Here's why the Irish president believes students need philosophy.
- President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins calls for students to be thought of as more than tools made to be useful.
- Higgins believes that philosophy and history should be a basic requirement forming a core education.
- The Irish Young Philosopher Awards is one such event that is celebrating this discipline among the youth.
While attending the Irish Young Philosopher Awards 2019, the president of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, had some choice words for the burgeoning young students. Higgins cautioned against getting an education with the intent of being "made useful" economically speaking:
"Talk of a 'knowledge society' and the demand to enable our young people to meet its needs has... come to dominate our view as the ultimate aim of a secondary school education. We need to be careful."
Higgins is a strong advocate for teaching more philosophy in schools — not just organizing a curriculum that prepares students for the workplace.
Need for a fully rounded education
This kind of sentiment has been echoed before by many leading philosophers, pundits and teachers throughout the latter half of the 20th century. The idea is that the education system has lapsed in its initial purpose.
What was once a place to become verse in the classics, gain an understanding of basic history logic, mathematics and so on has instead gave way to a hyperspecialized trade school for knowledge workers. Workers that will just be mere cogs and serve an economic function.
Again, Higgins spoke of the the idea that, "too many policy lobbyists have, often unknowingly, unthinkingly perhaps, accepted a narrow and utilitarian view of... education — one that suggests we exist to be made useful — which leads to a great loss of the capacity to critically evaluate, question, and challenge."
There has been a diverse chorus of voices ringing the alarm on the deterioration of education as it's being replaced with the idea just to be made useful.
Education has become a prisoner of contemporaneity. It is the past, not the dizzy present, that is the best door to the future. ― Camille Paglia
It is within this sphere of the contemporary where we can't lose focus from the past visions of the great. Philosophy and history is one such area that needs to be upheld. As Higgins rightfully critiques, there is no sense of history or philosophical know-how instilled in young students anymore. Philosophy has almost gotten just as bad a wrap as mathematics. These modes of thought are one of the most important anchoring forces that ground us in demonstrable logic.
Luckily, it seems that this type of renewal — grounding our education in learning for learning's sake seems to be gaining steam.
Young philosophers in action
This is the second year of awards for this type of event. The Irish Young Philosophers Awards was created as an alternative for the annual young scientists exhibition. Dr. Danielle Petherbridge, an event organizer said that the participants had already doubled in the past year with 350 finalists chosen for the festival.
This year, Higgins presented the award to 16-year-old Lauren Doyle from Mount Sackville Secondary school. The work that won was titled "Why is nature beautiful and why do we destroy it?"
Echoing again his support for philosophy in schools, Higgins stated:
"The neglect of philosophy has had such far reaching consequences, putting limits, even diminishing the learning of so many subjects, thus depriving young people of so much of the enrichment of learning, of what the great philosopher Edward Said called the riches that lie in the interstices between subjects."
For years we have been fascinated with the artistic prowess of Leonardo da Vinci.
- Over 7,000 pages have survived of Leonardo da Vinci's personal notebook collection.
- Leonardo da Vinci's sketches, ruminations and theories make for a thrilling read.
- Many biographers have attempted to figure out what made da Vinci such a great artist.
Centuries have passed and yet we still sing the praises of the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci. The historic figure, the legend and the man fits the bill for our reverence, intrigue and near worship at times. Da Vinci was an intelligent, creative and complicated figure. Within just the past century alone, a countless numbers of books have been written about him.
Those who wish to learn more about him and about the time period in which he flourished would do well to dive into these five select books on Leonardo da Vinci.
Da Vinci's Ghost: The untold story of Vitruvian Man
The Vitruvian man is a world renown sketch found in one of Leonardo's notebooks. The image is named after the famous Roman architect Vitruvius. While this image has been parodied a million times over and stamped on trinkets galore, the true genius and history of this piece eludes most people. Historian Toby Lester scours the historical record and recounts the many figures and forces that made this image a reality in 1490, when da Vinci first drew it.
The history is fascinating, as the roots of the picture go back to proto-Christian imagery in which the author finds compelling evidence that the Christ figure owes its prestige and presentation from how statesmen originally presented a godlike Augustus Caesar to the Roman populace. Vitruvius was an instrumental force in ancient times and would come to greatly influence Leonardo, as he also drew on ideas such as the microcosm and macrocosm.
Da Vinci's Ghost is at once both an intimate personal story of da Vinci and a far-ranging historical tale which contextualizes his greatness and creative mind.
Leonardo da Vinci, A Memory of his Childhood
In typical Freudian fashion, Sigmund Freud goes to work on his most famous attempt at a psychoanalytic biography. Reconstructing da Vinci's early life from a few references in his journals, Freud argues the point that, from a psychoanalytic perspective, da Vinci's greatness stemmed from sexual repression. No surprise there, considering this was Freud's modus operandi.
