Poet or poem revisited

A reader, Dan Glover, sent the following response to my hints about the Christian as “poem.” “Christ, the eternal Word, indwells his people and his people corporate. He is the Word which controls us with his words (‘go, make disciples . . . baptizing them in the name of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Social Construction

Walter Truett Anderson suggests that postmodernism takes is rise from the recognition of the social construction of reality. This means: The institutions, practices, and habits that make up the contents of social life are made by human beings; and even natural reality is known and experienced . . . . Continue Reading »


In his Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things , George Lakoff tells about the Australian aboriginal tribe of the Dyirbal, who speak a language that classifies everything into four categories. One of these, “balan,” includes “women, bandicoots, dogs, platypuses, echidnas, some fish, . . . . Continue Reading »

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 »