Conformism and Crowd Violence: When the Majority is Really a Mob

In the final weeks of the fall semester 2013 I asked the students in my “Introduction to Literary Criticism” course to read René Girard’s I See Satan Fall like Lightning (2001), which with The Scapegoat (1981) is one of the best portals to the man’s thinking.  I lectured a good deal on Girard’s text and […]

The Gods, Atomism, and Ancient Greece: A Humanist’s View

The didactic poem On the Nature of Things by the Latin poet Titus Lucretius Carus (99 – 55 BC), the longest, most detailed exposition of the ancient doctrine of Epicureanism and one of the most widely read and influential texts of the first two centuries AD, went out of circulation in the Middle Ages only […]

Richard Wagner: Revolution, and the Re-Founding of Humanity

Richard Wagner: Revolutionary.

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) intended his mid-Nineteenth Century innovation of Music Drama to instigate a thorough renewal, not simply of art, but rather of the human situation, as writ large, in society and culture; he foresaw in the late 1840s that his work would require a theoretical basis in metaphysics, aesthetics, and ethics.  As […]

Third Empire: Politics, Gnosticism and Christianity in the Modern Era

Paul Johnson, usually acute, prejudices the case against Henrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906) in the chapter that he devotes to the instigator of modern drama in his Intellectuals (1993), where the author of Emperor and Galilean (1873) keeps company with the likes of Karl Marx, Berthold Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, and Lillian Hellman.  Johnson […]

The despiritualization of the West: reflections on Nicolas Berdyaev

My long-term ongoing project involves reading backwards into the critique of modernity, resurrecting from the archive writers who fifty, seventy-five, or even one hundred years ago, intuited prophetically where such trends as democracy, utilitarianism, and the technocratic conception of science were taking mankind – and who foresaw accurately just how deformed morally and socially Western […]