How to Cultivate Wisdom Through Writing (part 2)

Click here to see Part 1

To understand how to cultivate wisdom, we need to understand what wisdom is. Now, any number of definitions are available, but I want to look at this from the practical angle.

In other words, if we’re going to think about “how” to do something, we need to think of it as the end of actions. If it can’t be seen that way, then there is no how to.

For example, if redness is simply a state of being and there is no way to become or make something red, we’d be wasting our time trying to think about how to become red.

Looked at from this angle, there are three ways to look at wisdom that all mean the same thing but are worth expressing in three different ways.

First, wisdom is the knowledge of causes.

Second, wisdom is the ability to order and to judge.

Third, wisdom is the ability to perceive the nature of things so as to know how to appropriately relate to them.

These definitions help us see that there are different kinds of wisdom.

There is what I call, for lack of a better term, mechanical wisdom, which is characterized by great precision and regularity. It is guided by the principle of effectiveness and its end is utility. The standard of excellence for this form of genuine wisdom is usefulness.

Then there is artistic wisdom, which is less precise and therefore requires more judgment. It is guided by the principle of propriety and its end is creative human production. The standard of excellence is the beautiful.

Next comes ethical wisdom, which is even less precise and requires even more judgment. It is also guided by the principle of propriety, but its end is human action itself. The standard against which human action is measured by this wisdom is virtue.

Even higher comes philosophical wisdom, which is amazingly imprecise though its foundations remain absolute. It is the knowledge of first causes or principles. It requires astounding judgment. Philosophical wisdom is guided by the principle of truthfulness and its end is knowledge of truth; therefore it is measured by the standard of the truth.

The highest wisdom of all is theological wisdom, which becomes knowledge of the unknowable. It is the knowledge of Him who transcends knowledge. No judgment can reach this knowledge and all other forms of wisdom are subject to it. The standard by which it is measured is, if there can be one for here I am speculating far beyond my capacity, the harmony of the useful, the beautiful, the virtuous, and the true.

If that is what wisdom is and if these are the kinds of wisdom, the next question becomes, “how do we get it?”

More on that in my next post!

The Tempest: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Freedom

I have the feeling Shakespeare has been shadowing me lately and writing his plays based on things I’m thinking about. You laugh, but think about this.

I’ve been reading the Tempest to prepare for discussions with the apprentices. So this morning, I read Act 5, and I come across lines like this:

Ariel: If you now beheld them/ Your affections would become tender.

Prospero: Dost thou think so, spirit?

Ariel: Mine would, were I human.

Ah yes, he’s been thinking about next year’s conference theme: What is man?

But that’s not all. He goes on:

Prospero:
And mine shall.
Hast thou, which are but air, a touch, a feeling
of their afflictions, and shall not myself,
One of their kind, that relish all as sharply
Passion as they, be kindlier moved than thou art?
Though with their high wrongs I am struck to th’ quick,
Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance. They being penitent
The sole drift of my purpose doth extend
Not a frown further. Go, release them, Ariel.
My charms I’ll break, their senses I’ll restore,
And they shall be themselves.

I think that we fail to realize how much Shakespeare’s philosophy and ethic enabled his poetry. Shakespeare was a wise man, a man of such profound insight that his literature tempts people like Harold Bloom to turn it into a secular literature.

He knew human nature. Notice the language he used, some of which would now be considered archaic because it does not reduce man to something kindless (unkind).

“Shall not myself, one of their kind… be kindlier moved than thou art?”

In other words, should I not, sharing the same nature/kind with these men, act as one who shares a nature/kind with them. Should I not act humanely, humanly?

Do you see how very high a conception of humanity Ariel has? “Mine would, were I human.” Where does it come from? Until this day, he’s only known two humans, Prospero and his daughter Miranda.

It reminds me of Miranda’s words when she sees the nobly dressed dukes and kings later in Act 5: “How beauteous mankind is. Oh brave new world that has such people in’t.”

She’s young and naive and has enjoyed the loving affection of a good father. By brave, she means wonderful, imaginative, splendid – bedecked in wonder might be a fitting expression.

She had not endured what her father had. He replies to her awe: “‘Tis new to thee.” He is less impressed.

