Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The Desire of the Nations

From Web Exclusives

Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) has been prized down the centuries chiefly as a whimsical, slightly grotesque, and occasionally ribald burlesque, but it is also perhaps the single most illuminating text we possess in regard to the spiritual disquietudes and aspirations of the late antique world. In fact, when one reaches its final chapters, one discovers that below the ludicrous surface of the tale lies a strangely moving religious allegory … Continue Reading »

Farewell to a Mountain

From Web Exclusives

For two years, we have lived in a forest on the convergent lower slopes of two mountain ranges, and above a shallow wooded ravine that descends to a narrow streambed on our side and rises up on the opposite side towards the high ridge that looms above our treetops to the west. During our time here, that mountain has been a commanding and magnificent presence for us … Continue Reading »

A Person You Flee At Parties

From Web Exclusives

Forgive me for simply laying out a sequence of random thoughts (on a single theme) that occurred to me a few hours ago, as I was swimming around in my morning cistern of coffee; but it seems to be all I’m fit for just at the moment. I remembered this morning that, a few weeks ago, I happened to mention here that I thought Max Beerbohm’s “Enoch Soames,” from his collection Seven Men, to be maybe the most amusing short story in English. Continue Reading »

The Trouble with Ayn Rand

From the May 2011 Print Edition

It is one of the most indelibly memorable scenes, and certainly the best twist ending, to have come out of the cinema of the 1960s: Charlton Heston riding his horse along the beach, Linda Harrison mounted behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, both quite fetching in their late . . . . Continue Reading »

The Power of the Sword

From Web Exclusives

This was not the topic I wanted to write about today”Fridays should be days when nothing of importance is ever said”but sometimes one gets unexpectedly diverted. Just the day before yesterday, Joe Carter produced a column taking the bishops of Arizona to task for their recent denunciation of capital punishment as incompatible with the gospel, and arguing further not only that capital punishment is permissible from a Christian perspective, but that it is positively required by scripture… . Continue Reading »

Polite Discourtesy

From Web Exclusives

Two weeks ago, I wrote a column, “A Modest Proposal,” lamenting the Supreme Court’s Westboro Baptist Church decision, and making what seemed to me the obvious observation that it is a philosophical and historical confusion to imagine that the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech ever needed to be interpreted in so barbarically libertarian a fashion. Not that everyone would see it as obvious… . Continue Reading »

A Modest Proposal

From Web Exclusives

To me, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of the Westboro Baptist Church barbarians was merely an illustration of a number of obvious facts about modern culture, and further evidence that between a regime of abstract liberties and a culture of real freedoms there is not only a distinction, but often an inevitable antagonism… . Continue Reading »

Whooshing Through Life

From the March 2011 Print Edition

All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by hubert dreyfus and sean dorrance kelly free press, 272 pages, $26 It may seem like a trivial question, but I cannot help wondering whether the title of this book has been lifted from the closing lines of Terrence . . . . Continue Reading »

Golf and the Metaphysics of Morals

From Web Exclusives

So now that the NFL season has passed, leaving its customary trail of carnage behind, civilized followers of sport can turn their attention to the opening of spring training camps and the approach of that most glorious of the great terrestrial cycles, the baseball season. It was a satisfying Super Bowl for me, inasmuch as the Steelers lost … Continue Reading »