Public Discourse: “Two Cheers for Politics”
By Steven McGuire
“‘I remember reading an interview during the Great Recession in which a medievalist employed at a public university admitted he’d have trouble explaining to taxpayers why they should continue to support his salary. How could he possibly convince his fellow Americans, who were struggling to keep their homes and put food on their tables, that they should pay even a fractional amount to support poorly attended seminars on obscure topics in medieval history?
Zena Hitz’s Lost in Thought is roughly ten years too late to help that man, but it comes just in time for those of us living through COVID-19. Our institutions of higher education suffer from a series of pre-existing conditions that make them particularly susceptible to the economic ravages of the current pandemic. But, in truth, times of crisis merely bring to the fore questions that we should be able to answer at any time: Why should human beings commit time and resources to the intellectual life? Should societies support people who devote their lives to intellectual activity, and, if so, why? Can we justify using our leisure for contemplation when there always seem to be more pressing needs in the world?…”
Steven McGuire served as Acting Director of the Ryan Center for the 2019-2020 academic year and continues his leadership into the 2020-2021 year as Interim Director. He is also an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Augustine and Culture Seminar Program. His research interests include the history of political thought, Eric Voegelin, Immanuel Kant, and F. W. J. Schelling, as well as the aims and value of liberal education.
Professor McGuire is a JMC faculty partner.
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