Memory and Analysis

19 12 2011

I hear of feats of memory from time to time, such as the man who recited all of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and while such feats are beyond my skill (and patience), they are generally unimpressive. This morning, however, I read of a truly impressive feat of memory and skill, and I already balk at how best to comprehend it. A full description is provided by Mohan K.V., with an excellent summary by S at The Lumber Room.

From Panini to Ramanujan, India has had more than its fair share of brilliant individuals, although the feats performed by Dr R. Ganesh are sui generis. The only way that I can translate them into a culture similar to my own is by imagining the following:

A performer stands upon the stage; before him is his audience. As a feat, he must compose a poem on a theme to be determined by a random audience member, and do so in a strict metrical arrangement. What is more, he must compose this poem only one syllable at a time, and between each syllable, the audience member who suggested the theme must call out a syllable that he is not allowed to use next. He progresses in such a fashion until he has concluded the first line, at which point he is offered a new challenge. The new challenges mount up, between each of which (and without the aid of writing anything down) he must return to the original challenge and, in similar fashion, add another line to it. The challenges that are interspersed throughout include answering random questions from the audience, composing poems on specific themes (again, constrained by metre), adding lines to poems that are given to him, recognising the provenance of quotes that are called out from the audience, composing verse that contains specific sounds that are words in other languages but which must be included as morphemes in the speaker’s own tongue, and completing a magic square to certain specifications. This last challenge, like the first, is broken up and interspersed around others.

This all sounds like quite a mess, and I would have enough difficulty completing even the first of those tasks without being distracted by so much as one of the others. Apparantly, Dr. R. Ganesh is quite adept at this particular feat of memory, which is called an “avadhana“, and his ability to do it with one hundred parallel questions (a “shatavadhana”, instead of the traditional eight) has led to his being named a “Shatavadhani”.

Reading this got me to thinking about feats of memory in general, and it was but a small step from there to the world of the yeshiva in particular. I am reminded of a parlour trick, for want of a better term, that had some measure of popularity for a time. Known by many as “the pin trick”, it involved choosing a random tractate of the Talmud, opening it to a random page, and then placing a pin through one of the words: the person who was “performing”, so to speak, would be told the tractate, the page and the word, and would then disclose exactly which word it was going to go through on the other side of the page. In order to make the enormity of this feat clear, the Babylonian Talmud comprises a vast corpus of legal and dialectic literature, spanning almost 2,700 double-sided pages of unvocalised, unpunctuated Aramaic text. To perform a feat like this – and one which was looked down upon by many members of the establishment – it is necessary to have committed the entire Talmud to memory. Such a skill relies greatly on natural gifts, but is also an indication of an incredible time spent in the pursuit of Talmudic fluency.

While I am disinclined to minimise in any respect the performance of such a feat, if I were to say anything to its detriment I would note that it is uncreative. While it testifies to the practitioner’s incredible familiarity with the corpus, it says nothing at all for his comprehension. In that respect, more popular amongst many individuals (particularly in Lithuania) was the delivery of a pilpul: a Talmudic homily that linked together a large number of Talmudic discussions and meta-discussions, commentaries and super-commentaries. In many respects, this practice served the same purpose as the pin trick: to demonstrate the acumen of the “performer” by revealing his incredible feats of memorisation, and to show that he was possessed of a keen and analytical mind.

To demonstrate just how ingrained such attitudes are, within the Haredi world today, consider the following example. Just down the road from one of the yeshivot at which I studied in 2003 was a kindergarten. There were signs in the street around it, advertising it as a good place to send your children. Not one of the signs mentioned the conditions of the rooms, the quality of the equipment, the professionalism of the staff or even the rates. Instead, they all asked a simple question: “Do you want your sons to know Shas?”

Shas, which is an acronym for Shisha Sedarim (ששה סדרים, “six orders”), refers to the Babylonian Talmud. It is certainly no mistake to think that a young man need start (reasonably) early if he wishes to truly master this corpus, and must learn to work diligently in the process. While I applaud the enthusiasm of the parents, I do think that kindergarten might be a little bit too early.

During my time in yeshiva, I heard of young men who lived locally and who had completed Shas in time for their bar-mitzvah. While that was certainly rare, completing it in time for their twentieth birthday was not. What is more, there were a number of young men, ranged through their twenties and thirties, who appeared to know large sections of it off by heart. If I were to be cruel, I would say that they didn’t appear to know anything else.

