And now it’s Santa Fe’s turn! Welcome, welcome, to graduate students in both the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and the Master of Arts in Eastern Classics! Santa Fe itself seemed to rejoice at their coming: clear blue skies and warm sunbeams made for one picturesque Convocation.
After a procession to the placita, incoming undergraduate and graduate students were each announced as they shook hands with President Roosevelt and signed the official registry. Then they were praised by the President (whose entire address can be found here) for their “courage [and their] willingness to take a more challenging path” in choosing a St. John’s education. His final “Convocatum est” resounded through the campus trees and wafted up the nearby foothills. The semester had begun!
Students in the Liberal Arts degree have three different segments to explore this fall. For those taking Philosophy & Theology, they’ll start in the beginning with the books of the Old and New Testament before confessing with Augustine, summing it all up with Aquinas, and going beyond with Kierkegaard. But that’s only half of the matter. In search of the other half, these students will also be drinking together with Plato, getting metaphysical with Aristotle, meditating with Descartes, distrusting with Hume, synthesizing with Kant, and going beyond — again — with Nietzsche.
Politics & Society will have students trace the Republic of Plato to the Constitutional Republic of the United States of America. Along the way, Aristotle will define happiness, and Hobbes will define felicity. Machiavelli will provoke with talk of princes; Marx, with talk of prices. Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu will usher in Jefferson and the Federalists. At this point, students will ruminate on the meaning of American citizenship and freedom, led in their discussions by Douglass and Lincoln and that most perceptive foreigner, Alexis de Tocqueville.
History students! According to the Persians best informed, Herodotus of Halicarnassus will begin the segment. The Athenian Thucydides, however, will claim to be more exact. Livy and Polybius, Plutarch and Tacitus, these four will chart Rome’s change from kingdom to republic to empire, while Montesquieu will be there for — spoiler alert! — its decline. Students will simultaneously study what’s left for history in Rome’s ruins: Augustine will map a world view which more than a millennia later Vico will critique. One Frenchman (Rousseau) will compose a history of mankind, and then eight Germans (Kant, Herder, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, and Leo Strauss) will have their own say.
Finally, those students beginning their Eastern Classics degree will begin how Confucius begins: is it not a pleasure to have comrades from distant places come and study with you? Mencius and Hsun Tzu, disciples of the Master and with questions of their own, promote and tweak Confucianism, which will come to compete with the Mohism of Mo Tzu, the Taoism of Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, and the Legalism of Han Fei Tzu. To the southwest, different schools of ancient Indian thought will dispute over a different authority, that of the Vedas. The Bhagavad Gita is the worthwhile end to the semester.
Here’s to another autumn of profound texts, questions, and classmates!