A copy of this booklet can be obtained by requesting it of ISI. The version here is slightly longer.
James V. Schall, S.J.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
An Introductory Note
I. From Whence Did These Observations Come?
II. Do You Have This Problem?
III. Where Do I Begin?
IV. Where Do I Find the Time for All This Liberal Learning?
Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By Schall's Own:
Five Bemused and Two Academic Titles: Not to Be Totally Overlooked by
Anyone in This World
The important things, Aristotle told us, are to be known "for their
own sakes", not for some useful or pleasurable purpose, however useful
or pleasurable they might also be. Scholars tell us that the ages have
saved for us Plato's literary works and Aristotle's more pedestrian class-notes
or lectures. The first sing; the second demand our careful, repeated attention.
The fact that we have both sorts of heritage contains a lesson for us.
We oftentimes need suddenly to be called out of ourselves by something
that is simply charming or delightful. At other times, we recognize that
if we are go grasp the essence of something, it will take our undivided
attention over a long period of time, perhaps a lifetime. We will need
to read and read again, to memorize, to recite, to explain what we know
to others to see if we are clear and, if we are not, to be honest with
ourselves about it.
Where might we go, what might we do to find the truth, to find what
makes sense, what incites us to use that mind we all have been given to
pursue by it our human task, to know what is, to know what we ought
to do? No age has an easy time of it, trying to figure things out. Our
age is a most most difficult for asking these questions, not merely because
we have so much knowledge available to us or because, compared to other
ages, there are so many of us, but also because we are an age of doubt,
an age that sometimes does not seem even to want to know what it can.
The human mind is always left to be what it is. Indeed, paradoxically,
it must also choose to use itself properly to achieve its primary purpose
which is to find the truth of things. When a human being is functioning
normally, when he is being what he is given by nature to be, he is using
his mind. And yet, the mind can talk itself out of using itself. Many great
thinkers of our time suspect this choice to doubt ourselves is what has
happened to us. We have, by our sundry theories, talked ourselves out of
knowing what we can know and what we are.
Is there anything we might do about this? We can only take tiny first
steps, steps that many will look upon as faulty or even dangerous for trying.
So be it. What we need to do is to find some guide, some book, some friend,
some professor perhaps, some lecture, some journal or essay, that will
alert us to the fact that what we are mostly given is skewered. This discovery
will not be easy. We do not like to rethink things. We do not like to challenge
commitments to schools or faculty or ideas that bear the mark of popularity
or accepted habit or contemporary culture.
So what one reads here is after the manner of a minority opinion. I
will be enthusiastic about books, authors, and ideas, about which many,
if not most, students will never have heard or, having heard of them, will
have heard nothing good about them. Thinking is itself, however, an adventure.
If someone wants to begin, he could do worse than to begin with these books
and ideas that I have indicated here. Needless to say, this guide to "liberal
learning", as it is called, is not extensive. Yet, each book read leads
to something else. I dare say, that by the time a student has pursued ideas
in the first book he finds mentioned here, to the last book he finds by
following lines begun here, he will be in that profound period of life
Cicero called " old age", the title of one of his very great essays that
I want everyone who begins these reflections eventually to read, preferably
before old age itself.
I would not represent (Robert E.) Lee as a prophet, but as a man who
stood close enough to the eternal verities to utter prophecy sometimes
when he spoke. He was brought up in the old school, which places responsibility
upon the individual, and not upon some abstract social agency. Sentimental
humanitarianism manifestly does not speak to language of duty, but of indulgence.
The notion that obligations are tyrannies, and that wants, not deserts,
should be the measure of what one gets has by now shown its destructive
power. We have tended to ignore the inexorable truth that rights must be
earned. Fully interpreted, Lee's "duty" is the measure whereby freedom
preserves itself by acknowledging responsibility. Man, then, perfects himself
by discipline, and at the heart of discipline lies self-denial. When the
young mother brought an infant for Lee to bless, and was told, "Teach him
to deny himself," she was receiving perhaps the deepest insight of his
-- Richard Weaver, "Lee as a Philosopher," The Southern Essays of
Richard Weaver (*), p. 177.(1)
I. From Whence Did These Observations Come?
Back in 1988, I wrote a book entitled, Another Sort of Learning. It was a book addressed to those students and ex-students, who are quite aware that something is radically incomplete and wrong with the formal higher education that they are receiving or have received but are not quite sure why or what to do about it. This book bore the following none-too-pithy, somewhat brash subtitle: "How Finally to Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else, Containing Some Belated Advice about How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to Be Found." That particular subtitle, I confess, even though I wrote it, has always amused me. It set the stage for exactly what I wanted to say, while, at the same time, preserving some of the lightsome spirit in which I wanted to say it.
More specifically, however, that lengthy subtitle directs us to the condition of soul in which many, if not most, students and variously aging ex-students and professors find themselves in today's intellectual and political climate. They are pretty sure that they missed out on something very fundamental and very important to the understanding and living out of their human lives. This sense of intellectual loss or confusion, I think, is especially acute in the so-called prestige and most expensive schools but it occurs almost everywhere in academia.
Here, together with specific points I want to make, I will try to recount something of what I said in Another Sort of Learning, but the fuller discussion of what I recommend to students, of what I suggest them to read, remains to be found in that original book with the long subtitle. For any student, who chances on these pages and finds that they speak to what has been troubling him about his education, I recommend this book. The import of the main words of its title, "another sort of learning", hints at a vast wisdom that is exciting and available if we only knew how to go about finding out about it.
In Another Sort of Learning, moreover, were found chapters on sports, personal libraries, grades, reading, intellectual life, lectures, teaching, evil, and devotion, all of which, in one way or another, however odd it may seem, are related to the pursuit and acceptance of the truth. Too, along with these topics, can be found "Schall's Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By" -- a list that I will reproduce at the end of this essay, with some additions that I have come across since I originally formulated it. Scattered throughout this particular essay, I will include brief lists of three or four or five books on a given topic or by a given author. These will be items that I think are particularly pertinent and insightful, indeed often stirring, in the pursuit of the goal that I have mainly in mind for this essay on what must be called "an intellectual life open to the truth."
Since many impeccable authorities assure us that the going doctrine in academia and in the culture today is a dogmatic relativism, a managed diversity related to no principle of unity, this account will take a rare counter-cultural position and hint that something really different is around and is worth taking a look at if we can only find it. No one, furthermore, should be afraid of using his mind, or as Bertie Wooster of P. G. Wodehouse fame used to say, of using his "old bean". Wodehouse, in any shape, size, or form, by the way, I recommend to any one at all interested in how sanity and wit belong together. Our intellectual faculties were given to us precisely to use, to use correctly.
Three of the More than One-hundred P. G. Wodehouse Novels: 1) Leave It to Psmith, 2) Blandings Castle and Elsewhere, and 3) How Right You Are, Jeeves. Aristotle said that, because both depend on seeing relations, the ability to laugh is very close to metaphysics. Thus I include here Three More Books of Humor, 1) The Wodehouse Clergy, 2) James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times, and 3) The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash.
The terms "intellectual" and "egg-head" are sometimes, indeed often, used in a pejorative manner, often deservedly so. Just because someone is smart does not mean he is wise. Much of the really serious disorder in the world can usually be traced back to some intellectual in one way or another, very often to someone not in our time or in our place or in our tongue. We should remember, however, that the objection to the "intellectual" is not that he uses his brain, but that he uses it wrongly. What we wonder here is whether it can be used rightly, even when used by some half-awake beginning student? It is well to recall that one of the greatest intellectual works ever written, namely, Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, was written for beginning students, ones about the same age as most undergraduate and graduate students today.
In fact, Thomas wrote a brief three point introduction to the Summa addressed to his students explaining to them just why they often found it difficult to learn and to come to a clear knowledge of the truth. Any student worth his salt has surely wondered about these same difficulties. It is most useful here to recall these three reasons for the difficulty of learning: 1) because of the baffling multiplicity of useless questions and arguments, 2) because the things that we want to know are not treated according to the order of the discipline but only according to what is required for explaining some book or for entering into some dispute, and 3) because the frequent repetition of these questions causes confusion and boredom in the minds of the students. Tell me these same points do not hold today! Thomas thought that even the most obscure problem could be spelled out "briefly and lucidly". He thought, in other words, that philosophers were not to talk just to themselves but to anyone desirous to learn the most important things. If we could not manage to accomplish this clarity, granting the complexity of the subject matter at hand, it meant not that we did not have good minds, but that we did not have good arguments or good teachers.
Perhaps the central chapter in Another Sort of Learning was entitled "What A Student Owes His Teacher". My students have often told me subsequently that they had never thought of the idea that they "owe" something to their teachers, to wit, their interest, their study habits, their good will, their diligence, their very capacity to learn something they do not already know. Yet, it is so; such things are "owed" if, alas as it not always the case, the teacher is himself inspired by and seeks to pass along the highest things, the things that are worth learning, some knowledge of what is, of reality itself. Oh, to be sure, students can often understand the "justice" argument, the quid pro quo of the educational process; that is, they understand that they themselves or their parents have to pay a hefty sum in taxes or in income for them even to be in college, so that their failure to learn is an act of injustice to their parents. But the kind of "owing" I have in mind here reaches to issues of honor, of integrity, and above all, of the effort it takes to know the truth for its own sake. This latter effort is really what the student "owes", even to those who are paying his way through college.
Thus, as both Plato and Aristotle remarked, we love Homer, we love Socrates (four names everyone should know), but we love truth more, magis amicus veritas. That is to say, we need to be taught, but we may not encounter a good or truth-seeking teacher in all our experience. We may have to find what is true or good or right in obscure books that no one has yet told us about. And even if we chance to encounter a Homer or a Socrates in class, as might rarely happen, we will need to listen, even to him, in the light of truth and not simply because of the beauty of his language or the power of his personality or the fame of his name in academic journals.