There are a number of different sociological factors that come into play here. Central, in many respects, is the sense of loss that follows in the wake of the Shoah. Whole communities of learned, Torah-observant Jews were shuttled by the trainload to Chełmno and Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz. Libraries, like the famed collection at the Chochmei Lublin yeshiva, were put to the torch. Despite the fact that more people are learning Torah today than have ever been learning Torah in the past, the sense that one needs to rebuild something is pervasive.

Secondarily to that, although intimately connected with it, is the success of the Lithuanian approach to Torah study. Between the death of Rabbi Moshe Sofer in 1839 and the outbreak of the first world war, there were over two hundred yeshivot in Hungary. In the minds of many people, however, the yeshivot of Lithuania and Poland (institutions like the Mir, Novaradok, Ponevezvh and Volozhin) were rabbinic institutions par excellence. The differences between the two styles of institution are noteworthy: while Hungarian yeshivot featured holidays during the year, allowing students to spend time away from the study hall, the Lithuanian yeshiva system emphasised the need for perennial learning. While the Hungarian yeshiva system had a focus on tutelage and regular examinations, the Lithuanian yeshiva system placed its focus on individual study with a study partner (a chavruta). While Hungarian rabbis were renowned for their cogent responses to legal questions, Lithuanian rabbis were renowned instead for their dialectic analysis and their feats of memory. Heads of Lithuanian yeshivot, as a general rule, did not decide on matters of law.

[If you are interested in reading more about Hungarian yeshivot, I append links to two excellent articles that appeared in Jewish History (1997): “On the Hungarian Yeshiva Movement“, by Rabbi Prof. Mordechai Breuer, and “Hungarian Yeshivot, Lithuanian Yeshivot and Joseph Ben-David“, by Prof. Shaul Stampfer.]

To all things, of course, there is a limit. Defining the uppermost boundary of Lithuanian analysis is the school of Brisk: a method of intense dialectical analysis that is likened by its detractors to chemistry. Its origins can be found in a collection of discourses on the Rambam’s Mishne Torah, composed by Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, who was the Rav at Brest-Litovsk in Belarus – “Brisk” in Yiddish. While the Rambam’s reliance on the Palestinian Talmud and other non-Babylonian sources is no secret, Reb Chaim Brisker’s attempts to align the Mishne Torah with the Babylonian Talmud resulted in a tremendously conceptual presentation of the halakha, breaking individual discussions in the halakhic literature into their constituent components and aiming at a philosophical appraisal of the Torah’s underlying mechanics. Those who oppose such an approach nonetheless recognise the greatness of his work, and a conceptual approach in non-Brisk circles, while it is not the norm, is also reasonably common.

Supporters of this school may see its true origins in the writings of Reb Chaim’s father, Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (1820-1892), who penned a collection of analytical discourses on the Mishne Torah and on the Torah itself, entitled “Beis haLevi”. He was the great-grandson of Rabbi Chaim ben Yitzchak (“Chaim Volozhiner”), who founded the yeshiva in Volozhin and who was himself a disciple of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797). The methodology of the Vilna Gaon and of his disciples was one of extreme memorisation, and it is said of the Gaon (the Gra, as he is known) that if given the name of a Talmudic sage and the name of a chapter of the Talmud, he was able to declare the number of times the former appeared within the latter. In the school of Brisk, the two approaches of memorisation and analysis came to a head: two characteristics, while not always approved of in the extremes to which Reb Chaim Brisker took them, that are admired and striven for in the Ashkenazi Haredi world today.

The intensity and the devotion of these people, and the limits to which they have succeeded in memorising so vast a body of literature, are most certainly beyond the norm. One individual in our own age who has accomplished such a feat is haRav Ovadiah Yosef, the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel and the spiritual leader of the Shas party. He has attained a degree of memorisation and fluency across the vast bulk of Jewish legal literature to an extent unparalleled since the Rambam himself. Nonetheless, his lack of analysis is one of the several factors (according to Dr Marc Shapiro, one of the major factors) in his being so disrespected by the Ashkenazi Haredi establishment. For those who model their education system on the Lithuanian yeshivot, analysis is as integral as memorisation.

