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Moral imagination runs not incidentally but necessarily in tandem with a certain aspect of conservatism, what I think of as imaginative conservatism... The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, by Gertrude Himmelfarb (259 pages, Ivan R. Dee, 2006)

Thomas Jefferson is a kind of incarnate compendium of the Enlightenment. His remarkable openness to its spirit is the philosophical counterpart to his political sensitivity in making himself "a passive auditor of the opinions of others," so as to catch the "harmonizing sentiments of the day" and...
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An odyssey is an adventurous and searching journey, or an intellectual or spiritual quest. It is the proper name for the life of learning. One can shape one's own odyssey into a journey that lacks neither enchantment nor definition... Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series...
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What is interesting is the ultimate human predicament, when serious principles, serious commitments are at odds, and there is no apparent way to compose them in sight, except for giving something up, or giving in—that will be a surrender of self. Why are we in these predicaments...
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The characteristic frame of mind befitting liberal education is reverent radicality—deep respect and penetrating questions. It is a serious mistake to present liberal education as preoccupied with “questioning,” a surreptitiously skewering aggression on the way things are... Editor’s Note: St. John’s College and Zaytuna College both describe...
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Immanuel Kant is the most radical modern, the founder of our ultimate subjectivity. His three Critiques are world-constituting and world-inverting. Before him, the world qualified the mind; now consciousness constitutes the world... (This essay was originally published as the preface to How to Constitute a World...
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Is memory deceptively transformative? Is the original imagination an organ for lying fictions, for deception, or a conduit for revelatory illumination? And so, more generally, how do we explain those images that are apparently not imitations, don’t have an origin in verifiable originals, be they stored in...
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"That brings me to the protection of the exchanges that are the life of learning from dangers both within and without the classroom. Of these there are many, of which I’ll mention only one: the corruption of conversation...
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Jacob Klein was, first and last, every inch a teacher, a teacher who stymied discipleship in the very effort to induce learning. He did, indeed, have some teachings to convey—a few, though those were powerful and of large consequence... Editor's Note: This essay was read as...
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Entertaining questions requires wisdom, a considering, reflecting frame of a mind still resonating with past experience but now focused by desirous expectation. Otherwise put: Questions are a mode of blessed ignorance, a thorough apprehension of our own cognitive limitations which clears our minds of mere opinions and,...
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The vivid love-speeches of the Symposium come to us, reach us, through several layers of incomplete remembrance, and as though from a mythic past... Symposium (or Drinking Party) by Plato, translated and edited by Eva Brann, Peter Kalkavage, and Eric Salem (Hackett, 2017)
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The one incident in Cervantes’s huge novel that has become American folklore is Don Quixote’s adventure with the windmills. As it happens, it contains, almost incidentally, the Don’s own statement of the crux of his life, the...
St. Johns College
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We want to give our students a classroom in which inciting books are talked about not as mere literature nor as historical documents, but boldly as they meant themselves to be taken: as the Word of God, or the insight of the intellect, or the wisdom of...
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The tradition, for us in America, is the Western Tradition, most ours because it has given us the two notions and their realizations which we live by in much of our private and civic life... Editor's Note: Dr. Eva Brann delivered this address at the Free Enterprise...