/Theory
13 11, 2020

The Ecstatic Agony of Jeffrey Toobin

By |2020-12-11T21:12:58+00:00November 13th, 2020|Practice, Theory|0 Comments

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.

31 10, 2020

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

By |2020-11-20T18:38:32+00:00October 31st, 2020|Arts & Letters, Featured, Theory|0 Comments

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.

23 10, 2020

The Unmasked Question: Behind the Veil of Misery

By |2020-11-13T20:25:45+00:00October 23rd, 2020|Theory|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.

23 10, 2020

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

By |2020-11-20T18:42:00+00:00October 23rd, 2020|Practice, Theory|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.

17 07, 2020

Two-wrongs-make-a-right fallacy

By |2020-10-08T16:13:47+00:00July 17th, 2020|Theory|0 Comments

The two-wrongs-make-a-right fallacy is a misplaced appeal to consistency: accept, or condone, one thing that is wrong because another similar thing, also wrong, has occurred, or has been accepted and condoned. It's clearly flawed reasoning, which has led to many escalating feuds. Yet, it continues today.

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