A comment on the text
by Ronald N. Neff

* Despite my research efforts, I have been unable to find Joe Sobran’s seminal essay Pensées on any other website. Many public and university libraries do not have National Review back issues in any form available for the public or they do not subscribe to the services that might have them. A couple of sites claim to have pdfs of the relevant issue of National Review, but the files themselves are not easily available to individuals and apparently can be neither read online nor downloaded. And it is precisely the purpose of the Recoveries section of to make such works more easily located and available.

Moreover, the essay has not (again, so far as I have been able to learn) been reprinted in hard copy in any form. And that means that the only way anyone has been able to read this important document in its entirety has been to find it in a hard copy of the December 31, 1985, issue or to find it on microfiche.

There have been (and are) Web pages that contain extracts from the essay, and there is one page (to which many others are linked) on which there is a massive amount of the text missing. † I am loath to criticize the proofreading of any other webmaster (for I am certain that there are plenty of errors on my own site), but the existing texts such as I have found feature numerous spelling errors and a lot of dropped and missing copy.

I have done my best to make sure that this version of Pensées follows exactly the typography, spellings, and paragraphing of the original National Review article (allowing for the display conventions of this website). If readers spot even the tiniest error or departure, I am happy to be notified of it and to make the correction quickly.

It has sometimes been remarked that the ending of Pensées seems abrupt. In the original hard copy, the conclusion lacks the usual ending graphic that figured in other National Review articles, suggesting that perhaps such digital copies as have been prepared were working from an incomplete text. So far as I can tell, my text, which was compared against a hard copy of the December 31, 1985, issue, is complete. The original hard copy does not show any continuation of the article anywhere in its pages. And given the high editorial standards that National Review observed, it is unlikely that any remaining text was inadvertently dropped. Unless, then, a copy of Sobran’s original MS. should appear (unlikely: it was not submitted on a computer disk but as a typed MS.), I think we should consider the existing ending the true ending of the article.

Readers familiar only with Sobran’s later work may notice that he is more conservative in this essay than they may have remembered. When he wrote this piece, he was 22 years old, and his views naturally underwent change and refinement over time. Nevertheless, I consider it one of those works with which libertarians should be familiar if they are to understand their own political position well and are to be able to articulate it forcefully and clearly. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and Joe Sobran should be counted among them.

To be fair, the person who supplied this text does not claim that his text is definitive, and in any case I can attest that undertaking any transcription of a 32,000-word essay is a daunting task. Elsewhere on the Internet, there are copies of this text. They can all be easily spotted as copies of it by a search for the phrase in Section VII “No though," where it should be "No thought." I do not wish to appear ungrateful or disparaging to the supplier of the original text: his was the only effort to provide the essay, and though imperfect, it conveyed the substance of it to many readers who were influenced by it. See, for example. Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran.

Return to Pensées

Much of Joe Sobran’s post–National Review work can be found at FGF Books. On-line articles from his newsletter and other publications (including The Wanderer) are still available at

Thornwalker main pageNNNNRecoveries contents
 Recovering Sobran 

E-mail Thornwalker at

Coding copyright © 2016 Ronald N. Neff, d/b/a
Text copyright © National Review, 1985 is hosted by pair Networks.