Four Older but Insightful Books on How to Prepare for an Intellectual Life: 1) A. D. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life, 2) Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book, and 3) Gilbert Highet, The Art of Teaching, 4) Jacques Barzun, The Teacher in America, and by way of caution I would add a Fifth Book, Paul Johnson, Intellectuals.
In his Guide to Thomas Aquinas, itself a most useful and important book, Josef Pieper stated the following about teaching and teachers:
Teaching does not consist in a man's making public talks on the results of his meditations, even if he does so ex cathedra before a large audience. Teaching in the real sense takes place only when the hearer is reached -- not by dint of some personal magnetism or verbal magic, but rather, when the truth of what is said reaches the hearer as truth. Real teaching takes place only when its ultimate result -- which must be intended from the start -- is achieved -- when the hearer is "taught". And being taught is something else again from being carried away, and something else again from being dominated by another's intellect. Being taught means to perceive that what the teacher has said is true and valid, and to perceive why it is so. Teaching therefore presupposes that the hearer is sought out where he is to be found. Thus teaching implies proceeding from the existing position and disposition of the hearer.... The teacher, then, must proceed from what is valid in the opinion of the hearer to the fuller and purer truth as he, the teacher, understands it (pp. 32-33).(2)
Teaching means, Thomas Aquinas said, the "handing over" what one learns and contemplates to others, contemplata aliis tradere. We want the truth to be known, to be what we hold. Plato warned us about having a "lie" in our own souls about reality, a lie that we knowingly choose for ourselves. We do not want to deceive ourselves about the most important things.
We do not "own" truth, however. We can copyright our words, we can register our inventions, but we cannot possess something universal as if it were our private property. The truth will not only "make us free" but it is itself free. We all come in fact to know the same truth, otherwise we could not communicate at all with one another. This is why the modern day denial of truth is, at the same time, a denial of real human communication and, consequently, in place of truth, an exaltation of power. If we are helped by others to learn something, of course, we ought indeed to be grateful to them. In classical terminology, an "honorarium", as opposed to a salary or wages, was the proper term used for the support of clerical and academic dons. That is, we could not "pay" someone for his thoughts or ideas. We could only support his physical life so that he could have ideas in the first place. It meant further that hopefully income was not the first consideration for the lover of truth.
But for all of us, the truth comes from reality itself, from what is. Truth is our judgment about reality. The truth is, as Plato said in The Republic, to say of what is, that it is and of what is not, that it is not (#477b). This truth, which none of us "owns", is the spiritual bond that potentially unites us to all other members of our human race, as well as with whatever being, including the divine, that is the source of our reasoning powers, which we we can be absolutely certain that we did not create or give to ourselves. From the very fact that we have minds, that these minds work the way they do, on their proper objects, we realize that we remain receivers. Unless we be mad, the subject matter of our thoughts and the power of thinking itself never comes directly from ourselves, from our own creation or choice. Aristotle said that politics does not make man to be man but, taking him from nature as already man, causes him to be, guides him to be, good man. In some paradoxical sense, we are gifts to ourselves, endowed with minds sufficiently subtle to realize that we cannot give ourselves such gifts. This is why Eric Voegelin, a thinker of formidable power, describes us as beings in search of our "ground", in search of the basis of reality we did not give ourselves. (The best book to become acquainted with Voegelin, incidently, is Ellis Sandoz, The Voegelinian Revolution).
Students of intelligence and good will today tell us us that they see in their education and in the culture about them all too little of the pursuit of truth and of its relation to loving what is good and what is beautiful. However obliquely they are attracted in their souls to something noble that they feel ought to be out there, ought to be theirs, they do not quite know what it means to be fully civilized or to be virtuous. They do not know these things partly because they are not taught them and partly because such knowing is also moral and personal, also requires that we choose it. That is, as Aristotle taught us already in his Ethics, if we do not have our lives in order, under the rule of right reason, we will simply not see the first principles of reasoning and of living (1095a2-11). Our minds and hearts always stand in danger of being in the service of less worthy gods.
We can choose, in other words, not to have disciplined ourselves enough even to have the opportunity to see what really is before us, that is, a world full of wonder and in need of an explanation of the whole. We rarely if ever encounter in universities or in our culture today attention to the whole, to how things fit together, leaving no pertinent evidence out. To find some guide to such fundamental things, we are mostly thrown back on ourselves, on things that are not fashionable to read, on ideas that we find rejected all around us, mostly, on examination, rejected on untested or contradictory principles. This essay is intended at least to cast a doubt on the idea that sanity and good sense, faith and reason, right and wrong, truth and falsity, have nothing cogent to be said in their favor.
Seven weekly, monthly, or quarterly journals that always are worth reading: 1) The Economist of London, 2) Commentary, 3) Crisis, 4) The New Oxford Review, 5) First Things, 6) American Enterprise Magazine, 7) The American Scholar.
Not only are the rational and metaphysical sides of our understanding and virtue neglected, but even more we cease to know anything accurate and true about the great revelational tradition, the essence of which addresses itself to these very problems and perplexities that we find all about us. In spite of most of what a student will read on the topic, revelation seeks reason, is addressed to mind and fosters it. The Bible simply has profound things to tell us, things we clearly ought to know. We now have students in class, moreover, even those who have gone to church or synagogue all their lives, who have not the faintest accurate idea about what is said in Scripture, a work that almost every generation before this era has read carefully either to understand or to dispute or to live by.
In instance after instance, after we have read and pondered all the reasons and rationale given for what is wrong with our world and ourselves, we are astonished to find, on finally encountering it, that the revelational explanation usually completes our thought and in fact comes much closer to the real issues of daily life, describes them better than anything else we come across in the philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, or the media. But we are unlikely to know this relationship if we do not also attempt to find out what we can know or analyze properly by ourselves about what it is we do and ought to do.
II. Do You Have This Problem?
Persistent reports from all sorts of impeccable sources tell us about the awfulness or inadequacy of university education, its intolerant political correctness. Many even doubt and are taught to doubt whether things can, in principle, be true. Indeed, few are allowed to think, as a first premise, anything else but doubt and are surprised, on examination, at the little evidence there is for such a position. Except in a few mostly out of the way places, these reports of the intellectual crisis in our knowing centers are mostly true, I think. But where does this situation leave the bewildered student, the potential philosopher, as Plato called him? What about the student who is alert enough to realize that what he is being given, even having paid relatively handsome tuition rates, is suspect on many scores? It leaves him largely on his own, or at least at first sight.
This essay is addressed primarily to those present and former students at college, university, and graduate levels, including their parents, who are aware that what is being presented to them, at its most basic level, has something seriously skewered about it. Oftentimes, the awareness that something is wrong will not arise in a person's soul until long after he is released into the world, when he begins to realize through the experience of life itself how inadequate, indeed how wrong, were the premises of much of what was his formal education. But this essay is not an anti-intellectual tractate, just the opposite. It is designed to alert the inquiring student -- I know there are such students -- to the fact that, as the famous philosopher, Etienne Gilson, once wrote in his remarkable, The Unity of Philosophical Experience, "there are things and I can know them." If you will, this essay is a guide to liberal, that is, to freeing education, one that is capable of alerting us to intellectual riches that are almost never found in universities or in the popular culture.
E. F. Schumacher, in his great book, A Guide for the Perplexed, tells of going to Oxford as a young man, that is, of going to what was thought to be the greatest university of his time. He discovered that what was taught and discussed there bore little meaning and truth to him. Schumacher was forced to look elsewhere for some semblance of an education that dealt with the highest things, that took seriously what the great philosophical and religious minds really were talking about, issues that he already felt pressing in his own soul but were never addressed in the great university.
Likewise, the very first and oft-quoted lines of Allan Bloom's disturbingly pertinent book, The Closing of the American Mind, began: "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative" (p. 25). That is to say, unlike the young Schumacher, most students have already absorbed this dubious doctrine of relativism by the time they reach the universities. There, however, they do not hear the going premises intellectually examined for their own validity but accepted as if they contained within themselves no contradiction, as if they were somehow obvious to any sensible person, which of course they aren't. Moreover, when they arrive at college, contemporary students in turn can assume that their professors in their hearts maintain and carry to further extremes mostly the same contradictory doctrine of relativism. What these present reflections are about is this: where else does one go when the university and cultural system fail to be good guides and become instead rather sources of confusion and hindrances to truth?
Five Classic Texts on Philosophy, Good Men, and Death: 1) The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Plato, 2) The account of the death of Christ in the Gospel of John (Chapters 13-21); 3) Cicero, On Duties, especially Part III, written just before he was executed), 4) Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, and 5) on Sir Thomas More, Robert Bolt, Man for All Seasons.
Before anything can be done, however, the student must become sufficiently aware that something is profoundly wrong or problematic with the content and spirit of the education he is being given, no matter how famous or how expensive is the university he is attending or has attended. This awareness is by no means an easy thing to come by and will be looked upon as distinctly odd or wrong-headed by those who have come to accept in their lives the relativist principles according to which most universities are today structured. No doubt a young man or woman will soon be in academic trouble if not careful about expressing doubt about university sanctioned public doctrine. The classic virtue of courage today often finds its major battleground on campuses in not merely defending the truth, but in even admitting its possibility.
