How to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Part 1)

Andrew Pudewa honored me with an invitation to his IEW Symposium on writing a few weeks ago and what a blessing it was. Keep your eyes open for a July 2012 repeat of this wonderful conference.

One of the things he asked me to address was the question, “How can we cultivate wisdom through writing?” During this talk I got a little carried away on one or two points, so I didn’t say everything I hoped to and I also offended at least one person in the audience enough for her to get up and leave.

Nevertheless, I think IEW will be including this talk in a DVD or CD set in the not too distant future and I did make some discoveries along the way that I’d like to share with you.

Naturalistic materialism has come to dominate modern thought, which eliminates the soul from consideration. Thus when we try to define education, we find ourselves either confused or reduced.

In the old days, prior to the triumph of naturalism, education had to do with wisdom and virtue. Now it is necessarily utilitarian. Here’s why: Wisdom and virtue are qualities of the soul in which the will is guided by reason rather than appetite.

To the naturalist, there is no soul to be guided or formed, only a highly complex chemical structure called the brain. There is no will to be guided by a reason that also doesn’t exist.

In the old days, at least in its ideals, the goal of education was twofold: discipline the will to virtue and cultivate the reason to wisdom.

The way we understand the reason is determined by the paradigm with which we approach it. If I am a naturalist, I will think of the reason as the ability to calculate my advantage and make adaptations accordingly. Thus, I will build education on that presupposition.

If I actively believe in the Divine Image and apply that belief to my thoughts, I will think of the reason as that faculty that perceives the law of God written in our essence and that, from that preconscious perception, produces the impulses and activities that give rise to language, creativity, knowledge, membership in communities, and the other things that make us human.

In such a context, the education I provide will not be a matter of learning processes by which I can adapt to or overcome the environment. Instead it will cultivate the virtues that lead to every human excellence.

The reason and the will will be cultivated and the appetites controlled.

Conventional education does exactly the reverse.

How then can we cultivate wisdom? More on that in my next post.

9 Responses

  1. […] Posts How to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Part 1)How to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (part 2)How To Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Pt. 3)The […]

  2. Hi Andrew,

    This brings to mind a part in the book: The Last Battle (C.S. Lewis Narnia) when Aslan sprinkled all that was good unto the blind dwarfs and their perceptions of all the good things were corrupted and askew so that, no matter what Aslan gave them, they did not see nor appreciate it.

    All you or anyone else can do is spread the Truth and those who’s eyes have been opened will see.

    Thank you from the depths of my heart for doing what you do. I don’t think there’s a week that goes by that your name or Circe is not uttered from my keyboard when I speak (email) my Aquinas families. I think they’re getting a bit tired of hearing your name.

    During my Parent Orientation night the other day, I said, “someone once said”, then I quickly admitted, “OK, Andrew Kern”, and everyone laughed because they knew it before I said it. 😉

    It would be a great honor if you would place a link to our once-a-week Catholic classical mentoring program for home educators ( on your site. It is, in many ways, one of your babies. Although, admittedly, still in its toddler years. Hopefully, with a steady diet of Circe conferences and contact with Quiddity, the infant will grow to truly represent what is stated in our mission.

    We hope to see you hear in VA in January!

    God bless you, your family, and your work!!

  3. […] Posts Perversion and Ignorance of Classical EducationHow to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Part 1)Christian classical educationAbout CiRCEHow To Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Pt. 3)How to […]

  4. […] Part 1 is here and part 2 is here […]

  5. Maybe she just needed to go to the bathroom… 🙂

    Jesus said when we preach the gospel we will be offensive to people. We’re not, you’re not, attacking people. You are attacking ideas, philosphies, and really the powers and principalities of darkness – whethere those be entities or ideals. A worldview can have just as evil an affect as a devil in any era.

    You say this isn’t “the gospel” I say what isn’t? That we are made in the image of God? That we are made to reason together with him? That we are made to study to give an account for the hope that is within us? Jesus came to “save” but sometimes that salvation is through the making of blind eyes to see, deaf ears to hear, and mute tongues to speak. We are called to be living epistles. You are doing a great job of that Mr. Kern.

  6. […] Posts How to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (Part 1)Why the Short Story? Christian classical educationWhy History Class Must Die!How to Cultivate Wisdom […]

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  8. Kimberly,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I know that the only way to avoid offense is to be silent about what matters, so I appreciate your words and take them as you intend them.

    At the same time, I do want to be at peace with all men, so much as I am able.

    Please pray that I’ll have the wisdom to be kindly offensive only when it is necessary.

  9. Since your talk, I’ve been working to cleanse my eyes so that they will open. Then, I can also help my boys to see.

    Please, keep being offensive.

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