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The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  743 Ratings  ·  90 Reviews
This text is about intellectual life, its spirit, conditions and methods.
Paperback, 266 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Catholic University of America Press (first published March 9th 1921)
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Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it

"Evening! how little , usually, people know about making it holy and quiet, about using it to prepare for really restorative sleep! How it is wasted, polluted, misdirected."
~~ quote from The Intellectual Life by A.G. Sertillanges, O.P.

It has taken me a year to work my way through the book entitled, The Intellectual Life. That probably shows you right away that I am not an intellectual! The word "intellectual" in this case is used by the author to simply designate the person who feels that stud
Kirk Lowery
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Sertillanges (1863-1948) was a French Dominican brother whose scholarly specialty was the moral theory of Thomas Aquinas. The book assumes a reader who is Catholic, open to Thomism, and sympathetic to the Catholic mystical tradition. In sum, I would characterize this book as a Catholic mystic's take on the intellectual life: its objectives, its methods, its benefits.

This approach to the subject provides some valuable insight and wisdom into the intellectual life: that it cannot be divorced from
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, religious
This book was referenced in another book that I recently finished (and reviewed on Goodreads), Deep Work (Cal Newport). The Intellectual Life, written by the French Dominican A.G. Sertillanges, was first published in 1921. This is one of those books that as a near 40-year-old man you wish you would have discovered 20 years ago in college, because it would have provided a certain inspiration and order to going about a lifetime of learning, whether in a career or at leisure. But although late to t ...more
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, writing
This is a book devoted to the intellectual life as a vocation. It is in great part spiritual, but also practical and in its essence it demonstrates, I believe, the two are not at odds. If at least part of your purpose in reading is to improve yourself this is a book that is for you. The title sounds imposing and the intellectual life is not for everyone, but if you take the time, and this is a short book, to consider the practical recommendations in this classic work you are likely to find aspec ...more
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, research
This is a book every person who loves to learn should read. You need not be in pursuit of advanced degrees but in search of advancement in your ability to gather information better, to make better use of time for learning, discovering ways that the thinker acts in their pursuits of the intellectual life.
May 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Foundation for the course I teach to 9th graders of the same title, The Intellectual Life. Not an easy read, but a great one.
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the best books I have ever read- definitely life changing!!! Inspiring, eloquent and insightful! Thanks to my awesome (intellectual) brother for the book!
Alan Lestini
Aug 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
a classic about living an intellectual life as we live out our ordinary lives.
Tara Brabazon
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is inspirational and aspirational. First published in the 1920s, with heavy reprints in the subsequent two decades in French, this new edition appeared in 1998.

It is necessary - to love this book - to park two attributes. Religion and sexism. I keep tripping over God (god?) in these pages. I wish the bearded gentleman in the sky every future success, but the contemporary intellectual - and intellectual life - must be rigorously secular.

Similarly the sexism is delightful, funny and also
Anh Nguyen
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely worth reading again for self-reflection.
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
The forward was magnificent! -great men seem to us men if great boldness; in reality they are more obedient than others. -weak work or pretentious work is always bad work. -when the world does not like you it takes its revenge on you; if it happens to like you, it take its revenge still by corrupting you. -Reason cannot do everything. It's last step, according to Pascal, is to recognize its limitations.
There are a lot of reminders in this book. As I look at this book sitting on the table I ask
Felipe Oquendo
Jul 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lidos-em-2016
O que acrescentar a tantas resenhas? Sou mais uma voz, nesse coro internacional, endossando que o livro em questão é essencial: para os intelectuais ou aspirantes, a fim de testar sua vocação e se orientar; para os que estão na dúvida, o livro a sanará de vez, no melhor estilo ou-vai-ou-racha, e nisso é superior a qualquer outro do tipo - inclusive os do Adler.

Por que quatro estrelas? Para o meu gosto, o estilo do Padre Sertillanges é floreado demais. É fato que algumas de suas metáforas e analo
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read this book after James Schall recommended it "The Life of the Mind" as a follow-up to his own book. Sertillanges's observations are practical and profound at the same time. He gives practical advice about how the intellectual worker should order his day. Although he wrote in 1920, his advice on limiting exposure to daily newspapers convicts me to pare down similar distractions I have from the internet (though I'll keep Goodreads for now). Sertillanges has a strong sense of incarnation and ...more
Scott Kleinpeter
This is the rule for the Catholic intellectual, though the methodology is sound for any person who wishes to learn from and contribute to the total of human knowledge. It is an exhortation to the person who finds the fire principally in their mind.

One also notices that Father Sertillanges applies what he instructs; his graceful style is a constant pleasure; his apt quotations drive points home like the hammer of a seasoned craftsman.

This work, taken in tandem with Sister Miriam Joseph's Trivium
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Toes a surprisingly well-chosen line between generalities and specific advice, for the most part. Ironically, although the author professes to despise novels, his advice would be as good for a fiction writer as for a philosopher or scientist (who seem to be his target audience). The man was also capable of being an orthodox Catholic who could nevertheless digest and pass on bits of good advice even from people like Nietzsche without bothering to make a negative comment; he really did seem ready ...more
"We never think entirely alone; we think in company, in a vast collaboration; we work with the workers of the past and of the present." --Sertillanges

I will be reading this book for the rest of my life. Honestly, if I were building a 10 foot bookshelf--this book would be on it.
Sep 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Challenging and intellectually stimulating.
SJ Loria
Sep 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure (one page visual summary). The purpose is to inspire the yes to a calling of using your intellect to make a better life. To join the learned. It’s about 80% why you should and about 20% how you should live a life of learning. He’s a Dominican priest, but you wouldn’t guess that reading it. First, he speaks about harmony and order in an Eastern style. Second, the writing style reminds me of an author he quotes a few times – Nietzsche. It’s an enthusiastic, encouraging, so ...more
Sep 24, 2012 rated it liked it
This book addresses certain challenges faced by people who devote themselves to the lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Sertillanges was a Catholic philosopher in the tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Italian theologian. He urges beginning intellectuals to practice self-sacrifice and diligence, and to constantly immerse themselves in materials (both ideas and physical settings) which would expose them to truth and reawaken their thirst for more knowledge.

