Mary Bosworth, History and Philosophy Teacher

"From Theory to Practice" offers our faculty the opportunity to articulate both their practical experience as well as their philosophical orientation as it relates to their craft. An affirmation of their beliefs, this series showcases the expertise of our teachers and allows for deeper conversation about the intellectual underpinnings of our academic program at Browning. As Head of School John Botti explains, "This monthly series allows those who steward in our classrooms to share the 'why' of our purpose behind the 'what' of our practice."

Mary Bosworth, Middle and Upper School history and philosophy teacher, offers the first installment in this monthly series. Ms. Bosworth joined Browning in 2004 and is the 2016 recipient of the Stephen M. Clement, III Chair for the Humanities. 

Ms. Bosworth teaching her philosophy course to Form V and VI students.

If the purpose of the humanities is to enable students to reach their full potential as human beings, it is worth considering for a moment what it means to be human. 

The Rockefeller Commission expressed it beautifully: “The humanities… reveal how people have tried to make moral, spiritual and intellectual sense of a world where irrationality, despair, loneliness and death are as conspicuous as birth, friendship, hope and reason.”

According to Socrates and Plato, virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom are the excellences of a human being. These virtues are powers. And those who will be most fully human will be most virtuous. 

At Browning, we aim to provide students with the knowledge and experience that will allow these qualities to blossom, so that a Browning gentleman has strength of body, mind and heart. 

At Browning, we aim to provide students with the knowledge and experience that will allow these qualities to blossom, so that a Browning gentleman has strength of body, mind and heart.

And speaking of heart, the wisdom the ancient Greeks aspired to was not a dry, analytic-only intelligence but one that included love for all one’s fellow human beings. 

Plato affirmed the feeling of unity to be the greatest good – that a society could only flourish where the common humanity was appreciated. He said, “And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains – where all citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions of joy and sorrow.” 

At first blush, this may seem overly idealistic – but it can be made eminently practical. In considering yesterday’s election, it becomes clear that no side won anything; the real victory will be if we come together and find common ground. 

But this is not easy. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “The reason the world lacks unity and lies broken and in heaps is because man is disunited with himself.” 

Ms. Bosworth gives remarks at the 2016 Stephen M. Clement, III Chair for the Humanities induction ceremony.

So we need to open up to a larger world. And lest anyone consider unity a dull concept, consider this: “Unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation.” 

Each of us has a unique part to play in life – a part that can be fulfilled beautifully only in harmonious interaction with others. 

At Browning we want our young men to live large lives by expanding their circles of awareness. 

Albert Einstein spoke of this. He said: “A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe... He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.” 

This is the purview of the humanities: to help us understand what it means to be human. Our work at Browning is to gain a glimpse of that possibility and to allow that vision to become reality. The work is never finished.