If the ultimate aim of education in the liberal arts is to draw us out of ourselves, to teach us the language of praise and gratitude, then Jimmie attained it in worship. Education in the liberal arts — if we can still find it in our world — is one important path to finding one’s soul. But it is neither the only nor even the most suitable path for many people. Were we really to absorb this truth, we could stop pretending that the liberal arts are important frosting on the cake of an education that is in fact designed for other purposes. In so doing, we might free the liberal arts to set us free.

Don Quixote is a slightly ridiculous character, but he is also a gentleman worthy of our respect, and sometimes our pity, but he is always lovable. And this is the same sensation we get from the image of Dr. Johnson, given to us by Boswell, with his grotesque appearance, his long arms, his slovenly appearance. But he is lovable.

….Now, in the same way that we have seen how Johnson is similar to Don Quixote, we have to think that just as Sancho is the companion Quixote sometimes treats badly, we see Boswell in that same relation to Dr. Johnson: a sometimes stupid and loyal companion.


Revolutionaries readily sacrifice living people to achieve the glorious future. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, they tell us, but while the eggs are surely broken, the omelet is never made. If people are sacrificed for an ever-receding goal, Herzen argues, then sacrifice is all there will ever be. The greatest tyranny results from the attempt to abolish it altogether. In the book’s most quoted passage, the skeptic asks:

If progress is the end, for whom are we working?… Do you truly wish to condemn all human beings alive today to the sad role of … wretched galley slaves, up to their knees in mud, dragging a barge filled with some mysterious treasure and with the humble words “progress in the future” inscribed on its bows?… This alone should serve as a warning to people: An end that is infinitely remote is not an end, but, if you like, a trap; an end must be nearer — it ought to be, at the very least, the laborer’s wage, or pleasure in the work done.

Each present moment, and each human life, is precious in itself, not just as a means to some exalted goal. This is a lesson revolutionaries never seem to learn.