|2) TEACHING AND LEARNING.
In this section, a number of essays and reflections are found, written over the years, on what it means to be a student and a teacher. Ultimately, I am in agreement with Thomas Aquinas who pointed out that a teacher is, at best, someone who leads us to our own understanding of something, but with the proviso that we discover something that is, something that is not ourselves. I do not mean that everyone has such a different understanding of everything that nothing is knowable, no skepticism here. Rather, concerning what is true and what is worthwhile, each of us has to learn why it is so, that it is so.
Here I will include ten essays on teaching, learning, and writing, plus a book list of things to read.. However, first I want to call the reader's attention to several basic essays that I will not include here but ones which are fundamental to what I have to say on this topic. Several of them are the early chapters of Another Sort of Learning. Perhaps the essay that the average student will find most useful is Chapter 3, entitled "What a Student Owes His Teacher." Students are often surprised by the thought that they "owe" anything to anyone, especially to a teacher or professor. But it is so.
But before we can even begin we need to possess or have certain books and or essays.
Moreover, we have to read and we have to like to read. Reading, I know, can sometimes be a drudgery,
but it is not always so and need not be so. I have never forgotten Chesterton's remark that "there is no such
thing as a boring topic, only bored people." It is a telling remark that I often recall to complaining students.
My experience is that everyone immediately grasps the truth of Chesterton's remark. It is much easier,
however, when you have your own books and when your books are good ones.
The first two chapters of Another Sort of Learning, the one called "Another Sort of Learning" and the one entitled "Why Read?" are both about acquiring books, often from used book stores, and of making a book our own by marking it and by identifying what in it is now ours because we have read it and have it available to return to. I try to fill my books and essays with suggestions and hints -- sometimes with outright commands! -- about what to read. In this ANOTHER SORT OF LEARNING WEB SITE, I shall often include book or essay lists.
Two other essays I want to recommend here. The first was originally published in Modern Age and reproduced as Chapter 2 of my Christianity and Politics; it is called, "On the Teaching of Ancient and Medieval Political Theory." This essay is particularly important because it addresses itself to an academic situation in which our curriculum or our interests deprive us of things that we need to know and are most worthwhile knowing.
The second essay is also in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 6, and is entitled, "On Teaching
the Political Philosophy of Plato." Plato in many ways is still the great teacher. I always finish my semester
course that we call here "Elements of Political Theory," with Plato. I might also mention my essay "The
Death of Plato," in The American Scholar, 65 (Summer, 1996), 401-16 as something that deals with the
charm and fascination of Plato, even yet (on this Web Site under Classical Political Philosophy).
Here, I am going to include eight essays that were published in various journals over a several year
period. I think they give something of the spirit in which writing, teaching, and learning should take place.
They give some indication of what is worth studying. In addition I will add my own book list of what I call
"books to keep sane by" -- a list that I change slightly from time to time.
These essays are: 1) "On Teaching
and Being Eminently Teachable," 2) "On Teaching,"
3) "On the Mystery of Teachers I Have Never Met,"
4) "On Self-Discipline," 5) "Contemplata
Tradere: On Its Being Better to Illuminate Than
Merely To Shine," 6) "Writing in an On-Line World,"
7) "On the Education of Young Men and Women,"
8) "Liberal Arts Education in a Free Society," 9)
"A 'Catholic' University Education: A Contradiction
or a Competition?," 10) "Education and Salvation," and 11) "Schall's
Twenty Books to Keep Sane By." See also in the Index to this Web Site, the
separate entry, #17,
A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning.
1) From an address originally given at a Salvatori Fellowship Conference, Washington, D. C. This essay can also be found as Chapter 3 of On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (Wilmington: ISIBooks, 2001).
ON TEACHING AND BEING EMINENTLY TEACHABLE
Remarks on teaching and being taught, or as I put it, being eminently teachable, need certain initial
and, frankly, provocative words to indicate the spirit in which this subject matter is here advanced. Let me
begin with Leo Strauss' comment that we are lucky if we are alive during the same time in which one or two
of the greatest minds of our kind were alive. And even if we are alive during this time, we will not be very
likely to meet them or, having met them, to recognize them for what they are. The beginning of wisdom
requires a small dose of humility. We need to acknowledge how much was known before we ourselves
Consequently, if we are to confront the greatest minds, we must do so in their books, in what they wrote, to which we attend with the greatest care. We must begin, I might add, with the firm conviction that the mind, including our own mind, is capable of knowing all that is, that it is capax omnium. What stands between us and Aristotle or Dante is not power, as we are often told, but an independent intelligence that exists in each of us, a vivid awareness that the principle of contradiction also governs our own mind and grounds all mind in the truth itself. Strauss concluded with a cautionary admonition: we will find that the great thinkers often contradict one another. The great books or thinkers, in other words, are not, as is too often implied, substitutes for thought itself. We do not, moreover, have time in one lifetime adequately to encounter even one of these great thinkers. (1)
From these initial remarks from Strauss, however, I do not conclude that we must despair about
mind itself because of such contradictions. Rather we should take Aristotle's advice from the Tenth Book
of the Ethics, that reads: "We must not follow those who advise us, being men, to think of human things,
and being mortal, of mortal things, but must, so far as we can, make ourselves immortal, and strain every
nerve to live in accordance with the best thing in us; for even if it be small in bulk, much more does it in
power and worth surpass everything" (1177b33-78a3). The fact of error or contradiction or difficulty is
not a sign of the mind's weakness, but of its strength.
In a basic sense, modernity means the lowering of our sights from truth and good to what is
practical. Modernity has been an unsuccessful effort to prove Aristotle wrong. What modern thought has
often accomplished, instead of a slim knowledge of the truth, is to use its power and prestige to forbid us
from understanding why Aristotle might have been right. My initial observation is that the most important
thing we can do to provoke students to want to learn is to confront them with Aristotle's challenge, his
reminder that the pursuit of the highest things, however difficult, however little we might learn in comparison
to what is, is itself worth the effort and "surpasses everything."
I cite these exalted lines of Aristotle having read the following sober lines from Wesley McDonald:
My young classroom charges, although wholly ignorant of Mill, have absorbed unreflectively his
platitudes about tolerance and equality. If they agree on any moral principle, it could be
summarized simply as, "You can do whatever pleases you as long as you don't bug me." They also
believe, inconsistently like Mill, that government has the responsibility of guaranteeing more
personal liberty while simultaneously bringing about greater equality. And social scientists
confidently inform us that crime and social pathologies are mere manifestations of society's failure
to eliminate ignorance entirely. Mill flattered the mass of people with the notion that they are
rational and good. Such beliefs, even though all experience refutes them, operate ... strongly on
the popular imaginations.... (2)
No one will seek the highest things if he believes that there is no truth, that nothing is his personal fault, that
government will guarantee his wants.
Let me cite three passages that give a sharp flavor to what I want to say about inciting and
provoking students. The first comes from Yves Simon's reflection on what it is to be a teacher. Simon
remarked, that "no spontaneous operation of intellectual relations protects the young philosopher against
the risk of delivering his soul to error by choosing his teachers infelicitiously." (3) This passage says that man
is a social animal. We are somehow bound together, for better and for worse. The life of the mind is not
immune from its own form of corruption even in the most expensive universities, even from the most famous
The second passage I will cite in the Latin of Thomas Aquinas. Remember in reading it, that the
word, stultitia, means "foolishness". It is the very word we find in the Latin translation of 1 Corinthians,
20, where St. Paul, speaking of the pride of the philosophers, asks, "Nonne stultam fecit Deus
sapientiam hujus mundi?" ("Did God not make the wisdom of this world foolish?"). Stultitia is, in St.
Thomas' view, the contrary of wisdom, itself both the highest of the theoretical virtues and the gift of the
This is what St. Thomas says: "stultitia ... import quendam stuporem sensus in judicando, et praecipue circa altissimam causam, quae est finis ultimus et summum bonum" (II-II, 46, 2). (4) The reason why we do not reflect on the highest things, on our ultimate end or highest good, is not Aristotle's honest recognition of the limits of human intellect. Rather we allow ourselves to be stupefied, to be deflected by what are admittedly many interesting and absorbing things, but we allow no ordering in our lives that takes us beyond what is before us.
The third passage is from Book V The Republic. Socrates makes my point in a more positive
manner, though only because he too is aware of sophists and of passions. The passage in the form of a
question reads: "the one who is willing to taste every kind of learning with gusto, and who approaches
learning with delight, and is insatiable, we shall justly assert to be a philosopher, won't we?" (475c). In a
sense, the whole Platonic corpus is addressed to the potential philosophers, to precisely those we are
concerned about, to calling them out of themselves. We are concerned with those whose souls are drawn
to many and sundry things, but who do not yet know how they will choose. Thus, if I might put it this way,
Simon warns us about our professors; Aquinas reminds us about ourselves, and Plato seeks to know what
we delight in, whether it is in all that is, the whole, whether we are able in our hearts to be gladdened by
something for its own sake?
The question immediately before us concerns intellectual curiosity. How does one go about
inspiring, cajoling, or inciting students or other inquisitive human types to address themselves to an interest
and delight in the highest things? I would leave the issue formulated in that way except that the phrase,
"intellectual curiosity", contains some dangerous ambiguity. The point can be made by recalling to a secular
world that the devil is intellectually "curious"; indeed, from all reports, Lucifer is the most intellectually
curious of the angels. By creation, he was an angel of brilliant light, as his name implies. This same caution,
perhaps, explains Aristotle's gingerly treatment of Socrates' notion that vice or error was merely ignorance,
something Wesley McDonald also warned about in the social scientists. So I am not so much interested
in "intellectual curiosity" as I am in an intense desire to know the truth of things, yes, "with gusto", as
Socrates said, even though, in one sense, as I acknowledge, knowing what the devil knows is also a part
of knowing the truth of things.
The knowledge of error and vice, as Plato and St. Thomas have taught us, is itself good, itself an
instrument of orderly education. Evil is not to be located in the intellect but in the will. Knowledge of error
and vice is a necessary element in knowing the complete truth about anything. Aquinas wisely surrounded
his famous proofs for the existence of God with the two most crucial arguments against such proofs, that
from the existence of evil and that from the hypothesis that we can explain everything with our own intellect.
And to make the point more forcefully, Aquinas proceeded to formulate these objections more concisely
and accurately than anyone before or since has succeeded in doing. Indeed, no knowledge of truth is
secure without an awareness of how multiple errors derive from and are related to truth.
And yet, as Simon intimated, we can deliver our souls to dangerous teachers; we can, and often do, call darkness light not out of ignorance but out of choice. We can embody evil and selfish choices in our own lives; we can legislate them as laws in our polities. As Augustine taught us, an element of will, indeed of self-will, puts at risk every truth's capacity to manifest itself. Our will can obscure our very potential to affirm or judge of what is that it is. Or, as it is put positively, again in the Fifth Book of The Republic, "Doesn't knowledge naturally depend on what is, to know of what is that it is and how it is?" (477b). Should we choose to answer "no" to Socrates' very serious question, should we say that knowledge does not depend on our affirmation of what is, we can be sure our intellectual confusions run very deep.
How would we approach this particular issue about our wanting to know, about our wanting our
minds to be conformed to reality, to what is? The Wall Street Journal editors did an interesting Editorial
on campus bookstores (July 24, 1994). They discovered, much to their amusement, that the bestsellers
in college bookstores were approximately the same as the bestsellers in airports. The editors, needless to
say, did not think that this fact was particularly encouraging, though they did draw a positive conclusion to
the effect that at least the students were voluntarily reading romantic novels rather than frittering away their
time with the political correctness tomes that so often dominated the university curricula these days. The
students may read the same common stuff that folks waiting for a flight to Toledo read, but at least the
average student did not display that more dangerous trendiness that is found in the isolation of universities
where there are no quotas for truth, for the affirmation of what is, that it is.
Myself, I often think -- though I too have a computer that, with the flick of about twenty buttons, I can get the library catalogue of the University of Perugia -- that the bookstores that deposit and save civilization are not those on campuses, nor the Daltons nor the Crowns nor the Barnes & Nobles, nor the clones in airports, but the used book stores. There, for a couple of hundred dollars, one can still find, with some diligence, the essential books of our culture from the Bible and Shakespeare, to Plato, Augustine, and Pascal. What seems to be missing in our students -- and we must remember that Plato himself thought this quality was itself a rare thing -- is that Socratic Eros that is fascinated by reality, that is itself unsettled by our spiritual uneasiness and by what the Journal called "the emphasis on feeling instead of reasoning". Higher education, education that knows about and reflects on the highest things, as I have tried to hint in my Another Sort of Learning, is today largely a matter of private enterprise, of good fortune, of reading things that few assign or praise. (5)
By chance of late, I found an old copy of Waugh's Brideshead Revisited (1946). In the early pages of this remarkable novel, itself, I think, a work that unfolds something essential to the needs of our souls, we come across a young British officer by the name of Hooper. Hooper is described by Waugh as the "new man", itself a prophetic phrase, a man with no special illusions. What is remarkable about Hooper is that nothing noble really moves him. Yes, Hooper had often "wept"; but, as Charles Ryder, the novel's hero, recalls, never for Henry's speech on St. Crispin's Day, nor for the epitaph at Thermopylae. The history they taught him had had few battles in it but, instead, a profusion of detail about humane legislation and recent industrial change. Gallipoli, Balaclava, Quebec, Lepanto, Bannockburn, Roncevales, and Marathon -- these, and the Battle in the West where Arthur fell, and a hundred such names whose trumpet-notes, even now ... called to me irresistibly across the intervening years with all the clarity and strength of boyhood, sounded in vain to Hooper. (6)
This is still the issue, isn't it? Insipid education consisting of details about supposedly humane, though mostly lethal, legislation, about technological change confused with wisps of environmental madness -- nothing to move souls, no real causes, no real romance. C. S. Lewis had described this same young man in The Abolition of Man, a description Peter Kreeft has reformulated for us in his remarkable C. S. Lewis in the Third Millennium. (7)
Are we not led to wonder, since the time of Charles Ryder's musings, whether our educational institutions have not been filled with succeeding generations of Hoopers happily impervious both to what is disordered on our "hyper-politicized" campuses and to the call of the higher things? Are not St. Crispin's Day and Lepanto still falling on deaf ears? From the books sold in campus stores, the Journal editors concluded, students still seem strangely "enchanted" by the "New-Age style wonderings". They roam to every place but to where the truth might be found.
An old scholastic adage used to say that truth is one but that error tends to multiplicity. It is a
bewildering experience, no doubt, for a young man or woman to sit down for the first time and begin to
read a university catalogue, to note the variety of subjects, courses, and entertainments that are listed there.
If in addition to this we add some awareness through the media, libraries, or internet of the incredible
variety of other things apparently available to be learned, we can see that the temptation to write it all off
as hopeless is very great. Most students are convinced that they have to have an "education", a word,
when we think about its derivation, that implies no content, as if we could have an education without
knowing something in particular.
How, in conclusion, will we know whether we are educated? Let me recount one final story.
On his Grand Tour, James Boswell reached the court of Dresden. Boswell was twenty-four years old at the time. On October 7, 1764, he met Monsieur Vattel, who was at the time the Privy Councillor at Court and the author of a famous book in international law, Principes du droit des gens. Vattel explained to Boswell that he composed his book on the law of nations while Saxony was in confusion and he expected "to lose all that he had." Just writing the book served to calm his mind. Boswell was then introduced to Madame Vattel, who was, according to Boswell, a man with an eye for such things, "a handsome young Polish lady." That evening the Vattel couple were going to dine with Count Schulenburg, the Danish Envoy. They graciously invited Boswell to accompany them. Several other gentlemen were also present. During the evening, they dined, played whist, and chatted.
Boswell, who was himself anything if not precocious, complained to Vattel that he (Boswell) was "ill-educated and had but little knowledge." Vattel replied, "Excuse me, Sir, you are well educated." Boswell continued: "The Envoy did not let this pass; he looked at me as one looks at one whom he admires, without well knowing for what. Vattel and I talked of learning in general, of the late war in Germany, of fate and free will, or more properly the origin of evil. He was for the chain of being. I stood well against him." (8)
No doubt, Boswell at twenty-four, as he frankly tells us, had serious problems with personal
morality. The young Augustine would have had no difficulty in understanding him. The young Scot thought
himself ill-educated with but little knowledge. If we reflect on all Boswell was later to learn from Samuel
Johnson, however, we know that he was right about himself. Yet, Count Schulenburg was also right. As
he listened to Boswell and Vattel chat, as he reflected on the range of their conversation from current
politics to metaphysics and theology, he was aware that this young Scot lawyer was curious about many
things, mundane things, the highest things. Perhaps he did not yet possess Aquinas' ordo disciplinae, but
he did display a genuine Socratic eros for knowledge. Indeed, as anyone is aware in discussing these
topics, he was also aware of the connection between discussions of evil and discussions of free will.
Thus, while it is true that some few of us can learn something of the truth by ourselves, from reality
itself, as Aquinas once maintained, still the normal way, the best way is to learn the truth from someone who
knows, from the few great minds that may not have existed in the time when we ourselves were alive. We
can indeed be deceived by our professors and by our own passions. Still, what is essential, what is basic,
is our own wonder, our own eros, our own willingness to be taught, having ourselves already become
aware of our desire to know all that is.
Augustine, when he was nineteen, in a famous passage in The Confessions, tells of coming across a now lost "exhortation to philosophy", the Hortensius of Cicero. In words that are redolent of the passage from the Tenth Book of The Ethics, that I cited above, Augustine wrote: "This book (the Hortensius) in truth changed my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord.... Worthless suddenly became every vain hope to me; and with an incredible warmth of heart, I yearned for an immortality of wisdom..." (III,4).
To provoke the student, the potential philosopher, he must first be teachable, eminently teachable.
But the teacher must himself know, must know the order of the discipline and its relation to other
disciplines. Many confusing and irrelevant things must be cut through, lest the task be loathsome and
confused. In the end, both teacher and student must be concerned about the truth, about that which is,
about what neither student nor professor made, but each must discover in a community of learning that
includes not just themselves, but those who have lived before them. And there must be a vision and an
eros, a sense that what is merely human or merely mortal is not enough for us, not that for which we are
made. The truth is simply an affirmation of what is, because our place in the chain of being, about which
the young Boswell was not so sure, is given to us.
The most intelligent of the angels fell. Ignorance is not the sole cause of evil. Students still think
that "you can do whatever you please as long as you don't bug me." The drama of our learning what is
is paralleled by the risk that we will choose ourselves over reality. This is a risk we cannot avoid taking.
It is in the nature of things. For it is this risk that ultimately incites us to choose that life in which teaching
and being teachable lead us to that vision of what is that some few of our kind. to be sure, have achieved,
not having been taught. But, if what is learned by ourselves is true, it differs not a whit from the truth that
we learn from the "docens", from the "doctor", the teacher, when we ourselves are eminently teachable.
