By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Joseph Schumpeter the Political Economist

Schumpeter (Photo credit: babak_bagheri)
Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) was an economist from Austria who coined the famous term "creative destruction." Here is the PDF link to a paper I wrote on him in 1998 while teaching economics at Cleveland State University. Schumpeter was more like a political economist of old (e.g., Adam Smith) than like the über-mathematical economists of today. His broad style of social analysis that addresses cultural and social factors in addition to more purely economic factors is refreshing today when economics is so detached from reality that its predictions have rightfully become matters of mockery in the current economic crisis.

The paper compares Western nations and the nations of East Asia in relation to the theme of savings and economic growth. One thing I would certainly add to the paper is the reality that today the Japanese population is failing to reproduce. This observation relates to the paper's attempt to relate the activity of savings to a long-term horizon based on providing for one's children. Surprisingly, after 14 years, I still find the paper's observations on savings quite relevant today, especially in today's era of private and public debt crises.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Social Philosophy of John Dewey

English: John Dewey at the University of Chica...
English: John Dewey at the University of Chicago in 1902. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Way back in 1983, I wrote an essay as a college student on the social philosophy of John Dewey. I was fortunate to win first place with this essay in a contest sponsored by the Center for Dewey Studies located in an Illinois university. Somehow, I hung on to the typewritten manuscript with its quaint penciled-in corrections all these years (no word processor back then). The essay is now available as a PDF at this link

Would I have expressed myself differently today? Surely. Yet, the prime value of the essay lies in its general overview of the history of Western philosophy, which should be useful for those who are philosophically inclined. I owe any worthwhile insights in the essay to my excellent philosophy professor at Loyola University-New Orleans, Dr. Sandra Rosenthal. Maximas gratias!
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Tears of Things

Portion of the legendary walls of Troy (VII), ...
Portion of the legendary walls of Troy (VII), identified as the site of the Trojan War (ca. 1200 BC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Aeneid of Vergil, there is a famous line that has rightfully earned its way into the English language:
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt (Aeneid 1.462). 
I like the translation by the late Robert Fagles
"The world is a world of tears, and the burdens of mortality touch the heart" (link).

Here is the context. Aeneas is a refugee from his destroyed native city of Troy. He is on the run with other Trojan refugees under his leadership. A storm pushes them onto the shores of North Africa; and they come to Carthage, the city of Queen Dido. There they find a temple to Juno in which there are depictions of scenes from the very Trojan War that Aeneas experienced firsthand. He looks at these scenes and weeps. 

The reaction is not simply sad, but is bittersweet. Aeneas recognizes that the fame of Troy continues in unexpected places. Trojan greatness and tragedy have, at least, not been forgotten.

Yes, tears of things. Some tears are expressed, some are not expressed. We are moved to tears, hidden or overt, when we see the trials and sufferings of those close to us or even of strangers. Yet, in this complex world, there is also a gift of tears: we are moved by the beauty, depth, and complexity of a world full of overwhelming beauty and order. Like all else in Vergil, the reality is complex; and in that complexity and in the graceful, delicate expression of that complexity by the artist, there is even more beauty added to the world.

(A book I recommend on this topic is Virgil: Father of the West by Theodor Haecker, published in English in 1934. It is not easy to find, but worth looking for through your local library. See an apparent excerpt here.)

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Shake It Off and Step Up"

That is the theme of the best Catholic homily I have ever heard. The homily was by an African priest at St. Augustine Catholic student parish at the University of Florida. (By the way, the other priest I heard there today was a Hispanic Jesuit; moreover, the local bishop is Bishop Felipe Estevez, another Hispanic. The demographic changes in the Catholic clergy in the U.S. are bearing good fruit in Florida.)

But back to the A plus homily. The homilist was obviously well-educated, articulate, and precise in his language. He also gave a homily with a careful structure that tied up all the loose ends in a masterful way, even with appropriate, highly effective pauses in speaking. Yet, it all was quite direct and spontaneous in its impact and manner. 

What about the theme "Shake it Off and Step Up"? The theme is from an African folk tale that the priest used to illustrate today's Pauline reading "My grace is sufficient for you." Here it is. 

The mule of an African farmer falls in a well. The farmer can't get him out and concludes that it is not worth the effort to get the mule out of the well. So the farmer gathers his neighbors to help bury the mule in the well. As the shovelfuls of dirt start hitting the mule's back, the mule panics. Then the mule gets an idea: shake off the dirt on his back and step up. You can guess the outcome: the mule slowly ascends out of the well as the dirt piles up under his hoofs.

Lesson: how you respond to adversity makes all the difference. If you respond with the eyes and perspective of faith, you will overcome.

Finally, let me share the African touch by the homilist that captured the message in a rhythmic gesture. As the homilist spoke about "shaking it off," he gracefully swung his shoulders back and forth. A little movement goes a long way. I think many of his U.S. colleagues could use some of his gift for eloquence and some of his personality traits.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Compostela Codex Recovered

Codex Calixtinus Español: Codex Calixtinus Eus...
Codex Calixtinus Español: Codex Calixtinus Euskara: Codex Calixtinus Français : Codex Calixtinus Galego: Códice Calixtino Italiano: Codex calixtinus Latina: Codex Calixtinus Nederlands: Codex Calixtinus Polski: Księga świętego Jakuba Português: Codex Calixtinus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Recently, Spanish authorities recovered a medieval codex (Codex Calixtinus) that was stolen about one year ago from the pilgrimage Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain. This good news is a grand opportunity to learn more about the codex involved and about its role in the formation of the identity of Europe and of the identity of Spain, courtesy of the fine Oxford University Press Blog at this link.
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Sunday, July 1, 2012


Good Samaritan (russian icon)
Good Samaritan (russian icon) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
And, by the way, that is also what Christianity is all about--getting the power to be kind even in trying circumstances. See this NY Times link.

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