SPOTLIGHT

  • War, Peace, Wealth, and Recognition

    By: Dan Corjescu Is the world making more love than war these days? And if so why? It is a question that three great contemporary intellectuals have either indirectly or directly wrestled with in their life's work. The first of our intellectuals is Francis Fukuyama. In his celebrated debut book, The End of History and The Last Man, Fukuyama argued with great verve and imagination that Hegel's nineteenth century insights into the mystery of human history were relevant to better understanding the political nature of our times. Through the interpretive filter of the Russian-French philosopher Alexander Kojève, Fukuyama explained that History's trajectory was bent towards individual freedom and recognition. In this story, the rise of modern science and technology are not enough to explain the historic spread of democratic governments and the passionate belief in human rights. Science can produce a vibrant consumerist society but only the strong human desire for the recognition of ones self-worth in the eyes of others can explain the demand for political liberty. Similar to Fukuyama, is Michael Doyle's work on “the Democratic peace”, which is itself partly based on the philosophical works of Immanuel Kant and Thomas Paine. Doyle, and others, began to notice in

  • Ragnarök in the Norse Myths and the Power of Dystopic Fatalism

    The Norse myths are singular among mythic narratives for a fascinating reason: the gods lose. They do not just lose a treasure, nor just a battle. They lose everything. Fatalism, the idea that the future has already happened in the sense that it is fixed, feels primitive to the modern mind. Dystopic Fatalism, the belief everything we have known and have experienced will one day be annihilated in a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, seems even more distasteful. And yet, it may be the only thing left with any hope of saving us from ourselves.

  • The Ecstatic Agony of Jeffrey Toobin

    Mr. Toobin is a celebrity.  Therefore, he has no right (as it were) to lower himself to our level or at least not in such a way that we are made aware of it. Discretion is the better part of ardor, especially for those in the public eye. Since those who wield power (control over other people’s destinies) belong to the priestly caste of society, they must relinquish the life of the peasant in exchange for their rank as sanctified members of the hierarchy. The peasant is no better than an animal; the priest must not descend to the level of the peasant, or be witnessed doing so, lest the peasantry become disillusioned, and begin to question their lack of status, let alone, rebel against priestly authority. That violates the tacit social contract (or unstated Freudian bargain) that we make with our living symbols of supernal grace.

  • Recognition by the Father: Montreal’s Favorite Son Leonard Cohen and an Ancient Story of Homecoming

    The themes of homecoming and the father-son relationship have received a lot of literary attention recently. Marilynne Robinson just published Jack, the fourth novel in her Gilead series, about the Ames and Boughton families’ complicated stories of homecoming, fatherhood, and sonhood in an American small town beset by racial and religious tension. The tensions between fathers and sons, and the son’s struggle with finding his way back home are timeless and cross-cultural, and trigger some of the deepest issues we have with identity and belonging. Look to any cultural literary tradition, whether of the West, the East, or the Middle East, and you will find tales of fathers, and those sons who attempt to find their way back into their recognition. Songs by the Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, who died four years ago at the age of 82, suggest that he grappled with the father-son relationship, and with the emotional desire for home and homecoming. Cohen might not at first seem to have much in common with an ancient Greek figure, but a comparison yields rich and provocative similarities between Cohen and Odysseus, the hero of Homer’s poem of homecoming, the Odyssey. Odysseus, a fictional warrior with talents, like Cohen, as a language-artist, is better-known for his homecoming as a husband, but he ultimately returns to his broken father as the honored and beloved son. Homer’s and Cohen’s poetry have some surprising parallels on this theme. The fictional character of Homer’s ancient epic and the real-life contemporary poet and musician speak to each other across time and space.

  • Silence as Speech: Reading Sor Juana’s Primero Sueño in the Light of her Final Silence

    Sor Juana’s silence is difficult to “read,” but it is easy to hear. What can it show us about the way the absence of speech can itself be a mode of participation in public discourse?

THEORY

The Unmasked Question: Behind the Veil of Misery

By |October 23rd, 2020|0 Comments

No veil of ignorance shields us from the worst, or blinds us to the fate we have in store. Only philosophers think that they can escape from it by erecting a priori theories and creating hypothetical cases, as if we could start from scratch and be given a second chance. Life is what it is—uncompromising and unredeemable. That is what people know in their bones. They don’t need a theory, be it original sin or the myth of meritocracy, to figure that out, or to understand that wearing a mask does not protect you from poverty, iniquity, or disgrace—or from being stomped on by the police, every day, or from being gang-raped, or from being homeless, or from being poor, naked, unaccommodated fool, thrust out upon the heath, in the cold, with no crown except the concussion from playing football or being beaten with a lead pipe by an ex-spouse, or being unnatural heir to a thousand shocks, both large and small, as you eke out a meager existence amid a thousand points of blight, with no end in sight, except the one we all dread, but are powerless to prevent.

Why I Signed the “Dump Trump, then Battle Biden” Open Letter

By |October 23rd, 2020|1 Comment

I surprised myself, because the position of advocating a lesser-evil vote – not for myself in Massachusetts, but for those in “battleground” states – is one that I would not ordinarily take. But this is not an ordinary moment, and the allowance for this kind of exception finds strong precedents, including in the strategic thinking of Marx.

Our New Civil War

By |September 18th, 2020|1 Comment

What distinguishes Trump from every other president in my lifetime is that he appears to be a supremacist, not only in action, but in ideological commitment. It is just in this sense that Trump is anti-American.

Load More Posts

PRACTICE

Our New Civil War

By |September 18th, 2020|1 Comment

What distinguishes Trump from every other president in my lifetime is that he appears to be a supremacist, not only in action, but in ideological commitment. It is just in this sense that Trump is anti-American.

Load More Posts

JUSTICE

Social Contract Theory

By |February 1st, 2019|0 Comments

When you make an agreement of some significance (e.g., to rent an apartment, or join a gym, or divorce), you typically agree to certain terms: you sign a contract. This is for your benefit, and for the the other party’s benefit: everyone’s expectations are clear, as are the consequences of failing to meet those expectations.

Load More Posts

ARTS & LETTERS

A Literary Review of Sex and Technophobia in Leonard Delaney’s Digital Desires: Taken by the Tetris Blocks

By |August 25th, 2020|0 Comments

Jon S. Skolnik, writing for American Institute of Technology for Sexual Linguistics in 2099, argues that Taken by the Tetris Blocks is a touchstone of 21st-century American literature, capturing the unique technophobic milieu of the 2000s by way of the emergent technology’s sexual influence.

Collectivism & Consensus in a Post Covid-19 World

By |July 10th, 2020|0 Comments

Death is a great leveler and, a virus that strikes at individuals indiscriminately, a potent reminder of just how precarious life can be and why, much like the pioneers, it might be in humankind’s best interest to re-invest in a philosophy that acknowledges man’s ability to understand the real world around him. Ayn Rand’s maxim that “nature to be commanded, must be obeyed” seems particularly appropriate (9). The question is, do we have the courage and the humility to subject ourselves to the laws of nature and identity?

Load More Posts