New Scholarship

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie…well, not dummies, but the uninitiated anyway. Scholarship that is digestible to the common man is a prerequisite for a modern virtuous society. The pursuit of happiness is really the pursuit of Wisdom. Wisdom prompts virtuous action, which in turn leads to a virtuous society. So how do we make scholarship available? We start by encouraging scholars to stop obfuscating Truth and start building straight bridges towards it.
Timothy Burke, a polymath professor at Swarthmore, writes about Wendy McClure’s new book, The Wilder Life:

The book is offering no strikingly new findings about the Ingalls or their place in history. As McClure points out, it’s not even the first book to offer a travelogue of journeys to important Ingalls-related tourist sites. But it is a smart, personal engagement with the big questions that the Little House books pose: why were they written and published? (By whom, in fact?) Why do we like them? (Which ‘we’?) What have they done to and with national, religious, cultural and gender identity in the United States over the last forty-odd years?

 We need more writing like this.

David Hume at 300

Selected Essays (Oxford World's Classics)I first read David Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding while in college and while I enjoyed it at the time I have to admit that like much of my college reading it fell from my memory. That is until I read The Authentic Adam Smith, where Hume was an influential minor character, and I heard that this weekend was to be the 300th anniversary of Hume’s birth.

Born May 7, 1711 Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known as an empiricist and a skeptic. He is often considered one of the most important thinkers in the history of Western philosophy. His short work, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, deals with the weakness that we have in our abilities to understand the world around us, what is referred to in the title as human understanding.
Above all Hume believed we lived through our emotions and passions, not necessarily through reason. In fact he theorized reason could only act as an arbiter of passion. “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” In this view he moved away from the Aristotlean ideal that had made up much of the philosophy of antiquity, the middle ages and the Renaissance. 
Whereas classicists such as Plato believed that ideas had a life of their own independent from the observer, Hume thought just the opposite. “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”

As I mentioned above he was very influential on Adam Smith and the two of them became the foundation for a unique Scottish enlightenment movement that still influences philosophical thought to this day. His views however, were not always welcomed by the establishment, either academic, religious of political. his inate skepticism made him target many long held beliefs. “I have written on all sorts of subjects . . . yet I have no enemies; except indeed all the Whigs, all the Tories, and all the Christians.”

In the end, while his views can be debated and argued against, what can not be denied is the influence he had on modern thought, and on this his 300 anniversary it seems appropriate to at least acknowledge that impact.