Aug. 19, 2017 | Sartre compared human freedom to skiing, but he really meant surfing. The action of imposing our will on the world is like riding a wave... more »

Aug. 18, 2017 | Why do we act the way we do? Go into the weeds of human behavior and you'll arrive at a definitive conclusion: It's complicated... more »

Aug. 17, 2017 | Did Jane Austen weave clues into her novels of her secret, radical politics? No, but her wit and wisdom were radical in and of themselves... more »

Aug. 16, 2017 | Toscanini's quasi-religious consecration to music fueled an obsessive and often miserable struggle to realize his vision of artistic perfection... more »

Aug. 15, 2017 | Secular thought arrived via not just luminaries but also everyday atheists: a cartoonist, a rogue traveling preacher, a teetotaler who ran afoul of obscenity laws ... more »

Aug. 14, 2017 | The words “boring” and “interesting” didn't exist in English until the 1800s. Now we're inundated with Big Think on the topic. What's behind the "boredom boom"?... more »

Aug. 12, 2017 | How did a young woman from Pennsylvania become a world expert on sexual mores? Exploring Margaret Mead's sexual awakening... more »

Aug. 11, 2017 | “‘Hardness’ has not been in our century a quality much admired in women," wrote Joan Didion. Yet she was among a cadre of women renowned for the unemotional clarity of her writing... more »

Aug. 10, 2017 | In 1931, a concrete structure was erected on the banks of the Moscow River. To roam its halls is to confront the horror, strangeness, and pathos of the Russian Revolution... more »

Aug. 9, 2017 | The birth of the modern museum allowed Victorian painters to imitate their forebears. Yet art didn’t descend into pastiche and appropriation... more »

Aug. 8, 2017 | Why do people who advocate the selfless communal life create such emotional havoc around themselves? The question consumed Sonya Tolstoy... more »

Aug. 7, 2017 | Toscanini's resolute anti-fascism endeared him to fair-minded people. But it's a mistake to connect his political integrity to his music-making... more »

Aug. 5, 2017 | Octopuses play, solve puzzles and navigate mazes. But no matter how much you appreciate their squishy sentience, they will never love you back... more »

Aug. 4, 2017 | Andy Warhol wanted to be reincarnated as Elizabeth Taylor's ring, but he was serious about his Catholicism. When he met the pope, he even wore a tie... more »

Aug. 3, 2017 | Voltaire, Rousseau, Samuel Johnson — they're just like us! They were the beneficiaries and the first victims of a novel force: modern celebrity ... more »

Aug. 2, 2017 | Beware a biography of Faulkner that gets mired in source hunting. Don't just explain how his work works. Show why the man wrote as he did... more »

Aug. 1, 2017 | Critics of criticism. When did the only sophisticated stance on a cultural object become distance, deflation, and diagnosis?... more »

July 31, 2017 | Humanity has achieved unprecedented levels of prosperity, comfort, safety, and choice. We have developed powers once attributed to gods. We will subvert our own successes... more »

July 29, 2017 | John Cheever's favorite word was "venereal." Isaac Asimov's was "terminus." Such insights come from exposing language to mathematics. ... more »

July 28, 2017 | The magic mongoose? Gef, a contemporary of Nessie, was believed to speak a range of foreign languages, sing, whistle, cough, swear, dance, and attend political meetings... more »

July 27, 2017 | If these are the end times of civilization — ecological collapse, social and political unraveling — it's worth asking: What sort of art comes out of such a dire reckoning?... more »

July 26, 2017 | Oskar Milosz was a respected writer who, after a near-death experience, was transformed from decadent flâneur to full-blown mystic and mentor to his distant cousin, Czeslaw... more »

July 25, 2017 | Left-wing melancholy runs long and deep and cannot be confined to one time or place. It is our affliction as well... more »

July 24, 2017 | The essay thrives on paradox: confession and concealment, disorder and progression, concision and profusion. The best essays are never about what they claim to be about... more »

July 22, 2017 | The history of modern cool is one of strange convergences — among French intellectuals, black musicians, and white Hollywood heroes... more »

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