John Topik

John Topik

John Topik was a prolific writer and historian, but his writings also reveal his unwavering commitment to philosophical principles. For John, philosophy wasn’t something to be left at the door, but rather it should occupy a central role in daily life.

He argued that, for philosophy to be meaningful, it should help us navigate the tricky paths of daily life by discerning the good from the evil and the true from the false. He also emphasized the importance of moderation in academic pursuits and critiqued the sterile approach to learning that was dominant in his time.

Early Life and Education

John of Salisbury, who was born at Old Sarum (the former site of Salisbury) in England between 1115 and 1120, received an early education. He probably attended schools at Salisbury and Exeter.

His first major work was the Policraticus, a treatise on proper courtly and royal conduct. Its central theme is the relationship between nature and the political order.

He also engaged in a debate on the natural foundations of human society. Against the possibly fictional Cornificius and his followers, who hold that man’s natural qualities limit his ability to improve himself, John argues that mankind may develop its faculties by the application of reason and speech.

His works, including his letter collections and hagiographies, display a cosmopolitan, practical philosophy. This is largely due to the influence of Ciceronian moderate skepticism, which pervades all but his non-theoretical texts.

Professional Career

John is one of the longest running members of The W’s staff. He has been with the school since the late 1970s and is a true Owls fanatic. Despite his long list of accomplishments, he remains humble and grateful to his family and friends.

He enjoys sports, music and food. When he’s not busy with the day job, John likes to take it easy and spend time with his wife Sue, their four daughters, and ten grandchildren. He is also a history buff and enjoys reading books, watching the latest blockbuster movie releases and playing video games. The best part is that he can do all of it from the comforts of his own home.

Achievements and Honors

During his time at the University of California at Irvine, Topik worked closely with historian Michael Pomeranz on a variety of books and articles. One of the more impressive is The World That Trade Created, a history book about the nascent international trading system in the late 19th century. It has been cited as an important pedagogical tool by several colleges and universities. A version of the book has been published by Harvard as a supplement to its history course.

Personal Life

John was a passionate lover of philosophy, and his philosophical perspective was deeply embedded in all of his writing. He was a staunch heir to the Ciceronian New Academic tradition, and he overtly adopted this approach in all of his renowned works, including his two substantial letter collections, his hagiographies and a history.

His non-philosophical work also demonstrates his commitment to practical philosophy, with a focus on friendship and truth and respect and responsibility. His discussion of family law in FAMILY LAW AND PERSONAL LIFE, for example, examines the relationship between contemporary legal theories and values related to friendship and truth, the pursuit of happiness, the proper balance between individualism and communality, the role of personal autonomy and independence and the importance of family life in society.

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