Bleak House

At first it seems like a flouting of the phony. A magician steps on stage, Mysterioso the Magnificent, set to amaze us with prestidigitation and conjugation, so the sign says—he’s even got his black cape on, he twirls an elongated mustache, bows to the audience, speaks with a wicked smile: ‘Watch me pull a rabbitContinue reading “Bleak House”


It’s a simple idea really: each philosopher gets 10 minutes of camera time to say a little about his or her work. That’s the whole movie. The exceptions being Cornell West who gets a couple of appearances—he opens the show with what might be a new genre, call it ‘philosophy rap’, and then closes, rappingContinue reading “Preamble”

Facing Stanley Dancing

 Steady. If you need a chair or something to hold on to, try this sentence: It is a condition of, or a threat to, that relation to things called aesthetic, that something I know and cannot make intelligible stands to be lost to me. There. There’s your rock to anchor to. Now we will startContinue reading “Facing Stanley Dancing”

For Valentines’ Day this Year…

…we will discuss a perennial question: What makes a poem a love poem? What are the qualifications that push your ordinary, quotidian poem into the realm of the romantic? That’s going to be my present this year. Everybody okay here? It’s either that or I buy another Whitman’s Sampler…and you know where that takes us.Continue reading “For Valentines’ Day this Year…”

A Nihilist at the Superbowl

Kickoff Right away there’s a problem: Exactly how do you go about saying anything at all about nihilism? Or learning anything…or simply knowing anything? The Latin root nihil means ‘nothing’, so nihilism is, quite literally, a nothing-ism—a doctrine of…well, what? The dictionary tells us that nihilism is ‘an extreme form of skepticism that denies allContinue reading “A Nihilist at the Superbowl”

The Buzz

Ever wonder what a fly-bottle is? Wittgenstein mentions one rather casually, like it’s obvious. What is your aim in philosophy? He asks. To shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle. But, you know, why would a fly have a bottle? What’s he doing in there in the first place? What, in point ofContinue reading “The Buzz”

The Day of the Dawn

Picture a lone figure out on the cliffs. It’s still dark and he is worried he might misstep—badly—you could fall off the edge out here and no one would know. Below is the sea, but also rocks and a cove that gets washed by the tide. It’s forty, fifty feet down. Fall and you’re dead.Continue reading “The Day of the Dawn”

In Praise of Limestone

A Theory of Poetry Words are not stones and very few of them are carved into marble; they last, when they last, on perishable paper pages and in the fallible minds of men and women. So when you get a chance to write an epitaph, you’d be advised to consider carefully. One of the bestContinue reading “In Praise of Limestone”

Silent Night

  Silence Caged In his book Silence, John Cage tells the story of a curious inspiration for one of his compositions. It seems he went to Harvard to sit in an anechoic chamber, which is a room designed to destroy sound—‘anechoic’ means not having or producing echoes—in the hope of finding genuine silence. Instead heContinue reading “Silent Night”

The Metaphysicals

Shhh… I’m doing some auditioning for The Metaphysicals using One Look. It’s this new dictionary search engine. Should be interesting. Listen in, if you want… Ladies and gentlemen, today’s first contestant is commute, a nice common word, easy to pronounce, a good solid two syllables, seems pretty stable—and One Look finds him in 29 differentContinue reading “The Metaphysicals”