October 22, 2019
“Because life is brief…let us follow our desires” has a rather contemporary ring to it. Yet those words were penned in 1512 by the playwright, philosopher, and politico Niccolò Machiavelli in his play La Mandragola, The Mandrake.
Machiavelli is, of course, best known for his book The Prince that gives advice on how to rule. That book contains observations such as, “All ethical and moral values are arbitrary artifacts from the cultures that set them forth. All political and military greatness is derived from ignoring them.”
La Mandragola is, in a sense that kind of thinking turned into a play and Dr. Kent Lasnoski, our guest this week, has been teaching that play to our students with amazing results.
August 6, 2019
How important are friends? Aristotle observed that no one would choose to live without friends even if he or she had all the other good things of life.
Aristotle also observed that there are different kinds of friendship and that no all friendships are what he called “complete friendships.” Some are friendships of utility—business partners, vendors, baristas. Others are friendships of pleasure—fishing buddies, tennis partners, or even lovers. Not that all such friendships are necessarily bad, but that all are incomplete.
This is the last of our summer podcast series from the 2019 Wyoming School of Catholic Thought where we considered “No Greater Gift: Friendship from The Iliad to Facebook.” In it Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos led us through Aristotle’s discussion of friendship in The Nicomachean Ethics books 8 and 9.
July 23, 2019
“On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge.
“He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her.”
Thus begins Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment. "He" in this case is Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, a college drop-out living in abject poverty in 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia. Consumed with misery, anger, and a strange sense of self-importance, Raskolnikov will in the course of the novel commit a double murder plunging him even deeper into despair.
Along the way, he meets Sonia Marmeladov. She is the child of a hopeless drunk who, in order to support her father, his second wife, and his step-children, sells the only thing she possesses: herself in prostitution.
How the friendship between harlot and the murderer becomes the source of redemption is the topic of the novel and was the topic Dr. Virginia Arbery addressed at the 2019 Wyoming School of Catholic Thought. This is what she had to say.
July 16, 2019
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas. In fact, he went on, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
Jesus made it clear that while the first and greatest commandment is to love God, the second is love for neighbor. And “neighbor” for Jesus even extends to enemies.
In the second part of the second part of the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas explored the question of love for God, neighbors, enemies, and friends.
At The Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, theologian Dr. Jeremy Holmes led us through Thomas’ thinking. Here, in part, is what he said.
Texts from St. Thomas Aquinas:
- Summa Theologae II.II, Question 23, Article 1; Question 25, Article 1; Question 26, Article 3
- Disputed Questions on the Virtues, Question 2, Article 2
July 2, 2019
“‘My dear Jane,’ exclaimed Elizabeth, ‘you are too good. Your sweetness and disinterestedness are really angelic; I do not know what to say to you. I feel as if I had never done you justice, or loved you as you deserve.’”
“Miss Bennet eagerly disclaimed all extraordinary merit, and threw back the praise on her sister’s warm affection.”
One of the exemplary friendships we studied at this year’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought was the friendship between Elizabeth Bennet and her sister Jane in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
What characterized this friendship between women? Why is their relationship so appealing? And what can we learn from it to inform our own friendships.
Wyoming Catholic College Teaching Fellow Dr. Tiffany Schubert has been a Jane Austen fan and scholar for many years. Here is her presentation delivered this past June 10.
May 7, 2019
In the old cowboy movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," once Valance is on the ground with a bullet in him, someone calls for the doctor. The doctor turns the body face up with his boot, looks at the corpse, and says, "Dead." One hundred or more years ago, life and death were relatively simple, but they're not any more.
While there are good reasons to rejoice in modern medical technique and technology, questions of life and death have grow in number and complexity.
Dr. Kent Lasnoski ended his moral theology course with Wyoming Catholic College seniors by moving from the philosophical and the theological to the conundrums force on us by medical and biotechnical advancements. Dr. Lasnoski is our guest on this week's After Dinner Scholar.
January 29, 2019
History is often concerned with great events—elections, revolutions, wars, battles, conquest, boom, and bust—and we’re used to reading history. That’s why we walk away slightly confused when someone says, “It must be borne in mind that my design is not to write histories, but lives.”
The ancient writer of Lives was the Roman Plutarch. His concern was character. "The most glorious exploits,” he wrote, “do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.” His focus was “the marks and indications of the souls of men.”
Dr. Pavlos Papadopolous who has been teaching Plutarch this semester is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
January 15, 2019
“Life,” wrote the great Roman author Cicero, “is nothing without friendship.” And thus it has been since the beginning.
Looking at Adam alone in the splendor of Eden, God declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). We humans are “hardwired to connect.” We need friends and without them, as St. Thomas Aquinas observed, “even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
Yet in our day, loneliness has been called an epidemic and friendship a lost art. The results are not only poor psychological and social health, but, it has been clearly demonstrated, poor physical health as well.
Led by Wyoming Catholic College faculty, the 2019 Wyoming School of Catholic Thought will explore the meaning, the experience, and the practice of friendship “from The Iliad to Facebook”.
Prof. Kyle Washut was one of the Wyoming School faculty last year and will join us again this year. Prof. Washut is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.
For more information about The Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, June 9-14, 2019, visit our website.
January 1, 2019
“What does it mean to be wise?” a psychologist recently asked an 8-year-old and an 88-year-old from different parts of the world. “Their answers,” she reported, “were remarkably similar: to know a lot.”
If wisdom was simply a question of knowing a lot, we would need to conclude that Americans today are by far the wisest generation to live. After all, thanks to the internet, we know a lot about a lot of things. But is access to knowledge, to data really the definition of wisdom? Isn’t wisdom more a matter of how we live than about what we know?
Of the 73 books in our Bibles, we classify seven as “wisdom books.” Those are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach. And for most people, aside from Psalms, the books seem rather elusive.
To help us understand wisdom and the wisdom books as we embark on a new calendar year, we’re joined by theologian Dr. Jeremy Holmes.
October 23, 2018
“What is the highest of all practical goods?” asked Aristotle at the beginning of The Nichomachean Ethics. “Well,” he went on, “so far as the name goes, there is pretty general agreement. ‘It is happiness’.” Aristotle then continued, “But when it comes to saying in what happiness consists, opinions differ.” As the Ray Conniff singers sang back in 1966, “Happiness is different things to different people.” And within our culture even the most irreligious people would answer, Amen.
But is happiness simply different things to different people? Or are their common threads? Can we explore happiness and human nature to learn what happiness is apart from everyone’s subjective opinion?
For Aristotle—and with him the Western tradition until just recently—the answer is, Yes. We can discover what happiness is, a quest he took up in The Nichomachean Ethics.
Dr. Michael Bolin has been teaching Aristotle’s Ethics to Wyoming Catholic College juniors this semester. Dr. Bolin is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.