"Observation of men's daily lives shows us that most people succeed in directing very considerable portions of their sexual instinctual forces to their professional activity. The sexual instinct is particularly well fitted to make contributions of this kind since it is endowed with a capacity for sublimation."
Freud wrote this book in 1910. Rather than putting this book off as outdated, there are a number of keen observations and thought-provoking ideas that Freud puts forth. Like the many biographers that came both before and after him, Freud is desperately searching to understand where Leonardo's otherworldly artistry and genius stems from. Freud also concedes the point pretty heavily throughout the book that, in the end, these are just simply his own observations. This is by no means a definitive answer on the enigmatic figure da Vinci still evokes.
What better place to learn about a man than from the words written in his own hand. These are the personal notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci – the books he poured the contents of his mind into, so that he could both be understood and understand himself. The authors have organized this remnant of his writing into a cohesive and categorical layout, so that you can glide from his thoughts on painting, sculpting and anatomy to his interests in philosophy, natural science and much more.
"The mind of a painter must resemble a mirror, which always takes the color of the object it reflects and is completely occupied by the images of as many objects are in front of it."
These books give you the privilege to embark into the mind of the Renaissance master and experience something incredible. Nearly all of these pieces of writing are accompanied with some kind of artwork.
Professor Martin Kemp is considered to be the world's leading expert on Leonardo da Vinci. This treatise offers us an incredible amount of insight on what made him such a great artist and scientist. Kemp goes on to explain in great detail the artistic merit within masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
The book is both a journey on the winding and disparate career path da Vinci would take throughout his life, his many dreams left undone and a who's who of the cultural milieu of 15th century Florence and Italy. Kemp draws heavily from da Vinci's notebooks to paint a full picture of the genius behind the creations.
Leonardo da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind
Charles Nicholl's book paints a rich picture of the Italian Renaissance worldview, one da Vinci existed in and shaped while he was alive. He expertly traces da Vinci's birth as an illegitimate child in Tuscany to his infamous ties and time with the ruling families of Renaissance Europe.
Nicholl also manages to write an even-keeled portrait of da Vinci the man. He doesn't spend too much time pouring his energy into psychological analysis or going deep into art interpretation. Utilizing his notebook entries, as many biographers before, he fleshes out a general day-to-day life of the master, which makes for an intimate portrayal of the man. While the mystery is still there, reading Nicholl's work is a humbling admission into the daily minutiae of man who affects us all.
A new generation is waiting for the whimsy and wit of Dr. Seuss.
- The new book will be titled Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum.
- Author of 45 children's books, Dr. Seuss's profundity mixed seamlessly with his simplicity.
- Revisit and explore these timeless classics by yourself and with your children.
Publisher Random House has announced that a new Dr. Seuss book, Horse Museum, will be released this fall. In it, a horse guides children through a tour of an art museum, teaching them how we all see the world in different ways.
The book's release on September 3 will mark nearly 30 years since the legendary Dr. Seuss — born Theodor Seuss Geisel — passed away. The original manuscript for the never-released book was discovered in the late author's La Jolla home back in 2013.
For Horse Museum, illustrator Andrew Joyner's scenes are inspired by Seussian fashion. Artwork in the museum are also featured in the style of Pablo Picasso and other renowned artists.
Alongside the manuscript for Horse Museum were also some original sketches from the author, which helped Joyner, as well as the unpublished manuscript for What Pet Should I Get?, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller in 2015.
In the new book, other iconic Seuss characters — the Grinch, the Cat in the Hat, and Horton the Elephant — will make cameos.
Cathy Goldsmith, one of the last Random House publishing executives to have worked with Geisel while he was alive is overseeing the project. She's ecstatic to be bringing Dr. Seuss to a whole new generation of readers.
"I remember fondly the days when Ted would come to Random House to hand-deliver his latest work, which included reading aloud to staff gathered in a conference room… Poring over the manuscript and Ted's original sketches for Dr. Seuss's Horse Museum brought me right back to those days, and I continue to be so honored to bring his brilliant work to today's young readers."
Dr. Seuss holds a special place in the hearts of children worldwide. His wild-eyed creatures, zany four-beat rhymed couplets and otherworldly fauna and flora blasted the imagination into formation. A socially conscience man and whimsical intellect to match, Dr. Seuss is still by and large the greatest American children's book author of our time.
Who was Dr. Seuss?
Theodor Seuss Geisel was born in 1904 and wrote 45 children's books throughout the years and some 60 books in total. All of his books still remain in print. Beyond millions have read Dr. Seuss's fantastical stories. Topping bestseller lists, the Dr. Seuss canon has already sold more than 600 million copies and has been translated into more than 20 languages.
