I am a Romanian gypsy from a long line of chicken stealers, fortunetellers, tax evaders, and draft dodgers. That is not such a bad heritage.
I received a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Michigan, and my experience teaching the Great Books at St. John’s College (Santa Fe, New Mexico) is equivalent to a Ph.D. in the humanities. This almost unique background came about because from early on in my intellectual life, I pursued relentlessly fundamental questions.
While on a postdoctoral research fellowship at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I became bewildered by the hideousness of nuclear weapons and the nice guys that built them. I could not reconcile Hiroshima and the beauty of physics, nor could anyone else at Los Alamos. So, I decided to take what I thought would be a brief excursion in the humanities. I had the good fortune to study the humanities by co-teaching seminars on the Great Books at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I left St. John’s College to accept the position of Academic Dean of Magdalen College (Warner, New Hampshire). There, I founded a program that employs primary texts and the Socratic method of instruction to explore the first principles of nature and the fundamental questions of human life.
Thus, in one way or another, my entire intellectual life has been spent trying to make sense of human existence in dark times.