Approaching Excellence

Aristotle is famous for his so-called doctrine of the mean: a particular excellence of character is not the opposite of a single fault (e.g., courage vs. cowardice) but is intermediate between excess and defect (e.g., courage is opposed to both rashness and cowardice). Although some scholars never go deeper than this surface understanding, as IContinue reading “Approaching Excellence”

The Inner Revolution

One of the key themes of Tolstoy’s War and Peace (which I’m currently reading for the first time) is self-deception. The reader quickly perceives that Nikolai Rostov, Andrei Bolkonsky, and many other characters are fooling themselves about their own worth, thoughts, and actions. There is a connection here to a famous quote from Tolstoy: Everyone thinks ofContinue reading “The Inner Revolution”

Effective Altruism and Ineffective Egoism

The collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto empire at FTX and Alameda Research has cast a shadow over the “effective altruism” movement, of which he was a major financer. Ironically, I would argue that in the end he failed at altruism because he was an ineffective egoist! Consider the utter mess he’s made of his life:Continue reading “Effective Altruism and Ineffective Egoism”

The Mathematics of Freedom

While reading about the recent protests in China against the government’s Zero Covid policy (and, more generally, the totalitarian surveillance state established by the Chinese Communist Party), I was reminded of a fascinating quote from logician Kurt Gödel extending the results of his Incompleteness Theorem to matters of society and governance: A completely unfree societyContinue reading “The Mathematics of Freedom”

Can a Nietzschean Be a Feminist?

In one of my earliest blog posts (written in 1996!), I explained why I’m a female chauvinist. This attitude can be hard to square with my mostly positive perspective on Friedrich Nietzsche, which I explored in my book Songs of Zarathustra. After all, Nietzsche is notorious for spewing vitriol and venom regarding the role of womenContinue reading “Can a Nietzschean Be a Feminist?”

What Is the Job of a News Story?

Over the last few months I’ve blatantly but deliberately gone off my low-information diet – not because I suddenly feel a need to be highly informed, but because I’m advising Otherweb, a startup that aims to fix the world’s information ecosystem by presenting only those news stories that are provably lacking in sensationalistic language, partisanContinue reading “What Is the Job of a News Story?”

Political Moderation

Here in America we’ve survived another national election (yet again the most momentous in our history!), so following up on my post last week about moderation it seems timely to offer a few reflections on political and ideological moderation. Having been a dogmatic libertarian earlier in my life, I well understand the allure of politicalContinue reading “Political Moderation”

How Wise Was Socrates?

Did you know that Socrates’ 2500th birthday will occur in 2032? Lately I’ve been pondering the possibility of writing by then an intellectual biography of Socrates. One of the hard questions about Socrates is why he was so devoted to Alcibiades, the ultra-rich and incredibly handsome bad boy of 5th-century Athens. Friedrich Hölderlin composed theContinue reading “How Wise Was Socrates?”