Friday, October 26, 2007

The imagination and the intellect

No one thinks, even if he is only utilizing an acquired idea, without calling up a whole complex of images, emotions, sensations, which are the culture medium of the idea.

When we want to awaken a thought in anyone, what are the means at our disposal? One only, to produce in him by word and sign states of sensibility and of imagination, emotion and memory in which he will discover our idea and make it his own. (Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life, p. 34.)

In arguing for a position we need to appeal to the whole person. That is why rhetoric and poetics and necessary preliminary studies in the intellectual formation in preparation for philsoophy and theology. It is why it is so important to properly form the imagination and to cultivate emotional health as a part of one's intellectual formation—and why the university should be concerned about such cultivation. It is also part of the reason why God made the Bible as much story as a collection of essays and treatises. And why one needs literary as well as philosophical training in order to interpret scripture properly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Our propensity for sophistry

Here's a truth that I have a lot of first hand experience of!
The best of us are prone to sophistry when an obvious truth contradicts a strong desire. --John Senior, The Decline of Christian Culture.

Sertillanges quote of the day

Another feature that I would love to inaugurate, but don't have the self-discipline.

Anyway, here is the quote:

Study carried to such a point that we give up prayer and recollection, that we cease to read Holy Scripture, and the words of the saints and the great souls—study carried to the point of forgetting ourselves entirely, and of concentrating on the objects of study so that we neglect the Divine Dweller within us, is an abuse and a fool’s game. To suppose that it will further our progress and enrich our production is to say that the stream will flow better if its spring is dried up. (A.G. Sertillanges, The Intellectual Life, p. 29).

Charles Williams makes the a related point in Place of the Lion about the woman who was the Plato scholar but did not let the Platonic philosophy in any way inform her personal life.

Universities really need to realize this. Especially Catholic ones.

Latin Word of the Week

I would love to introduce this feature, but I don't have the kind of self-discipline to be consistent.

Anyway, I was reading the brief bio for Ss. John de Brefeuf, Isaac Jogues, etc. and ran across the phrase, "America Septentrionali." I believe this is in the locative case. At any rate, the phrase is apparently the normal way to say "North America." So "septentrionalis" means "northern." Its basic meaning, however, is either the Big Bear or the Little Bear--what we would call the Big Dipper and Little Dipper. The phrase literally means something like America under the seven [stars] of the oxen (trionalis). It is also used in some animal names, such as the Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis).


Does the "Dumbledore is gay" back story revelation discredit Rowling's Christian credentials? Not per se. It does, however, reinforce my judgment that this series is definitely adult fare. It should not have been written for children, nor should it have been marketed to children.

I had the same feeling about the Lemony Snicket books. The difference is that Daniel Handler definitely doesn't have a Christian world view, whereas Rowling appears to have something approaching it.

I think she sometimes isn't very learned or precise theologically or philosophically. And, yes, I think when you are dealing with the issues she deals with you need to be.

Monday, October 22, 2007

John Senior

I'm beginning to read John Senior's classics The Death of Christian Culture and The Restoration of Christian Culture. They are both going to be rereleased soon by IHM Press. I am sure I have a lot of sympathy for many of his positions. For instance:
Civilization is not the creation of its outlaws but of men who have worked hard in the sweat of their brows, building on the past – against the outlaws, the immoralists, the advocates of violence and death. In obedience to natural law and by the grace of God, a few good men have stemmed the blooddimmed tide in every generation, though now it seems as if, at last, we were going under.

I also agree with him strongly about the necessity of a well formed imagination. We've been using his list of 1000 good books as a partial reading guide for our home school (although I think there are way too many cowboy books on it!).

I am also sure that I disagree with some of his particular ecclesiastical, liturgical and aesthetic judgments. For instance, he was a friend of Archbishop Lefevre and some other traditionalist for whom I have little sympathy. Also, I am probably not as universally negative about modern high culture or pop culture. For instance, I like a lot of the Beatles music. I think some of it passes the classcial aesthetic test, even if it isn't Mozart.
I'll think more about this as I read.