On Merriment

On Saturday, 26 May 1759, Samuel Johnson wrote an untitled essay in The Idler. It begins: “Pleasure is very seldom found where it is sought.” This reminded me of hearing a joke for the second time, one told by someone else, but one you knew by heart. It is true that...

Virtue, Family, and Community

The Republic of Virtue by Paul Lake. University of Evansville Press, 2013. Hardcover, 80 pages, $15. The title poem of Paul Lake’s The Republic of Virtue begins like Genesis. “In Year One,” he writes, “the month of Vintage, time began.” Instead of the Spirit of God...

Recovering the Esoteric Reader

Philosophy Between the Lines: The Lost History of Esoteric Writing by Arthur M. Melzer. University of Chicago Press, 2014. Hardcover, 464 pages, $45. It sounded like jabberwocky to some, but then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s distinction between “known...

America’s First Public Intellectual

Selected Writings of Thomas Paine Edited by Ian Shapiro and Jane E. Calvert. Yale University Press, 2014. Paperback, 676 pages, $18. In his lively introduction to this new edition of Paine’s legendary writings, Yale political scientist Ian Shapiro calls Thomas Paine...

Dinner with Aristotle

The Virtues of the Table: How to Eat and Think, by Julian Baggini. Granta Books, 2014. Paper, 280 pages, $14. There are few areas of life as difficult to navigate or moderate as eating. It’s necessary for existence—one of the most primal acts in which we partake. And...

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