A “Science of Relations” Moment

Don’t you love it when the books talk to each other?

I’m still immersed in Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling by James Sire. It’s a particular pleasure to read a book on this subject by a modern author who has a profoundly Biblical perspective on the life of the mind.

So when I read that virtue must be expressed in action, I think “That’s just what David Hicks said in Norms and Nobility.” When I read that acts of the conscious will form our character, I think, “That’s what Charlotte Mason said, and what Anne White focuses on in Minds More Awake!” And when Dr. Sire makes a special point of focusing on humility as vital to intellectual development, I even think, “That’s what I said in Consider This!” (Whew–I wasn’t veering wide of the mark after all.)

I particularly like this:

We simply can’t know what we can’t know unless someone who knows we can’t know tells us. God has done that, of course. He has told us that we cannot penetrate his mind to the depths.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD

…But there is little else he has told us we cannot know.

And I’m a little excited about what’s coming next, because he has promised to begin talking about how to practically go about becoming a thinker. And for that? Oh, that’s where the humility comes in. He gives us a little chart of (some) of the different kinds of intellectual virtues. They fall under four headings:

Acquisition virtues (passion for truth), such as inquisitiveness
Application virtues (passion for holiness), such as love and fortitude
Maintenance virtues (passion for consistency), such as patience
Communication virtues (compassion for others), such as clarity of expression

Each list includes only four or five key virtues, but only one virtue appears on all four lists–humility.

I am fascinated by a discussion about thinking and learning that devotes so much attention to the role of humility. This, I think, is a hard-won virtue, since the mere suspicion of achieving it is fraught with pride, and there we are, back at square one again. And yet, without that humility that makes us teachable, well…how are we going to learn all those things that are possible to know?

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