What do you believe?
Stephen Gerald Breyer is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed in 1994, Breyer is often regarded as more liberal than most other members of the court. He is highly regarded across the political spectrum for his pragmatic, rather than ideological, approach to the Constitution. In Bush v. Gore, which settled the controversial 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, he issued a widely respected dissent which criticized those who would decide the case on the basis of equal protection. Breyer, a Rhodes Scholar, was educated at Stanford, Oxford and Harvard. He is the author of Breaking the Vicious Circle: Toward Effective Risk Regulation. Ideas recorded at the 2007 Aspen Ideas Festival on: 7/5/07
Stephen Breyer: I’d say if I think of people whom I find in other fields – philosophy, or even law or elsewhere – the things I put together that I remember . . . I mean Holmes, of course, is a very great judge. Because he saw what I admired in him, and what people do admire in him, is he said, “Look. It’s not a question of a few people dictating to others. It is a question of inspiring, or leading, or getting others themselves to resolve their problems. Sometimes when they resolve their problems, they run up against what he called a “can’t help”. He said a can’t help . . . I have a can’t help when I just have to say, “My god. This is wrong.” And we’ve seen a few of those. So it’s like being under pressure. It’s like you want these . . . It’s not my decision. It’s not my decision. It’s their decision. They’ve got to do it. They’ve gotta work this out. I can give advice, but I can’t tell anybody what to do. And then you run up against a can’t help. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. You can’t put those people in prison without any cause. You can’t do this kind of thing. It’s just too much, you see . . . speech, religion, whatever, I see those things in the Constitution. So I think it’s a . . . and Holmes was influenced by what I think of as the late 19th Century, early 20th Century American pragmatist. Other pragmatists are Henry James, Purse, and . . . There’s a pretty good book called “The Metaphysical Club”. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. Very good. And they describe . . . He describes a people like that time. And then I think of San Francisco, which was a cooperative. Western . . . it’s western. It’s open. It’s cooperative. It’s people of all walks of life getting together and trying to figure out how to solve their problems. And I think of when I was growing up back in San Francisco. You said what was the world supposed to be like? Well the world, in a way, that Dean Atchison created . . . or helped create. That was a world which was going to be a world where democracy would spread; where people’s basic rights would be guaranteed; where there would be free trade. Not totally free. The mixed economy, you see? Regulated competitive. Not communism. Not les a faire capitalism, but there would be something in between there where you’d take the advantages of free markets but regulate them so they don’t get out of control. And there would be international organizations whereby people could resolve their international disputes. So you say put that . . . say pragmatic. The pragmatic . . . Pragmatic is a . . . Pragmatism, American pragmatism . . . Henry James and Purse and those people, and Cline later on, and the philosophers . . . It’s not just do whatever is good. It’s not just look out at each decision and try to maximize whatever is good. It is to try to create systems, rules, organizations, methods of cooperation that you see over time will tend to push societies towards what is better. I mean when he talked about truth – this may be more than you want to know – but when he talked about truth, James and Purse were not saying that something is true because it works. What they were saying is that something is true because it’s part of a total system. And that total system works better for people than some alternative system would.
Recorded on: 7/5/07
The world according to Dean Acheson.
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Lumina Foundation and Big Think have partnered to bring this entrepreneurial competition to life, and we hope you'll participate! We have narrowed down the competition to four finalists and will be announcing an audience's choice award and a judges' choice award in May.
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Finalist: Greater Commons - Todd McLeod
Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod and Andrew Cull, is an organization that helps people live happier, more successful and fulfilling lives through agile learning. The current education system is inefficient and exclusionary, in which many students who end up earning a degree, if at all, enter a career not related to their field of study. Greater Commons solves this problem and gap in post-high school secondary education in a variety of ways. Passionately and diligently, Great Commons helps others obtain skills, knowledge, wisdom, motivation, and inspiration so that they may live better lives.
Finalist: PeerFoward - Keith Frome
PeerForward is an organization dedicated to increasing the education and career success rates of students in low-income schools and communities by mobilizing the power of positive peer influence. PeerForward works with partner schools to select influential students as a part of a team, systemizing the "peer effect." Research in the fields of sociology of schools, social-emotional learning, adult-youth partnerships, and civic education demonstrates that students can have a positive effect on the academic outcomes of their peers. PeerForward is unique through its systemic solutions to post-secondary education.
Finalist: Cogniss - Leon Young
Cogniss combines technology and best practice knowledge to enable anyone to innovate and share solutions that advance lifelong learning. Cogniss is the only platform to integrate neuroscience, through which it solves the problem of access by providing a low-code platform that enables both developers and non-developers to build sophisticated education apps fast, and at a much lower cost. It addresses the uneven quality of edtech solutions by embedding research-based learning design into its software. App creators can choose from a rich set of artificial intelligence, game, social and data analytics, and gamification to build their perfect customized solution.
Finalist: Practera - Nikki James
Practera's mission is to create a world where everyone can learn through experience. Today's workplaces are increasingly dynamic and diverse, however, costly and time-consuming experiential learning is not always able to offer the right opportunities at scale. Many students graduate without developing the essential skills for their chosen career. Practera's team of educators and technologists see this problem as an opportunity to transform the educational experience landscape, through a CPL pedagogical framework and opportunities to apply students' strengths through active feedback.
Thank you to our judges!
Our expert judges are Lorna Davis, Dan Rosensweig, and Stuart Yasgur.
Lorna Davis is the Senior Advisor to Danone CEO and is a Global Ambassador for the B Corp movement. Lorna has now joined B-Lab, the non-for-profit that supports the B Corporation movement on an assignment to support the journey of large multi nationals on the path to using business as a force of good.
Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter.
Stuart Yasgur leads Ashoka's Social Financial Services globally. At Ashoka, Stuart works with others to initiate efforts that have mobilized more than $500 million in funding for social entrepreneurs, engaged the G20 through the Toronto, Seoul and Los Cabos summits and helped form partnerships with leading financial institutions and corporations.
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