The Virtues of Free Will—If We Have Any, That Is

Apparently, free will is a hot topic for scientists this year. In just the last few months The Atlantic, New York magazine, The Independent, and several other publications have run stories about it. Judging by some of their titles—“There’s No Such Thing As Free Will,” “Scientific Evidence That You Probably Don’t Have Free Will,” etc.—it … Continued

Culture

Woody Allen’s Existential Void

While at the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival recently promoting his newest film, Woody Allen took the opportunity in an interview to expound upon his personal philosophy. For those who still consider Allen a comedian and filmmaker of mostly comedies, his worldview will no doubt seem surprisingly grim. Allen acknowledged that he “had to be … Continued

Culture

Spock and the Return to Paradise

In a scene from the 1991 movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a character asks the Vulcan science officer Spock about a painting on the wall of his living quarters. “It’s a depiction from ancient Earth mythology,” he explains, “‘The Expulsion from Paradise.’” Why does he keep it? “As a reminder to me,” Spock … Continued

Culture, Entertainment, Movies, Television

Jeff Bridges: Great Dude but Bad Philosopher

Jeff Bridges is a great actor. He played iconic stoner The Dude in The Big Lebowski, a tough U.S. Marshal in True Grit, and a dysfunctional folk singer in Crazy Heart.  And I loved him in them all.  Now he’s the titular character in the new dystopian movie, The Giver.  I might see it just … Continued

Culture

True Detective: Gazing into Rustin Cohle’s Abyss

R. J. Moeller recently graced this site with a thoughtful, eloquent reflection on HBO’s True Detective and the “dark, nihilistic worldview” he sees at its core. For Moeller, True Detective—despite its acknowledged narrative and cinematographic strengths—follows in the same sorry vein as so much other modern art, spoiling its storytelling potential with a surrender to … Continued

Entertainment, Television

The Humanities and the Counterculture

In his commencement address recently at Brandeis University, New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier posed a critical two-part question to graduates about to embark in a brave new world. “Has there ever been a moment in American life,” he asked, “when the humanities were cherished less, and has there ever been a moment in American … Continued

Culture

Brightening the Dark Knight

Quite possibly the most popular and profitable superhero of all time, Batman casts a long shadow over popular culture. The word “shadow” is not chosen unwittingly; unlike the sun-powered and brightly-colored Superman, the subject of the first post in this series, Batman is a creature of the night, a man who uses the shadows to … Continued

Comics