The After Dinner Scholar
The Constitution, Philosophy, and Pope John Paul II with Judge Leon Holmes

The Constitution, Philosophy, and Pope John Paul II with Judge Leon Holmes

September 29, 2020

In an op-ed column in USAToday last week, Wyoming Catholic College senior Anthony Jones wrote: “I gathered with the entire student body of Wyoming Catholic College on Sept. 17, 2019, for a mandatory celebration of Constitution Day. We began with the Pledge of Allegiance, witnessed a lively panel discussion between professors on the history and modern relevance of America’s founding principles, and concluded by singing patriotic songs.”

Anthony Jones went on, “If you are a student at a typical American university, that description probably sounds foreign to anything you have experienced. Anti-Americanism has spread across college campuses like a wildfire, igniting rage and resentment against anything perceived as oppressive — even the American flag. As a result, most universities would likely shy away from a celebration of our nation’s founding in favor of more ‘inclusive’ events.”

On September 17 of this year, Anthony along with the rest of the student body of Wyoming Catholic College as well as faculty and staff gathered to celebrate Constitution Day 2020.

This year we heard from retired federal judge, Dr. Leon Holmes. Judge Holmes received his PhD in political science from Duke University and his JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. He served sixteen years on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Retiring from the court earlier this year, Judge Holmes is a visiting professor this fall at Wyoming Catholic College.

Lecture: “Beauty is Truth: Shattering the Medieval Vision” by Dr. Jim Tonkowich

Lecture: “Beauty is Truth: Shattering the Medieval Vision” by Dr. Jim Tonkowich

August 25, 2020

Duke University professor and philosopher Alex Rosenberg began an essay on Scientism with a series of questions and his answers:

  • Is there a God? No.
  • What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is. 
  • What is the purpose of the universe? There is none. 
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • Why am I here? Just dumb luck. 
  • Does prayer work? Of course not. 
  • Is there a soul? Is it immortal? Are you kidding? 
  • Is there free will? Not a chance! 
  • What happens when we die? Everything pretty much goes on as before, except us.
  • What is the difference between right and wrong, good or Bad? There is no moral difference between them. 
  • Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes. 
  • Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing. 

At this year’s Wyoming School of Catholic Thought, Dr. Tiffany Shubert began by talking about the Medieval cosmos, a cosmos full of meaning, harmony, and truth. And last week’s After Dinner Scholar podcast was her lecture about the Medieval cosmos.

Next, we held a seminar discussing Alex Rosenberg’s essay “Scientism Versus the Theory of Mind” with its opening series of questions and answers. Before the seminar began, to avoid unnecessary intellectual whiplash, Dr. Jim Tonkowich spoke about how we got from a reality filled with the presence of God and with purpose to Rosenberg’s comment that, “Reality is the forsightless play of fermions and bosons producing the illusion of purpose.”

Lecture: “Beauty is Truth: C. S. Lewis and the Medieval Vision” by Dr. Tiffany Schubert

Lecture: “Beauty is Truth: C. S. Lewis and the Medieval Vision” by Dr. Tiffany Schubert

August 18, 2020

In the Epilogue to his book The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature, C. S. Lewis wrote, “I have made no serious effort to hide the fact that the old [Medieval] Model [of the universe] delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors. Few constructions of the imagination seem to me to have combined splendour, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree. It is possible that some readers have long been itching to remind me that it had a serious defect; it was not true.”

Last week the annual Wyoming School of Catholic Thought was held here in Lander. The topic was “Beauty is Truth: Science and the Catholic Imagination.” Our readings in science and in literature considered this question of how we see the world, how we image it even before we think about it.

That began with a look at Medieval science and cosmology. The group read and discussed chapter 5 and the Epilogue from Lewis’ The Discarded Image guided by Dr. Tiffany Schubert who offered this introduction to the topic.

Alexandre Solzhenitsyn “A World Split Apart”: A Conversation Between Dr. Virginia Arbery and Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

Alexandre Solzhenitsyn “A World Split Apart”: A Conversation Between Dr. Virginia Arbery and Dr. Pavlos Papadopoulos

May 12, 2020

On June 8, 1978, Alexandre Solzhenitsyn went to Harvard University and delivered his now famous commencement address, “A World Split Apart.” It was, to say the least, not what people expected—or wanted.

By the time he delivered the Harvard commencement address, Solzhenitsyn had been living in the United States for some time, observing our politics and culture. In the address he offered a critique of our ideas of freedom and the good, of our sense of well-being, of our overall shortsightedness, and our lack of spirituality.

Wyoming Catholic College sophomores read Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard commencement address as part of Trivium 202: Political Rhetoric and the Common Good. In that course they not only study great examples of rhetoric, but learn to write and deliver their own speeches.

With those students at home across the land, Drs. Virginia Arbery and Pavlos Papadopoulos recorded this conversation about Solzhenitsyn.

