Friday, December 22, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
“In the artes liberales ideal, a presumption of certitude underlies the identification of virtues and standards reposited in classical texts; the commitment is thereby demanded, identifying an elite who embrace the virtues and preserve them as leaders of society. The foundation of the curriculum lies in the study of language and letters, required in order for the student to fathom the texts and then to express their lessons in public forums as advocates, statesmen, preachers, or professors. In the liberal-free ideal, skeptical doubt undermines all certainty, casting individuals entirely upon their own intellect for judgments that can never finally be proven true. Consequently, the views of others must be tolerated and respected equally, while all beliefs must change and develop over time. Logic and mathematics, which hone the intellect, and the experimental science, which teaches the honed intellect to turn old truths into new hypotheses for further testing, form the core of the curriculum designed to graduate the scientist and researcher who loves knowledge and therefore pursues it without end” (228-9).
Kimball identifies seven characteristics of each tradition. For the artes liberales tradition he identifies:
1. The fundamental assumption that truth can be known and expressed, a dogmatism underlying the belief that the task of the liberal education is to transmit wisdom rather than to teach the student how to search for it.
2. The purpose of knowing and conveying the truth is to train the bonus orator of Isocrates and Quintilian, the statesman who could and would serve society in any capacity of leadership.
3. the clear prescription of values and standards for character formation.
4. Norms derived from a body of classical texts
5. the clear identification of a liberally educated elite.
6. The respect for the commitment to the pretensions of ‘Good Breeding,’ by which was attained the proper ‘nobility of mind,’ and the disapprobation of tolerance tward those without the acquirements of polite and liberal learning.
7. the regard for liberal education in the established virtues as and end in itself (111-112).
For the liberal-free tradition he identifies:
1. Emphasis on freedom, especially freedom from a priori strictures and standards.
2. emphasis on the intellect and rationality
3. critical skepticism
6. emphasis on volition of individual rather than upon the obligations of citizenship.
7. Free thinking itself is the ultimate goal and value (119-122).
My question at this point is where does Newman fall on this map? He does say that the purpose of higher education is the handing on of knowledge, not the formation of virtue. On the other hand, the University is for the passing on of knowledge, not the furtherance of knowledge, as in the liberal-free ideal.
He does this at least twice in the opening pages of The Power of Love. He begins the book by making a stark, almost cartesian contrast between body and spirit. The point he is trying to make is the reality and priority of the invisible, but he does so in a way that might seem to denigrate the body and its value and relationship to the spiritual. By the end of the section he clearly and beautifully affirms the necessary connection between the visible and invisible. "The happiness of life depends not on ignoring the things of time, but on impregnating them with eternity, using the world as it is, and getting our vision level for eternal things through time and in it." (p. 11)
The second instance is in his treatment of eros and agape (which ends up being an application of the above quoted principle). He first strongly disparages eros--seemingly equating its essence with its existential form distorted by Original Sin. It seems to be a depersonalizing, selfish "love." "The frosting on the cake is eaten, but the cake is ignored." (p. 13)
In the end, though, eros is not rejected and contrasted with agape--as in Nygrens--but is redeemed and transformed. "Once this Agape began to exist, then it flowed down to illuminate even Eros; Eros became the sensible expression of the Divine love." (p. 14) This is theology of the body stuff.
I do not know whether Sheen himself held defective philosophical opinions, that were then miraculously overcome by his deep, penetrating spiritual insight, or whether he intentionally proposed defective commonplaces so that he could redeem them before the reader's eyes--beginning where his readers are and leading them where they needed to go without first knocking their intellectual feet out from under them. Elevating and mending in a Catholic sense, rather than tearing down and rebuilding in a Protestant sense.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
I still like Latin better than Greek.
Friday, August 11, 2006
This reminds me of the Book of Wisdom: "For what man knows God's counsel, or who can conceive what our LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight, and men learned what was your pleasure, and were saved by Wisdom." (Wisdom 9:13-18)
And Bonaventure's Itinerarium: "Therefore to the cry of prayer through Christ crucified, by Whose blood we are purged of the filth of vice, do I first invite the reader, lest perchance he should believe that it suffices to read without unction, speculate without devotion, investigate without wonder, examine without exultation, work without piety, know without love, understand without humility, be zealous without divine grace, see without wisdom divinely inspired. Therefore to those predisposed by divine grace, to the humble and the pious, to those filled with compunction and devotion, anointed with the oil of gladness [Ps., 44, 8], to the lovers of divine wisdom, inflamed with desire for it, to those wishing to give themselves over to praising God, to wondering over Him and to delighting in Him, do I propose the following reflections, hinting that little or nothing is the outer mirror unless the mirror of the mind be clear and polished." (Prologue 4)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
How you begin the day affects how you live in that day - start with thoughts and a focus based on what you believe in about God, you, your family, etc. and the energy and grace you connect with or generate moves you through the day. If you want to love your wife or husband more, one thing to do is think well of them from the get go - then you see more of the good in them or what they do. Start well, and you will get more.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
If the Church is the mirror of a sanctified soul, what kind of soul is mirrored by the gymnasium churches that dot the American suburban landscape!
An Invitation to Reading
Reading is the first way to listen, and therefore to learn. Since the very beginning of its history CL suggested to read certain books that were, and are, dear to Father Giussani. Reading these books is another precious tool to educate to a critical sense, to a discovery of human dignity and the true face of the Church.
On May 2003, Father Giussani, at the ceremony for the 10th anniversary of the birth of the series "The Books of the Christian Spirit," directed by him, stated: "It is through education that a people can be built into a unified conscience and a civilization. More than ever today we understand how urgent and necessary this task is for those who have responsibility. Reading is part of this educational path toward the reconstruction of what is human. To encounter the story of people who have lived reality intensely, who have endured its provocations as an unanswered question, or rather, in glimpsing in it the features of a good destiny, have arrived at the unforeseen discovery of a positive answer, is the documented purpose of many of the books published in this series.
In particular, we want to show the reasonableness and the usefulness for the contemporary man of this answer to the drama of existence that is called "the Christian event." We offer that answer as a sincere contribution to that education to reality for a true liberation of young people and adults."
The List follows
Monday, August 07, 2006
The problem is that these type of students are often in the minority. Many others either lose their faith or come away from their college life with a minimal or distorted understanding of the Catholicism they profess.
The other method is to create, either from scratch or on the stump of a dying institution, something new that more closely corresponds (if never perfectly) to an ideal Catholic education.
Concerns I have had of the latter approach are a) lack of scholarly rigor, b) isolationism and c) a utopianism that focuses too much on externals. As I have gotten to know graduates of these institutions better, I realize that these concerns do not in fact pan out as often as one might think. In fact, as Christopher Derrick argues in Escape from Scepticism, because these students are allowed to develop their minds in an environment relatively free from the poisonous influences of our culture, they are more able in the long run to enter into healthy dialogue with the good and bad trends of our culture. All Catholic institutions of higher learning should take note of what the graduates of these institutions are really like (and the graduates of the mainline colleges), rather than going by some kind of hypothetical judgment of "sectarianism."
A genuinely Catholic university will be concerned not only with excellence the intellectual environment, but in the moral and spiritual environment as well. Although, as Newman points out, the purpose of a University is universal knowledge, if a college administration is interested in the person who is studying at his institution, he will want that person to stay away from those things that will harm him and have available those that help him. Besides, as Mark Shea says, sin makes one stupid. Further, spiritual maturity makes one smarter. So, to avoid sin and seek communion with the Lord will help one in his pursuit of the truth, even if it doesn't relieve him of the hard work of thinking.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
One interesting thing he does is trace the history of two strains of intellectual formation--the Greek philosophical and the Latin humanist tradition. If I understand him right I think he may prefer the humanist tradition. Since I've encountered orthodox Catholic historians who have a somewhat jaundiced view of philosophy and theology as intellectual disciplines, perhaps this is an occupational hazard! I think their mistrust is based on what actually happened in theology after the Council. But, as Newman says in The Idea of a University, a liberal education does not guarantee either faith or virtue--that is not its role.