Socrates & the Un-Willed Life

By |2019-03-05T12:07:03-05:00March 4th, 2019|

For Socrates choices are of a life-pattern. Decisions, which are the deliberated choices that a particular occasion calls for, are not his mode, even at a crucial moment. Such choice, decision occasioned by the moment, will become the pivot of action. It is notoriously difficult to prove a negative, to catch, as it were, non-being [...]

The Beauty Contest

By |2019-02-25T09:23:38-05:00February 22nd, 2019|

The beauty contest illustrates the difficulty with the term for and maybe the very idea of gentlemanliness—are good and beautiful two criteria or one? If they are two, how are they related? Could the beautiful be whatever compellingly attracts? Furthermore, what is truly and justly compelling? Editor’s Note: This essay is part of a series dedicated [...]

What is a Book?

By |2019-02-25T10:49:22-05:00February 18th, 2019|

What is a Book? It is a special kind of body made to be inhabited by a curious kind of frozen but fusible soul, a body fit to mediate its own peculiar life… It is our tradition that the first lecture of the year should be dedicated to our freshmen.* They have newly joined a [...]

Liberal Learning, the Human Person, and Plato’s “Meno”

By |2019-02-25T14:28:30-05:00January 28th, 2019|

“First attend to the adjustment of your own soul, particularly the regulative liberal learning of your intellect, then project your internal economy on the world as social and political justice. The other way around is headless.”  – Eva Brann, The Music of the Republic: Essays on Socrates’ Conversations and Plato’s Writings Eva Brann is a [...]

Talking, Reading, Writing, Listening

By |2019-02-25T14:30:41-05:00December 10th, 2018|

I imagine that on Parents’ Weekend there might be some parents attending this once weekly occasion when the college assembles to hear a lecture. By its very name, a lecture is read—but read out loud, delivered in the writer’s voice. Thus, the sequence goes: I thought, I wrote, I read, I speak. Although this is the principal way of [...]

A Backwards Civilization: Unthinking Leaders, Frenzied Citizens

By |2019-04-07T17:34:14-05:00November 27th, 2018|

In America today, we are living in a toxic political climate that is the product of a very dangerous combination: Our rulers lack the learning necessary to ask the kinds of deep and fundamental questions that leaders and lawgivers ought to make a habit of pondering, while our people rebelliously scrutinize all orthodoxies and [...]

Honor and Fame

By |2018-09-17T21:57:03-05:00September 17th, 2018|

Should honor and fame no longer be ends of ambition in such a world? The ancient philosophers doubted the ultimate merit of fame, but they also looked for the most spirited students, those most inclined to “undertake extensive and arduous enterprises"... In response to my essay about baptizing ambition, a friend from Boston College recommended [...]

Questions Are Better Than Answers: On the Socratic Method

By |2018-09-11T22:08:17-05:00September 11th, 2018|

The end of liberal education is not the learning of settled truths, and the inculcation of useful habits for obtaining useful goods, but the perfection of the human as human, not, primarily, as worker, citizen, or even believer... While people with backgrounds more religious and those with more secular mindsets may disagree about what gives [...]

The Student’s Problem

By |2018-11-21T08:38:37-05:00August 20th, 2018|

There is a sickness, traditionally called melancholy, which is particularly at home in communities of learning such as ours. Its visible form can be seen in the engraving by Duerer called Melencolia Prima. Amidst the signs and symbols of the liberal arts, especially geometry, sits heavily a winged woman. Her eyes are fixed intently on visions [...]

Why We Learn Mathematics

By |2018-08-01T12:55:22-05:00August 1st, 2018|

When we learn math, we are using our mind alone, not our senses. Socrates calls it a study that “by nature leads to intellection”… It is a common occurrence: A math teacher stands at the front of the classroom, struggling to keep the student’s attention. One student is on the phone. Another stares straight [...]

The Perfection of Jane Austen

By |2018-11-21T08:38:38-05:00July 30th, 2018|

Jane Austen’s world is as merry as it is good. All the novels are perfect comedies—mirthful throughout and happy in outcome. Despite their brightness and lightness, these novels are in no way trivial—they are simply not concerned with those terrific follies presented to the scourge of public laughter in classical comic drama… Since this [...]

Plato’s “Republic”: Impossible Polity

By |2018-11-21T08:38:39-05:00July 23rd, 2018|

Plato’s Republic: A Study by Stanley Rosen (432 pages, Yale University Press, 2008) Plato’s Republic, Stanley Rosen says at the beginning of his book, is “both excessively familiar and inexhaustibly mysterious.” Thus it invites ever more interpretations, not, I think, by reason of any willful indeterminacy or woolly grandeur on Plato’s part, but because a [...]

Is Plato’s Feverish City Good?

By |2018-07-15T22:56:11-05:00July 15th, 2018|

We suffer from bifurcation and interior dividedness because our souls are disordered. This is crippling to our souls, but it is also good. Why? It is only when we are deathly ill that we can finally come to see that we are in need of healing… The eminent political philosopher James V. Schall, S.J. [...]