Hello there, I’m Johnathan.

Raised between Beijing and Vancouver, I spent my formative years training in mathematics, eventually competing in the Canadian Olympiad. I went on to study philosophy and computer science at Columbia during which my curiosity dragged me towards AI coursework, VR Research, continental philosophy, and Buddhist monasteries. As a senior, I started Opto Investments as part of the founding team.

After 3.5 years, I’ve just left Opto to dedicate myself fully to studying the Great Books. I spend 2 months per book reading the secondary texts and interviewing 2-3 of the top scholars which culminates in an introductory lecture. All my lectures, interviews, book notes, and writing that I compile through this process are made free for the public on this site.

Outside of this project, you can expect to find me musing over my three main interests…

  • Contemplation: I was trained in continental philosophy with a focus on recognition theory. My primary interest are thinkers who focus on the social side of human nature: Plato, Augustine, Hume, Hegel, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Girard. Specifically, I’m interested in the relationship between sociality and rationality: the compatibility of the contemplative and active life, the social preconditions of truth, and the role of mimesis in normative judgements and religious faith. I’ve also become interested in, what I’ve started calling, “political technology.” The animating question is: what is the nature of a technological society?

  • Meditation: I’ve practiced in a Tibetan monastery, attended multiple retreats, and briefly flirted with the idea of becoming a monastic. Alas, the world still entices me too much at this current moment … although, I have a nagging suspicion that philosophy will eventually instruct me to abandon philosophy and turn to meditation as the final pursuit. 

  • Action: The more I engage in active life, the more I think it to be incompatible with the contemplative and meditative lives. Furthermore, I find my motivations for engaging with the former to be more base. As a mere stage in life, I consider entering into the “real world” necessary; I’m suspicious that it is also a worthy destination. Perhaps I’ve internalized Dante’s critique of Odysseus: wandering forms character, but one can wander too far.

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Studying the great books, sharing my learnings through lectures & interviews

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Sharing Insights from the Great Books