Speech on the proposal for the translation and publication of the Classics 1

by cmiphilos1 on October 4, 2022

There is plenty of material injustice in the world, but intellectual and spiritual injustice is infinitely more significant.  There is inherent injustice so long as the great literature which is available, for instance, to American youth is entirely out of proportion to that which is available to the youth of other parts of the world.  When I enter certain American or European homes and find what the boys and girls of those homes can read and study, from Homer to Tolstoy, and reflect at the same time that this wealth of literature, which has helped to make history more than anything else, is not open to the youth of other lands, except insofar as they have learned a European language, I feel deeply disturbed.  There is a great tradition of human thought and sentiment which is known and participated in by only a fraction of humanity.  This is quite unfair.  To have some peoples and nations enjoy the infinite riches of the mind while the rest of humanity wallows in darkness and error is an act of injustice of the first order….  There can be no peace, there certainly can be no real justice, so long as the goods of the mind and spirit are abundant in some countries and miserably deficient in others; so long as the great classics of human thought and feeling, from Plato to the present day, have penetrated and transformed the life and literature and outlook of certain countries and are totally unheard of in others; so long as the supreme persons of history belong to the living tradition of certain countries and are absent from others.  The ultimate ground of peace is participation in a community of generis ideas.  Such a community can be culled from the great classics of the past….  We are often urged to work for what is ambiguously called “rising standards of living.”  Now I firmly believe we should do that.  But what about rising standards of thinking and feeling?  Shouldn’t we also work for that?  Or is it that the refinement of the mind and spirit would automatically and magically follow upon the abundance of material goods and comforts?  The highest insights and convictions of the ages must be more equally distributed throughout the world.  Without this intellectual and spiritual justice there can be no real peace.  To be sure, there can be no peace so long as people are physically starving, so long as the material goods of the world are unjustly distributed between classes and peoples.  But there is a deeper starvation, a deeper injustice.  The goods of the mind and spirit are themselves unequally and unjustly distributed throughout the world.”

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