THE LIFE OF GALILEO
I read Galileo at secondary school, at an age when I was having doubts about the role of established religions (which were a dominant part of upbringing in the West Coast of Scotland at the time). So the unmasking of the Church was a part of Galileo that immediately captivated me. But, as I became drawn into the story, I began to think more about the questions that Brecht asks about our commitment to conventional truths, the role of institutions in perpetuating those conventions, and the importance of free scientific inquiry. I know that my views on all these questions have evolved a lot since first reading the play, but it was Galileo that first made them part of my “political” thinking.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
I had been aware of a number of the more famous quotes from Self- Reliance for many years before I sat down and read the entire essay. On one occasion, I was checking to make sure I had one quote right, and noticed surrounding language (perhaps because of the style) that caught my attention because of its selfconscious grandeur. I think anyone who researches and writes should read this essay annually. Although it is often discussed in terms of its political philosophy of independence, there are passages that should have particular resonance to a scholar. It is a wonderful antidote to any inclination toward timidity in research or argument.