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The Writing and Speeches of Bob Rowan

Robert_J_RowanProfessor Robert J. Rowan (Bob to everybody in his classrooms and the BCCLA) was one of the founding directors of the BCCLA, and contributed a substantial portion of its  foundation.  Bob was a political philosopher and educational reformer, sending out squadrons of committed academic and legal activists, and assisting at the birth of two liberal undergraduate programs – one at UBC, and the other at Malaspina University.

But the use of past tense verbs in connection with Bob is an error.  He is in his 91st year, and very much with us and “it” – the world of events and ideas that is the enduring subject of the great conversation of the thinking and caring classes.

We will be adding from time to time, some samples of his thought to our website, for the continued delight of his very many students and admirers, and as an reminder for us all of the intellectual capital that he and the other founders provided for our sustenance.  We have been living off of that capital for decades, adding to it in the spirit of principle over impulse, thought over habit, and discussion over partisan war-cries.


  • Democracy, Education and Philosophy: This first installment is a series of short, 1960′s CBC broadcasts which addressed the fundamental problem of political philosophy: why should we obey the law?   Obey out of simple expedience, bowing to power to avoid punishment?  Or out of civic virtue, as the political form of morality commands us?   And if it is to be democracy instead of anarchism, what do we do in the face of injustice? Read the full post here.
  • Conscientious Objection: Most civilized polities provide a formal, legal space for those who solemnly maintain that they cannot conscientiously participate in any activity that involves the use of violence against other human beings.  But why?  Read the full post here.
  • The Retreat from Politics: We might be tempted to think that mistrust of politicians and politics is something new – or at least particularly marked in our place and time. But none of this is new,  and in his 1970 speech to the Vancouver Foundation,  Bob Rowan attacks the consequent retreats from politics. Read the full post here.
  • Guide to Plato’s The Republic: Not that Rowan takes it easy on Plato – read and see for yourself.  This guide to The Republic is the work of a teacher at the height of his powers.  And that is not the power to astonish, or entertain, or even to innocently inform: it is the power to lead reasonably prepared minds in the direction of lasting personal insight.  The highest goal of higher education. Read the full post here.