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Home > "Philosopher King" Enjoys Academic Pursuits

"Philosopher King" Enjoys Academic Pursuits

February 3rd, 2009

By Kaitlyn Czajkowski

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727


Dr. Mark Mitchell, Association Professor of Government and Director of Political Theory Program

PHC students (and especially Political Theory majors) have spent almost a year waiting to welcome Dr. Mark Mitchell back from his one year sabbatical at Princeton University. Coming this fall 2009, they’ll finally have  the  opportunity to do so. 

Mitchell, who was awarded the prestigious James Madison Research Fellowship, has spent his time at Princeton doing what he loves most--taking time to read, reflect, and write extensively.

“The library is fantastic,” Mitchell said. At Princeton, he has immediate access to any book or journal he might want, an invaluable resource for his work. Mitchell is now in the process of co-editing a book of essays on Wendell Berry, writing for different journals, and authoring a book on conservatism, politics, and culture.

Mitchell said that recently, his focus in research and writing has been on economics. “It’s a real mess,” he said, “and I’m not sure anyone is willing to make the hard choices that need to be made.”

In one article published in the National Humanities Institute, entitled “Without Personal Responsibility, No Sound Economy,” Mitchell discussed the recent bailout and the solution to maintaining the American way of life. While “ideals like moderation, frugality, humility, and thrift” might sound old-fashioned, perhaps now is the time to “dust them off and try them on for size,” he argued.

When not writing, Mitchell has also enjoyed the people and opportunities that Princeton has to offer. He calls the Madison Program a “wonderful little community of interesting people.” In addition, there is a huge selection of interesting lectures, dinners, and events to attend. Most interesting so far? Mitchell attended a debate between Princeton’s notorious atheist, Peter Singer, and Christian author and speaker Dinesh D’Souza, on whether or not God is required for morality.

While Mitchell expects to miss the “wonderful amount of time” to read and write once he returns to Virginia and Patrick Henry, he does look forward to being back home. Mitchell said he has missed his colleagues at PHC and “of course, the charming PHC students” and “the rest of them too,” he added.

Students, of course, have missed Mitchell and his classes as well. Rachel Blum, a Political Theory major, has found Mitchell to be an excellent, highly formative professor. Beginning next year, Blum looks forward to “at least twice a week, walking into a classroom and being able to dig deeper into texts and the sources of [my] assumptions.” Mitchell “doesn’t compartmentalize or divide any part of truth from life,” she said.

The only downside to returning home? “My garden will be a wreck!” Mitchell said. According to Mitchell’s longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Les Sillars, Mitchell is very attached to his grapevines. In fact, “if they are dead, he may never recover,” Sillars said.

In the fall 2009, Mitchell expects to be once again teaching Freedoms Foundations and Political Theory classes at PHC. Some of things he has studied and learned at Princeton “will surely find their way into my classes in various ways,” he said. Some courses may even have a few different books. “But, for better or worse, I’m still pretty much the same Dr. Mitchell.”