The book struck me as anachronistic
Christine Dantas
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sertillange wrote a brilliant, deep, useful text for generations to come. If you are not religious, you may leave certain parts as they are, with no prejudice to the various ideas and advices he gives. A few parts that mention a diminished role of women, away from an intelectual life, are easily forgiven as they reflect the times he lived in. This book is of enormous humanistic value. It's a shame I didn't know about it earlier in my life. 5/5 stars
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a great distillation of the Catholic intellectual tradition, which has much to offer Protestant evangelicals who care about ideas. Sertilanges reminds us that the intellectual life is a calling. As a Catholic, he recognizes that there is a unity of truth grounded in God himself. While he recognizes the importance of breadth of knowledge, he argues that "true knowledge ... lies in depth" (118).

Also, he wants to fight against intellectual sloth and therefore he presents the intellect
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book is so well written.

It encompasses the life of an intellectual from the Catholic/Christian point of view. It is grounded in the search for truth. All aspects of one's life are addressed, at least in principle, as contributing to or detracting from, one's intellectuality.

Sertillanges is French, and the book was translated from his native tongue. He wrote it in the 1920's but it is highly readable and very applicable still. His style is art and his writing is wisdom.

His approach to i
Nov 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
The most valuable aspect of this book is its strong belief that hobby intellectualism can be a vocational calling. The subtitle, The Spirit, Method and Conditions, gives you a clue as to the contents of the book, but know that it focuses heavily on The Spirit portion. The inspiring rhetoric might leave you highly motivated but a little at a loss as to how you will actually change your habits to conform to this new vocation. Some of the advice – reserve two hours a day, set up a note-taking syste ...more
Magnus Itland
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is, surely by design, somewhat hard to read. It is written by an intellectual for intellectuals, of the old school. People who see the pursuit of knowledge, insight and wisdom as a form of worship of Truth itself. This may bring forth mocking laughter in postmodern scholars who know for a truth that there is no truth, and are absolutely certain that everything is relative. In this age, the dusty old book is a breath of fresh air. It brings to mind a more innocent age, where an ordered ...more
Michael Fogleman
Feb 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is a delightful read, especially if you don't mind the Catholic commentary. Sertillanges reminds me of Hadot's comment (in the Postscript to Philosophy of a Way of Life) that he was glad that he began to study philosophy with a rigorous philosophy like Thomism, because it made him impatient with philosophy that was loose or inconsistent. (Take that, those fools who say Epicureanism and/or Stoicism are flimsy!)

Sertillanges inspires and educates those who would establish an inner mental
Wendy Wong Schirmer
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spirituality
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes praise as laud, glory, and honor to God for His own sake-- namely, a thanksgiving that God is God, and allowing Him to be truly Himself. It would not be untoward to describe Sertillanges's book as essentially an exploration of what kind of intellectual life-- and the work and spiritual habits necessary-- constitutes right and worthy praise.

So much of "spirituality," even for many Catholics, can seem merely emotional, as something that does not inclu
James Andersen
I was thoroughly impressed by this book, certain parts of the book seemed like they were running on, however if one can keep focus and find the personal relevance in each (sub)section of the book, the wisdom contained in the book is indeed of high value for anyone seeking to embody a life of Lifelong Learning. I will probably be referring to this book again and again and certainly making notes from this book to apply elsewhere in my auto-didactic lifestyle. Nonetheless, the book covers what the ...more
Aug 10, 2012 added it
This is an incredible work, Fr. Sertillanges, O.P., being a faithful follower of the studious St. Dominic himself. It could be titled "The Introduction to the Intellectual Life" since it follows very much the same style as St. Francis de Sales's excellent Introduction to the Devout Life .
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inspirational
Em que pese o fato de ser bem escrita, o ponto fulcral da obra é a vocação intelectual, do ponto de vista católico.

Aplicabilidade para conselhos sobre como estudar (leitura, anotações, memorização, ...) começam a partir da página 119.

A moral ao final do livro fica sendo: usar o bom senso, não se exceder nem no descano, nem na labuta, nem almejar mais do que a sua capacidade.
Adam DeVille, Ph.D.
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I used this with my students. I think Sertillanges makes a compelling case, but in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and much else, he seems to be fighting a losing battle against distraction and in favor of silence and contemplation--alas.
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Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges was a French Catholic philosopher and spiritual writer.
Born Antonin-Dalmace, he took the name Antonin-Gilbert when he entered the Dominican order. In 1893 he founded the Revue Thomiste and later became professor of moral philosophy at the Institut Catholique de Paris. Henri Daniel-Rops wrote that it was rumored that President Raymond Poincaré asked Léon-Adolphe Cardina
More about Antonin Sertillanges

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“Friendship is an obstetric art; it draws out our richest and deepest resources; it unfolds the wings of our dreams and hidden indeterminate thoughts; it serves as a check on our judgements, tries out our new ideas, keeps up our ardor, and inflames our enthusiasm.” 57 likes
“It is a painful thing to say to oneself: by choosing one road I am turning my back on a thousand others. Everything is interesting; everything might be useful; everything attracts and charms a noble mind; but death is before us; mind and matter make their demands; willy-nilly we must submit and rest content as to things that time and wisdom deny us, with a glance of sympathy which is another act of our homage to the truth.” 33 likes
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