And no wonder, he had been betrayed by a brother, “that entertained ambition, expelled remorse and nature.” Nevertheless, to this brother he says, “I do forgive thee, unnatural though thou art.”

Ariel and Miranda are full of admiration for humans. Prospero less so. And yet, Prospero respects them more. He has one goal in mind, expressed a few different ways.

Line 36: Penitence.
Line 40: They shall be themselves
Line 197: To “requite them with a good thing” which restores a just order
And then, the very last word of the play, at the end of the last two lines:

As you from crimes would pardoned be
Let your indulgence set me free

In other words, the purpose of Prospero’s project (line 1) is that these human beings would realign themselves to nature and thus be set free.

Ironically, perhaps, it takes something more than nature to achieve that end.

Read the Tempest with these three themes in mind (but just read it for the pleasure of it) and you will be drawn deeper and deeper into truths that will open your eyes and, while they will “take the ear strangely” you will “be wise hereafter, and seek for grace.”

Looking For Something Better

The apprentices have gone home and I am preparing a hot bath to slow my mind down and absorb the experience we’ve just shared.

At the end of his moral classic, After Virtue, in which he describes the failure of the modern moral (and therefore political) project, Alisdair MacIntyre writes:

A crucial turning point in that earlier history [the gradual end of the western Roman Empire] occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead… was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.

I sense that something parallel is occurring even now in our American imperium, though the parallel must not be forced. MacIntyre continues:

If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the dark ages which are already upon us.

I’m not stretching too far when I say that the apprenticeship is a feeble attempt to at least empower people to contribute to such communities. It can’t be such a community because it is not local. But perhaps it can help others to build them.

And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers, they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another –doubtless very different — St. Benedict.

Turn your heart to your family and your church. Turn your heart away from this free-falling world and its honors. Something better beckons you.

A Lovely Afternoon Walk with Socrates and Phaedrus (Via my new Boeing Time-Traveling Vessel)

David Wright

Recently I had the fortuitous opportunity to travel back to the fifth century B.C. and take a lovely spring walk with Socrates and Phaedrus, just outside the walls of Athens. Coincidentally, Phaedrus had just arrived from a long morning walk and talk with Lysias when the door of my Boeing time vessel hemorrhaged open from a rather skittery landing.

I recognized Phaedrus immediately from the wry look of love on his handsome Athenian face. He couldn’t stop smiling and repeating lines from a speech about love. And you can always tell when someone is in love or talking about love because it is at the heart of reality.

Surprisingly, he paid little attention to my time-craft or my explanation of how I’d journeyed from the future. The speech and the idea were the logos of his entire essence; so much so that very little could distract him.

I greatly admired this—for my current cultural epoch is one of distraction; it is almost anti-speech and anti-idea. Furthermore, this was such a blessing, for I wished to be hardly noticed. I merely wanted to meander with them and take part in their discussion—the one that Plato recorded in his Phaedrus dialogue—without disturbing the moment because of my clothes or language. It all played out quite nicely.

My how green and rustic it was on the outskirts of Athens! Absolutely lovely. The insects whistling and the plantlife breathing fostered not only contemplation but also eloquence. For who would want to disturb such harmony with imprecise words? For nature speaks its own high language with perfect propriety.

Fortunately (actually once-in-a-lifetime-lucky), Phaedrus and I ran into Socrates sauntering near the west gate looking confused. It was really quite funny; he was extremely deep in thought and mumbling to himself—and having difficulty deciding whether to head toward the city center or toward the country. We quite easily convinced him to join us for a country stroll. And of course I had a small mp3 recorder. Our conversation proceeded as follows:

SOC: What were you doing there? Lysias was entertaining you with his eloquence, I suppose?

PHA: You shall hear, if you can spare the time to go with us. Oh, by the way, this is David, he’s from quite a ways away, though I’m not sure where. He’s very cordial and interested in discussion.

DAV: The pleasure is all mine. So nice to meet you. I hope you can spare the time to come with us.

SOC: Spare the time! Don’t you realize that to me an account of what passed between Phaedrus and Lysias is, to use Pindar’s phrase, ‘a matter which takes precedence even over business’?

PHA: Come along then.

SOC: Your story please.

