22 July 2005

This Blog to Resume

Did you ever notice how students writing dissertations have the cleanest apartments? Even sweeping the floor, in comparison, looks good as a diversion. I half wonder whether I've had little inclination to blog because I'm between major writing projects: resume that translation of Nic Eth (for instance), and the blog will take on once again an aspect of inevitability.

But probably the reason is that I'm a man of extremes. I either work with intensity at something, or do not work at all, and my travels this summer has made the former impossible, as regards this blog at least.

You know about my trip to Vancouver, and immediately after that was the May Week Seminar in Cambridge. A couple of weeks after that, I participated in a colloquium at Princeton, at the James Madison center, and read a paper on "Lincoln's Intellectual Virtue". The colloquium was devoted to how one teaches the American Founders and Abraham Lincoln's thought in undergraduate classes. Lincoln is a side interest of mine. Lincoln is of course often taken to be a paradigm of phronesis, correctly so. In my paper, using (roughly) Aristotle's framework, I broadened the focus slightly and asked whether and how he exemplified intellectual virtue generally.

In the first two weeks of July I was teaching in an institute in Mexico City, called the North American Leadership Institute. The course brought together exemplary students from Canada, Mexico, and the United States with the aim of fostering pan-American solidarity in an era of NAFTA and globalization. Students took courses in philosophy, the history of indigenous peoples in Mexico, and in the language and culture of Mazahua. They went on various cultural excursions in the city and on weekends visited health clinics in Mazahua villages. I designed the philosophical curriculum for the institute, the theme of which was how the understanding of human rights developed through the encounter of Old World civilization with the indigenous peoples of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The centerpiece of this was of course the famous debate between Bartolome de Las Casas and Sepulveda.

While in Mexico City I gave two seminars in the philosophy department of the Universidad Panamericana, on the Doctrine of the Mean and on the two discussions of pleasure in Nic Eth. The Universidad Panamerica is distinctive in centering its undergraduate philosophy curriculum on ancient philosophy and (even) medieval commentators. In theory, their best students finish well-prepared for graduate work. (For instance, all undergraduate majors take two years of Greek and a full sequence of logic courses.) I particularly enjoyed my discussions with Hector Zagal, a prolific Aristotle scholar; Luis Xavier Lopez, an accomplished scholar of medieval Arabic philosophy; and Rodrigo Guerra, a phenomenologist and 'personalist' who is a friendly critic of Aristotelian ethics. I also had the opportunity to meet Ricardo Salles of UNAM, an accomplished ancient philosopher, who attended the seminars.

I'm at home for this week and next, and then I travel to Vienna, via Munich and the Salzburg Music Festival, to teach in another institute. I'll try to blog in the midst of all this, but I cannot promise much success until late August, when I'll return to my old regimen.

But there will be a development. I've been collaborating with IT students at Clark to design a BACAP website, which will have many attractive features: a forum for discussing BACAP lectures; a place for scholars to post 'working papers' in ancient philosophy; a place for syllabi and teaching materials in ancient philosophy to be made widely available; etc. The website should be extremely useful in assisting BACAP's mission to promote both scholarship and pedagogy in ancient philosophy. I expect it will come online by mid-August.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back from your travels. Dissoi Blogoi has been missed. We look forward to your resuming the "old regimen" in September. The BACAP website sounds like a very useful forum.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind comments. Man of extremes that I am, I'm almost addicted to blogging once again already. 

Posted by Michael Pakaluk

Scott Carson said...

Hi Michael welcome back

I assume you have your students read Hadley Arkes' First Things--it's got a lot of great stuff about Lincoln as phronimos.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Scott, I did  make use of Arkes' discussion. And I found it fruitful to counterpose it to William Lee Miller's recent book, Lincoln's Virtues, which also contains a fairly lengthy treatment of Lincoln's 'prudence'. The comparison was fruitful because Arkes' talk of implicit 'principles' is apt, whereas Miller works with a Kantian contrast between expedience and duty which turns out to be alien to Lincoln's thought.


Posted by Michael Pakaluk