Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Life Is Our Dictionary"

"Authors we have in numbers, who have written out their vein, and who, moved by a commendable prudence, set sail for Greece or Palestine, follow the trapper into the prairie, or ramble round Algiers to replenish their merchantable stock. If it were only for a vocabulary the scholar would be covetous of action. Life is our dictionary."
R.W. Emerson, "The American Scholar"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Republic Without Education

“In a republic education is indispensable.  A republic without education is like the creature of imagination, a human being without a soul, living and moving blindly, with no just sense of the present or the future.  It is a monster.
Charles Sumner, Massachusetts Senator, in “Reconstruction Again: The Ballot and Public Schools Open to All,” speeches in the Senate, on the Supplementary Reconstruction Bill, March 15 and 16, 1867.  TheWorks of Charles Sumner, Vol XI, (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1875) p. 156

Armed in Anxiety

My article on guns, fear, and virtue ethics, now accessible at The Chronicle of Higher Education
What do guns do for us? Many opponents of new gun legislation argue that they make us safer. Proponents of gun control hope to promote public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of bent young men who worship projectile power and senseless death. Most of our public-policy debates about guns have focused on safety, but in my opinion, not enough has been said about whether guns make us sound.

Our word "safe" has roots in the Latin word salvus, which means not just "secure from harm" but "whole, well, and thriving"—that is to say, sound. This is one of philosophy's oldest concerns, to examine and foster this kind of sound, flourishing human life. This question is at the heart of Aristotle's ethics, for example. The opening lines of his Nicomachean Ethics declare that it is possible to regard life as having a kind of excellence, a sense of human flourishing and wholeness to which all of our sciences contribute. As Aristotle puts it, failure to reflect on this will make us like people who shoot without considering their target. (Yes, he really says that.)....
Read the rest here.