So it takes something of a hardy soul to question what everywhere ought to be questioned. Admitting to oneself that there is a real problem with what one is being given to read, with the sort of conclusions and methods that are being proposed to substantiate its conclusions, will often, to repeat, take an act of what can only be called intellectual honesty and courage. Many of the greatest figures of our kind -- Socrates, Cicero, Christ, Boethius, Thomas More -- have not been allowed to continue their work in the cities in which they lived; each was eliminated. Yet, they each stood for the truth that was made most graphic to us precisely because they did not compromise or change the standards of mind or God that are the foundations of human well-being and order. Eric Voegelin, in his book on Plato, said that after the death of Socrates in Athens, philosophy fled from the city to the Academy. We live in a time evidently when truth is fleeing the Academy. And this is where the intellectually curious student finds himself.
Six Classic Texts Never to be Left Unread: 1) Plato, Gorgias, 2) Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 3) Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4) Augustine, The Confessions, 5) Pascal, Pensées, and 6) Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France. There are, of course, many fundamental "classical" texts -- The Republic, The City of God, The Summa Theologiae, to name only three. I cite these six because they are good and should alert both the attentive and the inattentive mind.
When a student arrives at a university, especially a prestige one, he will probably think that what he is about to study will be the best that he can possibly come by. He naturally expects that what he is getting is, in fact, his "money's worth", as they say. In any university or college, of course, even the worst, a student can meet new friends, have worthwhile experiences that are quite memorable and dignified. This fact does not obviate the point I want to make here about a proper intellectual life. Many of the unhappiest individuals of our times, however, are those who begin to realize that what is thought to be of the highest prestige and fame is in fact shallow and mostly untrue. They discover that what they are taught or urged to do does not satisfy or ring true. Often it is simply not good, as anyone with common sense can see if he will. Normally, beginners will have little to alert them to any problems with curriculum, to ideology contained within it, to what is left out of a program, to what else there is to know that is nowhere studied in their courses or, if mentioned, presented in a fair light.
This particular essay is not written for students who have no problems with the system or who, even less, do not want to find any. They will never know the difference. They will never doubt that what they are being taught is anything but the high quality stuff that it is touted to be in the brochures and media or, apparently, confirmed by the high cost of their tuition. Often however, from one's religious or philosophical background, from one's family, perhaps from a friend or a teacher or from something that one chanced to read or see, a young man or woman will be at least alert and, hopefully, begin to suspect that all is not well in academia, or in the culture, or, for that matter, in one's own soul. The student will initially not trust his own instincts or perceptions about this situation. While uneasily following, probably for an eventual job, whatever curriculum he has selected or is given, he will none the less begin to look about on his own. He needs a certain practical good judgment. At a deeper level, he searches for some other line, some other way to go; he must, in other words, find "another sort of learning".
What might this other sort of learning be? The first thing to remember is that most great changes, most great encounters with the truth, with what is good, begin in quiet, insignificant places. Thomas Merton tells us, in his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, of trying to make by himself the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, in a New York apartment while he was a student at Columbia. Oftentimes, small beginnings appear as if by chance, though even chance is subsumed into our calling, into our search for the truth, into the fabric of our lives, into what the old theologians called providence. So what wakes us up might be what Aristotle called "wonder", a curiosity about what something means or what something is. It might be a love, an awareness that we are not complete in ourselves by ourselves. Even our knowing begins not with knowing ourselves, but with knowing something that is not ourselves, some other thing that is.
Thus, some chance story that we read might unsettle us, something of Tolkien, perhaps his essay "On Fairy-Stories", or C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, or it might be a lecture or conversation, a painting we saw in some gallery. It might even be a class or a classmate that alerts us to something we are missing. Music can do it, both for better and worse. Indeed, following Plato, music today may well be, as Allan Bloom wrote in his chapter in The Closing of the American Mind, the real educator of our youth and the one to which even they pay too little critical attention.
Seven Books about Universities: 1) Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind; 2) Robert K. Carlson, Truth on Trial, Lynn Cheney, Telling the Truth, 4) Christopher Derrick, Escape from Skepticism: Liberal Education as if the Truth Mattered, 5) Dinesh D'Souza, Illiberal Education. No one, however, should miss John Henry Newman, 6) The Idea of a University and 7) The Education of Henry Adams.
What wakes us up might even be an evil, a horror that happened to us or we read about, or something we caused ourselves, something that aroused such perplexity in our souls that we must seek to place it in some kind of order. Perhaps we ran across the famous definition of evil as the lack of good, of what ought to be there and is not, and wondered what it meant. Indeed, what alerts us could be Shakespeare, now often neglected in the university for ideological reasons. Or it could be the Bible itself, something neglected even more in general academic circles, or it could be curiosity about the overt academic opposition to both. Chesterton tells us in Orthodoxy, I believe, that what finally made him suspect that Christ might be what He claimed to be was his examining the astonishingly contradictory arguments made in the schools and in the press trying to prove that He could not be what He said He was.
St. Augustine's famous Confessions is a book directed to the very heart of each young person. No other book is quite like it. In it, Augustine excitedly tells us about his reading of Cicero's now lost dialogue, the Hortensius. At about the age of nineteen, Augustine's reading of this dialogue in a provincial town in Africa changed his life towards philosophy. Many readers of these words will be themselves nineteen and wonder why he has not had a similarly mind-wrenching experience? At least one reason may be that he has never yet read Augustine or Cicero. Though it may take most of us much longer, by the time we are nineteen, it is indeed time to wake up, as Augustine's example teaches us. I myself remember being in the army at nineteen rather aimlessly wandering through the Post libraries looking for something to read, having little clue (Schall was "clueless"!) about where to begin or how to go about systematically finding some place to start, of finding something that would lead to the truth.
Cicero lived some five hundred years before Augustine. He himself sent his own son to Greece to study philosophy. Cicero wrote to his son a famous letter, the famous On Duties, that attempted to explain to young Marcus how and what to study, a letter that is still worth reading by anyone similarly perplexed. We are all, in this sense, Cicero's sons down the ages. That is to say, what provokes us, incites us, need not come from our own time. Indeed, our own time may be and probably is so disordered that it cannot really alert us to the truth, to what is. This is why books from another time are so precious to us and why we need to find them, read them. We can waste a lot of time trying to be up-to-date. As I often put it, to be up-to-date is to be out-of-date. Someone who knows Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Augustine, or Aquinas will never be too far from the truth, never out-of-date.
Augustine also recalls his reading by chance a passage of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. This passage told him that it was time for him to stop his carousing and dickering with life and to change his ways, to direct them toward God in sorrow for all the errors and abuses he had already embraced and committed in his own life. Augustine, in other words, is very good for today's students and searchers because he tells them that living their lives in personal moral disorder, often the principal cause of our intellectual disorder, will be a primary factor in preventing them from seeing the truth. He tells each of us to be honest with ourselves, not to lie to ourselves in our own souls about ourselves, to describe accurately the real results of our choices and deeds, not to be blind to the results of our errors, sins, and defects. Probably no one in Western literature is better than Augustine to tell us such a thing because he had the honesty to recount for us in a very graphic and charming way how such a blindness worked in his own soul.
Four Books Once Found in Used Book Stores: 1) J. R. R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion, 2) Vivian Mercier, Editor, Great Irish Short Stories, 3) Perry Miller, The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry, and 4) Robert Short, The Gospel according to Peanuts.
In Conversations with Eric Voegelin, the great German philosopher, at a familiar evening in Montreal in 1980, spoke about contemporary students whose actions belie their theories about themselves. Even though they will claim to be agnostic or relativists, Voegelin observed, they act as if their lives have a purpose, a seriousness that cannot be substantiated by any of their own articulated theories:
I find that students frequently are flabbergasted, especially those who are agnostics, when I tell them that they all act, whether agnostic or not, as if they were immortal! Only under the assumption of immortality, of fulfillment beyond life, is the seriousness of action intelligible which they actually put into their work and which has a fulfillment nowhere in this life however long they may live. They all act as if their lives made sense immortally, even if they deny immortality, deny the existence of a psyche, deny the existence of a Divinity -- in brief, if they are just the sort of fairly corrupt average agnostics that you find among college students today. One shouldn't take their agnosticism too seriously, because in fact they act as if they were not agnostics (p. 6)
What Eric Voegelin was lightly chiding intellectually smug students about in this passage was something that Aristotle long ago taught us; namely, when there is found an inconsistency between our words and our actions, we should, in comparing how we live with what we affirm in public, believe our actions, not our words.
What Voegelin intimated is also mindful of that most famous and penetrating passage in the Tenth Book of Aristotle's Ethics, in which he told us that we
must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things, and, being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more in power and in worth surpass everything. This would seem, too, to be each man himself, since it is the authoritative and better part of him. It would be strange, then, if he were to choose not the life of his self but that of something else (1178a32-b4).(3)
This passage is the great charter of our freedom, freedom from confinement to pedestrian, worldly things that can absorb all our time and energy to leave us none the less empty of even the slightest knowledge of the things that are really important. Aristotle, of all people, does not intend to deny that ordinary things of business, culture, or entertainment are important or insignificant. These are human things and we are also human beings. Nor does he deny that any knowledge and experience of the highest things is easy to come by or absolutely clear. In fact, the things about which we can have absolute clarity are not particularly important.
III. Where Do I Begin?
In today's world, when the topic of the defects and aberrations of university teaching and curricula come up, the most well-known response is generally conceived to be in terms of what are called "great books programs". Many universities have such great book programs in one form or another and those that do not think they ought to, if only for prestige and their best students. St. John's College in Annapolis or Santa Fe and Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, are probably the best and most famous of these programs, however both would strive to avoid the problem I shall mention with these approaches. Great books programs have, no doubt, a certain importance. These programs had their modern origins in Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins, men of great insight, at the University of Chicago. I take it for granted that we read what are rightly called "great books" -- Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, the Greek tragedians, Cicero, Tacitus, Marcus Aurelius, the Bible, St. Augustine, some Church fathers, St. Thomas, Shakespeare, and into the moderns. Any education that does not include these writers is simply not worth the effort as liberal education.
