The Reading Room

The OLL blog explores the fascinating, vital, and often surprising texts and people that fill our library. Come talk in our library!

OLL’s April Birthday: Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645)

By: Peter Carl Mentzel

Dutch Ship, Bunsai Madaki, active 1816-1847 (Publisher)
April’s OLL Birthday essay is in honor of the Dutch political philosopher Hugo de Groot, Latinized as Grotius.  Sometimes referred to as “the father of Natural Law,” his writings can be seen as marking the origins of Natural Law theory.  His work thus signaled a fundamental turning point in political philosophy, especially in the field of International Relations, as well as the area of political sovereignty and religious toleration.   

Some Reading while You Wait for the Eclipse

By: OLL Editor

The Reading Room crew is eagerly anticipating today's eclipse, as watchers of the skies have done for centuries. We've gathered a list of links to the OLL and elsewhere for you to explore while you're waiting for totality.

Social Coercion in Libertopia

By: Bill Glod

James moves to the small town of Libertopia, where property rights are respected with perfect consistency. There is no force or fraud. Contracts are still normally in writing but handshakes uphold deals reliably. One can leave one’s…

Evil In Plato’s Republic and Dante’s Paradiso

By: Alexander Schmid

In Plato's Republic, Socrates confidently asserts to Glaucon, Plato’s older brother, that evil cannot be done consciously, or rationally, for one doing evil believes himself to be doing good, and one cannot do evil to another,…

Why Be Moral?

By: Bill Glod

Philosophers like to ask questions whose answer might seem obvious at first glance but for which satisfactory accounts often prove elusive. One such question is “Why be moral?” You might think there should be some convincing…

The “Enlightened Absolutism” of the Eighteenth Century

By: Gary McGath

The eighteenth century was the age of “enlightened absolutism” in Russia and the German-speaking states. Its noteworthy practitioners included Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia, Catherine II (the Great) of Russia, and Maria…

OLL’s March Birthday: William Godwin (March 3, 1756 – April 7, 1836)

By: Peter Carl Mentzel

March’s OLL Birthday essay is in honor of the English journalist, novelist, and radical political philosopher William Godwin. A pioneering figure in Utilitarianism and anarchist thought, Godwin had a profound influence in the…

Oakeshott and Weaver: Two Types of Conservatism

By: William Reddinger

Among the ways in which to classify different species of conservatism, one might consider how different kinds of conservatives seem to be less zealous and ideological than are others. When considered in this light, conservatism has…

A Tale of Two Antonios

By: Lucie Alden

The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night both end in double marriages, featuring the kind of comedy Disney would later seize upon: boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl live happily ever after. But what of the other boy?…

Counsel, Command and English Renaissance Politics: Counsel and Command in the English Civil War

By: Joanne Paul

The period between the Wars of the Roses and the England Civil War has been referred to by scholars as the ‘monarchy of counsel’: an era where advice and advisers were at the centre of political discourse. As concepts of ‘counsel’…

Counsel, Command and English Renaissance Politics: Weak Monarchs and Tyrannous Counsellors

By: Joanne Paul

The period between the Wars of the Roses and the England Civil War has been referred to by scholars as the ‘monarchy of counsel’: an era where advice and advisers were at the centre of political discourse. As concepts of ‘counsel’…

Bishop Butler and the Virtue of Self-Love

By: Walter Donway

Most Enlightenment intellectuals united around themes such as passion for science and scientific method (inductive reasoning), human wellbeing as the goal of philosophy, and religious tolerance. But nothing proved more nearly…

America’s Future Doomed by Climate (circa 1778)

By: Walter Donway

In the 1770s, the greatest naturalist in the Western World, the French scientist George Louis Leclerc, comte du Buffon—echoed by many others viewed as the leading scientific authorities of the era—insisted that beyond doubt America’…
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