Discourses and Selected Writings, by Epictetus

A book I like to teach

As I was in the midst of teaching the ancient Roman Stoic Epictetus at Oakdale Prison, an inmate stood up and launched into an argument that Stoicism is a loser’s philosophy. I challenged him: “What does it mean to be a loser? Was Jesus on the cross a loser?


Free for what?

Franzen has turned his considerable novelistic talents to a kind of inquisito­rial examination of the American ideal of freedom. He shows how freedom is negatively construed—focused on what we are free from and not on what freedom might be for, what worthy ends it might be used to pursue.


A review of Drawn to Freedom

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Leonard Bern­stein was there to celebrate with Beet­hoven's Ninth Symphony. The great chorus did not voice the familiar "Freude, Freude" ("joy, joy") but instead sang "Freiheit, Freiheit" ("freedom, freedom"). That simple, direct, unambiguous mo­ment, however, is not the norm for thinking about freedom.


A Mercy

Toni Morrison’s novel A Mercy begins with a Sophie’s Choice moment for a slave woman living in Barbados in the late 17th century. Her master owes a debt to a trader, and he offers the woman’s infant son as collateral. She pushes her preadolescent daughter toward the trader and begs him to take the girl instead.