Forgiveness and Friendship

Last year, I worked as a student attorney defending the underprivileged in my community. A few had committed heinous crimes. People ask me how I could defend someone convicted of sex trafficking, drug trafficking or murder. Continue reading

Summary: Dependent Rational Animals chapter 1, Vulnerability, dependence, animality

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues.

“It is most often to others that we owe our survival, let alone our flourishing.” McIntyre opens by drawing attention to human vulnerability to affliction, such as illness, and the corresponding dependence on others for protection and sustenance, especially in childhood and old age. These facts, MacIntyre argues, “are so evidently of singular importance that it might seem that no account of the human condition whose authors hoped to achieve credibility could avoid giving them a central place.” “The disabled” are not “a separate class”, but “ourselves as we have been, sometimes are now and may well be in the future.” Continue reading

My Friend the Carmelite

This fall, a friend began her life as a Carmelite nun. Becoming a cloistered nun is, in a way, like choosing your death. Though she’s just reached her mid-twenties, I may never see or hear from her again. She can only receive visitors a year after her entrance, six years after, and 25 and 50 after. In between, time stops, and our last contact gives a final imprint, our lasting memory of each other. Continue reading

Summary: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Dependent Rational Animals

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series.

“Dependent Rational Animals: Why Human Beings Need the Virtues” is a revised and expanded version of three lectures Alasdair MacIntyre gave in 1997. It seeks to address two questions: “Why is it important for us to attend to and to understand what human beings have in common with members of other intelligent animal species?” and “What makes attention to human vulnerability and disability important for moral philosophers?” MacIntyre especially hopes that his work on the latter question will help correct the insufficient attention given to it within moral philosophy. Continue reading

Summary: The Friend chapter 4, The Body of the Friend (part two)

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from The Friend.

Letter

Sixteenth century humanists may appear to “put aside such bodily gestures with disdain,” but Bray argues that “one need only lift a corner of its rhetoric to see how much it still drew on them and their continuing vitality.” This is illustrated in the paired portraits of Peter Gilles and Erasmus, which the two sent to Thomas More in 1517. In them, Erasmus looks up while composing his Paraphrase of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, towards the book to which Gilles is gesturing, More’s Utopia. “The book projects beyond the frame of the picture, and the gesture draws the unseen observer, More himself, into the intimacy of these two friends seated in Erasmus’s study.” Continue reading

Summary: The Friend chapter 4, The Body of the Friend (part one)

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from The Friend.

Sir Thomas Baines died in September 1681, and his friend John Finch died the following year. In their shared monument in the chapel of Christ’s College, Cambridge, there is a “single flaming funerary urn set above, in a visual pun on the marriage or love knot.” In Constantinople, Finch left an inscription to his friends memory, describing their friendship as an “Animorum Connubial”, a “marriage of souls.” Such an expression is “no eccentricity at the end of the seventeenth century” and can be seen in many other inscriptions. Continue reading

Summary: Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution chapter 1, The Meaning of Revolution

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from On Revolution.

I

Antiquity knew well that “tyrants rise to power through the support of the plain or the poor people, and that their greatest chance to keep power lies in the people’s desire for equality of condition.” Prior to the modern era, political overthrows and upheavals, “prompted by interest… depended on a distinction between poor and rich which itself was deemed… natural and unavoidable in the body politic.” In the modern age, however, “men began to doubt that poverty is inherent in the human condition,” and the “social question”, the question of poverty and inequality, began to play a revolutionary role. Continue reading

Summary: Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution, Introduction

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from On Revolution.

Arendt begins by stating that wars and revolutions have determined the face of the twentieth century, and, as opposed to the ideologies defining the twentieth century, war and revolution constitute the 20th century’s “two central political issues.” She states that the two have “outlived all their ideological justifications”, and that the only cause left is that of “freedom versus tyranny.” Continue reading

Summary: Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series.

On Revolution arose out of a 1959 seminar at Princeton on “The United States and the Revolutionary Spirit.” It is Arendt’s attempt to explain the unique role that revolutions play in the modern world. Drawing upon both ancient and modern history, she looks especially to the historical and philosophical contexts and consequences of the French and American Revolutions and how and whether these revolutions have failed. It provides a perspective through which to understand and evaluate contemporary life. Continue reading

Summary: The Friend Chapter 3, Families and Friends

This chapter summary is part of my reading summaries series. Click here for more information on the series. Click here fore more chapter summaries from The Friend.

Chapter three opens with a discussion of the memorial brass for the joint tomb of John Bloxham and John Whytton in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford. The two stand beside each other with their hands together in prayer, looking at the viewer, a depiction common for joint tombs of spouses at the time. Bray points out that one of the most significant features of the memorial, however, are the names of the two men beneath an icon for St. John the Baptist. Bray writes that the design designates the saint “as their spiritual godfather and thus each other as spiritual brothers.” It establishes a kinship. Continue reading