Friedreich Wilhelmsen, however, wrote an essay in Modern Age entitled "Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom".(4) How on earth could "great books", we might ask ourselves, ever be conceived to be precisely enemies, and not friends, of "wisdom"? Wilhelmsen pointed out, however, what Professor Leo Strauss had also mentioned in his famous essay "What Is Liberal Education?", that the study of great books can prove to be ambiguous, even intellectually dangerous.(5) The point is not that we should not be prepared to face intellectually dangerous things, but that, when we do, we know what we are facing.
Strauss remarked, in this regard, that we are lucky to be alive during the time when one or two of the great thinkers who ever lived are alive. And if we are alive during their lifetimes, we will probably not recognize them. Thus, the only way we can encounter the minds no longer alive in our time is carefully to read them, which today often means taking a common sense stand on those contemporary theories that tell us we can read no text. The very existence of the great books enables to escape from any tyranny of the present, from the idea that we only want to study what is currently "relevant" or immediately useful. This access to noble minds is surely a great legacy and capacity that we have been given. What we need is a useful way to go about finding it when our institutions and culture conspires against it.
Strauss also mentioned, however, which is also Wilhelmsen's point, that careful study of the great thinkers reveals eventually that they contradict each other. And contradictories cannot both be right, but they can stimulate our curiosity. Thus, the study of "great books" can lead students to a kind of implicit relativism, or to a choice of a great mind that leads them far afield. Or they will think that if the great thinkers do not agree, "who am I to dispute them?" "Why bother?" The whole point of this present essay, while in no way doubting Strauss's point about the great minds contradicting each other, is to suggest that this controversy among the great minds can lead to a false sort of humility, something that misplaces the meaning of philosophy and what the mind is about. In the modern world, Chesterton said, humility is misplaced; it is thought to be located in the intellect where it does not belong, whereas it is a virtue of the will, an awareness of our own tendencies to pride. We should not doubt our minds but, too often, our motives. This condition of not knowing something should not lead us to a further skepticism but to a more intense search for truth, for the "love of wisdom", which is the meaning of the Greek words that give us the word philosophy. We should find out in what sense a great mind might reveal something of the truth even in its error or confusion.
The best place to begin for any young man or woman today can be stated in two steps: 1) the step of self-discipline and 2) the step of a personal library; both of these together will yield that freedom that is necessary to escape academic dreariness and to discover the wonder of reality, of what is. Even at its best, of course, learning means we need a lot of help, even grace, but we are here talking about what we can do ourselves.
The first step begins by recalling what I cited from Richard Weaver in the beginning about Lee, that is, a sense of self-denial so that we can do our duty, what we ought. The notion of self-denial or more properly self-discipline is never an especially pleasant one. I would never pretend that it is. However, a minimum insight into ourselves teaches us that we are all in some sense fallen beings, to recall Genesis. Almost always, on reflection back on ourselves, can we find something in us, in our desires or habits or choices, that would prevent us from confronting the really important things.
Josef Pieper, in his Anthology, recalls Thomas Aquinas' discussion of the vice of sloth, acedia, in Latin. Is this such an un-familiar vice? It does not mean just laziness, but a lethargy that prevents us from making the effort to look at what is really important in our lives and about our lives or from taking any positive step that might make us aware of what we should know or do. Some experience of students over the years will make any perceptive teacher acutely aware that the major cause of students' failure to learn anything in a class is related, on their part, to a lack of self-discipline, to their inability or unwillingness to rule their day, to decide what is important, how much time it will take, and then actually to do what needs to be done. No doubt some students will come from chaotic family or cultural life that will interfere with their examining themselves or doing anything much about their situation. Yet, something can always be done, even in the worst circumstances. But the situation with most students is not dire or extreme. Each has some leeway, some insight into himself, some awareness that what is not done is caused by himself..
Everyone has heard that "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy." Now, I am not exactly sure just who this famous Jack is, but I suspect in his own way he is each of us when we confront the notion of precisely self-discipline. Clearly, the notion of discipline, especially disciplining one's own self, has to do with the systematic process by which we acquire knowledge or virtue or art. Discipline means instruction, especially organized instruction. When we add the notion of "self" to this instruction, we are indicating that we are ourselves objects of our own rule, of our own need to instruct ourselves.
Ultimately, no one else can do this ordering for us. Our lives are ours to order, to put in them some sort of principle or purpose to guide our many and varied thoughts and deeds. Our lives are also ours to leave in disorder or in an order that deviates from what it is we know we ought to be or do. We should not, moreover, underestimate the difficulty we confront in ruling ourselves. Christianity even suggests that most of us might well need something more than ourselves properly to see and rule ourselves, some grace and some instruction.
Six Memorable Novels, among the Millions: 1) Jane Austen, Emma, 2) Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter, 3) Wendell Berry, The Memory of Old Jack, 4) Willa Cather, Death Comes to the Archbishop, and 5) Walker Percy, Lancelot. Everyone should read at one point in his life Dostoyevsky's 6) The Brothers Karamazov.
This topic of ordering our lives according to some proper principle is really what the First Book of Aristotle's Ethics is about when he tells us reflectively to look back on our deeds and our thoughts and see, if we can, that for which we act, that which we think to be most important and that which governs all we do. We are not to be blind to ourselves. Others may see us better than we see ourselves. No doubt we can mislead ourselves in this self-reflection. We can think we act for the noblest purposes, whereas in fact, as all our friends know, we act for money or pleasure or vain honors. It is difficult to see ourselves as we are, even if this inner "seeing" is one of the most important things we must do for ourselves. The famous Socratic admonition, "know thyself", meant at least this honest inner-knowledge of our own implicit ends, in addition to knowing the kind of being we are given by nature -- our human being, something we did not give ourselves.
The student who first comes to the university is no doubt exhilarated by a kind of new found freedom. He is still too young, as Aristotle had already intimated in the First Book of his Ethics, really to have acquired a good knowledge of himself or a firm capacity to rule himself. He will have many bad habits, in other words -- too much time at television, at running about, at sundry forms of dissipation with which all college students are familiar. From all I hear, high schools any more are not themselves exactly models of balanced preparation for orderly lives. But I suppose to most high school students in comparison to college, high schools look pretty confined. Many young men and women, no doubt, have, by the time they reach college, already failed to discipline themselves. They have barely begun to acquire the habits and incentives necessary to figure out, not what they should do in terms of a profession or job, but what life itself is about, itself a lifetime task, to be sure. Many of us, unfortunately, make very serious mistakes very early in our lives. College is a place in which, if we are wise, these mistakes can be corrected or, on the contrary, if we are not so wise, magnified indefinitely.
Now, I am not someone who thinks that we will really learn what life itself is about in college courses; sometimes the best we can hope for is not to be hopelessly damaged or confused. We may, no doubt, get snippets of wisdom here and there. The ideology or intellectual chaos that is often, as many critics point out, the meaning of college curricula themselves needs to be reflected on and understood, counteracted. Universities and colleges are there to be "used". We are not to attend them blindly, even though we can and must make ourselves teachable. A good number of the very important books and ideas that a student will need to know if he is to know the truth, to confront what is good, are, as I have implied, hardly ever read or even mentioned in any university curriculum or course.
Four Books of Josef Pieper: 1) 'Divine Madness': Plato's Case against Secular Humanism, 2) The Four Cardinal Virtues, 3) In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity, and 4) Living the Truth, which includes, The Truth of All Things and Reality and the Good.
This situation would imply that we need to know something about life even before beginning to learn more specifically about parts of it in an academic setting. If we are lucky, we begin to suspect that some of these things we need to know, the highest things, come from our parents or our church or our friends or our own curiosity. Many a man has saved his soul because of some book he chanced to read in some obscure library or used book store. Many a girl has understood what her life is about because she happened, one random summer afternoon, to talk seriously to her grandmother or to her aunt. And on most campuses we can still, if we look, find professors of good sense and honorable learning. But we will have to seek them out. We will be fortunate if we find some few. We may need the help of some think-tank or some organized institute outside the school.
Self-discipline, the rule over all of our given passions, fears, dreams, thoughts, can be, if simply taken for itself, a dangerous thing. We can be Stoics who conceive self-discipline somehow as an end in itself, whereas it is really the pre-requisite for seeing and loving what is not ourselves. Self-discipline can become a form of pride in which we attribute to ourselves complete mastery over ourselves with no willingness to guide ourselves to ends that are to be served or people to be loved. None the less, our "bare" selves are objects to ourselves. We recognize that our ability to accomplish anything at all begins with some realization that we must take control of ourselves. We must begin to note in ourselves those things that cause us troubles. These difficulties can be other students, perhaps even teachers, anyone, in short, who interferes with our studies or with our responsibilities, including our responsibilities to God. What impedes us thus can be things like drink or drugs or television or parties or or work our own laziness or an eros untempered by any sense of justice, friendship, duty, purpose, or permanence.
The objective of self-discipline in the best sense then is not ourselves. That probably sounds strange. The classical writers, I think, used to relate self-discipline to liberty. The person who was most free was the one who had the most control over himself. The person who was most unfree was the one who was ruled by pleasures, money, or power. Self-discipline does not, however, solve the question of what is knowledge or truth or good; self-discipline is a means, not an end in itself. It is like being all dressed up and no place to go. In this sense, it is instrumental, something good for the sake of something else. John Paul II put it well in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope: "the fundamental dimension of man's existence ... is always a co-existence."
