The World Beyond Your Head

Matthew Crawford, a philosopher who has found wisdom in being a motorcycle mechanic, is the author of an excellent book on vocation entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work.  He now has another book that shows how the Enlightenment has given us a very distorted view of the self, one which insulates the inner mind from outside reality.  The new book has the felicitous title  The World Beyond Your Head.

After the jump, I excerpt and link to an extremely thoughtful and perceptive review of the book, one that interacts with Crawford’s ideas with great learning and insight.  I was stunned to see that the reviewer is Gracy Olmstead, a recent student of mine!  I can see Patrick Henry College’s classical liberal arts curriculum underlying her essay, as she draws on the “great books” that we have read and takes part in the “great conversation” of the history of ideas.  Note too the depth of her thinking and how she compares to other recent graduates that you might have encountered.  Sorry–I’m just proud of her, that’s all. [Read more...]

“The smartest human being” on sin and grace

More from  David Brooks, two interviews in which he talks about what he learned from St. Augustine, “the smartest human being I’ve ever encountered in any form.”  Specifically, that would his concept of sin as disordered love and the Christian concept of grace.

St. Augustine is, indeed, a brilliant thinker.  You don’t have to agree with him on every point–though he is one of the few theologians claimed both by Catholics and Protestants–but his writings have a magisterial logic, a psychological sensitivity,  and a startling depth of spiritual insight.  Luther, remember, was an Augustinian monk, and Augustine is noted for his emphasis, like that of the Reformers, on the grace of God.  In my view, he is more Platonic and thus ascetic than he should be.  Can any of you address the points on which Lutherans–as well as other traditions–agree and disagree with this church father?

[Read more...]

Biblical heroism

In the course of writing a searching new book entitled The Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks decided that you can’t really think about moral ideas very well without the vocabulary that religions bring, even if you don’t believe them.  So he read all kinds of books, including Christian theology, including the works of St. Augustine.  Brooks is Jewish, but he sounds like he is getting close to Christianity.  Samples from an interview with Brooks after the jump. [Read more...]

Freedom reconsidered

Now that the truths that were foundational to the American republic–that there is a Creator who is the basis for human equality and rights that transcend the state–are no longer self-evident, we are starting to see a rethinking of everything America used to stand for.  For example, Princeton professor Philip Pettit, in a book entitled Just Freedom, argues that we need to do away with the “libertarian” notion of individual freedom.  Instead, we should pursue “democratic freedom,” based on the liberty of groups not to be dominated by another group.

Liberal think-tanker Danielle Allen explains, after the jump. [Read more...]

Having a loving family as an unfair advantage

The evidence is overwhelming that growing up in an intact, two-parent  loving family confers huge advantages on children as they grow up.  The normal response has been to encourage strong families among those who lack those advantages.  But, looked at another way, through the usual leftist prism that sees all inequality as oppression, it can be argued that loving families need to be abolished.

British philosopher is not quite saying that–despite how his argument is being taken in some circles–but in asserting that reading bedtime stories to one’s children contributes to social inequality, he comes close. [Read more...]

Our established religion

Yuval Levin says that the religious liberty issues raised by the response to the Indiana Religious Freedom law involves not just the First Amendment’s right to the “free exercise” of religion, but maybe even more so to the clause forbidding the “establishment” of religion.  What we have today being imposed is a single, authoritative religious ideology, equivalent to a state church:  that of progressive liberalism.

Levin then delves into James Madison on this subject and contrasts his position to that of John Locke, who advocated “toleration” of different views on the part of individuals but would not allow their institutional expression, since that had to be limited by the ideology of the state church. [Read more...]


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