Peter J. Leithart is President of the Theopolis Institute, Birmingham, Alabama, and an adjunct Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College. He is author, most recently, of Gratitude: An Intellectual History (Baylor).

RSS Feed

What Plato Owed Athens

From Leithart

Socrates’ explanation of his willingness to submit to the laws of Athens, from the Crito. Since he owes the city his very existence, he has no right to renounce the laws when they turn against him: Soc. “And was that our agreement with you?” the law would say, “or were you . . . . Continue Reading »

Renaissance on ingratitude

From Leithart

A few quotations from Renaissance writers on the subject of ingratitude, drawn from Catherine Dunn’s excellent 1946 CUA dissertation on the subject: Lodowick Bryskett argued that ingratitude was contrary to reason: “How shamefull a thing is it therefore to man, that brute beasts should . . . . Continue Reading »

Persians and ingratitude

From Leithart

Xenophon describes the Persian training of boys in the Cyropaedia (1.2.6-7), highlighting the effects of ingratitude: “The boys go to school and give their time to learning justice and righteousness: they will tell you they come for that purpose, and the phrase is as natural with them as it . . . . Continue Reading »

Aristotelian gratitude

From Leithart

Some excerpts from Aristotle’s discussion relevant to gratitude in Nicomachian Ethics. First, a treatment of the reasons for making return on a benefit received (from 9.1): “But who is to fix the worth of the service; he who makes the sacrifice or he who has got the advantage? At any . . . . Continue Reading »

Parenthood

From Leithart

Katherine Marsh writes in the March 13 TNR that parenthood is not what it was cracked up to be. Instead of bringing fulfillment and happiness, it turns out that parenthood is difficult, and a number of recent articles and studies have suggested that parents are more “sad, distracted or . . . . Continue Reading »

Aporia of responsibility

From Leithart

Derrida captures the aporia of responsibility very nicely in this passage: “Saying that a responsible decision must be taken on the basis of knowledge seems to define the condition of possibility of responsibility (one can’t make a responsible decision without science or conscience, . . . . Continue Reading »

Rome and responsibility

From Leithart

According to Jan Patocka, the Roman order represents a new stage in the history of responsibility because it represents a single entity toward which all are responsible: “the Roman principality presents the problem of a ne responsibility, founded upon transcendence in the social context as . . . . Continue Reading »

Derrida and self-possession

From Leithart

Derrida is perhaps best known for his assault on self-presence, but in The Gift of Death he is eager to find out some place where the self is in absolute possession of something. Following Heidegger, for instance, he insists that death is always my death and no one else. Even if I am murdered, my . . . . Continue Reading »

Pigeons

From Leithart

Jeremy Narby writes, “pigeons appear to be brighter than many people suspect. One recent experiment demonstrated that pigeons can tell the difference between paintings by Van Gogh and Chagall. The birds received training in which they were rewarded for pecking at paintings by Van Gogh but . . . . Continue Reading »

Charles Reznikoff

From Leithart

Seamus Cooney, ed. The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, 1918-1975 . Boston: David R. Godine, 2005. 445 p. I had not heard of Charles Reznikoff (1894-1976) when I picked up this volume, but his poetry is a find. Born to Russian Jews in New York City, Reznikoff wrote and published poetry, over many . . . . Continue Reading »