“Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.”

Things are in the saddle

And ride mankind.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

From "Ode, Inscribed to William H. Channing" by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

From “Ode, Inscribed to William H. Channing” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Man himself and the products of his spirit—language and literature—are treated not as having a law of their own, but as things; as entirely subject to the same methods that have won for science such triumphs over phenomenal nature. The president of a congress of anthropologists recently chose as a motto for his annual address the humanistic maxim: “The proper study of mankind is man”; and no one, probably, was conscious of any incongruity. At this rate, we may soon see set up as a type of the true humanist the Chicago professor who recently spent a year in collecting cats’-cradles on the Congo.


The humanities need to be defended to-day against the encroachments of physical science, as they once needed to be against the encroachment of theology.

–Irving Babbitt, “What is Humanism?” (1895)

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for being my gadfly.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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