PHA: Well, Socrates, what I have to tell you is very much in your line, for the subject on which we were engaged was love – after a fashion. Lysias has written as speech designed to win the favor of someone who is not in love with him. That is the clever thing about it; he makes out that an admirer who is not in love is to be preferred to one who is.

SOC: Noble fellow! I desire to hear your account of the speech.

DAV: I’d love to as well.

PHA: I’m an amateur. How can I reproduce such a perfect speech?

SOC: Don’t be coy. I know you’ve been out here walking and repeating the speech so much you have it memorized! That’s why you’re outside the city walls. Now you’ve met another man who likewise has a near disease-like passion for speeches. So get on with it!

DAV: Your fidelity to speeches is remarkable, as is your commitment to memorization and recitation, two canons of rhetorical discourse sorely lacking in my culture.

PHA: Let’s sit on the pretty grass in the shade below this tree. A gentle breeze is blowing.

SOC: Lead us on.

PHA: Tell me, guys, isn’t there a story that Boreas abducted Oreithyia from somewhere here on the banks of the Ilissus?

SOC: No, it was some quarter of a mile downstream, where one crosses to the temple of Agra; an altar to Boreas marks the spot, I believe.

PHA: But seriously, Socrates, do you believe this legend?

SOC: The pundits rejected it, so if I rejected it I’d be in good company. In that case I should rationalize the legend by explaining that the north wind blew Oreithyia down the neighboring rocks when she was playing with Pharmaceia, and that her dying in this way was the origin of the legend that she was abducted by Boreas.

But though I find such explanations very attractive, Phaedrus and David, they are too ingenious and laboured, it seems to me, and I don’t altogether envy the man who devotes himself to this sort of work, if only because, when he has finished with Oreithyia, he must go on to put the Hippocentaurs into proper shape and after them the Chimaera.

In fact he finds himself overwhelmed by a host of Gorgons and Pegasuses and other such monsters, whose numbers create no less a problem than their grotesqueness, and a skeptic who proposes to force each of them into a plausible shape with the aid of a sort of rough ingenuity will need a great deal of leisure.

Now I have no time for such work, and the reason is, my friend, that I’ve not yet succeeded in obeying the Delphic injunction to ‘know myself’, and it seems to me absurd to consider problems about other beings while I am still ignorant about my own nature. So I let these things alone and acquiesce in the popular attitude towards them; I make myself rather than them the object of my investigations, and I try to discover whether I am a more complicated and puffed-up sort of animal than Typho or whether I am a gentler and simpler creature, endowed by heaven with a nature altogether less typhonic.

DAV: I’m sorry, but I just have to comment here. Socrates, you have said several salient points. First, you mention that the pundits reject the myth, and that rejecting it is the popular thing to do.

In fact, they de-miracle-ize the legend don’t they?  Or as you say, they “rationalize” the legend by saying that a north wind blew Oreithyia down or else she fell from the Areopagus. But as you rightly say, these kinds of explanations are attractive but too ingenious and labored.

The slope of skepticism is a slippery one. Once a person begins this sort of cutting and trimming to fit his rational and empirical expectations and assumptions, he must continue to force all other phenomena into this machine—as you say, to put the centaurs and chimaera into proper shape.

This machine, by the way, becomes the dominant machine in about nineteen centuries, during a period called the Enlightenment. And once the machine is created, it can’t stop growing—it seems to feed itself.

You wouldn’t believe how indomitable the machine becomes in my century, entirely ruling the universities and the socio-political culture. Each successive generation since the Enlightenment has added a mechanism to the machine—a monistic gear, a materialist ball joint, an empiricist lever—and of course the fuel for the machine is an uncritical belief in technological progress.

And I love how you connect this to knowing oneself. The creation of this machine comes at the expense of the Delphic injunction. To ‘know thyself’ is vital; for man himself is the centaur and the Chimeara, a multi-faceted complexity who, ironically, defies and contradicts the very machine we have created.

To focus on the mystery of man and his soul is to watch the machine disintegrate. Your commitment to contemplating your own nature, Socrates, is in fact the greatest gift you will give mankind. For you and your commitment to the examined life is actually one of the few beacons, along with Christ the coming Messiah, that save philosophy.

