Category Archives: Philosophy

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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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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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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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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The Postmodernists and Mies van der Rohe

Samuel Johnson noted that writers tend to explore the same “combination of ideas [that] have been long in the possession of other hands.” In this instance I’m revisiting a topic previously examined by Roger Kimball. It is professor Elaine S. Hochman’s biography … Continue reading

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The Imaginative Perception of the Universal

“…to get away from what is normal and central [in human experience] is to get away from wisdom.”—Irving Babbitt The largely forgotten mentor of T. S. Eliot, Irving Babbitt (1865-1933), was a major cultural figure in the “New Humanist” movement a century … Continue reading

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Sources of Humanism

When people talk about “humanism” they often mean very different things. I have sometimes referenced “Christian humanism,” insofar as the term invites a qualifier to distinguish it from the “secular” variety. In modern parlance, the concept is usually associated with … Continue reading

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A Theistic Debate

“I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand.”—Anselm of Canterbury According to traditional theologians, reason cannot beget faith; nevertheless, it can aid in the reception of revealed dogmas or … Continue reading

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Facts and Coincidences

“You should never allow yourself to be bullied and browbeaten by a single fact.”—Dr. Thorndyke One can appreciate this advice by R. Austin Freeman’s fictional character, whether it refers to criminal detection or other situations. As Dr. Thorndyke says on another … Continue reading

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