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Philosophy


Iris Murdoch and the Freedom of Attention

This meditation was written by Ken Wilson. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  Philippians 4:8 There is an amusing scene in Whit Stillman’s 1990 preppie coming-of-age film, […]

How to Save a Life: William James’ Tips for Surviving Depression

A young Gertrude Stein once took a class with the philosopher William James, who, even at the time, was something of a celebrity. One day, faced with an exam, Stein refused, writing at the top of it, “Dear Professor James, I am so sorry, but really I do not feel a bit like an examination […]

Bottoming Out on Prediction Addiction

One of the more memorable bits of Zahl family shorthand was introduced when I was a kid of eight or nine. We were visiting my grandparents in Florida one summer. A new library had just been built in their town, so we decided to seek it out on the first overcast day. We’d been given […]

The God on the Cross: How Christianity Rigged the System

This one was written by David Clay: The second stanza of Weird Al’s affectionate send-up of Amish culture, “Amish Paradise,” opens with the narrator running into some trouble with the “English”: A local boy kicked me in the butt last week I just smiled at him and I turned the other cheek I really don’t […]

Devs and Determinism

The Religious Overtones of Alex Garland’s Sci-Fi Series

The Absurdity of Death

A Lenten Reflection on Camus

God of Progress, Slow Us Down

The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future. – Frank Herbert, Dune In his essay “After the Storm,” author Ben Ehrenreich investigates the concept of progress. It’s in the air, he argues, so elemental we don’t always know we’re breathing it. “We are in thrall,” […]

How Jesus Solves the Trolley Problem

There’s a famous thought experiment called the Trolley Problem that goes like this: imagine you are standing by a trolley track, and an out-of-control trolley car whizzes by. Looking ahead, you see that five people have been tied to the track by an evil moustache-twirling villain, and they will die if the trolley continues on […]

Grace for ME: Kierkegaard, Sin, and the Self

A week ago my father asked me, presumably because I was the only suitable philosophical authority within a few miles, what “Existentialism” is. Being the word-merchant that I am, I deftly replied, “uh…well, it was kind of started by Kierkegaard — though it’s not explicitly Christian — and it deals with big questions, like, um, […]

The Promise of Scripture “to Come”: Qumran, Derrida, and Unfulfilled Desire, Part 2

Here’s the second part of Caitlin Hubler’s essay. For part one, start here. For too long, conceptions of scriptural authority have become identical with notions of scripture’s immutability and containment. However, as surprising as it might be to modern sensibilities, the scriptural text of late Second Temple Judaism was both open and sacred. Jews living in […]

The Promise of Scripture “to Come”: Qumran, Derrida, and Unfulfilled Desire, Part 1

Thankful for this one from Caitlin Hubler. “The” Old Testament does not exist. That is, there is no one version of the text. Although most of us encounter it in the form of a single, neatly bound book alongside the New, behind this veneer of simplicity lies a complex process of transmission, selection, and reconstruction. […]

Adam Smith and the Nature of Heaven

This one comes to us from David Clay. Adam Smith, widely acknowledged as the father of modern economics, was first and foremost a moral philosopher by trade. Nearly two decades before Wealth of Nations (1776) revolutionized the world’s understanding of economics, Smith had established his philosophical reputation throughout Europe with The Theory of Moral Sentiments […]