College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Classics

Recently Butler's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has adopted a statement of Core Values. As a thoroughly interdisciplinary field, Classics has much to contribute to the pursuit of the goals laid out in this statement.

The foundations of our concept of the Liberal Arts and Sciences begin with the Greeks and Romans. The Greeks referred to any individual who pursued only private affairs as anidiotes, from which we get the English word "idiot". The Romans had an overwhelming sense of officium, a sense of duty to the larger community which involved discipline and self-education. Both Greeks and Romans sought intellectual pursuits that would give them insight on "the human condition in its pains and joys." In following their intellectual curiosity, the great minds of Greece and Rome hoped that the pursuit of a self-reflective life would "foster in us compassion and respect for those whose lives we share in our own communities."

Inspired by the literature, art, and history of the Greeks and Romans, we in Classics embrace the opportunity to explore a multitude of voices from a wide span of time. We believe that each period of time has something to say to us, and yet, we are not content with one final and absolute understanding of the world. Whether in agreement or in criticism, we can look to the ancients to spark our "critical judgment", as we "scrutinize sacred truths of every sort." We embrace the potentials of these ancient ideas, while at the same time we acknowledge the failures of these people to live up to the ideals that they set out for themselves. By looking at the gaps between ancient potential and ancient reality, we seek to critically examine our words "through the eyes and ears of others."

These Greeks and Romans, although living in a different time, were caught up in many of the struggles we find ourselves working through. It is not a coincidence that the American Forefathers chose to name one of the houses of Congress the Senate. Seeking a turn away from royal rule, but wary of the radical democracy of Athens, the Forefathers modeled their new government on the Roman system.  As we read the historical accounts of Herodotus, Thucydides, or Tacitus, we engage with issues that do not have simple solutions, "a moral world that is neither black nor white." As we read the political speeches of Demosthenes or Cicero, we are confronted with the challenge of seeing through the rhetoric. Our efforts will enable us to "unknot claims of teachers, politicians, advertisers, scientists, preachers, columnists and roommate[s]." Though the material is ancient, Classics offers us a home in a world that requires us to respond to a wide array of issues.

Like the Romans and Greeks before us, we do not pursue knowledge simply for the sake of knowing. Following our own sense of officium, we Classicists seek to draw connections between current social issues and those of the past. The study of the thoughts and lives of the ancients is of no use unless we make efforts to participate in the discussions of our current times, bringing with us the lessons of the Greeks and Romans. We pursue Classics as part of "a community with venerable roots; a community still evolving in space and time; a community of thought, imagination, value, labor, and action."