Friday, July 31, 2009


Cosmic order is rooted in the Logos. Today, mathematicians continue to discover truth through beauty, and modern science forgets the “poetic” qualities of nature at its peril. The idea of beauty contains the key to the healing of our fragmented, secularized, and alienated culture. This is how I summed up the thrust of the book at the end of the Introduction:

The way we educate is the way we pass on or transform our culture. It carries within it a message about our values, priorities and the way we structure the world. The fragmentation of education into disciplines teaches us that the world is made of bits we can use and consume as we choose. This fragmentation is a denial of ultimate meaning. Contemporary education therefore tends to the elimination of meaning – except in the sense of a meaning that we impose by force upon the world.

The keys to meaning are (and always have been) form, gestalt, beauty, interiority, relationship, radiance, and purpose. An education for meaning would therefore begin with an education in the perception of form. The “re-enchantment” of education would open our eyes to the meaning and beauty of the cosmos.

Education begins in the family and ends in the Trinity. Praise (of beauty), service (of goodness), and contemplation (of truth) are essential to the full expression of our humanity. The cosmos is liturgical by its very nature.

Mysterious inexhaustible depth
I have found in an article by Catherine Pickstock in the collection Radical Orthodoxy which she edited with John Milbank and Graham Ward, an essay entitled "Soul, City and Cosmos after Augustine", the following paragraph of which contains in concentrated form much that I am trying to say in this book. Speaking of the psyche as a "musical reality" she writes:
It is this notion which always held together what we now think of as sciences and arts, and ensured that the topics of the quadrivium always had a qualitative aesthetic dimension. To say that the essence of beauty is in number, as Augustine and, later, Bonaventure and a host of medieval followers do, sounds to us like an attempt to reduce aesthetics to science and formal rules. However, this would be to neglect the fact that for the tradition, number had a qualitative dimension and a mysterious inexhaustible depth. It was in fact the very break up of this tradition which generated the duality of science and art, along with a series of other dualities in which the modern West remains trapped.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

For Truth's Sake

This blog is jumping off from my new book, details of which are here. (Or if you live in the US, here.) You can post comments of your own, or if you want a more extended discussion you can go here.

What is the book about and why bother to discuss it? Education has become splintered and fragmented in our postmodern culture. The arts are divorced from the sciences; faith is at loggerheads with reason. Drawing on ancient traditions of learning, Beauty for Truth's Sake points the way to unity in education through a renewed understanding of cosmic order.

An extract from the book:
Faith is not opposed to reason, but it does function as a constant goad, a challenge, a provocation to reason. Faith claims to stand beyond reason, to speak from the place that reason seeks. But it does not claim to understand what it knows, and it should not usurp the role of reason in that sense, any more than it should contradict it. The resolution lies not in faith, nor yet in reason, but in love.

We are perennially tempted to reduce Christianity to something less than itself: either to power (will, faith, law) or to philosophy (knowledge, reason, wisdom). Nominalists tend to do the former. Realists tend to do the latter. But the solution to this supreme problem in binary logic is through a third and higher thing: love, in which both will and knowledge are reconciled and held in balance – or rather, in which both are transcended. God is love, in which both will and knowledge are comprised.

Whatever your intellectual quarry, if you pursue it to its ultimate lair, you will find the mark of love in the very nature of things. What is magnetism, asks the Victorian poet Coventry Patmore in The Rod, the Root, and the Flower, “but the echo of the senseless rock to the very voice of far-off Love, and the effect of the kiss of God transmitted through the hierarchies of heaven and earth to the lips of the least of beings?”

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