2) "On Teaching," from Crisis, monthly column, "Sense and Nonsense," 11 (September, 1993), 49-50. This essay is a brief supplement to "What a Student Owes His Teacher," which is Chapter 3 of Another Sort of Learning (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).
[Each year at Spring Graduation, the Seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown award the Bunn Medal for Excellence in Teaching to some member of the faculty. This year (1993), it was my honor to receive this Medal. Such a nice occasion gave me a chance to compose a few thoughts on the teaching side of my academic life. To teach, I have found, is a most rewarding experience. Each year a professor stands in some awe as he watches yet another class walk out the doors of the Healy Building and into their world. As you watch them depart, you hope that they have learned to read and reflect on books and ideas that lead them to the highest things, that they will have caught somewhere that spark of intellectual courage it takes to know the truth of the "things that are". These are the few remarks that I thought to leave these good students, remarks "on teaching," on what it means to a professor to have the honor of good students who listen and then go their way.]
To receive the Bunn Award for teaching in the College is a distinct and high honor. I acknowledge it. Honor and praise, as you know from at least Plato, are things that we cannot demand for ourselves. They are due in something higher, something more noble than justice. If an honor comes to us, especially if it comes from those for whom we have a great affection, as in this case, we can only be grateful. We can only hope with honest humility that we have given to those who honor us something that they will not forget, something that will nourish, something that will excite them for the rest of their days in these green, and sometimes happy, lands.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a book I called Another Sort of Learning (Ignatius Press, 1988). One of its chapters was entitled "What A Student Owes His Teacher," a chapter that was originally written in The Hoya (a Georgetown student newspaper). Naturally, at this time, with the honor you have bestowed on me at this Graduation, my thoughts go to the parallel question, "What Does a Professor Owe to His Students?" I will not dwell too long on this edifying topic here.
But let me at least say one or two things about what a teacher owes his students. During the years (1965-77) when I used to teach at the Gregorian University in Rome, a city of never ending wonder and fascination to me, I used to return in the Summers to San Francisco, where I also taught. Every so often, I stopped over in Chicago where I had a cousin who was an FBI agent. He was a wonderful Irishman from Eagle Grove, Iowa, the town where I began first grade. My cousin's name was Hubert Hart, or Hubie, as we called him. He simply loved everything about his job. I remember he once said to me, "My God, Jim, I would pay them to do this kind of work if I had to."
I have often thought this way about teaching all of you. I would indeed pay to teach you, I enjoy it so much. But lest you think you might suddenly have a new source of ready cash, I need to remind you that Jesuit superiors would not approve of this lavish expenditure for my pleasure. Indeed, as you know, a Jesuit is not personally paid for teaching here. So there is a kind of symbolic purpose intended in this sort of financial arrangement. We Jesuits are here, hopefully because we love the truth and we love the brethren, all of you. Anything less is unworthy of us.
You are all the age of Plato's potential philosophers, those young citizens of Athens whom Socrates was accused of corrupting. But their undisciplined souls, as Socrates also knew, were being torn one way and the other by the attractions of a thousand fascinating and often disrupting things.
Plato, in the Eighth Book of The Republic, moreover, warned you of those professors who seek to imitate their students in thought, speech, and dress, in habit of mind, as if these professors had learned nothing themselves and stood for nothing except the latest fad. So while being a student requires some trust on your part, as Yves Simon remarked in the wonderful book of his some of us read together (General Theory of Authority), it also requires a kind of Augustinian realism, an awareness that you are not yet likely to possess at your age, as Aristotle warned you, if you will recall the beginning of The Ethics,
I will close these thoughts, as I often do, by recalling Samuel Johnson, whose famous biography, I think, is something, with the Bible, that you should read a bit every day, if only for the delight of it. At least this is what I do.
In 1757, Bennett Langton was a student at Trinity College in Oxford. Johnson had occasion to write to him about the general relation of knowledge to life. Let me cite these lines from Samuel Johnson. They are ones you can take away with you either for testing the truth that you may have learned here or for finding it elsewhere, if you thus far succeeded in learning little of it.
"I know not any thing more pleasant, or more instructive, than to compare experience with
expectation, or to register from time to time the difference between ideas and reality," Johnson wrote to
this young student at Trinity College, Oxford, in words that recall no one so much as Thomas Aquinas.
It is by this kind of observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed. You, who are very capable of anticipating futurity, and raising phantoms before your own eyes, must often have imagined to yourself an academical life, and have conceived what would be the manners, the views, and the conversation, of men devoted to letters; how they would choose their companions, how they would direct their studies, and how they would regulate their lives. Let me know what you have expected and what you have found (Boswell's Life of Johnson, Oxford, 1931, I, p. 224).
Note what is said here. Ideas need to be tested by reality, by what is. If our ideas are not so tested, we will easily find life a disappointment, filled with phantoms of our own making. Yet, as Socrates and Christ taught you in considering their deaths, reality too needs its testing. (My classes read the chapter, in my Politics of Heaven and Hell, on the deaths of Socrates and Christ).
While you are young, as Johnson quaintly put it, you can "anticipate futurity" and easily "raise
phantoms before your eyes." The "academical life" has many imaginings. Doubt it not. We are asked,
furthermore, to report back to Johnson, to the philosopher, what we have found, how our experiences have
shown the limits of our expectations, not to the detriment of experience, but to the moderation of our own
I think on the occasion of this touching honor you have bestowed on me, you whom I have tried
to know the best I could, that there is nothing more noble that I can tell you than to let me, or someone
down the ages, in some letter or book, perhaps, know what was the difference between what you expected
and what you experienced. This is, after all, in part why we have friends, to recall a section in Aristotle
(Books 8 and 9 of The Ethics) you all invariably and not surprisingly loved.
Do not be disappointed with life unless, as Aristotle also reminded you, you are the cause of the disappointment. I have tried to suggest to you that joy is more profound than sadness. Aristotle was right, moreover, when he observed that we begin our intellectual lives not with need or nor less with desire, but with wonder and enchantment.
So again, let me indeed thank you. I thank you, each of you, for so many fascinating and interesting hours when we sought to read together many books that we might otherwise have missed. We have made efforts to know the truth of things, the ordinary things and the highest things, that we might have overlooked had we not had these years here together.
I hope that your experience will prove to you that, at least once in a while, your professors did lead you to the truth in reality. I hope that your experience, in your will and in your mind, will conform, in your "futurity," to ideas that are truths and not to mere phantoms. I hope you now realize that your minds are, as E. F. Schumacher said in his Guide for the Perplexed, in guiding your perplexities even while in college, "adequate" to know all that is. And, one last time, I hope that you will have something of that driven enthusiasm of the young Augustine to pursue the truth of things, to pursue it, yes, like him, even unto the City of God.
3) James V. Schall, S. J. A shorter version of this essay appeared in Modern Age, 37 (Summer, 1995), 366-73. This essay is found as Chapter 5 of On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. (Wilmington: ISIBooks, 2001).
ON THE MYSTERY OF TEACHERS I NEVER MET
"Things are known in two ways; for some are known to us, some known unconditionally. Presumably, then, the origin we should begin from is what is known to us. This is why we need to have been brought up in fine habits, if we are to be adequate students of what is the fine and just, and of political questions generally. For the origin we begin from is the belief that something is true, and if this is apparent enough to us, we will not, at this stage, need the reason why it is true in addition; and if we have this good upbringing, we have the origins to begin from, or can easily acquire them. Someone who neither has them nor can acquire them should listen to Hesiod: 'He who understands everything himself is best of all; he is noble also who listens to one who has spoken well; but he who neither understands in himself nor takes to heart what he hears from another is a useless man.'"
-- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book I, 1095b3-10 (Irwin).
In The Apology, Socrates brought up the question of whether he was paid for being a teacher, like the Sophists, who, when they came to town, were paid for their skill in teaching whatever it was that someone wanted to know. Socrates was dubious about the Sophistic claim to teach while, at the same time, being indifferent to the goodness or badness of what was taught. Socrates further maintained that he was not in fact a teacher, nor did he take any money for anything he said. If someone learned from him, it was only indirectly, by listening to his examination of those who claimed to know. And this latter form of imitation of his ways could be dangerous, as he found out when he was called before the Court by fathers who were angry that their sons used Socrates' methods rather flippantly on their sires.
Properly speaking, then, teachers cannot be "paid" for what they teach. What they teach, if it is
true, is not theirs. They do not own it. They did not make it or make it to be true. This fact is why any
financial arrangement with a true teacher (I do not mean here just anyone employed by a school system)
is not a salary or a wage, but an "honorarium", something offered -- offered why? It is offered merely to
keep the teacher alive, not to "pay" him for ownership of a segment of "truth" said to be exclusively his.
The motivation of the teacher has to be something in itself, some "love of wisdom" for itself.
What he who teaches knows, then, is known for its own sake, not for his sake, even when the
knowing is, as it should be, his. Truth is not like private property, something we should own and cherish.
Rather it is something when, on someone else's coming to know it, both are more, no one less. Truth is of
the spirit, the "conformity of mind and reality," as Aquinas said. Besides, teachers do not need much in the
way of material goods, as their delight is really not in financial rewards, or if it is, their teaching is suspect
-- at least this was the Socratic attitude toward the status of the philosopher. The reason the philosopher
was not rich is not because he did not know about how to become rich, as the famous example of Thales
and the wine press monopoly showed. The reason the philosopher was poor was because he knew that
there was something beyond riches, something that carried a fascination little realized by those immersed
in them, until perhaps the rich became old and began to worry about their death and, in its glaring light,
about how they have lived, as was narrated to us in the First Book of The Republic.
A teacher, rather, gives an account of truth, his account, but not his truth. "The origin we begin
from," Aristotle said, "is the belief that something is true...." If we are brought up with fine habits, we can
be "adequate students of what is fine and just." Someone else, however, brings us up. We are beholden
not only for our very being, but also for our gentle habits, if we have them. We are beholden to those who
guided us so that we can easily see and, if we choose, arrive at the first principles on which all truth stands.
Teachers and students are in the same condition with regard to truth -- they stand before something neither
the one nor the other made. The modern idea that the only truth is the "truth" we ourselves make is a
narrow view that quickly cuts us off from what is, as we have been cut off. A teacher is content to see that
light in the eyes of the student who himself, after some guidance perhaps from parents the teacher does not
know, some prodding, some examples, some reflection, begins to see, to delight, in the truth of things. The
teacher must, at his core, be unselfish, must rejoice in what is not his. This is the liberty of truth that links
the generations, that links friends, one to another.
The human spirit transcends time and space. We are lucky, Leo Strauss said, if one or two of the greatest thinkers who ever lived are alive during the same time in which we are alive. (9) And even if they are alive during our time, we will be quite fortunate to meet them, let alone to recognize them if we do meet them. The philosopher could live privately for a relatively long time in Athens because it was difficult for the citizens of a democracy, in which all opinions are equally true or equally false, to distinguish the fool from the philosopher. And if the few great minds are not alive during our days, we do not despair. We still can find them, meet them, let them teach us, through books, mainly. Indeed, with the new electronic devices, it almost seems that no one who is dead is really dead. We can search before our very eyes the information system and find references, works. We can continue a conversation with someone in the Twelfth Century, with a St. Bernard of Clairvaux, if we so choose.
Recently, I was at Canisus College, in Buffalo. A fellow Jesuit was in the community's computer room. I went in to watch him. He showed me how to find on-line the text, the complete text, of Chesterton's Orthodoxy from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, a book written in 1908. Suddenly, there it was, perhaps my favorite book, whole and entire, on the screen before my astonished eyes. But the technology of putting this text before my eyes, be it noted, is not more enchanting than Chesterton's thoughts themselves. What he said is, as it were, the miracle, not the technology that keeps them alive, though keeping them alive is one of the main functions of civilization itself. In the beginning, the words of what we now know as written Scripture were kept alive by oral voice and memory. It is still in some sense the best way. We are what we choose to remember and to record. Yet, we can forget our very being, again if we choose. Civilization does not depend on memory, but on the choice to remember, on what we choose to remember.
Of course, I already have a couple of printed versions of that wonderful book I saw on the monitor
in Buffalo, a book, in fact, among other things, about gratitude, or better about an understanding of the
world in which gratitude is even possible. Chesterton, in his Short History of England, defined gratitude
in a way that distinguishes our lot and, hopefully, our civilization. "I would maintain that thanks are the
highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." (10) Why would Chesterton call
thanks precisely "the highest form of thought"? I think it is because he understood that the world was not
made by us. We can only give thanks for what we receive that is not ours, even when it is ours. And we
can only give thanks to a someone, not to a something. Thanks are always addressed to another. A world
in which thanks for the world itself is possible is a world, a cosmos, in which the world is not sufficient to
And gratitude -- what about gratitude? Obviously, Chesterton thought it was something more than thanks, which he thought to be the highest form of thought. Perhaps thought is not the highest category? Chesterton called gratitude "happiness doubled by wonder." We need not go too far back in our memory to realize that "wonder" is that very word that Aristotle used in his Metaphysics. What begins our quest for knowledge is not need, not pleasure, not pain, but wonder, something on a much different and higher level. Happiness, that end that explains why we do all that we do, is "doubled" when we already have something that can be doubled. What is this? First, there is the thanks for what we did not ourselves make. Secondly, there is the wonder at the thanks. We are curious, as it were, that such things as the world and thanks in it should exist at all. The initial wonder inaugurates the strange quest that sets us on the journey to find the truth of what is, of what is to be wondered at, since what is, is not ours. And the doubling? That is, we who are the ones who give the thanks, almost as if this is our highest activity, as Plato would have said that it is. We give thanks, all the while knowing that this act of ours is itself appropriate and fitting to give in that there is a someone to thank, hence the exhilaration.
It has been Chesterton, moreover, more than any one else, who has taught me that it is quite all right to acknowledge that there are certain things that I will never do -- another way of saying that "man is by nature a social and political animal". I need not myself discover the North Pole -- a discovery Chesterton called "that insidious habit", nor need I be the Astronomer Royal, though I need not not admire those who do still find the North Pole or the North Star again and again. I can be grateful to them, admire them. But if I am going to do these sorts of technical things, I have to do them well, otherwise I shan't do them at all. But there are other things, fundamental things, that I want to do, even if I do them badly. "If a thing is worth doing," Chesterton said, "it's worth doing badly." So we better know what is worth doing by ourselves. In What's Wrong with the World, the example Chesterton used of the things worth doing badly was precisely "dancing". I have never had a class that, on hearing these words, did not immediately understand what he meant.
In Orthodoxy, the examples Chesterton used for this same principle of things worth doing badly were "writing one's own love-letters or blowing one's own nose," again examples that no one can fail to comprehend. Chesterton was not against the fine and noble practice of dancing well. He had, I am sure, no objection to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair. But he realized that for most of the normal men and women who ever lived, dancing badly was their only option if they were to dance at all. Many a touching love has been struck, no doubt, while dancing badly or while writing awkward love-letters. These words of Chesterton were first written some four years after my father's birth in 1904.
My father, I believe, danced well, a talent that quite pleased the family. But it was Chesterton who taught me the additional philosophic principle about dancing badly. Without my father, I would never have understood the importance of dancing well. As another friend carefully explained to me, on hearing Chesterton's principle, that there are also things that are worth doing that are worth doing exceedingly well. But to do most things well, as I said, we must begin by doing them badly. There is no other way. Without my father I would not have known the importance of dancing well. Without Chesterton, I would never have understood the importance of dancing badly. I knew my father. I did not know Chesterton.
On the Feast of St. Augustine (August 28), I reread in my Breviary the Second Lesson from The
Confessions. Augustine died in 430 AD. I read, "Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your
guidance into the innermost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On
entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond
my spirit: your immutable light" (Book 7). Is there anyone today who tells me to "reflect upon myself"?
And if so, is it, when I do so, with the divine guidance? Is there anyone who tells me that when I reflect
on myself, it is not myself that I discover, that I am not the end even of my own desiring, of my own self-reflecting? The "immutable light" is not myself. And for this too, I give thanks and double thanks.
When the philosopher in the Cave, in the Seventh Book of The Republic, was unchained, when he turned about and left the Cave, he was eventually blinded by the light, the light in which he saw the truth of things. There are teachers, like Plato, like Augustine, who still teach us that, however much we want to know, the truth of things is not ourselves, not caused by ourselves. We have heard that light shines and the darkness comprehends it not. Those who teach us about this light mostly do not come from our time or from our place. They do not usually speak our language. If it is all right to dance badly, because dance we should, it is all right to reflect on ourselves badly, in the depth of our souls, because the "immutable light" is not just for the philosophers. This condition is indeed why Thomas Aquinas maintained that philosophy, good as it is, is not enough, because the immutable light is to shine also on the non-philosophers, indeed on sinners.
Eric Voegelin gave a lecture in Montreal in 1976. He was perhaps deliberately provocative. He understood the bravado of students subject to professors who had lost their souls, who did not see beyond the light of their own minds, students who did not have good habits and therefore could not easily find first principles. "I find students are frequently flabbergasted, especially those who are agnostics, when I tell them that they all act, whether agnostics or not, as if they were immortal," Voegelin explained.
Only under the assumption of immortality, of the fulfillment beyond life, is the seriousness of action intelligible which they actually put into their work and which has a fulfillment nowhere in this life no matter how long they may live. They all act as if their lives made sense immortally, even if they deny immortality, deny the existence of a psyche, deny the existence of a Divinity -- in brief, if they are just the sort of fairly corrupt average agnostics that you find among college students today. One should not take their agnosticism too seriously, because in fact, they act as if they were not agnostics. (11)
The Memorial Service for Eric Voegelin was at the Stanford Chapel in 1985. A friend of mine from San
Francisco copied for me his recording of this moving service.
I never met Voegelin, though, like Chesterton, I have heard his voice on tape. It is good to be
reminded by Eric Voegelin, in a lecture I did not attend, in a city in which I have only visited once, of
something, to be sure, that was also in Aristotle, namely, that we should not look at what people say, but
on what they do, how they act. When our words and our actions contradict each other, the philosopher
knows that we have not found the truth, have not found the origin of our thoughts, have not reflected on the
seriousness of our actions. Our actions do have a seriousness about them, the seriousness from which the
seriousness we have originated derives in the first place, as Plato reminded us in The Laws (803). If our
actions are serious, if we can give thanks, then our lives are full of risk, of drama, because we can choose
against the immutable light, otherwise we would not be what we are.
Charlie Brown can be encountered rather regularly, almost daily, as can that rather great theologian of The Fall, his sister, Lucy. (12) Charlie is on the mound yelling to the outfield, "All right team, this is our last game of the season! Let's all do our best!" We next see Lucy in baseball cap out in right field, yelling back provocatively, "What if we do our worst?" Charlie, somewhat perturbed, snaps back, "You've already done your worst!" And with surprising humility, Lucy admits, "I can't argue with that...." We cannot but speculate on this phrase about our already having done "our worst" as a response to the encouragement to do "our best". We cannot argue about the fact that doing our best and our worst are possible to us. This is not to say that, having done our worst, we have no evil things left to do, but it does recall The Fall, Genesis, the teaching about why things go wrong, the honesty to admit that they do go wrong and that we have done something that caused the wrong to happen.