For my part, I fear that the analysis in which they take such pride is in many respects as uncreative as the pin trick that so many of them disparaged. While it contributes a great deal to certain philosophical conceptualisations of the halakha, it does nothing in the realm of advancing Jewish legislation in practice. Like the shatavadhana of Dr R. Ganesh, it is impressive to behold, and a true testimony to the brilliance of he who can execute such feats of memory and analysis. Like the shatavadhana of Dr R. Ganesh, however, it remains no more than a performance.




14 responses

19 12 2011
a Nadder

One thing I have to add is that it’s worth taking some of the old stories about the superhuman parlour tricks with a grain of salt. Not that it’s not possible to memorise that much — but that given the anecdotal nature, the lack of direct evidence, the unreliability of memory (in recounting the actual needle performances) and the social ideal of memorisation it seems possible that the accounts are exaggerated.

20 12 2011

“It remains no more than a performance”; you’re so right in pointing that out. Devoting so much brilliance to a parlour-trick, wherever it is merely that, is definitely something to avoid. On the other hand, there’s a very real place for performance and artistry, if it’s recognised and functions as such. There’s something of stunning quality in what that Shatavadhani has attained ability to do… wow.

I guess conceptual insight, genuine/practical relevance, the ability to express thoughts clearly, and deep memorisation are ‘co-rudimentary’, whichever are more important. Wherever either lacks, the others are weakened. Memory matters so much; generalisations and anecdotal evidence cause a lot of problems. It would definitely be nice to have this kind of recall :)

20 12 2011
Simon Holloway

A very fair point, a Nadder: I would like to say that this has been well-documented, but my searching so far has not turned up much. There was an article written in 1917 in Psychological Review 24, but I’ve not read it as I’m not sure that it’s worth $11.95. The article on Wikipedia comments upon it, listing Solomon Shechter as one of the witnesses to the feat, and referring to an eariler German work from the end of the 19th century.

Unfortunately, other references that I’ve found have been working off that some one (such as this article on Slate, which is refuted by DovBear, who makes an astonishing observation, to the tune of a whole slew of defensive comments).

In any case, On the Main Line has a post about a single individual who was capable of performing this feat – however it was done – and it’s worth reading. Whether it was a widespread phenomenon or not, I don’t know, but I do distinctly recall reading somewhere that the Vilna Gaon disparaged it. Until I remember where, this search is only leading me in circles.

Annelise: Lest you think that I disapprove of performances for their own sake, have a look at this amazing feat of memory and skill. I hate magic, as a general rule, but this is truly spectacular.

20 12 2011

That was beautifully clever, both the idea and the performance! Thanks for showing me.

Mm, the tone of your post here didn’t give the impression that you disapprove of such performances for their own sake. I mentioned that thought because of the difference between performance as art, and performance that gives weight to authority within a cultural or religious setting; the problem emerges when the two are confused. I find it interesting how different that kind of authority is in a mystical, guru-centred religious setting, compared to one where authority is supposed to belong more to the text-as-revelation than those who handle it. I know very little about Indian culture, but maybe this is why feats of memory have a more resonant superhuman connotation there. Because the spiritual realm is seen in a more abstract way, fluidly mythologising human, natural, or spiritual phenomena by assuming hidden connections between the three, their epic performances seem more legitimate within the expectations of that belief system. As long as they aren’t cheap, exploitative tricks.

On the other hand, to have impressive memory of the halakha seems to me more pragmatic. It becomes immediately less valuable wherever there are limitations in the practical application or understanding of the spirit behind the legislation: the ability of particular humans to transcend natural barriers is not in focus at all in the belief system itself. The teacher’s personal ability has a different kind of purpose and authority, and it doesn’t rely on embodying the power of what is worshiped. In fact, it’s in places where the text *is* made subordinate to individual, performance-based authority that it becomes less attractive or convincing. In a trust-based, relational religious paradigm where there can be no confusion between nature and its creator, the aesthetics of self-promoting performance have much less integrity. They turn the entire picture sour, colouring it with selfishness or exploitation, even if the same skill is spiritually appealing in the form of poetry or amazing feats of mysticism, physical and mental capacity, or ascetic control. I’d find it interesting to consider which system is, at heart, more anthropocentric.

