The Problem with Tobacco

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In tobacco country, the choice not to grow tobacco is tantamount to the choice not to farm.


This week, we will be reading an essay written by Wendell Berry in 1991. It is from his book: Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community. The title of the essay is ``The Problem with Tobacco." It is available by clicking here.

Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions


creation of the heavens
Fall begins in 2022 on September 22 at 8:04 pm—the moment of the autumnal equinox. Speaking of cosmology, let's plan to discuss Chapter 8 of the book Ancient Wisdom and Modern Misconceptions: A critique of contemporary scientism by physicist Wolfgang Smith. Here is a link to the chapter; it is titled Esoterism and Cosmology: From Ptolemy to Dante to Cusanus. Here, Wolfgang Smith explains what was lost when the traditional geocentric worldview was replaced with the Copernican heliocentric worldview. Here are a few teaser quotes from the chapter:

It is surely no accident that in the wake of the Copernican revolution, religious faith has visibly waned.


One needs to understand that geocentric cosmology is inherently an iconic doctrine.



And perhaps most significantly:

The modern sciences also know nature, but no longer as an icon. They are able to tell us about the size, weight and shape of the icon and even the composition of the various colors of paint used in painting it, but they can tell us nothing of its meaning in reference to a reality beyond itself.

Life!

This week at our Liberal Arts Reading Group, we will continue our discussion of Daniel Toma's Vestige of Eden, Image of Eternity. In Chapter 5, titled ``Life, flat or full? (click to download pdf)", Toma asked the question: What is life?

Moderns have struggled to define life. Things that reproduce? Things that eat and excrete? Things that metabolize? Things that have DNA? There are arguments, and counter-arguments for each of these definitions.

In the middle ages, the scholastics defined living things as those that have an immanent capacity of self-movement with the goal of self-perfection.

Vestiges of Eden

We have been looking at Daniel Toma's Vestiges of Eden. Here is Chapter 4, which is an Interlude on Reason and Faith.

Ferdinand; and Hemmingway's Faithful Bull

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This Friday for our reading group, let’s plan to look at two short stories. The first, Ferdinand, is a children’s story (broken into two pdf files accessible by clicking here: part one and part two). The second is Ernest Hemmingway’s The Faithful Bull; it is a kind of “response” to Ferdinand. They both deal, in their own way, with war and pacifism, societal expectations and individual priorities.

And here is a link to the youtube version of Disney's 1938 Ferdinand movie.

Personalism

Logia, the Journal of Lutheran Theology, has recently accepted for publication an article by our very own Paul Lehninger. The article is The Significance of a Theology of Personalism for Contemporary Confessional Lutheranism. Paul has kindly made a pre-print available to us, so for the next two weeks why don't we discuss this article. That way, if we find any errors, Paul can call the editors quickly and ask them to retract it. :)

In all seriousness, this is a very timely article, as it addresses— from a theological, a philosophical, and a historical perspective—the question of what it means to be a human. This is timely because there is a great deal of debate in our own society about whether human nature (if there in fact -is- a such thing as human nature) is infinitely pliable, or whether it is fixed and immutable.

Under Which Lyre

This week's reading selection is the poem Under Which Lyre (A Reactionary Tract for the Times). It was delivered by W.H. Auden at the commencement of Harvard University in 1946, at the close of World War 2. Here is a short analysis of the poem, written by Adam Kirsch for the Harvard Magazine in 2007.

Domingo Gundisalvo

Is there a connection between theology and philosophy? Between grammar and astronomy? If so, what is it? Today, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that these disciplines are connected only insofar as they are all taught at schools. This is not how the ancients saw things. In fact, the ancients saw these as an organized and coherent whole. How did they classify and organize the sciences? Two important classifications were written down in the twelfth century: one by Hugh of St. Victor and one by Domingo Gudisalvo.

Let's spend a few weeks looking at a Gundisalvo's 1141 Classification of the Sciences. Gundisalvo's classification was influenced by (his own) recent translation of Arabic texts and commentaries into Latin and Castillian. Here is a pdf file of Gundisalvo's Classification of the Sciences that I photocopied from Grant, E., A Source Book in Medieval Science. Cambridge: Harvard University Press (1974).

Oh, and here is a bio of Gundisalvo from wikipedia: Dominicus Gundissalinus, also known as Domingo Gundisalvi or Gundisalvo (c. 1115 – post 1190), was a philosopher and translator of Arabic to Medieval Latin active in Toledo. Among his translations, Gundissalinus worked on Avicenna's Liber de philosophia prima and De anima, Ibn Gabirol's Fons vitae, and al-Ghazali's Summa theoricae philosophiae, in collaboration with the Jewish philosopher Abraham Ibn Daud and Johannes Hispanus. As a philosopher, Gundissalinus crucially contributed to the Latin assimilation of Arabic philosophy, being the first Latin thinker in receiving and developing doctrines, such as Avicenna's modal ontology or Ibn Gabirol's universal hylomorphism, that would soon be integrated into the thirteenth-century philosophical debate.

Don Quixote

In the coming weeks, we will be reading Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote.

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Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas is perhaps the most important Christian theologian. This winter, our little Liberal Arts Reading Group will be looking at a book by Edward Feser titled Aquinas. This short book provides an introduction to Aquinas' views on metaphysics, natural theology, psychology, and ethics. It is available through the publisher here. By clicking here, you can download the first chapter (and a bit of the second).

Kuyper's Convocation Address

Buy a fish in the store or receive one as a present, marinated in the finest sauce—that too is a treat; but for a real sportsman nothing can compare with personally angling for a fish in a stream or canal.

Poets and painters who are artists by the grace of God are those who write verse because they can't stop themselves and who create paintings because it is their passion.

Small wonder, then, that a real student does not make any progress until the study itself gives him pleasure.


These excerpts are taken from a convocation address given by Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1900. In this address, he aims to focus his students on the goal of genuine study. A copy of the address in its entirety can be found here; we'll be discussing it in our little Liberal Arts Reading Group this coming Friday.

The Discarded Image

For the next few weeks, our Liberal Arts Reading group will be discussing C.S. Lewis' The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. Here is a review from the back cover:

C. S. Lewis's The Discarded Image paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, as historical and cultural background to the literature of the middle ages and the renaissance. It describes the 'image' discarded by later ages as 'the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe'. This, Lewis's last book was hailed as 'the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind'.

As a supplementary reading, Paul Lehninger his kindly provided us with a copy of his 2004 Logia article titled Playing the Discarded Image. Also, here is an associated question sheet that Paul assigns to his honors students at the College.

A Guide for the Perplexed

This week at LARGe, let's finish our reading of E.F. Schumacher's A Guide for the Perplexed (1977). In discussing how we come to understand anything in the world—whether minerals, plants, animals or ourselves—Schumacher claims that

…we '"see" not simply with our eyes but with a great part of our mental equipment as well, and since this mental equipment varies greatly from person to person, there are inevitably many things which some people can "see" but which others cannot, or, to put it differently, for which some people are adequate while others are not.

Let's look at chapters three, four and five, in which Schumacher further develops this idea of adequatio—that "knowledge comes about insofar as the object known is within the knower," as Thomas Aquinas has said.