Algis Valiunas Archives - Ethics & Public Policy Center

A Scientist’s Mind, A Poet’s Soul

Except for Aristotle, no scientist before or since Alexander von Humboldt can boast an intellect as universal in reach as his and as influential for the salient work of his time. His neglect today is unfortunate but instructive.

Our History Then and Now

American historiography — the writing of our history — has never been a more hotly contested political battleground than it is today.

The Genius of Wordsworth

William Wordsworth was the greatest of the English Romantics, innovative in form and content, yet with a lasting influence on the conservative sensibility in culture and politics. Now he, along with Shakespeare and perhaps John Milton, belongs to the exclusive company of English poets whose names even the minimally educated are almost certain to have heard.

Civilized Uncertainty

Thomas Mann never could explain what the world was, but he did a masterly job of portraying it in all its glorious and bedeviled complication.

In Plague Time

There is a masterly and instructive literature that treats of epidemics far more frightful than that of COVID-19, and reminds us what human beings are capable of, in the way of nobility and depravity, when the question of whether one will live out the week is a 50-50 proposition.

Russian Purgatory

Twentieth-century terror for terror’s sake—mass suffering and death at the call of a tyrant’s devastating whim, in the service of absolute nihilism—ravaged the soul of the Russian people. Their soul’s current pitiable state bespeaks the ordeal through which it passed under the evil regime of Soviet communism.

Turing and the Uncomputable

As Alan Turing mentally constructed his universal machine, the very foundations of mathematics — the basis for the modern understanding of the physical world — were called into question. As he pondered the similarities between the mind of man and the mind of the machine, the traditional meaning of our humanity was challenged.

Everlasting Youth

Renowned above all for his flights of lyric sublimity, Percy Bysshe Shelley could be as ravishingly melancholy as John Keats and as tenderly exultant as William Wordsworth. Yet his verse could be flagrantly unlovely in the service of his political hatreds, which were many and fierce.

Ibsen’s Soulcraft

Henrik Ibsen’s daring created the taste by which he is now appreciated. He was the arch-poet of emancipatory liberalism.

Nelson Algren: Chicago’s Bard of the Downtrodden

Critics once compared the novelist Nelson Algren to Dostoyevsky and Dickens, but even at his best, he lacks Dickens’s warmth of soul and love for middle-class normality, and he does not possess the least trace of Dostoevsky’s intellect or spiritual magnificence.