Author: Kenneth R. Pike

Scott Alexander, Philosopher King of the Weird People

If you (like me) spend an unhealthy amount of time reading about morality and politics online, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Scott Alexander’s Slate Star Codex. In the best of all possible worlds, this would be because someone pointed you toward his pun-laden kabbalistic theodicy or his highly accessible musings on psychotropics or his remarkable essay on coordination problems. Alas, Google Trends suggests that search interest in Slate Star Codex spiked dramatically in June of 2020, when its author announced that he was closing the blog to discourage the New York Times from “doxing” him, publicizing his identity in a way that invited negative consequences for his psychiatry career (and his patients). The news media’s response varied—the New Yorker essentially scooped the story, while National Review simply took the Gray Lady to task—but perhaps the most interesting response was the eclectic variety of signatures appearing on an open letter to the Times. Readers of Slate Star Codex may be predominantly childless, educated white men working in the tech industry, but the diversity of …

Thanksgiving—A Uniquely American Tradition

After decades of faithful repetition, the annual intellectual flagellation of Thanksgiving has become a tradition all its own, as seemingly indispensable as turkey or pumpkin pie. But despite the many things for which we need or ought not be grateful, gratitude is yet a virtue. In the story of the First Thanksgiving we find an example of something for which all Americans can and should be grateful—all the more, perhaps, for its contested role in American civic enterprise. I am speaking, of course, of American liberalism. Most any American grade-schooler can tell the basics of the tale: one year shy of four centuries past, in November of 1620, a ship of Saints and Strangers arrived at what we now call Cape Cod. Difficulties faced during their trans-Atlantic voyage dissuaded them from pressing on to their intended destination in Virginia; instead, most of the passengers remained aboard the Mayflower while some scouted the territory. The land was inhabited, albeit sparsely, by natives who made no show of hostility but also evaded any attempts at contact. What …