A Matter of Black and White: 20th Century Perspectives on Race


Inspired by W.E.B. DuBois’s famous thesis that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”, this course will try to understand a variety of 20th-century perspectives on race through a sympathetic examination of a selection of classic works of fiction, nonfiction, and cinema by authors and directors Black and White, including: DuBois himself, Rudyard Kipling, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Dixon, Jr., James Baldwin, and Joseph Conrad, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Prior to the first class, please do the short readings and watch D.W. Griffith’s (in)famous 1915 silent film, The Birth of a Nation … from a perspective as “critically empathic” as possible. Continue reading

2 JUL 2021 • LECTURE
Home Front, War Front: “Mrs. Miniver” and “Scarlett O’Hara” as the Interpretive Keys to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun

On Friday, 2 July 2021 12:15–1:15 pm, I will be giving the Basic Program First Friday Lecture online. My topic will be:

Home Front, War Front:
“Mrs. Miniver” and “Scarlett O’Hara” as the Interpretive Keys to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun

The lecture is free and open to the public.



About the Lecture

More information about the lecture is available at:

Home Front, War Front:
“Mrs. Miniver” and “Scarlett O’Hara” as theInterpretive Keys to Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun


How to Read Classic Texts


One of the foundational premises of the Basic Program is that reading is a skill. And that like many skills, one can get better at reading through theoretically-informed practice. In this short course, we will examine the theoretical perspective on good reading contained in Mortimer Adler’s famous How to Read a Book, which we will practice through a close examination of the beginnings of a range of classic texts. After all, if we don’t understand the beginning of a work, how can we hope to understand the ending? Continue reading

“Impeachment” in the Constitutional Sense


Despite its hallowed status, the United States Constitution of 1787 is an imperfect text which sometimes obscures more than it reveals. Such is the case with the long-and-widely misunderstood Constitutional provision for “impeachment”. This lecture will attempt: first, to explicate the true meaning and operation of “impeachment” in the Constitutional sense through a close reading of the 1787 text within the 1787 context; and, second, to survey and explain the history of post-1787 (mis)understandings of this aspect of the Constitution. The possible contemporary political significance of a better understanding of the impeachment provision of the Constitution will be studiously avoided. Continue reading

Getting Comfortable with Death; Or, Better Dying Through Better Thinking


If better thinking can lead to better living and if dying is an inevitable part of living, then it follows that better thinking ought to lead to better dying. And yet the history of Western civilization demonstrates that clear thinking about death is exceedingly difficult. This seems particularly true nowadays due to the rise of a modern form of medicine that has both largely removed death from everyday life and promoted the conceit that death can be — and ought to be — perpetually forestalled (if not conquered outright). This lecture will review some of the key historical Western approaches to human mortality in an effort to consider what lessons those who lived and died in the past may have to offer us who live and will die in the present. Continue reading

The True Value of Money: Retail Investing as a Gateway to Wisdom


In a capitalist society, retail investing can play the role that sexual love plays in Plato’s Symposium: the blunt, material force that can lure us onto a path towards subtle, ethereal wisdom. For, analogously to the ”ladder of love”, investors’ initial ”wealth focus” often evolves into a ”wellness focus” (as we re-discover the ancient truth that money is a means and not an end in itself) and then into a ”wisdom focus” (as we re-discover the ancient truth that wisdom is needed in order to live a good life). From this perspective, therefore, lust – be it for sex or for money – turns out to be something of a ”noble lie” that delivers something much better than it promises – and something we probably would not have sought at all if lust had not started us on our journey in the first place.
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The White Man’s Peril: Heart of Darkness as Conrad’s Reply to Kipling


Today often considered both anti-imperialist and profoundly racist, Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness can be understood as simultaneously affirming and rejecting the “imperial logic” epitomized in Rudyard Kipling’s contemporaneous poem “The White Man’s Burden”. This lecture will attempt to offer a holistic interpretation of Conrad’s novella that makes sense of its apparent internal contradictions by examining Kipling’s “imperial logic” and Conrad’s critique of it — a critique grounded in the profoundly multivalent contention at Heart of Darkness’s unspoken, “horrific” core: that “Whiteness is only skin-deep”. Continue reading