Yes, you actually save it from the tyranny of negating systems such as sophistry, skepticism, nihilism, and many others. Indeed, true philosophy is rarely practiced in my era, and it’s almost nonexistent in schools, universities, and philosophy departments.

Unfortunately, because you are a point of light and a kind of savior, you will have to suffer for this. But I’m only telling you because I have a feeling you already know…

PHA: This is the place to rest and discuss.

SOC: Indeed a lovely spot for a rest. The plane is very tall and spreading, and agnus-castus splendidly high and shady, in full bloom too, filling the air with the finest possible fragrance. And the spring which runs under the plane; how beautifully cool its water is to the feet. The figures and other offerings show that the place is sacred to Achelous and some of the nymphs. I choose to lie down. Now read the speech of Lysias to me.

PHA: Why a lover not in love is preferable to lover who is in love. First, lovers repent the kindnesses they have shown when their passion abates, but for those not in love, there never comes a time for such regret. They behave generously, not under constraint, deliberately calculating their own interests.

Relieved from the disadvantages that being in love brings, nothing remains for them but to do cheerfully whatever they think will give their partners pleasure.

Second, lovers are apt to value any new love who comes along more than the old.

Third, lovers admit that they are mad, not sane; they know that they are not in their right minds but cannot help themselves. How then can one expect that designs formed in such a condition will meet their approval when they come to their senses?

Fourth, if you choose the best from among your lovers, you will have few to choose from, but if you look for the one who suits you best in the world at large, you will have a wide field of choice, and so a much better chance of finding one worthy of your friendship.

The fifth point concerns reputation. Lovers are easily offended by on another and incur worse reputations than non-lovers.

Sixth, lovers are more prone to quarrels and jealousy than non-lovers.

Seventh, with lovers, physical attraction precedes knowledge of character or circumstances, so it is uncertain whether they will want to remain friends when their passion has cooled. But for those not in love, who were friends before they formed a liaison, are in no danger of finding their friendship diminished as a result of the satisfaction they have enjoyed.

Eighth, lovers approve words and actions that are far from excellent and praise things which do not deserve the name pleasant—passion impairs their judgment.

Ninth, those not in love have an eye more to future advantage than to present pleasure, thereby laying the foundation of lasting affection.

Tenth, if you are possessed by the notion that firm friendship is impossible unless one is in love, then we should have little regard for our sons, fathers, and mothers.

And the eleventh and final point is that it is not the most insistent suitor that one should favor, such as a desperate lover, but one best able to make a return.

Well, what do you think of my speech, Socrates and David, isn’t it a wonderful piece of work, especially the diction?

SOC: More than wonderful. Divine. I concentrated on you and saw how what you were reading put you in a glow. I followed your example and joined in the ecstasy, you inspired man.

PHA: Do you think this is a laughing matter?

SOC: Why, don’t you think I’m serious?

DAV: I’m having trouble taking you seriously, too, Socrates.

SOC: Why, don’t you think I’m serious?

PHA & DAV: No.

SOC: Well, approving of the speech’s matter is one thing, and its style another. If you want to approve of the former, it is you who must take the responsibility. I can only admire its style, the clarity, shapeliness, and precision with which every phrase is turned. The matter I don’t suppose even Lysias himself could think satisfactory.

DAV: This ought to be good.

SOC: It seems to me, Phaedrus and David, that he has said the same things two or three times over, either because he couldn’t find sufficient matter to produce variety or from sheer lack of interest in the subject. The speech struck me as youthful exhibitionism; an attempt to demonstrate how he could say the same thing in two or three different ways.

PHA: Nonsense, Socrates. If the speech has one merit above all others, it is that no single aspect of the subject worth mentioning has been omitted; no one could improve on it in either fullness or quality.

DAV: I have a feeling Socrates may be able to improve on it.

SOC: Wise women and men of old have written on the subject more soundly.

PHA: Who are they?
SOC: Either lovely Sappho or wise Anacreon or some prose writers. And I can compose a better speech because I, in my ignorance, have been filled with external inspiration, like a jar from a spring.

DAV: Your acknowledgment of those who have come before is both humbling and vital to the great conversation. Nothing is new under the sun. We all absorb and build from those who have come before. I am excited for your speech.

