Seg-ments

By Jeremiah Reedy

Andy Pragacz is right when he says that he and I disagree on almost everything. He agrees with Nietzsche that “God is dead,” whereas I agree with God that “Nietzsche is dead.” (I’ll let readers decide which of these statements is verifiable.) Andy thinks we don’t need essences; I say we couldn’t think abstractly without them. Andy doesn’t think humans are animals; he apparently thinks we are mobile plants of some sort. The only thing we agree on is that writing opinion pieces is fun. Still, our exchanges, both in person and in writing, have always been civil and even cordial. Perhaps we’re setting a good example, which reminds me of something I read about St. Thomas: The UST administration is raising money for an endowed chair in “Civil Discourse” and they’re designing a course in it for first-year students and considering a “civil discourse requirement” for graduation. Is this something Mac should consider? Do we want the Tommies to outstrip us in civility?This raises another question: “How civil is discourse here?” Would Ann Coulter be allowed to speak at Mac? What would happen if Karl Rove and/or Sean Hannity came to campus to promote their recently published books? How would they be received? Suppose a group wanted George W. Bush to speak at commencement in 2011? How far would they get? Suppose the Physics Department invited Richard Lindzen to give a lecture on climate change later this spring. Lindzen is arguably the most distinguished American “global warming skeptic” (endowed chair at M.I.T., author of 234 publications on climate, served on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, testifies before Congressional committees, etc.). He argues that global warming precedes the build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere and that a doubling of CO2 would be beneficial to humans and would make the planet more lush. Would a talk by him generate rational discussion here? I’d love to have Mac host a debate between Al Gore and Lord Christopher Monckton, author of “35 Inconvenient Truths: The Errors in Al Gore’s Movie,” but Gore refuses to debate him.

Mac alumni have told me at reunions that they remember when both the Young Democrats’ and the Young Republicans’ clubs had 200 to 300 members. Admittedly this was a long time ago ,since these alums are even older than I am. They are, however, still ambulatory and compos mentis for the most part. What would the intellectual life of the campus be like if there were 200 or 300 Young Republicans around debating rationally, dispassionately, and civilly the issues of the day with our resident anarchists, radical leftists, neo-Marxists, et al.? I admit that this is as difficult to imagine as a square circle, but it’s something to think about. Perhaps we should set up an exchange program with Hillsdale College or Oral Roberts University to bring some “right thinkers” to campus. Meanwhile, the most exciting event I can imagine would be a debate between Andy Pragacz and John Searle on “The Essence of Truth and Really Real Reality.” I’d wager that Andy would easily reduce all Searle’s argu-ments to frag-ments.

Jeremiah Reedy is a Professor Emeritus of Classics and can be reached at [email protected]