Welcome to Bona Vita, the Redeemer Classical School blog. The Latin title for this blog means “the good life,” which is an important concept in classical education. The goal of most schools across the country is to prepare students for success in college and career. However, classical schools view this goal as being too narrow. Classical schools believe that the goal of education is to prepare students to live the good life.
Of course, this raises the question, “What is the good life?” The philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) thought about this question quite a bit. In fact, he developed his entire system of ethics around its answer. According to Aristotle, the good life consists of having our wants and desires aligned with that which is actually good for us as human beings — that which leads to our flourishing. In other words, the good life is achieved when we enjoy the things that we ought to find pleasurable and we hate that which is abhorrent.
For example, it is good to enjoy spending quality time with my children. When I take pleasure in building a lego tower with them I am living the good life, because I am taking pleasure in that which I ought to take pleasure. On the other hand, it is abhorrent to spread lies about my nextdoor neighbor. Therefore, if I take pleasure in doing so my desires are disordered and misaligned, and I am not living the good life with regard to my neighbor. In this case, living the good life would require me to find it abhorrent to spread lies about him and, thus, to stop.
This is easy to see and accept with the stark examples that I have given, but it isn’t always so simple. Our hearts are deceitful and wicked and, therefore, we often find pleasure in things that we ought not find pleasurable, and we are often uninterested in that which we ought to find pleasurable. Aristotle argued that aligning our desires with that which is actually good for us comes through practice (or habituation) of the moral virtues and intellectual virtues. Moral virtues have to do with the character of a person; it is the ability to choose the good and right thing to do in any given situation. Intellectual virtues are those habits of the mind that allow a person to think carefully (that is, coherently and logically) and critically (so that they are not easily duped).
All of this has great bearing on the classical school classroom. A classical education is radically different from the type of education that most students receive across the country, whether they are in a public school, a non-sectarian private school, or a religiously affiliated private school. With this blog we hope to explore the classical difference together, one small step at a time. We hope you enjoy it, but more than that we hope it helps you to live the good life, too.
(Ne: Historical accuracy requires me to note that “Bona Vita” is Latin, and Aristotle wrote in Greek. The phrase that he used to describe the good life is “eudaimonia,” but we thought that was too difficult to pronounce and so we went with the Latin phrase instead.)