20 12 2011
a Nadder

Great DB thread — thanks for sending the link. It was very interesting to see that some of the commenters seemed to accuse him of having some emotional investment in the idea that the pin trick is just a trick and even psychoanalysing him — a clear case of projection in my opinion!

21 12 2011

“He has attained a degree of memorisation and fluency across the vast bulk of Jewish legal literature to an extent unparalleled since the Rambam himself. ”

Perhaps you meant since the Beit Yosef?

21 12 2011

Regarding the way memory is perceived in Haredi society today, as Simon mentioned, it is recognized as a gift and as such is not quite really respected unless it is accompanied by analytical ability. Yet, all scholars are thought to have excellent memories, and the greatest are reputed to have ridiculous memories. An example is R. Chaim Kanievsky, who clearly does have a remarkable memory. A story which was circulating a couple of years ago (and subsequently some claimed that it was inauthentic) had him pitted against a computer database (without his knowledge; he would likely not agree to it if he had known).

Someone determined that the name Moses (משה) appears 616 times in the Torah (without prefixes like למשה). He asked R. Chaim Kanievsky how many times it appears, and he answered 614. The person told him that he believes the number if 616. R. Kanievsky responded that he must have done a database search, since the letters משה appear twice with different vowels, and do not mean Moses, and he told him which two verses.

It’s almost a more powerful story if it’s *not* true, since it cleverly captures the attitude toward memory and analysis. A mind that is simply a computer database is seen as greatly inferior to one which has the memory and the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff.

21 12 2011
Simon Holloway

So far as comparing Rav Ovadiah to the Beit Yosef is concerned, I’ve heard that some people have already suggested that “from Yosef to Yosef, there’s been none like Yosef”. That said, I did mean the Rambam: I don’t think there’s any supposition that R’ Yosef Karo wrote any of the Beit Yosef from memory. Feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken on that score.

Marc Shapiro has a book entitled Studies in Maimonides and His Interpreters, in which he catalogues a list of all of the mistakes that the Rambam made, not just in his Mishne Torah but in several of his works. The mistakes involve conflations of quotes, misquotes, sometimes even partially invented quotes, and the travesty lies in the fact that in all of the printed editions (including the Frankel) the mistakes have been “corrected”. Rather than lead one to disparage the Rambam – which isn’t the author’s intention – such errors testify to the fact that he was writing mostly from memory. That’s an amazing phenomenon!

As for your story about R’ Chaim Kanievsky, there is something similar (outside of the Haredi world) that is told about Max Margolis, the Lithuanian-born editor-in-chief of the JPS Tanakh. Apparantly (so I was told by Prof. Gary Rendsburg), one could write any two consecutive words from anywhere in Tanakh – without the letters, writing only the vowels and the te’amim – and he could tell you not just the words but the chapter and verse.

21 12 2011

I know people have suggested it, but I was more interested in the comparison to Maimonides. Was he really renowned for having mastered the corps of Responsa? Not as far as I can tell – especially in his lack of knowledge and/ or interest in what was being written in Ashkenaz. Now R. Yosef Karo was a completely different story.

However, you are correct that Shapiro’s book (as well as all the other mistake catalogers) point to his remarkable memory, rather than the opposite. Someone told me about a certain prolific scholar whose output of dozens or hundreds of articles was more or less produced through his great memory. Because of that each one contains a mistake or two. My informant also told me that this individual is aging and his memory is not what it was, to the man’s chagrin.

Interesting about Max Margolis. I’ve heard of people who could figure out the verse from the te’amim, but not from two words. (Samuel Vita Lolli, Shadal’s cousin/ mentor was one.)

One early influence on me was his book ‘The Story of Bible Translations.’ It’s hard for me to see what it was that struck me about it now, but I remember that it opened worlds for me.

21 12 2011

Oh, forgot to mention – regarding R. Chaim Kanievsky, he also apparently has all of rabbinic literature memorized. He uses his powers for good, not evil. ;-) But I’m not joking – he has correctly identified spurious midrashim on the basis of his prodigious memory. There’s one little essay he wrote that I’ve always found amusing – it consists of a few dozen examples of unisex names found throughout rabbinic literature. It is pretty obvious that he didn’t research it for three months. It’s like desert for him. Have to be impressed by that.

