Pillar: Education & Culture

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.


Theorists of the Poison Pill

For the conservative theorists of the poison pill, everything becomes about ideas. According to them, Ockham, Scotus, Bacon, Descartes, Locke—they are the important bad guys who determined the decadence of our time and the problems we should be talking about. But ideas don’t work this way; reality does not proceed with perfect logic like it so conveniently does in the textbooks.

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The Forgotten Friend: (Re)Discovering Mary Midgley

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.


The Bookshelf: Reading in the Faith

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.


Deconstructionist, Deconstruct Thyself

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.


How Can Education Unite Us Rather than Fragment Us?

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 Autonomous Self Is a Coercive God

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.


Should I Become an Academic? Maybe Not: A Final Response to Phillip Dolitsky

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.


Courageous Scholars Shouldn’t Abandon the University: A Response to Phillip Dolitsky

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.


The World Needs More, Not Fewer, Scholarly Vocations: A Response to Phillip Dolitsky

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 College Degrees Might Not Be Worth It: A Response to Phillip Dolitsky

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.


Charting Public Discourse’s Past and Future: A Conversation between Serena Sigillito and Elayne Allen

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.


The Contradictions of Absolute Academic Freedom

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.

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