12 July 2014

St. Benedict retrospective

Yesterday was St. Benedict's day; it's the second of two, as his proper day is March 21st, but June 11th has also long been celebrated. St benedictThree monks made simple vows and that's always a fine moment for the college as well as the monastery.

In the spirit of the day, here's a reflection on Benedict the saint from Benedict the pope emeritus.

09 July 2014

Odysseus and the liberal arts?

Odysseus: Patron Hero of the Liberal Arts: "So how will I present this illiterate pagan Odysseus, a man, moreover, with the additional disadvantage of being a fiction, as the patron saint of liberal arts, the arts of interpretation?"
Since Eva Brann is asking the question, her answer is more than worth hearing. TLDR; if we cannot interpret our own lives, they will be interpreted for us by others. And in that case, why bother living?

06 July 2014

Weekly Reading - Herodotus

Fresh out of Guardian columns, but here's this week's reading nonetheless. Just wound up the new translation of Herodotus's The Histories, by Tom Holland. It's a fine version, although idiomatically modern in many places. But that does serve to make the text more immediate, and probably more like what the initial audience in Athens would have heard. Highly recommended, and much better than getting your Thermopylae by way of Frank Miller.

04 July 2014

Note for the Fourth of July

The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir. We Americans are the only ones who didn't get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals.
Neal Stephenson

22 June 2014

Weekly Reading - Spinoza

And now to the last of the Guardian weekly readings posts, with a look at Spinoza. There’s an odd resemblance to Calvin, at least in my personal pantheon, that would have horrified both of them. Each is a beautifully structured thinker, in a very admirable way, but one that I just can’t follow along with.

The particular thing about Spinoza is the recent vogue in attributing the entire foundation of the modern world to him, exemplified in a whole series of things by Jonathan Israel.
When I was reading him in grad school, there were various editions but they all seem to have been superseded by the Hackett Complete Works. The biography to read is Nadler’s.

Computers: yes, but...

“Computers are great, and I not only encourage their use by my students, I try to teach students how to use computers better. But for about three hours a week, we set the computers aside and look at books. It’s not so great a sacrifice.” – Alan Jacobs, Laptops of the Borg
I’m thinking more and more about a similar policy for the Fall; check out the post for some of the classroom-use considerations, on top of the handwritten notes point that I blogged earlier.

15 June 2014

799 years ago today

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
– Magna Carta, 15 June 1215.

14 June 2014

Insight into Vatican politics

Francis Cleans House at Vatican’s Financial Watchdog: "By reforming the Church, Francis is doing more than serving his flock. He is making a contribution to the well-being of people of all faiths and no faith all over the world."

One of the political blogs I follow has the habit of occasionally venturing into theology; surprised to see this today about a bit of Vatican inside baseball.

08 June 2014

The general...

The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.
– Sun Tzu

Weekly Reading - Plato

When I started studying political philosophy in graduate school, the emphasis was on the classics and above all, Plato. Augustine, the Church Fathers, and Bonaventure only kept reinforcing this as I got farther and farther into theology. Here Mark Vernon gives a fair rundown on how Plato somehow stands across Western thinking.
Plato: a very short introduction will give you more, as will Stanford (Web), but the more important thing to grasp about any ancient philosopher is that they’re pursuing a way of life. Then you could consider the Republic or even the Complete Works in tandem with Plato’s Philosophers: The Coherence of the Dialogues, which is one of the few texts I’ve found that covers all the dialogues.

31 May 2014

Weekly Reading - Calvin

I’ve been looking forward to this, since despite being a Catholic theologian who’s firmly convinced that double predestination is a horrible blasphemy, I’ve always admired Calvin as a theologian. The sheer architectural brilliance and comprehensive nature of his thought inspires a kind of intellectual awe. If I had landed at a Reformed college rather than a Catholic one (Deo gratias), I could easily have wound up a Calvinist.

In belated commemoration of his deathiversary (May 27, 1564), here’s the Weekly Reader on John Calvin. We’re still working through these sets of Guardian posts on various thinkers (Plato and Spinoza to go).

In their choice of writer, the newspaper really rolled sixes with Paul Helm (Helm’s Deep), who’s one of the best bloggers on the wider Reformed tradition as well as the writer of an amazing Calvin book.
Fuller take to be found at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. If you’re up for more reading, try this fine biography by F. Bruce Gordon and then perhaps move on to The Unaccommodated Calvin by Muller. (NB: Calvin is not necessarily the same as Calvinism.)

For the truly brave, of course, there’s no substitute for Calvin himself. Institutes of the Christian Religion is his Summa, although as it’s two thick volumes, the bravery will definitely be required.