Engaging the Big Questions of National Life
Robert George and Cornel West at Bucknell, conversing on the liberal arts, intellectual friendship, and viewpoint diversity (complete video courtesy of WVIA):
The Bucknell Project for American Leadership and Citizenship (BPALC) is a working group of faculty, alumni, and students that focuses on developing thoughtful and informed civic and economic leadership skills for those interested in public service and entrepreneurship in America today, drawing on classical liberal arts and Great Books approaches in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In the process it seeks to address the big questions of the liberal arts on which informed citizens need to reflect to live meaningfully in community as a nation, enumerated by Allan Bloom as: “Is there a God? Is there freedom? Is there punishment for evil deeds? Is there certain knowledge? What is human nature? What is a good society?”
BPALC also seeks to focus study on virtues, practices, conditions, and contexts needed to sustain the America republic under the US Constitution. Areas of interest here include the nature of civic and economic liberty, the proper relationship between government and civil society, the proper influence if any of religion in public life, the cultural values and meaning systems that contribute to sustenance of the American nation and form of government, and whether there are objective principles of justice or other moral standards by which to inform action and evaluate decisions in life and community.
It examines areas such as natural law, natural philosophy, rhetoric, poetics, literature, social and behavioral science, and political philosophy to ask: How can human beings live well, contribute to meaningful communal and national life, and provide effective leadership in an individualistic twenty-first-century American culture and society? It also explores those areas as contexts to the thought of America’s founders and leading statesmen, and the thinkers, traditions, and texts that continue to inform the American civic idea and the proper responses to challenges to it from modern totalitarian and technocratic thought.
Images: “The Seven Liberal Arts” by Giovanni Del Ponte; “The School of Athens” by Raphael; the U.S. Constitution