We are ourselves, to be sure, and we are to rule ourselves. But once we have managed to approach this no doubt difficult issue, what remains is the rest of our lives. We can then begin to focus on the things of the highest importance and dignity, something we would be unable to do if we did not succeed in imposing some self-discipline on ourselves. Paul Johnson, in his book, The Intellectuals, has suggested, with considerable unpopularity but profound truth, that there is an intimate connection between our moral life and our intellectual life. Sometimes, I think the history of our times can be described as an argument on whether or not this connection is true. Self-discipline is the beginning of wisdom, not its end. When we have discovered the purpose for which self-discipline exists, we will, if we are sane, hardly recall anything about it because it has enabled us to become free to see and do so much else.
The Personal Library
The second step, if I can call it that, has to do with a personal library. I am aware today that the modern computer may provide instantaneously many materials in a short, handy form on disc or on-line. Indeed, the amount and variety of material available through computer is so enormous that we cannot easily comprehend its reach. We are profoundly fortunate to have almost the whole of the world's books, music, art, journals, and press available to us through something like Internet or the World Wide Web. None the less, most of the most important ideas and concepts still appear first in the print media, in books, and most of the original reflective thinking is found there. "How to read a book", to use Mortimer Adler's famous phrase, is still one of the most important thing we can know in our pursuit of the truth.
What this particular essay is about is not the total amount of information that is available to us, but about what is important. We do not need to know the exact details of everything to know the central issues of our lives and being. Actually, I think, one can be pretty well on his way to what I am trying to encourage by reading a very few books, and these not necessarily large ones or even famous ones. The things that I suggest here then are not necessarily the "great books" which I take it that most of us have some knowledge of. These should be read and reread. I remain a firm believer in C. S. Lewis' famous observation that we have not read a great book at all if we have only read it once. Thus, even though the great books may contradict each other, they should be read. We need to begin. We must still read the first book, then the second, then the third, then reread. We need to know error, but as error. The books I will suggest mostly, I think, give us a coherent guide to truth in face of the contradictions. Some great books are greater than others. We should not doubt this.
Six Books Given to Me, Now in My Personal Library and Read, Books I Have Particularly Liked: 1) Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine, 2) Gilbert Highet, Poets in a Landscape, 3) Thomas Mann, Stories and Episodes, 4) G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant, 5) Thornton Wilder, The Eighth Day, and 6) The Letters of Evelyn Waugh..
Anyone who has any curiosity at all will have some books and articles lying about. Nothing is more unnerving than to go into a house or apartment to notice there not a single book or journal of any significance. On the other hand, it used to be said of the Americans on the frontier, that they only had two books that they could carry along with them. These were the Bible and Shakespeare. The fact is that at some fundamental level most of the important things about human life in one way or another were contained in these two books. No library on this new frontier that we are on in modern academia should lack either of these books. They can usually be found or purchased for a relatively small cost. One should simply have them and having them, read them. The philosopher Eric Voegelin, a German, read the complete works of Shakespeare each year, an impressive accomplishment. And if neither of these books is mentioned by our professors or appear in our academic curriculum, do not conclude that there is something wrong with either of these two books. So what do I mean by our own personal library? I know that most of us cannot help but accumulate reams of paper in the form of books, articles, journals, letters. A. D. Sertillanges' The Intellectual Life remains a good guide to how to take notes, to classify what we have read, to select. We can easily translate his suggestions into our computer files. We will always probably have more materials than we can read or store. When we move or build, we should look for places to keep our collected books and printed matter, things we have read and underlined and thought about. A read book is a precious item. No one else will ever read a book quite the same way that we do. A book can speak in many different ways, even at different times in our own lives. We are seeking our way. I have always assigned to students what I consider fine and great books to my students, books that are worth reading again and again, all one's life. I would be ashamed to assign to a student a book that I did not think worth keeping. I have myself read Aristotle and Plato and Aquinas many, many times. I have always found something quite new in each reading. I am able to see at differing ages of my life things in these works that I could not see when I was younger. I cannot read and re-read Chesterton without being amazed at his depth, wit, and freshness.
Four Books of G. K. Chesterton and Two of His Friend Hilaire Belloc -- I make these suggestions knowing that each of these men wrote over a hundred books and thousands of essays, none of which I have ever found boring or from which I did not learn something of great value:
1) Orthodoxy, 2 What's Wrong with the World, 3) Charles Dickens, and 4) The Autobiography; of Belloc, 1) The Path to Rome and 2) The Four Men (once sent to me from England), both of Belloc's books are walks, one through France and Italy, the other through Sussex in England. For some years, I have been doing a monthly column in the Midwest Chesterton News called, appropriately, "Schall on Chesterton". There is a Canadian journal called The Chesterton Review that is always worth a look.
Thus, I conceive a personal library to be composed of books we have read again. I always tell my students that I expect them to keep the books I assign them for the rest of their lives, that I do not want to see any of these books being sold at the end of the semester. I also encourage students to bring their books to tests. I consider that a book we have read to be part of our memory, something we can quickly go back to, something we can look at again when a problem or controversy arises. Often we know that we have read the precise argument we need. There is no reason why our books cannot be a part of our mind and after a while, they will be.
Frequently, in some discussion, we realize that we did not make a good argument or remember an exact citation. There is nothing wrong with going back and in our leisure find out what we had forgotten or not placed in the right context. The trouble with arguments, Chesterton said, is that we never have enough time to complete them, that short arguments are almost always unfair arguments. Our personal libraries, our chosen few read books, will enable us to think things through. We can go back and approach the points at issue again.
In this personal library of ours, as I have explained, we ought to have books that we have read, though there is nothing wrong with accumulating in advance books we might never read or only read years later. No serious book-lover will ever die having read every book he has managed to collect. This is not a sign of dilatoriness but of eagerness, anticipation. I do not mean here the technical books of a given discipline that quickly become out-of-date, though even these preserve a certain history. Rather, I mean those books that explain things, that touch on the truths of our being, that reach to what is. In this library, I think there should be some of "Schall's Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By", to be found at the end of this essay. Get started with any one of the first ten books mentioned. Go to the others.
Very rarely will we read a sane book that does not lead us to someone else, to some other topic or writer we did not know about, but whom we are now incited to read. Problems that we could not quite fathom when we were nineteen or thirty or forty, and thus left quietly churning in our memories, can suddenly become clear when we read something at fifty or sixty that makes us mutter to ourselves, "So that's the answer! So that is how it is!"
The three very great books on love, for example -- a topic of the most difficulty to find adequate guidance -- about what love really means, are, 1) C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves, 2) Josef Pieper's About Love, and Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World. I had read C. S. Lewis years ago. I found Pieper in a library in Los Gatos, California. I had never heard of de Rougemont's book for much of my life and hence had never read it. One day a Mexican graduate student in one of my classes, sort of sizing me up, I guess, came into my office and gave me a copy of the de Rougemont book. He said simply, "I think you will like it." It was one of the most wonderful of books. I keep it very handy and realize that Pieper and Lewis and de Rougemont compliment each other on this most splendid and delicate of human and divine topics, about which, if we get it wrong, as we often do, we will probably get everything else wrong.
So my first suggestion is self-discipline. My second is to establish one's own personal library of read books, books that guide, books that astonish and inform, that remind us of the order of things, of all things, of all that is. My third suggestion might not be so relatively easy to carry out as it has to do not with ourselves, but with others.
Thirdly, let me say something more about teaching, in particular about what a teacher owes his students as I think it helpful in understanding what a student owes his teacher. During the years (1965-77) when I used to teach at the Gregorian University in Rome, a city of never ending wonder and fascination to me, I used to return in the Summers to San Francisco, where I also taught at the University of San Francisco. Every so often on the way back, I stopped over in Chicago where I had a cousin, now deceased, who was an FBI agent. He was a wonderful Irishman from Eagle Grove, Iowa, the town where I began first grade. My cousin's name was Hubert Hart, or Hubie, as we called him. He simply loved everything about his job. I remember he once said to me, on the balcony of his apartment in the Marina Towers, "My God, Jim, I would pay them to do this kind of work if I had to."
I have often thought this way about teaching. I would indeed pay to teach, I enjoy it so much. But lest anyone think he might suddenly have a new source of ready cash, I need to establish that Jesuit superiors would not approve of this lavish expenditure for my pleasure. Indeed, a Jesuit is not personally paid for teaching. He gets an honorarium that goes to his religious community on which he is dependant for the ordinary things of life. There is a kind of symbolic purpose intended in this sort of financial arrangement, something that actually has to do with Plato, as I tried to explain in a chapter called "The Christian Guardians", in my Politics of Heaven and Hell. Jesuits teach, hopefully, because they love the truth and love the brethren, all their students. Anything less is unworthy.
Four books on how to read Thomas Aquinas: 1) Ralph McInerny, St. Thomas Aquinas, 2) Josef Pieper, Guide to St. Thomas Aquinas, 3) James Weisheipl, Friar Thomas D'Aquino, and 4) G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox.
Let me grant, however, that a teacher owes his students many things. I think that for which I most am thankful to so many students over the years is simply the continued opportunity the presence of students gives me for reading and re-reading so many things, with the time to reflect on them. But to begin reading at all, a student must read a book for the first time. This is what I have tried to do for students in insisting that they come to class regularly, after having carefully read the text. The student who does not do this work himself is unteachable. No teacher can really help him. The fact of students to teach has enabled me, as a teacher, in return to read a text again and again. I am thankful to students for this rare liberty. I often wonder when students leave my class on the last day if they likewise reread these wonderful books. Often that is something a teacher will never know.
