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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

“Self-Evident Truths” Recognized, Reviewed


As mentioned previously here, the book Self-Evident Truths: Contesting Equal Rights from the Revolution to the Civil War was published in 2017.  (Disclosure again: The author, Richard D. Brown, is my father.)


Recently, Self-Evident Truths received the New England Historical Association (NEHA) Book Prize


Last month, the National Catholic Reporter published a two-part review—by Michael S. Winters—of the book, which examines religious liberty among other issues (such as ethnicity, race, class, and gender in law and practice) in U.S. history.  Recent scholarly reviews include, for example, those in the American Historical Review and the Journal of the Civil War Era.

10:38 pm edt 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hatred and Violence in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Beyond


Sadly, the last week has seen murderous bigotry in places including Kentucky (a grocery store, after the shooter attempted to enter a predominantly black church) and Pittsburgh (a synagogue).  Reports of hate crimes are on the rise since 2015.


Edward Ball (now of New Haven), with family ties to Charleston, South Carolina, wrote in the New York Review of Books about the 2017 trial of the racist 2015 Charleston church killer.

9:34 am edt 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Global Climate’s Need for a “Drawdown”


An August 25 post below discussed climate change and the book Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Now, there is news of growing recognition that such a drawdown effort will be needed, as urgently as possible; a New York Times article notes that “scientists push for a crash program to scrub carbon from the air.”

10:43 am edt 

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