Devon, PA. I am pleased to draw FPR readers’ attention to a new essay of mine on Rod Dreher’s Big Questions Online, an internet journal that has received some brief attention here, and which has offered the world at least one great gift: the chance to read Roger Scruton regularly. My essay, “Passion and the Pursuit of Truth,” elaborates arguments I have made in different and various forms on the vocation of the intellectual life, the superiority of the Christian-Platonist educational tradition, the near identity of prayer and study, and the function of art in stirring the soul to the vision of Beauty. “Art spiritualizes,” wrote Jacques Maritain. And thinking has not merely a function but an end, said Aristotle, which everyone calls, Truth. I try to pay both venerable truths their relational due.
While I am at it, I would draw the patient reader’s attention to — of all things — a comment I wrote on the Inside Higher Education web site sometime ago. I was trying to nip in the liberal bud the egregious conception of academic freedom that rules the abyss these days. For better or for worse, this little comment has stirred at least as much discussion as anything I have written for FPR. Perhaps that Alternative Right fellow’s sneer at FPR‘s failure to generate a wide readership (we are not, after all, big tent skinheads) has one more piece of evidence in support in this curious fact.
On a related note, when I started saying these things just a few years ago (merely giving voice, of course, to truths that had been said by myriad others many times before and in better fashion than I can manage), no one seemed to understand what I was talking about. In contrast, nowadays, I discuss questions regarding the end of education and the contemplative life with my students all the time, and they immediately and instinctively sense the weight and desirability of a vision of the human intellect and formal education that places as its foundation and purpose truth, goodness, and beauty. That I get to teach some of the brightest young minds probably makes this less remarkable, but nevertheless . . . Indeed, just yesterday, I taught a class in which the students read the accounts of Jacob’s “ladder,” his wrestling with the angel, St. Paul’s account of his ascent to Heaven (2 Corinthians 12:1-10), and a few pages from Aristotle on happiness and contemplation. There was a moment during the hour when it seemed that we all had, as had St. Augustine and his mother Monnica before us, scaled the heights of creation to stare into the Uncreated Light. I shall, of course, confer with my students next week to make sure it was not just the leaven of my morning coffee. With this digressive note of hope, I leave the reader to peruse these latest efforts to get beyond the culture wars without surrendering them.