The 19th Century

Has an age ever seemed more remote from its immediate successor than the nineteenth century seems to us? The characters of Dickens, for all their vividness, might just as well have been crafted on some distant planet. The prose of the period, read under the harsh light of contemporary expression, could have come from Cicero’s Rome. Or, again, consider Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, signaling from his flagship, “England expects that every man will do his duty,” and repeating over and over, as he lay dying, “Thank God I have done my duty.” To the modern ear such words have an ancient ring and call up something deep in the recesses of history.

Prof. Daniel Robinson, Toward A Science of Human Nature

To Be Beautiful Is to Be True

This is not particularly a pretty world. We have uglified what is most beautiful in it. We have come very close to losing that sense of beauty and harmony and proportion, and in the absence of that sense we won’t even be aware of what we are doing to ourselves by making our house a fitful and horrific spectacle of a place. We more or less have given up on the idea that government has a central part to play in the cultivation of the civic dimension of life. We’ve given up very much the idea that there is something so universally expressed in human nature that there are certain cultural forms capable of nurturing this nature. In our multicultural tolerance we are losing out on something that gives substance to a shared humanity. We’ve come to think of beauty as an option and the Greeks knew better; it’s a necessity. And it should finally be the source of all we prize and all the might we might will in the world. To be beautiful is to be true and to be those things is to be good. That was the ancient ideal and to lose that is to live in a mechanical and meaningless and empty life.

Prof. Daniel Robinson