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Monthly Archives: June 2020

Ignorance is the Real Arrogance

Petrarch on the arrogance of ignorance: Believe me, many things are attributed to gravity and wisdom which are really due to incapacity and sloth. Men often despise what they despair of obtaining. It is in the very nature of ignorance to scorn what it cannot understand, and to desire to keep others from attaining what […]

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Literature Is Not the Enemy of Holiness

The Renaissance writer Petrarch on how piety and literature are not enemies: Neither exhortations to virtue nor the argument of approaching death should divert us from literature; for in a good mind it excites the love of virtue and dissipates, or at least diminishes, the fear of death. To desert our studies shows want of […]

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“The Evils Which Money Brings Us”

“For if you compare all the other things from which we suffer, deaths, illlnesses, fears, desires, endurance of pains and toils, with the evils which money brings us, the latter will far outweigh the others….Let us learn to increase our self-restraint, to curb luxury, to moderate ambition, to soften anger, to regard poverty without prejudice, […]

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“Set Your Minds on Things Above”

In the Republic, Socrates says he…whose mind is fixed upon true being, has surely no time to look down upon the affairs of earth, or to be filled with malice and envy, contending against men; his eye is ever directed toward things fixed and immutable, which he sees neither injuring nor injured by one another, but […]

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Poetry and Reality

For many ancient writers, the point of poetry is to purify human thoughts and emotions (catharsis; see Aristotle Poetics) by connecting their verbal expressions to the simple, pure rhythms of the world. The very word “verse,” standing in English for “poetry,” is from the Latin word “to turn” (versus), and signifies the turning of a plowman at the […]

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The “Real Story” of the Trojan War (?)

In Book II of his Histories (112-120), the father of history, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, gives an alternative story, told to him by Egyptians who allegedly spoke with Helen’s husband Menelaus, about the kidnapping of Helen and the war of the Greeks on Troy. It seems that when Paris (or, Alexander) stole Helen away from Sparta, he was […]

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Getting to Know Hesiod

It’s often said that Homer and Hesiod were “the Bible” of the ancient Greeks. Between the two of them – mainly Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days – they taught the Greeks about the gods, the world, mankind, ethics, politics, and just about anything else you could name. And they […]

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Know Your Limits

Aristotle has the following to say about recognizing one’s intellectual limitations and taking care to properly order one’s studies toward a good end: Now each man judges well the things he knows, and of these he is a good judge. And so the man who has been educated in a subject is a good judge […]

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“Battles and Dates and All That Rot”

In the Magician’s Nephew, Polly Plummer complains of having to learn history, which to her is merely a bunch of “battles and dates and all that rot.”   Using her phraseology as a catch-all for a rather large intellectual problem I have observed over the last 15 years or so, here are some musings regarding teaching […]

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Is Technology Morally Neutral?

Over the last few years I’ve become fascinated with the issue of the relationship between human nature / destiny and technology. As children of the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, we take for granted the idea that technological advancement is a good thing. In some ways it surely is – indoor plumbing, antibiotics, dentistry, insights into […]

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