Author Archives: leewatkins

How to Begin (Notes on the Introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology)

It’s no use starting with the assumption that thought and being are identical. For one thing, no one will know what you’re talking about. Hegel started by looking at the philosophical thinking of his day and showing how it was … Continue reading

Posted in Hegel, Philosophy | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hegel’s Democratic Spirit

The Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit is a good place to begin with Hegel. The key question he’s asking in these pages is: What is philosophy? And his answer tells us a lot about what kind of philosopher he … Continue reading

Posted in books, Hegel, Philosophy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Notes on Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed”

Stepping off a train onto a crowded platform. Anxious glances of the passers-by. Shevek wonders at this anxiety: is it a function of the capitalist economy here? The fact that each of these people must make enough money to live? … Continue reading

Posted in books, Literature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Notes on Nabokov’s “The Seaport”

The whole scene is bright, with sunshine everywhere. Colours: the blue of the sea, the green of the woman’s dress. These things stand out. The sunshine gives colour to everything. Each thing seems to have its own distinct colour: no … Continue reading

Posted in books, Literature, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Happenings

In W.H. Auden’s poems, there are “happenings” and there are “ways of happening.” Poets create ways of happening, and this is why such people are generally considered useless – at least by the practical people in our society who concern … Continue reading

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Spengler’s Logic of History

Oswald Spengler tells us that he’s trying something new, a kind of historical study that he calls “predetermining history”: he’s going to use an historian’s methods in order to tell us something of what is going to happen. History is … Continue reading

Posted in History, Spengler | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Perfect Critic

In an essay by T.S. Eliot called “The Perfect Critic” we learn, above all, that art criticism is difficult. For one thing, many art critics don’t make art themselves, and so the criticism they write is shaped by their own … Continue reading

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fantasy and Escapism

Fantasy books, TV shows, and films all provide entertainment and escapism. I enjoy fantasy but I’m troubled by this notion of escape – of using art to “wind down” and “switch off.” It seems to me that this is potentially … Continue reading

Posted in books | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Know Thyself

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Know Thyself” seems to offer up two possible interpretations, and I wonder whether Coleridge believed self-knowledge was possible or not. The poet asks “Say, canst thou make thyself?” and urges his reader to “Learn first that … Continue reading

Posted in Literature, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Above and Below

If Henry Miller’s Nexus begins in a slough of despair, in its final chapters the rays of hope begin to emerge. The day he’ll leave for Europe is approaching, and knowing he will be leaving soon makes his remaining days … Continue reading

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment