Thomas Sowell on Three Kinds of Discrimination (on the Rubin Report)

04.20.2018 / Politics

This interview is edifying, informative, and challenging on multiple levels.

Dave Rubin talks with Thomas Sowell about his life, his education, and his new book on three different kinds of discrimination.

It includes a beautiful story that Sowell relates about how a young boy took him to a public library and taught him that you can read books even if you don’t buy them. That young boy gave us one of the world’s great living scholars.

Emotional trauma healing resources

04.17.2018 / Personal growth

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A little while ago, I asked friends for books other resources about the connection between trauma and muscle pain. Here’s what you came up with! I added links to each title, and a few descriptions.

Thanks so much for your collective wisdom and expertise. I’m going to start to reading through these.

My own journey to healing from childhood trauma has been a long one. Talking and processing past experiences is incredibly helpful for producing insight and taking control of your reactions towards life. But talking isn’t everything. Healing is an energetic activity. I’ve found, recently, that exercise, I’m hopeful that learning a bit more about the role of the body – in storing trauma and postponing traumatic experiences until we are ready to handle them – will help.


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Never take religious freedom for granted

04.14.2018 / Faith


An email from a former student that illustrates the importance of ongoing gratitude for basic goods. It’s especially important around Easter time, for those of us who are still high on Easter joy. She said:

It’s really sad that we take advantage of our religious freedom in here in America. People do not understand how lucky we are. I just got back over winter break from a Catholic college conference and there was a speaker who told us a story about a missionary in China. He lived in an area where it was illegal to celebrate mass so he would have the mass in hiding for his family and neighbors. He was eventually caught by law enforcement and tortured with electric spears for about a month. All the man had to do was tell the law where their priest was, but the man could not take that away from his family or neighbors. Law enforcement eventually let him go and he and his family decided to move to the U.S. The man was so happy because he was able to celebrate the mass everyday, even multiple times. However, the American culture started to rub on him and he realized that as an American family man, he needed to make more money to provide for his family. He starts working more to make his family happy and can’t go to daily mass, so he goes on the weekend. As time passes he eventually does not go on Sunday’s. He then became one of those people who only make mass Christmas and Easter, but from the speaker heard from this man, he missed Easter too. It’s crazy to think that the American culture was able to pull him away from God, but that the electric torches weren’t.

John Milton on Liberal Arts

04.09.2018 / Classical education


Dr. Andrew Selby has been lecturing the Trinity Classical Academy staff this past academic year on the “Art of Grammar.” The art of grammar, in contrast to the mere subject, is a skill that enables the practitioner to read and correctly interpret other people’s sentences and to produce one’s own grammatical sentences. We don’t call people “grammarians” (Greek: grammatikos)) very often any more, but it’s still a perfectly good label for the sort of educated person who can read, write, and think well.

One of Dr. Selby’s examples has been “little Johnny” – that is, John Milton.

John Milton is one of the greatest users of the English language, in a class with Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, T. S. Eliot, Keats. And surprisingly, his education consisted of primarily learning grammar for seven years. “Grammar school”, a term we also don’t use much anymore, referred to the intensive study of grammar that was rightly seen to be the foundation of all other learning. In grammar school, Milton learned (a) Latin, and (b) the universal grammatical rules and terminology needed to understand both Latin and English. Milton also learned (c) literature by reading Virgil directly. (He was also taught Christian theology and morality during this time.)

Milton did not learn science, math, or history per se during his grammar school education. That’s not how it was done. The medievals did first things first: grammar, then everything else.

The art of grammar is so important that it’s hard to understate the matter. However, grammar naturally leads to other arts: logic, for example, and rhetoric.

The reason these arts are united and yet distinct is clear upon reflection: they all concern the correct use of thinking and speaking. Students (and for that matter, business people, artists, and parents) who can think and speak well are most likely to excel in a class.

So how do the first three liberal arts, the trivium, work together?

Here’s a brief explanation from John Milton:

The general matter of the general arts is either reason or speech. They are employed either in perfecting reason for the sake of proper thinking, as in logic, or in perfecting speech, and that either for the sake of the correct use of words, as in grammar, or the effective use of words, as in rhetoric. Of all the arts the first and most general is logic, then grammar, and last of all rhetoric, since there can be much use of reason without speech, but no use of speech without reason. We gave the second place to grammar because correct speech can be unadorned; but it can hardly be adorned before it is correct.1

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Dosteyevsky Predicts the Internet

03.29.2018 / Culture


I am reading Dostoevsky’s Demons presently and stumbled across this description of a proto-Google, or proto-internet of information.

Dostoevsky’s idea comes from the character Lizaveta. She imagines a book or series that condenses and makes accessible impossibly vast streams of information into a single, searchable source.

Once upon a time, I hatched a crazy idea for an encyclopedia of human knowledge that people could add to, connecting up questions with answers in a gigantic web of information. I fancy that the idea was a proto-Wikipedia. But of course the genius of Wikipedia is that it actually works. It exists. It’s not just an idea.

