This week at Public Discourse, we published an essay by Eva Marie Haine, reflecting on her study of the Great Books in St. John’s College’s graduate program. Noting that many college-educated adults lack a strong foundation in the liberal arts, she argues that “Great change could be wrought in the culture by offering an education to the ‘already educated.’”
This is what Public Discourse aims to do. Our site offers readers the opportunity to deepen and broaden their educations beyond what they learned in college, applying solid philosophical principles to the problems that plague our politics and culture. You can be part of this important work not only by reading, sharing, and discussing our essays, but also by making a donation to Public Discourse today. Your contributions will help provide honoraria for our thoughtful authors, salaries for our editorial team, and payment for essential technical services such as web hosting.
As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have attended the University of Dallas—a school whose core curriculum involves a deep engagement with some of the world’s greatest texts. There, my professors pushed me to think deeply, not only about the content of those texts, but also about the ways in which what I learned should affect my life. During my course on tragedy and comedy, for example, we were given a final exam composed of two essay questions:
1. What is the nature of reality?
2. How, then, should a life be lived?
Those are big questions for a bunch of nineteen-year-olds to try to answer. But they are questions that each of us must deal with in some way. Is the universe ultimately comic or tragic? Can all of the suffering around us and the mistakes we make ever be redeemed? Or is the order we see at the beginning of the play just an illusion, a façade that will inevitably crumble due to our own fatal flaws, which we are fated never to overcome?
Perhaps these questions seem dramatic. But the question of how we should live our lives grounds those cosmic questions in the humdrum minutiae of coffee cups and commutes, diapers and direct deposited paychecks. If we are, at least in part, what we repeatedly choose to do, our everyday choices matter.
Personally, I am thankful that my everyday life includes my work as managing editor of Public Discourse. It may seem like a humble operation (and I’ll be the first to admit that our website could use a facelift), but the ideas grappled with here are big ones. We publish five articles a week, spanning a wide array of topics. Yet, in some way, each one can help our readers to think more deeply about what it means to live a good life, particularly in relation to others. How do we protect others’ rights—most especially their right to life? How do we build up our marriages and those of others in our society? How can we help children receive the upbringing they deserve, rooted in the constant love of both their mother and their father? How should those children be educated? The excellent authors at Public Discourse address these questions and many, many more.
This Labor Day weekend, if you value the work that we do, please donate to Public Discourse.
Serena Sigillito is managing editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. She holds a BA from the University of Dallas and an MA from the Catholic University of America.