Yet in spite of this worldwide renown, the cultural icon we now revere was once a struggling artist. As the famous story goes, Geisel received 27 rejection notices on his first book. American film producer Brian Grazer recounts the story in his book: A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life.
After walking home one day after the book's 27th rejection, with the manuscript and drawings for Mulberry Street under his arm, Geisel bumped into an old peer from Dartmouth College, Mike McClintock. He asked what Geisel was carrying. Geisel quipped:
That's a book no one will publish and I'm lugging it home to burn.
McClintock who just so happened to have been made editor of children's books at Vanguard invited Geisel to his office. The publisher bought Mulberry Street that same day. When the book was finally released, a renowned book reviewer from The New Yorker remarked that
They say it's for children, but better get a copy for yourself and marvel at the good Dr. Seuss's impossible pictures and the moral tale of the little boy who exaggerated not wisely but too well.
A few Dr. Seuss books to revisit and read with your children
Although he did admit that "there's an inherent moral in any story," Dr. Seuss was never an outright moralizer. He also wrote sophisticated verse in a simplified manner in a way that made it easy for any child to understand. His illustrations were far out, and the combination between them and his words seemed to always strike with an authentic message.
His big idea at the time was that children would learn how to read best by devouring entertaining books with an easy going vocabulary. That seems obvious now, but was revolutionary when Geisel started:
"I don't think my book is going to change society. But I'm naïve enough to think that society will be changed by examination of ideas through books and the press, and that information can prove to be greater than the dissemination of stupidity."
The author seemed to have intuitively grasped the essential concepts of the developing youthful mind. As children grow and come into their own, an inherent and natural strife emerges. As much as children wish to break free and become their own people, they still must depend on parental guidance. Through Dr. Seuss's books, adults serve as the vocal voyaging oration through imaginative maturation and youthful creation.
For those who've read Dr. Seuss before, it's time to take another look by yourself and with your children. And time to let the cycle continue.
The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat published in 1957, is the book that rocketed Seuss from a successful author to legendary children's book phenomenon.
Everything we've come to know and love about Seuss is in this book. The dynamic verse and beautiful illustrations take us to somewhere new and quite bizarre as Dr. Seuss paints a compelling and educationally immersive world. It's also not without its biting satire and political edge either. In a set of 1983 interviews from Jonathan Cott, Geisel specifically remarked about this individual book.
"I'm subversive as hell! I've always had a mistrust of adults… Hilaire Belloc, whose writings I liked a lot, was a radical. Gulliver's Travels was subversive, and both Swift and Voltaire influenced me. The Cat in the Hat is a revolt against authority, but it's ameliorated by the fact that the cat cleans up everything in the end."
Considered by Seuss to be his best book, The Lorax, published in 1971, is Seuss's paean to environmentalism. Critics were not fond of it originally and there were even some calls to remove it from certain school curriculums. At the cusp of a new movement, Dr. Seuss speaks out against the mindless destruction of natural beauty and splendor of the Earth in the pursuit of a never-ending more-mentality. He wanted to create something that addressed rampant industrialism without it being boring, he stated:
"The Lorax came out of me being angry. In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might."
One of the most moving pieces of environmental literature seems to come from a children's book. It's disconcerting to hear this message disparaged and critiqued by naysayers throughout the years, as the message is something we must all take to heart – we cannot sacrifice ourselves and our planet for the forsaken ideal of so-called progress.
Oh, the Places You'll go!
A hit with the high school and college graduate crowd – Oh, the Places you'll go! - was Dr.Seuss's last published story while he was still alive. A book for both children and adults, it celebrates both the ups and downs of life. It instructs its reader to go along with life's wild journey wherever it may take you. Some of it will be daring and thrilling, other times will be dark and scary. Let these simple rhymes bring you into the flow of your own life and figure out what it's all about.
"It's opener there
in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen
and frequently do
to people as brainy
and footsy as you.
And then things start to happen,
don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too."
Your gateway to enjoying literature.
- Classical literature constitutes a notable piece of work that has enduring quality over the years.
- The ranks of classics encompasses a small number of works over many languages.
- These works are accessible and timeless.
Classic literature isn't usually on a leisure reader's list. Classics tend to evoke views of dusty tomes, unapproachable texts or mere ornaments in some ersatz library. Mention to someone that you're reading Moby Dick, Brave New World, or some other renowned classic and you're sure to get lamentations of their experience reading said book in school.
Largely wasted on high schoolers with no true life experience and in extended adolescence through college, the classics remain for many an untapped source for growth, knowledge and generally just a good read.
Many of these novels are genuinely hilarious, thought-provoking and have commentary you wouldn't expect coming out of time periods sometimes decades, centuries, or even millennia prior to our modern day world.
