What follows has been excerpted from the introductory lecture for a course I have taught at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies on the literature and philosophy of the Renaissance…
For the next few minutes, I am obliged to address the question of the defining nature of the Renaissance, on which historians of every subsequent generation down to our own have spilled seas of ink. Of course, there is an antecedent question–whether there was a Renaissance–, which is surely more than merely academic.
About the only thing that historians agree on is that the Renaissance of the fifteenth and sixteen centuries was neither unique nor unprecedented. That is, there have been innumerable efflorescences of civilizational and cultural brilliance throughout human history, and almost every one of them can be (and has been) conceived as a revival or rebirth of some antecedent “golden age”. Indeed, the remarkable fact about civilization–at least until relatively recently–is its more or less unbroken continuity.
Continue reading “The Renaissance, Renaissances, and the Unkillable Myth of a Medieval “Dark Age””
The following has been excerpted from the introductory lecture in a course I have taught at U of T’s School of Continuing Studies on the literature and philosophy of the ancient Greeks…
Homer’s two epics, the Iliad and Odyssey, are not only the earliest works in the European canon; but along with Plato’s dialogues and the Judaeo-Christian Bible, they represent the common foundational matrix out of which the entire intellectual and literary tradition of the West has emerged. All of European literature is in a sense a protracted sequel to Homer’s Trojan theme; and Western philosophical speculation might aptly be described as a mere by-product of the commentaries on Homer that continued to be written in every generation in the West for two and a half millennia after the death of the Ionian Bard.
Continue reading “It’s All Greek to Me”
I am currently reading a biography of John Adams by David McCullough, the widely-respected, Pulitzer-Prize-winning American historian. A decade ago, his work on Adams was adapted by HBO into a seven-part mini-series. On the basis of his popular acclaim, I have always assumed that McCullough couldn’t write. I’ve been wrong.
In 1780, with the outcome of the War of Independence still very much in doubt, Adams left France for Holland to secure a loan from Dutch bankers for the American war effort. While residing in Amsterdam, he enrolled his thirteen-year-old son, John Quincy, in the ancient and prestigious University of Leiden. John Quincy had accompanied his father two years earlier on the arduous trans-Atlantic sea-voyage from Massachusetts to France, and during his two months aboard ship, redeemed the time by studying and becoming sufficiently fluent in French to serve as Adams’ interpreter at the French court. At the University of Leiden, John Quincy took classes in philosophy, classics, law, science, and medicine. The lectures were delivered in Latin, of course. Continue reading “A Different Species: Notes on the Yukkiness of Progressive Self-Absorption”
Have you ever encountered someone whose invincible ignorance on any given subject exists in precisely direct proportion to the self-satisfaction and certitude with which he presses his arguments? Someone so obtuse that, when you (with a little too much subtlety) point out the superficiality of those arguments, he doesn’t even realize he’s been insulted?
This scenario seems unavoidable whenever one falls into the company of a militant atheist. The phrase itself seems paradoxical; yet, the maddening irony is that the opposition to religion has become fiercely and fanatically dogmatic. Today’s atheists are determined to save the world from religion, even as they make fun of yesterday’s theists for being determined to save it from sin.
Continue reading “Irreligious Dogmatism”
It is admittedly hard for social conservatives not to take pleasure in the discomfiture of so many sanctimonious, progressive males who have been cut down by the biblical scourge known as the #MeToo movement: Patrick Brown, for instance (most recently among them), who having stabbed so-cons in the very backs upon which he was carried to victory in the Ontario PC leadership race, has now been hoist with the petard of the progressive politics he belatedly and cynically adopted. Continue reading “Me-Tooism: A Psychological Primer”
The American Psychiatric Association
DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS
ADDENDA FOR 2017
Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS):
Trump Derangement Syndrome is the latest (though most virulent) strain of a general and besetting condition of liberalism—catalogued in the DSM for previous years under Conservative Derangement Syndrome (CDS)–, whose aetiology can be traced back to the late Sixties. After short periods of latency, it breaks out on the political Left whenever its opponents are in power or contending for power, and manifests itself in a rabid detestation that overwhelms the human capacity for rational cerebration or discourse. As of the time of writing, there is no known treatment or cure. Continue reading “Tears, Rage, and Trump Derangement Syndrome: Analyze This”
While Mrs. P was in the kitchen this Christmas baking her self-identified and non-binary-gendered gingerbread persons, I was wondering whether in a hundred years from now the Christmas story would have to be flagged by a trigger warning, or banned outright. Continue reading “Second Annual Priceton Christmas Trigger Warning”
It tells you something about the times that when you Google “Jesus Christ” the first suggestion that pops up in the drop-down menu is “Jesus Christ Superstar”. As a ubiquitous phenomenon of popular modern culture, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical has been one of the most effective forces for the infantilization of the Western mind of the past half-century, and it is entirely typical that, after “Joseph and his Technicolor Dream-Coat”, Webber’s second blockbuster hit amounted to a vocalized version of The Idiot’s Guide to Christology.
Continue reading “The Government of Jesus, and the Separation of Church and State”
As a transcript of the ubiquitous and intractable reality of human evil, the Christian doctrine of original sin seems convincing enough. Some awareness of it might at least have spared us the sadistic horrors of the social experiments of twentieth-century totalitarians, as it ought to give pause to their “progressive” progeny in the twenty-first.
While Christianity has appreciated and assimilated a plethora of ancient pagan myths, it has never been so soft-headed as to have credited the modern fable of socio-political progress. Neither has ancient paganism, by the way, which (as its own myth of the four metallic ages suggests) was soberly resigned to the fact that, socially and morally, things are usually getting worse.
Continue reading “On the Side of History”
As book IX begins, with the Satanic serpent crouching in wait, Adam and Eve begin their fateful debate about the morning’s gardening—history’s first battle of the sexes. Looking at the conversation between them as a whole, however, one overwhelming fact emerges: from first to last, Eve takes and keeps the initiative. Her speeches are short, clear, and determined; Adam, on the other hand, is off guard and on the defensive. It is a state of affairs both entirely realistic and absolutely contrary to the ideal picture in book IV, in which Adam, fully conformed to his role as a symbol of the masculine Reason, possesses absolute sovereignty over a contently obedient and deferential Eve.
Continue reading “Sin, Fall, and Redemption in Milton’s Paradise Lost, Part II”