• 24 March 2023 In Defense of the Non-Moral

    Of course we aim at virtue, and of course the pursuit of virtue should take pride of place in everything we do. But the truth is that we should also educate our children in non-moral excellencies that are intrinsically valuable and choiceworthy for their own sake. It is simply a beautiful thing to learn history well whether or not it makes you a better person morally.

  • 17 March 2023 The Mind of a Gentleman

    This essay explores St. John Henry Newman's conception of a gentleman's education; it was originally published in the Classical Teacher.

  • 10 March 2023 The Comforts of Misanthropy

    My pessimism makes me hopeful. Human beings---myself very much among them---cause me so much dismay, with their perpetual stupidity, immorality, incompetence, incivility, and philistinism, that I am inclined to judge the present shambles of our society to be rather good in the grand scheme of things.

  • 3 March 2023 Asceticisms

    The whole ethos of asceticism, with its valorization of difficulty, can obscure the radically different motives for which ascetic practices might be adopted, and in the literature of these religious orders, one sometimes meets with a rhetorical excess, which, if we are not careful, threatens to undermine the philosophical foundations of our most basic thinking about goodness.

  • 24 February 2023 Wrong-Headed Charity

    Christians sometimes think—or talk as though—any glorification of excellence signals a hostility toward everyone who has failed to achieve it, that genuine love for the least of these requires the denigration of excellence. The only issue with this line of thinking is its utter incoherence. The very idea of charity presupposes the goodness of that which is given and the badness of the recipient's condition.

  • 17 February 2023 False Humility

    A man who looks for excellence, it is thought, must surely be both proud and judgmental. In some circles, one gets the impression that the good news of the Gospel is that human beings will always and forever be terrible at everything they do, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief and stop trying. If some trouble-maker comes in and suggests that we can do better at this or that, such exhortation is interpreted as a case of 'human striving.'

  • 10 February 2023 Self-Acceptance

    It is no surprise that a whole self-help industry has sprung up centered around the notion that we have no real inadequacies or failures: You are perfect and beautiful just the way you are. After all, there is a large, highly-motivated, paying audience who desperately wants just this message.

  • 3 February 2023 Inclusivity

    No one likes to be left out of the club, but every club can only exist by making a distinction between those who are members and those who are not. If everyone is part of the club, then there is no club.

  • 27 January 2023 Egalitarianism

    All discussion of excellence rests on a rejection of universal unqualified egalitarianism. Excellence in any field requires a scale of better and worse, and this scale of better and worse rests on the inequality of whatever things are on that scale.

  • 20 January 2023 Individual Relativism

    Individual relativism can often come from both conflict avoidance and antipathy toward authority. We should acknowledge that both of these emotional reactions do give us some insights into the truth, but they do not give us any reason to think that excellence is not objective.

  • 13 January 2023 Cultural Relativism

    Apart from the cheap points we can score by pointing out the internal contradictions of cultural relativism, a much deeper critique can be leveled against the assumption that there is widespread cultural disagreement about core values.

  • 6 January 2023 Luxury Beliefs

    Enemies of Excellence Part 2. Luxury beliefs are those beliefs that one can only afford to hold once sufficient material and cultural wealth guarantees that the implications of those beliefs need never be faced.


  • 30 December 2022 Enemies of Excellence - Intro

    Introduction to the Enemies of Excellence series of posts. What are the mindsets that hold us back from excellence or from valuing a philosophy of excellence? Where do they come from and why do they sometimes have such a visceral force behind them?

  • 16 December 2022 Receptivity to Beauty

    In order for experience to happen, there must be a certain receptivity in the soul. This receptivity requires stillness and silence, watching and waiting. We cannot hear a friend while we are talking. Nor can we hear a friend when we are are silent but only in the manner of those impatiently waiting their chance to speak. We must first undergo a basic conversion of soul.

  • 9 December 2022 Cynicism

    Why the spirit of cynicism haunts the internet and how to exorcise it.

  • 2 December 2022 In Praise of Pretension

    We should not use 'pretentious' as a sneering word. One must, after all, pretend to be something before becoming it. That's how aspiration works.

  • 18 November 2022 Horace Ode I-11

    My translation of Horace's Ode I-11, which is the origin of the famous phrase, carpe diem.

  • 11 November 2022 The Varieties of Excellence

    We can observe the profound inseparability of moral and non-moral excellence. In the sweetest times, I cannot disentangle the aesthetic from the virtuous, the contemplative from the useful, and I would not wish to do so if I could. Doing so would be like disentangling a tapestry or dissecting a living thing.

  • 4 November 2022 Survivor's Guilt

    Many in our contemporary anti-culture are tempted to think that they should not enjoy the wealth of past culture because it comes with dirty hands. The best way to help those left out in the cold when we are enjoying a family dinner, however, is not to cancel the dinner, but to invite them in.

