Less Than Zero
May 28, 2001
Idiocy has a time-honored link to illumination. “The prophet is a fool,” warned Hosea, “the spiritual man is mad.” The uninhibited man (I mean the really uninhibited man), the man who is not governed by norms and manners, the ridiculous man, the tasteless man, the obscene man, the man who does not think reasonably and realistically, the man who never stops laughing: The figure has taken many forms, and one of them is the meshuggene. Civilization makes craziness look like a variety of courage, of intellectual elevation.
Carvin' the Bird
January 22, 2001
Leon Wieseltier: Ken Burns massacres the history of jazz.
All and Nothing at All
March 06, 1995
I. Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America Routledge, 319 pp. $19, $16.95 paper Race Matters Beacon Press, 105 pp. $15 Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism. Volume One: Prophetic Thought in Postmodern Times Common Cause Press, 205 pp. $14.95 paper Beyond Eurocentrism and Multiculturalism. Volume Two: Prophetic Reflections: Notes on Race and Power in America Common Cause Press, 244 pp. $14.95 paper Prophetic Fragments William Eerdmans Publishing Co., 294 pp. $14.99 paper The American Evasion of Philosophy:A Genealogy of Pragmatism University of Wisconsin Press, 279 pp. $16.95 pap
November 27, 1994
Every culture has its preferred description of the human distinction. These descriptions are analytical and homiletical. We call ourselves not only what we are, but also what we seek to be. This is stirring, but it is also corrupting. It allows us to see the one in the other, to mistake what we aspire to be for what we are. A good rule of thumb is: we are never already what we should be. In our culture, the preferred descriptions have included: the soul, the nous (and other appellations for the mind), the self, the ego, the person. In our time, the preferred description is: identity. In Americ
March 21, 1994
Clean Hands. In the course of many centuries, there were many crimes that Jews did not commit, but this was not least because they lacked the power to commit them. I remember the day that I discovered the obscure figure of Yusuf Asar. He appeared in a remarkable volume of Syriac Christian hagiographies, called Holy Women of the Syrian Orient. Yusuf Asar lived in the South Arabian kingdom of Himyar in the early sixth century. He was a Jew (or, according to the editors of the volume, "a Jewish upstart").
The True Fire
May 17, 1993
We Know the authentic effects of the true fire through every one of its million disguises.—Emerson
The Demons of the Jews
November 11, 1985
The rise of Meir Kahane is a boon to Jew haters and Arab haters alike.
Nuclear Idealism, Nuclear Realism
March 11, 1985
This week in Prague, Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new version of the START treaty, renewing their commitment to nuclear arms reduction. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also unveiled newly built nuclear centrifuges. And, in a well-timed TNR cover story, Peter Scoblic posed the incisive, probing question: What good is the time-tested doctrine of deterrence in an era where rogue states and terrorists have ready access to nuclear material?
Pariahs and Politics
October 14, 1981
That was just Lamentations, it was not History...—Derek Walcott The idea of the responsible victim was conceived by Hannah Arendt to restore the honor of the Jews. Victimization is a disgrace; but there is no disgrace in action, or in taking the consequences. Arendt's view of Jewish complicity in the anti-Semitic crime ironically resembles the vulgar Zionist view which exaggerates the Jewish resistance to it. Both recoiled from the grim chronicle of helplessness that is more or less the political history of the Jews ("the extraordinary spectacle of a people...
October 07, 1981
Ideas, in the last century, were the masters of facts, but in this century the facts have returned to haunt them. The duty of free minds once was to discover vast new conceptions of humanity which would free more minds and smash the tyrannies; but the tyrannies generally were not smashed, they were replaced, and the vast new conceptions only reshackled the minds they were meant to free. The duty of free minds now is to discover these facts.