Why do apples fall?

My last post explored Dr. Baxter’s ingenious quiz, “How Much of a Modernist Are You?”  I would like to delve deeper into the questions raised by Dr. Baxter (and ultimately Charles Taylor) by attempting my own answer of Question 4:

Why does an apple fall to the ground when it detaches from the stem?

  1. The laws of physics teach us that all objects fall to the ground according to gravity.
  2. Gravity, of course, but behind the working of nature we can perceive the “hand” of God, which I mean metaphorically.
  3. The apple longs to return its native place, because the whole universe is infused with desire. Ultimately, the world longs to imitate, to the extent it can, Eternity.

Continue reading “Why do apples fall?”

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Are you a modernist? Take the quiz.

My colleague and friend Dr. Jason Baxter has published a delightful quiz at The Imaginative Conservative to show us how thoroughgoingly modern we all are.  He takes his cue from Dr. Charles Taylor, whose gigantic book on the modern age argues that we live in a “disenchanted” world—all us inhabitants of the North Atlantic region, inevitably, without any choice in the matter.  While our medieval forbears lived in a sacred and magical cosmos, we live in an autonomous, scientific universe. Continue reading “Are you a modernist? Take the quiz.”

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What is emotional “processing”?

I have been thinking about the notion of “emotional processing,” as in when someone says that he needs to “process what happened.” Does this phrase have a clear meaning, or is it a fuzzy phrase used to escape clear thinking? I think it does have a clear meaning, and what follows is my attempt to unfold it. I am not a psychiatrist, and I don’t intend this blog post as a contribution to the psychiatric profession. This is just an exploration of a word.

To “process” something means to take something that is not immediately usable and change it into something more immediately usable. This is how we “process” meat or vegetables, for example. So to “process” an experience would mean to take the raw experience and turn it into something that is more useful in life. Experiences need to be processed both intellectually and emotionally: intellectually, we need to get practical wisdom from our experiences, while emotionally we need to calibrate our desires and fears. Continue reading “What is emotional “processing”?”

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The color of reading

Emotion colors perception wonderfully.  The same aspen tree, with the same white bark and the same golden leaves fluttering in the same wind, is one tree to the moonstruck lover, another tree to the poet in search of joy, and still a third to the dismal soul doubting whether life has meaning.  The same sensory input offers either a happy companion, or a wistful finger pointing to another realm, or a bleached-out bit of wood. Continue reading “The color of reading”

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Whether Teachers Teach for the Sake of Their Students

[This is the second in a three-part series on liberal education: (1) Whether the purpose of a liberal arts college is to teach; (2) whether teachers at a liberal arts college teach for the sake of their students; (3) whether teachers at a liberal arts college are employees.  For background on the subject, see my post on Pieper’s book.  For a glimpse into the kind of enjoyment I hope this post offers, see my comments on the scholastic question format.]

Article 2: Whether the Faculty Teaches for the Sake of the Students

Objection 1.  It seems that teachers teach for the sake of the students.  If teachers did not teach for the sake of students, then their teaching would be for themselves.  But teaching is an activity directed toward others, not toward oneself.  Therefore, teachers teach for the sake of the students. Continue reading “Whether Teachers Teach for the Sake of Their Students”

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Whether the Purpose of a Liberal Arts College Is to Teach

[This is the first in a three-part series on liberal education: (1) Whether the purpose of a liberal arts college is to teach; (2) whether teachers at a liberal arts college teach for the sake of their students; (3) whether teachers at a liberal arts college are employees.  For background on the subject, see my post on Pieper’s book.  For a glimpse into the kind of enjoyment I hope this post offers, see my comments on the scholastic question format.]

Here’s how to read this post.  Read the first objection, and then stop to think through how you would reply.  Do the same with the second objection.  Read the “on the contrary,” and stop to think about whether you agree with the argument.  Then read the body of the article, where I tip my hand as to my own ideas, and see if just reading the body changes how you would reply to the objections.  Finally, read each reply and see whether I said the same thing you would have said.  If not, why not?  Let me know.

 Article 1: Whether the Purpose of a Liberal Arts College Is to Teach

Objection 1. It seems that the purpose of a liberal arts college is to teach.  After all, the purpose of a college is to benefit students, and students go to college in order to be taught.  Therefore, the purpose of a college is to teach. Continue reading “Whether the Purpose of a Liberal Arts College Is to Teach”

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Education and leisure

In light of recent essays by my two bosses at WCC, the Academic Dean and the President, I have been thinking about the nature of the place where I work.  What is a liberal arts college?  What is my job at a liberal arts college?

So I found myself back the at the font, so to speak, rereading a book that has taught me much over the years about education, about teaching—about humanity.  The book is Joseph Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture (translator, Gerald Malsbury; Sound Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 1998).  In this post I have pulled together a few of my favorite of Pieper’s sophismata.  They read well on their own, without commentary: Continue reading “Education and leisure”

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Fantasy vs. fantazy

Reading C.S. Lewis’s autobiographical Surprised by Joy, I was reminded of a useful distinction between two meanings of the word “fantasy.”  One is the meaning I outlined in a previous post, namely a kind of literature that brings one into contact with the Other.  The second is the self-indulgent fantasy we turn into the verb “fantasize.”  Lewis draws the distinction nicely: Continue reading “Fantasy vs. fantazy”

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A scholastic dispute: Whether I am alive

It would seem that I am alive.

Objection 1. I am writing this blog post. But activity is proper to the living. Therefore I am alive.

Objection 2. If I were dead, I would be enjoying eternal bliss. That hardly describes my current experience. Therefore I am alive.

On the contrary. The life of a rational creature is a life of reason. But I am incapable of reasoning now. Therefore it seems that I am not alive. Continue reading “A scholastic dispute: Whether I am alive”

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Accreditation and confidence

My life these past few days has been consumed by accreditation. Tomorrow, by midnight Central Time, our college has to submit its latest accreditation documentation, and the whole effort has been entrusted to me.

Our regional accreditor has a slick new online system for submitting documents. (Actually, you have to submit one document using one method of formatting, another document using a different formatting approach, and a third set is submitted still another way via the online portal—but I digress.) The online portal is easy to understand, easy to coordinate with lots of people, and all-around geeky and slick. When it works.

When it breaks down two days before your deadline on a weekend so no one answers the telephones, then it’s not so slick. Continue reading “Accreditation and confidence”

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