I agreed to write a book review for Christianity & Literature, and I started reading while in Chattanooga for a Conference on Christianity and LitI agreed to write a book review for Christianity & Literature, and I started reading while in Chattanooga for a Conference on Christianity and Literature. I asked to extend my deadline because I'm trying to finish my dissertation....more
Mentioned positively by Tim Keller here. The primary grand narrative of U.S. society moved from God, to nation, to self. Keller summarizes part of thiMentioned positively by Tim Keller here. The primary grand narrative of U.S. society moved from God, to nation, to self. Keller summarizes part of this book in Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (pp. 75–77)....more
I stopped attending the reading group when they started meeting the second semester (Jan. 11, 2017).
From what I have read, it looks like another CathoI stopped attending the reading group when they started meeting the second semester (Jan. 11, 2017).
From what I have read, it looks like another Catholic rebuke of Protestantism as the fountainhead of Modernity (see Taylor's A Secular Age, Carroll's Protestant Modernity [which I haven't read], and Gregory's The Unintended Reformation). See links in my review of Gregory's The Unintended Reformation.
From Matthew Milliner's review at Books & Culture: "[T]here is a . . . serious concern with grand narratives that I am describing, namely that they insufficiently account for plurality. It is perhaps not coincidental, for example, that Gregory, Taylor, and Pfau are all Roman Catholic. Why, furthermore, if the Middle Ages had such a superior account of personhood, did it frequently do such a miserable job of defending the personhood of those beyond Catholicism? And while it would be unfair to suggest (as some have) that Gregory aims to return civilization to the medieval arrangement, his choice to center his account around the unintended consequences of Protestantism have, not surprisingly, frustrated some readers sympathetic to his new narrative who happen to not be Catholic. Pfau is not immune to this criticism. Indeed, he condemns the 'anti-institutional, fideist hyper-Augustinianism of seventeenth century Puritanism, Jansensim, early eighteenth century German Pietism, and … evangelical and Pentecostal denominationalism of the early nineteenth century [SIC]' as all doomed by late medieval developments. Even if some Protestant conceptions of the will leave much to be desired, this remains a sloppy conflation within an otherwise supremely careful account."
Exordium: Modernity's Gaze 1–4: interpretation of Lorenzo Lotto's 16c Portrait of a Gentleman in his Study: it is twilight, the young man seems melancholic/inactive, & the book seems bereft of answers; one of Pfau's big claims is that theory & practice parted ways beginning with 14c nominalism & voluntarism; science often oversteps its bounds; young man's perplexity/amnesia re: ultimate ends 4–5: references to Gadder, MacIntyre, Dupré, Taylor & others
Part I. Prolegomena - "The present is a text, and the past its interpretation" (John Henry Newman) 1: Frameworks or Tools? On the Status of Concepts in Humanistic Inquiry 9: this book is a study of "will" and "person" (which change drastically in European modernity), an "account of human agency," and "a study of our changed relationship to concepts"; 1) scope of will/person contracts, 2) internal coherence of will/person erodes, and 3) will/person is marginalized (forgotten) 10: modernity as "a condition of progressive conceptual amnesia"; humanities studies more and more seems "divorced from content"; Derrida and post-structuralism; rise of theory in the 1960s and the quest for method 11: "rhetorical reading" 12: knock against PowerPoint 13: "the humanities' prolonged bout of 'science envy'"; studiousness vs. curiosity (Griffiths) 14: Luther and Descartes as Augustine's modern descendants 15: affirmation of contingency and doubt (Aristotle and Augustine)—we participate in the logos, but we do not conquer knowledge; Ockham and voluntarism 15–17: Pfau's bad guys: Ockham, Luther, Hobbes, Locke, Mandeville, Hume; good guys are Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, More, Erasmus, Cambridge Platonists, Coleridge, Newman, Gadamer, MacIntyre, Dupré ("Platonic cum Christian model of human agency" sound like Niebuhr's Christ above Culture category) 18: the breakdown of