Sunday, April 18, 2010

Norms and Nobility Ch 1 Pt IV

Scattered Thoughts
"Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit it examining whatever happens to come to pass or to attract attention, regardless of the results and specific content, could this activity be among the conditions that make men abstain from evil-doing or even actually 'condition' them against it?" Hannah Arendt (1978)
Platoists would answer this question with a yes.
This section of Norms and Nobility gives one insights into a weakness of Classical education based on one of its foundational underpinnings. There is no way to educate so that one's religious philosophies don't influence the goals of the school and education. The ancients realized the need for virtue, but they didn't have an understanding of God and His plan. Their major philosophical argument was whether virtue was contained in man at birth and contaminated by society (philosophers) or if man had to be taught to be virtuous (rhetoricians). The Bible says that Man is made in the image of God and God pronounced His creation good (Gen 1-2), then the Fall happened and man had an immediately well developed 'sin nature'. Is there still good in man apart from God? Can virtue be taught?
The ancient philosophers believed that if you want man to be virtuous you have to teach him to think correctly, appreciate beauty, and be logical. Plato emphatically states that "'no man knowingly chooses evil'." He felt that a logical man would realize that "evil behavior will sooner or later bring pain and destruction." I have enough personal experience (from reading and from my own sin nature and my children's ) with evil behavior to realize that this is not so. Cain killed Abel in anger and jealousy of God's acceptance of his sacrifice. Many times the logical part of our brain decides that any pain or destruction to ourselves is worth the satisfaction of seeing somebody else get what we think they deserve. We think we are too smart to get caught. ( Yes, I am a big and experienced sinner-behaving non-virtuously). The fear of bad consequences is not enough to hold us back from evil. Apart from Christ I can do no good thing. Even all my righteousness is as filthy rags (Is 64:6). The only thing that restrains my behavior is my love of God and my desire to serve Him. There is nothing in my thinking skills that stops me from cheating on my taxes or lying to stay out of trouble, it is the indwelling Holy Spirit and my knowledge of the Word of God (Psalm 119:11)that constrains me - usually.
Even Aristotle realized that men "fancy they are philosophers, and that this will make them good. But they are really just like people who listen attentively to what their doctor has to say and do not obey one of his prescriptions. There is about as much chance of those who study philosophy in this way gaining health of soul as of such people getting well and strong of body."
I do applaud the ancients for appreciating the value of virtue. This is something that is often totally lost in our society and schools. It certainly is no longer a centerpiece of education because we no longer have a consensus of whose virtues and values should be taught. We have replaced the arguments of the rhetoricians and philosophers with the god of science. Until we place the God of the Universe in His rightful place we will never be able to educate our children to be truly virtuous.
This leads me to more educational questions in my mind. I think that logic is a gift from God and needs to be taught, as well as history, literature, and science. We need to raise up children that know how to think Biblically. The exact system or method is only useful as far as it allows for Biblical thoughts and conversations.

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