The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Boethius Book Club, Episode 3: Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure

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One of Shakespeare’s less familiar masterpieces is Measure for Measure. This is a serious play, certainly not a comedy, and yet it ends happily without a full complement of corpses on the stage. It was written about 1605, during the same period in which he composed his greatest works. In Measure for Measure Shakespeare takes up serious moral and political questions: the nature of justice, the quality of rulers, and, perhaps most significantly, the debate over marriage that raged between, on the one hand, Catholics and Anglicans, and, on the other, Calvinists. It is not too much to say that...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter 5: Revenge, Part C

Civilized people will never be impressed by any argument that seems to celebrate the morality of apes.  We are, after all, human beings who are, as Christians say, made in the image of God or, as Darwinists insist, the product of tens of millions of years of evolutionary progress.  It is a main thrust of philosophical liberalism (and of ancient Stoicism) that human beings have a duty to rise above not only animal but parochial and sectarian passions. I can almost hear the rumblings from the professors, social workers, and other right-thinking people:  ”If you once start conceding some legitimacy...

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Anti-Trumpers, Please Watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

{I beg pardon from both Red Phillips and our readers for being so late in publishing this.  It arrived on a day I was preparing dinner for a few early arrivals to our Summer Symposium, which just ended Saturday night.  I was preparing the dinner–a two day project–because the chef in charge, namely my wife, had just broken and badly dislocated her ankle in several places and will have to undergo an operation this week. TJF] As a good traditional conservative, I like Westerns. If you watch a lot of Westerns you will eventually discern that many of them have a...

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Wednesday’s Child: Betting on Winners

  In a writer’s life it sometimes happens that no sooner does he put a thought in words than chance sends him fresh evidence to substantiate it, a kind of souvenir acknowledgement in tacit confirmation of what he had been thinking.  So it happened last week.  No sooner had I posted my musings on football than chance spirited me away to a place called Enna, a mountain townlet in the middle of Sicily, where, of all places, an international piano competition, with my wife among the jurors, was to take place.  Free lodging, free grub, and free air at temperatures...

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Loretta’s Lynch Law

American political leaders are almost to a man, woman, and  all points in-between,  uneducated and literate only to the level that they can read the speeches that are written for them.  Nonetheless, it is sometimes enlightening to examine the clichés—almost all of them not simply false but counter-intuitive— with which they pepper their pronouncements. Case in point, Loretta Lynch’s sermon on the murder of five officers of the law in Dallas.  After thanking the reporters for attending, she assured the American people that “we”—whatever or whomever she means by that— “…intend to provide any assistance that we can to investigate...

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Aristotle’s Politics III 6-8

Aristotle takes up the nature of sovereignty as it is exercised in the different types of constitutions he has sketched out previously.  Some translations of these passages refer to “government”—an English word with rather too much modern baggage.  When most of us think of “government,” we are thinking of “the government,” meaning its powerful agencies and agendas that strengthen the power of the governing class.   Aristotle, by contrast, speaks of to kyrion,” the ruling or masterful element. A constitution can by viewed as the system in which higher offices or magistracies are arranged.  The sovereign element in a polis...

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Wednesday’s Child: Betting on Losers

  Chess is the only sport I ever understood, recognized, and followed, because, unlike spectator sports, I thought it a complex yet coherent model of human conflict.  It was never clear to me what lesson one could glean from rugby or water polo, for instance, except that perseverance and endurance win over irresolution and apathy.  But this is like saying that it is better to be clever, rich, and healthy than stupid, poor, and sick – not much of a lesson there, as most people would probably agree. This week, however, I was watching football – soccer, a spectator sport...

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Properties of Blood, Chapter Five: Sweet Revenge, Part B

This Simian World Revenge and marriage, as institutionalized means of expressing love and hate, have much in common: Both are found in a variety of forms, but the forms and tendencies that converge in societies around the globe encourage us to think of them as generically human phenomena.  That is because they are, both of them, based on natural necessities and passions that have probably been instilled into the human species throughout the long course of evolution.  A mouse will fight against an attacker, whether the enemy is a rival mouse or a cat, and I have been charged by...

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A Chump for Trump: The Circular Reasoning of NeverTrump

During the Republican primary, I generally refrained from using the electability argument. Electability is important, but the arguments often seemed to me counterproductive and almost always conveniently supported the candidate of choice of the person making it. John Kasich is the “only one” who can beat Hillary because he is a moderate and will appeal to centrists. Cruz is too conservative. Or Cruz is the “only one” who can beat Hillary because he will fire up the base and bring them to the polls.  Kasich will inspire apathy in voters as Romney did. First of all, if someone is going...

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Aristotle, Politics III.3-5

Aristotle is no egalitarian, and he does not think that poor men who work with their hands (banausoi) and thus cannot participate in political life are fully citizens.  He is thinking specifically of the formal requirements of property for holding office, but I doubt that he would be enthusiastic about the idea of factory workers or perhaps even white collar employees of a corporation as citizens, since de facto they are under the control of their bosses and have little if any time for political participation.  Whatever other virtues they might possess, employees are not free in the sense that...