Hobbesian vs Benthamite Politics

Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was not an optimist about human behaviour. Writing more than a century after Niccolo Machiavelli, the English political philosopher argued in his masterwork, Leviathan (1651), that the quest for power was the main motivation for humans. And that our quest to acquire more would never cease until we were dead. He wrote: …in the first place, I put for a general inclination of … (more–>)

Ancient Election Wisdom

I recently came across this piece by Marcus Tullius Cicero (one of my favourite classical authors) on the Sententiae Antiquae website (a good source of classical Latin and Greek translations), taken from Cicero’s oration Pro Murena (35-36). Lucius Licinius Murena was elected as his election as consul in 62 BCE but was subsequently accused of bribery. He was defended by  Cicero, who recorded his speech for … (more–>)

Debunking Poilievre’s Tweets Part 1

Pierre Poilievre — aka Skippy — tweets a lot. A lot. Not quite in the Donald-Trump-tweeting-on-the-toilet range, but close. And he often repeat-tweets his angry, bumper-sticker slogans that are little more than libertarian micro rages. They are big on emotion but empty on substance. no details, facts, or anything even vaguely resembling a coherent platform that would benefit Canadians. His Twitter profile lists him as “Member … (more–>)

Debunking Poilievre’s Freedom Myth

If you listen to Pierre Poilievre, the leading — and rightmost — candidate for the Conservative Party’s leadership, Canada is a dictatorship suffering under the thumb of the tyrant, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. To escape from the authoritarian rule of the Liberals, Poilievre (aka Skippy) promises to make us “the freest place in the world.” In a recent interview published in Macleans, Poilievre used the words … (more–>)

Wild Fruits

When he died of tuberculosis in his mother’s home, in 1862, 44-year-old Henry David Thoreau had already made his mark on the world with the publication of several books and numerous essays, including Civil Disobedience, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, The Maine Woods, A Yankee in Canada, and his classic, Walden, or Life in the Woods. I trust we’re all familiar with Thoreau’s … (more–>)

Freedom or Just Free-Dumb?

It’s a sad statement on modern affairs that the word “freedom” has been reduced to a generally meaningless term, thanks to the constant gaslighting by the right.  Every rule, regulation, protocol that the right doesn’t like, doesn’t agree with their ideology or that hurts their feelings is trumped up as an attack on freedom. The right thrive on such conspiracies. But while they press all the … (more–>)

Socrates and Saunderson

In Plato’s dialogue Gorgias, Socrates debates with three sophists — Gorgias the rhetorician and his pupils Polus, and Callicles — about justice, power, morality, and virtue. Socrates also questions the value of oratory and rhetoric — the crafts of the sophists — in contemporary politics and whether they do good for the people. Spoiler alert: he’s not convinced they are for the good. You can read … (more–>)

Montaigne on Ketchup-Flavoured Cheetos

In his famous work, Essays, Michel de Montaigne, channelling the Epicureans, wrote that, “All the opinions in the world point out that pleasure is our aim. (Book I: On the Power of Imagination).” And I have to admit that what we euphemistically call “junk food” is a widespread pleasure that many of us enjoy these days. Of course, Montaigne, ever the skeptic, also wrote, “Que sais … (more–>)

A Meeting of the Minds?

Niccolo Machiavelli and Michel de Montaigne never met, nor could they have — Machiavelli died six years before Montaigne was born, and they lived about 1,200 km (800 miles) apart — but imagine the conversations they could have had if they had lived at the same time and close enough to visit one another, to have dinner together. Imagine the hard-nosed philosopher of the body politic … (more–>)

Musings on Aesop and Local Politics

I’ve always liked reading “wisdom tales”; I still read and delight in those Zen Buddhist stories that Paul Reps recounted in his book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, which I first encountered in the late 1960s. Not long after that, I discovered the many tales of the Mulla Nasrudin retold by Idries Shah, and the stories of the Wise Men of Chelm, the imaginary city of fools … (more–>)

Musings on Montaigne’s Cannibals

Montaigne’s essay On Cannibals contributed at least some of the content and ideas in Shakespeare’s late play, The Tempest. A speech by the recently-shipwrecked counsellor Gonzalo in Act 2, Sc.1 about creating a utopian community on the island is lifted almost word-for-word from this essay.* Montaigne’s other essays might have added to other of The Bard’s plays as well, although we can’t be sure when he … (more–>)

Musings on Art and Taste

Many years ago, I had a lengthy correspondence with a friend in another part of Canada about what constitutes art. His basic argument was that art was not neutral or generic, but was the final product of high achievement: real art was “good” art. That is, art was defined by recognized masters and their works. Mona Lisa was art, Picasso was art, Monet was art — … (more–>)

Musings on Cats and Philosophers

British philosopher John Gray thinks cats can “often teach us much more about living the good life than philosophy ever could.” As a lifetime cat owner, I can vouch for cats serving as metaphors for all sorts of things, but not usually as philosophers outside some children’s books. That statement intrigued me because my prior association with cats and philosophers had been mostly limited to Michel … (more–>)

Why Master Sun Matters Today

Master Sun was a wise man. So wise that his famous treatise, The Art of War (aka The Art of Warfare), has been read, written about, critiqued, and discussed for roughly 2,400 years. It has been used as a model of strategy and leadership for the military, for business, romance, sports, and for politics. And, like Machiavelli’s The Prince, it has often been misused, misunderstood, and … (more–>)

Back to Top
Skip to content