Few Master of Arts theses enter the history of ideas. Indeed, seldom is it that anyone but the examiners read them. Designed to consolidate undergraduate learning, few such writings have intrinsic worth. That a publisher of authors like Pierre Manent, Roger Scruton, and René Girard should print a Master of Arts thesis is a rarity. Then again, the strangeness evaporates on learning that the student work is that of Albert Camus. But not entirely, for the title of this 1936 thesis is Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism.
“But it is certain that the political philosophy of modernity will not be able to emerge out of its contradictions except by becoming aware of its theological roots.”
This sentence concludes Giorgio Agamben’s new book, Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm. Agamben seems to have his finger on the pulse of history with the Paris killings raising the specter of a theologically inspired civil war.
When Pope Francis’ encyclical letter on the environment and economy, “Our Common Home,” was released in May, the response was a veritable media frenzy. That papal text warrants lots of sustained attention, to be sure. By contrast, no fanfare accompanied Eerdmans’ 2014 publication of the first English translation of Analogia Entis. It is, however, a seminal event in Catholic ideas—an astonishing work of philosophy and theology. Published in 1932, and 1962 in expanded form, this massive 600-page book was written by a German-Polish Jesuit, Erich Przywara (1889-1972). It has been quietly shaping Catholic thought for years. The great intellectual popes, Saint John…
In 1944, the Hungarian moral and political philosopher Aurel Kolnai (1900-1973) wrote an essay that is indispensable reading for anyone wishing to understand today’s culture. Whether you are pondering the Left/Right split in our politics, the riddle that is Pope Francis, or the peculiar character of Western civilization and its ability to forestall its latest enemies, Kolnai’s “The Humanitarian Versus the Religious Attitude” will help.
Teaching philosophy isn’t usually thought to go with an interest in fashion. For one thing, philosophers are hardly legendary for their sartorial flair. For another, someone might question why the philosopher would consider fashion an important subject to think or write about. Fashion and the ethics of the fashion industry do preoccupy me, though. I have my reasons, not least of which is the thought of the German phenomenologist, Max Scheler (1874-1928). Scheler speaks of the “natural outlook,” by which phrase he tries to capture the idea that some phenomena are so close to us, so everyday, that we lose sight…
Is it possible to have civilization without killing?
J.R.R. Tolkien and George Martin approach this question in very distinct ways but they seem to agree the answer is “no.” Both believe that civilization needs the office of the knight: Because some seek power maliciously, others must unite ferocity and gallantry. “Fantasy” may be their genre, but there is a certain realism that runs through the civilizational stories these two authors have produced.