The Truth of Muhammad al-Dura: A Response to James Fallows


Whether or not a particular 12-year-old boy died at the hands of Israeli soldiers, the image of Mohammed al-Dura is an authentic symbol of the Israeli occupation.  Avoiding this harsh truth does a disservice to Israel and the Jewish people, as well as to the Palestinians, hinders the quest for peace, and endangers everyone if the wrong lessons are drawn from the al-Dura incident. Continue reading

Agent in Athens, Patient in Jerusalem: The Cosmic (Sense of) Self in Greek and Hebrew Culture and their Descendents

WRITINGS > Unfinished

This essay is a generalization about idealizations.  As such, it is necessarily imperfect and incorrect.  In some ways it says too little.  In other ways it says too much.  Nonetheless, my hope is that this essay still says something true, something that begins to get at some of the ways that Greek and Hebrew civilizations spawned “senses of self” (or even more radically, actual “selves”) that were fundamentally different from, perhaps even antithetical to, one another — just as they also spawned “worldviews” (or even actual “worlds”) that were fundamentally different and perhaps antithetical.  As such, this essay is an exploration in what might be called “historical cultural psychology” — an examination of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constituted one another in two historically-important civilizations.  And to the extent Athens and Jerusalem live on in at least two contemporary civilizations, this essay is also an exploration of the ways in which “self” and “world” mutually constitute one another today. Continue reading

Mediating Mormonism: The Book of Mormon in Mormon Culture and Cognition


The dissertation proposed is an effort to further the development of an overarching model of the “textual mediation of culture and cognition” through an initial interdisciplinary case study of the dialectical relationship which has existed between the Book of Mormon and Mormonism since the publication of the former and the founding of the latter in 1830. Continue reading

Read, Think, Listen, Speak: A Guide for New Students


Welcome to the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults. You and your classmates are about to embark upon a voyage. A voyage that adults in Chicagoland have embarked upon for 50 years. A voyage that, experience shows, may literally change your life. To help you get your “sea legs,” as it were, I offer the following words of advice. Continue reading

The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults Archive Highlights


Produced as part of the preparation for the Basic Program’s 50th Anniversary (1996–1997), four volumes of the highlights of archival material gathered from various sources concerning the origins and development of the Great Books Movement with emphasis on the role of the University of Chicago in general and the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults in particular.

  • Volume 1: Internal Documents
  • Volume 2: Public Documents
  • Volume 3: Press
  • Volume 4: 1958-59 Self-Study
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Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’: Non-sense Not Nonsense


Although Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is traditionally considered to be ‘nonsense’, such a characterization ultimately rests on a Western folk notion of language as fundamentally semantico-referential.  A more semiotically- and pragmatically-informed view of language and language-use, however, is capable of describing in considerable detail both the means by which a text such as “Jabberwocky” “makes sense” and the ends to which such a text can be put.  Indeed, such a view shows that some discursive ends are particularly suited to attainment by means of so-called “nonsense” texts such as Jabberwocky.  This paper outlines such a view and applies it to “Jabberwocky”, which is thus seen to make both denotational and interactional “sense”. Continue reading

The Scientific Construction of Developmental Norms


Although the notion of a dialectical (or reciprocal) relationship between psychology and culture has been nominally acknowledged for over a generation, it is only recently and tentatively that the study of developmental norms has begun to be shaped by this fact.  This paper presents a theoretical outline of this relationship and the resulting need for a self-conscious (or reflexive) study of developmental norms. Continue reading

Self-Evident Truths? Origin Myths and the Founding of America


Every people has stories that it tells about itself-stories about where it comes from, about its place in the universe, about its essential characteristics. Indeed, one of the key functions of “culture” is to impress these stories on each succeeding generation. When successful, this process makes these stories so “obvious” to insiders as to be self-evidently true (despite the fact that these same stories remain self-evidently dubious to outsiders). In these respects, the American people and American culture are no different than any others. From the beginning, Americans have constructed stories —political, historical, literary — as a way of defining themselves and their place in the world and thus as a way of shaping their destiny. A look at works as diverse as The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, The Scarlet Letter, The Gettysburg Address, and “Paul Revere’s Ride,” can illustrate this phenomenon and help us temporarily stand outside ourselves as we seek a better understanding of who we truly are. Continue reading