Why should we read the classics?
A lesson by Professor Jeffrey Brenzel
This is by no means a definitive list. Classics abound in many genres and eras. You could spend your whole life reading just the Latin and ancient Greek great works or tumbling through the golden age reservoir of seminal science fiction works for that matter. Merely picking up one of these books will get you started reading something of the classic variety. And the best part is, it's all on your own volition this time!
Here are 10 classic novels that will hopefully begin you on a never-ending journey into the heart-soul of literary excellence.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Ernest Hemingway once remarked on Huckleberry Finn that: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since."
Twain's tour de force and most famous novel delves into a number of issues. Exploring racism, war, religion and so much more, the book is Americana canon. It's no stretch to say Huckleberry Finn is synonymous with American literature. Following an orphan boy and runaway slave in the Southern United States, Twain delved into the heart of so many important moral issues. With many poetic descriptions and the allure of once being a banned and censored book, Huckleberry Finn is a foundational classic.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Published just a year after Emily Brontë's death, Wuthering Heights would go on to become the archetype of the doomed romance. Continuing and ascending past the dark prince himself, Lord Byron, Brontë weaved a tremendous classic in the Gothic strain of literature. The tormented love and grief between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw has become a model for many great works since.
Written during the Victorian era, the characters and authorship of this book explores behavior that would have certainly made a Victorian blush to say the least. Brontë created an eerie and obsessive love story that transcended its time and genre.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Written with hilarious wit, Moby Dick is a profound meditation on the human condition. Filled with 19th century whaling lore and other periodic cultural artifacts and customs, Herman Melville's epic is unmatched. The prose is dense, allusive and cunningly archaic. Moby Dick isn't a book to be read, it's an experience to be had. Don't let any detractors stop you from diving in because of the supposed tediousness of whaling chapters. Within the never-ending treatises on whaling lines, cetology rambles and minute observations, there are sparkling lines of philosophical observations and timeless humor.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Literary excellence seemed to run in the Brontë family. Jane Eyre was an incredible breakthrough for an English novel at the time. Right away, the reader is brought into a very personal account of the story. Many literary critics believe that it is a forerunner for novels that heavily invest us into the internal monologues and consciousness of the character as the main prose point. Jane Eyre has all the workings of a Victorian novel as the romance between Jane and Rochester is told through an enchanting Gothic element.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice centers around a family with five unmarried daughters and their familial estate has been promised over to a male line descendant of the family. When the appearance of a rich Mr. Darcy comes to town, the action commences and we're left with this wonderful tale.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters."
Colin Firth and the many excellent and so-so adaptations of this book aside, Pride and Prejudice proves to be a literary masterpiece.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Just 18 years old at the time of writing this novel, Mary Shelley was in quite the literary posse at the time. As the infamous story goes, she wrote the book on a bet with a number of renowned literati greats. She most definitely won that bet. Both a Gothic thriller and cautionary tale on the unbounded powers of science, Frankenstein paved the way for generations of writers to come. Drawing on biblical references such as the 16th-century Jewish Golem, in Frankenstein, Shelley shows her writing prowess and historical knowledge.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
A book of impassioned fancy and fantasy, Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, told quite the modern tale through Don Quixote. The real and illusory are blended and mixed to perfection. Don Quixote has had an enormous effect on many writers through the years. William Faulkner once remarked he would reread it once a year, quipping that he'd read it, "just as some people read the Bible."
Homer's The Odyssey
An outlier in our list of classics, The Odyssey deserves a special mention. Regarded by many to be the first novel of all time, this Greek oration withstood the test of thousands of years. It is the quintessential epic saga. All great works must pay their dues to the original. Lattimore's translation is what brought this book to a contemporary world audience. Technically spoken (or written) as a long-form poem, The Odyssey is a great and thrilling read after all of these years.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
An unforgettable novel that is an easy read for many just getting into the classics. By no means a light-hearted book, To Kill a Mockingbird deals with some heavy themes like racial inequality, rape and moral ethics. Harper Lee's inaugural novel was an instant bestseller and award winning book. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 after being published in 1960. There was later a thrilling adaptation and equally compelling classic film made a few years later – a rarity when it comes to some of the classics.
1984 by George Orwell
One of the most important works of the 20th century, 1984 brought many words into the cultural vernacular. Big Brother, doublespeak and the infamous slogan of War is Peace. George Orwell's masterpiece only grows more haunting and relevant as we move into the future. Political satire was never meant to be this real.
As our main character Winston Smith loses himself in the bureaucratic nightmare of Ingsoc, we look on in horror and disdain. Yet, taking a look around our world today when despotic regimes are implementing social capital systems, and the politics of the English language degrades in so many ways, 1984 starts to take on a disconcerting prescience.