Some books, no doubt, take all our lives to understand. Plato was very late in coming to my own perview. This is not a defect either in the book or in the student or in the teacher. Rather it is an acknowledgement of the profundity of what we are and where we are. Most students are the age of Plato's potential philosophers, those young citizens of Athens whom Socrates was accused of corrupting. But their undisciplined souls, as Socrates also knew, were being drawn one way and the other by the attractions of a thousand fascinating and often disrupting things, not at all unlike students of any generation. Plato, in the Eighth Book of The Republic, moreover, warned students of those insecure professors who seek to imitate their students in thought, speech, and dress, in habit of mind, as if these professors had learned nothing themselves and stood for nothing except the latest fad. So while being a student requires some trust, it also requires a kind of Augustinian realism, an awareness that students in their early twenties are not yet likely to possess much real human experience.
Let me also recall Samuel Johnson, whose famous biography, I think, is something, with the Bible, that you should read a bit every day, if only for the delight of it. At least this is what I do. Johnson had two young friends who must have been more or less the age of most students, again men who remind us of Plato's potential philosophers, as Johnson himself reminds us of Socrates. One young man was named Bennett Langton, from a famous English family that once included, during the reign of King John, a Cardinal of the Roman Church. The other was Mr. Topham Beauclerk. Both were very lively, witty men, both aware of and attracted by the power of Johnson's mind and character. Langton, in fact, after he had read some of Johnson's Essays in The Rambler, had gone to London especially to gain an introduction to Johnson.
In 1757, Bennett Langton was a student at Trinity College in Oxford. Johnson had occasion to write to him about the general relation of knowledge to life. Let me cite these lines from Samuel Johnson. They are ones any student can take away with him either for testing the truth that he may have learned in his college or for finding it elsewhere, if he succeeded in learning little of it in his academic career.
"I know not any thing more pleasant, or more instructive, than to compare experience with expectation, or to register from time to time the difference between ideas and reality," Johnson wrote to this young student at Trinity College, Oxford, in words that recall no one so much as Thomas Aquinas.
It is by this kind of observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed. You, who are very capable of anticipating futurity, and raising phantoms before your own eyes, must often have imagined to yourself an academical life, and have conceived what would be the manners, the views, and the conversation, of men devoted to letters; how they would choose their companions, how they would direct their studies, and how they would regulate their lives. Let me know what you have expected and what you have found (Boswell's Life of Johnson, I, p. 224).
Note what is said here. Ideas need to be tested by reality, by what is. If our ideas are not so tested, we will easily find life a disappointment, filled with phantoms of our own making. Yet, as Socrates and Christ taught us in considering their deaths, reality too needs its testing. (My classes read the chapter, in my Politics of Heaven and Hell , on the deaths of Socrates and Christ).
While we are young, as Johnson quaintly put it, we can "anticipate futurity" and easily "raise phantoms before (our) eyes." The "academical life" has many imaginings. Doubt it not. We are asked, furthermore, to report back to Johnson, to the philosopher, what we have found, how our experiences have shown the limits of our expectations, not to the detriment of experience, but to the moderation of our own phantoms, our own untested ideas and musings.
For a professor, there is nothing more noble than to let him, or someone down the ages, in some letter, essay, or book, perhaps, know what was the difference between what his student expected and what he experienced. This is, after all, in part why we have friends, to recall a section in Aristotle (Books 8 and 9 of The Ethics) that all students invariably and not surprisingly love.(6) A good teacher addresses his students carefully: "Do not be disappointed with life unless you are the cause of the disappointment." I have myself, however, tried to suggest that joy is more profound than sadness. We begin our intellectual lives not with need, nor less with desire, but with wonder and enchantment. A student and a teacher read together many books that they might otherwise have missed. Both need to make efforts to know the truth of things, the ordinary things and the highest things, that the one and the other might have overlooked had they not had time, serious time, together.
Any honorable professor hopes that a student's experience will prove to him that, at least once in a while, his professors did lead him to the truth in reality. I hope that in finding and reading these books found mentioned in these pages that a student's experience, in his will and in his mind, will conform, in his "futurity," to ideas that are indeed truths and not mere phantoms. I hope students can come to realize that their minds are, as E. F. Schumacher said in his Guide for the Perplexed, "adequate" to know all that is. And I hope that students will acquire something of that driven enthusiasm of the young Augustine to pursue the truth of things, to pursue it, yes, like him, even unto the City of God.4) Where Do I Find the Time for All This Liberal Learning?
The learning that is here described is called "liberal", that is, freeing. It takes a lot of work to be free, I know. Yet, we need some way to become what we are. No one can do this for us, but we cannot do it merely by ourselves either. We need guides to find guides. Hopefully, this short guide to liberal learning will be of some assistance to students and ex-students who wonder about the things of the greatest importance. But again, I want to remind any reader, again something from Aristotle, that many people who do not know books are very wise, often wiser than the so-called learned. Perhaps it will be our grandfather or an ordinary farmer or worker. We should look for and respect the experience of ordinary people. Wherever there is a mind and reality, someone can find the truth. This in no way lessens our drive to know more completely and to seek the guidance of good books, good teachers, good parents, good libraries, good friends.
Does this effort to find good intellectual guidance mean that we have to check out of school or office and hole up in our own private libraries, become recluses? Perhaps for some few it will mean this. The monastic or contemplative life does exist in many forms. However, as A. D. Sertillanges said in The Intellectual Life, each of us can manage to find some time each day, each week to read and reflect. Using a few odd hours in his week, a friend of mine has managed to write a book on the Churches of Rome, translate Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ, and, now he tells me, do a commentary on Dante, among other things.
The famous author of western stories, Louis L'Amour, wrote a very marvelous memoir called The Education of a Wandering Man, which a friend gave me for Christmas one year. No book is better than this one for telling us how to find the time we need to read in an already busy live. Find this book and see how much good sense L'Amour makes, about using the time we have riding on buses, in the odd moments of our day, to read. He shows that, in spite of it all, we can educate ourselves, make up for what is not given to us. L'Amour made lists of books he read each year, not a bad idea. I used to copy out by hands copious notes from books I read, something that can be done now more easily, I suppose, on a computer, or simply by purchasing the book and underlining the matter we want to remember.
Evelyn Waugh's biography, which the same friend gave me, is called A Little Learning, a title with obvious reminders of the famous phrase from Pope that "a little learning is a dangerous thing". Waugh is always worth reading. His description of the education of Hooper at the beginning of Brideshead Revisited is almost prophetic of the condition of the education to which most of us are now subject. Let me cite these memorable lines from Waugh, mainly as an examination of our own intellectual consciences:
Hooper was no romantic. He had not as a child ridden with Rupert's horse or sat among the camp fires at Xanthus-side; at the age when my eyes were dry to all save poetry -- that stoic, red-skin interlude which our schools introduce between the fast flowing tears of the child and the man -- Hooper had wept often, but never for Henry's speech on St. Crispin's Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopolae. The history they taught him had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon -- these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now in my sere and lawless state, called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper (p. 9).
Any student can test his current education by these lines, I think, to see if he has had it any better than poor Hooper. C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man tells a similar story., the first chapter of which, "Men Without Chests" is must reading, as is this little book itself in its almost prophetic warning that what we are abolishing is precisely ourselves.
So, I do not think that it is necessary always to switch schools or curriculum to point our minds in the right direction. One such chance passage from Waugh or Lewis could do it. There is always time to read if we will, if we have the discipline, the books. A student of mine once gave me a copy of Boswell's Life of Johnson, which he found in a used book store in St. Petersburg, Florida. This is a book I continue to read almost daily, as I have mentioned. The morning that I write these lines, I came across the following passage from Johnson in 1779 -- notice how the word "learning" is used in this very passage: "I (Johnson) am always for getting a boy forward in his learning; for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any any English book which happens to engage his attention; because you have done a great deal when you have brought him to have entertainment from a book. He'll get better books afterwards" (II, p. 290). The two key ideas are already here -- get him started, get him to better books. But above all, get his attention, his engagement.
I once had a famous professor by the name of Rudolf Allers. I remember him saying in class one day that we should always be reading novels, even bad novels; for in their particularity, we will always find something, some incident, some character, some chance insight, that will teach us something we could have learned nowhere else. In saying this, of course, Allers did not imply that there were no lousy or corrupting novels. We were to use our "old beans", to recall Wooster. Allers' book, The Psychology of Character, is still worth reading.
Consequently, I often think these reflections, this guide to liberal learning, ought to bear a sort of saucy sub-title like, "How to Get an Education Even While Still in College". We cannot really escape from the kinds of schools, media, and culture that are all around us by going someplace else. But we can, if we attend to it, realize that something is wrong, something more needs to be said and that we have to search out alternatives to ourselves. The alternative we want is one that leads us to truth and wisdom, to right order and virtue, that leads us to ask where even these things lead us. Such things do not come automatically. We have to do our part. I intend these suggestions of books and ideas to be that alternative, even while I doubt that very many of us are being educated well in what we find in our universities, media, and culture.
Note on Religious Books: Religious book publication is usually its own separate world, often with its own book stores. Whether a person be a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, or whatever, he should know responsible books about his religion or philosophy. Moreover, we should know something accurate about other religions. Not merely do I mean the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and so forth, but also an accurate guide analogous to the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church, which gives an authoritative and clear statement of Catholic doctrine.