Flannery O'Connor died of lupus in 1964 in Georgia. I never met her, or heard of her, or even read anything by her, while she was alive. But some friends from Athens drove me into the yard of her farm, Andalusia, outside Milledgeville one Sunday afternoon, about twenty years after she died. Flannery O'Connor wrote to Cecil Dawkins on December 9, 1958, that she had broken her rib coughing and advised Dawkins that if she ever got a cough, to buy some cough syrup in time. Evidently, Dawkins had, in a previous letter, asked O'Connor something about the Church having too many sinners in it for her comfort. Flannery replied that she did not want to be too glib in responding to such a query, but she would offer her "perspective" on the topic.
"All your dissatisfaction with the Church seems to me to come from an incomplete understanding
of sin," Flannery told Cecil Dawkins.
This will perhaps surprise you because you are very conscious of the sins of Catholics; however what you seem actually to demand is that the Church put the kingdom of heaven on earth right here now, that the Holy Ghost be translated at once into all flesh. The Holy Spirit very rarely shows Himself on the surface of anything. You are asking that man return at once to the state God crated him in; you are leaving out the terrible radical human pride that causes death. Christ was crucified on earth and the Church is crucified in time, and the Church is crucified by all of us, by her members most particularly because she is a Church of sinners. Christ never said that the Church would be operated in a sinless or intelligent way, but that it would not teach error. (13)
Thus, in a way, Flannery agreed with Charlie Brown, that the worst had already happened and continues
to happen. Lucy is never going to catch the fly ball on the last game of the season. Pride, "terrible radical
human pride", is always going to be with us, in part because we underestimate sin, in part because we are
free and fallen. Because of these two things, pride and freedom, the world is at risk, a risk without which
there would be neither happiness nor damnation, without which there could not be a finite rational being
To want to have the perfect game, to want to have the Holy Ghost come along and transform all flesh into the Kingdom of God on earth yesterday afternoon is thus to ask that we live in another kind of world from the one we are given. It is implicitly to ask that we cease being what we are. Things worth doing are going to continue to be done badly, by human beings, by believers, by clerics even, who are all sinners. Someone, I forget who it was, I think perhaps my friend Joseph McCarroll in Ireland, once said that the real agenda of the liberal was to change human nature so it would be perfect. No real Christian, nor anyone else who really thinks on these things, wants to change human nature which is created good and continues to be good in spite of The Fall. However, any Christian worth his salt wants to stop sinning, something that can only be done freely. The sign of the liberal mind is always the Kingdom of God on earth, as soon as possible, something brought about by our own powers and according to our own image of what is the good. Augustine said that we find "immutable light"; we do not cause it to be either light or immutable.
Blaise Pascal was born on June 19, 1623. The Second Century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius
wrote a most memorable book called simply, Meditations. I once did a little book, following Marcus
Aurelius, called Unexpected Meditations Late in the Century. (14) The Roman Emperor taught me, not
exactly to meditate, but to see things, observe carefully, note what it is that things cause in us. Blaise
Pascal's book, I believe he did not really finish it, is called simply "Thoughts" -- though we still prefer the
French Pensées. His book is very much like that of Marcus Aurelius in form. We cannot resist the irony
of an emperor "meditating", while a Christian apologist has "thoughts." Number Eight Hundred and Forty-Seven of Pascal's Pensées reads: "If the compassion of God is so great that He instructs us to our benefit,
even when He hides Himself, what light ought we not to expect from Him when He reveals Himself?" What
"light" ought we not expect? Of course, as Augustine would say, "the immutable light" is what we will find,
even though we can in no way "expect" it.
The mystery of teachers we have not met, I think, lies here in these relationships and overtones. Our gratitude to which we testify seems to have no limits because we are all bound together in time. We can still feel the force of those we never met, often because someone else felt it before us. Augustine explains that he once read a now lost dialogue of Cicero, the Hortensius, and it changed his life, a life that needed changing, to be sure. I explain to my students that Aristotle has read Plato. I explain that Augustine knew Plato. I tell them that Augustine read Cicero, who sent his son to study in Athens so he too could read Plato. Thomas Aquinas read Aristotle carefully. Pascal knew his Augustine. Even Charlie Brown knows that the worst has already happened, while Flannery O'Connor, who read Aquinas, recalls The Fall and our "terrible radical human pride".
In 1906, Hilaire Belloc published a set of essays he called Hills and the Sea. (15) We are with Belloc as he crosses the Channel in his small boat. We walk with him into the Pyrenees. We muse with him about great Inns, like "The Griffin", which may have never existed. We are with him at Carcassonne and Lynn. We see the Valley of the Rother as he does. We know his horse "Monster". We march with French troops. We go to Andorra, to Ely, and to Arles. One of his essays -- the essay, as I say, is still my favorite of literary form (16) -- is entitled "The Idea of a Pilgrimage." The pilgrimage, of course, is the symbol of our lot. We are wayfarers and pilgrims on this very earth, as Scripture reminds us. But it is a real earth, a real lot, a real way.
Belloc explained the true outlook of the man who goes on pilgrimage. The true pilgrim will go "into
everything with curiosity and pleasure, and be a brother to the streets and trees and to all the new world
he finds," Belloc wrote.
The Alps that he sees with his eyes will be as much more than the names he reads about, the
Florence of his desires as much more than the Florence of sickly drawing rooms; as beauty loved
is more than beauty heard of, or as our own taste, smell, hearing, touch and sight are more than the
vague relations of others. Nor does religion exercise in our common life any function more
temporarily valuable than this, that it makes us be sure at least of realities, and look very much
askance at philosophies and imaginaries and academic whimsies. (17)
Beauty loved is more than beauty heard of? Why would Belloc say this?
Clearly, in these observations, Belloc is telling us not only to read about things, but to know them,
experience them, even desire them. Christianity is a very earthy thing, after all. It encourages taste, smell,
touch, and sight. Only if we know what these things are will we suspect the reality they imply as their
source, "the immutable light". Each existing thing is a word made flesh, as it were. We are, consequently,
to be certain of the "realities" before us, but we are to look askance at "philosophies and imaginaries and
academic whimsies." How odd it is to hear a Belloc say to us that the most important function that religion
can perform in time is that it makes us sure of "realities", as if our philosophies are often mostly imaginary
and mere whimsy, as if they teach us that nothing is real.
I read something from Boswell's Life of Johnson almost every day. I am familiar with the Mitre
Tavern and St. Paul's, with Litchfield and Oxford. I know Lucy Porter and Mrs. Williams and the
handsome Quaker lady, Mrs. Knowles. I am aware of the tension that exists with Mrs. Boswell. There
is here in Boswell an unending account of human life, of intense delight and of poignant sadness. I have
never quite forgotten the Journey to the Western Isles that Boswell and Johnson took in 1773. Even yet,
I can never come across the name of the Isle of Sky and not want to go there -- but I want to go there for
Belloc's reasons, about the sight, the sounds, the touch, the smells. But neither Boswell nor Johnson, when
they wrote their respective accounts would have disagreed with Belloc's principle about how to see while
on pilgrimages. Indeed, Belloc no doubt read Boswell and Johnson. Chesterton, for his part, wrote essays
on both Boswell and Johnson.
Johnson was never a teacher, that is, an academic, neither, to be sure, was Socrates, neither was
Christ, neither was Chesterton. What is it about Johnson, I frequently wonder? What is it that Boswell
sees, as sees he does? The day is a Friday. It is April 20, 1781. David Garrick, the great actor and their
mutual friend, has died. His widow has been in mourning, but the period is over. This evening was the first
time since her husband's death, which, Boswell notes, she seems to have truly felt, that Mrs. Garrick had
a select party of his friends to dine with her. Who was there? Boswell, of course, Dr. Johnson, Miss
Hannah More, "who lived with her (Mrs. Garrick) and whom she called her Chaplain", Mrs. Boscawen,
Mrs. Elizabeth Cooper, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Dr. Burney.
Of this particular evening -- all good things happen in a particular time, in a particular place --
Boswell said, "I spent with him (Johnson) one of the happiest days that I remember to have enjoyed in the
whole course of my life." They dined, of course. "We found ourselves very elegantly entertained in her
house in the Adelphi." They spoke of her grief, but without morbidity. "She talked of her husband with
complacency." She remarked poignantly that "death was now the most agreeable object to her." A
painting of Garrick was on the wall, on which Johnson's friend Mr. Beauclerk had once inscribed in honor
of Garrick the lines from Shakespeare that began, "A merrier man, / Within the limit of becoming mirth, /
I never spent an hour's talk withal. / His eye begets occasion for his wit...."
We might, on reading this context, wonder about its sentiment, of its being the happiest day in the
course of a life. And yet, as we read on, we realize that here we hear spoken of the ultimate, the fine, and
the ordinary things of our human lot. "We were all in fine spirits," Boswell continued, for the death of their
friend was now put into place in their lives, its mystery accepted. Boswell next turned to Mrs. Boscawen
and whispered, "I believe this is as much as can be made of life." Boswell concluded his description of this
happy day in this surprising manner: "In addition to a splendid entertainment, we were regaled with
Litchfield ale, which had a peculiar appropriated value. Sir Joshua, and Dr. Burney, and I, drank cordially
of it to Dr. Johnson's health; and though he would not join us, he as cordially answered, 'Gentlemen, I wish
you all as well as you do me.'" (18)
We might ask ourselves, at this point, was Boswell wrong, can more be made of life? Are we
perturbed that on this happy day, a widow spoke complacently of her late husband, the actor, a merry
man? Are we scandalized by the Litchfield ale with its peculiar appropriated value? No, I think here
Boswell is right. He has sensed civilization at its best, the civilization of Shakespeare, of Johnson, of
Garrick, of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Dr. Burney, of Hannah More and Mrs. Boscawen, where elegant
things are served and the ends of live and transcendence have their place in delight and the sort of joy we
are allotted in this vale of tears. "Gentlemen, I wish you all as well as you do me."
On the Seven Hundredth Anniversary of the death of Thomas Aquinas with other members of the
faculty of the Gregorian University in Rome, where I was teaching at the time, I got into a bus at our Piazza,
just up the street from the Trevi Fountains, the Piazza della Pilotta. We drove South along the main
highway towards Naples. We were near Arpinum, the home of Cicero. Not far away was Monte
Cassino, where St. Benedict founded the first monastery in the West, a commanding hillside now with
tombs of Polish soldiers from World War II. Across the valley from Monte Cassino, where Thomas had
himself begun school, was the little fortress town of Roccaseca, where Aquinas was born. There was a
Mass, a goodly crowd. There, one thinks of this man. I remember vividly the day at Mt. St. Michael's
College in Spokane, when I first realized that I could read and understand Aquinas in Latin, that I did not
have to "translate" him. St. Thomas' Latin, of course, is neat, simple, and clear.
Boswell told us about human life as good as we can expect it in this life. Question Forty-Eight of
the Third Book of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles is entitled, "Quod Ultima Hominis
Felicitas Non Sit in Hac Vita." This sentence simply is the proposition to be proved; namely, that man's
ultimate happiness is not found in this life. This, with numerous arguments, is what Aquinas is demonstrating
at this point. The following, in the light of Boswell's happy day spent with friends at the Adelphi when
David Garrick's widow had returned to society, is one of the many answers Aquinas gives in this chapter:
Quanto aliquid est magis desideratum et dilectum, tanta eius amissio maiorem dolorem vel
tristitiam affert. Felicitas autem maxime desideratur et amatur. Maxime igitur eius amissio
tristitiam habet. Sed si sit in hac vita ultima felicitas, certum est quod amitteretur, saltem
per mortem. Et non est certum utrum duratura sit usque at mortem: cum cuilibet homini
possibile sit in hac vita accidere morbos quibus totaliter ad operatione virtutis impeditur,
sicut phrenesim et alios huiusmodi, quibus impeditur rationis usus. Semper igitur talis
felicitas habebit tristitiam naturaliter annexam. Non erit igitur perfecta felicitas. (19)
Notice, on reading these lines how Aquinas and Boswell are in the same universe, the discourse of
happiness, of happy days, of what this life is like, what it is not like.
The essential issue is not, be it noted, whether we can have a happy day, with some excellent Litchfield ale, toasting Dr. Johnson, who returned his compliments to us. The issue is what is the status of our happiest day without denying that it is happy, without denying that, as Boswell whispered to Mrs. Boscawen, "this is as much as can be made of life." It is indeed. Our happiest day, however, is not just itself, but itself both as promise and as symbol. Our greatest happiness in this life will not, in all probability, be lasting. But what is not denied in the tradition that we inherit is that we shall have happiness, perfect happiness, even double happiness. This teaching is true even when, on trying to do our best, we have already done our worst.
My friend, Father Joseph Fessio, S. J., has been steadily republishing English translations of the
works of Josef Pieper. I do not have all of Pieper's works, but I have many of them. One of the books
that Ignatius Press published was a little book called Josef Pieper -- an Anthology. In my own book,
Another Sort of Learning, I have provided a number of what I consider useful book lists on various topics
or by various authors, things that most of us would not come across unless someone told us of them. In
it, I have a list of fourteen books of Josef Pieper, who is, not unlike Thomas Aquinas about whom he has
written so much, perhaps the most clear and concise writer on philosophical things I have ever read. Many
have read Pieper's little book Leisure: The Basis of Culture.
In Another Sort of Learning, I also have a list of twenty-five books, entitled, "Schall's Unlikely
List of Books to Keep Sane By -- Selected for Those to Whom Making Sense Is a Prior Consideration,
but a Minority Opinion." Well, on this list there are two books by Pieper, his In Tune with the World:
A Theory of Festivity and his The End of Time. Pieper's Anthology is a book of selections that Pieper
chose himself, a book originally published in German under the title, Josef Pieper: Lesebuch.
In this Lesebuch, this book of things to be read, there are many beautiful chapters. I did not
include this book in my list of twenty-five books "to keep sane by" because it was not yet translated when
Another Sort of Learning was written. No book is quite like this Anthology. Pieper, I believe, is still
alive, but I have never met him. In the Anthology, there is a chapter called, "Joy Is a By-Product." The
subject of joy, of course, is at the highest reaches of our being. Joy is not something that we can go out
and pursue. It never comes that way. It is always, as Pieper points out, a by-product. It comes from
doing something else, from doing what is right and good. What is the nature of joy then? The common
denominator of what joy is, Pieper observes, is "our receiving or possessing something we love -- even
though this receiving or possession may only be hoped for as a future good or remembered as something
already past. Consequently, one who loves nothing and no one cannot rejoice, no matter how desperately
he wishes to...." (20)
How to love? What is love? -- these are questions of every day perplexity and of ultimate import,
because they do occur every day in the risk of daily life. It is Pieper who, for me, identified in a graphic
way the relation of love and joy. Belloc's told us to be moved by things, the things we see walking through
the Alps or in the Valley of the Rother. Our minds and souls feed on reality. Pieper says, shockingly to
me, but truly, I know, that "the true antithesis of love is not hate, but despairing indifference, the feeling that
nothing is important." (21) For those who are alive, for those who are attentive to the tastes, smells, sights,
sounds, alive to one another, everything is important because it is. We do not find complete happiness or
the immutable light in this life, as Aquinas and Augustine told us. But we find real things, finite things, that
do exist. We spend with Boswell days that do not get any better. Their very completeness is a sign of their
leading us on to what is complete, to what is joy, to possessing what we love. This too is our tradition.
This too is taught by someone I never met.
A book, to continue my encounter with those I never met, that has gone through more printings and translations that almost any other one besides the Bible is The Imitation of Christ by the Fifteenth Century Monk, Thomas à Kempis. A friend of mine once found in a used book store someplace a copy of some sermons that Thomas à Kempis gave to the Novices of his Order at Mt. St. Agnes, which is, I believe, in Holland. These sermons cover the various virtues and vices of monastic or, indeed, of any human life. At the end of each sermon, à Kempis would add a little homely example to illustrate his point. One of the Sermons, the Sixth, is entitled, "On the Night Watches against the Assault of Sleepiness." "What on earth is this topic about?" we might ask. The monks each day sing the Divine Office in choir. These are the Church's official prayers -- psalms, prayers, readings, usually chanted by monks. Moreover, these are said in five parts, some of the parts in the evening or even late at night or very early in the morning. Obviously, sleepiness is a problem in such circumstances. It is considered a virtue to keep awake and attended to the praises.
This is the delightful little example that à Kempis gave to illustrate this point: "A certain brother
began to sleep a little at Matins (the early morning part of the Office). Noticing which, the brother seated
next to him cast into his ear just this word: 'Hell!' On hearing this, suddenly terrified and awakened, he cast
off all drowsiness from him. Think therefore, slothful one, of hell, and thou wilt not slumber in choir, tired
through weariness." (22) No doubt, there is something charmingly amusing about this story as a cure for sloth
and drowsiness. Hell or its equivalent is, in fact, found in much of our great literature and in our philosophy.
It is, in part, the subject of the last book of The Republic. It is a book of Dante's Divine Comedy. It is
a prominent factor in the Brothers Karamazov. It is not talked about today. We might wonder why? Is
it because we too, like the monk, are drowsy? Is it that we too think nothing is really important?
Thus I go back to what Pieper said about the opposite of love being not hatred but a kind of
"despairing indifference, the feeling that nothing is important." Usually, and not unjustly, we do associate
the notion of hell with hatred. It has been defined as a choice to love ourselves alone. Pride is the terrible
sin, as Flannery O'Connor recalled. It locates the cause of all things in ourselves. We can have no gift or
no love in such a world ruled by pride. Lucifer is said to hate what is not himself. Probably, by contrast,
no other sentence epitomizes the core of our civilization better than that of Socrates, in The Apology, in
which he said that "I do know that to do wrong and to disobey my superior, whether God or man, is
wicked and dishonourable; and so I shall never feel more fear or aversion for something (death) which, for
all I know, may really be a blessing, than for those evils which I know to be evils"(29). The Second
American President said that the doctrine of hell was the most politically important of the theological
doctrines. Why would he say this? He would say it for the same reason that Plato said it, namely, that
there are crimes that cannot be adequately known about or punished by existing polities, so that the
meaning of justice is incomplete without a final sanction.
