The Closing of the American Mind and the Death of Philosophy

Feb 14, 2024
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Daniel Wasserman-SolerLumen Christi Institute

Open to current undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. Registration is capped at 20. Students who register after capacity has been reached will be put on a waitlist. All registrants will be provided with a free copy of the text. This seminar and the Nicklin Fellows are cosponsored by the First Analysis Institute.


The American university is premised on being open to a wide range of people and ideas, the place “where community and friendship can exist in our times.”

  • But has the university perverted openness into a  “surrender to whatever is most powerful”?
  • Is openness a virtue, “that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude?”
  • Or does openness “result in conformism”?
  • Is “what is advertised as a great opening …a great closing,” where indifference, ignorance, and relativism have closed the American mind to the pursuit of truth?

These questions animated Allan Bloom in his 1987 bestseller, The Closing of the American Mind. A longtime member of the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought with decades of experience teaching undergraduates, Bloom lambasted the intellectual and spiritual state of American higher education.  From rock music to the sexual revolution, from Nietzsche and Max Weber to concepts like “my values” and “the self,” Bloom indicted the causes for the American undergraduate’s flat soul.  The only solution was a return to a Great Books education guided by Plato’s Republic.

We will read selections from The Closing of the American Mind to debate some of Bloom’s most contentious claims. Was what he said of undergraduates true in 1987? Is it true now? Has the university been corrupted by relativism? Do the Great Books provide a way out?

John W. Boyer will join us for the first session. Boyer is the Senior Advisor to the President and the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He served as Dean of the College from 1992 until 2023.


6:00 PM Dinner | 6:15 PM Discussion | 7:30 PM Close

We encourage you to read the book in its entirety. Come ready to discuss at least the selections below. Books are provided.

January 17th:

  • Intro + Part I: The Clean Slate, Books, and Relationships (Self-Centeredness, Equality, Race, and Sex)

January 31st:

  • Part II: The German Connection, Values, The Nietzcheanization of the Left, and Our Ignorance

February 14th: 

  • Part III: The Sixties and the Student & the University



This event is part of Lumen Christi’s Fundamental Questions seminar, a quarterly reading group designed for undergraduate students at the University of Chicago. By fostering intellectually rigorous conversation around culturally resonant texts, we aim to allow students to experience the force of the deep existential concerns which animate our lives: “Where do my values come from? What is the good life? How can I become happy?” Our aim is not to answer such fundamental questions, but rather to equip students with the intellectual skills needed to recognize and articulate them for themselves. This group welcomes students from all religious and philosophical backgrounds because existential questions of being are of concern to all.

In addition, undergraduate students who participate in this seminar are eligible to become “Nicklin Fellows.” These fellows will have exclusive access to research and development grant funds to pursue their intellectual interests. Grants can be used to do things like the following: 

  • Organize a reading group
  • Bring a speaker to campus
  • Organize a movie night
  • Develop and plan future fundamental questions seminars
  • Write a paper for a journal
  • And more!


Daniel Wasserman-Soler serves as the Executive Director of the Lumen Christi Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in history from the University of Chicago. He first became acquainted with Lumen Christi as an undergraduate.

As a Fulbright scholar in Spain, he conducted research on the Spanish Empire during the sixteenth-century. His book, Truth in Many Tongues: Religious Conversion and the Languages of the Early Spanish Empire (Penn State, 2020), explores how the Spanish Crown managed an empire of unprecedented linguistic diversity. He also has published articles in the Journal of Early Modern History, Church History, the Medieval History Journal, and History Compass. A native Spanish speaker, he grew up in Miami, where he attended Carmelite and Salesian schools. His wife and five children are members of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago.

Before joining Lumen Christi, Danny was a history professor for ten years, first at Oberlin College and then at Alma College, where he was a tenured associate professor of history, department chair, and director of the first-year seminar program.