184. Some Common Grounds for Moral Duty and Beauty

Our experiences of beauty and duty appear to be very different. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), in his book Critique of Judgment, argued that judgments of the beautiful must be disinterested. This means that we make these judgments (1) without concern with whether or not the Read more ›

175. Medusa and R.D. Laing’s Divided Self

In his book The Divided Self (Penguin: 1969) the Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing (1927-1989) attempts to existentially and phenomenologically, rather than biologically and clinically, understand “the schizoid individual” or “an individual the totality of whose experience is split in two Read more ›

168. Beware of intellectuals…they need propaganda!

Jacques Ellul, in his book Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (Vintage, 1965), defines propaganda as follows: “Propaganda is a set of methods employed by an organized group that wants to bring about the active or passive participation in its Read more ›

144. Solitude and Education, Part 6: Socrates and Aristotle on Being Friends to Ourselves

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote: “On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one Read more ›

143. Solitude and Education, Part 5: Thoreau on Nature and Virtue

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote: “On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one Read more ›

142. Solitude and Education, Part 4: Schopenhauer on Contemplation and the Sublime

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote: “On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one Read more ›

141. Solitude and Education, Part 3: Harold Bloom on Reading for Greatness and the Sublime

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote: “On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one Read more ›

139. Solitude and Education, Part 1: Nietzsche and Kierkegaard on Authentic Individuality

What is the purpose of education? Some common answers come to mind: education is a means to gaining more income, finding one’s calling, cultivating an enriched inner life, being a productive citizen, or becoming a life-long learner. These goals need Read more ›

138. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 3: “The Silence”

In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – in Read more ›

137. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 2: “Winter Light”

In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – in Read more ›

136. Ingmar Bergman’s Metaphysical Reduction, Part 1: “Through a Glass Darkly”

  In May 1963, the Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) retrospectively described his films “Through a Glass Darkly”, “Winter Light”, and “The Silence” as a trilogy with a theme: “The theme of these three films is a ‘reduction’ – Read more ›

132. If we are arguing should we be substance dualists?

I have been thinking a lot about what philosophical positions might be implied by the fact that we present and evaluate arguments. Consider this argument or set of premises from which a conclusion is derived: Premise 1: All humans are Read more ›

120. Philosophy and the Sublime

Many of our efforts at self-examination presuppose at least a sense of things we don’t know. We sense our life is inadequate and take steps to acquire more knowledge to remove our ignorance. We widen our scope, gain new perspectives, and Read more ›

118. Trump and Nietzsche: Alternative Facts, Power, and Tyranny

Sometime between 1883 and 1888 the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche made a startling observation: “No, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” This view, which Nietzsche called perspectivism, has recently found an unparalleled analogue in American politics. For example, Read more ›

112. Some Thoughts on John Locke’s Theory of Mind and Education

John Locke (1632-1704), in Book II of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689) writes: “Our observation employed either about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds perceived and reflected upon by ourselves, is that which supplies our Read more ›

107. St. Gregory of Nyssa on the origins and nature of the soul

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394), in his work On the Soul and Resurrection (St. Vladmir’s Seminary Press, 1993), presents a very stimulating dialogue between two characters: Gregory and his sister Macrina. Through Macrina he argues that the existence of virtue Read more ›

92. Plato’s Wooden Horse Argument and the Soul

How is it that we can experience incoming data from the five senses as coherent, rather than incoherent, perceptions of objects and people? This issue, often referred to as “the binding problem” in neuroscience, has been a concern of philosophers Read more ›

74. Leibniz on Atoms

The enlightenment rationalist G. W. Leibniz (1646-1716) was a master at articulating certain general and fundamental principles and applying these principles to various philosophical problems.  Principles are statements of basic laws, truths, or rules from which other laws, truths, or Read more ›

55. Eros vs. Thanatos, Part 1: Archive Fever

Sigmund Freud, in Civilization and Its Discontents, claims, like the pre-Socratic Empedocles before him, that there are two “Heavenly Powers” or mutually opposing instincts: Eros and Thanatos. Freud characterizes these two principles as follows: eros is the instinct to conserve Read more ›

41. Freedom and Critical Thinking

Can we, sometimes, make free choices? Obviously, a lot rides on what we mean by free choices. Mark Balaguer has recently formulated a helpful definition in his book Free Will (MIT, 2014): a choice is the product of my free Read more ›

25. Memes

What is an idea?  According to Peter A. Angeles’ Dictionary of Philosophy we have the following candidates: Idea:  (Gk., idea, “concept,” “class,” “kind,” “idea,” “mode,” “sort,” “species,” “form,” “nature,” “from eidos, “visual appearance,” “form,” and idein, “to see,” “to grasp conceptually”).  1. Anything that is Read more ›

22. The Demonic, Part 2: Demonic Music

The Danish proto-existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) put forth an intriguing account of the demonic in chapter 4 of his eccentric work The Concept of Anxiety (see the Princeton edition translated by the Hongs). Kierkegaard claims the demonic person has “anxiety about the Read more ›

13. Augustine on God and Eternal Truth

In his dialogue On Free Choice of the Will (Macmillan, 1964), St. Augustine (354-430 C.E.) argues that our minds can know truths that are eternal.  For Augustine, something is eternal if it exists in a timeless, unchanging state.  So eternal truths are unchanging Read more ›

5. The Demonic, Part 1: Kierkegaard’s Demonic Fashion Designer

The Danish proto-existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) put forth an intriguing account of the demonic in chapter 4 of his eccentric work The Concept of Anxiety (see the Princeton edition translated by the Hongs). Kierkegaard claims the demonic person has “anxiety about the Read more ›