Without a doctrine of hell, furthermore, our individual actions have no real risk or no real meaning. If there is nothing that we can do that results in such a dire possibility, then nothing we do is really of much importance. On the hypothesis of no ultimate sanction, to do evil and to do well have the same effects and the same meaning -- just the opposite of Socrates' foundational statement. If you will, then, I have always, thanks to John Adams, Plato, and Dante, looked upon the doctrine of hell as the guarantee of the importance of each of our actions. (23) It is not that we cannot do frivolous things. There is indeed, as Boswell hinted, a certain lightsomeness to our condition. But it is a fact that at any moment we can be and often are faced with a choice that involves ultimate consequences because of the very exalted status of each person we meet, no matter how simple or how poor or how tiny. In a sense, the doctrine of hell is the most romantic of teachings because it confirms what we already suspect that our loves touch eternity and touch it because of the fact that something, someone is important, transcendently important.
Socrates, as I said in the beginning and return to it now in my conclusion, maintained that he is not
himself a teacher. We know of Socrates because of another man, Plato, who was a teacher. In the Crito,
Socrates testified that he was brought up by the laws of Athens. In The Apology, his vocation to be a
philosopher came from outside Athens, from the Oracle at Delphi who said that he was the wisest man in
Greece. This unexpected information set him to inquiring about Athens, to see who was wise. But if
Socrates was not a teacher, however paradoxical this sounds to us, there is one passage in which he admits
that he was taught. This is the famous scene in the Symposium with Diotima, the prophetess form
Mantineia. And about what did she teach Socrates? She taught him about love, something evidently that
he needed to learn from someone else, perhaps because love always has to do with someone else, not only
"Then," she said, "the simple truth is, that men love the good?" "Yes," I said. "To which must be added that they love the possession of the good?" "Yes, that must be added." "And not only the possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?" "That must be added too." ....
"Then if this be the nature of love, can you tell me further," she said, "what is the manner
of the pursuit? what are they doing who show all this eagerness and heat which is called love? and
what is the object which they have in view? Answer me." "Nay, Diotima," I replied, "if I had
known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, neither should I have come to learn from you
about this very matter." "Well," she said, "I will teach you: -- The object which they have in view
is birth in beauty, whether of body or soul .... All men are bringing to the birth in their bodies and
in their souls" (206).
As I read and reread these lines in Plato, I realize that in some germinal sense, much of what I have been
saying about the mystery of teachers I never met is already here.
I began to read The Symposium rather late in my life. I met Adeimantus and Glaucon long before
I met Phaedrus, Agathon, Alcibiades, and Diotima. To be sure, I had previously met Alcibiades in
Thucydides. Likewise, I was introduced to Phaedrus, the Master of Ceremonies at the Symposium, some
years ago, thanks again to Josef Pieper. (24) I have often told drowsy students, moreover, that the uncanny
thing about Plato and Aristotle, about Aquinas and Augustine, is that that they still make the best reading
they will ever encounter. I tell them, solemnly, provocatively, that if they do not read them, little else will
be intelligible to them. For the most part, in the beginning, most students are sure this praise of ancient
thinkers cannot be valid. Yet, we will not understand the romance of revelation if we do not understand
the romance of reason -- and there are some, I know, who want, that is, choose to understand neither
romance. If we are to be grateful, to understand what a world in which gratitude exists must be like, we
will begin, if we are fortunate, with Plato, even though we know that Plato himself, like Aristotle, read
Hesiod and Homer, whom we should also read.
Aristotle pointed out in the Sixth Book of The Ethics that we are given a mind as part of our
constitutive being, from nature, a mind not given in vain. This mind is capable of knowing all things, a mind
that is somehow capax universi, as E. F. Schumacher recalled the Latin phrasing of this notion.
Schumacher did this in a wonderful book entitled, The Guide for the Perplexed, a title taken from the
medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, who like Avicenna and Thomas Aquinas, carefully read
Aristotle. (25) We find ourselves wondering about things that are, on our walks with Belloc, in our
conversations with Samuel Johnson, in our thoughts and meditations with Pascal and Marcus Aurelius. It
is indeed mysterious that we can still be taught by those whom we never met, the connection of mind to
mind that leads to the good which we desire and which, when possessed, gives us joy.
We can indeed reject all the things about which we can wonder. We can refuse to acknowledge
what is because it not of us. The fact that we can do such things is the other side of the risk of existence
itself, the fact that thanks can be withheld even from what is. The risk of existence, our existence, includes,
besides that which the monk whispered into his drowsy friend's ear at Matins at Mt. St. Agnes, an
Augustine confessing, seeking the "immutable light". It includes an Aquinas reminding us that happiness is
not fully in this life. Boswell was not wrong to wonder if some days can ever be better because he was in
the sober presence of mourning that prevented him from placing the Kingdom of God on this earth,
something Flannery O'Connor warned us not to do. We are to marvel at Charlie Brown because tells us
that we have already done our worst.
In the end, Aristotle was right when he said that "who understands everything himself is best of all."
Chesterton too was right when he affirmed that "thanks are the highest form of thought and gratitude is
happiness doubled by wonder." None of these teachers have I ever met. The mystery is how one person
whom I never met, through the recountings down the ages of how many others whom I also have never
met, could, without me, shed light on each other, eventually to enlighten me. Surely this mystery has its
origin in Augustine's "immutable light", in the Good which, when possessed, gives us joy. The Socrates
who told the Jury at Athens that he did know whether death was evil also knew that what was evil he must
not do. This is the same Socrates to whom Diotima replied generously, "I will teach you." Diotima taught
him that love, if it is to be love, must be everlasting.
This topic is really what the First Book of Aristotle's Ethics is about when he tells us reflectively
to look back on our deeds and our thoughts and see, if we can, that for which we act, that which we think
to be most important and that which governs all we do. No doubt we can mislead ourselves in this self
reflection. We can think we act for the noblest purposes, whereas in fact, as all our friends know, we act
for money or pleasure or vain honors. It is difficult to see ourselves as we are, even if this inner "seeing"
is one of the most important things we must do for ourselves. The famous Socratic admonition, "know
thyself", meant at least this knowledge of our own implicit ends, in addition to knowing the kind of being
we are given by nature -- our human being, something we did not give ourselves.
The student who first comes to the university is no doubt exhilarated by a kind of new found
freedom. He is still too young really to have acquired a good knowledge of himself or a firm capacity to
rule himself. From all I hear, high schools any more are not themselves exactly models of balanced
preparations for orderly lives. But I suppose to most high school students in comparison to college, high
schools look pretty confined. Many young men and women, no doubt, have, by the time they reach
college, already failed to discipline themselves. They have barely begun to acquire the habits and incentives
necessary to figure out, not what they should do in terms of a profession or job, but what life itself is about,
itself a lifetime task, to be sure. Many of us, unfortunately, make very serious mistakes very early in our
lives. College is a place in which, if we are wise, these mistakes can be either corrected or, on the
contrary, magnified infinitely.
Now, I am not someone who thinks that we will really learn what life itself is about in college
courses. We may, no doubt, get snippets here and there. The ideology or intellectual chaos that is often,
as many critics point out, the meaning of college curricula themselves needs to be reflected on and
understood. Universities and colleges are there to be "used". We are not to attend them blindly, even
though we can and must make ourselves teachable. A good number of the very important books and ideas
that a student will need to know if he is to know the truth, to confront what is good, are never even
mentioned in any university curriculum or course. This situation would imply that we need to know
something about life even before beginning to learn more specifically about parts of it in an academic setting.
If we are lucky, we begin to suspect that some of these things we need to know, the highest things, come
from our parents or our church or our friends or our own curiosity. Many a man has saved his soul because
of some book he chanced to read in some obscure library or used book store. Many a girl has understood
what her life is about because she happened, one random summer afternoon, to talk seriously to her
grandmother or to her aunt.
Self-discipline, the rule over all of our given passions, fears, dreams, thoughts, can be, if simply
taken for itself, a dangerous thing. We can be Stoics who conceive self-discipline somehow as an end in
itself, whereas it is really the pre-requisite for seeing and loving what is not ourselves. Self-discipline can
become a form of pride in which we attribute to ourselves complete mastery over ourselves with no
willingness to guide ourselves to ends that are to be served or people to be loved. None the less, our
"bare" selves are objects to ourselves. We recognize that our ability to accomplish anything at all begins
with some realization that we must take control of ourselves. We must begin to note in ourselves those
things that cause us troubles. Plato said that the worst thing that can happen to us is to have a lie in our
souls, especially about ourselves. These difficulties can even be other students, perhaps even teachers, who
interfere with our studies or our responsibilities, including our responsibilities to God. They can be things
like drink or drugs or our own laziness.
The purpose of self-discipline in the best sense then is not ourselves. That probably sounds strange.
The classical writers, I think, used to relate self-discipline to liberty. The person who was most free was
the one who had the most control over himself. The person who was most unfree was the one who was
ruled by pleasures, money, or power. Self-discipline does not, however, solve the question of what is
knowledge or truth or good. In this sense, it is instrumental, something good for the sake of something else.
John Paul II put it well in his profound new book, "the fundamental dimension of man's existence ... is
always a co-existence." We are ourselves to be sure and we are to rule ourselves. But once we have
managed to approach this no doubt difficult issue, what remains is the rest of our lives. We can then begin
to focus on the things of the highest importance and dignity, something we would be unable to do if we did
not succeed in imposing some self-discipline on ourselves.
Paul Johnson in his book, The Intellectuals, has suggested, with considerable unpopularity, that
there is an intimate connection between our moral life and our intellectual life. Sometimes, I think the history
of our times can be described as an argument on whether or not this connection is true. Self-discipline is
the beginning of wisdom, not its end. When we have discovered the purpose for which self-discipline
exists, we will, if we are sane, hardly recall anything about it because it has enabled us to become free to
see so much else.
James V. Schall, S. J.
On Its Being Better to Illuminate than Merely to Shine
Certain questions, good questions, never seem to be asked any more. Certain other questions,
even when asked, confine the range of possible answers by some a priori theory or prejudice that prevents
us from taking a look at the whole scene. Our character is decided too much by what we do not want to
know, especially when what we do not want to know is in fact the truth.
When I am not busy writing law school recommendations for otherwise normal students, who even
seem to understand that about seventy percent of the world's abundant supply of lawyers already exists
in the United States, I wonder if they ever ask themselves about ends? I know the question of "ends"
cannot be mentioned in the polity itself because that would imply that some forms of life are better than
others. We do not want that sort of teaching around. Virtue cannot be a viable option, for that would
mean that some things are vices. Still, as an act of rebellion, it is good to wonder about things that we are
not supposed to think about. Wonder, after all, was one of those things that most distinguished our lot, as
Aristotle once said.
Thomas Aquinas inquired about what sort of religious life was best -- one devoted to
contemplation, one devoted to an active life like giving alms or attending the sick, or one in which elements
of both contemplation and action were present. In giving his answer to this query, Aquinas used the
example: "Just as it is greater to illuminate something than merely to shine, so it is greater to pass on to
others what we have contemplated (contemplata tradere) than just to contemplate" (II-II, 188, 6). That
is an unforgettable image, I think, a light shining on nothing.
Few would suspect in that brief passage that much controversy lies hidden. The first thing that
Aquinas suggests is that bishops are supposed both to teach and to contemplate. It is a good thing to
imitate their example. We wonder whether Aquinas was not merely defining what bishops are supposed
to do but also urging them to do it, as if perhaps some don't!
It is not enough, moreover, that we do good works or pray to God. What we do should directly
flow from what we behold and pray about. Behind Aquinas' brief remark is an awareness of the wholeness
of our being, that we are to think and act, think before we act, act on the basis of what we think. We are
to contemplate, that is, think rightly about the things that are.
The early Jesuits, a couple of hundred years after Aquinas, came up with their own "answer" to this
famous position of Aquinas about passing on to others what we first contemplate ourselves. These early
Jesuits thought themselves to exist not so much in order contemplata tradere but they were rather to
become in actione contemplativi," (contemplatives in action). The great Dominican formula seemed to
have the noble notion of spending much time figuring things out, then going forth to teach and preach what
one had drawn into his soul.
The Jesuit formula, for its part, suggested that what goes on in the world of action had its own
spiritual content. We were to behold this content as it came forth onto the visible world. One could
interpret the Jesuit formula either as seeing the newness of the divine providence working itself out in the
events of the day or as being engaged in worldly affairs but with a certain distance, all of this in order to
realize the abiding things of God in all things, even in the events of the day.
What does this have to do with ends, virtue, and not adding to the world's supply of lawyers, or
with the questions that do not seem to be asked any more? We are to take into our soul all the things
that are, even the meaning of our own actions. Those things that flow into us and those things that flow
out of us belong to one world. We are not complete if we do not reflect on the highest things, or even on
our own things. Nor are we complete if we do not seek to relate all things to one end, not just to any end,
but to the truth of things.
We need not all be bishops, or Dominicans, or Jesuits, or professors, or lawyers, or aides in
hospitals, or providers for the poor, though we can choose any of these ways of life with a good spirit. But
in each of our actions, we are to behold, not ourselves, but the things that are. We are to pass on those
truths we have first contemplated and reflected on. If no one teaches us this truth in our own world, we
are to seek a world in which such things can be asked. We are not to be defeated by the questions no
professor or politician will ask us.
In actione contemplativi. Contemplate tradere. In these two phrases, we can rediscover the
world in all its causes.
Sicut enim maius est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita maius est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari.
ON WRITING IN AN ON-LINE WORLD
Let me begin by reading a few concise sentences about the human self that does the writing from
a wonderful collection called, Conversations with Walker Percy (1971, p. 49). "Of course, the point of
my book" (Love in the Ruins), Percy writes,
is that the quest for the self is probably self-defeating. I mean if religion has any validity at all, then
the quest for the self is nonsense, you know. It's the quest for God, or as Kierkegaard, I think,
said: the only way the self can become self is by becoming itself transparently before God. So,
to answer your question, I suppose a good deal of my novel-writing could be a satire on the theme
of the so-called quest for the self, or self-fulfillment, et cetera, et cetera. A great deal of bad novel
writing is about searching for one's self.
Notice that the subject matter of this passage is the relationship between good novels and nonsensical ideas.
Percy even hints that if we think poorly, we will probably write poorly, or at least, that what we
write will not pass the test of good philosophy. Hence, it may well do more harm than good. This
relationship between writing and thought seems to recall the old warning that "even the devil can quote
Scripture." And Scripture is, in general, pretty well-written, even when the devil cites it, perhaps especially
when he cites it. Indeed, as a fallen angel of light, we must presume that the devil, were he to try his hand
at, say, E-mail, could write persuasively. This paradox means at a minimum that good writing is not
valuable ultimately because it is, in the abstract, good writing, but because, in being good writing, it guides
us to the truth which, as such, transcends both good and bad writing.
At one time or another, I have lectured on precisely "What Is a Lecture," likewise "On Teaching,"
"On the Intellectual Life," and "On Reading." So I presume it is time to accept an invitation to say
something about "writing." What is noteworthy about the present time is that writing, at least letter-writing,
has in some degree been rediscovered with Web sites and with on-line E-mail, that most speedy and most
ephemeral way to communicate with people we do or do not know, here and across the globe. I have a
nephew in mainland China with whom I correspond as easily and as instantaneously as I do with his sister
in West Hollywood or his brother in Dallas or his cousin over across the Washington Beltway in Maryland.
The circle of friends to whom we might frequently write no longer requires that we patiently await the post,
affectionately known as "snail-mail" -- though I admit that there is something nice about the unhurried time
it takes to await, read, and answer letters. The art of letter-writing, at its best, includes a time for pondering
what we have first received. E-mail indiscriminately includes within the orbit of its new-found literary
immediacy, the household, the neighborhood, the city, and the world, no doubt including the Columbia or
Discovery spacecraft, if we chance to know someone up there.
In many ways, E-mail is more convenient and more intimate even than the telephone. No doubt,
widespread use of some sort of videophone is around the corner. We will see with whom we speak. We
will be "in person" around the world, not in eighty days, but right now. Teleconferences are common.
Already our streets, malls, and airports are filled with every variety of folk walking along or standing by a
pillar happily or noisily or annoyingly chatting with someone on the other unknown end of a cellular phone.
Things have gotten so bad that you feel you are eavesdropping on someone else's private conversation
while you are merely strolling down the avenues minding your own business. You can be in a three-seat
bank in an airplane flying over Wichita, Kansas, as you unavoidably overhear a parent in the middle seat
reminding the son at college in Florida to send his semester grades home, or else.
Already it is possible to send the same message by E-mail on a lap-top as by phone. Then there
was a New Yorker cover showing an elegantly-dressed, very formal couple seated at table in a very
expensive Manhattan restaurant, with attentive waiter in tux, violinist softly playing near-by. Meanwhile
both the man and the woman, holding hands but looking distantly in different directions, were talking to
someone else far away on different cellular phones. "Separate tables," the title of an old movie about
loneliness, have collapsed into the same table. The husband of my niece in Florida showed me, with their
experimental television hook-up, how they could order, pay for, and have delivered to their doorstep in
twenty minutes, whatever kind of pizza we might desire. Talk about civilization advancing! But I am not
knocking it. It is amazing. Soon it will be unnecessary to leave one's home for any imaginable purpose,
including college and shopping. Ralph McInerny, in fact, thinks that some sort of interactive television
university may be the only hope for any real religious education at the university level, assuming that we can
keep the government from controlling that area also.
What I want to say about writing, however, relates to the passage from Walker Percy that I cited
in the beginning in which Percy perceptively hinted that we write bad novels if we have bad philosophy.
It is possible, of course, to find patches of good writing in a thoroughly bad novel, nor will we necessarily
write good novels if we have good philosophy, though it helps. If we never read a lousy novel, moreover,
we will probably never really know what a good one is by comparison Writing indeed is an art that must
be acquired, by practice and repetition. Percy himself said he sometimes rewrote a story two or three
Art, the habit of making well, and prudence, the habit of living well, do not have the exact same
criterion of excellence. A bad man can be a good artist, but probably not precisely insofar as he is a bad
man. Prudence looks to how our free human actions relate to what we are, what we do or achieve in our
lives. Art looks to whether we put into a poem or a painting, an essay or a symphony, what we intended
to put there and whether what we made is beautiful, regardless of the status of our own soul. If something
is in fact beautiful, we do not deny it on the grounds that the artist was known to be a rake or a miser or
drunk. This distinction does not mean, however, that we need to deny the personal failings and wrongs if
there is real evidence for it.
Likewise, we can find very good writing in unlikely places, say, in comic novels. Take the following
sentence from P. G. Wodehouse's Blandings Castle: "Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding
itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the
British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons." I chuckle at such
an extraordinarily amusing comparison between the multiple parental love of a prolific codfish and the cool
aloofness of the British aristocracy towards a few younger sons. I nonetheless read Wodehouse with a
dictionary and a pencil in hand both because he says things so felicitously and because he uses so many
words I have never seen before used in quite the same remarkable way. How we write is no doubt directly
related to how carefully we read and observe.
