HT: The Way of Improvement Leads Home
My friend, Roger Berry, sent this my way. Christian faith in action!
My friend, Randy Newman, recommended this essay to me. I am very interested in writers like Thoreau and Emerson. A revealing piece!
Why, given his hypocrisy, sanctimony, and misanthropy, has Thoreau been so cherished?
I spent the summer of 1986 in the former Yugoslavia. It was a transforming experience. Our missionary team started in Sarajevo which was hit hard during the war. I cried when I saw this:
Just watched this amazing man on 60 Minutes. Found his number online. Gave him a call. I wanted to know a piece of literature he found compelling. His answer: Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Esolen writes with style, insight, and a jovial spirit. His book has a masterful use of history, literature, and contemporary events. The reader will see in bright colors why to quote Andrew Lytle, “Modern man is momentary man.” But Esolen does not just want to curse the darkness. He provides insight into how things can be improved. He is a realist, but since he’s a Christian, he’s not cynical.
One of the things that comes through loud and clear is that a great education is worth fighting for. Among other things, it allows you to better appreciate the world God has created.
The author is well educated (Princeton summa cum laude; PhD in classics), but he is far from a snob. His own blue-collar upbringing coupled with his love of family is endearing as it is worth reading about.
I resonate with these words:
“Whoever meditates on the mystery of his own life will quickly realize why only God, the searcher of the secrets of the heart, can pass final judgment. We cannot judge what we have no access to. The self is a swirling conflict of fears, impulses, sentiments, interests, allergies, and foibles. It is a metaphysical given for which there is no easy rational explanation. Now if we cannot unveil the mystery of our own motives and affections, how much less can we unveil the mystery in others? That is, as we look into ourselves, we encounter the mystery of our own, the depths of our own selfhood. As we sing things like ‘Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings within and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come.’ And having recognized the mysteries that dwell in the very depths of our own being, how can we treat other people as if they were empty or superficial beings, without the same kind of mystery?”
The rest is here:
Our youngest son, Chris, recently finished his honors thesis in classics. It is quite technical (yes, I’ve “read” it) and about 100 pages long. That length is pretty typical. Now consider an undergraduate doing this for his thesis on Shakespeare:
In his senior year at Princeton in 1954, Daniel Seltzer, assistant professor of English, wrote a thesis that was nearly six hundred pages long…Dealing with “royal themes–the characterization of moral ideas on the stage,” the thesis was for Seltzer a “kind of catharsis,” and he now looks back with Joycean delight at the comment of his roommate who suggested that “I put the thing on casters.”
Who or what do you love enough to go overboard? Rather, take a look at the people and things you tend to go overboard with and you will discover your true loves!
Interview with the eminent philosopher, Martha Nussbaum:
Name a writer or publication you disagree with but still read.
This strikes me as the most hilarious question, given that I’m a philosopher. Philosophy is all about respectful disagreement, and learning from disagreement. No decent philosopher simply parrots some other philosopher, so there must be disagreements somewhere in every case.
I disagree less with J.S. Mill than with any other major philosopher, but I still disagree with Mill a good deal. Aristotle is insightful on some matters, not so insightful on others. As for Plato, Kant, Bentham, Sidgwick, and Rawls, my disagreements are larger, but still compatible with thinking that in some very major ways they were on the right track. I would not say that about Lord Devlin or James Fitzjames Stephen, but I still teach both, in order to learn from their arguments.
If I didn’t disagree with a philosopher it would hardly be worth engaging with him or her, because there would be nothing to learn.
The entire interview is here: