Monday, April 10, 2006

Sertillanges on the Intellectual Life

I've just starting reading a neat book that a friend clued me in to. It's called The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, by A. G. Sertillanges, O.P. First published in 1920 and revised in 1934, the book is written by an accomplished Thomistic scholar as a guide for anyone who is interested in pursuing a life of learning. I'm finding that it's chock full of good, pithy advice on how to make the most of your time and become the best scholar you can be. Here are some choice quotes from the Preface and first chapter:
Do you want to do intellectual work? Begin by creating within you a zone of silence, a habit of recollection, a will to renunciation and detachment that puts you entirely at the disposal of the work; acquire that state of soul unburdened by desire and self-will which is the state of grace of the intellectual worker. Without that you will do nothing, at least nothing worth while. (p. xviii)

Weak work or pretentious work is always bad work. A life with too ambitious an aim or one content with too low a level is a misdirected life. (pp. xxii-xxiii)

The most mediocre mind may hit on an idea, like a rough diamond or a pearl. What is difficult is the cutting of the idea, and, above all, its setting into a jewel of truth which will be the real creation. (p. xxvi)

A vocation is not fulfilled by vague reading and a few scattered writings. It requires penetration and continuity and methodical effort, so as to attain a fulness of development which will correspond to the call. (p. 3)

The life of study is austere and imposese grave obligations. It pays, it pays richly; but it exacts an intial outlay that few are capable of. The athletes of the mind, like those of the playing field, must be prepared for privations, long training, a sometimes superhuman tenacity. We must give ourselves from the heart, if truth is to give itself to us. Truth serves only its slaves. (p. 4)

Love truth and its fruits of life for yourself and for others; devote to study and to the profitable use of study the best part of your time and your heart. (p. 5)

To get something without paying for it is the universal desire; but it is the desire of cowardly hearts and weak brains. The universe does not respond to the first murmured request, and the light of God does not shine under your study lamp unless your soul asks for it with persistent effort. (p. 6)

The future is always the heir of the past; the penalty for neglecting, at the right time, to prepare it, is to live on the surface of things. Let each one think of that, while thinking may be of some avail. (p. 7)


At 4/11/2006 6:08 AM, Blogger James Fletcher Baxter said...

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
perceives and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure.
However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
must be greater than the value measured. Based on
preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
tites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist
lacks a predictive capability. Without instinct or trans-
cendent criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with
foresight and vision for progression and survival. Lack-
ing foresight, man is blind to potential consequence and
is unwittingly committed to mediocrity, collectivism,
averages, and regression - and worse. Humanism is an
unworthy worship.



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