SOC: Come, shrill Muses, help me in my tale. In every discussion, there is only one way of beginning in order to come to a sound conclusion—that is to know what one is discussing.

DAV: You must mean the crucial topic of Definition in the canon of Invention.

SOC: Right. Most people are unaware that they are ignorant of the essential nature of their subject. Believing that they know it, they do not begin their discussion by agreeing about their use of terms, so as they proceed they fall into self-contradictions and misunderstandings.

Do not let us make the same mistake. The subject we are discussing is whether the friendship of a lover or non-lover is preferable. Let us begin by agreeing upon a definition of the nature and power of love and keep this before our eyes as we debate whether love does good or harm.

Love is a kind of desire. But we know that one does not have to be in love to desire what is beautiful.

In each of us there are two ruling and impelling principles whose guidance we follow: a desire for pleasure, which is innate; and an acquired conviction which causes us to aim at excellence.

Sometimes these two are in agreement within us and sometimes at variance. The conviction which impels us toward excellence is rational, and the power by which it masters us we call self-control; the desire which drags us toward pleasure is irrational and when it gets the upper hand in us its dominion is called excess.

The conclusion to which all this is leading is obvious. When the irrational desire that prevails over the conviction which aims at right is directed at the pleasure derived from beauty, and in the case of physical beauty powerfully reinforced by the appetites which are akin to it, so that it emerges victorious, it takes its name from the very power with which it is endowed and is called eros or passionate love.

Now, let me summarize Lysias’s speech. The man who is under pleasure and a slave to pleasure will inevitably try to derive the greatest pleasure possible from the object of his passion. Hence, he will wish for his object to be inferior in all ways— in intelligence, in physical appearance and bearing, in possession of wealth, in number of friends and family members—so he can ensure total dependence from the object.

There is no kindness in the friendship of a lover; its object is the satisfaction of an appetite, like the appetite for food. One who is in love is faithless, morose, jealous, and disagreeable, and will do harm to one’s estate,  harm to one’s physical health, and harm above all to one’s spiritual development, of which nothing is or ever will be more precious in the sight of God and man. There, my speech is over.

DAV:  So you agree with Lysias? I detect a strong level of irony in your speech, Socrates. For one, it seems too “ingenious and labored,” to use your words about the pundits from earlier. It seems you’ve made an effort to trim love of its wings to fit it into a physical and rational box. I’d like to hear a speech from you in favor of love and being in love.

PHA: I also expect to hear just such a speech. For some reason, I don’t feel like you’re showing all of your cards…

SOC: OK, I confess, that even while I was speaking some time ago I felt a certain uneasiness; I was afraid that I might be ‘purchasing honor with men at the price of offending the gods’. Now I see where I went wrong.

PHA & DAV: Where?

SOC: Our speeches were dreadful, guys, dreadful—both the speech of Lysias and the speech you made me utter. They were silly and more than a little blasphemous. What could be worse than that?

DAV: Even the speeches themselves lacked love. What you are about to say is what I came here to hear. Let it fly!

[The rest of our conversation on that lovely spring day outside of Athens will be revealed in a subsequent post.]

Naturalism vs. Freedom

In confirmation of the view that there is no such thing as personal moral responsibility for one’s actions, one has only to shift from a commonsense context to the perspective of contemporary science. Generally speaking, in modern psychology and sociology, to say nothing of physiology and biology, notions like “free will” and “personal responsibility” are not employed at all; they make no sense in the context of a scientific explanation. Nor is this surprising. For while the older schemes of a rigorous, mechanistic determinism may not b compatible with many of he recent developments in quantum physics, we are still not justified in reintroducing concepts like “freedom” and “moreal responsibility” into the scientific domain.

Henry Veatch, Rational Man: A Modern Interpretation of Aristotelian Ethics

The natural sciences hold forth and are even held forth by politicians as the final authority on matters of knowledge. Only what they tell us can be known. What poets and mystics have to say can be enjoyed in private, but don’t try to impose their morals and insights in the public domain.

In this post, I want to suggest (perhaps to demonstrate finally, clearly, and once and for all in a later post) that this path is the way of folly and that it cannot possibly work.

My argument is not complicated. It is this.

The natural sciences as practiced today base their conclusions on what can be determined on the basis of materialistic assumptions. Materialistic assumptions cannot even raise the question of, much less discuss the application of, matters like truth, freedom, or morality, each of which must come from non-material concerns.

