Everything Important In Life Is Unknown

The best conceivable education, the education at which college-bound students should aim, comes from studying the greatest literary, scientific, philosophical, political, artistic, and musical works known to mankind, because their authors have the most to teach. Of all who have left records behind, they have understood most profoundly that we have much to learn, that the wonders of learning are exhilarating though its challenges are humbling, and that “everything important in life is unknown.”

Christopher B. Nelson, “Advice to the College-Bound”

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James V. Schall on the New State Religion

But if it is the state itself that insists its legislated or juridical doctrines are the ruling force, it can and does cause both restrictions on the public expression and cause legal and financial burdens on people who disagree with it. Religion is forced to support the “religious/ideological” laws of the state that now defines what is to be tolerated. To disagree with the state causes financial loss and requires approval of what people hold to be wrong. The difference between Jefferson’s hypothesis and the situation today is, at bottom, that the modern state is not just a “temporal order” but itself a quasi-established religion that enforces what it will or will not allow in ultimate questions about human life and death.

~James V. Schall, “Obama’s Right to Worship Ushers in New State Religion”

Schall

Alvin Plantinga, Always the Gentleman

AlvinPlantingaThat Juggernaut of Christian philosophy, Alvin Plantinga, is at it again, with all the grace, dignity, and winsome repartee that has defined his work as a scholar. This time, it’s in an interview in the New York Times where Plantinga touches on such diverse topics as The Problem of Evil, The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism, evidentialism, Calvin’s sensus divinitatis, and concludes with the claim that, contrary to modern atheists, it is not the theist who is intellectually deficient, rather it is the atheist who is irrational.

One of my favorite lines from the interview:

Some atheists seem to think that a sufficient reason for atheism is the fact (as they say) that we no longer need God to explain natural phenomena — lightning and thunder for example. We now have science.

As a justification of atheism, this is pretty lame. We no longer need the moon to explain or account for lunacy; it hardly follows that belief in the nonexistence of the moon (a-moonism?) is justified. A-moonism on this ground would be sensible only if the sole ground for belief in the existence of the moon was its explanatory power with respect to lunacy. (And even so, the justified attitude would be agnosticism with respect to the moon, not a-moonism.) The same thing goes with belief in God: Atheism on this sort of basis would be justified only if the explanatory power of theism were the only reason for belief in God. And even then, agnosticism would be the justified attitude, not atheism.

From: Is Atheism Irrational?

Does God Laugh?

Stephen Masty has a great article up over at the Imaginative Conservative, “Does God Have a Sense of Humor?”

In addition to Masty’s thoughts, I would add these two great quotes from Thomas Aquinas & G. K. Chesterton:

Jokes and plays are words and gestures that are not instructive but merely seek to give lively pleasure.  We should enjoy them.  They are governed by the virtue of witty gaiety…which we call pleasantness.  A ready-witted man is quick with repartee and turns speech and action to light relief…It is against reason to be burdensome to others, showing no amusement and acting as a wet blanket.  Those without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do, these are vicious, and are called grumpy and rude. (Summa Theologica, II-II Q148)

Barth

Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice, It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity. (Orthodoxy)

Technological Impoverishment the Key to Education?

From Sean Fitzpatrick’s A School Without Success

Students should live a life of “technological poverty,” where the use of electronic media is prohibited. This policy should not be enforced out of paranoia, ignorance, or a will to oppress, but to create an atmosphere conducive to education—to the experience of joy and contemplation. This restriction is radical, but radical action is called for. Modern technology and the habits surrounding it distance people from creation. The influence of television, video games, and popular music distort human vision by deforming the imagination, inclining more to bizarre fantasy than to reality.

Classical Education the Key to Scientific Progress

From E. Christian Kopff’s Greek to Us: The Death of Classical Education and Its Consequences

The decades on either side of WWI witnessed brilliant work in Physics: the concept of quanta, the theories of special and general relativity and the development of quantum mechanics. One might expect that the most important work in these fields would be done by graduates of the technical school system. Nearly the opposite is true. Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Niels Bohr were classically educated. Einstein attended a Swiss technical high school, but he had spent his first six years at a classical school, where his sister remembered his best subjects as Mathematics and Latin: “Latin’s clear, strictly logical structure fit his mindset.” Heisenberg wrote: “I believe that in the work of Max Planck, for instance, we can clearly see that his thought was influenced and made fruitful by his classical schooling.” Heisenberg insisted that his own insights into nature came from his classical education. Its combination of math and physics with language instruction led him to read Plato’s Timaeus in Greek. He was impressed by Plato’s rational appeals to understand nature mathematically rather than as a purely physical reality: “I was gaining the growing conviction that one could hardly make progress in modern atomic physics without a knowledge of Greek natural philosophy.”

A New Blog to Follow

51T5MT0B48L._SY346_Anthony Esolen, author of the brilliant book, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Childtranslator of the Modern Library Classics edition of the Divine Comedyand professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College, has a new blog: Word of the Day.

Check it out, it has all the promise of being a fantastic resource and enjoyable journey into history and language.

Humanities Departments to Blame for the Decline in the Humanities

So says Daniel McInery in The Humanities in a Digital Age: Online Higher Education

The humanities in American higher education are in deep crisis, and the cry of alarm released on June 18 by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences will probably contribute little to a renaissance.

The humanities themselves, as they are generally practiced throughout academia, surely deserve the lion’s share of the blame for the crisis. For decades now they have failed to make a compelling case for their centrality to a happy and productive life. They have indulged a passion for skepticism, materialism, nihilism, and one or two other noxious isms that one can find catalogued and critiqued in Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical, Fides et Ratio, and in so doing they have, perhaps unwittingly, consigned themselves to irrelevance.

Lowering Reading Requirements and Expectations

Last year, almost all of the top 40 books read in grades nine through 12 were well below grade level. The most popular books, the three books in The Hunger Games series, were assessed to be at the fifth-grade level.

Last year, for the first time, Renaissance did a separate study to find out what books were being assigned to high school students. “The complexity of texts students are being assigned to read,” Stickney says, “has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level.”

~Lynn Neary, “What Kids Are Reading, In School and Out