Philosophy is Not About Consolation

In reading some of the work of Pierre Hadot, who is largely responsible for the contemporary debate about philosophy as a way of life, it seems to me there is a fundamental tension between philosophy inspired by a sense of wonder with a commitment to pursue the truth come what may vs. philosophy as aContinue reading “Philosophy is Not About Consolation”

Sent Forth to Die in a Happy City

In “The Plague,” Camus’ theme was fascism. The final paragraph in that book surely resonates with the news today and the deeply pernicious way fascism takes root in a culture: He knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good;Continue reading “Sent Forth to Die in a Happy City”

The Silent Art

We often think of imagination as an ability to invent fantastic images or create original patterns in media such as musical notes, words, or images. But I think this misses the heart of imagination. The most important role of imagination is a capacity to create new possibilities, to create new structures of experience and discloseContinue reading “The Silent Art”

The Value of Metaphysics

Originally published at Three Quarks Daily. Among the ideas in the history of philosophy most worthy of an eye-roll is Aristotle’s claim that the study of metaphysics is the highest form of eudaimonia (variously translated as “happiness” or “flourishing”) of which human beings are capable. The metaphysician is allegedly happier than even the philosopher whoContinue reading “The Value of Metaphysics”

On Conversion Experiences

Religions have always relied on the idea of a conversion experience. But conversion experiences are essential to many of the characterizations of philosophy as a way of life. Plato’s allegory of the cave where one transitions from the corrupt sensible world to the incorruptible world of the spirit; the Stoic intuition of the presence ofContinue reading “On Conversion Experiences”

The American “Character”

Prior to the emergence of Covid19, I would have predicted that Americans would find a way to confront the challenge of a once in a century pandemic. I’m not naïve or sanguine about the wisdom of the American public or its leaders. In fact, I’m usually pretty cynical about the U.S. But we’ve faced commonContinue reading “The American “Character””

Ontology and Ways of Living

If philosophy is to become practical, it must make room for individuals. The traditional way in which we approach ontology fails on this standard. The job of ontology is to understand the nature of being, what it means to exist. Traditional ontology understands being by tracing our conceptual representations of beings in terms of theirContinue reading “Ontology and Ways of Living”

What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?

How is our past related to our (waking) dreams, the kind of dream referenced in the admonition to “follow your dreams?” The past creates those dreams, the threads of memory weaving a future that feels continuous, one that we might plausibly own, at least in our imaginations. Yet those threads of memory can be aContinue reading “What Parts of the Past Does the Future Need?”

To Go Off the Rails is the Human Condition

The great conservative manifesto that one must stand athwart history yelling “stop!” is ultimately corrosive. That screed will drift away from reality and become a rigid, abstract ideology that enforces a systematically false picture of how the world works. This is what has happened to conservatism. Change happens no matter how hard you resist it.Continue reading “To Go Off the Rails is the Human Condition”

Build a Better Person

Most educators believe that education builds a better person, a person more knowledgeable, more aware, better able to communicate, highly motivated, and more adept at solving the full range of problems that arise in life. I suspect that most educators think this is the primary goal of education. Doesn’t it then follow that the testContinue reading “Build a Better Person”