fact, it was written in 1911, when Mann was thirty-six. It is a young man’s book; its images of desire, decay, and death could not be soContinue reading “Late Work And Shying Away From Decay And Death”

Some Philip Roth Moments

Philip Roth is dead. I read many of his books over the years. Here, in no particular order, are some recollections of those encounters: I discover Portnoy’s Complaint in graduate school. This, I’m sure you will agree, is a strange time for someone to ‘find’ Roth, especially when you consider that the person doing theContinue reading “Some Philip Roth Moments”

James Baldwin On The Non-Existence Of The American Worker

In The Fire Next Time (Vintage International, New York, 1993(1962), p. 88), James Baldwin writes: People are not, for example, terribly anxious to be equal…but they love the idea of being superior. And this human truth has an especially grinding force here [in America], where identity is almost impossible to achieve and people are perpetually attemptingContinue reading “James Baldwin On The Non-Existence Of The American Worker”

On Being An Educated Philistine

I’m an uncultured bumpkin with little taste for the finer things in life. My list of failures is long and undistinguished. I do not like opera: God knows, I’ve tried; I’ve attended a few performances–thanks to some free tickets sent my way by discerning friends and culture consumers–but no dice, it didn’t catch. I cannotContinue reading “On Being An Educated Philistine”

Rereading Native Son

I’ve begun re-reading a book (with the students in my philosophical issues in literature class this semester) which, as I noted here a while ago, made a dramatic impact on me on my first reading of it: Richard Wright‘s Native Son. Thus far, I’ve read and discussed Book One with my students (on Wednesday lastContinue reading “Rereading Native Son”

Iris Murdoch On Interpreting Our Messages To Ourselves

In Iris Murdoch‘s Black Prince (1973), Bradley Pearson wonders about his “two recent encounters with Rachel and how calm and pleased I had felt after the first one, and how disturbed and excited I now felt after the second one”: Was I going to “fall in love” with Rachel? Should I even play with theContinue reading “Iris Murdoch On Interpreting Our Messages To Ourselves”