Tag: culture

  • Damn It! Politeness is a Virtue

    Damn It! Politeness is a Virtue

    Nobody seems to give a damn about politeness. Until, that is, they are treated rudely, ignored, made to feel ignorant or displaced, or pushed aside in a queue. Then, suddenly, we see all too clearly how much we appreciate polite society. Those moments do not translate into the world of ideas, where “polite society” is a…

  • Thinking About Utopia

    Thinking About Utopia

    We are all trapped in time and place to certain kinds of life. We spend most of our big-picture energy thinking about the kind of life that’s best for us, given the world we live in. And so we should. But every now and then, a group of people decide to wipe the slate clean…

  • Democracy and the Good Life: The Politicization of the Self

    Democracy and the Good Life: The Politicization of the Self

    Modern political ideologies are nothing more (nor less) than lifestyle brands built to capture votes in the democratic marketplace. They are the shallow, intellectually incoherent two-buck chuck of the political world: sweet, deeply addictive, and very cheap to acquire. These ideologies have already exacted a terrible toll on our democracy and they may or may…

  • Parfit and the Philosophical Life

    Parfit and the Philosophical Life

    Reasons and Persons may be the most extraordinary book I have ever read. Yet the why behind that statement isn’t easy to articulate. It isn’t the best book of philosophy I’ve read. It’s an important and influential book, but not on the level of something like A Theory of Justice. It’s a grind to read.…

  • Democracy and the Good Life Part 4: Ideology and Polarization

    Democracy and the Good Life Part 4: Ideology and Polarization

    Democratic government is a marketplace with the same disincentives with respect to your beliefs as economic markets have to your desires. Worse, and as an inevitable outcome of that fact, the ideology industry has become something more than a simple mechanism for harvesting votes. The ideology industry has succeeded in creating massive belief change; we…

  • Democracy and Good Life Part 3: Consumer Packaged Ideology

    Democracy and Good Life Part 3: Consumer Packaged Ideology

    We think of an ideology as being a coherent set of principles encompassing a system of values and based on some fundamental set of assumptions and principles. But that’s not at all what modern political ideologies are. From a philosophical perspective, they are an incoherent mass of contradictory policy positions bundled in a giant, nicely…

  • Democracy and the Good Life: Part 2

    Democracy and the Good Life: Part 2

    The Democratic Marketplace “To the somber warfare of creeds and sects there succeeded the squalid but far less irrational or uncontrollable strife of parties” Winston Churchill on the aftermath of the English Civil War If free markets are the arena and engine of capitalism, democracy also involves a free (though sometimes carefully designed) marketplace in which…

  • A Year in Books – Readings From the Last Year

    A Year in Books – Readings From the Last Year

    A year covers a lot of books when you’re an avid reader. Old favorites, too much sci-fi, a few Great Courses on audio, and some truly great books. Here’s everything I read with quick notes, highlights and links to the ones that got written about in detail.

  • The Discipline We Demand, The Price We Pay

    The Discipline We Demand, The Price We Pay

    The idea that people in Western society are extraordinarily disciplined may be surprising. Yet few societies have ever asked for as much discipline as ours. It’s a burden not everyone can bear. For these people, the freedom of liberal society is a literal hell, and the help of the welfare state just another ball-and-chain.

  • The Story of a Life: The Novel and Biography

    The Story of a Life: The Novel and Biography

    If novels are the essential artistic expression of transformative choice and decision-making, biography (auto and non) often has similar interests. Reading The Story of a Life, Russian/Ukranian Konstantin Paustovsky’s very literary autobiography is a reminder of how much biography may resemble the novel both in ethical purpose and literary form. After all, the novel is…