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Apr 11, 2022

Can We Think Deeply about Important Ideas without Writing about Them?

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Sophia Vasalou

Sophia Vasalou

University of Birmingham

Sophia Vasalou's research focuses on the development of virtue ethics in the Islamic intellectual tradition, with a specialization in Imam al-Ghazālī's work.

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Can We Think Deeply about Important Ideas without Writing about Them?

A Personal Meditation

Asta Norregaard Lesende Frau 1889

Painting by Asta Norregaard Lesende Frau, c. 1934


In one of Naguib Mahfouz’s gloomier novels, Khan al-Khalili, we meet the sad character of Ahmad ‘Akif, a bachelor living with his family in the eponymous quarter of historic Cairo. Now in his forties, one of the defining events of his life is having had to put an early end to his studies in order to support his family. Over the years, his sense of grievance and thwarted ambition have set, firing an obsession with the pursuit of learning. Desperate to beat a path to fame and glory, first he tries his hand at law, then at science, and finally at literature. Each time he fails miserably to achieve any success. No scientific discoveries that will “transform the horizons of modern science,” elevating him to the ranks of Newton and Einstein. No eminent publications in which his readings of classical Arabic literature—he has read al-Mubarrad, Ibn Qutayba, al-Jahiz, and al-Qali—deliver their fruit and his great intellect shines forth. By the time we meet him, all that’s left of his self-styling as a scholar manqué is a stubborn but desultory reading habit that is far more wide than deep. He’s a dilettante unable to think for himself, having long “relied on books to do the thinking for him.” 

There are different things one might focus on in this story, and different lessons one might try to derive from it. From my perspective as an academic writer, I must admit that my attention was drawn to one of the simplest aspects of this unhappy picture, and this is how it presents one possible relation to the act of reading. From his earliest transactions with books, Ahmad can’t content himself with just reading them. The experience of reading is not enough. He feels compelled to do something with it. Books are a means to achieve something. Put differently, the act of reading needs to be productive. And although not all of Ahmad’s notions of achievement or “production” take the same form, in at least one case the logic seems clear. The point of reading books is to produce more of them. The point of reading is to write. 

Even if you’re not an academic yourself, you may not find it hard to see why I was especially disposed to focus on this simple aspect—and indeed to feel personally targeted by it. If there’s anything one knows about academics, it’s that they write. Scroll down any faculty page on the sites of major universities and you’ll be dazzled by the snaking publication lists of the longest-serving members. In many contexts today, as it is often said, they can’t afford not to, if they’ve any hope of securing professional advancement. Yet this explanation of why books are written doesn’t provide the whole story. It overlooks the fact that academics often keep on writing even when they no longer feel they strictly have to. The type of writing varies from one field or discipline to the other. In the humanities, much writing takes shape as a reflection on texts. Books are written about books. Much of my own writing, for example, has been a meditation on theological and philosophical texts from different places and times. I’ve written about the Mu’tazilites, about Ibn Taymiyyah, about al-Ghazali; I’ve also written about Schopenhauer and a motley crew of other philosophers. When I read their texts, I read them knowing I will write about them—I read them in order to write. In other words, in some important respects, Ahmad ‘Akif’s relation to reading is my own.

It might be pointed out that, in Ahmad ‘Akif’s case, what makes this relation problematic is not the productive desire per se. It’s the desires, the character flaws, that in turn drive it—the pride, arrogance, and off-the-scale thirst for glory. But this simply begs the question: Why, if not for these reasons, do we write? It’s this question that I want to explore here. Although as phrased this is a question about facts, it hands over to a question of value: Why should we write? What justifies doing so? 

In my own writing life, I have long felt that there’s a quandary here I’ve shied away from. Taken in its narrowest form, this is a quandary about what “we” do as academics who write books. But many readers of this publication are not academics. What they likely share instead is a conviction that certain works of the human mind belonging to different cultures and times carry special importance, and that we stand to make a significant gain from engaging with them. In its broadest form, my question is about how we can make that gain. Can we think deeply about these works—can we experience their transformative power fully—without writing about them? Can we avoid the superficial relation to books of Ahmad ‘Akif’s later years unless we keep something of his original productive ambition? 

