All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer sight to almost everything else. The reason is that this, most of all the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.

–Aristotle, Metaphysics I.I, 980a 21-27

What is this blog?

The Short Answer:

The reflections of Mr. Nicholas Vertucci: former Latin teacher and presently stay-at-home dad.

He eagerly awaits the day when the founder of this blog, Mr. Tyrell Northcutt, will return. We are still dear friends. The following description of our vision remains unchanged from 2009.


The Long Answer:

I. Fundamentals

The title of this blog, Apologia pro Literati Vita, has two sources. One is Cardinal Newman's memoirs, Apologia pro Vita Sua; Mr. Northcutt subtracted the pronoun and added the genitive form of literatus, the word generally used to describe the Chinese gentry scholar. Cultivating the virtues and arts of the literatus, the rediscovery of leisure, and the role, attitude and responsibility of the gentlemen towards his cultural patrimony are precepts inspired by Mr. Northcutt's reading in Chinese philosophy, though the essential elements are no less present in the ancient Western philosophers.

We intend this site to reflect such a lifestyle. While we will discuss issues of culture, art, music, and literature, the tone will be often philosophical. What does philosophical actually mean, though? One often hears the word used adverbially, "speaking philosophically" usually more or less meaning "I'm talking about something important whose nature I can't quite put my finger on" that is, something fundamental, something concerned with the nature of things in general, in Aristotelian parlance, the why of things as opposed to the that of things. Philosophically also implies a certain significance to the issues under scrutiny, that they be fundamental, for example, dealing with ethics, the nature of knowledge, the organization of society, ans so forth. Lastly and literally, philosophically implies a love of these topics, a love of the journey of inquiry, of treading in the path of other thinkers, and of understanding.

Following Aristotle's statement in his Metaphysics above, this love stems from the fact that man delights in the mere exercise of his senses apart from its practical implications. This knowledge acquired for its own sake has a catch, though, which is that one needs his practical, prudential matters in order, that is, one needs leisure in order to study these "extra" matters. Life in 21st century America affords an unprecedented quantity of people an unprecedented quantity of leisure time. We hope both to capitalize on this inheritance and turn our leisure time toward a philosophical inquiry for our own sakes and also to suggest if you like what you read here, you consider doing the same.

Let such not be construed to suggest we plan only idle pondering or do not value reflection and study of quotidian life and prudential matters. Far from it, as how one lives one's life varies according to one's premises of metaphysics, et cetera. We must admit, though, that one can choose not to (or be unable to) inquire about "philosophical" issues whereas one cannot choose not to provide himself with food, clothing, and shelter. As such we will often consider fields of study other than ones ontological, metaphysical, existential, and so on, such as economics, the law, and other more immediately applicable disciplines.

II. Approach

What we present to you then are the fruits of our inquiries. Sometimes they are studies of works of art that themselves address a significant issue, sometimes they are analyses of cultural trends or events, sometimes they are comparisons of different approaches to a problem. They may be a presentation, exploration, or explication of someone's proposed solution to a problem. They may be inquiries into phenomena scientific or historical. Occasionally they may be simple reflections and observations of matters we have yet to fully consider. To such topics in particular you are welcome to add your thoughts.

In our inquiries we attempt always 1) to be honest and clear about our premises, 2) to be rigorously logical, 3) to be systematic, 4) to cite our sources.

Regarding our editorials. . . well, we hope them to be not very much like editorials, at least editorials as they most often are, that is to say, unhinged rantings, streams of assertions, vituperative flame-fanning, and broad pandering to people already in agreement with you. Hopefully, our editorials will appear not much different from other content on the site. We do not consider the editorial format simply to be a license to say things.

Speaking more broadly, we hope to be positive and constructive. That is, we would rather, for example, praise Mozart for the structure, beauty, and significance of his music and leave the obvious opposite of his such merely implicit, rather than engage in analyzing what is clearly lacking. Occasionally, though, studies of the latter are necessary and fruitful.

You may notice, and likely have already, a certain tendency to quibble over definitions, i.e., what something is. In pursuit of the why of things we find this to be largely unavoidable as it is necessary to discuss why we call a thing what we call it, what it has been called, what other people call it, since they all reflect on what it is perceived to be.  (Other perceptions may be instructive either in their insight or even their error.) We also have backgrounds in Classical languages.

Regarding diction and style we hope to achieve a balance. As Demosthenes was once considered the model for a perfected middle style, neither vulgar nor highfalutin, we emulate the master. Regarding content we likewise seek a balance, neither pedantic and excruciating in detail, nor vague. Doubtless we will occasionally underwhelm the professional, though we hope we may at least enlighten the amateur. In all cases we hope to inspire further thought on a matter.

III. Premises

Generally speaking, Mr. Vertucci tends to approach matters from an Aristotelian, Conservative Classical Liberal, Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican, Austrian Economic standpoint.

IV. Dialogue

"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood."

So said Karl Popper, and inevitably we will be misunderstood, either through our faults or otherwise. Please critique us, note faults in logic, point out faults in our sources, cite contrary data, and so forth. Please be honest, substantial, and specific in your criticism.  Ultimately, do we persuade you? Why or why not? Many thanks for visiting, reading, and commenting.

Lastly, we bear in mind the following observation and hope you will also:

"It is far easier to point out the faults and errors in the work of a great mind than to give a clear and full exposition of its value." 
–Schopenhauer's Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy