You are the Dictator of My Heart


(More on the sexiness of communist sex.)

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Cover for Polish translation of Nietzsche and the Nazis

To be published in March. Very dramatic and darkly serious. Designed by Bartek.Balaa.Nowak.


More information here.

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Creative geniuses as selfish — Beethoven version

How did Beethoven become Beethoven?

“The ‘personality’ of such a man as Beethoven is a slowly developed synthetic whole. It is formed by the gradual combination of its constituent elements into an organic unity. For the development of a personality a rich and profound inner life is necessary, and for that reason it is usually only great artists and religious teachers who impress us as being complete persons. beethoven_hornemannAmongst the elements constitutive of Beethoven’s personality we must include his lack of malleability. This quality made him almost immune from purely external influences. Thus he was impervious to criticism; his manners were atrocious; he ignored conventions; he was permanently subject to no social passions, not even sexual love. The low standard of education he achieved seems to have been as much due to his lack of plasticity as to his lack of opportunities. He was not an educable man. He accepted none of the schemes of thought or conduct current in his time; it is doubtful whether he was even fully aware of their existence. He remained utterly faithful to his own experience. It is for this reason that his affirmative utterances, as in the Credo of the Mass in D, have such unexampled weight. Such utterances spring solely from his own personal and tested experience.”

Source: J. W. N. Sullivan, Beethoven: His Spiritual Development (Alfred A. Knopf, 1927), p. 44. A rough e-pub version is online here. (Parts of Sullivan’s description of Beethoven read like a description of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead. Sullivan’s book was published in 1927 and Rand’s in 1943.)

Creative geniuses as selfish — Rachmaninoff version.
Creative geniuses as selfish — Richard Wagner version.
Creative geniuses as selfish — Maria Callas version.
How great artists became great (Beethoven and Michelangelo).

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Profiles in Liberty: Nicholas Capaldi


In this extended interview, philosopher Nicholas Capaldi responds to a series of questions about his life and work. Capaldi is Legendre-Soulé Distinguished Chair in Business Ethics at Loyola University, New Orleans and co-author of The Two Narratives of Political Economy.

question-bannerWhy did you become a philosopher? [0:17]

Where did you get your education? [3:41]

What was your first academic position? [12:41]

What are the key themes of your book John Stuart Mill: A Biography (2004)? [15:49]

What are the key themes of The Two Narratives of Political Economy (2010, co-authored with Gordon Lloyd)? [31:28]

What are the key themes of America’s Spiritual Capital (2012, coauthored with Theodore Roosevelt Malloch)? [47:52]

What philosophers have you learned most from? [55:52]

What philosophers do you most disagree with? [1:11:11]

What is the state of liberal thought today among philosophers? [1:19:46]

To bring about a more liberal society, what key practical steps can and should be taken? [1:30:10]

Previous Profiles in Liberty:
Philosopher Douglas Den Uyl.
Philosopher Douglas Rasmussen.
Economist David R. Henderson.
Philosopher Tibor Machan.

Forthcoming: economist Robert Lawson.

The Profiles in Liberty main page.

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Article published: “Friedrich Nietzsche’s politics of genius”

ruch-filo-polandPrzemysław Zientkowski (Nicholas Copernicus University) and I have a co-authored article (in English) now out in the Polish journal, Ruch Filozoficzny (and available here).

The full title of the article is “Friedrich Nietzsche’s Politics of Genius and Its Challenge for Liberal-Democratic Europe.”

Dr. Zientkowski recently (2013) published a book on the critique of human rights in Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. Our collaboration came about as a result of my Nietzsche and the Nazis (2010).

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Frederick Douglass and Adam Smith

Frederick Douglass’s connection to the British Enlightenment. Via David Henderson and David Beito, here is an excerpt from a letter Douglass wrote on November 17, 1864:

“The old doctrine that the slavery of the black, is essential to the freedom of the white race, can maintain itself only in the presence of slavery, where interest douglass_c1860s1and prejudice are the controlling powers, but it stands condemned equally by reason and experience. The statesmanship of to-day condemns and repudiates it as a shallow pretext for oppression. It belongs with the commercial fallacies long ago exposed by Adam Smith. It stands on a level with the contemptible notion, that every crumb of bread that goes into another man’s mouth, is just so much bread taken from mine. Whereas, the rule is in this country of abundant land, the more mouths you have, the more money you can put into your pocket, the more I can put into mine. As with political economy, so with civil and political rights.”

And the Online Library of Liberty reports: “The ex-slave Frederick Douglass reveals that reading speeches by English politicians produced in him a deep love of liberty and hatred of oppression (1882).”

On the surprising origin of the “dismal science.”
Frederick Douglass and Ayn Rand.
Frederick Douglass’s letter to his former master.

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Progress in postmodern art, Millie Brown edition

Some time ago, I wrote (despairingly) about human waste and the twentieth-century art world:

“The world is ready for the bold new artistic move. That can come only from those not content with spotting the latest trivial variation on current themes. It can come only from those whose idea of boldness is not — waiting to see what can be done with waste products that has never been done before.”

I was wrong to despair. For as this loving spread in Britain’s Daily Mail shows, Millie Brown has spewed new life into a played-out line of development:millie-brown

“Vomit Painter artist throws up on canvas to create Jackson Pollock-style splatter.”

Ms. Brown drinks colored milk and then throat-gags herself to induce regurgitation onto the prepared surface. The resulting multi-colored spreads do not quite speak for themselves, but they do speak volumes about just how far the art world has progressed in the sixty-plus years since Pollock’s first drips.

I feared that the pomo gross-outs were no longer grossing us out, but this is really gross! And that, by postmodern standards, is true progress.

Yet I suggest, gently, that perhaps Ms. Brown has only set the door ajar — and that the rest of us in the art world should boldly shove it open and stride through.

I bring up three possibilities: millie-brown-2

1. Authenticity — What Ms. Brown disgorges is not authentic vomit, like one would get from food poisoning or a night’s heavy drinking. It is only milk with food coloring. This suggests that her engagement with the theme of vomitus is less than fully sincere. So bring on the true spew.

(b) The Sickness-Health tension. Vomiting is symbol of sickness — yet the Daily Mail piece injects concern with health: “cleanse,” “healthy vegan lifestyle,” “recover properly,” and Brown herself works in a sterile studio of clean white walls and canvas. This tension all very pomo-dialectic, yet the contradiction is merely suggested in Ms. Brown’s ouevre and not sufficiently developed.

(iii) Feminism: Ms. Brown’s vomiting is a nod to J. Pollock, noted womanizer. But it could be an edgy, coded reference to bulimia, which is a plague among women victimized by society’s unrealistic beauty standards. Brown’s work indicates feminist mileage not yet traveled.

Related topics: Ear wax’s untapped potential. Menstrual blood. That greenish-yellow snot that may or may not mean one is getting a cold. Drool.

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Groundhog Phil’s badger cousin


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