May 23, 2016 | Many scholars seek a solemn, serious life, like monks determined to eradicate frivolity. Benedict Anderson favored jokes, digressions, and sarcasm... more »


May 21, 2016 | If moral responsibility and the social institutions that enforce it depend on belief in our own agency, what happens when we lose faith in free will?... more »


May 20, 2016 | Kant declared fashion "foolish." To Kierkegaard, outer garments kept us from ascertaining inner truth. But clothes are a form of thought, freighted with meaning... more »


May 19, 2016 | Inside the thrilling, heretical world of Albert Murray. He celebrated the jazzman and black equality. He was also a genuine elitist... more »


May 18, 2016 | Reproductive systems are not much like clocks. So why the persistent idea of women’s biological clock? It's a story of science and sexism... more »


May 17, 2016 | Do wealth and status turn decent people into incorrigible brutes? An inquiry into the moral conduct of powerful people... more »


May 16, 2016 | Hazel Elizabeth Hester was a file clerk, an Air Force veteran, and a hoarder. She was also a pen pal of Flannery O’Connor and Iris Murdoch... more »


May 14, 2016 | The mark of a great mind, La Rochefoucauld said, was to “say many things with few words.” Thus the remarkable lifespan of the aphorism... more »


May 13, 2016 | Economists like to think of themselves as the most scientific social scientists. But they mistake elegant equations for truth... more »


May 12, 2016 | Tom Vanderbilt is in his 40s. His daughter is 4. Together they're learning how to play chess -- and, unwittingly, about the brain as it ages... more »


May 11, 2016 | To be a writer is to accept abuse. Here's D.H. Lawrence to Bertrand Russell: "The article you send me is a plausible lie, and I hate it." They were friends... more »


May 10, 2016 | How to launch a psychological theory: Take an old idea and give it a catchy name, suggesting rough-hewn authenticity and old-fashioned virtue. Call it grit... more »


May 9, 2016 | That Robert Hughes had literary chops is beyond dispute. His judgment in art is a contested matter, but it shouldn't be... more »


May 7, 2016 | Nietzsche completed his first memoir at 13, and wrote another five over the next decade. He wrote to see who he was. What he was was a mama's boy... more »


May 6, 2016 | On April 6, 1922, Albert Einstein met Henri Bergson at Société française de philosophie. The encounter marks the beginning of philosophy's eclipse by science... more »


May 5, 2016 | Pumpkin, Basil, Citrus, Red Pepper, Artichoke, Cherry, Buttercup. What's with the oddly horticultural lingo of Israeli soldiers?... more »


May 4, 2016 | A mad old man who imagines himself a knight rides forth on his frail horse, Rocinante. The modern era - and with it the novel - is born... more »


May 3, 2016 | Lord Acton had a library of 67,000 volumes, scrupulously cross-referenced. His miscellanea fill some 50,000 pages. But he never published a book... more »


May 2, 2016 | Jenny Diski - virtuoso novelist, memoirist, essayist, pessimist, misanthrope; - is dead. She was 68... more... more... more... more... more »


April 30, 2016 | For Walt Whitman, the body was the basis of democracy. So he was a health nut, a fount of advice on sex, bathing, exercise, footwear... more »


April 29, 2016 | The history of war is typically written by winners. But not the Spanish Civil War. Our version has been Orwell's version. And it's time for a change... more »


April 28, 2016 | When Romanticism meets romance. From Flaubert onward, it’s clear that literature gives us the wrong idea about love... more »


April 27, 2016 | Camille Paglia and a life of observation. She doesn't sit in a university. She doesn't go to conferences. She listens to conversations at the mall... more »


April 26, 2016 | Poetry and money. Eileen Myles sent poems to The New Yorker for 30 years. Finally, one was accepted. Payment: $600 and two nights at a motel... more »


April 25, 2016 | Here's what we know: Shakespeare was buried on April 25, 1616. How did he die? Many theories - alcoholism, typhus - but little evidence... more »


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