August 14, 2018
Hercules, that greatest of all Greek heroes, possessed a mighty and magical bow that bequeathed to a man named Philoctetes.
Sailing from Greece to invade Troy and bring back Helen, Philoctetes received a wound on his foot that became foul and festering. So foul and festering that people couldn’t stand being near him and so the decision was made to maroon him alone on a deserted island with his bow.
But the Trojan War went badly for the Greeks and they knew that they could not win without Philoctetes’ bow. The question was how to get it back from Philoctetes who, after ten years on his island, was bitterly angry at Odysseus and the other Greek leaders who had left him.
At the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, Dr. Virginia Arbery discussed the story of Philoctetes in modern Irish author Seamus Heaney’s play “The Cure at Troy.”
Here are her remarks.
July 24, 2018
In court, on trial for his life, Socrates begins his defense saying, “I do not know, men of Athens, how my accusers affected you; as for me, I was almost carried away in spite of myself, so persuasively did they speak. And yet, hardly anything of what they said is true.”
This summer, we’ve been featuring interviews and lectures from The Wyoming School of Catholic Thought with its theme “The Paradox of Courage.”
This week, Dr. Virginia Arbery considers Socrates Apology, which in no way apologizes for anything. His apologia is his defense in the court of Athens that will, in fact, condemn him to death for not believing in the gods and for corrupting the youth of Athens. Is Socrates courageous before the court? Or would Aristotle, for example, consider him simply rash, bring about an avoidable death penalty?
Here is Dr. Arbery’s lecture in its entirety to help you decide.
July 17, 2018
Kyle Washut was part of the work crew at that first Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. He spent his days listening in as he set tables, washed dishes, and scrubbed. At the end, he did the final clean up while Fr. Schall and the other faculty chatted over a steak dinner.
At this year’s Wyoming School, Professor Kyle Washut did not set table. As a presenter, one of his topics was courage in Plato’s Laches and in Aristotle’s Nichomacean Ethics. And it turns out that the question Plato and Aristotle addressed in the fourth century BC is critical even—or perhaps critical especially today: How do we form men out of boys? What kind of cultivation is required?
Professor Washut is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
July 3, 2018
“Antigone,” written by the Athenian poet Sophocles in the fifth century BC poses a dilemma: What do we do when the government says one thing, but God—or in this case the gods—say otherwise?
In the play Antigone’s two brothers, Eteocles and Polyneices, chose opposite sides in the civil war in Thebes. In battle the two brothers kill each other just as the side Eteocles chose wins the war. The victorious new ruler, Creon, decrees that Eteocles will be honored as a great hero and buried with all dignity and holy rites.
As for Polyneices’ body, Creon says, “it has been proclaimed to the city that no one honor with a tomb or lament with cries, but let him lie unburied, his body devoured by birds and by dogs and mangled for the seeing.” Disobedience will be punished by death.
But the gods decree the dead should be buried. “That one I shall give rites,” says Antigone, “It is noble for me to die doing this.”
Dr. Virginia Arbery taught a class on Antigone and her courage at The Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. Here are her comments.
June 26, 2018
“Ah me, son of valiant Peleus;” said the messager to Achilles in book 18 of The Iliad, “you must hear from me the ghastly message of a thing I wish never had happened. Patroklos has fallen, and now they are fighting over his body which is naked. Hektor of the shining helm has taken his armor.”
As we began discussing courage at this year’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, we turned our attention to Achilleus, the paragon of courage. In book 18 of The Iliad, Achilles, who has refused to help the nearly-defeated Greeks, mourns the loss of his friend Paroklos and resolves to rejoin the battle. And he does that knowing that his death in battle is absolutely certainty once he avenges Patroklos death by killing Hecktor.
Dr. Glenn Arbery, president of Wyoming Catholic College, explains how Achilles’ decision and the shield and armor that are then designed for him, give us a picture of courage that becomes the baseline for all other depictions of this virtue.
June 19, 2018
This past week, Wyoming Catholic College hosted our annual Wyoming School of Catholic Thought here in Lander, Wyoming. Adult learners came from as far away as California, South Carolina, and Florida to consider the topic “The Paradox of Courage: Desire to Live, Readiness to Die.”
We read and discussed authors as diverse as Homer, Plato, St. Athanasius, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sophocles, the Bible, and T. S. Eliot, watched Sophie Scholl, a film about a brave young woman in Nazi Germany and the 1928 silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” and left enough time for horseback riding, hiking, and many fruitful conversations about courage in the works we considered and in the world today.
The After Dinner Scholar in the next weeks will feature interviews and lectures from the Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. To introduce the topic, this week’s interview with Wyoming Catholic College president Dr. Glenn Arbery was recorded back in January and offers a broad overview of courage in philosophy and literature.
May 22, 2018
Wyoming Catholic College graduation was Saturday, May 12. It came with all the pomp and circumstance, academic regalia, and excitement that you might expect. Our speaker was author and scholar Joseph Pearce who was our guest on last week’s After Dinner Scholar.
The evening before the big event, however, was a smaller, more intimate gathering of graduates and their families along with college faculty and staff. That night, at the President’s Dinner, college president Dr. Glenn Arbery reflected on the seniors, their four years of liberal arts education, and their participation in the great tradition of the Christian West.
Dr. Arbery is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.