Our Actions Direct The Waters Of Fortune

There are many men who lack a certain sense of awe and grandeur at the inscrutable workings of Nature.  They are apt to favor crank theories instead of considered judgments; and they recline in  negativity and pessimism when the time comes for them to perform in the face of adversity.   They lack faith in the ability of the human soul to accomplish truly great things, because they themselves have no awareness of the capacities of that divine soul. 

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Acknowledging The Debts To Our Predecessors

In his treatise On the Nature of the Gods, Cicero points out a shameful personal weakness of the philosopher Epicurus.  What was this character flaw?  It was Epicurus’s congenital inability to admit that he had ever been influenced by the thinkers that preceded him.  Cicero states:

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What Was It That Allowed Odysseus To Return Home?

Oliver Stone’s memoir Chasing the Light, which I began reading two weeks ago, relates an interesting anecdote.  After returning from military service in Vietnam, the future director enrolled in film school at New York University; one of the classes he attended, taught by a professor named Tim Leahy, dealt with classical drama. 

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Obstacles And Pitfalls For The Youthful Student Of Philosophy

I was recently asked in correspondence to provide some thoughts on the pitfalls and obstacles to the study of philosophy.  I have to admit that it was something of a relief to get this request, as it offers me a pretext to describe my own ideas on this subject.  All of us seek a greater level of understanding of things; but perhaps few of us give much thought to avoiding the obstacles to understanding.  A horse and its equestrian rider, however, cannot clear a hurdle until they have had experience in judging its height and length.  Here, then, are some of the most commonly encountered pitfalls of the student of philosophy. 

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All Opportunity For The Good, Yet None For The Unworthy

Philo of Alexandria wrote a relatively obscure essay entitled On the Prayers And Curses Uttered by Noah When He Became Sober.  His translator has fortunately shortened this unwieldy title to the compact De Sobrietate, or On Sobriety.  It contains the following passage of importance:

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The Almond, The Virtues, And Liberty Of Conscience

The philosopher Philo of Alexandria relates the following anecdote in his short treatise On the Life of Moses (II.23.178).  The prophet Moses, we are told, had appointed his brother to the office of high priest.  His decision had been based on his brother’s merits, but there was inevitably some grumbling by people who believed that the appointment was the result of familial favoritism. 

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Tusculan Disputations: What It Is About, And Why It Is Important (Podcast)

In this podcast I discuss my new translation of Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations. The work deals with five critical problems that face all of us: the fear of death, how to endure pain, how to alleviate mental distress, the various disorders of the mind, and why virtue is important for living a happy life. (A review of the book can be found in the October 2021 issue of The New Criterion). What questions could be more essential and fundamental than these?

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Coping With The Loss Of A Child (Podcast)

In this podcast, we discuss a serious subject. A reader explains that his family has just lost a young child, and he is searching for advice on how to deal with this calamity. I offer some suggestions drawn from Plutarch’s letter of consolation to his wife on the death of his two-year-old daughter Timoxena. We also discuss anecdotes from other sources (e.g., Cicero’s views on grief, the life of P.T. Barnum, etc.), and my own personal experiences. Fiat voluntas tua.

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