Where do we find the time? We find it in the lives we lead. As Louis L'Amour says, time enough is always there. If we look at what we do, the time we lose on television or dithering about a hundred other things, we can with a little enterprise, in this case properly "free enterprise", find that little learning that is not a dangerous but a freeing thing. "Where would I begin?" someone might ask. I remember, as I said, myself as a young man of nineteen in the army during free time going into the post library and looking around for something to read. I did not have really a clue about what to look for. I remember in high school having read with delight James Oliver Curwood's dog stories and my father's copy of Robert Hugh Benson's The Lord of the World, books I now think in retrospect fulfilled Johnson's wise suggestion to let a young person read any English book that would "engage his attention."
I also remember having found in some library a book of Aldous Huxley and another of Josef Stalin. I thought both were interesting books, but was again "clueless", that great word, about what they really were about. So it takes us a long time sometimes to find a good guide and have enough sense to read a Huxley and a Stalin critically. I would hope that, on reading these lines, no one would have to go into a post library and have not a "clue" about what to read or to look for, even though we can find something in almost anything. In brief, remember Hooper, into whom we all can turn if our souls are not moved by what is.
Thus, I presume that anyone who reads these lines will have already
begun something, somewhere. He will have a little learning. He will be
in danger. He will have gone into some vast library and wondered where
to begin. He will have gone to class and, perhaps like Schumacher at Oxford,
have realized that what is presented there is all pretty irrelevant to,
if not corruptive of the important things. So, to put myself in the place
of the student or ex-student to whom these lines are addressed, I would
begin by finding some used book store, taking some time to find a book
that might happen to appear on "Schall's Unlikely List" and begin. Schumacher,
Chesterton, L'Amour, Bochenski, Lewis, Pieper, or Dorothy Sayers, even
her mystery novels, would be fine. Any of these books will, I think, provoke,
will, on reflection, be one of the better books that we later find after
we have begun to read the others. We need some self-discipline, our own
personal library where we keep what we read, and we need good guides. I
leave these reflections with a final remark of Chesterton, who once said,
I forget where, that there is no such thing as a boring subject, only bored
people. This "brief guide", if it does nothing else, will, I hope, prevent
us from falling into that acedia, that sloth, that deters us from
really finding what truth and reality are about. This latter quest is,
after all, the great adventure of our kind.
Each of these books, I think, shows a certain profundity, a certain briefness, a certain charm. I have included books on play, on philosophy, on resources, on authority, on just about everything, including the seven deadly sins! Yet another book is on food, one on science, some essays, some theology, some history, some conversation.
1) Josef Pieper -- an Anthology
2) G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
3) J. M. Bochenski, Philosophy -- an Introduction
4) Dorothy Sayers, The Whimsical Christian
5) E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed
6) Yves Simon, A General Theory of Authority
7) Eric Mascall, The Christian Universe
8) Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery
9) Hilarie Belloc, Selected Essays
10) C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
11) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope
12) Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue
13) Johann Huizinga, Homo Ludens
14) Conversations with Walker Percy
15) Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins Today
16) Stanley Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God
17) Conversations with Eric Voegelin
18) Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History
19) Henry Veatch, Rational Man
20) Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul
1) Josef Pieper -- an Anthology
2) G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
3) J. M. Bochenski, Philosophy -- an Introduction
4) Dorothy Sayers, The Whimsical Christian
5) E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed
6) Yves Simon, A General Theory of Authority
7) Eric Mascall, The Christian Universe
8) Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor
9) Hilarie Belloc, Selected Essays
10) C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
11) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope
12) Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue
13) Johann Huizinga, Homo Ludens
14) Conversations with Walker Percy
15) Henry Fairlie, The Seven Deadly Sins Today
16) Stanley Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God
17) Conversations with Eric Voegelin
18) Herbert Butterfield, Christianity and History
19) Henry Veatch, Rational Man
20) Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul
1) The Praise of 'Sons of Bitches': On the Worship of God by Fallen Men
2) Idylls and Rambles: Lighter Christian Essays
3) Far Too Easily Pleased: A Theology of Play, Contemplation, and Festivity
4) What Is God Like?: Philosophers and "Hereticks" on the Triune God: The Sundry Paths of Orthodoxy from Plato, Augustine, Samuel Johnson, Nietzsche, Camus, and Flannery O'Connor, Even to Charlie Brown and the Wodehouse Clergy
5) Unexpected Meditations Late in the XXth Century
6) Reason, Revelation, and the Foundations of Political Philosophy
7) At the Limits of Political Philosophy: From the 'Brilliant Errors'
to Things of Uncommon Importance.
The bibliographical information included here will be of the books mentioned
in the text, but it will also include certain additional books that I would
likewise recommend for the reader's consideration on the highest things.
No doubt there are thousands of other writings that ought to be mentioned.
I regret not to include favorite essays that I have collected over the
years. The list presented here is a beginning. It is designed to give the
student confidence that sensible writers who speak the truth can be found
and that it is possible for any normally educated and curious human being
to read them with profit.
Some of these books will be out of print; many will have other editions,
sometimes in England, or in other languages. Though rather inconvenient,
most will have to be found in libraries, on inter-library loan, in used
book stores, borrowed from friends. The ones listed that are out of print
I mention as a kind of protest to our society's failure to keep them in
print by reading them. Sometimes it may take years to find one or other
of these books. One has one's whole life; few of these books will ever
be out-of-date. Each will be a welcome addition to one's personal library.
I guarantee it. Few of the authors listed here have only written one book.
If we come across another of their books, it is a good bet that it will
be worthwhile looking at. In the case of some authors, like C. S. Lewis
or G. K. Chesterton, who have written dozens and dozens of books, anything
one comes across will be a "find". Buy it.
Adams, Henry, The Education of Henry Adams. New York: Heritage
Adler, Mortimer, How to Read a Book. New York: Simon & Schuster,
________, Ten Philosophical Mistakes: Basic Errors in Modern Thought
-- How They Came About, Their Consequences, and How to Avoid Them.
New York: Macmillan, 1985.
Aeschilman, Michael, The Restitution of Man. Grand Rapids, MI.:
Allers, Rudolf, The Psychology of Character. London: Sheed &
Arkes, Hadley, First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles
of Morals and Justice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.
Barzun, Jacques, The Teacher in America. Indianapolis: Liberty
Benson, Robert Hugh, None Other Gods. London: Hutchinson, 1910.
Bochenski, J. M., Philosophy -- an Introduction. New York: Harper
Belloc, Hilaire, The Four Men. Oxford: Oxford University Press,
________, The Path to Rome. New York: Doubleday Image, 1958.
________, Selected Essays, Edited by J. B. Morton. Harmondsworth,
England: Penguin, 1958. (A somewhat different collection was published
in London by Methuen, 1948).
Berry, Wendell, The Memory of Old Jack. New York: Harvest, 1974.
Bolt, Robert, A Man for All Seasons (Sir Thomas More). New York:
Boswell's Life of Johnson. London: Oxford, 1931. 2 vols. (This
is the sanest, most delightful of all books, I read something from it almost
________, Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides. Boston: Houghton,
Bradbury, Ray, Dandelion Wine. New York: Bantam, 1990.
Burleigh, Anne Husted, A Journey up the River. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1994. (This book is especially interesting to ISI readers
for its account of its influence on the beginnings of reading).
Butterfield, Herbert, Christianity and History. London: Fontana,
Camus, Albert, Lyrical and Critical Essays. New York: Vintage,
Carey, George, and Willmore Kendall, The Basic Symbols of the American
Political Tradition. Washington, D. C.: The Catholic University of
America Press, 1996.
Carey, George, In Defense of the Constitution. Indianapolis:
Liberty Fund, 1995.
Cather, Willa, Death Comes to the Archbishop. New York: Vintage,
________, My Antonia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1954.
Cheney, Lynne, Telling the Truth. New York: Simon & Schuster,
Chesterton, G. K., Orthodoxy. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Image,
1959. See Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton. San Francisco: Ignatius
Press, 1986, a volume that contains both Heretics and Orthodoxy.
________, What's Wrong with the World. San Francisco: Ignatius
Press, 1987. Collected Works, Vol. 4.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius, Selected Works. Baltimore: Penguin, 1960.
(This book contains both the Third Part of "On Duties", the speech "Against
Verres", and the essay "On Old Age".
Connolly, Cyril, Palinurus: The Unquiet Grave. Harmondsworth:
Conversations with Eric Voegelin. Montreal: Thomas More Institute,
Conversations with Walker Percy. Jackson: University Press of
Dawson, Christopher, The Crisis of Western Education. Garden
City: Doubleday Image, 1965.
________, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture. Garden City,
N. Y.: Doubleday Image, 1991.
Deane, Herbert, Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine.
New York: Columbia, 1956.
de Lubac, Henri, The Christian Faith. San Francisco: Ignatius
________, A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1984.
Dennehy, Raymond, Reason and Dignity. Lanham, MD.: University
Press of America, 1981.
de Rougemont, Denis, Love in the Western World. New York: Schoken,
Derrick, Christopher, Escape from Skepticism: Liberal Education as
if the Truth Matters. LaSalle, IL.: Sherwood Sugden, 1977.
D'Souza, Dinesh, Illiberal Education. New York: The Free Press,
Fairlie, Henry, The Seven Deadly Sins Today. Notre Dame: University
of Notre Dame Press, 1978.
Gilson, Etinne, A Gilson Reader. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday
________, The Unity of Philosophical Experience. New York: Scribner's,
1937. (I once found a paperback copy of this book in the very of the old
McDonald's Book Store off Ellis Street, I think, in San Francisco, but
I forgot to buy it. Someone gave me a xerox, but I went back several times
to try to find this book, but never did).
Guardini, Romano, The Death of Socrates. New York: Sheed &
Himmelfarb, Gertrude, The Demoralization of Society. New York:
Huizinga, Johann, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play Element in Culture.
