Perhaps the most under-rated philosopher of antiquity.

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Photo by Sime Basioli on Unsplash

What makes up 60% of the human body, 70% of the Earth’s surface and can take the form of a liquid, solid or gas?

The answer is water. According to the Ionian philosopher Thales (620–545 B.C.), water is the ultimate element, of which all other “things” are simply varying forms.

Although credited as one of the seven wise men, or Sophoi, Thales is also one of the most under-rated philosophers of antiquity. Why? Should Thales’ doctrines be salvaged from the dustbin of history?

A Neglected Ionian

Many of Thales’ views we only know second and third-hand, through the writings of Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius and Xenophanes. …

In these times of higher ed contraction, expertise in speculating about our shared future might be just what we need.

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Credit: Unsplash and Fábio Lucas

As we enter the new year, doom and gloom thinking and talk of lean times in higher ed have become the order of the day. (Some even foresee the rise of so-called ‘cyborg universities.’) College and university contraction and retrenchment are becoming all too common, fueled by fears of reduced student enrollments, declining revenue, elimination of academic departments, and staff-faculty layoffs.

More often than not, executive administrators discuss unbundling educational products to increase profitability and running a “lean organization,” modeling colleges and universities after corporations that struggle to survive during economic downturns.

The missing link

What’s missing from these deliberations is talk about our shared future. …

Is it morally right to own a masterpiece that was once stolen by the Nazis?

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Credit: Mert Kahveci and Unsplash

As the Third Reich spread across the European and African continents, its armies plundered the riches of private estates, public museums and university collections. Soldiers looted cultural artifacts and artwork, including paintings by the Great Masters, which were then redistributed across the globe.

Ever since the end of World War II, governments in Europe and North America sought to return these looted artifacts and artworks to their original owners. Many remain unaccounted for. Today, some masterpieces find their way from the black market to legitimate auctions and into the private and public art collections. …

How two thinkers peddle their ideas on two wheels.

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Photo by Angel Santos on Unsplash

The Peripatetics were philosophers who traveled from place to place. They include Socrates, Aristotle, Kant, and Nietzsche, to name a few. For these traveling thinkers, philosophy and movement were seamlessly woven together. They resembled the warp and woof of a single fabric.

Traveling on two legs — or alternatively, on two wheels — can prime the philosophical pump, permitting novel ideas to flow. Two contemporary Peripatetics embody what it means to think deeply and move at speed on a bicycle:

Both push hard on the pedals and even harder on other people’s core beliefs and assumptions. In doing so, they reveal their passion for life on the bike, the limits of fairness in sport, and the potential for developing a robust philosophy of cycling. …

The rich — of course.

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Credit: Sharon McCutcheon and Unsplash

The FDA recently approved the Pfizer vaccine to the COVID-19 virus. So, the question arises: Who will have priority in receiving the vaccine?

The standard response is (1) essential workers, especially doctors and nurses, and (2) the elderly, especialy residents of retirement homes.

The truth is quite different. As Thomas Jefferson might attest, if he were caught in a moment of perfect honesty, all men are not created equal, at least not in the eyes of government bureaucrats.

Brad Pitt, playing the character Jackie Cogan in the film Killing Them Softly, offers some context:

“My friend, Jefferson’s an American saint because he wrote the words, ‘All men are created equal.’ Words he clearly didn’t believe, since he allowed his own children to live in slavery. He was a rich wine snob who was sick of paying taxes to the Brits. So yeah, he wrote some lovely words and aroused the rabble, and they went out and died for those words, while he sat back and drank his wine and fucked his slave girl. This guy wants to tell me we’re living in a community. Don’t make me laugh. I’m living in America, and in America, you’re on your own. America’s not a country. It’s just a business. …

Tone deaf advice to retrenchment survivors isn’t helpful — faculty solidarity is!

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Credit: UN Covid-19 Response and Unsplash

A new holiday season of higher education retrenchment is upon us. Institutional cost-cutting measures include staff reductions and faculty dismissals.

Merry X-mas, you’re furloughed. Or worse, you’re fired. Or worse yet, your entire department is slated to be shuttered.

In Eileen Hoenigman Meyer’s recent advice column, she puts a positive spin on this dirty affair. (Retrenchment apologetics must be a lucrative topic for freelance writers.)

The housekeeping model of governance might explain matters.

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Credit: Tina Bosse and Unsplash

President-elect Joe Biden recently chose a senior press team composed entirely of white women. Thank goodness for progress, right?

Nevertheless, one might wonder how diverse such a team truly is. Where are the transgendered individuals? Where are the men? Where are the African-Americans?

Biden’s senior press team will be led by his campaign communications director Kate Bedingfield. She will be assisted by Jennifer Psaki, a long-time Democratic spokesperson. Both are white women.

Does Michel Foucault’s 1975 Death Valley acid trip story shed light on how his ideas changed over time?

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Photo by GRAS GRÜN on Unsplash

In Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) claimed that the key to comprehending a “great philosophy” is to first grapple with the life story of its source:

“It has gradually become clear to me what every great philosophy up till now has consisted of — namely, the confession of its originator, and a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography; and moreover that the moral (or immoral) purpose in every philosophy has constituted the true vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.”

A test case is the philosophy of Michel Foucault (1926–1984), the famous French postructuralist. Look close enough at his life story and, if Nietzsche was right, you’ll find the “vital germ out of which the entire plant has always grown.” …

Christian B. Miller’s misplaced faith in higher ed honor codes is naïve at best, dangerous at worst

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Credit: Pinterest

In his 2004 book The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, David Callahan chronicles the growing acceptance of dishonest practices in American society. Public vice has become an all too common feature of hyper-capitalist societies.

And the Ivory Tower is no exception.

Winning at all costs

Young people feel increasing pressure to imitate poor role models who value winning at all costs. If a high GPA can be achieved by hiring a professional to write your college essays and take your online exams, then so be it. Victory is the ultimate goal. Even if it involves cheating.

In a 2006 review of Callahan’s book, titled “Our cheating hearts,” Mort Zuckerman notes that the “locations” of cheating and scandal have multiplied. It’s a problem in many areas of American life, from politics to sports to higher education. …

Six reasons given by a Jesuit Priest.

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Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

If history class bored you to tears, then the prospect of studying the history of Philosophy could seem utterly sleep-inducing. If it’s tough to relate to John C. Calhoun (1782–1850 A.D.), imagine trying to sympathetically appreciate the life, times, and notions of Aristotle (384–322 B.C.).

Moreover, the ideas of past philosophers might strike us as absolutely offensive, at least by our contemporary moral standards. (By the way, both Calhoun and Aristotle defended the institution of slavery.)

If you can transcend the boredom and wokeness, where might you start an intensive study of philosophical history? At the beginning: the dawn of Philosophy in Ancient Greece. …


Philosopher, journalist and writer with a knack for speaking truth to power. Always up for a good convo:

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