Many people separate intellectual life from practical actions and “take refuge in theory and think that they are becoming philosophers and will become good in this way, behaving somewhat like patients who listen attentively to their doctors, but do none of the things they are ordered to do. As the latter will not be made well in body by such a course of treatment, the former will not be made well in soul by such a course of philosophy.”
-Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, Chapter 4
This site and the activities it documents and reflects upon are attempts to revive ancient thought and the relevance of the humanities.
Our ongoing democratic experiments are collaborations with New Orleans teachers, New Orleans middle school students, Tulane and Xavier students, and the greater New Orleans community. The working principle behind our actions is that the humanities can come to life in exciting and unpredictable ways when they are used both as guides and as a means to plumb the deeper meanings of concrete events, actions, and human relationships.
Rhetoric and (if Aristotle is right) ethics are both so fundamentally connected to highly complex concrete social situations that general principles often sound like platitudes. And it is only when we actually confront ethically and rhetorically challenging situations
that ancient explanations of virtue and eloquence start to matter to us — not just as intellectuals, but as human beings.