Introductions to Xenophon and to Edmund Burke: An Unexpected Controversy

George Anastaplo

I realized, as I prepared my February 17, 2013 Works of the Mind Lecture (at the Chicago Cultural Center) for the Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults (The University of Chicago), that two different talks by me had been publicized for that occasion. The Basic Program had announced it (in numerous handouts and otherwise) as a talk on Edmund Burke, while the University of Chicago (in a series of mailings to its alumni and otherwise) had announced it as a talk on Xenophon. (The discrepancy here may have been due, in large part, to mistakes I myself had made some weeks before in what I happened to say in anticipating the event.)

I decided, therefore, that I should try to correct this unfortunate situation by explaining to the audience at the outset of my February 17th remarks why I would be providing them that afternoon two complete talks–one on Xenophon, the other on Edmund Burke (with references in each talk to points made in the other). (These two talks of February 17, 2013, should be posted at this site after my handwritten originals have been typed.) Even so, one consequence of all this (I have been told) was that there were still a few in the audience who evidently protested afterwards that they had come to hear about Burke–and had gotten instead talks about both Burke and Xenophon. (I do not know whether anyone protested that they had come to hear about Xenophon–and had gotten instead talks about both Xenophon and Burke [for neither of which, by the way, were they charged admission or was I specially compensated].)

Should not such protesters have been told, preferably by someone in authority, that they were being silly? (That would have likely been my assessment, albeit politely, if anyone had presumed to protest to me personally after I had gone to the trouble of preparing two talks.) The February 22, 2013 letter from South Bend, Indiana, appended to this posting, suggests what a proper response to such curious protests should be.

Apologies may be in order from several quarters here, including of course from me for having overestimated (disregarding thereby the counsel of both Burke and Xenophon?) the good will, if not even the intelligence, of the people one might encounter in such circumstances. There does seem to be, alas, an unfortunate limit to the amount of sensibleness in the every day world that we must routinely deal with. Even more troubling, perhaps, may be the “prudence” of bystanders (including one’s colleagues) who do not venture to recognize and deal properly with offensive silliness when they happen to witness it.

Chicago, Illinois
March 4, 2013

The Chairman, The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults

February 22, 2013

Dear _____

I want to thank you for the lecture I attended on February 17 on Burke by George Anastaplo. First of all, I want to thank ______ who helped me with the registration. She was very kind to me over the phone.

I am a student of Burke, and I especially appreciate Conor Cruise O’Brien’s The Great Melody, which was published by the University of Chicago Press. I came to the lecture from South Bend with my wife, _____, and my friend, _____, Ph.D., who said he appreciated the intelligibility of the lecture.

At the beginning of the lecture, it was pointed out that the University of Chicago Alumni Group had been expecting a lecture on Xenophon, and the Basic Program had promoted a lecture on Burke. So the speaker helped us see the connection and the contrast between Xenophon and Burke. I noticed that one person was particularly upset and was speaking quite loudly to you after the lecture because he wanted a lecture only about Burke.

I was sorry that he was mistaken and could not appreciate the fact that the speaker had sought to help everyone by his especially insightful lecture. I want you to be sure to appreciate that there were members of the audience who did not share the complaint that I heard this man expressing to you: after all, we got twice as much as what we expected from the lecture.

It seems to me that the contrast between Xenophon as representative of the classical tradition, and Burke as modern, made the lecture into a better account of both men. I was not disappointed by the lecture, nor do I think this man’s complaints to you were warranted.
Thank you for all the work you did to make this lecture possible and which benefitted my wife and our guest.


[[The two talks of February 17, 2013 may be found below or by clicking on the titles:
George Anastaplo

George Anastaplo]]

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