Dr. Perrin, publisher of Classical Academic Press, did present two lectures over the weekend that I won’t be discussing here (I didn’t attend, but did order CDs of): “A New Apology for Classical Ed” and “Logic 101.”
It seems to me as though the three sessions I’m going to discuss in this series of posts were really one session, divided. The first lecture, Thursday evening, entitled “The Intellectual Virtues” set the stage. The second, “How to be a Teacher, How to be a Student” continued the theme and offered both encouragement and conviction. While the final, “The Lighter Side of Education: How to Relax, Enjoy, and Laugh and Still be a Parent-Educator” was a discussion on the working out of the philosophies discussed in the first two in a way that is leisurely and joyful. Sadly, many people didn’t understand what Dr. Perrin was about and started leaving 10 minutes into the lecture! I expect they thought this session would be all about fun and crafts and games, but that isn’t the important message Dr. Perrin was attempting to bring.
So, first, “The Intellectual Virtues.” Dr. Perrin recommends two books, The Intellectual Life by A. G. Sertillanges and Habits of the Mind by James Sire (which we already own! I found it when rearranging last week!).
He states, emphatically, that the life of the mind is not against the life of faith. Rather, that the Intellectual Life is upheld by the Life of Faith. Education is the formation of the soul and through it we ought to be seeking to understand truth. As Classical Educators, we are performing ‘educational archaeology.’ We are attempting to bring back what was before. We are seeking beauty in education rather than formula.
Intellectio is the root of intellect and means understanding. Scientia means knowledge and is the root for science. Thus, we are seeking knowledge and understanding together, not separate. The intellect is not something to fear, rather something to strengthen and grow. In the past, there have been Christian Intellectuals and the church has a need for such today. He wasn’t talking specifically about theologians, rather seekers of truth in many and diverse fields of study. Seeking understanding and knowledge (and wisdom) discerning that truth is God’s truth and the disciplines are really interrelated.
Educating ourselves and our children is the drawing out and unfolding of a soul. He said, “Christians don’t just love ideas, we love the truth. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The modern education system seems to be “ever seeking, and never finding.” As Christians, we can be assured that we will seek and find. We can know we’ve found it because, “it isn’t truth unless we can love it.”
But we need to be careful.
He defined “virtues” as dispositional habits. “Manly courage.” That our intellect must be subject to the virtues as we think with our whole soul.
Opposed to virtues are, of course, vices. Vices are disordered passions that prevent or hinder, and one leads to the next:
- Sloth is the grave of thought. It can lead to:
- Sensuality which is lust, weak lethargy, seeking after goods, gadgets, and trinkets. This can lead to:
- Pride, the chief danger for the intellectual, is cynicism, elitism, and self praise. This leads to
- Envy where rather than working well with others you and produces
- Irritation which keeps you from accepting criticism of your thoughts.
These are hindrances to a true intellectual life because purity of thought requires purity of soul.
Several Bible passages show how the intellectual life is a spiritual discipline:
John 5 (I think particularly 37-40)
Matthew 25 (parable of the talents)
Jeremiah 29:13 (You will seek me and find me …)
Matthew 7 (log from your eye … humility needed)
The virtues that stand against vice are:
- Love – which is God’s economy, and a love for truth in particular
- Humility – the Christian Intellectual will see the immensity that is true, will stand in the presence of what is truly great (humbling self in presence of God … and those men who have more understanding and knowledge than they … there’s always someone!) Humility will fight envy as we see superior talent in others as a joy … a gift of God. The humble will never unduly prefer their own opinion, will stay within the bounds of their capability.
- Temperance – this will allow the intellectual balancing their studies … where they will focus on depth not breadth (multum non multa) It will allow them to start at the beginning, progress, and master something without dallying in something. This breeds confidence in study.
“Study is a prayer for truth.” There needs to be a balance between the solitary and communal study where we can think, pray, reflect, discuss, etc.
In order to lead our children on this path, we ought to be students before them, have a passion for truth – be inquisitive, and be diligent – the root means to delight in.
Dr. Perrin was giving us a vision of what could be with the intellect. A vision of what is beautiful and great. This session was discussing the “gravitas” of the intellectual life, later he will be discussing the “levitas.” I’m sure this is the session where the statement that has stuck with me for weeks was uttered: “Pride can turn any virtue into vice.”
And now, you see why there were three sessions. I had hoped to pare, but find no way to do so from this session ... and I kept putting my pen down to just listen!