The Republic of Letters

What Happens When The Good Merely Look On And Do Nothing


John Stuart Mill/Wikimedia Commons

Via Keith Burgess-Jackson, comes a reminder of a commonplace but important truth from John Stuart Mill. Remember it when faced with a choice.

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

(John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address Delivered to the University of St. Andrews, Feb. 1st 1867 [London: Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1867], 36)

Medieval Times: A Brilliant Age

Contrary to the propaganda of DawkinsAndrew Dickson White, and their ilk, the Middle Ages were neither dark, ignorant, nor backwards, but an astonishing era of achievement. Anthony Esolen, Providence College English professor and translator of both Lucretius’s On the Nature of Things and Dante’s Inferno, makes the case in a powerful new video from Prager University. It’s really quite excellent.

Come Let Us Reason, Let Us Talk Of Many Things

Renoir14There is no point in denying it. Calling a blog “The Republic of Letters” is pretentious. I’m unmoved by that objection, however. For, I love the name and, even more so, I love what it betokens. Historian Robert Darnton explains:

The eighteenth century imagined the Republic of Letters as a realm with no police, no boundaries, and no inequalities other than those determined by talent. Anyone could join it by exercising the two main attributes of citizenship, writing and reading. Writers formulated ideas, and readers judged them. Thanks to the power of the printed word, the judgments spread in widening circles, and the strongest arguments won. (The Case for Books, p.4)

What’s not to love? A realm where no heed is paid to an argument’s pedigree or any other vain dint of contingency, but what carries the day are arguments which are cogent, sound, logical and sage. Such a realm should be prized and this blog exists to realize this ideal. Argument is relished on this blog, not for it’s own sake nor for the sake of any petite and pointless game of one-ups-man-ship, but–as quaint it may sound–for wisdom. So, as the title of this inaugural post, inspired by the prophet Isaiah, implores: Come let us reason, let us talk of many things.

( “Luncheon of The Boating Party” by Renoir/Wikimedia Commons)