Boston: Beacon, 1955.
Johnson, Samuel, Journey to the Western Isles. Boston: Houghton
________, Rasselas, Poems, and Selected Prose. New York: Holt,
Rinehart, and Winston, 1958.
Kass, Leon, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature.
New York: The Free Press, 1994.
Kirk, Russell, Enemies of Permanent Things. LaSalle, IL.: Sherwood
Sugden, 1984. Especially the essay, "The Valley of the Shadow of Books",
on used book stores.
Kreeft, Peter, Back to Virtue. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,
________, C. S. Lewis and the Third Millennium. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1994.
L'Amour, Louis, The Education of a Wandering Man. New York: Bantam,
Lewis, C. S., The Abolition of Man. New York: Macmillan, 1978.
________, The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: Collins, 1971.
________, The Four Loves.
________, Mere Christianity. London: Fontana, 1961.
________, Till We Have Faces. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1970.
________, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. New York:
Little, Joyce, The Church and the Culture War. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1995.
Mann, Thomas, Stories and Episodes. London: Dent, 1960.
Mascall, E. L., The Christian Universe. London: Darton, Longmans,
and Todd, 1966.
McCoy, Charles N. R., The Structure of Political Thought. New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1963.
McDonald, Forrest, E Pluribus Unum: The Formation of the American
Republic, 1776-1790. Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979.
McInerny, Ralph, St. Thomas Aquinas. Notre Dame: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1977.
Meilander, Gilbert, Friendship: A Study in Theological Ethics.
Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1981.
Mercier, Vivian, ed., Great Irish Short Stories. New York: Dell/Laurel,
Merton, Thomas, The Seven Story Mountain. New York: Harcourt,
Miller, Perry, ed., The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry.
Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1956.
Montgomery, Marion, Virtue and the Modern Shadows of Turning: Preliminary
Agitations. Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 1990.
Nash, Ogden, The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash. New York: Pocket
Nelson, Jeffrey O., Ten Books that Shaped America's Conservative
Renaissance. Bryn Mawr, PA.: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1994.
O'Connor, Flannery, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor.
New York: Vintage, 1980.
Orr, Susan, Reason and Revelation in the Works of Leo Strauss.
Lanham, MD.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994.
Owens, Joseph, Human Destiny: Some Problems for Catholic Philosophy.
Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1985
Percy, Walker, Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. New
York: Pocket Books, 1983.
Pieper, Josef, About Love. Quincy, IL.: Franciscan Press, 1974.
________, Enthusiasm and the Divine Madness: On the Platonic Dialogue
Phaedrus. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964. (This
is one of the most wonderful and profound books. Ignatius Press has a shorter
version entitled,"Divine Madness").
________, The Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude,
Temperance. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975.
________, Guide to Thomas Aquinas. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,
________, Hope and History. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994.
________, In Defense of Philosophy: The Power of the Mind for Good
or Evil, Consists in Argumentation. San Francisco: Ignatius Press,
________, In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity. Quincy,
IL.: Franciscan Press, 1963.
________, Josef Pieper -- an Anthology. San Francisco: Ignatius
________, Living the Truth. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, `1989.
This volume contains two of Pieper's most famous books of great pertinence
to this essay, The Truth of All Things and Reality and the Good.
Sandoz, Ellis, A Government of Laws: Political Theory, Religion,
and the American Founding Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,
Sayers, Dorothy, The Man Born to Be King. San Francisco: Ignatius
________, The Whimsical Christian. New York: Macmillan, 1978.
Schall, James V., Another Sort of Learning. San Francisco: Ignatius
________, At the Limits of Political Philosophy: From the 'Brilliant
Errors' to the Things of Uncommon Importance. Washington: The Catholic
University of America Press, 1998.
________, Christianity and Politics. Boston: St. Paul Editions,
1981. (This book contains the essay, "On the Teaching of Ancient and Medieval
Political Theory," that originally appeared in Modern Age. It still
makes the point that students ignorant of this background should consider
themselves simply cheated, intellectually cheated)
________, The Distinctiveness of Christianity. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1982. (This volume contains, among other, the essays "On
Leaving Rome" and "Letters and the Spiritual Life" that I have always been
________, Does Catholicism Still Exist? Staten Island: Alba House,
________, Idylls and Rambles: Lighter Christian Essays. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1994.
________, The Politics of Heaven and Hell: Christian Themes from
Classical, Medieval, and Modern Political Philosophy. Lanham, MD.:
University Press of America, 1984.
________, The Praise of 'Sons of Bitches': On the Worship of God
by Fallen Men. Slough, England: Saint Paul Publications, 1978.
________, Reason, Revelation, and the Foundations of Political Philosophy.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987.
________, Redeeming the Time. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1968.
________, Religion, Wealth, and Poverty. Vancouver, B. C.: Fraser
________, Unexpected Meditations Late in the XXth Century. Quincy,
IL.: Franciscan Press, 1985.
________, What Is God Like? Collegeville, MI.: Michael Glazer/Liturgical
Schumacher, E. F., A Guide for the Perplexed. New York: Harper
Senior, John, The Restoration of Christian Culture. San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 1983.
Short, Robert, The Gospel according to Peanuts. Richmond, VA.:
The John Knox Press, 1965.
Simon, Yves, Freedom of Choice. New York: Fordham, 1987.
________, A General Theory of Authority. Notre Dame: University
of Notre Dame Press, 1980.
Sokolowski, Robert, The God of Faith and Reason. Washington:
The Catholic University of America Press, 1995.
Solzhenitsyn at Harvard. Washington: Ethics and Public Policy, 1980.
Strauss, Leo, The City and Man. Chicago: University of Chicago
________, Liberalism: Ancient and Modern. Ithaca: Cornell University
________, What Is Political Philosophy? Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 19 .
Tadie, Andrew and Michael McDonald, Permanent Things. Grand Rapids,
MI.: Eerdmans, 1995.
Tolkien, J. R. R., "On Fairy-Stories," A Tolkien Reader. New
York: Ballantine, 1966.
________, The Silmarillion. London: George Allen & Unwin,
Veatch, Henry, Aristotle: A Contemporary Appreciation. Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1974.
________, Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973.
Voegelin, Eric, Plato. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Wallace, William, The Elements of Philosophy: A Compendium for Philosophers
and Theologians. Staten Island, N. Y.: Alba House, 1977.
Walsh, David, After Ideology: Recovering the Spiritual Foundations
of Freedom. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996.
Waugh, Evelyn, A Little Learning. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964.
________, Brideshead Revisited. Boston: Little, Brown, 1945.
________, The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. Harmondsworth: Penguin,
Weaver, Richard, The Southern Essays of Richard Weaver. Indianapolis:
Liberty Press, 1987.
________, Ideas Have Consequences. Chicago: University of Chicago
Weisheipl, James, Friar Thomas D'Aquino. Washington: The Catholic
University of America Press, 1983.
Williams, Charles, The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante.
New York: Noonday Press, 1961.
Williams, W. E., A Book of English Essays. Harmondsworth: Penguin,
1951. (I found this wonderful collection in a used book store someplace.
It contains three favorite essays: Chesterton's "In Defense of Nonsense,"
William Hazlett's "On Going a Journey", and Robert Lewis Stevenson's "Walking
Wodehouse, P. G., The World of the Wodehouse Clergy. London:
Hutchinson, 1984. (A gift of friends who saw certain clerical similarities).
Wojtyla, Karol, (John Paul II), Crossing the Threshold of Hope. New York: Knopf, 1994.__
1. Publication information on all books cited will be found in the Bibliography, which itself will serve as a reading list for books I want to recommend to the curious and attentive reader. Only rarely have I included bibliographical information on specific texts of classical authors like Plato or Augustine or Cicero whose works are easily available in many editions. I take it for granted that the classic texts are read.
2. A most excellent brief statements on "The Teacher" is found in Yves Simon's fundamental book, A General Theory of Authority, pp. 94-100. The discussions of friendship, truth, doing the good in this book are of exceptional worth.
3. On this famous passage see Schumacher's remarks in his A Guide for the Perplexed, p. 3, wherein he cites the same passage from Thomas Aquinas' Commentary on the Ethics of Aristotle.
4. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, "Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom," Modern Age, (Summer /Fall, 1987), 321-31. Since I have mentioned Professor Wilhelmsen, let me list four of his books that I think any student would profit by: 1) Man's Knowledge of Reality, 2) The Metaphysics of Love, 3) The Paradoxical Structure of Existence, and From My Pen and Podium.
Mention of Modern Age, likewise, leads me to recall here five journals that are worth looking at. These are literary, intellectual quarterly journals that not many people will know about: Humanitas, Academic Questions, Faith & Reason, The Review of Politics, and The Intercollegiate Review.
5. Leo Strauss, Liberalism: Ancient and Modern. Leo Strauss is himself one of the very best writers about contemporary thought. He is difficult to read and requires much attention, but he is worth every effort. Here are Four Books of Strauss that are worth knowing about: 1) City and Man, 2) Natural Right and History, 3) What Is Political Philosophy?, and 4) The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism: An Introduction to the Thought of Leo Strauss. I also recommend Susan Orr's Jerusalem and Athens: Reason and Revelation in the Works of Leo Strauss. For Strauss and Voegelin, see Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin.
6. See my essay, "Aristotle on Friendship," The Classical Bulletin, 65 (#3 & 4, 1989), 83-88. Nothing surprises the average student more that to find out that Aristotle describes quite accurately what is often the most burning question that is currently upsetting their lives. See also on this topic my Redeeming the Time, pp. 214-24, and Chapter 8, "Unknown to the Anciens: God and Friendship," in What Is God Like?