Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College. He is author, most recently, of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor).

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A few notes on 1 John 1

From Leithart

1) This is a oddly rambling opening to a letter. It starts with a relative pronoun, and doesn’t get to a finite verb until verse 3. Plus, it leaves a number of things initially unexplained. “That which” – what does this refer to? We don’t know for a while. “From . . . . Continue Reading »

Really Lost

From Leithart

Last year, we got the first season of Lost on DVD and were instantly hooked. These guys sure know how to hold an audience. But for me the hold is weakening as we begin watching the second seson, as it becomes increasingly clear that all these people escaped from a Sidney psyche ward. Flight 815 was . . . . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Coffee

From Leithart

An early modern document celebrates the purifying qualities of coffee: Coffee is good for “fat persons whose thickened humors circulate with difficulty.” And, it reduces impurities and generally clears out the system: “it restores the stomach, consumes its superfluous humidity, . . . . Continue Reading »

Descartes’s exorcism

From Leithart

Madness in what Foucault calls the “classical period” is conceived as a dazzlement - the madman is darkened with excessive light. In this context, “the Cartesian formula of doubt is certainly the great exorcism of madness. Descartes closes his eyes and plugs up his ears the better . . . . Continue Reading »

Divine madness

From Leithart

For the Renaissance, Foucault argues, the line between madness and reason was thin and easily crossed. The madman, in fact, frequently gained insight that the sane did not; think Lear howling on the heath. Over time, madness and truth had been clearly distinguished, and madness ceased to be . . . . Continue Reading »

Exorcizing Zwingli

From Leithart

Dr Jim West is annoyed at me (http://drjimwest.wordpress.com/2006/09/19/confession-time-im-annoyed), though he doesn’t name me. He is responding to an article I wrote attacking what I called “Zwinglian poetics,” where I suggested that Protestants must “exorcise the ghost of . . . . Continue Reading »

Enlightenment and Dehellenization

From Leithart

In Dialectic of Enlightenment , Horkheimer and Adorno characterize the Enlightenment assault on metaphysics as an assault on the remnants of old superstition. Among the Greeks, “by means of the Platonic ideas, even the patriarchal gods of Olympus were absorbed in the philosophical logos . The . . . . Continue Reading »

Hobbes and the Priests

From Leithart

In their study of Hobbes and Boyle, Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer show that Hobbes’s opposition to Boyle’s air pump was as political as scientific. Hobbes complained about the Catholic system because it introduced a double loyalty to church and state, and he was particularly vicious . . . . Continue Reading »

Beautiful Proof

From Leithart

Does beauty compel assent? It certainly seems to. Ought it? That’s trickier. If an explanation encompasses the data simply and elegantly and beautifully, does that make it a good explanation? Does that make it true? Are the “transcendentals” truly interchangeable? If the . . . . Continue Reading »

Double Narrative

From Leithart

Can we say that Hosea had Jesus in mind when he wrote “out of Egypt I call My Son”? Does it matter whether he did or not? If not, does this mean we can do anything we like to texts, find in them whatever we care to bring? Historian David Steinmetz (in Ellen Davis and Richard Hays, ed., . . . . Continue Reading »