Why One of France’s ‘Most Subversive’ Philosophers Chose to Work in a Factory

Simone Weil Saw Assembly Line Labor as a Distillation of French Society's Hierarchies and Inequities

In December 1934, Auguste Detoeuf interviewed an applicant for a job at one of his factories. Ordinarily, Detoeuf did not make hiring decisions—he was, after all, the director of Alsthom, France’s largest maker of electric equipment. Yet Detoeuf was hardly an ordinary businessman. A graduate of France’s elite engineering school, the École polytechnique, Detoeuf neither talked the talk or walked the walk of French industrialists. He dressed, as one friend sighed, like a romantic violin virtuoso, and confessed to being an intellectual manqué.

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Is Forgiveness the Basis of a Healthy Democracy?

An Iranian Philosopher Posits That Only Absolving Others of Blame Can Open Dialogue and Rebuild Decency

Why do we have such difficulty thinking about forgiveness? Read the news on any day and you’ll find stories of war, injustices present and past, and attacks on democracy. It’s …

The Austrian Philosopher Who Showed That Words Can Spark Humanism—or Barbarism

Ludwig Wittgenstein Saw Language as a "Game," and Whoever Makes the Rules Holds the Power

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian-British philosopher and logician, famously coined the term “language-game”—a term meant, as he writes in his Philosophical Investigations (1953), “to bring into prominence the fact that the …

Our Real “Existential Crisis” Is Bigger Than Trump’s Presidency

Philosophically Speaking, How Do We Live Free, Authentic Lives in a World Without Meaning?

Apparently, these are existential times. During the weeks leading up to last year’s presidential election, The New York Times columnist Charles Blow announced that then-candidate Donald Trump was “America’s existential …

Why Extreme Moderation Is the Vital Alternative to Political Polarization

Theorist Tzvetan Todorov's Passionate Pluralism Is More Relevant Now Than Ever

Last month, the Bulgarian-French intellectual Tzvetan Todorov died. A scholar on the history of thought, his writings influenced fields as disparate as anthropology, literary criticism, and history. His death was, …

Genius Alone Doesn’t Advance Big Ideas

World-Changing Thought Depends on the Social Context, Too

Where do big new ideas come from—the kind that break the mold and change how we see the world? As a sociologist, this has long been an interest of mine. …