The best line in this breathy, gossipy, here-we go-again-with-the-Lost-Generation exposé of the antics of the real people on whom Ernest Hemingway based his first big success, The Sun Also Rises, belongs to Zelda Fitzgerald. She called Ernest—not yet the white-bearded Cuban fisherman “Papa,” but a hungry-for-success unknown reporter and literary wannabe in Paris—“a pansy with hair on his chest” and “a phony he-man.” Ernest responded flatly that “Zelda is crazy,” and history proved him right. History hasn’t been as certain about Zelda’s claims, though scholars exploded with speculation after the publication in heavily edited form in 1986 of his novel The Garden of Eden, where some gender blurring seems to be going on between the husband and wife characters and both are interested in the same woman.
Dustin Sebell’s The Socratic Turn seeks to rescue political philosophy from the ignominy it suffers, both in political science departments and in society generally. Can political philosophy (also known by its more respectable title, political theory) ever meet the scientific criteria for truth? Or is it more like literary criticism—subjective and full of vagaries?
As good citizens of modernity, we are skeptical that answers to the questions of political philosophy (like, “How should we live?” or “What is justice?”) are possible. And so the study of politics today takes place largely under the mantle of political science, an increasingly descriptive field of study that avoids the ought at all costs.
To read about Douglas MacArthur, to think about the life and achievements of the American general, is to be forced to two conclusions. First, that he really was a great man. And second, that the nation was lucky to survive him.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the strength of America’s republican traditions, at least through those mid-twentieth-century years in which MacArthur flourished, that we didn’t collapse into constitutional crisis simply from the fact of his outsized existence. Or perhaps the nation’s survival is a testament to MacArthur’s own deeply American character and political virtues. The popular historian Arthur Herman certainly thinks so, and to prove his point, he’s penned a 900-page biography, Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior.