- Wearing a wedding dress to a battlefield—the summary of American Christendom.
- A new world with the same sins following.
- “New soil! Any need of that old Vine?”
- Christendom: trying new hats, headless. The Church: never apart from Christ, not for a moment.
- Being penetrated versus comprehending. Truth versus the lie. Revelation versus Gnosticism. Humility versus hubris. Victory versus vanity. Rest versus “rage, rage.”
- All things for Christ or some things for Christendom. Absolute conflict.
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)
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
—Jesus, Matthew 13.22 (English Standard Version)
Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
—James 2.6-7 (ESV)
But the rich man—not to make any invidious comparison—is always sold to the institution which makes him rich.
—Henry David Thoreau, “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience”
We hold these truths to be self-evident. . . .
- No statement is eo ipso self-evident. A statement may be admitted as an axiom, but only inasmuch as one acknowledges that it has indeed been admitted—or rather, permitted. An axiom is a chosen means to an end.
- Jefferson’s language in the Declaration of Independence exhibits this qualification: the self-evidence of his statements is not “found,” not “discovered,” not “revealed,” not even “known,” but “held.” If they were eo ipso self-evident, he would not need to “hold” them. Rather, they are submitted to the reader as premises: if the reader permits the statements in the abstract, then the reader should permit the conclusions in the concrete. Jefferson’s argument relies on an interpretation of the British king’s actions as tyrannical, so he begins with a series of axioms to facilitate such an interpretation.
- The Declaration of Independence furnishes a hermeneutic for defining tyranny. This hermeneutic is still in regular use today, applied to different particulars.
- American political discourse—no matter how secularized—often has a religious quality because of the application of various hermeneutics whose axioms are ideals separate from published laws.
To be biased, of course, means, among other things, to be socially typed, to have a social perspective from which it is necessary to view experience.
—John Dollard, Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1937)
Questions that linger:
- Is bias essentially social?
- Is bias a perspective?
- Is the perspective by which experience is interpreted (or “viewed”) essentially social?
- Can anything be said, in a human language, without bias?
- Laughter is a conquest, a seizure of the will. The grip of laughter is strongest when one wills most not to laugh.
- A rare genius—no, not necessarily a madman—is the one who laughs in solitude.
- One does not often laugh when alone unless it is believed that another would laugh in the same circumstances. When one does laugh alone, the lordship of the imagination is total, and in that case, it is not fitting to say that one is alone.
- Laughter is as likely the voice of joy as the mask of wretchedness.
- Derision and acceptance, disapproval and fellow-feeling—what do these have in common besides laughter?
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