If, however, we do set out to write a novel for the purpose of discovering ourselves, the worst thing that can happen to us is actually to find ourselves, only then to realize that there is nothing much there unless we understand that the very meaning of self is a search for what it is not ourselves. This is the lifetime endeavor to fill the self through love and knowledge with what is not the self. The reason the human parent does not, like the male codfish, have three million five hundred thousand offspring, actually has something to do with the intense nature of love among human beings. The neglect of any human children, including younger sons of the British aristocracy, as Wodehouse playfully intimates, has dire consequences.
Actually, the reason that I started to think about writing was because I happened across an essay
of Hilaire Belloc, in his lovely collection, The Silence of the Sea. The essay is entitled "On Books," an
essay sportively devoted to the use of books as objects, not as sources of reading. A book, Belloc pointed
out, can be used, if needs be, to throw at someone; it can be used raise a chair up a bit higher, or to keep
maps flat while we try to find out how to get off Highway 95 to go to the Lincoln Memorial. Belloc, whose
name in our library card catalogue brings up over seven hundred titles, warns, with some humor, that "of
all fatiguing, futile, empty trades, the worst, I suppose, is writing about writing." Since this writing about
writing is precisely what engages us here, we are obliged to consider the point of Belloc's concern about
this strange exercise.
Writing about writing is a sort of second level abstraction, not unrelated to Plato's warning about
the painters who stood two steps away from the reality about which they painted. Plato thought such a
distance confused the soul and deprived it of its immediate confrontation with what is Belloc continues:
Writing itself is a bad enough trade, rightly held up to ridicule and contempt by the greater part of
mankind, and especially by those who do real work, ploughing, riding, sailing -- or even walking
about. It is a sound instinct in men to feel this distrust and contempt for writing; and as for writing
about writing, why, it is writing squared; it is writing to the second power, in which the original evil
is concentrated.... There is even, I am told, a third degree of horror. Writing about what other
people have written about writing: "Lives of the Critics," "Good English," "Essays on Sainte Beuve"
-- things of that sort. Good Lord, deliver us.
We might note that some of Belloc's own very best writings were his essays on precisely "real work,
ploughing, riding, sailing," and even in "walking about." Who can ever forget the descriptions of Delft,
Arles, Lynn, and Ely in The Hills and the Sea. There are no better books on "walking" than Belloc's own
The Path to Rome and The Four Men, almost as if to say that if you are going to write well, you must first
do the ordinary things that the "greater part of mankind do."
The great French writer, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, previously in the sixteenth century also
wrote an essay "On Books." Similar to Belloc's criterion of experience, he particularly liked the writings
of Julius Caesar because the man wrote of what he knew, namely of men and war. Remembering that
Walker Percy was also a doctor, Montaigne asks, "What can a man expect from a physician who writes
of war, or from a mere scholar, treating the designs of princes?" Evidently, not much. Montaigne then goes
on to give some advice about reading books that need not be read again. I might recall first, however, a
remark of C. S. Lewis, who said that you have not read a great book at all, if you have only read it once.
But Montaigne is talking of books, perhaps not great books, that he figures are indeed worth at least one
reading. At the end of a book he has just read for the first and last time, he tells us, he takes the time to
jot down his general impressions of the book and of its author.
After reading the famous Italian writer Guicciardini, from whom Machiavelli learned so much, for
example, Montaigne praised him for his vast erudition. He was in fact present at most of the events he
wrote about. Montaigne pointed to what Guicciardini thought himself to be best at, namely his literary
digressions. Though these sometimes were quite good, they were, on the whole in Montaigne's view, a bit
too artificial. Guicciardini was too "fond" of what he was writing. Then Montaigne adds this remarkable
reflection on Guicciardini, a passage that reveals quite well that doctor of souls, Walker Percy's insight
about how a man's fundamental philosophy shows through what he writes:
I have also observed this in him, that of so many souls and so many effects, so many motives and
so many counsels as he judges, he never attributes any one to virtue, religion, or conscience, as if
all these were utterly extinct in the world; and of all the actions, how brave soever in outward show
they appear in themselves, he always refers the cause and motive to some vicious occasion or some
prospect of profit. It is impossible to imagine but that, among such an infinite number of actions as
he makes mention of, there must be some one produced by way of honest reason. No corruption
could so universally have infected men that someone would not have escaped the contagion: which
makes me suspect that his own taste was vicious, whence it might happen that he judged other men
Even in translation, that is marvelously said, is it not?
Montaigne's quite lucid observation about Guicciardini, no doubt, is but a reflection on the classic teaching about the effects of The Fall, that men are prone to evil in many ways but that human nature is not corrupt as such, that there is always a possibility in freedom and grace to reject the vicious temptations that are admittedly prevalent. What of course Montaigne has done here, to be sure, is to examine the writings of a man to see what they reveal about him, about his self or his soul. Those who take up the craft of writing, thus, should be mindful that there will always somewhere be a Montaigne or a Walker Percy out there to read what we write and to see what it reveals about our own souls and the understanding of reality that what we write displays.
In Fowler's Modern English Usage, a book no writer can afford to be without, we find an entry
entitled, "Worn-out Humour." In writing, we are urged to choose our jokes and witticisms carefully and
to forget those that have become stale, or what we used to call in my Iowa youth "corney." The entry
begins by recalling Queen Victoria's famous protestation, "We are not amused." Fowler points out that
whatever it was that did not amuse the good Queen would have been in fact quite amusing to most people.
Otherwise its not also amusing the Queen would not have been an issue. Whatever it was, Fowler points
out, just did not "amuse the person whose amusement matters."
Having given us this solid reflection, Fowler proceeds to make a point about writing. In writing,
whose opinion matters? "The writer's Queen Victoria," he carefully explains, "is his public, and, he would
do well to keep a bust of the old Queen on his desk with the legend 'We are not amused' hanging from it."
Why, we might ask, is this bust of the Queen on our desk an aid to our writing? Because the public for
whom we write will not be "amused if he (the writer) serves it up the small facetiae that it remembers long
ago to have taken delight in. We recognize this about anecdotes, avoid putting on our friends the
depressing duty of simulating surprise, and sort out our stock of chestnuts and still possibles. Anecdotes
are our pounds, and we take care of them; but of phrases that are our pence, we are more neglectful."
That is, we all have stories or jokes we like to repeat that are in truth "chestnuts." Fowler advises us simply,
"Don't use them." But we still may have old stories or jokes that we can really tell again, the "still
possibles," that will work in this explanation or before that audience. These we can use if we are good
Let me make one more point about the relation between reading and writing. In the previous citation that I just used from Fowler, he used the word "facetiae." Similar to what I said about reading Wodehouse with a pencil in hand, I had to look that word up as it was not quite familiar to me. It comes from a Latin word meaning something witty or amusing, a remark or a writing. Fowler used the word perfectly to make his point. In recalling it, I wish again to remind any writer that when he comes across a word in Fowler or Wodehouse or Walker Percy or Montaigne that he does not know, the first thing he must do is to admit that he does not know it, look it up, and reflect on how it is used so well. And even when we know what a word like "cheerfully" means, we need to notice how wonderfully it is used when it appears in a sentence in Wodehouse to describe the reaction of the male codfish on beholding his three million, five hundred thousand little ones in contrast to the dour attitude of the British aristocracy who produce younger sons that Wodehouse himself describes with a good cheer and delight that is almost indescribably funny and human.
The suggestion that we also learn how to write by reading is not designed to encourage plagiarism,
but to alert us to what it means to write well. We need not pretend that we dream up most of our ideas or
our facts from out of the depths of our own relative emptiness. "Originality is nothing but judicious
imitation," Voltaire once said. "The most original writers borrowed one from another. The instruction we
find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbor's, kindle it at home, communicate it to others, and
it becomes the property of all." We might notice this about copyrights, those legal fictions designed to
protect the author of the originality of what he writes, that we can copyright what we write, but not our
ideas as such. Ideas as such are not anyone's private possessions. The very purpose of knowledge is that
we have the same ideas about truth. Ideas are presented to us as good or bad, true or false, in whatever
language or wording they might be found. When we sit down to state the idea, it will be in our own way.
Words change. Ideas do not.
Yet, it is good to have about us, within reason of course, many books. James Boswell recalls the
Dr. Johnson advised me to-day (Monday, September 22, 1777), to have as many books about
me as I could; that I might read upon any subject upon which I had a desire for instruction at the
time. "What you read then (said he,) you will remember; but if you have not a book immediately
ready, and the subject molds in your mind, it is a change if you again have a desire to study it." He
added, "If a man never has an eager desire for instruction, he should prescribe a task for himself.
But it is better when a man reads from immediate inclination." (II, p. 148)
The books that we have about us are our immediate foundations for instruction. Ideas mould in our mind
but they change too, and our memory of them, so we need the books to be there, to go back to them.
They keep us grounded, just as what we write keeps before us the fact that our ideas are meant to be
communicated to others. We are never content just to express them to ourselves. Indeed, if we had no
one to write to, express ourselves to, we would soon go mad.
Dr. Johnson made another point that I think worth emphasizing. It concerns the "eager desire for
instruction." As a professor, I have often wondered about what it is that makes a student stop reading for
grades and begin to read because he is struck by something, because he wonders about something?
Johnson did not deny that we might "prescribe a task" to read something that we would not otherwise read
easily. We could decide, for instance, within the next month, one way or another, to read The Brothers
Karamazov or Dorothy Sayers' The Whimsical Christian. But we would be reading it, at first at least,
from duty, not delight. An ex-student of mine, now working for a Congressman, called me up the other
day to tell me how pleased he was that a man who works with him came in the other morning and told him
that he had reread Thucydides. My friend was pleased by the simple fact that his colleague actually read
Thucydides because he enjoyed it. I have often been struck by the fact that a book I have been asked to
review will be a great aid in reading the book. We learn to like many books that we are required to read
-- which is, ultimately, if I might put it this way, is the only justification for a professor to teach a class to
young men and women.
Thus, Johnson is right, a man's reading should mainly arise from his "immediate inclination."
Johnson made the same point a couple of years later, on April 16, 1779, in fact, in another way. The
remark concerned an earlier stage in a youth's education: "I am always for getting a boy forward in his
learning; for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage
his attention; because you have done a great deal when you have brought him to have entertainment from
a book. He'll get better books afterwards" (II, p. 290). Notice that Johnson does not necessarily disagree
with Walker Percy about good and bad books. In fact, he agrees with him. There is no sense, however,
in talking of good and bad books to someone who reads no books or who must always be forced to read
out of a motive of need or profit rather than a motive of entertainment or wonder. The "sure good" is to
get the boy's attention engaged. Once that is accomplished, we can begin to discuss the difference between
good and bad books. I suppose once we can get him to begin to write just for the delight of it, only then
can we begin to deal with the question of good and bad writing.
I would like to make one final point about books, and reading, and writing. I was lately talking with
Mr. Nicholas Scheetz, the Manuscript Librarian at the Georgetown University Library. I asked whether
the library preserves the discs that writers today normally use initially to write their works. He replied that
this was a very perplexing question and one not at all settled in the profession. As anyone knows who has
been writing on word processors or computers for many years, the technology of this way of doing things
changes so rapidly that it is almost impossible to keep up with it. Scheetz said that twenty years at the most
is the length of a disc before it not only becomes obsolete but unreproducible except in some rare archive
that has preserved the machines we now use daily to read them. He said that from the point of view of an
archivist, in many ways the "hard copy" remains the best way to preserve someone's letters and materials.
Several years ago, I had been on a committee in the National Endowment for the Humanities that was concerned with preserving even books written on various grades of paper. Books and newspapers and letters, as physical objects, are themselves, in terms of decades and centuries, quite ephemeral and passing. No doubt the future of both books and on-line materials will be itself a question of reproducing the technology in which much of writing today exists, though hopefully this will not be any impossible problem. In fact, it is probably true to say today, that a book or an essay first appears in on-line form and only secondarily in print form. Books are published from discs not from paper manuscripts, even though what we read is often still in print form. Indeed, I doubt if it will ever be possible and certainly not advisable for everything to appear simply on-line. A book has a certain independent existence whose integrity is guaranteed by its very physicalness.
In conclusion, let me again remind you of Fowler's admonition about not using old "chestnuts,"
whether on-line or in print. We need first to remind ourselves that with today's technology we could
probably record every word we ever spoke in our lives. We could keep it on a couple of discs. This alone
is proof of Walker Percy's point that paradise cannot possibly consist in eternally finding ourselves, in
eternally listening to our own disc played over and over. Fowler, of course, does not mean that we should
neglect irony and humor with the lessons they teach us, sometimes the most profound of lessons. Aristotle
himself, I believe, intimated that someone who understands the point of jokes is potentially a good
metaphysician because he can see how things relate to one another as parts of a whole. Indeed, some of
the most profound of lessons can be taught through humor. Let no one who hears me ever forget
Wodehouse's prolific male codfish cheerfully loving his three million five hundred thousand little codfish..
Bennett Cerf, in one of his books, a book appropriately entitled for our purposes here, A Treasury
of Atrocious Puns, recounts the following scene:
The famous if sometimes unintelligible Gertrude Stein was about to cross the Champs-Elysées in
Paris one afternoon when she paused to rub a mosquito bite on the back of her neck. Just then
an automobile out of control careened down the avenue, missing Gertrude Stein by a matter of
seconds -- inches. Miss Stein's companion, Alice B. Toklas, murmured thankfully, "An itch in time
Well, that is indeed an old chestnut, whether in print or on line. On hearing it, I hope none of you has to
indulge, as Fowler put it, in the "depressing duty of simulating surprise" because you have heard it all before.
Notice that Bennett Cerf remarks that Gertrude Stein is both famous and "sometimes unintelligible."
May I leave you with this thought? We never know whether we might or might not become famous or even
infamous. We write indeed so that someone will read us, but writing is such that we never really know if
they will, or if they do, who they might be. Our best reader will almost invariably be someone we never
heard of. But we can always, on-line or on paper, seek to be intelligible. No one, not ever Gertrude Stein,
with her itch in time, ever deliberately chose to be unintelligible to everyone. To be intelligible to one
another is the purpose of our kind. this is why we are called, precisely, the rational animal.
And being intelligible does not mean that we need not be amusing, even in our seriousness, unless
to achieve this lofty goal of intelligibility, we constantly inflect old chestnuts on our readers and friends. We
want to pass from laboring to know because we set ourselves a task, to knowing because we love the truth
and seek to write it down. Let us be like Guicciardini and notice all the things that go on about us, but let
us not, like him, conclude that all things proceed from vicious occasion and profit, that no one at no time
ever did anything simply because it was good to do. Let us not write our bad novels merely to be writing
about writing or to inflict ourselves on ourselves as the sole objects of our discoveries. Rather let what is
ourselves become part of the world that is, the world that is not ourselves, the world in which we actually
live and in which we delight.
From The Common Things: Essays on Thomism and Education, edited by Daniel McInerny (Washington: American Maritain Society/The Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 128-42.. This essay is also found as Chapter 5 of On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs (Wilmington: ISIBooks, 2001).
ON THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN
Access to "a Reason for Living" and "How Important the Matter Is"
There are people who think that it is wonderful to have a mind that is quick, clever, ready to see pros and cons, eager to discuss, and to discuss anything, and who believe that such a mind is that to which university education must give scope -- regardless of what is thought about, what is discussed, and how important the matter is.
-- Jacques Maritain, Education at the Crossroads, 1943. (26)
As an atheist, I preferred metaphysics because it is the supreme science, the ultimate crowning of reason. As a Catholic, I love it still more because it allows us to have access to theology, to realise the harmonious and fertile union of reason and faith. It was not enough for me to live, I wanted a reason for living and moral principles which were based on an absolutely certain knowledge... Among all the sciences, it is metaphysics which, after all, seems to me best suited for a feminine mind with a gift for abstraction.
-- Raïssa Maritain, Raïssa's Journals, 1919. (27)
Jacques Maritain wrote one book (Education at the Crossroads) and several essays (collected
in The Education of Man) on education. (28) He considered education to be an art, perhaps in its own way
the finest of arts because its object, when perfected, was the most beautiful of all the earthly realities The
closest analogy to teaching, Maritain thought, was medicine. (29) Neither medicine nor education created its
respective subject matter or what it was to be healthy or complete once it existed. Each sought to lead or
guide a body or soul to what it ought to be when it functions normally. Once in its normal status, the healthy
body or the healthy soul should be let it alone to do those myriads of things that healthy minds and bodies
do. Given that the body was healthy, it, that is the human incarnate person informing it, simply lived, did
the things that healthy human beings do. When man, body and soul, was educated, he again simply lived,
did the wondrous things free and healthy human beings can do or, more darkly, freely did the things they
ought not to do. Knowledge as such, as Aristotle told us, does not automatically mean that we will be
Education prepared our given faculties and capacities to do what they were made or created to
do. Man does not cause or have control over what he is. What he is, is given to him by nature. Man does
not make man to be man, Aristotle said, but taking him from nature makes him to be good man. We are
astonished that such a being as ourselves exists in the first place. The drama of human existence, however,
has to do with what this same human being, among his fellows, does with this given existence because he
can both know and rule himself in a curious freedom that enables him also to reject, revolt against what he
is. The human good includes the choice of the human good. The human being can choose not to be what
it is designed, purposed to be. The risk of human existence is its capacity to reject human existence.
Maritain held that the teacher was indeed a cause in the education of youth, but an instrumental
cause, necessary for the most part, to be sure, but not the principal cause of education. The student was
the principal cause of his own education. Interestingly, Maritain showed a certain persistent, optimistic
sympathy for students, not untypical, I suppose, of those who have no children of their own. He thought
everyone could be educated in the important things, not only could be but should be. He was, no doubt,
willing to admit a small place for strict scholastic discipline. We have all heard the expression "spare the
rod and spoil the child." Maritain evidently referred to this saying in his own attitude to physical discipline.
"Education by the rod," he affirmed, "is positively bad education." He then added, amusingly,
if from a love of paradox I were to say something on its behalf, I should only observe that it (the
rod) has been able, actually, to produce some strong personalities, because it is difficult to kill the
principle of spontaneity in living beings, and because this principle occasionally develops more
powerfully when it reacts and sometimes revolts against constraint, fear, and punishment than when
everything is made easy, lenient, and psychotechnically compliant to it. (30)
Maritain even wondered whether, from the opposite side, making things too easy for the student did not
produce indifference and passivity in them. But he was much more concerned about inspiration, play, and
the delight of seeing things for one's self. Neither "birch and taws (floggings)" nor the teacher himself ought
to the the principal agents in education.
In Education at the Crossroads, moreover, Maritain cited some remarks of Professor F. Clarke
at the University of London to the effect that a certain "stringency and tension" were needed in education.
