Imagine being inspired to read Plato's dialogues by first reading the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill--yes, that John Stuart Mill, the naturalist and utilitarian. That is precisely what happened to Mortimer Adler.
The hardest thing by far about my vocation is the travel, and the hardest thing about travel is coming home.
No, it isn't returning to my dear Penelope (nee Karen) that is so hard. It's returning to a world that has kept on moving without me, both at home and at work. And it has been moving without my guidance or oversight or sovereign rule.
Again, don't misunderstand me. I don't even mean the people - I just mean the world. It keeps on changing and adapting to changes around it.
A great deal is made of "critical thinking" in the general background noise of our culture, especially when people talk about education and what kids aren't getting.
I got thinking about that while I was listening closely to a John Denver song on my way in to work this morning. Being a John Denver song it was filled with lofty ideals and longing and very little connection to the real world where decisions are made and have consequences.
This one was about children and the chorus goes:
Rain poured from the densely clouded sky for what seemed like the fortieth straight day. It had already been the rainiest season in recorded history and there appeared to be little break in sight. The clouds darkened everything, making it feel much earlier than it was.
I rose, mumbling my complaints at the weather, and dressed to exercise in hopes it would make me feel a bit better. The kids were just stirring, following my bad example of griping at rain, while my wife tried her best to motivate them to complete chores.
Young people judge things too hastily. It is a mark of immaturity, and we all have areas where we are immature.
However, the ability to rightly judge what is good or bad, just or unjust, fitting or inappropriate is essential to our ability to function as human beings in a world that we all agree is full of dangerous people, immoral people, unjust people.
We have an organ by which we can judge these things, but like every organ when we don't use it or when we lose confidence in it, we stop developing it.
Under Modernism the last vestiges of meaning are removed from the universe. However, the divinely established (as I believe) impulse toward artistic expression remains as strong as ever, an irresistible energy that will unnerve the soul it possesses if it doesn't find an expression.
Prior to the Enlightenment, Europeans at least, and I think most cultures, used art to embody meanings that they believed themselves to have identified in the world as it is.
After the Enlightenment, this use was reduced and then, eventually, eliminated.
“Now both sexes have melodies and rhythms which of necessity belong to them; and those of women are clearly enough indicated by their natural difference. The grand, and that which tends to courage, may be fairly called manly; but that which inclines to moderation and temperance, may be declared both in law and in ordinary speech to be the more womanly quality.” - Plato, Laws (Book VII)
I suppose it must be theoretically possible to create an ethic without God or a god, but historically in the west it’s been a problem.
When Machiavelli developed the first utilitarian handbook on politics, that is to say, a book on politics that approached them without religion (except considered as a tool), he laid the foundations for Thomas Hobbes to develop his Social Contract.
I want to make an appeal for conversation, for its extension and for thoughtful commitment to its practice. I am pleased to make this appeal now because I believe conversation has not died and that many people I know and love participate in conversations now and even more want to.
Laurus/Arseny/Ustin/Amvrosy was born on May 8 in 1440. I post this review today in honor of his birthday and in honor of St. Arsenius, from whom he derived his name.
Russia is to me a foreign country and the Middle Ages are an alien time. Consequently, to read a novel by a Russian author about medieval Russia pretty well guarantees that my understanding will be stretched.