Category Archives: History

Epicurus Examined

Why study Epicurus? After all, he was condemned by many philosophers, including Cicero, as a mere libertine. And such has been his legacy in subsequent eras, even though his real outlook was a bit more nuanced. There is always something … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy

The Versailles Myth?

According to Joseph Loconte’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal, the Versailles Treaty “has borne an impossibly heavy burden” over the past century. It is frequently claimed that the “harsh terms” of the agreement “embittered Germany and set the … Continue reading

Posted in History, Politics

Knowledge and Superstition in Politics

Eric Voegelin’s concise volume, Science, Politics and Gnosticism (1968), is currently at the top of my reading pile. Readers familiar with the philosopher will recall that a key aspect of his historical analysis is the growth and spread of “gnostic” … Continue reading

Posted in Eric Voegelin, History, Philosophy, Politics

His Past is Our Past

“Plutarch made literature of his experience of the world.”—Robert Lamberton The Greek writer Plutarch reinterpreted the history of the ancient world, not only for contemporaries but for later generations, from its mythological beginnings to the close of republican Rome. According … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Plutarch

Diderot and the Enlightenment

“In all things our real opinion is not the one in which we have never wavered, but the one to which we have most frequently returned.”—Diderot Denis Diderot (1713-84), the French playwright, encyclopedist and pioneering art critic, may be said … Continue reading

Posted in History, Literature, Philosophy

A Liberal Confession

The self-examination in question is that of historian David Wooten, an avowed liberal, writing in History Today. The article, “What’s Wrong with Liberalism,” offers what I think is a fair assessment of the ambitions, and pitfalls, of modern liberalism going … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics

The Paradoxes of Heraclitus

In this post I want to venture briefly into the tantalizing origins of critical thought as presented in the class Ancient Philosophy: Plato & His Predecessors, offered by the University of Pennsylvania through Coursera. Of the earliest Greek philosophers, referred … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy

Reformers, Revolutionaries, and the Idea of Progress

“Every advance in liberation carries the seed of a new form of enslavement.”—Raymond Aron During the Enlightenment the concept of “unilineal evolution” became prominent. It conceived of society as developing from backward to more advanced stages in more or less … Continue reading

Posted in History, Philosophy, Politics

Rethinking Political Science

The best known volume by Eric Voegelin is The New Science of Politics (1952). His discussion of philosophical and revolutionary “gnosticism” is the most popularized aspect of the work; however, in this post I want to examine the concept of … Continue reading

Posted in Eric Voegelin, History, Philosophy, Politics

Sainte-Beuve’s Literary Portraits

The French writer Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-69) is deemed the founding father of modern literary criticism. He was a latter-day Plutarch. But unlike the prolific Greek biographer, most of his subjects were intellectual figures rather then generals or statesmen. Some … Continue reading

Posted in Art and Culture, History, Literature