Clarke then added that "original sin may be more than an outworn theological dogma after all," that "of all
the needs of democracy, some abiding sense of the reality of original sin may yet prove to be the greatest." (31)
To this sober remark of Clarke about the existential condition of the subject of education, Maritain
immediately added that, as a Catholic, he agreed with him. Maritain had, none the less, one caution,
namely, "that an abiding sense of the reality of the internal power of regenerating grace and faith, hope, and
charity, may prove to be even more necessary." (32)
Maritain, in other words, was willing to talk about Christianity as if it were a legitimate topic of conversation and as if it had something both positive and necessary to contribute to education and to the understanding of what its subject matter was like. He did not, to be sure, want anyone to be forced to study theology in non-denominational schools, but he thought anyone without a knowledge of theology simply would not understand the actual human record and probably not himself. "Modern philosophy itself ... has burdened itself all through modern times with problems and anxieties taken over from theology, so that the cultural event of philosophy purely philosophical is still to be waited for." (33) That is, all actual philosophy not only bears the mark of some theological consideration, but, to use Maritain's perceptive phrase, "philosophy purely philosophical" always reveals itself to be somehow incomplete even for its own purposes.
I have entitled this essay, "On the Education of Young Men and Women". Maritain of course
spoke rather of the "education of man", using that word to mean, in context, any person, male or female,
of a rational human nature. He did not make too much of the differing ways of approach to the highest
things that we might find in say a Gertrude von l Fort's Eternal Woman or even in some of his own wife's,
Raïssa's, writings. However, we find one striking exception to this general approach, an exception that
occasioned these reflections here. In 1941, George Schuster was inaugurated President of the then all
women Hunter College, in New York. On this occasion, Maritain was invited to give an address which
he entitled, "The Education of Women." (34) This essay developed a thought that, as we cited in the beginning,
he had already known from his wife about the place of metaphysics in the education of young women. I
think it worthwhile to recall the principal points that Maritain made about the education of young women
because it shows both its importance and, in an indirect way, what he thought about the education of young
To introduce this topic, however, let me begin with a classic text about the education of young men
and young women. Charlie Brown is worried about his slow reading and is seeking an excuse that would
not redound to his own unwillingness to work at it. Linus, it seems, has been to the opthamalogist who has
explained to him the dubious relation between glasses and slow learning. Charlie was hopeful his problem
was caused lack of glasses, in which case, of course, he was not responsible. However, there may be
more serious reasons at work here. Charlie, with some concern, asks Linus, "You say my being a slow
reader is not caused by needing glasses?" Linus replies, "Probably not." Linus continues authoritatively
to a puzzled Charlie, "Slow reading in children is often the result of 'mixed brain dominance'.... A person
is right-handed because the left side of his brain is dominant...." In the third scene, Lucy appears from
nowhere intently listening as Linus proceeds, while Charlie hesitantly puts his hand on his chin, "Now if you
are ambidextrous or if you have been forced to write with the wrong hand, this may produce 'mixed brain
dominance'...." Linus concludes triumphantly to a bewildered Charlie, "If this is true, we can rule out poor
vision as the cause of your slow reading." The last word, however, as we might expect, goes to the ever
logical Lucy who asks Linus the really worrisome unspoken question bothering Charlie Brown about the
slow learner, "Have you ruled out stupidity?" (35)
If I might put it this way, Maritain in his various discussions about the education of young men and
women does largely downplay both original sin and stupidity as the major problems, or at least as
insurmountable ones. He affirms, for instance, that "in a social order fitted to the common dignity of man,
college education should be given to all, so as to complete the preparation of the youth before he enters
the state of manhood." I am not sure whether Maritain ever goes into the problem of the private or public
financing of such a system, assuming that he is in fact right that everyone should go to college. He does,
however, have some reservation about his own thesis. "Exacting from all pupils the same degree of
rigorous study and progress in all items of the curriculum is most unwise." A natural "apathy" toward many
studies will probably be normal.
What about the lazy student, someone we have all met at one time or another, perhaps in
Laziness must be fought, of course, but encouraging and urging a youth on the way which he likes
and in which he succeeds is much more important, providing, however, that he be also trained in
the things for which he feels less inclination, and that he traverse the entire field of those human
possibilities and achievements which compose liberal education. (36)
Maritain's educational project, then, though formidable, is weighted on the side of learning because it is itself a delightful and worthy thing to do.
Maritain began his lecture at Hunter College in the midst of World War II by remarking that
"culture today stands in need of defense." (37) As the subject of culture has both progressed and degenerated
since Maritain's time, we need to see that for Maritain the word culture includes wealth, technology,
industry, and scientific equipment. But primarily it means knowing "how and why to use these things for
the good of the human being and the securing of his liberty." Culture is primarily inner formation. To
develop inner strength is another way of talking about what the classics called the virtues, both of mind and
heart. The soul cannot be destroyed by force. "The soul yields only when it so wills. Culture implies the
pursuit of human happiness, but requires also that we know in what this happiness consists." These are
words directly from Aristotle and Aquinas. Culture includes the habits of our tradition. "Culture consists
in knowing, but it does not consist only in knowing; it consisted even more in having known, and in the
forgetting of a great many things because we know them too well and because they have passed down from
memory into the very marrow of our bones." (38) Included in culture is the liberty that the founders of the
American Republic knew. If we do not know the reasons for living and for dying we will not keep our
Maritain next acknowledged that not everything can be learned in books, but he insisted that books
and lectures "are an indispensable and basic vehicle of what man should know, and that without schools
worthy of the name, there is no culture." Maritain recalled Goethe to emphasize the priority of being over
having, something John Paul II often emphasizes. Action follows being. Maritain suggested, carrying out
the implications of this position, that the mission of the school respecting culture is greater in women's
colleges than in men's, a statement of much interest when men are not allowed to have colleges. (39) What
is the reason for this? It is because, Maritain thought, women have more leisure for "being" than men do.
He called it their great "privilege and duty." Somewhat in the tradition of Tocqueville, he remarked as a
foreigner that America is known for being a land favorable to youth and a land favorable to women. Since
women are so important for culture, Maritain thought, the teaching of young women was "doubly important
Maritain, moreover, saw no truth in the idea that at the level of intelligence women could not attain
the highest levels of excellence. He thought, however, that there was a welcome and necessary
differentiation or complimentarity that was itself good for culture. "My already long experience as a
professor has shown me," he continued,
that often young women enter into the realm of knowledge with an intellectual passion more ardent and a love of truth more disinterested than young men do. If they are usually less gifted than men for the constructive synthesis and the inventive work of reason, they possess over them the advantage of a more vital and organic feeling for knowledge. When they love truth, it is in order to bring it down into life itself. When they love philosophy, it is because it helps them to discover themselves and the meaning of existence; and they well understand the saying of Plato, that we must philosophize with our whole soul. (40)
Young women have more need of unity, Maritain thought, the result of which meant that an overly departmentalized education was more damaging to women than to men. He cited his old teacher Henri Bergson who did not think that women were in fact "more gentle and compassionate than men" and supposed Bergson was right in this, but Maritain did think women were "less naive and more courageous in the face of public opinion" than young men.
The complimentarity of male and female was not seen as an opposition but as a necessity. Men
had perhaps better judgment, women more intuition. The prodding and perception of women often
disconcert but without it human culture would lack its richness. To teach the same discipline to young men
and to young women reveals often that "the same discipline is received in different ways", a result that is
a source of richness for the culture. (41) Raïssa Maritain's notion that precisely metaphysics was to be a
preferred study for women suggest the truth of Jacques Maritain's remarks about how differently and more
ardently young women receive the same subject matter. "It was not enough for me to live," Raïssa Maritain
wrote in 1919, to recall, "I wanted a reason for living and moral principles which were based on an
absolutely certain knowledge." On reading this, one cannot help recalling John Paul II's wonderful
reflection in Veritatis Splendor on the rich young man who asks what he must do to be saved.
Very often, Maritain observed, that young women may not realize the long historical and intellectual
effort it took to bring "the human person, in woman as in man, to a consciousness of its dignity." Christianity
played an original role in woman's emancipation when the Gospel was preached to Greek and barbarian,
to male and female alike. Maritain can be blunt at times: "The sense of human dignity is the mark of every
civilization of Christian origin and foundation, even when our fickleness of mind causes us to forget it." (42)
Maritain saw that the political notion of human dignity followed from the Christian notion of each person's
supernatural destiny, not vice versa. Even in the natural order, following Aristotle, there is something in
each person that transcends the state.
The human person, even though it be part of the political community, has within itself values and
a calling which transcend the political community, for they are things that rise above time. Truth,
beauty, wisdom are sovereignly useful for the State, they are not at the command of the State. The
State must serve them, just as the State must respect in each one the fundamental rights of the
Since there are things in the natural order that already transcend the state, the state is limited. All of these
natural things in turn are put into proper place, however, only when the supernatural destiny of actual men
is understood in the light of man's "philosophy purely philosophical".
Maritain ended his little essay on "The Education of Women", then, not with an exhortation to
women in particular but again to all those who would be educated, men and women. He calls what he
stands for "a democratic education." This is "an education which helps human persons to shape themselves,
judge by themselves, discipline themselves, to love and prize the high truths which are the very root and
safeguard of their dignity, to respect in themselves and in others human nature and conscience, and to
conquer themselves in order to win their liberty." If we reflect on this vision of education, does it not seem,
in retrospect, that Maritain's project has largely failed at least as an institutional project?
Allan Bloom's famous first two sentences of The Closing of the American Mind was written in 1987, some forty-five years after Maritain's lecture at Hunter College, are worth recalling here: "There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. If this belief is put to the test, one can count on the students' reaction: they will be uncomprehending." (44) Maritain's proposals remain pertinent precisely because they put the relativist belief "to the test".
Maritain's elaborate program for all levels of education endeavored to spell out the various stages
of teaching according to the age and maturity of the student. He was also interested in graduate and post
graduate education. If we return to the question of the education of young men, as I mentioned, we will
find very little specifically written on this subject. What we do find is rather a detailed description of the
person who is to be educated, almost as if to say that we cannot educate man unless we know what he is.
I want to say something about Maritain's understanding of education from the side of his presentation of
what the man, male and female, is who is capable of being his own primary cause of his education. In
conclusion, I want to turn to Maritain's description of the famous "Thomist Circles" that lasted from 1919-1939 at Versailles or Meudon while Maritain was teaching at the Institut Catholique in Paris. I want to
mention these Circles in particular because, I think, they represent something that is becoming more and
more of a necessity in the context of the political correctness of modern university life, namely some sort
of alternative to the university, alternative not as a counter-institution, but as a human initiative that
transcends the intellectual disorders that everyone confronts.
In his essay, "The Christian Idea of Man and Its Influence on Education," as well as in some
remarks he made on Plato and Descartes, Maritain took pains to set down the sort of being who was to
be educated. He has earlier affirmed that "education is by nature a function of philosophy, of
metaphysics." (45) This is no doubt one of the reasons that the penchant for metaphysics in the education of
young women was so pronounced in the Maritains. If we do not know what or who it is to be educated,
the whole effort will easily go awry. This understanding also hints at the importance of there being no
philosophy that it itself "purely philosophically philosophical", that is to say, that the philosophic life, the
highest life of the philosophers, however valuable, cannot itself be identified with the happiness to which
each human person is intrinsically ordained.
What I appreciate in Maritain here is his willingness to state the uniqueness of the Christian
understanding of man. Not unlike John Paul II, in Crossing the Threshold of Hope or Augustine in The
Confessions, Maritain states clearly his understanding of competing views of man. Christianity, thus, does
not hold the "transmigration of souls." This view would eventually mean that each of us is eventually
everyone else, even every other thing. The Christian alternative is a version of the Greek philosophic idea
of the immortality of the soul. "After the death of the body the human soul lives forever, keeping his own
individuality." (46) But this understanding of immortality is not all. Faith holds that "the body will rise up and
be united with the soul again." Even in the state after death, the immortal soul is not in a state of completion,
a completion that would necessitate both body and soul. Both against Hinduism and Platonism which found
the soul to be the essence of man, the Christian idea includes at all times the body, or the whole person as
the completion that is really implied by man's initial dignity as a being made for nothing less than God.
Descartes notion that the individual is only mind is likewise to be rejected as incomplete. This excursus into
philosophy is important. A lofty understanding of man's soul at the expense of his body is not a Christian
alternative. Christian philosophy grounds the whole educational enterprise by placing both body and soul
in right perspective with regard to the final end of the whole person.
"Christian education does not a worship of the human body, as the ancient Greeks did," Maritain
but it is fully aware of the importance of physical training as aiming at a sound balance of the whole
human being; Christian education is intent on making sense-perception, which is the very basis of
man's intellectual life, more and more alert, accurate, and integrated; it appeals confidently to the
deep, living power of imagination and feeling as well as to the spiritual power of reason; it realizes
that in the development of the child hand and mind must be at work together; it stresses the
properly human dignity of manual activity. (47)
Maritain was careful to pay tribute to Plato and still make clear why a proper understanding of education
did not follow from the notion of innate ideas or man's being as only a soul. Human souls do not preexist,
nor are they replete with ideas the understanding of which is obscured by the body, so that the highest
understanding can only be had if the body is removed. In the Platonic understanding the pupil "does not
acquire knowledge from the teacher, who has no real causal influence and who is at best only an occasional
agent; the teacher only awakens the student to those things which he already knows, so that to know is
nothing else than to remember." (48)
Maritain thought that this Platonic system treated the human being as if he were an "angel". He also noted that in The Laws, Plato far from stressing this angelic knowledge seemed to propose an extraordinarily detailed list of things to which the citizen had to conform, something that implied a lack of an active practical intellect responsible for the judging particular cases in which normal human life usually happened. Maritain's alternative was that of Aristotle which proposed a more realistic understanding relationship of teacher and pupil. "The teacher does possess a knowledge which the student does not have. He actually communicates knowledge to the student whose soul has not previously contemplated the divine Ideas before being united to his body; and whose intellect before being fecundated by sense-perception and sense experience, is but a tabula rasa, as Aristotle said." (49) It is of some importance to spell out this background understanding of what man is because it alone can justify the combining of man's physical and spiritual sides on one whole, all of which are essentially related to one another because of an end that itself transcends not only the state but philosophy, without being hostile to either.
Maritain thought that there was an intimate relation between the pursuit of truth, of education, and
the spiritual life. The higher the level of education the more deeply attuned to things of the spirit, now taken
in the Christian sense of the incarnational unity and destiny of each person, need attending to. Maritain, for
all his praise of philosophy, did not think that by itself it would succeed in keeping human dignity among
men. "Thus we may understand the paradox that natural law exists, as the very basis of morality, and that
nevertheless no effort of reason to establish among men a firm system of morality based only on natural law
has ever been able to succeed...." (50) Some evidently paradoxical relationship evidently exists between the
supernatural and man's natural inability in this life, at least, to be natural. This paradox, this dilemma is
certainly pertinent to Maritain's organization of the "Thomistic Circles". He noted that throughout history,
in India, China, Europe, among Quakers and Catholics, that "wise men living in solitude and contemplation
gather together disciples who come to listen to them either for a certain number of years or at certain times
of the year." (51) Within the Catholic tradition, Maritain thought, that the times especially required the
formation of spiritual centers wherein spiritual life and instruction could be developed. This sort of
experience would also be advisable for university students and boys and girls during vacation time. (52)
In his Notebooks, Maritain described his own experiment with this sort of program that combined
study, prayer, conversation, and a sort of family environment. These study groups met once a month at
the home of the Maritains. They were designed for "those men and women for whom the spiritual life and
studies in wisdom (philosophical and theological) had a major importance and who wished to devote
themselves as much as they could to pursuing them." (53) The formal structure for these groups, its written
constitution, is printed in the Appendix of the Notebooks. (54) It included even a private vow of prayer and
devotion, though there was no idea of a religious congregation. The people who attended are listed by
Maritain as they appear in one or other meeting. They were a "varied ensemble". They included
young persons and old persons, male students and female students, and professors -- laymen (in
the majority), priests and religious -- professional philosophers, doctors, poets, musicians, men
engaged in practical life, those who were learned and those who were uneducated -- Catholics
(in the majority), but also unbelievers, Jews, Orthodox, Protestants. Some were already experts
in St. Thomas, others were serving their apprenticeship with him, others knew nothing about him
or almost nothing. (55)
There was a climate of friendship and liberty.
The atmosphere was not that of class or convent or seminar, nor were they "guests of a more or less stiff intellectual trying to offer them seats and passing out drinks and cigarettes before the exchange of ideas." Rather the success of these afternoons and evenings was largely due to the presence of Maritain's wife. "They were received in the hearth of a family, they were the guests of Raïssa Maritain. Such meetings and such a work in common are inconceivable without a feminine atmosphere," Maritain wrote. Not only Raissa was present but her sister Vera and her mother. Raïssa is described as present, taking an active part in the discussion, but "always discreetly, but with the mad, boundless love of truth which burned in her." This peculiar phrase "mad, boundless love" appears often in Maritain's notes almost by way of challenge to those pedestrian souls who are not ready or willing to engage in the real drama of human existence in the knowledge and love of God.
What was the subject matter of these circles? They always concerned some great theological or
philosophical issue, usually based in a text of St. Thomas or John of St. Thomas. "The fundamental idea
was to being into play at one and the same time, in the concrete problems and needs of our minds, things
we knew to be diverse in essence but which we wanted to unify within us; reason and faith, philosophy and
theology, metaphysics, poetry, politics, and the great rush of new knowledge and of new questions brought
by modern culture." (56) Maritain himself prepared the night before or on Sunday morning a brief exposition
of the matter to be discussed. His notes contain outlines and sketches of what he had to say. He gives a
list of the subject matters for the first ten years of the circles ranging from angelic knowledge to human
knowledge of singulars, the desire for the vision of God, speculative and practical knowledge, justice and
friendship, the Trinity, person, the Incarnation, free will, and the analysis of the voluntary act. (57) There was
a constant effort to clarify language, to appeal to direct experience, but a "fierce search for intellectual
What did Maritain conclude was the most important thing that he himself learned from this
experience of the Thomist Circles?
The experience of our study meetings taught me a very precious thing: namely, that discursive and
demonstrative argumentation, doctrinal erudition and historical erudition are assuredly necessary,
but of little efficacy on human intellects such as God made them, and which first ask to see. In
actual fact, a few fundamental intuitions, if they have one day sprung up in a mind, mark it forever
(they are intemporal in themselves), and they suffice ... to make a man unshakably strengthened in
the love of St. Thomas and in the understanding of his wisdom. I observed this in a good number
of our friends, whose example I take to be decisive. (58)
Maritain seems to imply that his academic experience, at its highest level, requires spiritual experience. We must first ask to "see" before we shall see.
Maritain's experience in the Thomist Circles seems to confirm his experience in teaching young
women as well, in anticipation, of confirming Bloom's remark that the unhappiest members of our society
are the students in the twenty or thirty best universities. They are unhappy because with the presuppositions
of their philosophy, there is nothing left to see. Raïssa Maritain as a young woman loved metaphysics
because it was "the ultimate crowning of reason." She loved it more because it gave her access to
something more, something higher, not higher than reason, but to a reason that is higher than human reason.