These are big questions, into which I’ll only plant a modest spade. It will be all the more modest given that I won’t try to speak in the name of academics in general and will simply speak for myself. My goal is simply to convey my perception of what writing has done for me, say something that puts this in a broader context, and point to some of the challenges and questions it creates. 

Questions about what we gain from the study of literary, philosophical, and other texts have been a familiar fixture of debates about the value of a university education in the humanities. In her recent book The Value of the Humanities, literary scholar Helen Small provides a typology of arguments commonly leveraged to defend this kind of education. These range from arguments that highlight its economic and social utility to ones that focus on its role in bolstering democratic institutions, its contribution to individual and collective happiness, or the intrinsic value of such study for its own sake. Although what’s in question in these debates is the public value of the humanities, many of the arguments map on to the kinds of reasons each of us might give if prompted to explain what benefit, if any, we believe we have derived from such an education. 

The argument that would best represent my own reasons sits uneasily in this typology. It is perhaps closest to the argument for happiness, but only if this is understood in a sense similar to the one Aristotle might have given it, where happiness is about realizing a potentiality that we can in hindsight recognize as precious and central to who we are. Not everyone will experience this education in the same way. But my sense is that when this education works best, it will be valued at least in part as a form of experience, a source of new experiences, and a means to self-transformation. All experiences of course change us in different ways and to different degrees. Many of them enrich us—in the minimal sense that we can retrospectively acknowledge some way in which we are better off for having had them. But there are experiences that enrich us more than others, that bring about changes in our perspective and our ways of thinking about ourselves and the world that seem more profound, and that we treasure above the rest. 

For me, this is one of them. Looking back at the different kinds of theological and philosophical texts I was exposed to in the course of my extended education, I know I would not be the same person today if I had never had the chance to encounter them and work through their ideas. I would not have been able to think the thoughts I do today if I had never spent some time puzzling through Wittgenstein’s idea of a private language or Schopenhauer’s metaphysics of the will, reflecting on Plato’s conception of human love in the Phaedrus or al-Ghazali’s understanding of divine love in the Revival of the Religious Sciences, and even blinking hard through philosophical discussions of personal identity or possible-worlds modal semantics. I wouldn’t be the same if I had never had the chance to think seriously (which is not to say profoundly) about questions such as the nature of virtue and its relation to happiness, the notion of human nature, the idea of moral luck, the ideal of magnanimity, or the experience of the sublime, just to mention some examples. I definitely would never have discovered the experience that more than any other has shaped my sense of self and of what matters—the experience of wonder. This is the experience that, not to put too fine a point on it, provides one of the few answers I know to the question why life may be worth living. And it is difficult for me to see how I would ever have come to it without the education that the study of philosophical and theological texts afforded me, by cultivating my capacity for a certain kind of critical distance and reflective self-awareness, by making certain kinds of possibilities imaginable to me and certain kinds of concepts thinkable. 

I mentioned Aristotle’s notion of happiness. But in its emphasis on the education of feeling, my description also comes close to John Stuart Mill’s understanding of why a certain kind of humanistic education matters—because it helps expand our imagination and gives us access to “higher” intellectual and aesthetic pleasures, including a sense of what is beautiful and sublime. In this more nuanced sense of “happiness,” which allows for the possibility that we may be left more vulnerable to subjective feelings of unhappiness, my education gave me a part of this. 

My capacity to have these experiences and think these thoughts matters to me. I would feel impoverished without them. But what I want to underline is the more specific character of my interaction with theological and philosophical texts that, as I see it, made this possible. It wasn’t just reading these books, in an armchair by the fireside. I have read many books in the proverbial armchair, but few of these have left a lasting mark on me. Those that did leave their mark managed to do so because I didn’t just page through them; I worked through them with a certain degree of focus and intensity. And I worked through them in this way because I was usually working toward some piece of writing—because I was trying to build something for which the ideas in these books served as creative prompts, structural supports, and material. How I thought was inextricably bound up with what I was trying to do. 

This observation will not seem novel. On the simplest level, it evokes an insight at least as old as Aristotle, who pointed out that the way we acquire any skill is by carrying out the relevant activity. Thus, “people become builders by building, and cithara-players by playing the cithara.” It’s in the same way that we acquire qualities of the self, such as the virtues, moral and intellectual. In an oft-repeated lapidary rephrasing, “we become by doing”; or again: what we do changes us. An emphasis on the importance of active engagement is also a hallmark of contemporary discussions of pedagogy at different stages of the educational process. The best kind of thinking, as John Dewey urged, takes shape in response to a problem or question. It takes shape as a quest. “Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at first hand, seeking and finding his own way out, does [a student] think.” 

