The Un-Neutrality of Questions

How do we come to pose our questions? When we pose them, how do we go about answering them? No problem just falls from heaven. Something awakens our interest—that is really what comes first! At the beginning of every effort to understand is a concern about something: confronted by a question one is to answer, one’s knowledge of what one is interpreting is thrown into uncertainty, and this causes one to search for an answer. In order to come up with an answer, the person then begins asking questions. But no one asks questions von sich aus [just from oneself]—apropos of nothing. To think otherwise is simply to fall into scientific ideology. No, understanding is not something that takes place at the end of humanistic research about an object, it stands at the beginning and governs the whole process of questioning, step by step. –Gadamer in Conversation, 50

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Faith Seeking Understanding

Man was created to see God. Man by sin lost the blessedness for which he was made, and found the misery for which he was not made. He did not keep this good when he could keep it easily. Without God it is ill with us. Our labors and attempts are in vain without God. Man cannot seek God, unless God himself teaches him; nor find him, unless he reveals himself. God created man in his image, that he might be mindful of him, think of him, and love him. The believer does not seek to understand, that he may believe, but he believes that he may understand: for unless he believed he would not understand. –Anslem, Proslogium, Chapter I

Marxist Imagination

Transcending English empiricism, neither Disraeli nor Newman was afraid of ideas; they understood the power of the imagination, and its role in history, and so, in an inferior sense, did Marx. Despite Marx’s formal adherence to Utilitarian concepts and arguments of proof, despite his belligerent determination to be scientific, his influence has been that of a man of imagination—an imagination begrimed and fettered, true, but still participating in the world of ideas, superior to the tyranny of particular facts. “To consider whether Marx was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; to dredge Volumes I and III of Capital for inconsistencies or logical flaws, to ‘refute’ the Marxian system is, in the last resort, sheer waste of time,” says Professor Alexander Gray; “for when we consort with Marx we are no longer in the world of reason or logic. He saw visions—clear visions of the passing of all things, much more nebulous visions of how all things may be made new. And his visions, or some of them, awoke a responsive chord in the hearts of many men.” Though assertedly a materialist, in truth Marx was an idealist, indoctrinated by Hegel; and this aspect of his character, which he endeavored to strip from himself as if it were Nessus’ shirt, accounts nevertheless for his victory over Utilitarians whose method he imitated. He dealt, however mistakenly, with ends; the Liberals, with means and particulars; and the mass of men being governed by imagination more than reason, in such a struggle the odds favor the visionary (The Conservative Mind 263)

The Un-Neutrality of Questions

How do we come to pose our questions? When we pose them, how do we go about answering them? No problem just falls from heaven. Something awakens our interest—that is really what comes first! At the beginning of every effort to understand is a concern about something: confronted by a question one is to answer, one’s knowledge of what one is interpreting is thrown into uncertainty, and this causes one to search for an answer. In order to come up with an answer, the person then begins asking questions. But no one asks questions von sich aus [just from oneself]—apropos of nothing. To think otherwise is simply to fall into scientific ideology. No, understanding is not something that takes place at the end of humanistic research about an object, it stands at the beginning and governs the whole process of questioning, step by step. –Gadamer in Conversation, 50

On Knowing Truth

Happy, even in anguish, is he to whom God has given a soul worthy of love and of grief! He who has not seen the things of this world, and the hearts of men by this double light, has seen nothing, and knows nothing of the truth. –Les Miserables

Dawson on Philosophy and Culture

It seems to be the fact that a new way of life or a new view of Reality is felt intuitively before it is comprehended intellectually, that a philosophy is the last product of a mature culture, the crown of a long process of social development, not its foundation. It is in Religion and Art that we can best see the vital intention of the living culture.

The Greek statue must first be conceived, then lived, then made, and last of all though. There you have the whole cycle of creative Hellenic culture. First, Religion, then Society, then Art, and finally Philosophy. Not that one of these is the cause and the others effects. They are all different aspects or functions of one life. [Dynamics of World History, 51-52]

Specialists

Men, whose life lies in the cultivation of one science, or the exercise of one method of thought, have no more right, though they have often more ambition, to generalize upon the basis of their own pursuit but beyond its range, than the schoolboy or the ploughman to judge of a Prime Minister. But they must have something to say on every subject; habit, fashion, the public require it of them: and, if so, they can only give sentence according to their knowledge. You might think this ought to make such a person modest in his enunciations; not so: too often it happens that, in proportion to the narrowness of his knowledge, is, not his distrust of it, but the deep hold it has upon him, his absolute conviction of his own conclusions, and his positiveness in {77} maintaining them. He has the obstinacy of the bigot, whom he scorns, without the bigot’s apology, that he has been taught, as he thinks, his doctrine from heaven. Thus he becomes, what is commonly called, a man of one idea; which properly means a man of one science, and of the view, partly true, but subordinate, partly false, which is all that can proceed out of any thing so partial. Hence it is that we have the principles of utility, of combination, of progress, of philanthropy, or, in material sciences, comparative anatomy, phrenology, electricity, exalted into leading ideas, and keys, if not of all knowledge, at least of many things more than belong to them,— principles, all of them true to a certain point, yet all degenerating into error and quackery, because they are carried to excess, viz. at the point where they require interpretation and restraint from other quarters, and because they are employed to do what is simply too much for them, inasmuch as a little science is not deep philosophy. –The Idea of a University, “Discourse 4. Bearing of Other Branches of Knowledge on Theology,” #4

Definition of Emotion

It is a postulate implicit in all metaphysical poetry that nothing is ineffable, that the most rarefied feeling can be exact and exactly expressed. If you cease to be able to express feelings, you cease to be able to have them, and sensibility is replaced by sentiment, in the end by the vague expression of the vague, and poetry degenerates into a diversity of noises.

[T. S. Eliot, The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry, 200]

Philosophical Questions

It pertains to the very nature of a philosophical question that its answer will not be a 'perfectly rounded truth' (as Parmenides said it), grasped in the hand like an apple plucked from a tree.

[Pieper, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, 63]

Plato Had It Right

     Suddenly Farsight the Eagle spread his wings, soared thirty or forty feet up into the air, circled round and then alighted on the ground.
     "Kings and Queens," he cried, “we have all been blind. We are only beginning to see where we are. From up there I have seen it all—Ettinsmuir, Beaversdam, the Great River, and Cair Paravel still shining on the edge of the Eastern Sea. Narnia is not dead. This is Narnia."
     "But how can it be?" said Peter. "For Asian told us older ones that we should never return to Narnia, and here we are."
     "Yes," said Eustace. "And we saw it all destroyed and the sun put out."
     “And it's all so different," said Lucy.
     "The Eagle is right,” said the Lord Digory. "Listen, Peter. When Asian said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Asian's real world. You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream." His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet as he spoke these words: but when he added under his breath "It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!"

[The Last Battle, 169]

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