Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Vanderbilt is hosting and the Royce Society is sponsoring a conference on the philosophy of Josiah Royce in October. Perhaps I'll be there.

TITLE: The Spirit of Modern Philosophy Revisited: A Committed Jamesian Reconsiders Royce

ABSTRACT: As a callow undergraduate four decades ago I somehow won an essay contest on a subject whose opacity continues, to this day, to mystify me: the respective Idealistic systems of Fichte and Schelling. My essay drew heavily on Royce's The Spirit of Modern Philosophy, before I really had any clue about who Royce even was. But in grad school I learned that he was William James's friendly antagonist, colleague, and neighbor, an expositor of a perspective in philosophy that James found reprehensible and that our age has all but forgotten. Many of my own colleagues have worked tirelessly to revive and extend Royce's legacy. Until now, I've been content to leave them to it while I continued mostly to circle James's pedestal.

But now, spurred by John Kaag's compelling discussion of Royce in American Philosophy: A Love Story, historian Allen Guelzo's commendation of Royce (not James) as America's Philosopher ("Dissenter for the Absolute," in First Things, January 2016), and David Brooks's subsequent shout-out in the New York Times ("Your Loyalties Are Your Life: The Philosopher We Need Today," January 24, 2019), I find myself impelled to take another look. Is it "Damn the Absolute!" or Damn, the Absolute"? I realize now that I was then pretty clueless, not only about Fichte and Schelling but also the source whose authoritative voice (mis)led me into thinking I'd understood them. 

I thus undertake here to revisit Royce, and The Spirit of Modern Philosophy in particular, to look for clues: what did I read in Royce all those years ago that seemed to clarify the murky metaphysics of those old Germans, and does that shed light on the merits and alleged present timeliness of his own thought? Is he in fact the philosopher for our times? Is there room on that stone wall for James and Royce together? 


Loyaltty (SEP)... Gawande on Royce on loyalty... Loyalty to Loyalty: Josiah Royce and the Genuine Moral Life...Royce for the 21st century (Parker)... Royce in Focus (Kegley)

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

One Step at a Time

"Hippocrates...warned against being incorrectly medicated and emphasized that no medication could have such a broad effect as simply putting one foot in front of the other. 'Walking is man's best medicine.' I believe that walking has played a much more meaningful role in human health than all of the medicines that have been consumed throughout history." Erling Kagge, Walking: One Step At a Time

Monday, April 8, 2019

Henry the HR king

Henry the saunterer

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Baseball in Literature and Culture

Heading soon to another annual "Baseball in Literature and Culture" conference in Ottawa, KS and KC, MO - this will be my fourth trip to Kansas (after the conference migrated from our school) and my eleventh consecutive presentation. Time does go by. Deja vu, all over again.

This time the schedule coincides with the opening of the MLB season and the Royals will be home, so I'll probably be freezing my asterisk on the 28th at the K - but, that's one more item to strike from the Bucket List.

My presentation this time asks "Who Cares?" Who cares about games, and who should, especially in troubled times like these? I've been working out my own answer in dialogue with Roger Angell (whose answer is that we should care about games for the same reason we should care about anything, and that caring about games makes us better at caring period) and three other authors, the last of whom will be in attendance in Ottawa.

Image result for jacoby why baseball matters Image result for kingwell why baseball matters Image result for alva noe infinite baseball

I love Alva Noe's Kierkegaard epigraph: "The goal is to arrive at immediacy after reflection."

But, a propos his title I also love Carlo Revelli's reality check: "The only truly infinite thing is our ignorance." --Reality Is Not What It Used To Be

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Black Klansman

Saw it last night. Rare combination of funny (the Alec Baldwin open, for instance) and deadly serious (the Charlottesville coda). Haven't seen "Green Book" yet but I understand why Spike Lee was angry to be shut out again by an inverted "Driving Miss Daisy".

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Monday, March 4, 2019


I don't care what Dwight Garner says, I find Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered a delight. Meg Wolitzer gets it right, though,
Kingsolver has long written socially, politically and environmentally alert novels that engage with the wider world and its complications and vulnerabilities, all the while rendering the specific, smaller worlds of her characters humane and resonant. In “Unsheltered,” she has given us another densely packed and intricately imagined book. Variations on the word “shelter” appear in these pages repeatedly, as the novel considers what it means to be taken care of (or not), as well as what it means to be kept, or to willingly keep oneself, from the cold blast of the truth...
Kingsolver explores how anyone might possibly find a safe place in this world that we keep befouling through ignorance, greed or incompetence... Kingsolver’s dual narrative works beautifully here. By giving us a family and a world teetering on the brink in 2016, and conveying a different but connected type of 19th-century teetering, Kingsolver eventually creates a sense not so much that history repeats itself, but that as humans we’re inevitably connected through the possibility of collapse, whether it’s the collapse of our houses, our bodies, logic, the social order or earth itself.
I was not surprised to read in the Acknowledgements at the end that Kingsolver's guiding spirits in this novel happen to have included three "illuminating" books I've used in courses in the past: This Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein, The Bridge at the Edge of the World, by James Gustave Speth, and The Book That Changed America, by Randall Fuller. And, "George Eliot kept nineteenth-century voices in my ear."

And there's plenty of wry insight into our moment in history. "When men fear the loss of what they know, they will follow any tyrant who promises to restore the old order"... “Zeke embodied the contradiction of his generation: jaded about the fate of the world, idealistic about personal prospects”... "Everybody’s getting weather that never happened before. Melting permafrost means we’ve got like, a minute to turn this mess around, or else it’s going to stop us”... "Friends will probably count more than money, because wanting too much stuff is going to be toxic.”

Plus, this icing on the cake: an empathetic nod to we who toil in academia's public sector. “Teaching struck Willa as a saintly calling, especially given the pay. But even saints shouldn't be stuck with intro classes forever.”

I'm now motivated, at last, to discover My Antonia.

Friday, February 22, 2019


Cycling to Totality on the pbd with Emily Dickinson, Annie Druyan, and Radiolab... Maria Popova's Figuring is a delight! Accelerating Intelligence News