Giving Thanks

A week from today is Thanksgiving Day. By long custom at St. John’s College, the president invites to Thanksgiving dinner all our international students, as well as any other students and faculty who are spending Thanksgiving away from home and family. After the events of September 11, 2001, we added a series of readings to the tradition. Before we […]

Democracy Liberal Education

The Balancing Act of a Whole Person

Tonight, all our Freshmen will read and discuss the final book, Book X, of Plato’s Republic. Way back in Book III, Socrates and his companions kicked out poets from their idealized city on the grounds that they tell falsehoods about the gods and about other important things. Now Socrates worries that might have been hasty. […]

Democracy Liberal Education Original Sources

Is Self-interest Really Our Basic Motivation?

Neuroscientists seem to have devised an experiment showing that honesty often wins in a head-to-head competition with self-interest. Yet we hear so often, especially in economic contexts, that self-interest is the primary motivation for human actions. I recently wrote a commentary on this topic at the Huffington Post, What Would Adam Smith Say?, in which I pointed […]


Doing Well or Doing Good?

Corporate scandals over the last two decades, followed by the crash of the economy in 2008, have brought about widespread skepticism toward America’s corporate leaders. Almost daily there are calls for new legal and regulatory reforms directed at businesses, especially banks and investment firms. Some corporations have even begun to reassess their own business practices. […]

Democracy Seminar Students

Gridlock and the Art of Conversation

Gridlock in Washington, DC, has been the status quo for some years now. Our representatives from the two major political parties accomplish very little because they cannot talk to one another. They talk past one another to their local constituents, their financial backers, and active interest groups. They sometimes talk at one another when they […]