Dec. 5, 2017 | What is painting? With its increasing complexity, definitions are futile. At heart, though, painting is a means to find transcendence... more »


Dec. 4, 2017 | With Rousseau, it's never quite clear where clever contrarianism ends and brash delusion begins. His intellectual style has found new adherents on the left... more »


Dec. 2, 2017 | The speed of philosophy. Philippa Foot, a “dreadfully slow thinker,” wrote little. The challenge of the field, as she saw it, was to be slow enough... more »


Dec. 1, 2017 | Who was the audience for Mein Kampf? Scribblers and middlemen. Indeed, the disregard of academic readers was essential to Nazism from its inception... more »


Nov. 30, 2017 | To be French is to argue about what it means to be French. At the least, it means a fondness for adversarial politics and abstract notions... more »


Nov. 29, 2017 | Whiteness has replaced racism as the problem that bedevils the world. It's a profound and beguiling change in the intellectual terrain... more »


Nov. 28, 2017 | The Closing of the American Mind, today. As Allan Bloom had it, our society requires elites but demands that they justify their existence in democratic terms... more »


Nov. 27, 2017 | If the birth of states meant disease, famine, drudgery, and bondage for so many, why deplore their collapse? For James Scott, it’s complicated... more »


Nov. 25, 2017 | Whatever you think of Foucault and Rorty, they were genuine scholars with a distinctive vision of reality. Even so, they opened the way to fake ideas and fake emotions... more »


Nov. 24, 2017 | Among the New York Intellectuals, Elizabeth Hardwick was considered a gentile sophisticate. She was, in fact, a master of articulate contempt... more »


Nov. 23, 2017 | The Orwell cult. His lionization as a moral giant and a prophet is overdone. But one thing really grates: the idea that he's a monument to human decency... more »


Nov. 22, 2017 | Narrative-puncturing was a way of life for Joan Didion. Even the reputation of her great-great-great-grandfather, supposedly a snake-slaying pioneer, wasn’t safe... more »


Nov. 21, 2017 | About 95 million images are uploaded to Instagram every day. This behavior seems new. But it was prefigured by an earlier aesthetic movement: the picturesque... more »


Nov. 20, 2017 | What does it mean to be a jerk? It is to be ignorant of the value of others and the merit of their ideas. Maybe you know one. Maybe you are one... more »


Nov. 18, 2017 | We knowingly assert that civilization “collapsed” on Easter Island. The truth is more complicated. After all, history isn’t about conveying neat moral lessons... more »


Nov. 17, 2017 | From hippie fun to shell of its former self: Rolling Stone is a mirror of the baby-boom generation. The reflection isn't pretty... more »


Nov. 16, 2017 | What’s it like to be from “an abstract nowhere”? Midwesterners have a regional identity built on the idea of unqualified normality. But that isn’t as simple as it sounds... more »


Nov. 15, 2017 | How do we engage with the past? Archaeology, art, coins, legal documents, living witnesses. For Thomas Carlyle, however, literary works were unsurpassable... more »


Nov. 14, 2017 | The fortunes of free speech and the fate of universities are intertwined. Expedient attempts to appease students will further weaken the academy's intellectual prestige... more »


Nov. 13, 2017 | Economics, for all its pretensions, envies the hard sciences, while the humanities is just plain embarrassed. In reality, they need each other... more »


Nov. 11, 2017 | We tend to valorize paying attention, but should we? As Diderot had it, distraction allows ideas to strike against or reawaken one another... more »


Nov. 10, 2017 | Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is brilliant, readable, and short. It's also bad history, bad economics, and bad theology... more »


Nov. 9, 2017 | Readers of biography, beware. You lean too heavily on anecdotes, and you construct false visions of the past. When you study the dead, tread lightly... more »


Nov. 8, 2017 | The fake machismo, the boozing, the braggadocio -- Hemingway kept up the facade of the hairy-chested artist for as long as he was able. But who was he really?... more »


Nov. 7, 2017 | Stendhal compared Rossini’s reach to Napoleon’s, but life went bad for the composer. He lost his pension, his protégé died, his gonorrhea worsened... more »


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