Problems and questions are more likely to motivate us to pursue understanding. And understanding that has been acquired through a process of inquiry—what some researchers systematically refer to as “enquiry-based learning”—is more likely to stay with us into the future. As one educator, William Hutchings, notes, the outcomes of such learning “are more likely to become intellectually embedded,” because “what we discover, we retain.” For many theorists, writing forms a central plank of this educational strategy as an instrument for eliciting active engagement. This is a key emphasis, to take one example out of many, of John Bean’s widely cited handbook, Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. “The most intensive and demanding tool for eliciting sustained critical thought,” Bean writes, “is a well-designed writing assignment.” 

For Janet Emig, what’s special about writing and makes it a unique tool for learning is that it crunches together three different modalities of interacting with the world, which she heuristically maps on to the hand, the eye, and the brain. Writing involves all three, singling it out as “a uniquely powerful multi-representational mode for learning.” Emig (who was speaking before the use of computers transfigured this process) draws part of her inspiration from earlier work on literacy, where several pioneering theorists active in the second half of the last century advanced bold claims linking the rise of literacy to cognitive development at both the individual and the cultural level. It was the spread of alphabetic writing, on a view championed by the classicist Eric Havelock among others, that made the cultural and intellectual achievements of ancient Greece possible, and led to the development of the type of analytical and abstract thinking that defined scientific and philosophical inquiry. Upping the ante, Walter Ong declared: “More than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness.” Part of this remarkable transformation had to do with the way in which writing transposes us from the realm of sound to that of sight, allowing us to objectify our thought and loop back to it ad libitum to re-view its earlier stages. Writing allows us to slow down our natural cognitive processes and interfere with them, weeding out redundancies, inconsistencies, and imprecisions. 

More recent scholarship has cast doubt on some of these claims. Others (including many of Ong’s points) are too self-evident for contestation. For its part, the emphasis of pedagogues and philosophers about the need for some kind of active engagement for learning will seem familiar to many readers. It’s an insight that after all organizes our educational experience from the early stages of our lives. Whether we’re learning physics or mathematics, history or literature, foreign languages or musical instruments, our learning is typically driven forward by prompts from our educators to use, exercise, and express what we learn. At the university level, writing more specifically features as a central tool for learning (even if, as pedagogues like Bean would underline, its use requires both expansion and improvement). In this regard, the writing one might do as a professionalized academic researcher is not divided from the writing one does as a student by an impassable moat. 

Yet this is as good a place as any to start shifting the focus away from what makes writing worth cherishing and start considering what seems to make it problematic. It is worth noting, first off, that Aristotle makes for awkward company on this topic, despite his famous pedagogical emphasis on the importance of doing for learning. When it came to the life of the mind, Aristotle advanced a model of the highest form of intellectual activity which couldn’t be further removed from the model I have outlined. The highest activity is contemplation, theoria, whose objects are the noblest things in the universe—god as the ultimate principle or cause, being as being, perhaps mathematical objects. As the classicist Andrea Nightingale explains, contemplation is best understood by analogy with seeing: it is a “pure noetic ‘seeing’ of unchanging, eternal, and divine objects.” Contemplation in this sense contains no movement, no process. There’s no thinking in our familiar sense, of moving from one idea to another, of coming to a new thought one hadn’t had before. It is thus a mistake, as John Passmore has observed, to identify the life of Aristotelian contemplation with the “life of trying to find out, the life of the scientist or the scholar or the philosopher.” Contemplation is more about dwelling pleasurably in what we know than in trying to discover what we don’t. Connected with this, contemplation is not an activity that moves towards a goal; it is complete at every moment. This marks it off from most other human activities, particularly those Aristotle termed “productive.” Building is the best example: it aims at a product, the finished house, and is only complete once this is achieved.  