Jacques Maritain thought it made a difference, what kind of education we had. Education was not merely
something of the soul, yet it was of the soul. What was really important was not a quickness of wit or a
specialization of knowledge. What really mattered was what was thought about, what was discussed, and
how important the matter was.
That St. Thomas could guide us in sorting out things of importance to discuss, Maritain had no
doubt. We can say without too much exaggeration that today graduates of most university, public,
Catholic, or private, simply has never had the things that really matter clearly and adequately exposed to
him. Yet, the student has to desire to know and has to suspect, at least, that he is not really encountering
the great questions and what is more important, the great answers. Education is not just a series of
questions. Rather it is mostly a series of answers. When the Platonist tells us that our knowledge is innate,
or when the Hindu tells us that we are already incarnate, or the Cartesian that we are only mind, we must
be ready to see something else. No doubt there is an intimate relation between moral life and intellectual
life. When the habits of our human wholeness are not in order, we will not be likely to think straight. But
our bodies can be perfectly healthy and we can will not to see.
An access to "a reason for living" is, among us, the most important of the things we can receive from
education. We should not doubt that original sin that Professor Clarke spoke of, or the stupidity that Lucy
Brown suspected, or the relativism that Allan Bloom observed the best students would embrace
uncomprehendingly, can deflect us. Still even the most perceptive theoretical knowledge and education
will little avail us as we actually are, as Maritain said in his Notebooks, unless, like Augustine, "we first ask
to see." What we have yet to see when we already see is what education is really about and this seeing
itself requires our first knowing what we are and, yes, praying for what we want to be. If we do not know
some purpose for ourselves, we will not be able to fulfill that great Socratic admonition to "know ourselves",
for we cannot know even ourselves by knowing only ourselves.
"The task of the teacher," as Maritain said, in a final sentence that we can properly apply to
Maritain himself, is not one of "birches and tawes", but "above all one of liberation." (59) What really matters
are the right answers to the right questions. The endeavor of the Twenty-First Century may well be that
if finding new Thomist Circles, new families, new universities, new monasteries, yes, new on-line systems
wherein the right questions and the right answers could be asked. But what is important is not the
technology of it all, but the seeing, the desire that we see, the discipline and grace of life that enables us
even to want to see.
James V. Schall, S. J.
LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION IN A FREE SOCIETY
"Pompey now having ordered all things ... took his journey homewards.... When he came to Mitylene, he gave the city their freedom ... and was present at the contest, there periodically held, of poets.... He was extremely pleased with the theatre itself, and had a model of it taken, intending to erect one in Rome on the same design, but larger and more magnificent. When he came to Rhodes, he attended the lectures of all the philosophers there.... At Athens, also, he showed similar munificence to the philosophers, and gave fifty talents towards the repairing and beautifying of the city.... By all these acts he well hoped to return into Italy in the greatest splendour and glory possible to man, and find his family as desirous to see him as he felt himself to come home to them. But that supernatural agency, whose province and charge it is always to mix some ingredient of evil with the greatest and most glorious goods of fortune, had for some time back been busy in his own household, preparing him a sad welcome. For Mucia during his absence had dishonoured his bed...."
-- Plutarch, "The Life of Pompey." (60)
"I'm not absolutely certain of my facts, but I rather fancy it's Shakespeare who says that it's always just when a fellow is feeling particularly braced with things in general that Fate sneaks up behind him with the bit of lead piping. And what I' driving at is that the man is perfectly right."
-- P. G. Wodehouse, "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest." (61)
Human beings rightly puzzle about why their best-laid plans do not usually come to fruition.
Perhaps, when thought about, they are still more puzzled when they consider a world, the actual world, in
which at least some of their plans do work out well. How can this be? Human agency, after all, exists in
a world in which it can subject at least some non-human things to its own purposes, in which it can
persuade some human beings to follow its directions. Some correspondence evidently exists between the
human mind and the things that are. Across rivers, gorges, and straits, we do build bridges that do not
collapse. When we whistle to our dog, it comes running. We create neither the dog nor our ability to
whistle nor the river, but we do invent the bridge. Thought arises from reality and reality is changed by our
thought connected, as it is, to our hands and to the mouth we whistle with..
But we find an irony in our existence, as the two above-cited passages intimate. The greatest of
political glory, in the case of the Roman General, is sorely tempered by the failure of moral virtue in his very
home. He ended a war; he freed a city; he listened to philosophers; he beautified Athens; he planned a
Roman theatre; he loved his family -- all recognized characteristics of a liberal and noble man. Yet, from
the classic biographer of the ancient world to the great English humorist of the twentieth century, this
precarious awareness of fallible human condition is simply present to educated men and to common folks
What is called "fate," properly considered, falls under divine providence wherein all things, even evil in its own way, work unto the good. Whether our propensity to find a touch of bad midst the most anticipated glories is attributed to a "supernatural agency," with Plutarch, or, more amusingly, to the "lead pipe" of "Fate" with Wodehouse, or to providence in revelation, we cannot avoid the fact that we must account for a human condition that sees the good suffer and the wicked prosper. Still, this same human condition recognizes that oftentimes the good are indeed good and that evil is in fact firmly rejected. Such is our experience.
The terms "liberal" education and "free" society arise out of the same source, out of the classic
notion that we could and should first rule ourselves, that such rule is in our personal power. A "free" society
meant one composed of those who in fact did rule themselves before they talked of ruling others. The rule
of others is after the manner of the self-disciplined freedom found in those who are ruled. The word "free"
in a free society does not refer to the capacity to do whatever we want, no matter what it is we want. The
classic and pejorative definition of democracy arises from that undisciplined freedom or liberty that
overlooks the importance of what it is we choose. Those sons of the Athenian citizens who left their
parental homes without a capacity to rule themselves, as Aristotle tells us at the very end of his Ethics,
required a political power of coercion to contain this inner disorder so that it would not unjustly injure
others. Thus, freedom is first an inner willingness and an acquired habit whereby we rule ourselves. It does
not refer to doing whatever we want but to doing what is right, worthy, and noble.
We also need to rule ourselves for some purpose. Pirates, robbers, and rakes are often
"disciplined" in their own way to enable them to achieve, with a certain skill, something unworthy of man.
Thus, it is possible for us to rule ourselves either for a wicked purpose or for a noble one, knowing quite
well the difference between the one and the other. Moreover, it is difficult to see what a noble purpose
might be if we are not first properly guided and habituated. This capacity to rule ourselves takes more than
just knowledge; it requires effort, choice, experience, repetition of acts.
The severest penalty for not ruling ourselves consists in nothing less than being unfree, being unable even to see the highest things because we are too busy guiding ourselves to purposes that are unworthy. All public disorders, and hence all unfreedom and moral slavery, are rooted in personal disorders, in wills and in choices. Not knowing the important things is mostly a question of not willing to rule ourselves. The first notion of "liberal" then is that of ruling ourselves, of knowing what purposes for which we rule ourselves are good and which are not, of disciplining ourselves in single acts actually to make good choices.
A second meaning of the word "liberal" has to do with property and how we stand towards what
we own. Aristotle called the virtue by which we ruled over our material goods "liberality" or "generosity."
Liberality is a surprisingly important virtue as it applies to everyone, rich and poor alike -- in the case of
the rich, it is called munificence. One of the purposes we can choose as the principle of ruling ourselves,
one of the definitions we can give ourselves of our own happiness, is precisely wealth and wealth-getting.
We can use wealth wrongly or rightly, but wealth itself is a good. It is worth causing to exist by our
knowledge, inventiveness, and labor.
The fact that we need some material goods or wealth to live at all is simply a fact. Moreover, we ought not give away what is not ours. Private property is in general the best way to own and care for our material possessions. Furthermore, we reveal our souls to others by how we stand to our own wealth, however great or small it be, by how we use it. Society and personal relationships ought, then, to be a complexus of exchanges of justice and liberality, of things owed and of things freely given and received whereby we see the good of others and respond to it with our goods. To a society wherein everything is provided by public ownership and distribution, wherein nothing can be liberally given and only "rights" exist, we prefer one wherein most things are taken care of by ourselves, by our own virtues and our own property.
A third meaning of the word "liberal," its most profound meaning, has to do with knowing, knowing
things for their own sakes. The Scripture says that it is the truth that will make us free. We do not "make"
truth, but we acknowledge it, affirm of what is that it is and of what is not, that it is not, as Plato said. We
live in a time that is antagonistic to truth, that thinks that the truth is what makes us unfree. Our society is
enslaved by a freedom that does not acknowledge the truth that frees it. The false notion of freedom is that
we will not be bound by anything that is, including our own being. We must, it is said, transcend, be free
of, all order or reality that we do not cause. We lust after a kind of diabolic freedom that binds us to
nothing but ourselves.
The free man in his actions is what Aristotle called, "a cause of himself." But this does not mean
that such a free man made the things that are. He is free when he knows. The very purpose of his mind
is to become what he is not. His freedom consists in his capacity to know what is without being distracted
by urgings of use or of pleasure or of power. Our highest power or faculty is to know, to know the truth
of things. No society or individual can be safe if it does not possess those who are free to pursue the truth
apart from political or economic coercion or opinion.
The political order and the economic order exist to make this freedom possible; they are not
themselves the highest things and can be its greatest hindrances. Civil and political liberties are themselves
means, not ends. Even institutions designed to foster truth in freedom can become corrupt or misguided.
Universities, media, religion, or other voluntary societies can impose conditions that make the freedom to
know the truth dangerous or difficult.
Properly speaking, "liberal" education includes all three forms of freedom: 1) the freedom that comes when we rule ourselves, rule for a proper good the tendencies we are given in nature; 2) the freedom that comes when we use our goods and property liberally and generously for a human purpose, including our own independence and dignity, when we can give and receive, when we show our souls to be free, and 3) the freedom to know the truth, to have the time and space in which we can know and see things for their own sakes, when we are not deflected by our own desires or by utilitarian, pleasurable, or political purposes.
Oftentimes we talk as if education alone will make us free or as if it is the principal element in our freedom. In a famous debate between Aristotle and Plato, it was Aristotle who pointed out that the possession or definition of knowledge does not assure us of virtue or its exercise. On the other hand, virtue, even if we acquire it, is not itself its own reward but is always directed to something besides itself. Ultimately, it is directed to the truth of being in which our happiness exists.
Liberal education in a free society always needs first to be seen in the light of virtue, of the will to
rule ourselves for a worthy purpose. We are not free if we simply do whatever we want to do, whatever
it is. Doing precisely whatever we want is indeed a form of slavery to our own desires or passions.
Freedom in democracies often does tend to this uncontrolled notion of freedom wherein any claim that our
wants or our purposes be limited or directed, even by ourselves, is looked upon as contrary to freedom.
Plato is famous for pointing out the relation between the order or disorder of our souls and the
order or disorder of our societies. Machiavelli is rather infamous for the contrary idea that we must allow
the prince to do either good or evil for him to be successful, that we must lower our sights because we
cannot expect men to be virtuous. Rousseau instructed us that virtue and vice are products not of our wills
or habits but of society and its institutions. Virtue results not of our own efforts to rule ourselves but of
some institution that takes rule out of the self and places it in external law or will.
Liberal education agrees with Plato that self-rule is at the heart of civil order. It rejects
Machiavelli's indifference to the distinction of good and evil and fears Rousseau's placing of virtue and vice
in the hands of the state and its defining and coercive powers. St. Thomas said, that, as a practical rule,
we should not expect more virtue than can be found in the generality of men in any society Still, he thought,
we need to know what virtue is, even when we do not practice it. The role of liberal education in a free
society is precisely to keep these three ideas of freedom alive among us: the idea 1) that we can rule
ourselves, 2) that we can be generous with our property, and 3) that we can know the truth that alone
makes us free and is the purpose for which we seek to know at all.
That there is some evil mixed with the most glorious deeds, that when our lives are particularly
"braced in general," we are likely to be "lead piped," these are experiences common to our kind, the
knowledge and meaning of which are essential to our physical and spiritual well-being. The liberal
education that does not have a proper appreciation of moral evil and of the likelihood of accident in our
lot ill prepares us for our world. But the essential purpose of liberal education is precisely to enable us to
be free to rule, to give, and to know -- to rule ourselves, to give from our abundance to others, and to
know what is the truth of things, the truth of human things and, in so far as we can, of divine things.
A "CATHOLIC" UNIVERSITY: A CONTRADICTION OR A COMPLETION?
One sometimes wonders about the souls of bishops. No doubt it is a more comforting wonderment
if one is not himself a bishop. If they are diligent, concerned with their flock, most bishops have more than
they can handle. Still, consider a St. Augustine. He produces most of his vast writings and preaching while
he is an engaged bishop with a couple of mini-wars going on. We watch a very busy Pope. In spite of his
manifold duties, he systematically visits all the many parishes of Rome, his diocese. We cannot help but
thinking that, in any harried bishop's life, some room can be found for reflecting on "what is to be done,"
to cite a phrase from Lenin. Where do his most serious problems lie? Bishops, I think, from now on, have
to give a considerably greater attention to the spiritual and intellectual well-being of the academies -
students, professors, and structures - than they have been hitherto accustomed to grant them. This, at
least, is the most obvious meaning both of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the pope's instruction on particularly
Catholic universities, and of Fides et Ratio, his encyclical on reason and revelation..
A widespread impression exists that some fundamental connection exists between the condition of
universities and the condition of the culture, granted that there are those who can see nothing wrong in either
the culture or the university. No doubt, Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind was, for the most
part, as pertinent to Catholic as it was to secular institutions. Peter Redpath amusingly described the
general situation in this way:
Many Catholics do not know what it means to be Catholic any more. Protestant sects are
becoming harder to distinguish one from another. At times, philosophers sound strangely like
theologians, fiction mongers, or sceptics. Often, theologians sound curiously like philosophers or
atheists. Politicians sound like preachers. Preachers sound like politicians. At times, educators
are illiterate. Psychologists, who associate their study with an investigation of the human soul, often
do not believe in the existence of a soul.... (62)
Many lofty academic and cultural matters, no doubt, may seem to be none of the bishop's business even
if he has himself a higher degree in some mainline or esoteric discipline.
Yet, any perceptive bishop must realize that the greatest slippage from the faith, the one that causes
the most ultimate damage, somehow is connected with the condition of the universities, with the
philosophers, theologians, academics, and educational administrators. No doubt, a distinction exists
between concern about the souls of university students as individual believers and concern about the
university's structure, atmosphere, and curricula as such. But someone would have to be a Manichean to
hold that these two areas of personal and institutional life have nothing to do with each other. Aristotle had
already indicated the close connection between the moral life and the philosophic life. Aberrations of mind
and aberrations of living do not exist in isolation.
A good percentage of dioceses in the country have colleges and universities within their
geographical jurisdiction, even if they be large junior colleges or small colleges with a thousand students.
Some such institutions will also call themselves "Catholic," administered under some Order or
Congregation, or even, as in the two colleges in Iowa, under the bishop's own general responsibility. It
has been a long standing joke that there are often more Catholic students at USC or UCLA than in all the
local Los Angeles Catholic schools put together. In fact, many students at Catholic colleges are not
themselves Catholic. Not a few Catholic students, alas, even cease to be Catholics in Catholic colleges,
just as a not-negligible number of converts and even vocations today come from secular colleges and
universities. The local bishop thus must wonder about what the many Catholic students at, say, Michigan
State, or the two Miamis, or UConn, or the University of Tennessee know about their faith, whether it
corresponds, in any meaningful sense, to the level of the students' secular knowledge. Likewise, certain
Newman Clubs - I think of those at Dartmouth, at the University of Nebraska, at the University of Illinois
- have, over the years, been outstanding.
Probably, if an Ordinary is diligent, he wonders likewise about Catholic students at one of the
Loyolas, or Notre Dame, or St. John's, or St. Catherine's, or even at the University of Dallas. What in
fact do they know? Is it really anything substantial, amid all else they think they must know? Are the usual
two "required" courses in theology or "religious studies" or philosophy anything more than token, if not
positively harmful? If a large (or small) state or private university or college is in his diocese, a bishop will
have Catholic students from other dioceses or countries for whom he must have some concern. Is there
any way he can talk to them? Could he say Mass for them? How is he to exercise his religious
responsibility towards them, which, in this case, would include some concern about the intellectual
component of Catholicism? Is the Catholic chaplaincy anything more than skeleton? Is the liturgy and
teaching there orthodox, dignified or is it, in truth, watered down, thinly disguised modernity? Do college
"liturgies" subsequently alienate students from their future parishes and their support?
The Holy Father and Cardinal Lustiger of Paris have proved again and again that university students
can be their most ardent followers. The Pope in his travels never fails to give a careful address at a major
university in the country or city he is visiting. "The origin and purpose of this university (of Havana), its
history and its heritage," John Paul said in Cuba (L'Osservatore Romano, 4 February 1998), "reveal its
vocation to be a fountain of wisdom and freedom, an inspiration to faith and justice, a crucible where
knowledge and conscience are fused, the teacher of a culture which is at once universal and Cuban."
Cardinal Ratzinger provides a powerful intellectual presence in the academic world. What kind of a job, it is increasingly asked of bishops, are the old Orders and the new institutes doing in academia? Is it enough just to take their word? On these affairs, a bishop, knowing that he himself is not primarily an academic, still must have his own judgment. This spiritual concern is what he is held to by his authority, by the Church itself. We ought not to begrudge him this solicitude or think him "interfering" when he wonders about his responsibility. It has theological origins of profound import.
Most people would agree that an institution should call itself what it is, no fudging. We are all
against "deception" in advertizing, not excluding academic advertizing. Looked at from this angle, the
present controversy about the relation of universities "historically founded and sponsored by Catholic
Church sources" looks like a simple question of justice. Call things by their proper names. Don't say one
thing but do another. Don't take monies under false pretenses. Don't give monies in endowments or gifts
or loans intended for a proper Catholic institution if that institution does not measure up, does not intend
to measure up, to a basic and abiding criterion whereby it might accurately be identified in name with what
it is in reality. If a school has in practice given up its historic Catholic identity, it seems best to say so.
Indeed, a bishop should request that it does so. Agreements even with the dead who founded such
institutions, however, ought to be kept. Pacta sunt servanda. "By their fruits, you shall know them."
The reverse side of this equation would probably be true also: don't take monies from governments
or foundations if the taking of the money, however lavish or attractive, demands or implies consent to or
omission of ideas or practices in opposition to one's held and announced intelligence. The non-monetary
side of this principle would be: don't allow yourselves to be accredited by organizations that directly or
indirectly require minimizing or suppressing the religiously intellectual side of the institution. The Holy Father
calls this downplaying "reductionism," the exclusion of genuine intellectual and spiritual topics because
certain methodologies cannot account for the presence of transcendent forces in reality. Faith, as such, is
never found by sociological methods, the most widely used methods today to investigate "religion."
