Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy: Inferno examine ideals of morality, friendship, and happiness in ways that still ring true. Aristotle’s model is centered around the concept of kosmos (order) and telos (end or purpose), with nothing in excess. Human passions and desires are to be tempered by reason; likewise, human rationality is made complete by proper desires and sentiments. Dante follows Aristotle’s ideas and brings them further, demonstrating that passion— or as he terms it, love—is a good thing so long as it is directed toward its appropriate object and in proper measure. In both the Ethics and the Divine Comedy, true fellowship is found among the virtuous, who order their passions and sentiments according to what is good. In order to develop a wise and gracious character—from which springs wise and gracious discourse—one must learn to love and value the good in its appropriate measure, and to approach every subject with a humble understanding of one’s own limitation. Continue reading Sense, Sentiment, and Civilization
This is the first post of a three-part essay on liberal arts education, professional studies, and vocations. The essay was originally delivered at the 81st Annual Conference of Lutheran College Faculties.
The theme of liberal arts education, professional training, and the Lutheran doctrine of vocations provides plenty of room for a speaker to wander and ponder. In this address, I will focus my thoughts on some of the conflicts, responses, solutions, and opportunities before Lutheran universities as they engage students in liberal and professional education. Continue reading An Eloquent and Harmonious Education, Part I
This is the second of two posts on the question of happiness.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence is among its most remembered words. Embedded within this sentence is a statement of human rights and of natural law. It is a summary of why America was declaring her independence, even at the cost of war. There are many potential topics of discussion from this sentence that have been examined by philosophers, historians, and political scientists. Of particular interest to myself, as a psychologist, is the “unalienable Right(s)…the pursuit of Happiness.” Continue reading Defining Happiness
This is the first post of a two-part essay on wisdom and education.
The roots of Western education largely rest in the Greek love of pursuing wisdom. In Nicomachean Ethics and Protrepticus, Aristotle envisions those who constantly contemplate wisdom, which is the highest end of humanity, as being like gods. “Understanding,” Aristotle states, “is by nature our end and the exercise of it the final activity for the sake of which we have come into being,” for “every man has been made by god in order to acquire knowledge and contemplate.” Every person, Aristotle says, “who exercises his intellect and cultivates it [is] in the best state and most dear to the gods.” Indeed, it is by means of rational contemplation that people make themselves immortal like the gods. Continue reading The Pursuit of Wisdom