With the focus on last year and the new year, we might take advantage of the holiday or the long holiday weekend to refresh our acquaintance with the great thinkers. The Great Thinkers site is produced by the Center for Constitutional Government; it builds on the Conversations with Bill Kristol to introduce viewers to “the great thinkers of Western [political] thought.”
The site seeks to aid students and other interested parties in their study of the most fundamental ideas, texts, and thinkers of the tradition. The project aims to stimulate the kind of serious reading and reflection that are prerequisites for free government and the highest form of liberal education. The centerpiece of the site at present is a set of 25 lectures given by Professor Paul Cantor on Shakespeare and politics, covering eight plays. Professor Cantor’s 25 Shakespeare lectures are all accessible here.
The pages devoted to the great thinkers individually include a featured video excerpt or lecture highlighting the man’s thought. They draw most frequently on Bill Kristol’s interviews with Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield and Claremont’s Mark Blitz.
In the video below, Professor Blitz explains the enduring appeal of Aristotle and his analysis of human character in The Nicomachean Ethics. In the Ethics, Professor Blitz explains, Aristotle examined the virtues or excellences of character conducive to true happiness: courage, temperance, liberality, magnificence, and so on, culminating in magnanimity.
So why Aristotle? You mean there is such a thing as human nature? This is great stuff that undermines the relativism saturating our culture and sends us back to the great texts.
Blitz’s discussion of Aristotle begins at 24:23. The discussion can be found here or here, where the video clip is confined to Blitz’s discussion of Aristotle. A transcript of the conversation with Blitz, broken into sections, is posted here.