Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Life of the Mind

I just finished reading Father James Schall's new book The Life of the Mind.

In as few words as possible, the book is about the pursuit of knowledge through the course of a lifetime: it deals with the idea of the life long learner. There are chapters on: The lightness in Existence, The Liberals Arts, On the Consolations of Illiteracy, On Knowing Nothing of Intellectual Delights, and The Metaphysics of Walking to name a few. He argues that a bad education lacking in good books and great books can actually be an advantage, for now we have not learned the good/great books badly and have the opportunity of discovering for oneself what makes those books great (Like Chesterton's man who sails from England only to discover England upon returning). That is a bad education give the person the freedom to enjoy a good self education. He also cautions the reader about learning and reading books too soon. No one would give a teenager Aristotle's Metaphysics to read. The danger of learning something too soon or too high can result in burnout and stunt the life of the mind in the person and result in a non-education.

I recommend this book.

Here are some quotes that I liked:

"What is important is what is true, not the mechanics of recording it." pg 3

"We become luminous to ourselves when we know what is not ourselves ... We are the one thing in the variegated universe that we cannot directly know." pg 11

"The adventure of knowing is our avenue to the adventure of being -- to the being of all things that are." pg 11

"The important thing is not to read, but to understand." pg 14

"Indeed, the intellectual refutation of skepticism is almost the first serious step anyone needs to take to test the validity of his own mind and thinking powers." pg 18

"In coming to know, we do not change what it is that we know. We change ourselves." pg 18

Quoting Jacques Maritain "Great poets and thinkers are the foster-fathers of intelligence. Cut off from them, we are simply barbarians." pg39

"No matter how valuable natural virtues are, they do not themselves guarantee supernatural excellence." pg 40

"A man's life is always dealing with permanence -- that the most dangerous kind of irresponsibility is to think of your doings as temporary." pg 54

"Wisdom does not primarily deal with what we wish we might have, but with what we do have." pg 57

"We sometimes think that the highest things ar elearned apart from the ordinary things. Bur it is not true." pg 92

"When it comes to things that really count, there is nothing on TV." pg 114

"Beauty does not add to the usefulness of a tool." pg 127

"secularists are more scandalized when clerics do observe their vows than when they do not. Sin is ultimately less interesting than virtue, let alone grace." pg 130

"For we meet our greatest teachers by reading what they have to tell us, even when, like Plato, they tell us that the very highest experiences cannot be written down." pg 156

"In the end, it is indeed a 'risk' to be a human being." pg 156

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