Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Center for the Study of the Great Ideas

I just found out about the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, founded by Mortimer Adler and Max Weismann. Their mission:
The CENTER has two primary missions:

One, to help awaken citizens from their moral and intellectual slumbers and to help them understand why philosophy is everybody's business: the possibility of finding sound and practical answers to questions about the good life and good society. And philosophy's ability to answer the most basic normative questions, WHAT OUGHT WE SEEK IN LIFE? And HOW OUGHT WE SEEK IT?

Two, to promulgate the insights and ideals embedded in Dr. Adler's lifelong intellectual work in the fields of Philosophy, Liberal Education, Ethics and Politics. To continue functioning as THE resource for, access to, and the on-going interpretation of his work
I think their manifesto is quite interesting. It is immanentist when it comes to the role of civil society in the pursuit of happiness. I think Gaudium et Spes would disagree with this strongly:
The only standard we have for judging all of our social economic, and political institutions and arrangements as just or unjust, as good or bad, as better or worse, derives from our conception of the good life for man on earth, and from our conviction that, given certain external conditions, it is possible for men to make good lives for themselves by their own efforts.

There must be sufficient truth in moral philosophy to provide a rational basis for the efforts at social reform and improvement in which all men, regardless of their religious beliefs or disbeliefs, can join. Such common action for a better society presupposes that the measure of a good society consists in the degree to which it promotes the general welfare and serves the happiness of its people—this happiness being their earthly and temporal happiness, for there is no other ultimate end that the secular state can serve.
Late in life Adler became Catholic. I wonder if he modified his belief that "happiness being their earthly and temporal happiness, for there is no other ultimate end that the secular state can serve."

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Mortimer Adler and a just economy

Through a convoluted series of links that began on Mark Shea's blog, although I can't figure out where, I came across this 1958 recording of a Mike Wallace interview with Mortimer Adler, the co-founder of the Great Books program at the University of Chicago and long-time editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica and The Great Books of Western Civilization. In it he discusses the necessity of broadening capital ownership in order to maintain a truly politically free society.

Any great bookie like me will always have a sense of sympathy with Adler. While not full-blown distributism, what he proposes does emphasize diffuse ownership of capital among the workers. What he says makes sense, although I don't know how to implement it. Apparently the Center for Economic and Social Justice does. It is called "Capital Homesteading." I asked an economist I know who tends to prefer a Scandinavian model of national economy what he thinks about the idea of capital homesteadning. I haven't heard back from him. I'll let you know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing and speaking

William Michael, of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy has the following to about writing:
Writing is really nothing more than setting down on paper what we would otherwise speak with our mouths. It would be impossible for a man to be a great speaker and a poor writer because all he needs to do is write down that which he would speak.
His main point is that knowledge of grammar, logic, and rhetoric should be enough to teach one to write. You don't need a separate course. I wonder, though, whether he overstates his case somewhat that there is no distinct art of writing that has its own rules. For instance, a well-written sentence isn't always as effective when spoken, as those who try to proclaim a literary translation of the Bible in liturgy have discovered.

Any opinions? Class, discuss!