Descartes’s myth

In the delightful opening chapter to his Concept of Mind (1949), Gilbert Ryle explains that Descartes’s mind-body dualism (“ghost in the machine,” as Ryle famously put it) was a response to the mechanization of the world: “Descartes found in himself two conflicting motives. . . . . Continue Reading »

Hegel on Descartes

In his book on Hegel, Charles Taylor summarizes the crique Hegel brings against Descartes. For Hegel, Descartes aims to unite thought and external reality, but the manner he uses to do that ends up losing both. The cogito is an “assertion of an immediate identity between thought and . . . . Continue Reading »

Relational identity and resurrection

According to the account of Raymond Martin and John Barresi in their recent book on the rise and fall of the soul and self, several of the church fathers answered the dilemma raised by personal continuity through death and resurrection by proposing a relational view of identity: “What that . . . . Continue Reading »


Ethnic identity politics, Eric Hobsbawm argues, arises as an effort to established impermeable boundaries in a situation where boundaries are permeable: “The very fluidity of ethnicity in urban societies made its choice as the only criterion of the group arbitrary and artificial. In the USA, . . . . Continue Reading »

Universal exile

Ancient politics had to do with governing a people set in a particular location; so did the modern politics of the nation-state. With the large-scale population movements of the last half-century, the ethnic homogeneity of the nation-state (never entirely homogenous to begin with) has dissolved . . . . Continue Reading »

World Citizens

Political scientist David Jacobson notes the connection between immigration and shifts in understandings of rights: “Transnational migration is steadily eroding the traditional basis of nation-state membership, namely citizenship. As rights have come to be predicated on residency, not citizen . . . . Continue Reading »


The reviewer of Ernest Sterberg’s 1999 Economy of Icons in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology summarizes some main points from this latter-day Thorstein Veblen: “The thesis of this controversial book is that ‘enterprises make their way in the capitalist economy by . . . . Continue Reading »

Artificial selves

Discussions of the postmodern self often trace a genealogy from Descartes to Locke to Kant to Nietzsche to Heidegger to Foucault. But though philosophers no doubt have some influence on the daily experiences of normal humans, this sort of treatment doesn’t quite get to the ground level. In . . . . Continue Reading »

End of history

Evidence that Fukuyama may have had it right: Walter Truett Anderson writes that “the International Commission on Peace and Food (in its 1994 report) pointed to the urgent need to create employment for hundreds of millions of poor people, and at the same time dismissed the notion that most of . . . . Continue Reading »

We’re All Communitarians now

Psychologist Brewster Smith decries the solvents of postmodern life - cynicism, shallowness, sensationalism, warfare between fundamentalisms and relativisms, uncertainty about all standards, the “fin de siecle sense of drift and doom” (even after the fin). What’s his solution? . . . . Continue Reading »