Thursday, January 18, 2018

The New Lyceum

A group of recently graduated History and Political Science majors and Ashbrook Scholars has started an interesting new online journal called The New Lyceum.  There are lots of good articles by current and former students on all kinds of cultural, political, moral, and historical topics, but for a sampler, try this nice analysis by Connor Murnane, of the Netflix series Deadwood.  Peruse many others here.

The New Lyceum "provides analysis of current issues that affect the body politic. It does so out of a belief that man is reasonable – he can come to understand truth through rational discourse."  Expanding on this idea, the editors write that "Reason alone distinguishes Man from all other life. By the power of reason, he can discern truth. A natural byproduct of reason is disagreement. Civil disagreement leads to discourse that destroys poorly developed arguments and nurtures those arguments that lead to truth. Sadly, our culture has lost the ability to respectfully disagree. Some people only want to converse with those who think like they do. Others believe that to criticize another’s point of view is to attack their character and thus avoid serious discussions altogether. This has impoverished the political and cultural life of our country, and an effort to revive public discourse is necessary."

"The New Lyceum seeks to aid that revival. We will write on a wide variety of issues, and our authors may defend opposing sides on those issues. Our articles will be written as arguments. They will not belittle and will aim to persuade those who disagree."

Nicely done Joey, Nick, Josh, James! 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Prof. Sikkenga on Sabbatical

Professor Jeff Sikkenga is spending his sabbatical this year in California. While driving across the country for two weeks, he and his family stopped at a number of historical sites, including Lincoln's home in Springfield, Illinois (see the photo) and Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. Driving that far with kids in a crowded car renewed his appreciation of Hobbes' political thought. 
During the fall he lived in Monterey and was a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. This semester he is a visiting professor at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy in Malibu. While on leave, he is working on a book on John Locke's A Letter Concerning Toleration and finishing a revised second edition of History of American Political Thought, for which he wrote a chapter on the political thought of Barack Obama.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Second Place Taylor Essay by Jackson Yenor

We Have Less Time Than We Think
Let’s assume that I will live to be 72 years old, the typical age of a male living in the 21st century. If I average sleeping one hour less than what is recommended by a physician, I will spend at least 24 years of my life doing so. Right off the bat, I am down 24 years before my life ends. 48 years to go.

Babies do not develop memories until they are around three years old. My first memory is following my father down the hallway as he spoke of political philosophy to a graduate school friend. I was 3 years old.  45 years to go.

From ages 6 to 18, I was in school. Let’s assume that I spent 7 hours at school and 3 hours doing sports and homework. If you subtract the 2 hours of actual learning that took place in that time each day, I will have eaten up 4 years of my conscious time in school doing things I did not want to do, and learning things I did not want to learn (and this version of Jackson didn’t go to college). 41 years to go.

I have graduated high school. Let’s say I get a nice job. With weekends and holidays subtracted, I will work 233 days out of the year for about 45 years. If I work an 8 hour a day with 1 hour commute there and back, I will have spent 11 years of my life in the full consciousness of doing a job. I have 30 years to go.

I am a male who needs to tend to my hygiene. I will probably spend 2 hours a week showering, brushing my teeth, shaving, and doing laundry. I will probably spend another 3 hours shopping, getting gas, and running various errands. I will spend another 2 hours a week using the restroom and washing my hands. I will spend another 4 hours per week (not including any dinner with family and friends) eating food alone. Lastly, while I am a healthy guy, I will probably spend 4 days a year feeling sick and debilitated. A year of my life will be spent in the misery of sickness. All in all, I will spend 6 years to keep myself clean, fed, and remotely comfortable, without ever thinking much of anything. 24 years to go.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Morgan Miller's Summer Internship at Acton Institute

