C’est le privilège du vrai génie, et surtout du génie qui ouvre une carrière, de faire impunément de grandes fautes.

It is the privilege of true genius, and above all genius that opens up a new path, to commit great errors with impunity.

Bene vixit, bene qui latuit. He lived well who concealed well.
—Descartes’s motto

One evening many years ago, when I was in graduate school, I somehow found myself in conversation with a group of graduate students who were studying political science. Almost everything about that conversation is now lost in the mists of time, except one detail. The conversation had turned to the nature of modernity. I brought up Descartes, and was probably just about to utter the word “dualism” or “technology” when a vivid...


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