The Bookworm Carl Spitzweg.png

The Bookworm by Carl Spitzweg, c. 1850

Of course, this is a portrait of the human mind in its apogee, which is compatible with and arguably dependent on rather different portraits of how one gets there. Yet it still helps pick out a source of genuine unease about giving writing a central role in the process of thinking and learning. “Building” was my own metaphor when describing my own activity above and explaining what I believe made it possible for me to engage with ideas with a certain kind of intensity and focus. I was thinking while trying to make something. For Aristotle, this would clearly signal that engaging with ideas has here acquired a productive character. 

Why might this be problematic? On the one hand, when we have a creative aim, we are more likely to tap into the deepest reserves of our energy and motivation. It harnesses what psychologists might refer to as our “effectance” drive, which is most basically our need for exercising and asserting agency. Ancient philosophers, too, might have recognized here the expression of one particular part of the soul, the spirited part, which delights in the conquest of difficulty. For the same reason, because it galvanizes our motivation, working with a creative aim can sharpen our attention and help us see certain things more clearly—a finding also supported by recent empirical research. But this relation has a potentially darker flip side. One issue, made famous by the psychological study in which participants asked to monitor a basketball game failed to notice the person in a gorilla costume who flounced through the court, is that filtering everything through one narrow lens (the one dictated by one’s aims) will result in tunnel vision, blocking out important angles of attention. A broader problem is the tendency to see everything under its aspect as an instrument or a means. You don’t have to believe in the possibility of a time-stopping cognitive communion with the Unmoved Mover to worry that always or usually thinking about ideas with a view to how they might further your projects might lock you into a self-interested form of motivation that excludes you from nobler possibilities. 

These points have no simple answer, as they reflect important conflicts and limitations in human nature. But here I want to focus on another issue, which takes me back to my own perspective and my personal preoccupation with this topic. As I explained, in my own life I have felt that the synergy of reading and writing has been indispensable in enabling me to think more seriously about certain ideas, in ways that left a more lasting mark on me. I imagine this will be the experience of most people who have undergone a similar type of education and had to grapple with a writing assignment, an essay, some other kind of written performance. It wasn’t sitting through the lectures that made things click into place; it was being forced to fend for oneself and do something, craft something, out of the material. In writing about something, as Jeff Mason and Peter Washington point out in their own pedagogical manifesto, The Future of Thinking, we often discover what we think.

People no doubt differ enormously in this regard. For some, it is conversation—the give-and-take of a live exchange of ideas—that provides the most powerful stimulus and creates the opportunity for self-discovery and self-development. Some of us are more direct products of what Ong terms “chirographic” (and now “typographic”) culture than others. If you’re anything like me, it’s in writing that you discover yourself and develop. And for me, this awareness creates a quandary. Because our professional outputs as scholars and researchers are unlike the writing assignments and essays of yesteryear in one important regard. The public rationale for producing this written work is not the relation it has to our personal growth and intellectual development. It is the contribution it makes to scholarship, which depends on its meeting certain standards and realizing certain academic values. One of these values is originality—putting across a perspective or making a claim that has not been presented, or presented in quite the same way, before. It is success in meeting such standards that gives a piece of writing scholarly value.

A desire to engage with important human ideas for their transformative potential and lived significance may not be best served by writing to a medium governed by incongruous standards such as a chimerical ideal of originality and scholarly detachment. It may in fact be betrayed by it.

I am skeptical of this conception of value. The field in which I have done most of my writing, Islamic studies, is not all cut from the same cloth. There are different ways of being a scholar, different ideas of what counts as good scholarship, in different enclaves of this larger whole. At one end, there are people lucky enough to be doing work that answers to the dreamy ideal of “discovery”—people who discover hitherto-unknown manuscripts in far-flung libraries, who trawl through historical texts and unearth neglected facts that substantively change our understanding of historical personalities or events. Somewhere in the middle, there are people who skillfully draw on a broad knowledge of the content of different texts, their lines of influence and interrelations, and their historical context, to offer composite accounts of particular thinkers, intellectual trends, or ideas. At the other end there are people who, while not entirely neglecting questions of historical influence and context, write books that engage closely with the content of particular texts in pursuit of particular questions or ideas. My own writing has gravitated toward the latter end of this spectrum—less from choice than from an awareness of my limitations. At this end of the spectrum, any novelty or originality lies in the construction of a narrative, analysis, or interpretation. 