Into the Lenten Desert: 3) “Pagans Grope Toward God: Piety and Prayer in Classical Antiquity” by Dr. Jason Baxter

Into the Lenten Desert: 3) “Pagans Grope Toward God: Piety and Prayer in Classical Antiquity” by Dr. Jason Baxter

March 12, 2020

“I have a divine sign…,” said Socrates in his Apology. “This began when I was a child. It is a voice, and whenever it speaks it turns me away from something I am about to do, but it never encourages me to do anything.”

Mysticism is hardly a Christians-only domain. And in fact the Medieval Masters learned a great deal from the Greek pagans, particularly Plato.

In this third lecture in the distance learning course “Into the Lenten Desert: Learning to Pray with the Medieval Masters,” “Pagans Grope Toward God: Piety and Prayer in Classical Antiquity,” Dr. Baxter explores the connections between Greek philosophy and mysticism and the Christian tradition in which we stand today.

Time: Thick, Deep, High with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

Time: Thick, Deep, High with Dr. Jeremy Holmes

January 7, 2020

We celebrated Epiphany last Sunday. We will celebrate the Baptism of Jesus next Sunday then the following Monday we begin “Ordinary Time.” There’s something going on here—actually many things going on here—that cannot be summed up with Google Calendar and a wristwatch.

Google Calendar and wristwatch time is what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “secular time”: It’s 10 AM. I have a meeting at two this afternoon. The corporate quarter ends on January 30. The year is 2020.

But is that all there is to time? Is it merely an empty expanse of moments that we fill or is there—as Taylor suggests—something more to time, something that, as he puts it, gathers and reorders secular time?

Dr. Jeremy Holmes has thought a great deal about the nature of time and is our guest this week on The After Dinner Scholar.

The Abolition of Man, Part Three: “The Abolition of Man” with Dr. Jason Baxter

The Abolition of Man, Part Three: “The Abolition of Man” with Dr. Jason Baxter

December 24, 2019

In his book, The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis imagined a reader saying, “You say we shall have no values at all if we step outside the Tao. Very well: we shall probably find that we can get on quite comfortably without them. Let us regard all ideas of what we ought to do simply as an interesting psychological survival: let us step right out of all that and start doing what we like. Let us decide for ourselves what man is to be and make him into that: not on any ground of imagined value, but because we want him to be such. Having mastered our environment, let us now master ourselves and choose our own destiny.”

That quote is at the end of the second chapter of The Abolition of Man our Wyoming Catholic College book of the year. In that chapter Lewis argued that the Tao or Natural Law is essential for any morality, any sense of “ought to.” But what if we throw away morality? What if we allow no ought, no permanent values, nothing but what we as humans choose for ourselves in any given age?

That question leads to the third and final part of the book and the final abolition of man. In this, our third podcast about The Abolition of Man, our guest is Wyoming Catholic College’s Academic Dean, Dr. Jason Baxter.

The Abolition of Man, Part Two: “The Tao” with Joseph Pearce

The Abolition of Man, Part Two: “The Tao” with Joseph Pearce

December 17, 2019

In his book The Abolition of Man Lewis argued that the practical result of making all moral judgments subjective—“I feel” rather than “I think”—“must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.”

Lewis saw in 1943—and we, seventy-five years later, certainly see—the ravages of such subjectivity. And that’s one of the reasons we’ve chosen The Abolition of Man as our Wyoming Catholic College book of the year.

But there’s a catch, wrote Lewis. Radical subjectivity while easy to preach is for the most part impossible. When people claim to reject the objective, what Lewis called the Tao—Natural Law or traditional moralitythey are nonetheless forced to operate by smuggling shreds of the Tao back into their thinking.

To help us to understand the second lecture in The Abolition of Man, a lecture Lewis entitled “The Way,” we’re joined by author and scholar Joseph Pearce. Mr. Pearce is Director of Book Publishing at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review, editor of Faith & Culture, and series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions. In addition he is a member of Wyoming Catholic College’s Catholic Scholars Advisory Board.

The Abolition of Man, Part One: “Men Without Chests” with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

The Abolition of Man, Part One: “Men Without Chests” with Dr. Kent Lasnoski

December 10, 2019

At some point in the early 1940s, scholar and author C. S. Lewis received a review copy of a textbook for “boys and girls in the upper forms of school,” that is, high schoolers. And while he was grateful to the authors for sending the book, “At the same time,” he wrote, “I shall have nothing good to say of them.”

Lewis tells the story of the textbook in the first of three lectures he delivered in 1943 and then published as the book The Abolition of Man. Now seventy-fifth anniversary, Wyoming Catholic College has chosen The Abolition of Man as our book of the year. This is the first in a series of three podcasts about the book.

This week we will consider the first lecture that Lewis gave the provocative title, “Men Without Chests.” In it he focused on the radical subjectivity regarding morality that he saw all around him and the enormous damage it does and would continue to do to the human person.

To tell us about “Men Without Chests,” our guest this week is Wyoming Catholic College moral theologian, Dr. Kent Lasnoski.

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.

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