A Quote. Of Liberal Education.

St. John’s College knows, along with many others:

In a half-dozen classrooms they gather then,—here to follow the love-song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander among men and nations,—and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices,—simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and learning the good of living. The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs, that was taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium, and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal,—not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.

—Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, “Of the Wings of Atalanta” (1903)

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A Proverb. Two Loosely Connected Thoughts. Of Virtues and Their Pretenders.

  1. “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”* He is wise not because he is beyond reproof but because he knows what to do in response to it.
  2. A free society is characterized by the ability of its members to speak with one another despite difference, difficulty, and even offense. A free society is not necessarily free from these things.

* Proverbs 9.8, English Standard Version

A Passage. A Dialogue. Of Injustice. Of Tyranny.

Socrates: Therefore I was telling the truth when I said that it’s possible for a human being to do what seems good to him in a city without having great power and without doing what he wants.

Polus: Yeah, right, Socrates, as if you wouldn’t accept free rein to do what seemed good to you in the city rather than not, and wouldn’t be envious when you saw someone putting to death anyone that seemed good to him or seizing his property or locking him up.

Socrates: Justly, you mean, or unjustly?

Polus: Whichever way he might do it! Isn’t he someone to envy either way?

Socrates: Watch what you say, Polus.

Polus: Why’s that?

Socrates: Because one shouldn’t envy those who are unenviable or miserable, but pity them.

Polus: What? Is that the condition the people I’m talking about [i.e., tyrants, autocrats] seem to you to be in?

Socrates: How could it be any other way?

Polus: Then whoever puts to death anyone as it seems good to him, and puts him to death justly, seems to you to be miserable and pathetic?

Socrates: Not to me, but not enviable either.

Polus: Weren’t you claiming just now that he is miserable?

Socrates: The one who puts someone to death unjustly is, my comrade, and pathetic on top of it; the one who does so justly is not be envied.

Polus: I’d suppose it’s the one who’s put to death unjustly who’s pathetic and miserable.

Socrates: Less so than the one who puts him to death, Polus, and less so than someone who’s justly put to death.

Polus: How can that be, Socrates?

Socrates: In this way, that the greatest of evils is committing injustice.

Polus: That’s the greatest? Isn’t suffering injustice a greater one?

Socrates: That least of all.

Polus: So you’d rather suffer injustice than commit it?

Socrates: I wouldn’t want to do either one, but if it were necessary either to commit injustice or suffer it, I’d choose to suffer it rather than commit it.

—Plato, Gorgias 468E-469C
Translated by Joe Sachs

A Return to Older Thoughts. Of Time and Times. Of Becoming Human.

Excuses are made with talk of “seasons” and “times of life” as if one is not always charged with becoming human. One becomes human not for a time but for a lifetime, and it must not be supposed that one can outgrow what is essential and eternal for a human.

A Quote. Of Ignorance. Of Self-Knowing. Of Wisdom.

. . . ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.

I have appeared at any rate, in this little particular thing, to be wiser than this [other person] because what I do not know I do not suppose to know.

—Plato (Socrates), Apology 21d

Definitions in Competition. Of Opinion, Knowledge, Faith.

The Skeptic: Opinion is the memory of a thought attended by a feeling of certainty. Knowledge is the memory of a thought attended by a feeling of certainty and an assumption that everyone else must feel the same about it once it is remembered.

The Mystic: Faith is a mode of thinking conditioned by telos rather than origin or memory. Knowledge is the desired yet—in this life—unreachable telos of faith.

Three Experimental Thoughts. Of Maturity. Of Adulthood.

  1. Children often wish to be adults in hopes of gaining in adulthood some benefit that is in childhood withheld from them. Now, imagine a child who has been taught to long for adulthood because being an adult is an actualization of a fundamental purpose, and who consequently hopes to gain not a benefit but a responsibility, a burden that uplifts only those who bear it and oppresses those who set it down.
  2. A longing for maturity is an essential element of maturity itself.
  3. The cost and cause of human actualization: that one should desire one’s highest end and not presume to have it.