One of the things I have been doing on my research leave is read (surprise!). Currently I am reading Gary Gutting, French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century. Besides just interesting, I hope to write one day a biblical theology of knowledge. That interest has led to reading this and that, including some philosophy. A few years ago I read Husserl, which led to reading several things by Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. The current chapter in Gutting's book is on Henri Bergson. I thought the following quote was fascinating, and something of a good summary of the modern mood, and the modern notion of the self:
"for a conscious being, to exist is to change, to change is to develop [se murir], to develop is to go on creating oneself endlessly."
(This is from Bergson's work L'evolution creatrice, and is quoted in Gutting, 66).
And while Willard is on the mind, here is the link to a super essay, "The Unhinging of the American Mind: Derrida as Pretext." I stumbled onto this essay a little over twenty years ago, I believe. I found it very helpful. His basic argument is that universities have ceased to be institutions which are interested in passing on knowledge.
The heart of the university crisis is, in my view, the simple fact that its institutional structures and processes are no longer organized around knowledge. The life of knowledge is no longer their telos and substance. Knowledge and knowing is not what is had in view or consciously supported by them. The people in charge are in fact only very rarely thinking about knowledge. It is not what the place "is about" in the mental processes of those who determine, or think they determine, curriculum, program and personnel, what is to count as "good work" or bad, and who is to be rewarded in various ways or not.
Given recent events at various universities, Willard's basic point simply continues to be vindicated. It is a very good read.
I think anytime I have read Dallas Willard, I have benefitted immensely. Today I was reading his essay, "How Reason can Survive the Modern University: The Moral Foundations of Morality" (found here). In light of Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option, I found the following quote very interesting and helpful:
The details are far from clear to me, but I think something like the development of a community of moral understanding in the Christian tradition must be the answer to our current situation. This seems to me the only thing capable of redeeming reason, of providing the moral substance and understanding that can make the life of reason possible. Though I do not share MacIntryre's philosophy of mind and logic, and believe that the understanding and practical appropriation of moral insight is much freer of specific communities than he supposes (There is a human nature, in my view, and it is fairly obvious), I am sure that the restoration of moral knowledge to our academic culture will require a certain community of professionals, academics and intellectuals devoted to that cause over a lengthy period of time.
The essays at Willard's website (here) are a goldmine. They are free, but I still wish someone would put them all together and publish them. Tolle lege!
Greetings. We are in the Netherlands, where I am teaching a class on Augustine at Tyndale Theological Seminary. Ran across the following in preparing for class. Augustine wrote a volume, Answer to an Enemy of the Law and the Prophets. Some real gems on how to approach the Bible, the nature of language about God, etc., is found in this great piece. On the rainbow in Genesis, did God need a sign because of a poor memory (i.e., because God needs to be "reminded")? No, says Augustine. In criticizing the person in error (who would suggest that God perhaps does have a poor memory), Augustine writes:
"The fellow does not know what he is saying at all, not because his memory is dead, but because his soul is dead." (I.20.43). My!
Augustine is nothing if not fascinating. Over the years, various folks (theistic evolutionists among them), have turned to Augustine. Most of us would like to have Augustine "on our side," if possible. As I work on my own Augustine book, I have attempted to explore some of these issues. In an interesting turn, Etienne Gilson somewhat turns the tables on the attempt to bring Augustine to the defense of Darwinism (unnamed). Here is what Gilson writes:
Concerning Augustine's notion of "seminal reasons" (which for Augustine permeate/mark all of created order): "Far from being called upon to explain the appearance of something new, as would be the case with creative evolution, they serve to prove that whatever appears to be new is really not so, and that in spite of appearances, it is still true that God 'created all things simultaneously' (creavit omnia simul). This is the reason why seminal reasons, instead of leading to a transformist hypothesis, are constantly called upon by Augustine to account for the stability of species."
Gilson goes on:
"The element from which the seminal reasons are made have their own nature and efficacy, and this is the reason why a grain of wheat produces wheat rather than beans, or a man begets a man and not an animal of another species. The seminal reasons are principles of stability rather than of change." (Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of Augustine 207).