Author Archives: Matt

Modern Insensibilities

“When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.”—Samuel Johnson Recent years have seen the complete removal of filters on public discourse. Expletives grace the covers of best-selling volumes. Prominent celebrities … Continue reading

Posted in Art and Culture, Politics, Samuel Johnson

What Were They Fighting For?

Critics of the Confederacy say that slavery was the critical factor in secession. Some states, like Missouri, made it clear in their declarations to leave the Union that “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.” By contrast, … Continue reading

Posted in History, Politics

Medieval Advice on Simplicity

The Cloud of Unknowing, an anonymous work of the fourteenth century, contains a great deal of practical insight scattered throughout its austere and esoteric counsels on mysticism. For example, while discussing questions of self-discipline, the author says You will ask … Continue reading

Posted in Religion

Religion, Politics and Mysticism

 “Just as it is possible to conceive of a religion which will satisfy man’s religious needs without being applicable to the social situation of modern Europe—as, for example, in Buddhism—so we can construct, at least in theory, a religion which … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics, Religion

A Genealogy of Morals

Continuing my reading of The Dynamics of World History, author Christopher Dawson explains that just as all pre-modern societies can be shown to have a religious basis, so every culture has also possessed a moral code. Beginning with the Enlightenment, … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Religion

Christopher Dawson on Religion and Civilization

“It is the religious impulse which supplies the cohesive force which unifies a society and a culture. The great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of cultural by-product; in a very real sense, … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Religion

A Curmudgeon’s Tour of Scotland

Once again I invoke the “patron saint” of this blog, Samuel Johnson, who never ceases to delight me with his observations on “life and manners” as I peruse excepts from his Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland,* in which … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Samuel Johnson

Leisure Revisited

In “Josef Pieper: leisure and its discontents” (The New Criterion) editor Roger Kimball explains that For Plato, for Aristotle, for Aquinas, we live most fully when we are most fully at leisure. Leisure… meant the opposite of “downtime.” Leisure in … Continue reading

Posted in Josef Pieper, Philosophy

Necessary Evils: Readings on Politics

“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”—Thomas Paine Apropos of my own observations on the recent clamor for social perfection is an opinion piece in The Atlantic (“The Unfortunate Fallout … Continue reading

Posted in Politics

Reviewing Nineteenth Century Authors

A friend from work, now retired, kindly passed along copies of some pricey intellectual journals, including the November 2016 issue of The New Criterion, which proved to be a trove of commentary on nineteenth century literature. Among the columns was … Continue reading

Posted in Cardinal Newman, Literature