  • 28 October 2022 Generational Wealth

    We are born into a particular time and place and many of our parents bought into the post-war American culture of the 60s and 70s—some more than others. Many of us did not grow up learning to read Latin or play Bach because we went through childhood as the unwitting subjects of a school system more concerned with denigrating and supplanting a tradition than passing one on. This means that we must be modest in what we can hope to cultivate and leave to our own children. But there is substantial hope for progress: stone upon stone, generation upon generation.

  • 21 October 2022 Onion and Crouton Soup

    Like a perfectly crafted onion and crouton soup, culture is a constantly refined tradition. Culture is natural to man because human nature *is to cultivate*, in all the senses of that word's root, the Latin word *colo*: to till the soil, to reap the fruits, to inhabit the same estate generation after generation, to devote oneself to the perfecting of something beautiful, to worship. Man is the cultural animal. We are *Homo Colens*.

  • 14 October 2022 In Defense of Loveliness

    The partisans of lost culture are quick to praise the big ideals: Beauty, Goodness, Nobility, Virtue. Such ideals win wars, and rightly so. But loveliness deserves its own praise.

  • 7 October 2022 I Loved You Because

    Are there any crueler words than "I loved you because"? How ominous that conjunction---how devastating that tense. The first sin of Dorian Gray turned on just these words.

  • 30 September 2022 The Unread Library

    The only thing preventing me from reading every volume in my library is my death. It may come soon, in which case the number of unread volumes will be quite large. It may come many decades from now, in which case the number will be many times larger.

  • 27 September 2022 Dust Jacket 3: Towles

    In Session 3 of the Dust Jacket podcast, Martin Cothran and I discuss Amor Towles' marvelous book *A Gentleman in Moscow*

  • 1 September 2022 Scientism and Ancient Philosophy

    Ancient philosophical approaches have an advantage over modern, reductive approaches, because the ancient approach can absorb whatever insights are true in modern mechanistic explanations, while dogmatic reductionism cannot absorb the spiritual insights of ancient thought.

  • 30 August 2022 Science and Scientism

    Scientism is not science. Scientism is a questionable philosophy that misunderstands the methodological bracketing of science.

  • 24 August 2022 Bayesian Reasoning

    Bayesian reasoning often shows us that the likelihood of something being true given our evidence is lower than we think. In this post, however, I examine what happens when we have multiple lines of converging evidence, which often turns out to raise the probability higher than we might guess.

  • 11 March 2022 Leisure

    I appear on the Classical Etc. podcast to discuss the concept of leisure.

  • 28 February 2022 Dust Jacket 2: Nagel

    In Session 2 of the Dust Jacket podcast, Martin Cothran and I discuss Thomas Nagel's *Mind and Cosmos*.

  • 17 January 2022 Dust Jacket 1: Newman

    In Session 1 of the Dust Jacket podcast, Martin Cothran and I discuss St. John Henry Newman's *Idea of the University*




  • 10 December 2019 Religious Experience and Brain Activity

    Even if we could establish a tight connection between religious experience and activity in a certain region of the brain, this would not prove religious experience to be illusory.

  • 3 December 2019 Guilt by Association

    We should not judge philosophical ideas or practices based on a surface similarity to unchristian systems of thought. Rather we should look out for substantive corruptions to the truth.

  • 16 November 2019 Hildebrand on Sin and Sanctity

    The opposite of the self-righteous man is not the sinner but the saint. The saint can be humble in his righteousness only because he walks in a deep awareness of grace.

  • 9 October 2019 Traditionalism

    Traditionalism is best understood as an orientation toward the timeless truth rather than an attachment to old ideas simply because they are old.

  • 4 September 2019 Two Personalisms

    We must distinguish the "Christian personalist" movement from what some philosophers call "theistic personalism" in contrast to "classical theism."

  • 24 July 2019 What are the Forms?

    Following the last post on the meaning of Platonism, I here flesh out the idea of transcendent Forms as intelligible structures that keep showing up again and again in the world of our experience.

  • 27 June 2019 What I Mean by Platonism

    Platonism has come to mean different things to different scholars. When I call myself a Platonist, I mean that I believe in the Forms, that I believe in real, eternal, immaterial, intelligible structures beyond the world of sense.

  • 20 June 2019 Enjoying God

    Gloomy Christianity develops because people learn to associate enjoyment with sin. The solution is not more games in church, but rather a revelation of God's beauty.

  • 10 June 2019 Conservatism and Ideology

    Ideologies are overly simplistic views of the world, which support themselves through slogans. While slogans may be practically indispensable in a democracy, conservatism is something more.

  • 4 June 2019 Know Thyself

    The Christian notion of self-knowledge is a long way off from New Age self-realization and not quite the same as the pagan Greek original either.

  • 30 May 2019 Eros Comes from Beauty Beheld

    I often encounter Christians who feel guilty because they seem to lack a certain fire or zeal in their pursuit of what they know to be true. I argue they can remedy this by recognizing a link between the psychology of eros and the time they spend imaginatively beholding the beauty of God.

  • 28 May 2019 Apparently Anselm is Convincing

    Teaching Anselm recently, I discovered that many of my students found the ontological argument very convincing. I think this has to do with the way older authors are presented.