the onto-theological conception of the logos is located at the Franciscan (Bonaventure, Duns Scotus) critique of Aquinas, although some may point to Luther's debate with Erasmus (16c); 17c tried to ground rights in nature (secular foundation); "nature as entelecheia" (purpose is intrinsic to form); participating in reason vs. producing rational order 19: Descartes and the new philosophy that seeks a method to encompass all areas of knowledge; Ockham is to blame 20: only efficient causes, not final ones 21: Gregory and the unintended Reformation; Hume's fact/value distinction 22–25: discussion of Heidegger and a "world picture" as something that only a modernist could conceive of 26: nominalism and contingency 27: Enlightenment changed the function of narrative from relation to the past to emancipation from the past; [some in our group thought that Pfau was too hard on Copernicus—the study of physics isn't necessarily void of final causes] 28: Nietzsche's description of a secular modernity that has "wiped away the entire horizon" 29: Descartes wanted to erase doubt 30: etymology of method (not hunting or sexual conquest, but a journey, even a pilgrimage, that transforms the traveler) 31: Husserl and the world's givenness; Gadamer and recognition; Newman's Grammar of Assent 32: issue of plagiarism (owning ideas) 33: storytelling; Pfau follows Anscombe, Murdoch, and MacIntyre—purpose is to critique modernity's understanding of concepts; understanding is always interpretation 34: only final causes (seeing something for what it could be) help us understand things
2: Forgetting by Remembering: Historicism and the Limits of Modern Knowledge 35: with modernity, narrative structure shifts from epic to utopian (overcoming the past, fear of error); "modern narrative unfolds as a utopian quest for a radically autonomous and entrepreneurial model of agency" 36–37: modern narrative sees events as "essentially unprecedented and singular, that is, a novum or, indeed, a 'novel'"; Freud's fort/da game; modernity sees the past "as strictly passé, as archival, fossilized ('sedimented'), and inert stuff"; etymology of modernus; modernity "establishes itself in contradistinction to antiquitas," "reject[ing] the notion of the distant past as a reservoir of exemplary meanings"; the words secular and epoch become more important in modernity 38: historicism and amnesia 39: bad guys again (Ockham, Luther, Bacon, Descartes, Locke, Kant); concepts are viewed instrumentally 40: Pfau considers the cost of the modern loss of a certain view of ideas/concepts ("that they achieve meaning only within the long durée of time"; Weber, Arendt, Dupré, Taylor; secularization narratives; Pfau criticizes "Protestantism's insistence on a human-engineered, individualistic salvation" [no evidence provided] 41: Pfau argues from a Christian-Platonist tradition (against a naturalist-reductionist tradition); epiphanic time vs. linear time; mythical time (cyclical, recurrent, rhythmic) 42–43: Auerbach on late medieval time ("quotidian life punctured by moments of heightened spiritual significance"); Hobbes's model of time (one event follows another, and we can measure it) replaces the older model in the 17c; Walter Benjamin calls modern time "homogeneous" and "empty" 44: Newman: "the present is a text, and the past its interpretation" 45: "a flat-line model of time as pure durée" 46: Nietzsche's madman, Weber's "disenchantment of the world" 47: Charles Taylor on secularization, subtraction stories, fullness, and exclusive humanism; Protestant fideism (n17) 49: Taylor's metaphor of sedimentation; Faulkner's and Eliot's notion that the past is not the past [Wood made a clarifying point regarding Faulkner: the context of the quote is referring to the South]; modernity as a fragile achievement (Taylor) 50: stories of overcoming (struggle/emancipation; features of the quest romance, according to Frye): Luther, Galileo, Bacon, Bunyan, Defoe, Wordsworth, the 19c Bildungsroman; "modernity made disorientation its founding premise and enduring condition"; Pfau tries to show how he's distinct from Charles Taylor 51: modern time has more chronos than kairos (see n24) 52: "Hegel's philosophy shows how human flourishing and philosophical cognition have terminally parted company"; the modern fact/value distinction
