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September 15, 2018

[Here's an excerpt from a book on 'humanism' I wanted to write back in 2006. It's from a passage in which I was arguing against postmodern forms of literature, with their skepticism of old-fashioned narrative and all the other elements of a traditional literary aesthetic. Juvenile in some respects, this passage might at least contain a few thoughts that are defensible.]

...I’d adv...

August 14, 2018

The profundity of language.— You can gain great insight into the human condition, into the nature of the mind, by studying the evolution of words. For example, what’s the significance of the fact that words like illusion, elude, allude, and delude are variations on the Latin word for ‘play’? Johan Huizinga discusses this in Homo Ludens....

...

August 7, 2018

[Excerpts from this book. See also this blog post, "Excerpts on happiness."]

The meaning of life?— Life is not totally “meaningless.” People’s commitment to their work, to relationships, and to life itself proves that. However, it is hard to deny that life is not as meaningful as we’d like. It is the evolutionary product of “meaningless” random variation and natural selection, no...

March 21, 2018

(Also see these notes.)

Reading Maurice Cornforth’s Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy (1965). A good book, not dogmatic or closed-minded in the old Marxist way. It starts off with a historical overview of philosophical empiricism (which, as you probably know, eventually led into the “linguistic philosophy” of the mid-twentieth century). Summaries of Francis Bacon, Hobbes, Lock...

February 23, 2017

I'm copying here a "statement of teaching philosophy" I wrote recently for job applications, in case it has any general ideas that others might find interesting or useful.

In the age of Donald Trump, knowledge of history is more important than ever. Such knowledge has always been empowering, for several reasons: it gives one a foundation for more effective and informed civic and p...

November 20, 2016

[From 2008.] Reading Oliver Sacks’s Awakenings, which is about his experiences with post-encephalitic, Parkinsonian patients. It’s a good book, full of good thoughts and superb writing. Sacks emphasizes, as against his colleagues, that Parkinson’s disease is an existential rather than a purely neurological illness. It affects the whole being and not just the body; it is holistic...

September 13, 2016

The following is a long comment I wrote on a Facebook thread months ago arguing against a left-wing friend that--in swing states--one should vote for Hillary Clinton over, say, Donald Trump. I find the arguments of leftists that one shouldn't vote for a "lesser evil" to be logically and morally imbecilic.

*

To the argument that because Democrats are terrible, like Republicans, one...

June 21, 2016

[Old notes.] Reading Adorno: A Guide for the Perplexed, by Alex Thomson. I’m not very impressed with Adorno. Continental thinkers literally thought it a virtue for their work to be obscurantist and imprecise: it meant they were mirroring the “dialectical” nature of reality. That word “dialectic” has in the last hundred years been used to justify the most egregious philosophical s...

June 10, 2016

In Margaret Jacob's The Enlightenment: A Brief History with Documents (2001), the selections from Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education make it clear that all the obsessive writing in the past century about how to raise children has been largely unnecessary. Locke’s thoughts are, on the whole, sufficient. Raising a child is mostly a matter of common sense anyway; but since most p...

May 31, 2016

[Old notes.] Reading The Problems of Philosophy (1912) by Bertrand Russell. I’m inclined to agree with most of it. (In a lot of ways I’m basically a Cartesian. That’s supposed to be incompatible or in tension with being a Marxist, but I’ve never understood why. Sure, Descartes tended to emphasize the individual and Marx the collective, but I see no logical inconsistencies between...

April 17, 2016

Staughton Lynd's Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism(1968) is a fantastic exploration of the ideological offshoots and effects of the Enlightenment in the United States, which all students of intellectual history should read. I took some notes on it here. But I'll also post them below:

The book begins with thoughtful philosophical analyses that set the Declaration of...

January 22, 2016

[Excerpt from this book.] There are delights and dangers in adopting a broad perspective on oneself and one’s society. Looking at the “big picture” can either electrify or paralyze one’s will. The latter possibility is obvious, given, for example, the big-picturesque horrors of global warming and capitalist global pollution. Oceanic garbage patches the size of continents, slums t...

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