The True Value of Money: Retail Investing as a Gateway to Wisdom

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In a capitalist society, retail investing can play the role that sexual love plays in Plato’s Symposium: the blunt, material force that can lure us onto a path towards subtle, ethereal wisdom. For, analogously to the ”ladder of love”, investors’ initial ”wealth focus” often evolves into a ”wellness focus” (as we re-discover the ancient truth that money is a means and not an end in itself) and then into a ”wisdom focus” (as we re-discover the ancient truth that wisdom is needed in order to live a good life). From this perspective, therefore, lust – be it for sex or for money – turns out to be something of a ”noble lie” that delivers something much better than it promises – and something we probably would not have sought at all if lust had not started us on our journey in the first place.
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2 AUG 2019 • LECTURE
The White Man’s Peril: Heart of Darkness as Conrad’s Reply to Kipling

On Friday, 2 August 2018 12:15–1:15 pm, I will be giving the Basic Program First Friday Lecture at the Chicago Cultural Center (Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington Streets). My topic will be:

The White Man’s Peril:
Heart of Darkness as
Conrad’s Reply to Kipling

The lecture is free and open to the public. Continue reading

7 SEP 2018 • LECTURE
The Use and Abuse of Gustavus Vassa; Or, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano on Its Own Terms

On Friday, 7 September 2018 12:15–1:15 pm, I will be giving the Basic Program First Friday Lecture at the Chicago Cultural Center (Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington Streets). My topic will be:

The Use and Abuse of Gustavus Vassa; Or, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano on Its Own Terms

The lecture is free and open to the public.

 


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The Use and Abuse of Gustavus Vassa; Or, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano on Its Own Terms

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Published in London in 1789 as part of the effort to abolish the African slave trade, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African; Written by Himself is usually understood as the autobiography of an African who was kidnapped and transported across the infamous Middle Passage into a life of slavery from which he emancipated himself — and thus as one of the works that established the “slave narrative” genre. This talk, however, will argue that the book is something else and more: an evangelical text that employs the author’s life-story as a means of bringing readers to a true understanding of Christianity and, thereby, of the godliness of abolition. As such, the work has little in common with the genre it is supposed to have helped found.
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Flaunting It: The Logic of “Conspicuous Consumption” in Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class

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Although “wealth” has long been subjected to economic analysis (which postulates humans as rational beings) and more recently to behavioral analysis (which postulates humans as emotional beings), Thorstein Veblen’s groundbreaking Theory of the Leisure Class famously subjected “wealth” to anthropological analysis (which postulates humans as social beings). From this point of view, “wealth” is important not so much for what can be done with it or for the internal feelings that it can evoke, but rather for what it can signal to others about the social dominance of its possessor. This lecture will offer an overview of Veblen’s theory as originally presented in 1899 and consider its usefulness in making sense of the contemporary phenomenon of Donald Trump.
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The Content of Our Character: Lessons from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume One

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Besides being an object of general intellectual curiosity, the decline and fall of the ancient Roman Empire has long held a special fascination for those concerned with the health and well-being of a subsequent empire. After all, if the later empire could understand the mistakes of the former one, perhaps they — and the attendant imperial decline — could be avoided. Edward Gibbon, who wrote his monumental, six-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as the British Empire was arising and the American Empire was aborning, certainly seems to have thought so. This lecture will survey Gibbon’s account of “the beginning of the end” for Rome as told in volume one of his work, with special attention to the lessons Gibbon believed he had gleaned from that pivotal period — most of which deal with a perceived decline and fall of the Roman national character.
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