Working in this particular enclave, it is harder to persuade oneself that anything one writes is indispensable to the advancement of human understanding. Scholars with exceptional abilities might escape this judgment. But how many of us belong in this category? I certainly don’t count myself among those gifted enough “to raise monuments to the glory of the human mind,” as Rousseau put it with a related purpose in his Discourse on the Sciences and Arts. This makes it harder to avoid confronting the sense of conflict between one’s personal reasons for pursuing this work and the reasons that govern public exchange. When I am sometimes invited to give talks discussing what I see as the “contribution” of my work to “the field,” I instinctively recoil with a sense of bad faith. 

Central to this quandary is a sense that the very act of writing, in its academic form, incorporates a judgment of value. When, in one of his early lectures on education, Nietzsche icily pronounced that “few people nowadays realize that one in a thousand, at most, is justified in putting his writing before the world,” he was simply giving the meaning of the word to “publish.” To publish a piece of writing is to “put it before the world.” It is to lay claim to a public. And although this could take unpacking, it is to make a claim on attention—a claim of worth which translates to a claim on others’ regard. This claim is what separates academic books and articles from the assignments and essays we pen in our younger years while openly pursuing goals of intellectual growth, which are read by a small circle of teachers and friends. To return to my starting point, this raises the specter that none of us published writers might be as different from Ahmad ‘Akif as we might think. Something of his drive for distinction enters our motives every time we press “send” on a finished piece. The great Muslim intellectual Abu Hamid al-Ghazali worried about how participation in the hurly-burly of live social communities might mobilize our hunger for eminence. But as al-Ghazali also recognized, a community does not need to be standing in our living room to be alive to us in the sense that matters. 

There’s something more I need to spell out, however, if I’m to fully unravel the quandary as I see it—and the sense of bad faith I sometimes experience as an academic writer. Because as I have said, engaging with the ideas found in philosophical and theological texts is something I experience as deeply significant. It has made me who I am; in more rhapsodic moments, I might even say it connects me to something I would call, in grand Aristotelian style, my potential as a human being. But my belief in the value of this activity commits me to the belief that everyone should be able to enjoy the same opportunity. If others wished to pursue the same goal, certainly I would not counsel them to read my own work. I would urge them to read the works written by greater minds than my own. And if I believe writing is indispensable to this process, I would also urge them in good faith to write. 

Yet who, then, will be our reader? Because taken as a counsel to engage in the same type of activity as my own, it would evoke a problem that has a very familiar shape. If putting one’s writing before a public means making a claim on attention, there are already far too many claims competing for a share of this finite good. An anxiety about the volume of written production has been with us for a long time. It formed the backdrop of Nietzsche’s remarks in his lectures on education, where he lamented “the shameful churning out of books” and “the hasty overproduction driven by self-regard.” Part of the issue, as Mary Midgley observed, commenting on this phenomenon in 1989, is that the volume of work being written far outstrips the volume of work we are realistically capable of consuming. “The main effect of this flood of paper . . . must therefore be to pile up articles which, once they are published, nobody reads at all.” This mountain of claims raises the bar for justifying one’s own. From my perspective, it also makes it harder for me to translate my own sense of the value of writing into a universal prescription. 

Yet even if we bracket this point, is it absolutely clear that I should want to? Because while I’ve been trying to articulate my sense of the significance of writing—explaining what it has afforded me personally to give written and indeed published form to my engagement with certain kinds of ideas—readers could be forgiven for picking up a more equivocal message about the enterprise of academic writing in particular. My own account suggests that a desire to engage with important human ideas for their transformative potential and lived significance may not be best served by writing to a medium governed by incongruous standards such as a chimerical ideal of originality and scholarly detachment. It may in fact be betrayed by it.

Where does this all leave us? What options are open to us if we remain committed to the view that engaging with important ideas—the ideas articulated by philosophers, theologians, but also (my argument can be extended) poets, historians, and others, in different cultures and times—matters for our moral and intellectual development? How can we engage with them deeply and seriously? 

There are different lines of thinking one could draw out from the above. There is room, certainly, for questioning the dominance of the productive drive in the process of engaging with important texts and ideas. Aristotle’s ideal of disinterested contemplation may seem impossibly rarefied. Yet to be able to put aside our personal goals and be open and receptive to another’s train of thought, to submit ourselves to the inner drift of a book, to let ourselves be led, is a capacity we need to cultivate and treasure. Given human nature, this openness is in some ways an even greater achievement than the energised pulling-out and feeling-down of material we might do while hot on a question or creative project. Nietzsche opens his lectures on education with the following instructions to his reader: “He must read calmly, without haste; he mustn’t always let himself and his ‘culture’ intrude into his reading; and finally, he must not expect a concrete result.” To read, for its own sake: “not to write a review, or another book, but just like that, just to think!” We can learn from this counsel.

