Against moral sainthood

Daniel Callcut in Aeon: ‘I am glad,’ wrote the acclaimed American philosopher Susan Wolf, ‘that neither I nor those about whom I care most’ are ‘moral saints’. This declaration is one of the opening remarks of a landmark essay in which Wolf imagines what it would be like to be morally perfect. If you engage…

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn did more than anyone else to bring the Soviet Union to its knees

Michael Scammell in the New York Times: When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, pundits offered a variety of reasons for its failure: economic, political, military. Few thought to add a fourth, more elusive cause: the regime’s total loss of credibility. This hard-to-measure process had started in 1956, when Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave his so-called…

Ray Monk on Kurt Gödel and the romance of logic

Ray Monk in Prospect: We are sometimes inclined to make celebrities out of intellectuals despite—or perhaps precisely because of—their producing work we can never hope to understand. Bertrand Russell’s oddly old-fashioned dress sense and aristocratic bearing remain familiar features on the cultural landscape, as are Albert Einstein’s friendly face and shock of white hair. Indeed,…

Measuring cosmic distances with standard sirens

Daniel Holz, Scott Hughes, and Bernard Schutz in Physics Today: Decades of experimental effort paid off spectacularly on 14 September 2015, when the two detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) spotted the gravitational waves generated by a pair of coalescing black holes.1 To get a sense of the effort leading to that breakthrough, consider…

Climate Gut Check: Beneath the jargon, a new UN report serves up a revolutionary response to climate change

Troy Vettese in the Boston Review: A century ago in late October, a mutiny broke out in the Imperial German Navy. In Wilhelmshaven on the North Sea, hungry, demoralized sailors refused to follow orders in preparation for one last skirmish with the British for the sake of their officers’ vainglory. Unsure of the crew’s loyalty,…

Left Populism and the Rediscovery of Agonistic Politics

Shadi Hamid in American Affairs: If there were a tagline for today’s populist moment, it would probably be something like “It’s not the economy, stupid.” Economic factors matter, but they are far from decisive in understanding why populists, especially right-wing populists, have solidified their position as the second largest or even largest parties in many Western democracies.…