As a result, the materialistic assumptions that drive virtually every agency of the post-human world we inhabit have established a world that is post-truth, post-freedom, and post-morality.

Most particularly, I want to suggest that we cannot be free on the basis of the ideas that control our political discourse and that the hypocrisy that permeates it is an unavoidable consequence of a domain that cannot possibly be anything other than pretense and empty rhetoric because of the assumptions we have built it on.

In other words, we have seen the foundations of our liberties undermined by the natural sciences and the walls are about to collapse.

A Piece of Work

To prepare for the 2011 conference, may I suggest you read Hamlet and watch at least two versions of it. I like Brannagh, but it has useless and gratuitous and utterly distracting pornographic shots thrown in. Don’t watch it without some means to avert your gaze from their shame, as any gentleman or lady does when he sees it.

I also like Zefferelli’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson) but it leaves out pretty crucial elements and is overly Freudian in its interpretation.

Hamlet is a series of magnificent set-pieces, soliloquies and discussions that penetrate the inner chambers and ventricles of the heart while undulating the spectator between heaven and earth, none more, perhaps than the scene shown in the two versions below. “What a piece of work is a man.”

Zefferreli:

Brannagh

Compare this with 3:1 (To be or not to be) and 4:4 (What is a man) both of which you can see on YouTube. You can see a bit of a progression of Hamlet’s attitude to man, and therefore to action, but he’ll still rise and fall a few more times before his final fall (or is it a rise?).

As a devotee of Hamlet as the greatest play ever written, I crave your thoughts, reflections, and insights on these scenes.

Reason, Will, Appetite, and the End of Education

Until 1859 it was the general consensus among most intellectuals that a god was needed to explain existence because, even though astronomy, physics, chemistry, and even geology could be explained to their satisfaction by natural processes, surely life was an otherwise inexplicable miracle.

Then came Darwin’s On The Origin of Species.

Here was the final triumph of the Enlightenment. If a mechanism had been found even for life itself, surely now we could stop all this silly talk about needing a god and could get on with living in the world as it is – free of the terror of hell and the church and the imposed moral code of those who keep us from progressing.

I may as well admit publicly that Darwinism and the wider evolutionary theory that has replaced it (after all, by his death even Darwin had begun to revert back to Lamarckianism since his theory did not have the explanatory power he had hoped) has been a preoccupation of mine since somewhere around fourth or fifth grade.

I’ve often wished I could take a couple years just studying the scientific theory and the data that support it. I don’t like just reading Christian responses to it and I’m not comfortable with the mutual hubris too often suggested by “both” (as though there are two) sides. But either natural selection or God has kept me from being able to do so to date.

And maybe that’s actually good, because when I think about evolution and Darwinism, I don’t just think about it as a scientific theory. My primary interaction with evolutionary theory is in its application, and that in two ways.

First, I am an educator, a consultant to classical schools. And second, I live in an age and a culture permeated by the habits and assumptions of the absolute naturalism for which Darwinism or at least evolutionary theory serves as the linchpin.

I have drawn one conclusion about which I am deeply convinced. If naturalistic evolution is true, then humans are not adapted to live in the world it has brought about.

I have stumbled across dozens of demonstrations and evidences of this conviction, but since my thing is education, I would like to focus on that for the rest of this post.

My conviction is this: when you apply naturalistic evolutionary teaching to education, you undercut education itself.

One clarification: I’m not talking about what you teach in science class. In science students should learn three things. First and most importantly, they should learn how to conduct scientific work, i.e. they should learn how to do the sort of research that is “science.” Second, they should learn the theories that have arisen from that sort of research, such as Quantum Mechanics, Newton’s physics, Mendel’s genetic theories, and Darwin’s and the Neo-Darwinists theories of evolution. Third, they should learn the powers and limitations of the scientific method.

Only the first option is really essentially science. The second is the scientific tradition or the history of science. It should be learned so students see science as a flesh and blood human activity in which they can share and so they can see the excitement and love that goes into scientific labor.

