The Gothic Arch, from Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), MET

I wasn’t sure what to expect of Piranesi. I enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a large-scope ambitious novel, and an enthralling read. I picked up Piranesi with no particular expectations, noting it is a much slimmer volume than her previous book.

Anyway, Piranesi blew me away. It kept me thinking at night after I finished reading it, and I went back and re-read some parts this morning, and it led me to write this blog and to procrastinate on admin, teaching and research. The novel treats a lot of really interesting philosophical themes. …


2020, it’s been quite the year. One of the minor story lines in this ongoing bizarre-fest are reports of white women academics passing themselves off as women of color. Here are some thoughts on the phenomenon. Since Medium seems to be the medium for reflections and discussion on this, I’m posting it here.

To start, I want to tell about my personal experiences, to give at least some partial sense of the struggle uphill. …


Richard Adams (1972) insisted that Watership Down was just a book about rabbits.

Be that as it may, if you take a work of art to be more than its author’s intent I think it is useful to examine the book as a source of political insight, particularly on the nature of leadership*.

Why do we need political authority?

One popular answer, defended by various authors including John Dewey, Plato, al-Farabi, and Confucius, is that political authority is needed for coordinated collective action. For example, al-Farabi argued that good political leadership of a city allows people to be happy. A…


With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Covid-19 had long devastated the country. In spite of promises of a calm summer and a second wave in the fall, conveniently timed right after Thanksgiving, no pestilence had been so fatal or hideous. There was the sudden loss of smell, the shortness of breath, the decolored toes, the ravaged lungs and nervous system. And the whole process of the disease, from dry cough to final gasps at the ventilator, to makeshift mass grave, were incidents of a fortnight.

But the Deans, the Provosts, and the President were happy and dauntless and sagacious. As…


Calli the polar bear, watercolor and pen, Tayasui Sketches

I’m writing this in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of us have to stay at home and practice social distancing. I’ve put together a quick guide on how to learn to draw on the iPad as it may be helpful to some people. The idea is not to try to help you to optimize time spent at home, or anything like that. It’s just to help people who are looking for something creative and enjoyable that you can do at home.

Advantages of making digital artwork

Maybe you’ve never seriously made drawings or paintings. …


Someone I know has a deep emerald green scarf. It is woven of the finest wool, dense, and of high quality. Now, decades old, it frays at the ends. But he won’t exchange the scarf for another, no matter how old it is, because it is a physical reminder of what compassion looks like.

Many years ago, he was homeless, living on the streets near the Mediterranean beach. He had left a difficult home situation, and the climate there was mild all year round. Living on the street was not too exacting on the body, especially as he was a…


Atreyu and Falcor

I grew up in the 1980s, and so, like many of my generation (late gen-X, early millennials), I saw The Neverending Story. This movie made a huge impact on me, not least of all the scene where the horse Artax dies, slowly sinking in the swamp of sadness, while his master Atreyu watches powerlessly–a clever metaphor for depression and suicide of a loved one. But here, don’t want to talk about the movie, I want to discuss the book. …


After over 10 years activity on the platform, I've deactivated my Facebook account, and I hope to delete my profile in the near future. Here are my reasons for doing so.


Damocles' sword, by Richard Westall, 1812

The moment EU citizens living in the UK learned about the vote to Leave on 24 June 2016 seems similar to historical moments of collective shock. Like for the assassination of JFK and the 9/11 attacks, many of us will still remember vividly where they were, or what they were doing, when they learned the UK had voted to leave. It will become a flashbulb memory that I and many others will never forget.

I recall well how I woke up very early in the morning on that day, and I asked my husband to go and check for me…


Pictured is the typical interior of a Belgian train, it is not too busy at the time the picture is taken and there are many empty seats

I have never owned a car.

Being carless is difficult in the place where I currently live, Saint Louis, Missouri. There is practically no public transport except a few rare bus lines here and there, and a metro line that brings military people back and forth to the airport, and that’s pretty useless unless you happen to live nearby one of the sparsely spaced stations. The trolley that drives around sporadically on the Delmar Loop is supposed to be scenic and to recall scenes from the musical Meet me in Saint Louis, but it is not really functional as public…

Helen De Cruz

professor of philosophy

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