When I first read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics maybe thirty years ago, I was both puzzled and disappointed by his discussion of the moral virtues in Book IV–generosity, magnificence, friendliness, wit, and so on. It seemed a waste of space. A whole book on this? What were such banalities doing in a classic work of moral philosophy?
Aristotle’s (very brief) discussion of the place of humor in social life seemed a case in point. On Aristotle’s account, wit turned out to be a moral virtue, buffoonery and humorlessness, vices.
Those who go to excess in raising laughs seem to be vulgar buffoons. They stop at nothing to raise a laugh, and care more about that than about saying what is seemly and avoiding pain to the victims of the joke. …
Those who joke in appropriate ways are called witty, or in other words, agile-witted. For these sorts of jokes seem to be movements of someone’s character, and characters are judged, as bodies are, by their movements (NE IV.8, 1128a5-12).
Really? That’s what morality requires? Telling the right jokes at the right time, in the right way, for the right reasons, etc. etc.? Continue reading →
Today is Thanksgiving, a day on which it’s appropriate to give public thanks for the gifts we’ve received from life itself. Until recently, I had great disdain for Thanksgiving–just last year, I wrote a bitchy attack on it–mostly because until recently, bitterness and resentment were my favorite go-to emotions.
Paradoxically, I had to lose a lot in the past few months to appreciate what I have, and to grasp the true meaning of gratitude: a job, a marriage, a house, a car, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of labor, and a large handful of illusions, for starters. I sold the house, but stand to make very little from it, so I count it as a loss. I sold the car for a ridiculously lowball figure, so I regard that as a loss. I’m in litigation, make a nominal wage at a dirty job doing hard physical labor, and lack permanent housing or the means to pay for it. I have temporary housing, but it lacks running water. So there are challenges. And yet, life has never been better. Last year, I had everything I now lack, and made sure to get up bright and early “to take a crap on Thanksgiving.” Now I’m writing a paean to gratitude. What a difference a year makes. Continue reading →
UPDATE: I modified this slightly, because I realized that I don’t know what Krugman thinks about trade all-things-considered.
No, I don’t mean the claim about Krugman. I mean the hyper-conscientiousness Brennan now shows about alerting his readers to the substantive changes he makes in his posts for 200-Proof Liberals. Remember when, at BHL, he self-righteously asserted the prerogative to write and re-write and re-write and re-write his posts without notice so as to evade criticisms? I do, and so does everyone who read the site. Now, without further ado, he’s forgotten all his “arguments” on that issue, and changed course by 180 degrees. Conscientious Brennan now makes sure to tell us when he’s made substantive changes. Continue reading →
I got word the other day of the passing of a high school history teacher of mine, Frederick G. H. Fayen II. I can’t improve on the first paragraph of the memorial notice from Matt Levinson,* the current head of my old high school:
I am sorry to share the news that former Magistri faculty member Fred Fayen passed away on November 11. For 45 years, from 1963-2008, Mr. Fayen served as a history teacher, college counselor, and coach, known for his standards of excellence, quiet dignity, calm demeanor, and unceasing eagerness to learn from those around him. I have reached out to his family to express our deepest sympathies and support.
This is one of those cases where I regret not having said to Mr Fayen in life what I’m about to say on his passing. And despite my own relatively advanced age, I’m afraid I’ll have to refer to him here as “Mr. Fayen.” Calling him “Fred” somehow seems out of the question. Continue reading →
He was, to my mind, one of the Times’s best columnists, a consistent and eloquent defender of commonsense realism married to liberal values. He drew intelligently and without grandstanding on an enormous reservoir of hard experiences, and there was something fresh and authentic about his prose, a relief from the tedious nostrums, whether left or right, that one so often encounters on the Op-Ed page.
The highest compliment I can pay him is the sense of writerly jealousy I often felt on reading him. He’ll be hard to replace. He’s a hard act to follow.
I occasionally get migraines, but before today had never gotten one at work. And I got the works, so to speak: the icepick-behind-the-eye headache, the photophobia, the nausea. Migraines always arise, at least in my case, unpredictably, seemingly without rhyme or reason. They just haven’t ever done so when I’ve still got seven hours left on the clock, 20+ surgical cases ahead of me, and a team of three of us, EVS workers, having to prepare four operating rooms ASAP for incoming cases. So today was a milestone that felt a bit like a gravestone: the first time, at work, that I felt as though I’d go blind, throw up, and collapse in a heap, but couldn’t. Continue reading →
It’s been awhile since I’ve “stalked” (i.e., criticized) Jason Brennan, but the opportunities are always there. Here, Jason is riding his well-worn epistemic-political hobby horse: no one knows anything, but luckily, Jason Brennan is alone to know that knows one knows anything.
No one could have predicted that Bush II would have to deal with 9/11? Phrase it less tendentiously: could anyone have predicted that Bush II would deal with a major terrorist attack initiated by Al Qaeda? Continue reading →
Some readers may remember that back in May, I resigned my position as Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University in protest at malfeasance I encountered at the university, malfeasance that upper-level university administration wanted covered up. These same administrators apparently expected me to help them cover it up, but I wouldn’t and didn’t; after a ten-day standoff with these assholes, it became clear that they wanted me off of payroll and out of the way. As an at-will employee at a non-tenure-granting institution (five years on the AAUP’s censure list), I had no viable institutional options for dealing with corruption that willful and entrenched, so I quit before they fired me. I’m glad I did. As I’ve been saying for years, Felician is a sinking ship. It’s only a matter of time before it goes under. Continue reading →
Back the Blue! Don’t let the Left disrespect cops or flout the laws!
Trump supporters for Sedition:
Message to law enforcement: execute a duly authorized search warrant on my property while enforcing the gun control laws, and I promise to flout the warrant and shoot you dead!
The first two photos were taken in the parking lot of Whitehouse Mall, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey. The sign on the truck reads, “Law Enforcement for Trump.” The last three were taken a few miles north on County Road 523, in the Dreahook section of Readington, New Jersey. In other words, when push comes to shove, the Trump supporter on Route 523 is promising to kill the Trump supporter driving the truck. File under: “The Contested Legacies of Waco.”