I studied philosophy in the bad old days of Oxford linguistic analysis, where the big names were Wittgenstein and J.L. Austin. Since then, moral philosophers have moved on. Some discovered politics and that was a turn to the worse. Others more profitably examined the virtues and the emotions, and Benjamin Lipscomb’s The Women Are Up to Something (OUP) tells how four friends at Oxford, Iris Murdoch, Philippa Foot, Elizabeth Anscombe and Mary Midgley helped bring back the emotions. Anscombe was the most interesting of them, a Catholic convert with the ability to distinguish between things that matter and things that don’t. On child-rearing, she said “What you must understand is that dirt doesn’t matter”. The book is eminently readable for those who have never read philosophy and are intellectually curious.
Romanticism was a revolt against an arid Enlightenment that had turned murderous and imperialistic. In Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self, Andrea Wulf tells of the German Romantics who were centered around Jena at the turn of the nineteenth century, Goethe, Schiller, Novalis and the Schelling brothers. “Inward goes the way, full of mystery,” wrote Novalis.
I first discovered Lionel Shriver with We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book about a sociopathetic child. Shriver knows that there is such a thing as evil, which makes her by nature a conservative and a contrarian, traits which she wonderfully displays in Abominations. In it, she takes on the barbarities and hypocrisy of woke culture. On the way liberals use the word “privileged,” she writes, “that sounds awfully like a working definition of racism.”
Movies? I don’t go to them anymore. I stay at home and do watch limited series. Most I’ll drop them after a few episodes because they dispense with wit and drama in order to lecture us about woke politics. You want to wake up the people behind The Only Murders in the Building and ask, “do you even listen to yourselves?” But other limited series remind us that they are the future of cinematographic artistry. Last year gave us The Queen’s Gambit and Shtisel. This year two series stand out.
Black Bird tells the true story of James “Jimmy” Keene who is sent to prison on a drug bust and follows him as he is transferred to a maximum security prison after being offered an opportunity to commute his sentence by getting a confession from a mass murderer.
The Old Man is another crime drama, starring Jeff Bridges as an ex-CIA officer whom the Agency is now pursuing. It was suspended when Bridges discovered he had cancer and now that it went into remission filming has begun again.
It no doubt says something about me that I prefer older actors over the whizbang series aimed at GenZ viewers with the attention span of a gnat. There are risks to this, however. The Old Man was paused because of Bridges’ cancer, and Ray Liotta died in the middle of Black Bird.
Frank Buckley is a professor at Scalia Law School and the author of “Progressive Conservatism.”