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    Book Club: Ideas Have Consequences{Chapter 1}

    July 11, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I have read the first chapter over and over and I’m finding it very difficult to get all of Weaver’s ideas into my little brain. Don’t get me wrong; I’m loving this book. It reminds me of my favorite book in all the world, Poetic Knowledge, in that I know that reading it over and over will actually be a plumbing of depths instead of…well…instead of a waste of time! Part of the difficulty I’m having is not just in comprehending the material, but in following Weaver’s logic. I’m not always sure how one paragraph connects to the others.

    Ideas Have Consequences
    by Richard Weaver

    So, I did what I almost always do in these situations, and began writing my way through the book. Yes, I used actual pen and paper. It’s sort of an outline, and sort of just notes. This is the only way I can progress when a book is “above my reading level” as they say.

    I cannot say I understand the entire scope of the chapter, but there are so many gems to be pulled out and examine that I could blog this chapter for a week and not be done. It’s that rich; truly.

    As I mentioned before, since this month is my school-planning month, I’m trying to think through the implications of these ideas in the arena of learning. You have been forewarned.

    The Importance of Affection

    There is one sentence in this chapter that jumped off of the page at me, and I’m still mulling it over.

    When we affirm that philosophy begins with wonder, we are affirming in effect that sentiment is anterior to reason.

    The idea of beginning with wonder is the priceless wisdom discussed in Poetic Knowledge, that aforementioned worthy book. But Weaver takes it a step further and says that if philosophy begins with wonder {and I believe it does}, then how we feel about something precedes our thinking {reasoning} about it.

    Charlotte Mason touches on this, actually. In the eighteenth of her twenty principles, she says:

    The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to ‘lean {too confidently} to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration {a} of mathematical truth, {b} of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.

    I’ve noticed Catholics sort of freak out on this one because they think she is contradicting Aquinas, but I’m not sure that she’s wrong here, and I’m also not sure the contradiction is true. Her point is not that reason is wrong or unworthy, only that it is not infallible and is often preceded by other factors. She says that we essentially use reason to justify whatever we have already accepted. There is something intuitive or emotional that typically precedes our use of reason. Weaver confirms this:

    Reason alone fails to justify itself. Not without cause has the devil been called the prince of lawyers, and not by accident are Shakespeare’s villains good reasoners. If the disposition is wrong, reason increases maleficence; if it is right, reason orders and furthers the good.

    This is why Scripture, and not reason, is the highest authority. Reason in service to God is not the same as reason in rebellion.

    An Application to Education

    It is so tempting to want to jump right into reasoning when we teach, or when we argue for a point {but I repeat myself}. In our highly scientific, highly specialized modern mentality, we think that if we just get through information, and jump through all the hoops, and we’ll produce someone who knows.
    And then we wonder why so many high school graduates seem to be lacking a certain something, an ability to reason well about things.
    And if we’re really observant, we’ll notice that they are actually apathetic. They don’t think about things they don’t care about, and they tend to not care about much of anything beyond Today.
    When Weaver says that sentiment is anterior to reason, I immediately think: love precedes learning. All learning that has not love is a clanging gong–it is meaningless to the student and it fails to adhere to the memory.
    As I think about this coming year, I tend to get nervous. I am in that stage where every year I am adding a new student, and yet all but one of my children are essentially non-readers in that they are unable to read quality literary works on their own. When I am not having a silent panic attack, I try to relax and listen to what Weaver and others have said.
    If love precedes learning, we are in a good place because if children under eight are anything, it is enthusiastic learners. My focus this year is on cultivating the loves that I believe will carry them through life. This doesn’t mean I want to empty the day of content. It also doesn’t mean that I will cut something just because the children don’t think they love it. The affections are often disordered–they are often wrong. We are fallen people and do not always love what we ought.
    But this does mean that I want to focus on the heart this year. If my student doesn’t love it, I want to become the wooer, romancing her into relationship with the thing that is worthy of love. I have faith that if we get the disposition of the heart right early on, all the other things will be added unto us in time.

    Read More:
    More book club entries linked at Mystie’s blog
    Buy the book and join in the conversation!

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  • Reply Silvia July 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Thanks for this post. I read the book at the time when we read together Ideas Have Consequences.

    I did purely enjoyed the book, without taking notes or anything… now it makes me want to joined you. At least I am reading all your posts about it, and benefiting from them. I like you have that goal in mind of enamoring the girls, I am witnessing some of that love in the girls and it encourages me to continue with CM principles in mind.

    My girls do not read independently either, but I have faith that they will. They respond to it poetically, and I am learning to be patient and value that and to keep nurturing it.

    • Reply Silvia July 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm

      I mean JOIN YOU.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      I knew what you meant. πŸ™‚

      And DO join us! It’d be lovely to have you. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Silvia July 14, 2012 at 5:05 am

      And what about I did enjoyed the book! Sigh. I type the comments fast and I do not edit them. Thanks for forgiving typos and spelling errors.

    • Reply Mystie July 14, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      We’d love to have you join us, Silvia!

  • Reply Mystie July 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I noted the connection there with CM’s opinion on reason, but your connection of it to 1Corinthians 13 is excellent.

    I have to admit that I was rather a skeptic for the first few years of my homeschool research that children have a natural love of learning or natural curiosity. Now having an almost 9 yo & 7yo who certainly do has persuaded me. I never really was curious and was mostly indifferent in school and read for entertainment rather than learning. I have a pretty deep rooted laziness, I’m afraid.

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm

      Sorry I never replied to this, Mystie. Well, sort of. I kind of had an epiphany last night. πŸ™‚ Maybe it was worth the wait, to have what may be the right thought? Anyhow, CM, in Volume 6, talks about making shipwreck of the natural intellectual appetites. I don’t know if this happened to you or not, but I know it happened to me to some extent, so I thought I’d throw it out there. She says this happens by any undo play upon any one appetite.

      For instance, if we train our students to receive rewards when they study hard, we train them to study FOR rewards, rather than for the love of knowledge. So, in the example of myself, I had an insatiable thirst for knowledge that became a love for good grades and myself {i.e., pride}, etc.

      I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to be born with intellectual “laziness” as you put it, but I have wondered if something “happened” to you which flipped the switch, and I mainly ask because I know that things happened to me that cultivated that sort of character in me, if that makes sense. I’m still a sinner, and take responsibility for that, but I see clearly how my schooling impacted the way I thought–and still think sometimes!–about knowledge and learning.

  • Reply Mystie July 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Where did the sentence go after it literally jumped off the page? πŸ˜‰

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      Ack! You caught me saying literally when I didn’t mean literally! I am *so* trying to break myself of that.

      But let’s just say if it *did* literally jump off the page, it jumped into my soul and marinated there for a while. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 11, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      Okay, now it’s bothering me so I’m editing…

    • Reply Mystie July 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm

      That’s a good place for it to go, anyway. πŸ™‚

      Sorry I left the snarky comment and then vanished. Emergencies required my attention. πŸ™‚

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