How artists work: Leonardo anecdote

self-portrait-leonardo“A contemporary who saw Leonardo working on the Last Supper describes how he stayed on the scaffolding from dawn to dusk without putting down his brush, forgetting to eat and drink, painting all the time. Then for two, three, or four days he would not touch his work and yet be staying there, sometimes an hour, sometimes two hours a day wrapped in contemplation. Similarly, Pontormo would set out to work and go away in the evening ‘without having done anything all day but standing lost in thought,’ as Vasari informs us.”

Source: Rudolf Wittkower, “Individualism in Art.” Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (1961), p. 293.

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Chart images for “13 arguments for liberal capitalism in 13 minutes”

To accompany my short video-lecture clip “13 Arguments for Liberal Capitalism in 13 Minutes,” here are two versions of the embedded flowchart of the arguments. Click to enlarge.



(Thanks to Christopher Vaughan for his graphics work.)

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Timbro to publish Swedish translation of Explaining Postmodernism

I’m happy to announce that my Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault pomo-cover-swedish-fronthas been translated into Swedish and will published as Postmodernismens Förklaring: Skepticism och socialism från Rousseau till Foucault by Timbro and Stiftelsen Fritt Näringsliv in Stockholm.

Much thanks to Anders Johansson, who did the translation, and to Adam Cwejman, who initiated and oversaw the project.

When the book is released in April, I’ll post about its availability.

Information about other editions and translations is at the Explaining Postmodernism page.

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Was Kant an Enlightenment liberal?

kant-silhouetteA discussion question, after a series of linked-to posts on Immanuel Kant:

On women — e.g., “woman betrays her secrets even though she is unable to keep those of others (owing to her love of gossip). Man is fond of domestic peace and submits easily to its governance so as to be unmolested in his business. Woman has no dislike for domestic war for which she is armed with her tongue …”

On Jews — e.g., the Jews are “sharp dealers” who are “bound together by superstition.” Their “immoral and vile” behavior in commerce shows that they “do not aspire to civic virtue,” for “the spirit of usury holds sway amongst them.” They are “a nation of swindlers” who benefit only “from deceiving their host’s culture.”

On war (and more fully here) — e.g., “At the stage of culture at which the human race still stands, war is an indispensable means for bringing it to a still higher stage.”

On race — e.g., “The mingling of stocks (due to great conquests), little by little erodes the character and it is not good for the human race.”

On education (and here) — e.g., “Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child, especially of a school boy or girl.”

On reason (and more fully here [pdf]; HTML excerpt here) — e.g., “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith.”kant-portrait

The question is:

Should Kant really be categorized as an Enlightenment liberal, as many standard historical accounts do?


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Feminism: liberal versus postmodern

In my Free Speech & Censorship course this week, we are reading Catharine MacKinnon’s Only Words (Harvard, 1993), an influential postmodern feminist case for the censorship of pornography. We have already read Plato’s pre-modern case for censorship from Book 10 of Republic and John Stuart Mill‘s modern case for free speech in Chapter 2 of On Liberty. The contrasts between the three are strong.

Here’s a chart from the class, contrasting the liberal and postmodern positions on several sub-issues.


For a full treatment, my “Free Speech and Postmodernism” essay, adapted from the second of two lectures given in 2002. Also available at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education site.

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TRAC panel on Odd Nerdrum’s Kitsch and Roger Scruton’s Beauty

At the The Representational Art Conference in Ventura, California, I’ll be participating in a panel discussion on The Aesthetics of 21st Century Representational Art – (Odd Nerdrum’s Kitsch and Roger Scruton’s Beauty):

Moderator: Peter Trippi, Editor, Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine.
Panelists: Julio Reyes, Stephen Hicks, Alan Lawson, Jan-Ove Tuv.

Earlier in the conference, I’ll also be giving a “Featured Paper” on “Why Philosophy Matters to Representational Art.”


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Zero-sum economics? J. K. Rowling edition

Here is a clear example of zero-sum thinking, this time in literature.shepherd-huffpo

Author Lynn Shepherd laments J. K. Rowling’s publishing another book, on the grounds that the successful writer crowds out the less successful. In Shepherd’s words:

“It wasn’t just that the hype was drearily excessive, or that (by all accounts) the novel was no masterpiece and yet sold by the hundredweight, it was the way it crowded out everything else, however good, however worthwhile. That book sucked the oxygen from the entire publishing and reading atmosphere. And I chose that analogy quite deliberately, because I think that sort of monopoly can make it next to impossible for anything else to survive, let alone thrive. Publishing a book is hard enough at the best of times, especially in an industry already far too fixated with Big Names and Sure Things, but what can an ordinary author do, up against such a Golgomath?”

So we should be glad that Jane Austen and Agatha Christie finally stopped writing; Apple should stop making stuff in order to give other manufacturers a chance; rowlingperhaps Ms. Shepherd, with at least six published books herself, should make room for the under-published; and if only the Canadians would stop playing hockey so other countries could win Olympic gold.

Sarcasm-lite aside, let me suggest why Shepherd should be happy about Rowling’s publication and see her as an ally.

* Justice. Rowling has legitimately earned a huge, excited fan base, and simple justice means that we should respect achievement.

* Writer education. What is it about Rowling’s writing that makes it so popular? Perhaps we other authors can learn from her and improve our own writing.

* Writer inspiration. Rowling was an unknown who broke through and achieved blockbuster success. Her example can encourage the rest of us to

* Increased opportunities for writers. Rowling’s books enrich the publishing industry by bringing in money that would otherwise have been spent on, say, video-games, skateboards, clothes, or candy. More money for the publishing industry means more opportunities for all writers.

* Increased readership for the future. The Harry Potter series is legendary for creating millions of new readers. Many of them will continue to read, explore other genres, and maybe even discover Shepherd’s books and mine.

Posted in Economics, Literature | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks” to be published in Germany

And they will no doubt ignite another round of debate about Martin Heidegger’s anti-Semitism and Nazism. History professor Robert Zaretsky summarizes the evolution of the debate to date.

My thoughts here.

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