Readings: January

With the arrival of Candelmas, the Christmas season draws to an official close. Though administration never seems to take a holiday, classes were interrupted for a while which afforded some extra time. Tomorrow things ramp up in earnest.

Which is why I can only point to a few of the gems I enjoyed this holiday and hope to have more to say at some later time.

Thomas Dubay, S. M., The Evidential Power of Beauty.  A moving and profound tour of the power and beauty of reality. For those wondering, “why Green thomism?,” this would be one, very important, piece of the puzzle. An excellent companion to Pieper’s Happiness and Contemplation.

For the Fridge: “The whole of the created order culminates in the crown of the cosmos, whose destiny is the eternal ecstasy of immersion in the direct vision of tripersonal glory.”

Matthew Crawford, Shop Class as Soul Craft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. A modern narrative of “academic turns tradesman and discovers reality along the way.” Very thoughtful account of the problems with abstraction and detachment from reality that marks our educational practices. “Stochastic arts” is not an Aristotelian expression, as Crawford suggest, but the point about the need to develop a method of knowing/praxis that is more humble before reality is worth making.

For the Fridge: “The truth, of course, is that creativity is a by-product of mastery of the sort that is cultivated through long practice.”

For those of us for whom shop class is about as familiar as the gym, there’s Bruno Latour’s Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Though I make no pretense to be counted among science studies students, Latour’s rant about Descartes’ and modern philosophy’s penchant for reducing human beings to “brains in vats” is worth the price of admission. (See Chapter 1: “Do you believe in Reality.”) I have raised the issue elsewhere as to whether the theology of “the body” is sufficiently embodied–and by “raising the issue” again here employ the passive aggressive posture of the academic who doesn’t have the time to actually argue that the answer is “no.” Latour’s remarks make it very tempting to take up the issue once again.

For the Fridge: “Mathematics has never crossed the great abyss between ideas and things, but it is able to cross the tiny gap between the already geometrical pedocomparator [a device for holding sorted soil samples] and the piece of millimeter-ruled paper on which René has recorded the data from samples.”

Along somewhat similar lines there is, Helena Siipi’s “Dimensions of Naturalness,” Ethics & The Environment 13/1 (2008): 71 – 103. She discusses the multiple senses of naturalness and their implications for environmentalism. Very engaging and tempting to think about from the perpsective of Aristotle’s “four causes.”

If these are too “out there,” there’s the pure dose of reality from, Fernand Van Steenberghen’s Ontology, the companion volume to Epistemology. 300 pages of pure textbook Thomistic metaphysics from the early 1950’s. Can’t get enough of it, really.

Then there’s Jill LeBlanc’s “Eco-thomism,” Environmental Ethics 21 (1999): 293 – 306. Kudos to professor LeBlanc for being among the first to raise the issue in a contemporary setting.

And Joseph B. McDonald’s “The Nature of Agriculture,” vol. I (1958); and vol. II (1959) in Laval théologique et philosophique. Interesting account of agriculture as a “cooperative” science.

And Hamlin and McGreevy’s “Greening of America: Catholic Style,” which I’ve written about in my January column for the NCRLC.

Finally, there’s Benedict’s Light of the World. I’ve written extensively on the famous “condom episode,” here in this blog.

Notwithstanding the question about the demise of the “spiritual ozone layer,” (really); there is this probative insight:

    “Who, therefore, can ensure that this general awareness [of the importance of stewardship] also penetrates the personal sphere? This can be done only by an authority that touches the conscience, that is close to the individual and does not merely call for eye-catching events.

    “In that respect this is a challenge for the Church. She not only has a major responsibility; she is, I would say, often the only hope. For she is so close to people’s consciences that she can move them to particular acts of self-denial and can inculcate basic attitudes in souls.”

Stewardship, in other words, is the stochastic craft whereby the human person, as embodied, glorifies the tripersonal God of all things.