Author Archives: Imlac

Human Greatness and Wretchedness

I was determined to read the Pensées from cover to cover. But Pascal’s volume doesn’t really lend itself to that approach. Its meditations are compact, yet extremely “dense.” They challenge the reader to ponder just about every sentence he utters. For those … Continue reading

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Asymmetrical Ideology

“Imagination cannot make fools wise, but it makes them happy.”—Pascal In my last post I referred to “asymmetrical warfare” on the battlefield. Switching that metaphor to the political realm one sees how a kind of guerilla warfare is waged by political radicals … Continue reading

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War and Society

Samuel Johnson said of war that “all lawful expedients must be used to avoid it. As war is the extremity of evil, it is, surely, the duty of those, whose station intrusts them with the care of nations, to avert … Continue reading

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Oakeshott on Unreasonable Politics

The British philosopher Michael Oakeshott (1901-1990) never became a household name, even in the conservative or libertarian circles that would have found his views congenial. Admittedly, I only learned about him after my father gave me a copy of his collected essays, Rationalism … Continue reading

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Surplus Thoughts

The following entry, comprising unripe meditations and random quotes, is an attempt to clean out my notebook (and take a bit of a break) before lining up new projects. Irving Babbitt: “If true art consists in having something to say … Continue reading

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The Common Lot of Philosophers

“Habitually to dream magnificently, a man must have a constitutional determination to reverie.”—Thomas De Quincey In his intellectual memoir the French historian of philosophy Étienne Gilson (1884-1978) begins with this note of introspection: A man of seventy-five should have many things to … Continue reading

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Democracy and Despotism

The Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) was an early champion of representative government whose writings influenced the Founding Fathers and the subsequent framing of the U.S. Constitution. Among many of his popular concepts was the “separation of powers.” As Raymond Aron points out, what was … Continue reading

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Lukacs on Hitler and the Historians

“History, in the broad sense of the word, is revisionist.”—John Lukacs The Hungarian-American scholar, who passed away in 2019, makes a point that should be self-evident. But given the sensitivities about the Third Reich, it also needs qualification. In The Hitler of … Continue reading

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Silence in the Face of Evil

In The Drama of Atheist Humanism, the French Jesuit Henri De Lubac describes the fictional confrontation between Christ and the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. He asks how it is that the ruthless, yet eloquent, proponent of a worldly anti-Christian paradise … Continue reading

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Literate Tyrants

Gary Saul Morson is a professor of literature at Northwestern whose frequent essays in The New Criterion focus on Russian authors and intellectuals like Turgenev and Koropotkin. His recent commentary on Joseph Stalin tackles a somewhat different subject, since the Soviet dictator was no mere theorist. … Continue reading

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