That Elusive Mark By Which To Distinguish Good People From Bad

In Journey to the End of the Night, Céline‘s central character, Ferdinand Bardamu is confronted with uncontrovertible evidence of moral goodness in Sergeant Alcide–who is nobly working away in a remote colonial outpost to financially support a niece who is little more than a perfect stranger to him. That night, as Bardamu gazes at the sleeping Alcide, nowContinue reading “That Elusive Mark By Which To Distinguish Good People From Bad”

Steven Pinker Should Read Some Nietzsche For Himself

Steven Pinker does not like Nietzsche. The following exchange–in an interview with the Times Literary Supplement makes this clear: Question: Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated? Pinker: Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s easy to see why his sociopathic ravings would have inspired so many repugnant movements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries,Continue reading “Steven Pinker Should Read Some Nietzsche For Himself”

Neuroscience’s Inference Problem And The Perils Of Scientific Reduction

In Science’s Inference Problem: When Data Doesn’t Mean What We Think It Does, while reviewing Jerome Kagan‘s Five Constraints on Predicting Behavior, James Ryerson writes: Perhaps the most difficult challenge Kagan describes is the mismatching of the respective concepts and terminologies of brain science and psychology. Because neuroscientists lack a “rich biological vocabulary” for the varietyContinue reading “Neuroscience’s Inference Problem And The Perils Of Scientific Reduction”

Virginia Woolf On Autobiography And Not Writing ‘Directly About The Soul’

In Inspiration and Obsession in Life and Literature, (New York Review of Books, 13 August, 2015), Joyce Carol Oates writes: [Virginia] Woolf suggests the power of a different sort of inspiration, the sheerly autobiographical—the work created out of intimacy with one’s own life and experience….What is required, beyond memory, is a perspective on one’s ownContinue reading “Virginia Woolf On Autobiography And Not Writing ‘Directly About The Soul’”

Ramachandra Guha On The Lack Of Modern Indian Histories

In India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy (HarperCollins, New York, 2007), Ramachandra Guha writes: Of his recent history of postwar Europe, Tony Judt writes that ‘a book of this kind rests, in the first instance, on the shoulders of other books’. He notes that ‘for the brief sixty-year period of Europe’s history sinceContinue reading “Ramachandra Guha On The Lack Of Modern Indian Histories”

Robert Morrison And Antoine Panaioti’s Nietzsche And The Buddha

Two recent books on Nietzsche and Buddhism–Robert Morrison’s Nietzsche and Buddhism: A Study in Nihilism and Ironic Affinities, and Antoine Panaioti’s Nietzsche and Buddhist Philosophy–do an exemplary job of examining, sympathetically and rigorously, some related questions of enduring philosophical interest: What is the relationship between Nietzsche’s writings and Buddhism? What were Nietzsche’s views on Buddhism?Continue reading “Robert Morrison And Antoine Panaioti’s Nietzsche And The Buddha”

‘Prison Literature: Constraints And Creativity’ Up At Three Quarks Daily

My essay, ‘Prison Literature: Constraint and Creativity,’ is up at Three Quarks Daily.  Here is an introduction/abstract: In his Introduction to Hegel’s Metaphysics (University of Chicago Press, 1969, pp 30-31), Ivan Soll attributes “great sociological and psychological insight” to Hegel in ascribing to him the insight that “the frustration of the freedom of act results in the search ofContinue reading “‘Prison Literature: Constraints And Creativity’ Up At Three Quarks Daily”

The Books We Own And Will Never Read

Let’s get real, be honest, face the facts: There are some books on my shelves I will never read. The reasons for this are manifold: the contents of the shelves are not static, as I keep adding to them; my shelves are disorganized, which means that many books escape detection as I inspect the shelvesContinue reading “The Books We Own And Will Never Read”

Fascism And The Irrelevance Of ‘Truth’

Yesterday, a former student wrote to me, asking for clarification on something he had read in an online discussion group: We [Fascists] don’t think ideology is a problem that is resolved in such a way that truth is seated on a throne. But, in that case, does fighting for an ideology mean fighting for mereContinue reading “Fascism And The Irrelevance Of ‘Truth’”

Hannah Arendt On Our Creations’ Independent Lives

In ‘Remarks to the American Society of Christian Ethics’ (Library of Congress MSS Box 70, p. 011828)¹,   Hannah Arendt notes, Each time you write something and send it out into the world and it becomes public, obviously everybody is free to do with it what he pleases, and this is as it should be.Continue reading “Hannah Arendt On Our Creations’ Independent Lives”