21 12 2011

Great post. I am the “S” who wrote the post mentioned in the first paragraph — how did you discover it?
And I’ve been at this blog before :-)

A lot of things that you mention from the Jewish tradition bring to my mind parallels in the Indian/Hindu (to use the latter term broadly) tradition. The emphasis on mastery of texts, the tradition of sharp debate about theological or other technical matters, the ideal of everything being committed to memory — they are all present. (Perhaps even more so in the Indian tradition, which historically had a distrust of writing and books, and preferred oral transmission and retention of “texts”.) And the legendary feats of memory exist here too; too numerous to list.

Similar at first glance to the “pin trick” is a system of examination in India that was known as the “needle examination” (shalaka pariksha). A student undergoing the needle examination on a particular book stands before an examiner, who sticks a pin/needle into the side of the book in order to open it at a random page (indicated by the needle). (Of course, the needle is strictly unnecessary here!) Then the examiner reads out the first line on the page, and the student must recite the contents of that page and the next (or the next few pages), then explain them, after which he is asked questions pertaining to those contents. Then another examiner or two may repeat this. The point is that the student must be confident about every location in the text to pass this examination. (As an aside, this examination involves both memory and analysis… though it may be “uncreative” in the same respects that you suggest.) (Of course, the book is also strictly unnecessary here, because the examiners usually would know the entire text by heart themselves, and can call out a passage at random… the needle and the book are just to remove the human element in the random selection, I guess.)

Now about the śatāvadhāna. Of course, it is just a performance. Like that of any chess player or musician, its output is strictly useless to anyone, beyond possibly giving a little delight to those who enjoy such things. And it is indeed a luxury to be able to indulge in such performances for their own sake; probably the same is true of all culture.
It’s worth noting though, that this “avadhāna” performance is not just a test of memory and concentration, and requires quite a lot of creativity. After all, at least half the activity is composing verse, and doing it quickly, and the output is often aesthetically beautiful even by the standards of poetry in general. These performances are not his primary activity; he writes books, gives talks, etc.

In reply to the comment by Annelise (17:07:14): I’m not sure I understand what it’s saying, but anyway, let me assure you that no one in the audience thinks there’s anything supernatural to this (any more than a musician’s performance would be), just great human skill. Also that there’s nothing “exploitative” here. A discussion of theological differences between the Jewish and the various Indian traditions may be interesting, but this is probably not the right place for them. :-)

21 12 2011

Thanks S. In reply to your last paragraph there, it’s helpful to hear a much more informed response to my first impression. I was not at all suggesting anything exploitative or ‘trick’-type in this kind of performance, but instead contrasting it with that.

I actually think a post like this would be an interesting and acceptable place for a discussion of the differences and similarities between these two traditions. I’d be very curious to read about that, though I would have nothing to add. The depth and breadth of understanding that belongs to each seems very heavy, so my comment was not a pretense of knowing anything. It’s just an articulation of a connection that emerges from my personal impression, and which I find fascinating; Simon has created a cultural comparative space here that I’ve never considered before. If my understanding were at all engaged with, I’d appreciate having it much broadened, or well-critiqued with opposing examples. Sorry if the form of that thought was mostly irrelevant, faulty, or meaningless, though.

Anyway. If you’re right that this kind of performance is purely humanistic in its aesthetic and resonance, to every member of its audiences, do you know where it comes from originally? It seems quite steeped in culture and tradition, so what you say surprises me. What facets of Indian heritage and paradigm are referred to or continued in this style of performance?

My question comes from the way pure poetic skill has been considered phenomenal by many cultures, where the interaction of super-nature with the material is not an intervention (‘supernatural’, as modernist thought would describe it); it’s seen as a part of nature itself. Ancient Germanic and Middle Eastern cultures are examples that I’m more familiar with, where natural skill in poetry and memory were spiritually significant. I’m in way over my height here, so never mind if this isn’t making sense within the field… but thanks for the direction of thought in this, Simon. Very fascinating, to me at least!

22 12 2011
Simon Holloway

Thanks, S – I see a lot of interesting parallels too, and while many have laboured over the points of connection between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, too few have really looked at possible lines of congruence with Hinduism, Buddhism and other non-European religions.

