Another sort of learning

The making of a philosopher king, how to start a civic renaissance, of manners and morals, and much more!

Gracious reader, in this week’s Civic Renaissance issue, we’ll explore:

  • Book Review: Another Sort of Learning by James V. Schall

  • The making of a philosopher king

  • How to start a civic renaissance

  • On manners morals and history

  • What should we learn together?

Another Sort of Learning

I recently read a most delightful book called Another Sort of Learning by James V. Schall. I thought I’d share with you a few insights I particularly adored, with the hope of encouraging you in your quest to find beauty, goodness, and truth this week.

This book was recommended to me by one of my favorite college professors —a person who helped me see why the life of the mind and the curious life of constant learning is the best life there is.

The premise of Another Sort of Learning is this: no education is complete without asking life’s foundational questions.

For Schall, these questions include: Why is there something; why not nothing? Why are things the way they are, and not a different way?

I’d add a few more: What does it mean to be human? What is the meaning of life? What is the best way to live?

Schall argues that it is all too common for students to go through their formal education—primary, secondary, and higher education alike—without ever having confronted these questions, questions, he says, that “are basic to mankind wherever and whenever man has appeared on this earth.”

Having a formal education—years in school, degrees, time in the classroom—is not the same as having a real education. A real education gives people an opportunity to grapple with these questions of life, meaning, and existence.

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How do we approach such questions? One way to do so is to read the works of those who have come before us and have confronted them too. Considering how others have answered questions of meaning and existence can, whether we agree with them or not, help us answer them for ourselves—and thus help us lead richer and more meaningful lives.

The people with whom Schall suggests we start include some of the usual suspects and books: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, the Bible, Shakespeare. Schall also includes some more modern thinkers who, in my view, deserve more attention: GK Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor, A.G Sertillanges, Samuel Johnson.

Lest you worry that the book is too dry for your taste, I think the subtitle—a throwback to a bygone era—gives a sense of the book’s levity and joy:

How to finally Acquire an Education While Still in College or Anywhere Else: Containing Some Belated Advice About How to Employ Your Leisure Time When Ultimate Questions Remain Perplexing in Spite of Your Highest Earned Academic Degree, Together with Sundry Book Lists Nowhere Else in Captivity to be Found

I love this book because it is in much the same spirit as the next book I hope to write, once I’m finished with my book on civility. (Update on civility book: my goal is to have a full manuscript finished by the end of June! It’s invigorating to be so close to such an important milestone. Thanks to many of you for your notes of encouragement, and enthusiasm about my forthcoming book, as I finish writing!)


In this next book, I plan to explain why we should love the Great Conversation, lifelong learning, and the life of the mind—and why today’s Education Industry, bureaucratic, utilitarian, and one-size-fits-all, is often inimical to these things.

The first half of the book will be a WHY for the liberal arts, the humanities, and a vision of education that seeks to cultivate our minds and our humanity—and the second half will be HOW to do this.

Many people today long to grapple with ideas of the great thinkers who have come before them. We seek to engage with the highest questions and things in life because doing so gives us meaning and purpose to our lives—to do so is part of being human.

Yet many of us have never had a formal education that showed us how to engage with these ideas.

Guess what? That’s completely okay!

I have good news for you. It is entirely possible to have a robust life of the mind—and to get a real education—outside of the classroom.

My book will show you how. What to read? How to find more time in the day for leisure, deep thinking, and reflection? How to find a community of people to talk about books and ideas with—people who care about the highest things too?

Is this a book that you you’d enjoy? Send me a note at and let me know.

And also write to me if you get around to reading Schall’s very fun book - would love to know what you think of it!

The making of a philosopher king

Thanks so all of you who joined our dialogue, Lessons from a Philosopher King, this week! We had over 600 people register, and it was a wonderful, ennobling discussion.

I loved learning, for example, how Marcus Aurelius was heavily influenced by one of his predecessors, Emperor Hadrian. Donald Robertson—author of How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, which shows how the life and thought of Marcus Aurelius can improve our lives today—shared that Aurelius even lived at Hadrian’s villa for a time, and saw the psychological unraveling of a powerful man near the end of his life.

Aurelius saw sycophants and “yes-men” on one side of Hadrian’s shoulder—and conspirators on the other. He saw Hadrian come to be crushed by the pressures and excesses of political power.

This experience led Aurelius to think through how he might avoid the same fate while he was emperor. He clung deeply to wisdom, to books, and to history. Such things grounded him and helped him keep perspective about what mattered most in life: focusing on what one can control, and pursuing a virtuous and moral life.

I’d encourage you to listen to the whole conversation if you weren’t able to join us!

How to start a civic renaissance

I’m so excited about this conversation, where we’ll be discussing Petrarch and how to start a Civic Renaissance, next week, Tuesday, June 22nd.

We're in a time of social and political division, seemingly made worse yet as we emerge from a time of plague and suffering. Yet we've been here before. 700 years ago Petrarch lived through a similar era. He turned to the ideas and wisdom of the past for consolation and guidance. He even started a renaissance. Can we do so today too? Join our conversation to find out!

Register here!

On manners morals and history

On Wednesday, June 23rd at 8pm, join me and Bill Kristol—who, in addition to many of his own accomplishments, is the son of historian and political thinker Gertrude Himmelfarb—as we discuss Himmelfarb’s work and thought on a wide range of topics, including manners, morals, civil society, and democracy.

Patrons of Civic Renaissance are invited to a private conversation with my and Bill at 7pm on Wednesday, just before the public event.

If you’d like to join this private conversation, consider becoming a subscriber to Civic Renaissance today!

What should we learn together?

Civic Renaissance is a community dedicated to lifelong learning, nourishing curiosity, and pursuing beauty, goodness and truth. To this end, in the fall, I’d like to offer a LIVE course to the Civic Renaissance community so that we can continue to learn, read, and think about the highest things together.

Below are some course ideas I’ve had, and I’d love to hear from you! Which of these ideas excite you?

What should we learn together?

None of these tickle your fancy? That’s ok!

Send me your ideas for courses by clicking below:

Tell me your course ideas!

Thanks for reading, and for being part of the CR community!

Don’t forget to join our Facebook group to keep the conversation going heoughout the week.