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  • Liberal Education and Politics: Twenty-Five Years in the Academy

    November 23, 2017

    Everything is Political Just as I began my college teaching career twenty-five years ago, the whole academy seemed to have accepted as axiomatic the assertion that “Everything is Political.” This self-evident universal truth (curiously, my relativistic colleagues have quite a few of them) came to be uttered frequently in…

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  • "Schooling for 'the Democracy of the Dead": How the Liberal Arts Connect Us with the Legacy of the Past

    November 22, 2017

    In seeking to explain the evolution of the American democracy, historians typically give great emphasis to the step-by-step enlargement of the franchise to vote. Thus, the expansion of the franchise figures prominently in the account historian Hugh P. Williamson gives of the slow political transformation of Britain’s 17th-century North…

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  • Nurturing the Historical Imagination: Teaching History within the Liberal Arts

    November 21, 2017

    The study of history is a rigorous intellectual enterprise.  A student researching and writing about the past must sift through multiple pieces of evidence, grasp an event’s larger context, and think logically in order to construct arguments presenting plausible explanations as well as judgments and interpretations.   But history is…

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  • Culture and Education in Josef Pieper’s Thought

    November 20, 2017

    Josef Pieper is best known in this country for his work, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, and its companion essay, The Philosophical Act, published as one book in 1952. In this book, Pieper’s argument is seemingly straight-forward: culture depends upon leisure, and leisure, in its turn, depends upon…

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  • A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor

    November 18, 2017

    A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor. Henry T. Edmondson, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2017.   Readers familiar with The Habit of Being, the collected correspondence of Flannery O’Connor, no doubt smile every time they see a new book about the life of the famous Georgia author who…

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  • The Death of Liberal Education: Its Implications for the University, Democracy and the American Polity

    November 17, 2017

    By “liberal education” I refer to two competing things which have been in tension since the ancient world, both of which have traveled under the label “liberal education”: 1) the tradition of seeking the truth wherever it is to be found and however “useless” or inconvenient it may be,…

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  • "Only Collect[ing] the Fragments”: The Inadequacy of an Entirely Secular Approach to the Liberal Arts

    November 15, 2017

    Commenting in 1940 about the perspective that had given modern education its fundamentally secular character, the sociologist Florian Znankecki spoke of “the deeply stimulating conviction that man, the individual man, this ephemeral being dependent on his natural milieu for his bodily life and on his social milieu for his…

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  • Periagoge: Liberal Education in the Modern University

    November 14, 2017

    Conversation and the “Turning Around of the Soul” One of the common criticisms of the contemporary university is that it lacks individuals unwilling or incapable of conversing. Critics such as Anthony Kronman and Stephen Miller rightly observe that there’s something about contemporary culture and the contemporary university hostile to…

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  • Obstacles to Liberal Education in the Modern University

    November 13, 2017

    To be a teacher of the humanities at a university means participating in a community dedicated to enquiring into the good for human beings. As members of a community of teachers, scholars, and students, we share an equality because no individual possesses a firm grip on the truth of…

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  • What Can Liberal Education Provide for Citizens of Liberal Democracy?

    November 6, 2017

    When one looks at the history of higher education in Canada and the United States it is striking to note that at one time every university regarded liberal education as its central purpose. Moreover, that purpose was connected to, though not entirely limited to, citizenship broadly conceived. At the…

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Everything is Political
Just as I began my college teaching career twenty-five years ago, the whole academy seemed to have accepted as axiomatic the assertion that “Everything is Political.” This self-evident universal truth (curiously, my relativistic colleagues have quite a few of them) came to be uttered frequently in response to complaints from a few recalcitrant professors who objected when other…

Read More ...

In seeking to explain the evolution of the American democracy, historians typically give great emphasis to the step-by-step enlargement of the franchise to vote. Thus, the expansion of the franchise figures prominently in the account historian Hugh P. Williamson gives of the slow political transformation of Britain’s 17th-century North American colonies into the mass democracy of the 20th-century United States.
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The study of history is a rigorous intellectual enterprise.  A student researching and writing about the past must sift through multiple pieces of evidence, grasp an event’s larger context, and think logically in order to construct arguments presenting plausible explanations as well as judgments and interpretations.   But history is also an imaginative endeavor as practitioners of the discipline must oftentimes…

Read More ...

Josef Pieper is best known in this country for his work, Leisure as the Basis of Culture, and its companion essay, The Philosophical Act, published as one book in 1952. In this book, Pieper’s argument is seemingly straight-forward: culture depends upon leisure, and leisure, in its turn, depends upon the cult of divine worship. For Pieper, the cult is the…

Read More ...

A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor. Henry T. Edmondson, ed. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2017.
 
Readers familiar with The Habit of Being, the collected correspondence of Flannery O’Connor, no doubt smile every time they see a new book about the life of the famous Georgia author who predicted in a 1958 letter to a friend that “there won’t be any…

Read More ...

By “liberal education” I refer to two competing things which have been in tension since the ancient world, both of which have traveled under the label “liberal education”: 1) the tradition of seeking the truth wherever it is to be found and however “useless”[i] or inconvenient it may be, a tradition commonly seen as flowing from Socrates’ unrelenting questions and…

Read More ...

Commenting in 1940 about the perspective that had given modern education its fundamentally secular character, the sociologist Florian Znankecki spoke of “the deeply stimulating conviction that man, the individual man, this ephemeral being dependent on his natural milieu for his bodily life and on his social milieu for his spiritual life, can alone and unaided by any divine grace or…

Read More ...

Conversation and the “Turning Around of the Soul”
One of the common criticisms of the contemporary university is that it lacks individuals unwilling or incapable of conversing. Critics such as Anthony Kronman and Stephen Miller rightly observe that there’s something about contemporary culture and the contemporary university hostile to the arts or to habits of conversation. Conversation has had a place…

Read More ...

To be a teacher of the humanities at a university means participating in a community dedicated to enquiring into the good for human beings. As members of a community of teachers, scholars, and students, we share an equality because no individual possesses a firm grip on the truth of that good. As teachers, we are unequal to our students by…

Read More ...