For the record, I wasn’t meaning to imply that the avadhāna sounded uncreative: quite the opposite! I think that the so-called “pin trick” (the historical veracity of which I am becoming less and less sure of) is uncreative, and I was contrasting it with the creativity of Dr R. Ganesh’s performance. In that respect, I think that his performance (if I were to compare it with something) is more similar to the pilpul, and the only reason that I denigrate the pilpul as being ‘merely a performance’ is because its practitioners see it as something so much more.

As with the śatāvadhāni, Dr Ganesh, many practitioners of such feats within the Jewish tradition are also published authors, many of whose volumes are deserving of study, and many of whose observations are useful in the realm of halakha. To those untrained in Jewish law, much of the discussion might appear esoteric (or even banal), and come across as the splitting of hairs. While there are plenty of instances in which this indictment would be accurate, there are also many instances in which these discussions have important ramifications.

26 12 2011

Hello S – In response to your comment about the tradition of Indian mistrust of written texts, there are many parallels in Jewish culture. It is not at all clear that the Mishnah (the earliest rabbinic code of law) was written down at the time of its redaction, and it was certainly transmitted orally and committed to memory. The Talmud itself was a memorised dialectic analysis, and it was studied orally in the Babylonian academies well into the medieval period. There is even evidence that the Babylonian Talmud was transmitted to Spain orally and then fixed in a written text (this is discussed briefly in an article by Shlomo Morag in a volume entitled “The Sephardic Heritage” – I don’t recall the title of the article but it’s about the Hebrew linguistic traditions of medieval Spain). There are also Geonim (post-Talmudic authorities) who chided scholars in other communities for using written texts to study the Talmud, which they considered to be easily susceptible to corruption. This changed over the centuries, but the value of memorisation and internalisation of texts remained central.

It’s interesting to note that the Vilna Gaon’s attitude towards memorisation and virtuosic analysis was not what one might expect from someone who knew “the entire Torah by heart the way that you know Ashrei (Psalm 145 – traditionally recited thrice daily), and backwards.” (That description is either in Ma’aseh Rav or Orhot Hayyim, I can’t remember which.) Firstly, he was adamantly against the kind of pilpul that Simon describes, stressing a breadth of learning in foundational texts rather than complex conceptual analysis. His instruction for daily Talmud study (only one part of the regimen he prescribed) was just to focus on the passage itself, with Rashi’s commentary, and preferably but not necessarily (“lo le’ikkuva”) the Tosafot. He said that one should revise each passage until one knows it well – “nearly by heart” but not by heart. But it is good to memorise at least one tractate so that if one gets stuck without books one can still study. (I believe this is all in Ma’aseh Rav.) This is actually far from the emphasis on memorisation that was prevalent in Eastern European Jewish circles at the time, with an emphasis on breadth education over intellectual games or performance.

There was at least one prominent opponent of the culture of memorisation in the medieval Islamic world, where it was (and remains) absolutely routine for children to commit the Quran to memory, and an educated member of society traditionally memorised far more. In an educational treatise that he wrote, al-Jahiz (8th-9th century Iraq) stated that people with creative minds “hate” memorisation as a technique, and he praises writing as a gift from God. A very similar attitude can be seen in the writings of the 11th century Jewish scholar and poet, Isaac Ibn Ghiyyat, who stresses the value of texts in educating whole societies as opposed to privileged individuals – as long as you can read, you don’t need to travel far and be a member of the inner circles of a great master in order to access ideas and information. I raise these examples just because it’s interesting to note that the problems that we might identify with these cultural practices have long been noted within those cultures themselves.

On a more personal note, it seems to me that despite the less creative element in memorisation, there is a lot to be gained from these practices. During my time in yeshiva and afterwards, I met quite a number of scholars who knew a tremendous amount of material by heart. Some of them were wonderfully creative thinkers – and not as performance, but with true profundity. When I compare that world with my own primary and secondary education (in academically selective public schools in Australia), I must say that I am saddened that we were never encouraged to “know lots of stuff”. The value was entirely placed on creativity and process, and then on performance in entry exams or final assessments. And did we really learn critical thinking? I’m not so sure. Did most of us emerge broadly conversant in the sources of Western culture? Certainly not. Maybe it’s time to find a synthesis between these approaches.

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