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Profile of a Classical Scholar

Here’s a profile of classics professor John Finleyby Steven McFadden.. I’d quoted his maxim that the “only purpose of a college education is to reduce the time spent thinking about the opposite sex from 80% to 60%”.

Education isn’t only or chiefly to help you get on in the world, though all of us are grateful for the opportunities that have opened. Who is to say that they are unimportant? And yet finally, the purpose of education is not to bring you a lot of money or position, but to suggest to you how wide and how interesting life is, and how many people have lived, and how fortunate the process is. So then the real purpose of education, education in the broadest sense, is simply the chance to observe or share, the process of self-enlargement.

“The doctrine of Horatio Alger, of getting ahead in life, continues to be important. Yet the purpose of mind is not chiefly for you to get some place in society. Our gift is mind; we can see things. That’s what it’s all about. It really is. In your brief span, to make sense of all the interesting people you’ve known, all the interesting books you’ve read. This panorama the other end of the hourglass is increasingly your reward in life.

“After all, the self is both the hero and the villain in life. It is the villain insofar as it reduces the great and beautiful world to the idiotic closet of one’s identity. It is the hero insofar as it tries to go to the window, look out, and see how big the world is and how many people there are and how beautiful the sunlight is. It seems to me that waking is far more desirable than dreaming.”