Category: Great Ideas

Left Augustinianism: Original Sin for a Secular Age

Many thanks to Prof. Rabinovitch for bringing this to our attention! We know from our readings of Augustine’s City of God that the saint believed in a world of souls stained by original sin. Over in Britain, however, fifth-century ascetic Pelagius denied that nagging evil lurking within souls, pointing instead to a world born to […]

From The New York Times: Books Can Take You Places…

“Donald Trump doesn’t want you to go,” the title goes on, reminding us that it is actually not going where he wants some to go that is the real problem for those people. Hisham Matar at the New York Times shares an imaginative column with us in which he describes reading as getting to know […]

From The New York Times: ‘How Propaganda Works’ Is a Timely Reminder

Michiko Kakutani reviews a book that is timely because it comes likes an alarm clock, How Propaganda Works, by Professor Jason Stanley. It is not boring, so promise you will not be needing to hit the snooze button; but, in fact, the book will keep you engaged while serving as a prophylaxis against the opposing […]

From The TLS: Women Swooned

“Anxiousness reminds us of existence; happiness momentarily forgets it existed.” The power of ‘it’ in that wonderful bit of existentialism comes in the ambiguity of its reference, and so reminding us of the closeness between ‘anxiety’ and ‘existence’, almost anagrams. One of the appeals of the existentialists, then, comes in their trying to work out […]

From Literary Review: Righteous Reformations

Eric Ormsby at Literary Reviewengages in his latest review with Christopher de Bellaigue’sThe Islamic Enlightenment. The relationship between the two has not been easy, but that it has been unrequited for either is a misimpression that has gained popularity in some circles, namely populist ones. That is too bad, because de Bellaigue argues that the […]

Christopher Marlowe and the Mythology of Shakespeare

Gary Taylor, lead general editor of The New Oxford Shakespeare, departs from the usual collections of Shakespeare’s plays. For the first time, the three Henry VI plays add the name of Elizabethan tragedian and “bad boy of the English Renaissance,” Christopher Marlowe, as co-author alongside the Bard. But that’s not all–fourteen other plays from the […]

Seth Godin on “Soft” Skills

Let’s get things straight: they’re not soft skills. They’re anything but. So claims best-selling author Seth Godin, who abhors the reliance on a linear scale that companies tend to adopt as they consider new and current employees. It’s easy to measure based on a linear scale, Godin says, but the problem is that the scale […]

From 3QuarksDaily: ‘Alternative Facts’ And The Necessity of Liberal Education

Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse at the 3quarksdaily find occasion in the recent intense disagreement over the crowd size attending the Trump inauguration to proffer the values of a liberal education. We understand this is a convenient pretext, because anything in the news would have allowed them to do just the same, and almost everything […]

Whales, Barnacles, and Ancient Migrations: A Possible Break in One of Evolution’s Biggest Mysteries

What do barnacles have to do with prehistoric whale migration and evolution? A whole lot, according to UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate Larry Taylor. From their origins as four-legged, dog-like creatures in Pakistan to their present-day incarnations as “preposterously large” marine mammals that traverse the vast oceans, whales are the “poster child of evolution.” Millions of […]

From the Nation: Criticism in the Twilight

Nicholas Dames at The Nation reviews three books that attempt to vindicate the practice of literary criticism. One of the most salient ways in which all three have done so is by laboring howcriticism opens the sensibilities of its readers to more valuably appreciate works of art that wouldotherwise have been abstruse or mysterious. What, […]