(The moral of the story, perhaps, is that good ideas are thought of a dozen, a hundred, a thousand times before the true genius finds a way to implement them. )

The proto-internet is shared for your reading pleasure:

Lizaveta was thinking of bringing out a book which she thought would be of use…

Her literary scheme was as follows. Numbers of papers and journals are published in the capitals and the provinces of Russia, and every day a number of events are reported in them. The year passes, the newspapers are everywhere folded up and put away in cupboards, or are torn up and become litter, or are used for making parcels or wrapping things. Numbers of these facts make an impression and are remembered by the public, but in the course of years they are forgotten.

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Does Peterson Really Believe This Stuff?

03.28.2018 / Politics

Scott Alexander at Slate Stare Codex writes a thorough review of Jordan Peterson’s book and of Peterson’s whole approach to life.

While I don’t agree with the whole review, it’s worth reading. [Also: Language warning]

It definitely might help those who are struggling to understand the Jordan Peterson phenomenon.

What’s so helpful is that the Alexander acknowledges the strengths of Peterson (and explains why people find him useful) while deflating some of his pretensions to religious or even cultic significance.

Alexander interprets Peterson as using the framework of a religion (objective meaning, the idea of redemption, the ideas of sin and repentance) while evacuating some of the realism from that framework. And, Alexander points out, the advice works. It’s helpful.

I’m not so sure that Peterson believes God is just the good feelings and sin is just a psychological underworld. But I’ll admit that Alexander’s interpretation is a plausible one.

Looking for the Real Jesus... with Science?

03.27.2018 / Philosophy


The National Geographic recently put out a piece about searching for the real Jesus. Check out Bruce Seraphim Foltz’s take down.


The fallacy of “begging the question” refers to assuming that you are right. Assuming you are correct is the most common logical fallacy. Everyone does it at some point. If Kant, Aquinas, Aristotle, and Hegel do it, then what hope is there for us mortals?

We all beg the question. We all assume we are right. What do we do about it?

For me, when I find myself committing this fallacy, I try to catch myself. Better yet, I try to humbly acknowledge it when an interlocuter catches me out. Then I try to provide real arguments.

That seems to me the best way: Acknowledging and providing real arguments. That’s what I want others to do, so why not start with myself?

Regardless, it is easy to catch people begging the question.

Authors, writers, and conversational partners very often assume without argument that they know something important.

Often the argument goes like this: assume some big truth with certainty, then proceed to point out all the little truths that would follow if the first point were right.

Problem is, of course, that you haven’t shown the big truth to be actually true.

My friend Jesse once described this process of question begging as “axiomatic reasoning with B.S. axioms.”

The same problem occurs in this article searching for the real Jesus.

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Stacks of Papers, arranged by Category

03.26.2018 / Smiles

I have a neat system for organizing papers on my desk which demand attention. There are approximately eleven categories.

  1. Need to grade
  2. Begun grading, need to finish
  3. Completely graded, need to input grades in gradebook
  4. Graded all multiple choice, need to grade essays
  5. Lost cover sheet, need to find out who paper/test belongs to
  6. Graded, inputted, and ready to return
  7. Graded, inputted, but has fresh coffee stains; allow to dry, then return
  8. Crinkled beyond recognition by infant daughter; request electronic version
  9. Electronic version sent, but lost in the catacombs of “Downloads” folder; request second copy
  10. Don’t want to grade; postponing as long a possible

A brief discussion of "telos" from my dissertation

03.21.2018 / Philosophy


The question of “teleology” is the question of end-directed behavior. Does nature pursue ends? Is nature fundamentally directionless? Is the appearance of direction supervenient upon mechanical laws and random chance?

In the second chapter of my dissertation, I address this question

It’s helpful to examine the many meanings of telos. It doesn’t just mean “goal”:

The Greek word ‘telos’ is commonly translated as “end,” but it is bursting with an array of possible meanings, including: “definite point,” “goal,” “purpose,” “cessation,” “order,” “prize,” “highest point,” “realization,” “decision,” and “services.”

Strong fills out this already rich picture with a wider array of related meanings from the Koine Greek: “from a primary (to set out for a definite point or goal); properly, the point aimed at as a limit, i.e. (by implication) the conclusion of an act or state (termination (literally, figuratively or indefinitely), result (immediate, ultimate or prophetic), purpose); specially, an impost or levy (as paid); continual, custom, end(-ing), finally, uttermost.”

See Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, (Harper & Brothers, 1896). And the updated ed. La Habra: Lockman Foundation, 1995. Entry 5056.

Reflections on the Book of Job

03.18.2018 / Culture


Check out Dan Sheffler’s deep thoughts on one of the Holy Bible’s deepest* books: Job.

Dr. Sheffler maintains that the book is not about evil but about suffering. In this light, he offers a thorough and (to my mind) persuasive account of how to interpret the internal dynamics of this bewildering book.

If you want more reflections on the book of Job, watch or re-watch Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. The opening marquee quotes from Job, making the whole film a response to (or summary of?) Job’s questions to God.

*How to compare depths? If all the books of the Bible are limitless, can they be ranked along those lines? I would suggest that the they can be so ranked. The deepest books, as it seems to me, are books such as Genesis, Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, John, Revelation. While all the sacred scrolls reward intense and repeated study, these six or so (among others) seem the most unlikely to ever become transparent and comprehensible, even to experts or saints.

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