James V. Schall, S.J.

Written by James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J. was a Professor of Government at Georgetown University. He is author and editor of over thirty books, the latest being Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught (St. Augustine's, 2016).

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In a letter of Jonathan Swift (1667–1745) addressed to the poet Alexander Pope (1688–1744), dated September 29, 1725, Swift spoke of returning to the grand monde of Dublin to deal with various curates and vicars, and to “correct all corruptions crept in relating to the weights of bread and butter throughout those dominions where I govern.” As Dean of St. Patrick’s…

"Spiritualism seems to me absolutely right on all its mystical side. The supernatural part of it seems to me quite natural. The incredible part of it seems to me obviously true. But I think it so far dangerous or unsatisfactory that it is in some degree scientific. It inquires whether its gods are worth inquiring into. A man (of a…

Let me begin by citing two passages that graphically underscore the themes that I wish to consider here—the things of leisure and culture, of what is and its surprising origins. The first lines are from Gregory of Nazianzen, the great Eastern theologian:
"What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course,…

In today’s world, when the topic of the defects of university teaching and curricula comes up, the most well-known alternative put forward is the “great books programs.” I take it for granted that we read what are rightly called “great books”—Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, the Greek tragedians, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, the Bible, St. Augustine, some Church fathers, St. Thomas, Shakespeare, and into…

Some astronomers think that a great, even infinite, number of universes are floating about somewhere out there in space. These worlds, with no real evidence, to be sure, are said to exist in addition to the one in which most of us have but temporary residence. The universe we do find ourselves in does seem vast enough for the purposes…

“Truth is the self-manifestation and state of evidence of real things. Consequently, truth is something secondary, following from something else. Truth does not exist for itself alone. Primary and precedent to it are existing things, the real. Knowledge of truth, therefore, aims ultimately not at ‘truth’ but, strictly speaking, at gaining sight of reality.”
- Josef Pieper, Scholasticism. 1960.
“Like anything human,…

“Shall it (the happy life) be that of the philosophers, who put forward as the chief good, the good which is in ourselves? Is this the true good? Have they found the remedy for our ills? Is man’s pride cured by placing him on an equality with God?”
— Pascal, Pensēes, #430.
“Salvation, such as it shall be in the world to come,…

Probably the most famous letter writer of the ancient world was Cicero. In 59 B.C., Cicero wrote to Gaius Scribonius: “There are many sorts of letters. But there is one unmistakable sort, which actually caused letter-writing to be invented in the first place, namely the sort intended to give people in other places any information which for our or their…

A recurring theme in Plato’s dialogues, including his Seventh Letter, describes the education of a young man who wants to achieve the highest things, which he considers to be achieved primarily through his ruling the polity. He wants to be a tyrant. This desire, he explains to others, means that he wants to “do good” and thereby receive high honors.…