tradition

By having students read the Tradition in chronological order, during their own formative years, the program cannot help but take them through the very paces of history itself. After having had the Ancients “wasted on them” as Freshman, Sophomores may experience a growing sense of calm resignation in the vicinity of Epictetus, Juniors may begin to experience the world through ghostly frames after reading the Critique, and Seniors, I can attest, may feel a strange sense of joyous release upon reading Advantages and Disadvantages (as though we were ourselves the “Internal Barbarians”). It is a process and a growth, and I say it manages to recapitulate many of the problems and feelings inherent in its subject matter. Senior year can be a depressing year, filled with vague anxieties and perhaps a sense of impending doom. Is this prompted only by worries about graduation and the success of postcollegiate careers?

I have often thought to myself that as a story the Western tradition could be a tragedy, and I have occasionally noted a hint of desperation in the Johanneian enjoinder to “keep the conversation going”. As a student I took this as a friendly recommendation, a piece of intellectual bonhomie: “Don’t get discouraged!” Now, I tend to view it as a terrible charge, issued in the context of a civilization’s disgust with itself. In the second half of what turned out to be the American century, many thinkers sought to flee the old traditions as a broken, perhaps evil, structure