Szasz On The Myth Of Mental Illness

This semester, in my Landmarks in Philosophy class, I used Thomas Szasz‘s The Myth of Mental Illness as one of the three texts on the reading list (The other two were Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman and William James’ Pragmatism.) Szasz’s argument that mental illness does not exist, that psychiatry is aContinue reading “Szasz On The Myth Of Mental Illness”

The Self As Prison

In his review of Charles Simic‘s The Lunatic: Poems and The Life of Images: Selected Prose Phillip Lopate makes note of Simic’s “cultivation of awe,” his “opening himself to chance, that favorite tactic of Surrealists” and makes note of this pronouncement: Others pray to God; I pray to chance to show me the way out ofContinue reading “The Self As Prison”

The Indifferent ‘Pain Of The World’

In All the Pretty Horses (Vintage International, New York, 1993, pp. 256-257), Cormac McCarthy writes: He imagined the pain of the world to be like some formless parasitic being seeking out the warmth of human souls wherein to incubate and he thought he knew what made one liable to its visitations. What he had notContinue reading “The Indifferent ‘Pain Of The World’”

Old Battles, Still Waged: Accepting ‘Defeat’ In Self-Improvement

Over the past couple of days, I have engaged in a time-honored academic ritual: the cleaning of one’s office. Old books, journal articles, student papers and blue books, random handouts from academic talks, conference badges–all fodder for the recycling bin. But I went further, looking for especially archaic material; and I found it in myContinue reading “Old Battles, Still Waged: Accepting ‘Defeat’ In Self-Improvement”

On Congratulating A ‘Dropout’

A few years ago, I went out for dinner and drinks with some friends of mine at a Manhattan restaurant. As we placed our orders, I noticed my waiter looked familiar; he smiled, walked over, and said, “Hey professor, remember me? It’s D_; I took your Modern Philosophy class a couple of years ago.” Indeed,Continue reading “On Congratulating A ‘Dropout’”

Irène Nèmirovsky On The Failure To Recognize Failure

In The Fires of Autumn (Vintage International, New York, 2015, p. 186) Irène Nèmirovsky writes: Mankind can only easily get used to happiness and success. When it comes to failure, human nature puts up insurmountable barriers of hope. The sense of despair has to remove those barriers one by one, and only then does penetrate to theContinue reading “Irène Nèmirovsky On The Failure To Recognize Failure”

Polonius On The Necessity Of Authenticity And Self-Discovery

A Facebook friend asked on her timeline for some clarification of Polonius‘ famous lines in Hamlet, which he offers as–perhaps sententious–advice to Laertes: This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season thisContinue reading “Polonius On The Necessity Of Authenticity And Self-Discovery”

Parental Anxiety And Its True Subject

In ‘What The Childless Fathers of Existentialism Teach Real Dads‘ John Kaag and Clancy Martin write: Why do we put limits on our children? Why is a daughter not allowed to climb that tree or jump across a river?…Why are neither daughters nor sons allowed to run away? Father knows best….virtually all fathers think thatContinue reading “Parental Anxiety And Its True Subject”

F. O. Matthiessen On ‘The Value Of The Tragic Writer’

In The Achievement of T. S. Eliot (Oxford University Press, New York, p. 107),  F. O. Matthiessen writes: The value of the tragic writer has always lain in the uncompromising honesty with which he has cut through appearances to face the real conditions of man’s lot, in his refusal to be deceived by an easy answer, inContinue reading “F. O. Matthiessen On ‘The Value Of The Tragic Writer’”

A Thank-You Note This Philosophy Teacher Will Treasure

Teachers love thank-you notes from students; they, along with great classroom interactions with students, are easily the highlights of our careers. Here is one I received recently, which as a teacher of philosophy, I will particularly treasure–because it cuts to the heart of the enterprise I take myself to be engaged in. It comes fromContinue reading “A Thank-You Note This Philosophy Teacher Will Treasure”