3: "A large mental field": Intellectual Traditions and Responsible Knowledge after Newman 53: modern historicism is a "distancing technique" driven by the fear of the unknown and resistance to transcendence 55: Newman's Development of Christian Doctrine 57: Buckley: "Tradition is the contemporary presence of the past"; Descartes/Locke and the punctual self [Descartes's dualism in Discourse comes from his desire for humans to be "masters and possessors of nature"] 58: Pfau affirms Gregory's account of Protestantism and hyper-pluralism; Keats's "negative capability" 59: self-regarding relativism of Stanley Fish's "interpretive communities" (see Eagleton's review); narcissism and in-group narratives; Jameson's Postmoderinism 60: Protestantism's apparent lack of historical depth, continuity, tradition, community, etc. 62: Pius IX and "over-reaching foundationalism"; Nicholas Lash on Newman 63: "desynonymize progress from development"; "antecedent probability" 64: ideas run "the risk of corruption" when the world pushes back, but this risk is necessary; n16: modern notion of probability as calculable (Milbank) 65: "impressive accounts of modernity": Taylor, Milbank, Arendt, etc.; "the following argument seeks to capture the intrinsic idea of will and person through a series of forensic readings of representative arguments" ("close, textual analysis . . . has always been the bread and butter of literary studies"); Newman's purpose "to demonstrate how the flourishing of the human individuals pivots on their commitment in thought and action to the reality of a transcendent idea" 67: quote from Newman: "to be perfect is to have changed often" (Wood said that some Protestants have adopted this as a motto; I have never heard a Protestant say this; it sounds like a willful mischaracterization of Protestants); change like a tree, not like a cloud (Ruskin); Buckley: control as the advancement of wonder/puzzlement 68–69: nostalgia and longing 69: inquiry and tradition require a dialectical/agonistic approach (the debates of Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas) 70: no triumphalistic view of intellectual history 71: the past "is continually being determined by our active (revolutionary) engagement with its legacy 72: Pfau doesn't like analytic philosophy; Iris Murdoch and Charles Taylor on the loss of a moral conception 72–73: good guys and bad guys again 73–74: Hobbes and "passions" 74: Coleridge on the failure of modernism; human agency depends on interpersonal relationships 75: Buber and Levinas; no Luther, Kant, or Hegel; "Whatever its shortcomings (and they may be many), what follows seeks to argue a single, perhaps polemical thesis (rather than offering a detached scholarly survey): viz., that absent a sustained, comprehensive, and evolving critical engagement with the history of its key concepts of human agency (will, person, judgment, teleology), humanistic inquiry will not only find itself increasingly marginalized in the modern university, but will eventually discover itself to have been the principal agent of its own undoing"
Part II. Rational Appetite: An Emergent Conceptual Tradition 4: Beginnings: Desire, Judgment, and Action in Aristotle and the Stoics
5: Consolidation: St. Augustine on Choice, Sin, and the Divided Will
6: Rational Appetite and Good Sense: Will and Intellect in Aquinas
7: Rational Claims, Irrational Consequences: Ockham Disaggregates Will and Reason
Part III. Progressive Amnesia: Will and the Crisis of Reason 8: Impoverished Modernity: Will, Action, and Person in Hobbes's Leviathan
9: The Path toward Non-Cognitivism: Locke's Desire and Shaftesbury's Sentiment
10: From Naturalism to Reductionism: Mandeville's Passion and Hutcheson's Moral Sense
11: Mindless Desires and Contentless Minds: Hume's Enigma of Reason
12: Virtue without Agency: Sentiment, Behavior, and Habituation in A. Smith
13: After Sentimentalism: Liberalism and the Discontents of Modern Autonomy
Part IV. Retrieving the Human: Coleridge on Will, Person, and Conscience 14: Good or Commodity? Modern Knowledge and the Loss of Eudaimonia
15: The Persistence of Gnosis: Freedom and "Error" in Philosophical Modernity
16: Beyond Voluntarism and Deontology: Coleridge's Notion of the Responsible Will
17: Existence before Substance: The Idea of "Person" in Humanistic Inquiry
18: Existence as Reality and Act: Person, Relationally, and Incommunicability
19: "Consciousness has the appearance of another": On Relationally as Love
20: "Faith is fidelity . . . the the conscience": Coleridge's Ontology...more