A Beheading

I’m reading for the first time Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading about a man, Cincinnatus C., who is condemned to die by beheading. His crime is mysterious at first, though clearly diabolical in the eyes of his gaolers. Eventually we learn that he is guilty of “gnostical turpitude”–a crime so serious as to defy definition, though it evidently has to do with knowledge. For this he must have his head cut off (the head being where knowledge resides). The novel is a masterpiece on the arbitrary madness and calm cruelty of power. Anyone in a position of power, from the power of decapitation on down, should read it.

Enemies of the People

Surely President Trump is casting his net too narrowly. If “the press” is an enemy of the people, surely those who support the press are enemies of the people too. Aren’t professors enemies of the people if they criticize Trump? Democrats must also be. Isn’t anyone who speaks out against the President an enemy of the people? Aren’t most of the people enemies of the people?

Silver Lining

Since I retired from my job four years ago I have dedicated myself to philosophy. I have never worked so long and hard. This is a consequence of the freedom afforded by retirement: no more teaching, professional obligations, faculty meetings. That’s the thing about retirement: you can get some work done! Partly it’s a matter of time and energy, but more important it’s because of the lack of distraction. You can focus for weeks on what you are working on without having to worry about professional obligations. I have therefore been able to go deeper and range wider than ever before. I would not have been able to do the work I have if I were still holding down a job. I feel this acutely. I feel that before retirement my work stayed at the surface, but now I feel that I have dug deeper; at any rate, I’m happier with my work. Certainly, the quantity is far greater than I could achieve while working as a professor. Retirement has changed me as a philosopher.