May 25, 2018 | Deontologists, consequentialists, virtue ethicists. Philosophers are hopelessly divided on how to reach the truth about morality ... more »


May 24, 2018 | The private writing of Roland Barthes reveals his crushes, his musical and literary preferences, and his desired thesis adviser — Claude Lévi-Strauss, who turned him down... more »


May 23, 2018 | Bleakness was his birthright. Despite the ministrations of academics, Joseph Conrad endures as a modern master of a tragic sense of life... more »


May 22, 2018 | For decades Thomas Kuhn struggled to square the thought of an independent reality with the thesis of a changing world. He died feeling like a failure... more »


May 21, 2018 | Do the sex lives of Surrealists tell us anything about their paintings? Not much. But it does make for wonderfully bizarre — if somewhat frivolous — reading... more »


May 19, 2018 | Espionage has inspired literature since Stendhal. The CIA even produces a partly classified journal devoted to the spy novel: Studies in Intelligence... more »


May 18, 2018 | Life is a cacophony — cellphones, TVs, traffic. But there is probably no more noise than there used to be. What's changed is the amount of distraction... more »


May 17, 2018 | Lucian Freud ignored the rise of abstraction; David Hockney unfashionably persisted in depicting love and happiness. Britain’s postwar painters had a talent for taboo-breaking... more »


May 16, 2018 | An aesthete traipsing nimbly through an age of brutal rupture. Alain Locke, the first black Rhodes Scholar, advanced cultural pluralism even as the odds were against him... more »


May 15, 2018 | Three ways in which democracies die: Coups, catastrophes, and technological takeovers. None of those are inevitable, but none have solutions.... more »


May 14, 2018 | Aristotle in America. His understanding of the middle class was a truth upon which the country's founders depended when legislating their own republic... more »


May 12, 2018 | Quantum theory is real and successful. It's also weird. Even those who understand it best, like Richard Feynman, aren't sure they understand what it means... more »


May 11, 2018 | The gags of a “gonzo” journalist. Hunter S. Thompson lit dynamite under beer kegs, sprayed unsuspecting people with Mace, blasted his assistant with a shotgun... more »


May 10, 2018 | While the quality of French intellectual life has plummeted, its reputation remains. What makes Left Bank scribblers so compelling?... more »


May 9, 2018 | Hans Asperger did pioneering work on the syndrome that now bears his name. He was also, it turns out, complicit in the Nazi killing machine... more »


May 8, 2018 | What gave rise to the selfie? Don't blame Steve Jobs. Blame basic human jealousy. “Beggar is jealous of beggar and poet of poet,” wrote Hesiod... more »


May 7, 2018 | Consciousness is an instinct, says Michael Gazzaniga. But this is less a solution to the “hard problem” than a window through which to see it... more »


May 5, 2018 | At the Solovetsky Special Prison Camp — the “mother of the gulag,” per Solzhenitsyn — an intellectual and literary culture blossomed... more »


May 4, 2018 | For 80 days in 1964, Nabokov recorded his dreams on index cards. Does a great writer have more-interesting dreams than the rest of us?... more »


May 3, 2018 | A tour through the maddeningly tedious canon of books by dictators leads one to ask: Does a savage autocrat lurk within every dreadful writer?... more »


May 2, 2018 | Surrealist sex. Eileen Agar, according to her husband, was always trying to do the impossible, "such as making love standing up in a hammock"... more »


May 1, 2018 | Sylvia Plath's correspondence fills 1,424 pages. And that's just Volume 1. To read it is a slog, and a revelation. "I am more myself in letters"... more »


April 30, 2018 | How did Gershom Scholem, an expert on obscure Jewish texts, become not just a historian or even theologian, but a prophet?... more »


April 28, 2018 | Math in Renaissance Europe effectively split science from religion. That's the argument of a new book. But such a sweeping generalization is prone to error... more »


April 27, 2018 | What makes a Jewish joke Jewish? The punchline is freighted with grief and irony, meant to elicit a weary nod rather than outright laughter... more »


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