Norman Rockwell’s famed realism and attention to detail take that which is commonplace, and make it once again both startling and delightful. He aims to make us see the world that is really here, but that we so often take no notice of, precisely because it’s so familiar to us that we don’t bother to see it.
Pillar: Education & Culture
The fourth pillar, education and culture, is built upon the recognition of two essential realities. First, the Western intellectual tradition requires a dedication to and desire for truth. Second, education takes place not only within colleges and universities but within our broader culture, whose institutions and practices form us as whole persons.
Mary Midgley, the lesser-known friend of Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Iris Murdoch, was a deliberately multidisciplinary thinker. She was convinced that moral philosophers must relate various bodies of knowledge to one another if they are to achieve an adequate understanding of human life, human motivation, and human success or failure. Midgley, writing from the margins of the discipline, was the first to present a positive proposal for the kind of moral philosophy recommended but never developed by Anscombe, Foot, and Murdoch: a naturalistic moral philosophy, grounded in the character and needs of the human animal.
About a decade and a half ago, a groundbreaking study reinvigorated Protestant moral thought. It is time for an appreciation and renewed application of these eternal truths.
My ignorance of many important things gnaws at me, as does the consciousness that the rest of my life is not time enough to learn what I want to know. Lately my thoughts have turned to authors with whom I have some acquaintance but want to know better—specifically those philosophers and theologians who have shaped and transmitted the Catholic faith through the ages.
The canon wars are over, and the canon lost. But the canon’s defeat might not be a bad thing for readers and teachers who care about great books, because it allows us to offer franker, more interesting, and more compelling reasons to read them.
Reading recommendations from The Witherspoon Institute’s staff.
The human soul is marvelously complex. Anyone who thinks he can definitively disentangle another author’s motivations—let alone his own—is fooling himself. He is engaging less in scholarly inquiry than self-projection. Only by listening attentively to others can we instruct our minds and enlarge our souls.
Christ’s advent is an astonishing story of God’s power and light breaking into our darkness, doubt, and suffering.
As recent debates about critical race theory in education demonstrate, trying to solve social problems while neglecting universally recognized virtues acquired through self-mastery—virtues like hope and love—not only fails to build democracy, it also makes us angry, anxious, depressed, and divided. Educators should not ignore historical complexities and conflicts, but they also need to teach students about the universal principles that unite us and sustain the hope needed for social harmony.
The second and final volume of a biography of Benedict XVI focuses on his place in addressing the crises shaking both the post–Vatican II Catholic Church and the West more generally.
Houses of mourning allow us to see hyperreality for what it is: fake. Suffering leads us to ask questions that go beneath life’s surfaces and pushes us to become seekers, not just consumers.
Rockwell’s work may be pop culture rather than high culture, but his work is capable of real and “straightforward” sentiment. Rockwell’s work is humorous, and its humor comes from the joy in the mundaneness of things.
Jim Breuer and Dave Chappelle are current darlings of the Right, because they refuse to bow to the orthodoxy of sexual identitarianism. Yet their own emphasis on autonomy and free speech shares in the same inadequate conception of modern humanity, which, in its never-ending quest for self-realization, inevitably descends into the very coercive behaviors it claims to eschew.
The jealousy among fellow academics is often so strong that a good teacher or fair researcher is despised by colleagues. Many small liberal arts colleges will close. And, despite its reputation as a bastion of progressive thought, the academy usually rewards safe, uncreative thinking. If the academy still sounds good despite all this, then you should apply to graduate school.
There will always be some limits on academic freedom, and it is better to be honest about what they are and who sets them than to try to wish them away. We need to formulate real-world standards, rather than retreating into the impossible fantasy of absolute academic freedom.
Conservatives sometimes overstate how bad things are. Too often we generalize about the dire condition of higher education based on a relatively small handful of elite schools on the coasts. Little good will come from young conservative scholars abandoning the academy out of fear. We have as much right and responsibility to shepherd these institutions as anyone else.
I hope students will throw themselves into these divisive conversations robustly. Call nonsense what it is when you hear it. Offend everyone around you with the truth. Do not fear to pursue the intellectual life with vigor. I am certain the world is hungry for more courageous and selfless women and men to learn, to know, and to speak truth.
Why do we so closely associate having degrees with the scholarly life? Most jobs, including the highest-prestige white-collar jobs, do not involve sitting around thinking lofty thoughts and reading deeply fascinating books all day. Instead, you could go to college to learn how to read Plato and Dante and Locke, and then go off to find a job which presents genuine intellectual puzzles that interest you, regardless of whether that job requires a college degree or not.
What Edgar Lee Masters intended as a clever and eerie indictment of American society has proven more prophetic than the Midwestern poet could have anticipated.
A world ruled by muscle is going to be a man’s world. We don't live in that world anymore. And we don’t know terribly well what men and women are without that context. Are they just interchangeable? If there are essential differences, what are they? What should they be?
Our hope is that, by reading PD regularly, our readers will be formed in such a way that they have not only knowledge on particular topics, but also virtuous habits of mind. By illustrating the capacity to earnestly and carefully think through what’s good and what's bad about both conservative and liberal positions, we show that sobriety and careful, detached thinking is still possible—that we really can have knowledge about the truths that give order to our being.
Rand speaks to the young, to those who have not yet realized just how frail individual life is. In doing so, she tells an incomplete story. The human person is amazing, powerful, and wise, yet equally frail, weak, and foolish. It is in those times of weakness and folly that we most need others around us.
The official moral relativism of absolute academic freedom makes universities self-negating institutions. No wonder many student activists are eager to fashion and enforce new norms and taboos: they realize, however inchoately, that a community of inquiry and instruction must also be one of practice, and that the liberal university fails to integrate these elements.
Is the scholarly life still worth pursuing? I am at that stage in my academic career where the question keeps me up at night. I want to pursue a PhD in my field of interest. I want to teach and write scholarship. But will there be a spot for people like me in the academy?
Given the overreach of government, and perhaps especially given the failure of so many elected officials to remember that they do not rule us, it’s all too easy to slip into libertarianism by default. But government is not alien or unnatural to our condition and needs. It emerges from the community’s associations, affections, bonds, and mutual sense of self-responsibility.