Sunday, April 27, 2014
Friday, April 25, 2014
(Image under Creative Commons License at link)
Friday, April 18, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Holy Thursday Tempest in a Teapot.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
And that difference has had profound effects in shaping Western culture and, by extension, the rest of the globe which is so influenced (and rightly not dominated) by Western culture.
We see this difference in the history of art, especially in Late Antiquity and in the classical revival we call the Renaissance.
While in Judaism and Islam, the commandment against graven images meant that the classical Greek and Roman heritage in art, especially in sculpture, was rejected, in Christianity, as early as the fourth century A.D., we see Christ himself depicted in a classical statue, in the pose of an ancient philosopher (see image below).
The incarnation--the conviction that the deity became flesh--made Christianity and the realism and naturalism of classical sculpture congenial to each other.
The result, in my opinion, is a Western tradition in which individual freedom, dignity, and self-fulfillment are central. The West was the vehicle for this fusion, but the results are for everyone sharing in the same human nature. Every human being of whatever continent shares in this common heritage, if he or she dares to claim it.
(Image under fair use doctrine and/or public domain)
Sunday, April 13, 2014
|learning (Photo credit: Anne Davis 773)|
--Isaac Asimov (1988) (see source link below).
This prescient statement from 1988 points to the explosion of online learning (whether for a degree or for a certificate or just for the intrinsic reward). The statement also confirms the value of the concept of "community education" in which our school facilities are made available for the entire community of whatever age to learn whatever an individual finds of interest, from Latin to painting.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
I like these from the De Rerum Natura (Concerning the Nature of Things) by the Roman poet and Epicurean Lucretius, a contemporary of Cicero and Julius Caesar (all quotes are from the Loeb edition):
1. Speaking of credibility: "Thus it is more useful to scrutinize a man in danger or peril, and to discern in adversity what manner of man he is: for only then are the words of truth drawn from the very heart, the mask is torn off, the reality remains" (Book 3.55-58);
2. Speaking of the frenetic search for entertainment: "[E]ach man tries to flee from himself" (Book 3.1068).
I think of No. 1 on credibility especially when we see people caught doing what is unethical and refusing to own up. I think of No. 2 on freneticism when we see so many erratic individuals with a lot of strong opinions, emotions, and judgments and no maturity.
(Image of the book De Rerum Natura in public domain)
Thursday, April 10, 2014
In the proverbial rat race for tokens of prestige, academia looms large. An honor or degree that is considered prestigious is highly valued, even if the recipient ends up not doing much of anything worthwhile with it.
I am sure many of you could share some anecdotes on this theme. Here are mine:
1. The Phi Beta Kappa graduates who are strikingly imbecillic and mediocre;
2. The holders of advanced research degrees lacking any trace of intellectual intuition even in their fields of specialty.
Often, we are surprised at the level of mediocrity of those holding such honors and degrees. Well, experience teaches us not to be surprised. The theory of prestigious mediocrity explains why.
Any large group will have a large number of mediocrities.
Most honors and degrees are widely distributed or distributed to a number of persons too large to escape mediocrity.
Hence, mediocrity is inevitable.
What are the practical consequences to this reality?
1. Be very skeptical of judging by credentials alone whether as a consumer or simply as an observer. A lawyer who advertises his Phi Beta Kappa key may be an utter dolt. The holder of a degree, even an advanced degree, from a prestigious institution may be a complete dimwit.
2. As we devalue credentialism, we can focus more on personal character and talent
3. As we focus more on character and talent, we end up finding and rewarding quality as opposed to mediocrity.
Many common sense persons recognize and follow the above, but the truth is too often kept under wraps. There is a vast, informal conspiracy of silence to keep the deception under wraps. Too many mediocrities want to benefit and want their children to benefit from our superstitions about prestige.
(Image in public domain)