Opinion | The Canon

Bacon in the reference room

We’ve all been in Butler’s reference room, but few of us look up and see Francis Bacon’s famous words emblazoned high on the ceiling. Derek Turner is one of those few. While the rest of us slave away at our work, eyes down, heads in our books (or computer screens), losing perspective of the bigger existential picture, Derek—true scholar that he is—looks up and questions.

Columbia’s campus is full of icons that supposedly represent its mission in some vague, tortured way. There is a reason that McKim, Mead & White incorporated symmetry and neoclassical design in the campus. Likewise there is a reason that Daniel Chester French chose to depict Athena—goddess of wisdom—in Alma Mater. Yet we seldom question the validity of these icons as representative of Columbia’s educational mission.

We can think about one of them today.

Lanbo Zhang
Editorial Page Editor

The adage “a man is but what he knoweth” is engraved in gold lettering above Butler’s Reference Room. Do we agree with this assessment?

  • Beyond Bacon by James Chappel
    • More than knowledge by Douglas Chalmers
      • A man is but who he knoweth by Derek Turner
        • We are fact, or are we by Esfandyar Batmanghelidj

          The Canon runs every other Wednesday and is dedicated to the discussion of Columbia's perennial problems. Its prompts feature questions that we should repeatedly ask and constantly answer. While we may never come to firm resolutions, either collectively or individually, the belief is that there is some merit to the discussion itself.


Plain text

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Your username will not be displayed if checked
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Anonymous posted on

There are several problems with this article. The first among them is an assumption out of thin air regarding the place of stupidity at universities; it is a fallacious dichotomy to say that a knowledge must at least either be a stepping stone to the existence or otherwise be indispensible to the identity or existence of an person. The first prong is simply wrong. Nobody anywhere assumes a knowledge has to exist to be a stepping stone to being, especially one as competitive as the human-being. Many college students (and most Ivy League competitors) play for the love of the life, (among many other things unrelated to intelligent living). Second, why does a knowledge have to be indispensible in order to "justify its existence"? There are myriad stupidities  at Columbia that are not indispensible to the identity of the student and there are all sorts of good reasons for keeping them around. The writer of this article no doubt participates in them. With respect to intellegence, there are very compelling reasons to keep idiocy around. Other posters have mentioned teamwork, competition, self-improvement, status in the conference, etc.


As an aside, I sense in this article a mindset typical of Ivy League students today: an overwhelming concern with "elite" status and a complete disregard for both the traditions that got us here and the devotion and commitment that makes Ivy League stupidity so impressive on campus and in the workforce.

Anonymous posted on

I like bacon on sandwhiches