The After Dinner Scholar
On Getting Whatever You Desire: La Mandragola with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

On Getting Whatever You Desire: La Mandragola with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

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.

Hobbes, Locke, Political Philosophy and the American Founding with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

Hobbes, Locke, Political Philosophy and the American Founding with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

October 1, 2019

“Ready, fire, aim,” we tell our children,” is no way to live.” Careful thought comes first whether you’re hunting, choosing a college, building a birdhouse, or writing a constitution for a new republic.

What kind of government will allow human beings the greatest freedom to flourish? To answer that question, we first need to ask about the nature of human beings and second we need to ask about the nature of freedom.

And while the answers to those questions may seem obvious, they are far from it. They require careful questioning and reasoning.

The American founders lived in an age where questions about what it means to be human and about the definition of freedom were hotly debated and nowhere more so than by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke.

At Wyoming Catholic Colleges’ Constitution Day assembly, political philosopher Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos discussed Hobbes and Locke, their similarities, differences, and the way each influenced the American founding.

Friendship and Politics by Dr. Virginia Arbery

Friendship and Politics by Dr. Virginia Arbery

July 9, 2019

When we think of politics, for most of us the word “friendship” is not the first thing that comes into our minds. Our politics are rancorous, ugly, polarized, and just about everything else politics is not supposed to be.

In spite of the rancorous, ugly, polarized politics of Ancient Athens, Aristotle suggested that what holds cities that is, the root of politics is friendship.

At June’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, Dr. Virginia Arbery looked at friendship and politics using The Politics by Aristotle. Here is some of what she had to say.

From the World of Shadows to the Light of Truth: Plato’s Cave with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

From the World of Shadows to the Light of Truth: Plato’s Cave with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

April 30, 2019

“Make an image of our nature in its education and want of education, likening it to a condition of the following kind” said Socrates in Plato’s dialogue The Republic. “See human beings as though they were in an underground cave-like dwelling with its entrance, a long one, open to the light across the whole width of the cave. They are in it from childhood with their legs and necks in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only in front of them, unable because of the bond to turn their heads all the way around. Their light is from a fire burning far above and behind them. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a road above, along which see a wall, built like the partitions puppet-handlers set in front of the human beings and over which they show the puppets.”

The quote is the opening of Plato’s famous analogy of the cave. It’s an image of alienation and of exile from ourselves, from truth, from reality, and ultimately from God.

The analogy of the cave also serves as an introduction to all of Plato’s thought. And so our freshmen read it as the final work and capstone of their first year of humanities. Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos, an expert on The Republic has been their teacher and is our guest on this edition of The After Dinner Scholar.

Plutarch: Political Life and Personal Character with Dr. Pavlos Papadopolous

Plutarch: Political Life and Personal Character with Dr. Pavlos Papadopolous

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.

St. Augustine, the City of God, and the City of Man with Dr. Virginia Arbery

St. Augustine, the City of God, and the City of Man with Dr. Virginia Arbery

December 11, 2018

In AD 380, not long before the sack of Rome in 410, the Emperor Theodocius had declared Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Perhaps, many argued, that was the problem. Many worshiped Jesus abandoning the old gods of Rome—Jupiter, Juno, Minerva, Apollo, Aphrodite, and the rest. No doubt those gods sent the barbarians to destroy the city as punishment for the lack of piety.

In Roman North Africa, there was a town called Hippo. And the bishop of Hippo, Augustine, got wind of those arguments, picked up his pen, and began writing what has become one of the world’s greatest apologetic and greatest political treatises: The City of God.

Wyoming Catholic College students study The City of God as sophomores and then again as seniors. At least once and sometimes twice, their professor is political philosopher, Dr. Virginia Arbery. Dr. Arbery is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

Old Testament Judges and Kings and the Question of Centralization with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Old Testament Judges and Kings and the Question of Centralization with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

November 13, 2018

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10)

When Israel entered the Promised Land, Joshua was the clear commander and leader of the people. Then he and his generation died. It was a generation that, as a friend used to say, forgot to make disciples. The memory of the Exodus and of the Lord God faded and, well, disaster was the result.

Enemies came to oppress Israel. In their pain they called out to the Lord who, because he is faithful, heard and answered by sending a judge to deliver them. Then, when the judge died, the cycle began all over again.

Dr. Jeremy Holmes and I have been team teaching freshman theology, a course that surveys the history of Israel in the Old Testament. Our classes that reflected on the judges and the subsequent anointing of a king over Israel got us thinking. Dr. Holmes is our guest on The After Dinner Scholar.

Popular Government and Our Constitution with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

Popular Government and Our Constitution with Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

October 2, 2018

In July 1776, John Adams wrote that the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4 should be celebrated, “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations.”

Here in Lander, Wyoming on the Fourth of July, we celebrate in a way that would make John Adams proud. But come September 17, at Wyoming Catholic College, we also celebrate Constitution Day, the date in 1787 on which our Constitution was signed and sent to the states for ratification. Rather than celebrating with “Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations,” we quietly reflect.

Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos, Assistant Professor of Humanities, who is new to the college this year, lectured on the topic “Popular Government and Our Constitution” at this year’s Constitution Day celebration. Dr. Papadopoulos is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

Dueling Founders: The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists with Dr. Jim Tonkowich

Dueling Founders: The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists with Dr. Jim Tonkowich

May 1, 2018

October 19, 1781: British General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown. The War for Independence was over. Then came the tricky part. It’s one thing for a nation to achieve independence. It’s quite another to have to govern that nation once you’re on your own.

During the Revolutionary War, governing American was catch as catch can. Congress did its best under the Articles of Confederation--our first constitution--to raise an army, pay an army, and conduct foreign policy. Once the war was over, a whole host of problems arose.

That led to drafting the Constitution and the ratification debate between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. Dr. Jim Tonkowich provides an overview of that debate in this week's After Dinner Scholar.

Religious Liberty: A Right to Be Wrong? with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

Religious Liberty: A Right to Be Wrong? with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

April 10, 2018

The Edict of Milan signed by Emperors Constantine and Licinius in AD 313 granted the Roman people freedom to choose any religion they wished including previously outlawed Christianity. Then in 380, Theodosius outlawed everything except the Christianity.

And so it was for much of the sixteen-hundred years since Theodosius. Catholic Christianity was the state religion of every state in Europe and even after the rise of Protestantism, the formulation cuius regio, eius religio—“Whose Realm, his religion”—was the order of the day.

Religious freedom was still a new and novel idea when it became part of the US Constitution. And as the idea spread, it was also a controversial idea.

Dr. Kent Lasnoski has been leading Wyoming Catholic College seniors into the conversations about religious freedom in the Catholic Church and is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

Suggested Readings: