I've reread Thorton Wilder's The Ides of March many times, always with the equivalent of a slight mental frown: Why do I like this book so much?
It is by no means a suspense novel that races (or even lopes) toward its climax. In fact, it deals with one of history's best-known stories: the events surrounding the assassination in 44 B.C. of Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator of Rome. Wilder does not so much tell this story as meditate on it. Each of the book's four sections returns to the same unfolding drama, but within successively wider frames, like a movie camera dollying back to reveal more context.
As it does so, we enter into the life of Rome as republican government is giving way to empire. (It was supposedly to save the republic, of course, that Brutus, Cassius, and the others killed Caesar.) Some giants move across that landscape: Cicero, Cato, Catullus, Cleopatra, and the amazing matrons of republican Rome.
At the center, obsessing their thoughts, dominating their ambitions, stirring their hatreds is Julius Caesar, one of history's most commanding minds. Wilder's portrait of that mind arrested the attention of the philosopher Brand Blanshard, one of our era's rare academic champions of reason. (Many readers will recall that The Objectivist Newsletter recommended Blanshard's Reason and Analysis, a critique of trends in epistemology.) In the title essay of a collection of his talks, In Defense of Liberal Education (Open Court, 1973),...
Read Article : The Ides of March by Thorton Wilder
Many of my friends and patients consider Jack Kevorkian a hero for helping sick people escape from their suffering. And many of my own patients—not only those facing cancer and other terminal illnesses, but also those in despair over disability, immobility, and pain arising from arthritis, diabetes, and strokes—have asked me to give them something to end their life. Thus far, I have not felt it legal or appropriate to do so. There is, in the first place, the difficulty of knowing whether they are speaking in rueful jest. Beyond that, whatever sympathy and temptation one might feel in such a situation, emotional and ethical discomfort—as well as fear of liability or sanctions—is always present, especially for physicians.
The Terms of Debate
Suicide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia—though they differ in critical ways—are not always carefully distinguished. Suicide, of course, is the taking of one's own life by one's own hand, even if one uses equipment or substances supplied by someone else. Assisted suicide, then, is a subcategory of suicide: "the act of intentionally killing oneself with the assistance of another, who deliberately provides the knowledge, means, or both." (Quoted definitions are from the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.) The issue of assisted suicide has come to the fore because, in many cases, an individual may not have the knowledge, ability, or means to commit suicide without assistance, particularly if the individual is sick or...
Read Article : A Doctor Looks at Assisted Suicide
Description: In the following interview, Scott G. Bullock recapitulates and expands upon the main points of a talk he gave at an IOS [now known as the Atlas Society] Summer Seminar in which he discussed his work as a staff attorney with the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., where he litigates cases involving civil rights, property rights, free speech, and other constitutional issues.
Read Article : Litigating for Liberty - Interview with Scott G. Bullock (Institute for Justice)