The Adversary's Solution to the Mind-Matter Conundrum: Divide and Conquer
Last night someone asked me what this book is about -- Heart of the World, Center of the Church -- but I was pretty much stumped for an answer. It kind of blows my circuits as I'm reading, which seems to interfere with memory, and certainly synthesis. There's too much to wrap one's mind around, and if I can't grasp the whole, I have trouble retaining the parts.
So, I'm going to just revisit the parts I highlighted, and try to unscramble my egghead and put my humpty back together.
For me, the author doesn't really hit his stride until about midway through the book, with a chapter called Catholicism and the Liberal Model of the Academy in America. It goes to the more general question: of what should a Catholic education consist?
I would prefer to just say Christian education, but that might be part of the problem, because -- if Schindler is correct -- Protestantism already cedes so much ground to secularism at the outset, that it loses the battle before it has begun. In other words, certain Protestant assumptions entail secular liberal conclusions.
For example, should a "Christian" university try to be like any other university, only with a little religion sprinkled on top? Naturally it is easier in the liberal arts, where one can simply have a curriculum that revolves around the artistic treasures of western civilization instead of degrading us with the hideous gobshite of postmodernity.
But what about more generally? I look at my son's Catholic school, and sometimes wonder how it is supposed to be distinctively different from a secular school. In my mind, rather than having the religious dimension added on, his education should be infused with the Christian spirit. What would this look like, and how can we tell the difference? What does it mean to think as a Christian -- not so much the content, but the form?
"To have a Catholic university... it is necessary (also) to develop a Catholic mind." Simply learning about religion is a necessary but not sufficient condition for this transformation of the mind.
And when I say "trans-formation," it is very much as if the mind must be refashioned and re-formed by transcendental causes to which it must be open. If that fails to occur, then you haven't had a "Christian education," no matter how much theology, dogma, and scripture you have committed to memory.
"Is it meaningful to speak of a mind... internally Catholic in any discipline other than theology? What could 'internally Catholic' mean, for example, in philosophy, or in biology and physics, or in accounting and computer science?"
In short, if truth is universal, how could there be secular truth and Christian truth in the disciplines he mentions? I'll tell you how. In a minute.
But if you simply swallow these disciplines whole, without criticism (i.e., the secular approach to them), you're going to take in a whole lot of hidden assumptions with them. Then, once these assumptions are in place, they will actually interfere with a properly religious understanding. Like how a virus gets into your computer.
Very insidious, don't you know. Once this happens, to the extent that you want to continue being religious, then it will be as if religion needs to exist side by side with the other disciplines. Any possibility of Total Cosmic Unity will be lost, and you will live in a bifurcated, dualistic world in which you retain your faith in spite of what you learned in school, instead of because of it.
But -- and here I think is the key -- you actually assimilated this bifurcated world before you even began your journey. That's how they ensnare you! You think you're just learning content, when in reality you're assimilating a whole way of looking at things that is anti-religious (and, more to the point, anti-reality) to the core.
Liberalism -- and this is one of the points Jonah Goldberg drives home in Liberal Fascism -- "embodies above all the claim to neutrality" (and he's not talking about political liberalism per se, rather, the whole project of modernity). It presumes "to avoid any a priori assumption of content" which might "prejudice the (putative) pure openness of the methods."
This is what modern liberals are referring to when they accuse conservatives of being "anti-science." That is, we're the ones who supposedly approach reality with all this theological baggage, whereas they do so with a completely blank slate. They claim to accept truth where they find it, with no ideological, metaphysical, or philosophical commitments whatsoever.
The cosmos apparently went off the rails with Descartes. I personally have trouble blaming one guy for this mess, so let's just take him as the focal point of a more general trend. Descartes "strove to remove the ghostly residue of subjectivity from method and indeed to determine the form of method prior to its being conditioned by any content whatsoever."
Seems like a good idea. It's even rather seductive, isn't it? What could possibly go wrong? We'll just empty our heads of all assumptions and proceed in a purely rational manner: "We are committed in advance only to pure form and not at all to content."
Seems innocent enough, but do this and you have swallowed a whole cosmos -- an alternative cosmos. Or, one might say that you have stepped into a parallel universe, under the assumption that man has finally, after 100,000 years of wandering in the bewilderness, entered the Real World.
But remember, Descartes actually divides the world "in half" before he even starts. That is, if you begin by presupposing radically divided worlds of mind and matter, you shouldn't be surprised that this radical division will persist wherever you look and no matter how much your thinking evolves. Dude, you've rended the fabric of reality, such that there is no way to put Humpty back together, and no area rug big enough to sweep his broken fragments under it!
There is orthoparadox and there is paradox, and Descartes lands us in the latter, for in dividing reality, we end with a "false objectivity" mirrored by an arbitrary subjectivism. Or -- and this is what you'll get in a modern education -- scientism at one end and relativism at the other. Each of these is an intellectual tyranny -- for they destroy the soul's freedom -- and yet, are opposites.
I think I'll stop now, before things get too heavy for my brain to lift.