This summer, Morgan Miller (Political Science and Philosophy double major and Ashbrook Scholar) did an internship at the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She worked with the Programs and Education team whose main project was Acton University, a three day conference with over 1,000 participants from 80 different countries. Here is how Morgan describes her work:  "Before the start of Acton University, some of my duties included assigning course monitors to Acton University sessions, preparing course packets for the participants, and creating stipends for international and domestic fellowship students. After Acton University, I helped create reports ranging from 30 to 400 pages in length with the information gathered by the participants of the conference. The Acton Institute hosted many luncheons for the interns to discuss thinkers like Frederick Hayek and Abraham Kuyper. 
"In the few months I worked for the Acton Institute as an intern, I was surrounded by like-minded people that pushed me to think seriously about the way I viewed the world--everyone was eager to have a discussion or provide materials to help me expand my understanding on a particular area of study. It was in these months at Acton that I began to realize the implications of man as created in the image of God endowed with creativity to flourish fully if given liberty and a free market. I believe that because of my time at the Acton Institute, I have a fuller understanding of why these principles are important as well as a deeper passion for defending them."

Taylor Essay Award Winners

Every semester Ashbrook Scholars compete in an essay writing competition.  Authors chose their own topics and a first draft is critiqued in a writing seminar; winners are chosen from the revised versions.  Below are the winners from the FA 2017 competition.  Congratulations all!  You can read the first place essay at the bottom of the page and in subsequent days, we'll add the second and third place essays.  In the spring all the winning essays will be published in Res Publica.  

First place:       "The Good Catastrophe" by Caleb Boyer
Second place:  "We Have Less Time Than We Think" by Jackson Yenor
Third Place:     "Waiting for Change: It's Time to Abolish Tipping"
                            by Lucas Trott

Honorable Mention:  
           "Through the Lens of Mary" by Morgan Miller
           "Contrasts in Community: Healing at Home by Looking Abroad" 
                 by Dennis Clark  
           "In the Midnight of the Mind" by Tyler MacQueen

The Good Catastrophe
by Caleb Boyer

Most of us stopped reading fairy tales a long time ago. We often stop reading them as we get older. At the least, we stop taking them seriously. When I say fairy tales, I recall the fantastical stories written by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and authors like them. Their writings are the noblest and most complete kind of fairy tale, because they contain what Tolkien called “eucatastrophe” or, put simply, the good catastrophe. This term represents the sudden turn of events in a story which ensures the triumph of the good and the consolation of a happy ending. In his essay On Fairy-Stories, Tolkien claimed that such stories did not deny the existence of sorrow, failure, or evil. On the contrary, the existence of evil only heightens the joy of the good that is to prevail. However, fairy tales containing eucatastrophe did deny “universal final defeat.” In the end, goodness and virtue win against all odds.
Then we grow up. Experiencing the reality of our world has a way of invalidating our hope in goodness, virtue, and happy endings. Eventually we disregard fairy tales entirely and cease to believe in the existence of the good catastrophe. Instead we desire stories that reside in moral grey areas with “complex” characters that flippantly adhere to good and evil without consequence or redemption. We crave books, movies, and television series that end in catastrophe and final defeat. We argue that these stories are more valuable and relevant to our lives, because they seek to accurately reflect our reality and reveal something true about who and what we are as human beings. In actuality, we find these stories more attractive than fairy tales, because they demand little of us.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dr. Paddags' Sabbatical Update

While on sabbatical, Dr. Paddags has found a temporary home at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbuettel, Germany, where he is a visiting scholar during the Fall 2017. The library has an extensive collection of works from the early modern period, including the 18th century. Also, it is famous for the Evangeliar of Henry the Lion, one of world's most precious books. For Dr. Paddags research at the library has been very productive, thanks to the excellent collection, the knowledgeable and helpful staff, and the various seminars and lectures held at the library. In particular, it was a joy to get a hold of some of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's works - first editions! Also, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing used to be the head librarian for some time and reading some of his letters (in German, Latin, but most of them in French) in the original has been another special treat. In the picture below you can see Dr. Paddags in front of the library's main entrance.