Sometimes religion's absence can be recorded or at least hinted at. This is why those who have faith as
well as proper degrees should compose the main body of a Christian university. This provision is not set
down "against" those who do not have the faith, good folks all, but in order to have a place, an institution,
in which questions otherwise "reduced" out of consideration can be properly considered on a permanent
and coherent basis.
Universities that exclude the active consideration of issues from the classic Christian tradition exist
and are in the vast majority. In this regard, however open they might consider themselves, they are in fact
closed societies. The question is whether their quasi-monopoly ought to be so determinative that other
sorts of universities, equally competent, cannot exist. It is both unjust and biased if this monopoly denies
university status to institutions with religious intellectual interests, in addition to all else. Many governments
in the world use political power actively to prevent the possibility of universities founded in the religious
traditions. It may even be necessary, as Kenneth Whitehead has argued, to establish independent
accrediting associations, independent lists of journals and publishers that provide for the presentation of this
Why can we not insist, then, without bias, on universities being both Catholic and university? If we
must assume that the term "Catholic" adds something to the term "university," does it not imply that
something fundamental is already excluded from that whole that the word "university" is intended to cover?
As a matter of fact, as Gerald Bradley has recently noted, no reason exists in American law why American
Catholics cannot set forth criteria that define the nature of their own institutions (National Catholic
Register, 11 April 1999). One can even argue that the so-called crisis in Catholic universities supposedly
caused by the Holy See's concern about their relation to the faith was initially the result not of government
encroachment but of these universities' own free decision not to develop institutions more clearly based on
their own tradition.
Free people, in any case, ought to be able to found and carry out in space and time institutions of
higher learning without the fear that such institutions can be, even ought to be, subverted to purposes at
odds with the intention of their establishment. A university ought not to be a cover for the not considering
and adequatly presenting some fundamental aspect of reality worth knowing. If it excludes the intellectual
and moral side of religion, it is narrowing its institutional scope and its obligation to the whole range of things
to which human life is open. Catholic universities originally existed in order that this wholeness could have
a proper setting for its intellectual understanding and development.
The essence of a university, however, is not "academic freedom." The essence of a university is
truth. Freedom is a means to this purpose, not its end. Without truth, there is no freedom, only
unresolvable opinions that can be reconciled only by demoting the notion of truth to opinion or by power.
Freedom as a sole academic principle that holds that all is free, all is permitted, cannot really produce a
university. Paradoxically, freedom as it is understood in universities can and, with some irony, often does
produce widespread conformity and rigidly controlled agenda.
"To achieve tenure, graduate students have to first spend years doing whatever their dissertation
advisors command," Martin Morse Wooster wrote in a recent review.
That's the primary reason why there are so many Ph.D.'s producing theses on race, class and
gender. Once they get their doctorates, the newly minted assistant professors then have to spend
years doing scholarship that will not shock their peers. Writing articles for The Nation or The
National Review doesn't count as scholarship, and in fact ensures that the budding academic is
condemned by his tenure review committee as a "popularizer." Thus, by the time a professor
receives tenure (usually at the age of 45), he's content to write articles for scholarly journals instead
of comment on the issues of the day. (Washington Times, May 2, 1999).
One might question whether tenure is the real culprit here, but the conformity of race, gender, and class is
a fact. Freedom, of itself, is not able to keep those who oppose freedom from gaining control of the
university's soul. By itself, without judgment, all freedom can produce is a further multiplicity of opinions,
which is what we already have without a university. What we lack is not opinions but truth. Academic
freedom, to be sure, has a central place in the university. We have to be free enough to show that "this is
true," and truthful enough to say "this is not free." We are not free if we say "nothing is true" or "everything
is free" without contradicting ourselves.
Yet, we want our assent to truth to be free, based on evidence, argument, and insight. A place for
error must always exist in any pursuit of truth. Indeed, no truth is fully known until the arguments against
it are known and freely acknowledged. It is quite unfortunate, however, that prior censorship has come
to be a mode to protect the truth of religion in particular. Probably nothing has given religion a more
dubious name. Not only does its threat or presence undermine the witness of those who freely do hold to
Catholic positions, but it also fails to encourage looking for an alternative way to provide for the problem
at hand: namely, how to assure that what is said to be Catholic is in fact so, even when it comes from a
professor or cleric.
If an academic publishes something in the name of Catholicism that is in fact "heretical," a distinct possibility, no doubt, the university, the student body, and the public in general have a right to know the fact and the nature of this deviation. In the days of few books perhaps this was a useful way to approach the problem, though I have my doubts. Today, with Internet and e-mail, it is senseless to concentrate on books. The only real solution, I think, is for bishops to briefly point out, after they appear, issues, publications, or ideas that in fact are problematic. Many books and articles today that cause most confusion in the Church in fact have some sort of ecclesiastical approval.
Even though the first universities in the West were founded in and by the Church, it is often assumed
that the Church's interest in the university is somehow narrowing. But the Church, no less than the
academy, is interested in the truth. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." The end
of freedom is not freedom. With widespread "political correctness" conditions in higher education,
conditions that restrict, rather than expand, the study of all that is, the Church has recently become more
attentive to universities precisely because of their narrowness and confining ideologies. Paradoxically, the
Church today is not interested in the universities because they have openness and academic freedom but
because they lack it. The Church thinks that universities with a Catholic orientation are not only universities,
but more complete ones than those with a more narrow agenda. Catholic universities ought to compete
precisely because they are not just like everyone else, because things are studied there that are forbidden
(another real form of censorship) or ignored by political or ideological reasons in secular institutions. What
can possibly be wrong with broadening the scope of freedom to include, what has always been of central
interest to mankind, his religious origins and understandings as they present themselves and affect everything
We thus hear it said or implied that the term "Catholic university" is a contradiction in terms. In
fact, it is the same term. Both words mean more or less the same thing - what is common, what is
universal, what is open to all things. Nothing is excluded from consideration, particularly that which most
people in most eras and countries have considered most important to them, that is, religion itself..
Considerations of falsity and error have their place in the university, a central place, in fact. We are "to
know of what is, that it is, of what is not, that it is not," as Plato put it. We do not, to repeat, really know
something unless we know the arguments against it. This universal scope certainly includes religious claims
-- and the arguments against them. The Catholic Church has certainly never maintained, as its enemies too
frequently do, that its own grounding was in mere whim or unprovable fables. It has always been "realist"
in this sense. It has never held that faith has no "grounding" in reason. This is what is most disconcerting
about it, even in academia.
The fact is today that there are vast numbers of degrees being awarded each year, more than ever
before in history. Only about half of these newly degreed students will find jobs in academia. Very few
new institutions are being built, even though it would be easy to staff a great number of new institutions each
year if there were students to man them. The decline in the birthrate, moreover, and the increase in
immigration have changed the composition of new students in universities. American universities have
become in part training grounds for students from all over the world. Ironically, students with grants from
foreign governments can study in Catholic schools, grants that our own government would not give to native
Catholic students in Catholic universities. International trade has its advantages, even in academia.
If we look at present Catholic universities, it is clear that the religious Orders and Congregations
that have founded and continued them are, for the most part, in rapid decline, something they generally
acknowledge. They do not foresee any change or propose any innovation that might reverse the situation.
It is said, in fact, that religious orders in the Church have at most a two or three hundred life span and do
not survive without radical reformation of their own structures. The newer and more flourishing groups like
Opus Dei and the Legionnaires of Christ are not yet into colleges or universities on anything but a very small
scale. There is, to be sure, some effort to "re-Catholicize" the traditional universities from other sources.
I even saw an announcement of a conference on "How to keep Jesuit Universities Jesuit when there are
no Jesuits," or something like that. One hardly knows whether to laugh or cry.
The fact is that the percentage of a faculty that are practicing Catholics is becoming lower and
lower. This is probably not necessary in view of the number of new graduate degrees being granted yearly.
It is in part ideological. It is generally the result of a well-intentioned effort to "improve" the Catholic
university by making it like other universities, a somewhat counter-productive effort, as it turns out. This
has meant in practice the hiring of faculty with little regard to the nature of the Catholic university or even
with the assurance that it makes no real difference. It has accepted standards of "excellence" and
"training," tenure and promotion, that are implicitly hostile to the kind of university that includes a vision
of reality stemming from the Catholic tradition.
The argument for a Catholic university cannot really be made on a large scale except by a university
significantly populated by Catholics. The fact is, however, that this sort of Catholic university has been
made largely impossible by the hiring and promotion policies of Catholic universities in the last thirty years
or so. The criterion of "prestige" defined in secular terms has replaced the criterion of Christian intelligence
open to all reality. The result is that Catholics with proper higher degrees are not hired in Catholic
universities but are, ironically, found scattered throughout the country. There is probably something good
about this result as it has insured that there is usually a good but minority academic presence of thinkers
who are Catholic in practically every university and college in the country.
Is there an argument for founding new and struggling Catholic colleges? Ought bishops to decide
to cut their losses and acknowledge that the present university structure as it exists will never really do what
is needed? Ought they to admit that the present schools are at best schools with a certain "Catholic"
heritage but by no means adequate to what is necessary? The newer or reformed colleges and universities
that have appeared in the past thirty or forty years have indeed made their mark. They have produced a
surprising percentage of graduate students seriously pursuing degrees in the key departments of philosophy,
history, and theology. They are very present in Washington and in teaching in Catholic schools. There is
something to be said, moreover, for a school that pretty much has to make it on its own and define its new
role with only the benign interest of the hierarchy.
To the Bishops of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, John Paul II remarked (May 30, 1998): "The
Catholic identity of a university should be evident in its curriculum, in its faculty, in student activities and in
the quality of its community life. This is no infringement upon the university's nature as a true center of
learning, where the truth of the created order is fully respected, but also ultimately illuminated by the light
of the new creation in Christ" (L'Osservatore Romano, 2 June 1998). He also remarked that students
have a right to have what the Church actually holds to be taught to them, not merely the private opinions
of the professors. On reflecting on such lines, in light of the concerted opposition to the Pope's initiatives
to address himself to what a Christian university might be like, it does seem tempting to argue that the
bishops ought to encourage the founding of new and the re-founding or re-invigorating of Catholic colleges
on a more firm basis that would include what is presently generally excluded from the actual programs and
spirit of colleges that call themselves Catholic.
It is not altogether impossible that the present universities that call themselves Catholic will
reconsider their opposition, but probably not likely. There is at least some discussion today about whether
the university in general is not in some fashion both overly expensive and obsolete in terms of new
technologies and modes of teaching. On-line teaching is more and more perfected. It might well be that
bishops will think that access to the intellectual needs of Catholics is better served through other institutions
that need to be formed and developed. It does seem to me that bishops should advise all students in
college, Catholic or secular, to commit themselves to a basic core of readings while they are in college, with
perhaps some well-developed on-line or taped presentation of major Catholic positions. At a minimum,
students should be asked directly and with the seriousness of the Church's authority to read, while in
college, the General Catechism of the Catholic Church, Augustine's Confessions, Josef Pieper - an
Anthology, Chesterton's Orthodoxy, and John Paul II's Crossing the Threshold of Faith and Fides
The term "Catholic" when juxtaposed to that of "university" is not contradictory but complimentary, when it does not in fact already mean the same thing, the consideration of the whole, of all things. By any standard, a student and a professor in a university should increase his faith and intelligence, not lose the first and abandon the second. We think of "teachers" being present mainly in the universities or schools. Yet, a bishop is above all a "teacher." In a culture in which much that is worthy of being known is not presented, the bishop has a wide field to teach little spoken truths. But his "teaching" is already "within" the university's own scope. He does not speak a truth that is alien to the sort of truth that is said to be pursued in academia. Rather he speaks to its fullness, to its completion. When we read the great bishops, the Augustines, the Alberts the Great, the Bellarmines, the Ratzingers, we are not "outside" the affairs of academia. We are already within the university, looking, yes, with freedom, looking to the truth, and indeed to its completion. It is not "Catholicism" that is "contradictory" in the university. It is its absence, even in secular universities, but especially in Catholic ones. This is the real concern of bishops and the Pope when they look objectively at the present state of universities. In the end, it is a liberal concern.
There is another version of this list in Another Sort of Learning, where it is twenty-five books.
This list includes most of those and is not intended to supersede that list. It is just another, I hope, useful
list of books that are incisive, sane, and probably never recommended. I do not include any of what might
be called "classic" books here, though each of these are classics in its own way.
These are the Twenty Books:
1) Josef Pieper -- an Anthology.
2) G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.
3) C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
4) E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed.
5) Eric Mascall, The Christian Universe.
6) Dorothy Sayers, The Whimsical Christian.
7) Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World.
8) J. M. Bochenski, Philosophy -- an Introduction.
9) Hilaire Belloc, Hills and the Sea.
10) John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
11) Conversations with Walker Percy.
12) Conversations with Eric Voegelin.
13) Joseph Pieper, In Defense of Philosophy.
14) G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World.
15) Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource 2.
16) William Wallace, The Modeling of Nature.
17) Paul Marshall, Their Blood Cries Out.
18) Wendell Berry, Fidelity.
19) Anne Husted Burleigh, Journey Up the River.
20) Peter Kreeft, Back to Virtue.
1. Leo Strauss, "What Is Liberal Education?" Liberalism: Ancient and Modern (New York: Basic Books, 1968), pp. 3-8.
2. Wesley McDonald, "Recovering a Neglected Conservative Mind," University Bookman, 34 (#4, 1994), 19-20.
3. Yves Simon, A General Theory of Authority (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980), p. 100.
4. "Foolishness ... implies a certain paralysis of the senses in judging, and especially concerning the highest cause, which is the final end and highest good."
5. James V. Schall, Another Sort of Learning (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).
6. Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (Boston: Little, Brown, 1945), p. 9.
7. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1947); Peter Kreeft, C. S. Lewis in the Third Millennium (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994).
8. Boswell on the Grand Tour: Germany and Switzerland, 1764, Edited by Frederick A. Pottle (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953), pp. 133-34.
9. Leo Strauss, "What Is Liberal Education?" Liberalism: Ancient and Modern (New York: Basic Books, 1968), p. 3
10. G. K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (New York: Phoenix Library, 1951), p. 59.
11. Conversations with Eric Voegelin (Montreal: Thomas More Institute Papers, 1980), p. 6.
12. Charles M. Schluz, If Beagles Could Fly (New York: Topper, 1990).
13. Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 307.
14. James V. Schall, Unexpected Meditations Late in the XXth Century (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985).
15. Hilaire Belloc, Hills and the Sea (Marlboro, VT.: 1906 [Reprint]).
16. James V. Schall, Idylls and Rambles: Lighter Christian Essays (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994).
17. Belloc, i bid., 187-88.
18. Boswell's Life of Johnson (London: Oxford, 1931(, II, p. 404.
19. "The more something is desirable and loveable, so much more will its loss bring greater grief and sadness. The greatest happiness, however, is desired and loved. Its loss, therefore, will have the greatest sadness. But if the highest happiness were in this life, it is certain that it would be lost, at least by death. And it is not certain that it would last even to death since it is possible that there happen, to any sort of man in this life, sicknesses which completely impede the function of his reason, such as madness and other sorts of disease by which the use of reason is impeded. Such a happiness will have sadness naturally connected with it. Therefore, there will not be perfect happiness (in this life)."
20. Josef Pieper -- an Anthology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 33.
21. Ibid., p. 35.
22. Thomas à Kempis, Sermons to the Novices Regular, Translated by Vincent Scully (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, and Co., 1909), pp. 41-42.
23. James V Schall, "On the Neglect of Hell in Political Theory," The Politics of Heaven and Hell: Christian Themes from Classical, Medieval, and Modern Political Philosophy (Lanham, MD.: University Press of America, 1984), pp. 83-106; "Regarding the Inattentiveness to Hell in Political Philosophy," At the Limits of Political Philosophy: From 'Brilliant Errors' to Things of Uncommon Importance (Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), pp. 89-104.
24. Josef Pieper, Enthusiasm and the Divine Madness: On the Platonic Dialogue 'Phaedrus' (New York: Harcourt, 1964.
25. E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed (New York: Harper Colophon, 1977), p. 132.
26. Jacques Maritain, Education at the Crossroads (New Haven, CT.: Yale University Press, 1943), p. 53.
27. Raïssa's Journals, Presented by Jacques Maritain (Albany, N. Y.: Magi Books, 1974), pp. 110-11.
28. The Education of Man, Edited by Donald and Idella Gallagher (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, 1962). Most of Maritain's Lectures and Essays on education are also published in a French edition, Pour une philosophie de l'éducation (Paris: Fayard, 1959).
29. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., pp. 30-31.
30. Ibid., p. 32.
31. Ibid,. pp. 93-94. Clarke's book is A Review of Educational Thought (London, 1942).
32. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., p. 94. "Christian faith knows that human nature is good in itself but has been put out of order by original sin; hence it sees that Christian education will recognize the necessity of a stern discipline, and even of a certain fear, on the condition that this discipline, instead of being merely external -- and futile -- should appeal to the understanding and the will of the child and become self-discipline, and that the fear should be respect and reverence, not blind animal dread. And Christian faith knows that supernatural grace matters more than original sin, and the weakness of human nature, for grace heals and superelevates nature and makes man participator in divine life itself; hence it is that Christian education will never lose sight of the God-given equipment of virtues and gifts through which eternal life begins here below," The Education of Man, ibid., p. 131.
33. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., p. 74.
34. Education of Man, ibid., pp. 154-58.
35. Charles Schulz, Nobody's Perfect, Charlie Brown (New York: Fawcett, 1963).
36. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., p. 64.
37. Education of Man, ibid., p. 154.
38. Ibid, pp. 154-55.
39. Ibid., p. 155.
40. Ibid., pp. 156-57.
41. Ibid., p. 157.
42. Ibid., p. 158.
44. Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 25.
45. The Education of Man, ibid., p. 41.
46. Ibid., p. 129.
47. Ibid., p. 130.
48. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., p. 29.
49. Ibid., p. 30.
50. The Education of Man, ibid., p. 116.
51. Education at the Crossroad, ibid., p. 84.
52. Ibid., pp. 85-86.
53. Jacques Maritain, Notebooks, Translated by Joseph Evans (Albany, N. Y.: Magi Books, 1984), p. 133.
54. Ibid., pp. 290-97.
55. Ibid., p. 134.
56. Ibid., p. 135.
57. Ibid., p. 136.
58. Ibid., pp. 136-37.
59. Education at the Crossroads, ibid., p. 39.
60. Plutarch, "The Life of Pompey," Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden, rev. Arthur Hugh Clough (New York: The Modern Library, n.d.), 770
61. P. G. Wodehouse, The World of Jeeves (New York: Manor Books, 1974), 138.
62. Peter Redpath, Cartesian Nightmare (Amsterdam: Rodophi, 1997), 2.