The third, the powers and limitations of the scientific method, is not a matter science can decide. It’s a metaphysical and moral question. Science cannot set its own limits, though it can influence the awareness of the domains that do set its limits. It can also demonstrate its limits, which is what typically gives rise to philosophical thought anyway.

In that context, evolution should be taught in the science class as part of the scientific tradition – as part of what scientists generally believe. Whether they are right or wrong can be explored through the first and third options. The second option will show students that scientists are often wrong, so they don’t need to lose their faith in something other than science because of the conventional claims of popular science.

Enough on science class for now. I’m a great deal more concerned about how the application of naturalistic evolutionary assumptions to education has undercut it.

Here let me be simplistic so I can end this blog post mercifully and pick it up again later with specific applications and instances of my thesis.

Prior to the rise of naturalistic materialism in the 18th and 19th centuries, western education applied (not always very well) the Christian classical understanding of human nature. That is to say, everybody believed that humans were flesh and blood and something more.

Many of the Greeks and Romans believed that at least some humans possessed a “divine spark.” The Jewish-Christian tradition taught that humans were the divine image, created by God after His likeness.

This is silliness to the naturalistic materialist, childish ideas from the infancy of the race. At best, it is a metaphorical explanation of the inexplicable to those who needed an explanation but didn’t know as much as we do.

As the divine image, humans were believed to possess both reason and will. As made of clay after the pattern of animals, humans also possess appetites. The wonder of man was that he was, to use Pascal’s phrase, “Neither angel nor beast.”

Like angels he possessed intellect in the soul. But he was no angel, though he could be angelic. Like the beast he possessed appetites and physical needs. But he was no beast, though he could be bestial.

Reason and will were regarded as distinctive qualities, spiritual and even miraculous.

With the Enlightenment, the nature of reason and will are gradually altered. Will was reduced gradually to appetites, such that now when people think about the will at all they confuse it with the appetites (more on this later, I hope).

Reason was also reduced. To read Plato or Aristotle or the Psalmist or the Preacher is to encounter a very different faculty of perception than the conventional notion of reason presents. Maybe we can see it by comparing Socrates with Dr. Spock.

Reason to the Christian classical tradition is the faculty that perceives reality, transforms it into a spiritual substance, and plants it in the soul in what they used to refer to when they used the word knowledge. The goal of reason was to harmonize and to integrate. It included everything in its reflection.

Modern conceptions of reason are generally unrefined, but probably the best summary would be to suggest that they seek the standards established by Descartes. You know something, according to Descartes, only if you can know it with certainty and precision. (As a fertile aside, I’m struck by the similarity of Descartes’ standard with those of the sophist Thrasymachus in the first book of Plato’s Republic).

To the modern, in other words, reason is the non-emotional side of the person, and it seeks certainty and precision, which tends to lead it down mathematical and logical paths to the exclusion of all else.

No wonder Rousseau, the Romantics, and the post-moderns are all so contemptuous of the powers of reason.

Contrast that with the words of Solomon in his collection of Proverbs or the wonder of the Book of Job. Contrast it with the Symposium of Plato in which Socrates emphatically establishes love alone as the only sound guide for reason.

Reason treated as a computational skill is a great deal less than what the Christian classical tradition meant by reason.

Let me vainly attempt to define reason and will in a more useful fashion. Reason is the faculty by which the human soul perceives and orders reality. It’s God-given purpose is to enable us to fulfill our stewardship as the pastors, lords, kings, and stewards of the creation.

The will is the faculty of the soul by which we pursue our own perfection, which is the glory of God.

Reason perfects itself in wisdom.

The will perfects itself in virtue.

When Darwin was believed to have demonstrated that humanity descended through an evolutionary process so that God was no longer a necessary concept and the soul was “a needless hypothesis,” any Christian classical conception of reason and will were dismissed.

Knowledge was no longer regarded as the internalization of an external object into a soul that no longer existed through a contemplative process that no longer could happen. Now it was, as Dewey said, “the adaptation of an organism to its environment.”

The will was no longer regarded as the faculty by which the individual overcame his appetites, but as a supreme appetite to propagate the species.

Consequently, the twentieth century is the story of the neglect of reason and will and the exaltation of appetite. It may be that modern education is summarized in that single sentence.

I’ll explore this more in later posts. Please help me by letting me know where I’m uninformed or not making sense.