Four Women, Two Books, and Eternal Questions

Two books published in 2022, Metaphysical Animals: How Four Women Brought Philosophy Back to Life, by Clare Mac Cumhaill and Rachel Wiseman, and The Women Are Up to Something: How Elizabeth Anscombe, Phillipa Foot, Mary Midgley, and Iris Murdoch Revolutionized Ethics, by Benjamin Lipscomb, finally give these brilliant minds their due by chronicling their friendships, conversations, disagreements, achievements, and personal affairs.

Alone in the World?

Preparatory to discussing Cormac McCarthy’s new fiction, a duology comprising The Passenger and Stella Maris, with Greg Wolfe via Zoom on January 25th, I’d like to offer a few ways into the books. The surname of the main characters, siblings Alicia and Bobby, is Western. Novelists do not name characters carelessly. Bobby and Alicia are the children, born in the late 1940s and early 1950s respectively, of a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project which built the first atomic bombs.

The Line

A student showed me an article about a new development project in the Saudi Arabian desert. It is called The Line. The Line is the brainchild of Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, who created something called NEOM, which I suppose is some sort of company, or brand. Does it even matter? Many rich and powerful people got together, is the point. They, in turn, assembled a group of experts, as such things happen.

Body, Spirit, Soul

For Plato, the fleeting, sensible things of this world (Doxa in Greek, from dokein, “to appear” or “to seem”) are no more than poor copies of their permanent, ideal forms (eidos in Greek) above, a sharp distinction called “Platonic dualism.” Saint Paul, however, gets a bad rap as a radical dualist, having for so long been viewed through a distorting Platonic—and later, a Cartesian—lens.

The Worst Person in the World

Well, Rick B. from the United States, it seems that you did not like the Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s newest film The Worst Person in The World very much. Your Amazon review is quite short, and pretty rough. You gave it one star. The title of your review is “tedious, annoying people talking too much.” And then you followed that up with two words and an exclamation mark: “It sucks!” I did like the film and so I found your annoyance annoying.

Climbing the Beauty Tree

Several years ago, stretching a lunch break from my office in a courthouse downtown, I happened upon the full text of Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel lecture in a favorite used-book shop down the street. A beat-up little booklet, Russian and English on facing pages, our burly author on the front, staring into the camera with what I’m willing to suppose is inimitable frankness.

The Dunce

It is startling and more than a little amusing to finally realize, or to have pointed out to you, as happened to me, that the word ‘dunce’, a not exactly au courant but certainly still, I think, recognizable word that basically means stupid, one who wears the dunce cap, that this word is, actually, a shortened form of saying that a person is like Duns Scotus, the medieval scholastic philosopher.

Stumbling toward Truth

Morgan Meis, one of Close Reading’s bloggers, has written a book that forces me to ask, as few books have done in a long while, not only who I am but how I am to be. A book that puts me on the spot about what it means that I’m a mortal being, destined for death.

Gene Wolfe: Epic Fantasy and Faithful Reading

I am describing Gene Wolfe’s magnum opus, the epic ‘science-fantasy’ known altogether as the Solar Cycle, for the series which comprise it are called The Book of the New Sun (with its sequel The Urth of the New Sun), The Book of the Long Sun, and The Book of the Short Sun. Of these, I have read only the first four novels (the top two volumes of my pile), the Book of the New Sun.