Yet if we also hold to the truth of the basic intuition that, for us, the most transformative interactions and experiences require doing—some form of active engagement—it may be harder to stop at this counsel. And here the roads fork, spelling out different kinds of possibilities. One involves making greater intellectual investments in alternative ways of envisaging this active engagement. Writing is after all not the only way of filling out the type of engagement that might allow us to enter meaningfully into important ideas. That, as we know, was not the view of Socrates as he accosted his fellow citizens in the marketplace and other public places, acting out his belief in education through association or sunousia, and taking a stand against the institutionalization of learning, as the classicist John Lynch explains, by using informal conversation to “inject more intellectual concern into the existence a person leads from day to day.” Socrates’s belief in the value of conversation assumed new forms with Plato, coupled to a suspicion of writing that found its most famous expression in the Phaedrus. Contrasting the written text to the dialectical art, Socrates picks out the endurance of the latter’s effects and its fertility as one of its telling virtues. “So far from being barren, these words”—of the dialectician—“bear a seed from which other words grow in other environments” (277a). The endless generation of new discourse, which strikes us as a problem when considering the written text, here registers as a celebration of life and becoming. Rethinking our intellectual culture and educational institutions so as to give the art of conversation a more central place and more positive forms is one way forward. Investigating the forms this art has taken historically in different intellectual contexts and learning communities is one way of adding wind to its sails. 

I realize this is no more than a placeholder (and leaves much unsaid about how this possibility might already be realized in different contexts today, from the classrooms of liberal arts colleges to more popular spaces of cultural exchange). For more stubborn products of our chirographic/typographic culture like myself, this will in any case not be the most attractive alternative taken on its own. What will be more attractive is the prospect of imagining new forms that could be given to the practice of writing itself. What we would seem to need is a form of writing not committed to an illusory ideal of originality and an alienating ideal of scholarly detachment, but one that permits us to remain in contact with the ideals of intellectual and moral growth that motivate us; at the same time, a writing with form, capable of calling us to a discipline. A more inclusive and egalitarian form of writing that is not located in the competitive space of esteem and distinction, yet one that at the same time acknowledges our social nature and need for validation by others. This type of writing would seem to require its own community—a personal community of self-declared learners who consciously locate the activities of reading and writing against a project of growth and self transformation.

Envisaging this type of community might mean going outside the institutionalized spaces of higher education in which many of us have been trained to assume these activities must take place if they are to be pursued with any degree of seriousness. Zena Hitz, a tutor at St. John’s College, speculates that this is one possible future to which we may be led by the present crisis in our institutions of learning—a crisis of which the commitment to the problematic ideals I have described may be taken as yet another symptom. Unless we can find ways to renew these spaces, it will push us toward creating “a grassroots, freelance sort of economy for arts and for the work of the mind.” In his tour de force The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, the historian Jonathan Rose provided some food for imagining the forms such an economy may take by documenting the dedicated efforts at self-education made over the last two centuries by individuals operating outside the privileged corridors of higher culture. Of this autodidact culture, there are many contemporary heirs among book clubs strewn across the globe and different kinds of online communities. Perhaps the type of community I’m trying to imagine is already out there, and for those operating within these privileged corridors, all that’s needed is the humility to learn from it. 

In The Art of Living, Alexander Nehamas argues provocatively that the philosophical art of living had to be embodied in a life dedicated to writing—partly because it is difficult to imagine how something so complex as this art could be expressed in other than a written form. “The art of living, though a practical art, is therefore practiced in writing,” as thinkers like Plato, Montaigne, Nietzsche, and Foucault, have exemplified. Most of us will never be a Plato or a Nietzsche or a Foucault, gifted enough “to raise monuments to the glory of the human mind,” or to spell out models of a well-lived life through which others can explore the meaning of their own. But perhaps it does not require much metaphysics to hope that we can discover new forms of creativity that allow all of us to tap into our best possibilities.

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