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Michael Sugrue


Guilt is the uncomfortable certainty that we are not what we could have been

Moby Dick is about a lot more than whales, and Socratic philosophy is about a lot more than a wise man walking around saying enigmatic, sometimes ironic things

The wise man, the good man, the philosopher, is a man who lives in accordance with nature. He fears only abdicating his moral responsibility. He is not afraid of pain, he is not afraid of death, he is not afraid of poverty, he is not afraid of any of the vicissitudes of the human condition. He fears only that he should let himself down and that he should be less than a complete human being. The only matter of concern to a wise and philosophic individual is the things completely under your control. You can’t control the movements of the sun and the planets. You can’t control whether a leaky ship sinks or makes it to port. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control other people. You can’t control the society around you. There’s only one thing and one thing only that you are in control of and that is you. Your will, your intentions, yourself. In other words, the wise man, the truly philosophical man is the man who is entirely in control of his own soul – who takes utter and complete moral responsibility for his actions – and is indifferent to everything else; not because he doesn’t care about other people, not because he doesn’t care about the felicity of the entire human species but because it’s not under his control. There’s no use wondering or worrying about what tomorrow will bring since tomorrow isn’t under your control. Do what’s right today and let tomorrow take care of itself

Michael Sugrue is a distinguished historian, academic, and educator recognized for his extensive knowledge and engaging teaching in the fields of Western intellectual history and the history of ideas. His educational background includes earning a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, where he honed his expertise in the history of philosophy and Western thought.

Sugrue's academic career includes teaching positions at prestigious institutions such as Princeton University, where he served as a lecturer in the History Department. His courses covered a wide array of subjects, including classical philosophy, the Enlightenment, American history, and the development of Western intellectual traditions. Sugrue's ability to make complex philosophical ideas accessible and engaging has earned him high praise from students and colleagues alike.


One of Sugrue's notable contributions to education is his work with “The Great Courses,” a series of college-level audio and video courses produced and distributed by The Teaching Company. In these courses, Sugrue delivers lectures on topics like philosophy, history, and intellectual thought, making these subjects approachable for a general audience. His series, such as "Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues," are particularly well-regarded for their depth, clarity, and engaging presentation style.

Sugrue's lecturing style is characterized by a dynamic and passionate delivery, which captivates his audience and fosters a deep interest in the subjects he teaches. He has a talent for elucidating the historical context of philosophical ideas and showing their relevance to contemporary issues. This approach not only educates but also inspires students and lifelong learners to further explore the history of ideas and their impact on modern thought. In addition to his teaching, Sugrue has contributed to the field of intellectual history through various publications, articles, and public lectures. His work often explores the connections between historical events, philosophical developments, and their broader cultural implications. Sugrue's insights into the works of major philosophers and thinkers, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche, highlight their enduring influence on Western intellectual traditions.


Michael Sugrue's legacy lies in his profound impact on students and the general public's understanding of intellectual history. His engaging teaching methods and ability to demystify complex ideas have left a lasting impression on those who have had the opportunity to learn from him. As an educator, Sugrue continues to influence the way intellectual history is taught and appreciated, emphasizing the importance of historical context and the enduring relevance of philosophical inquiry.

Michael Sugrue is a prominent historian and educator whose contributions to the understanding of Western intellectual history are marked by his engaging teaching style, insightful analysis, and dedication to making complex ideas accessible to a broad audience. His work with institutions like Princeton University and The Great Courses has solidified his reputation as a leading figure in the field of intellectual history. Sugrue passed away in May, 2024, but his memory and influence in pedagogy carry on to this day.

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