Monday, January 30, 2012

Platinga On Being A Christian Philosopher

          Yesterday, I finished reading Alvin Plantinga's esssay "Advice To Christian Philosophers," and, a few days earlier, "Christian Philosophy at the end of the 20th Century." If you are a Christian and interested in the academic discipline of philosophy, I highly recomend these essays. Plantinga, for those who are not familiar with him, is probably the single most influential person involved in reviving Christian philosophy. He points out that there are certain starting points Christian philosophers have, and thus, many of the problems in contemporary philosophy are not problems for us. Consequently, he believes that we need to focus our time and energies on our own problems and projects and not waste time attempting to resove problems that only exist for nonChristian philosophers. The Christian philosopher's duty, says Plantinga, is to the Christian community and, ultimately, to God. Reading these essays was a breath of fresh air. Last semester, I took a class on modern philosophy, and found most of it uninteresting, unlike the previous semester, when I took Medieval philosophy. The problems that arise in modern philosophy, whose intellectual parentage is found in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment humanism, are only problems if you reject the sinful nature of man and take a low view of God. Granted, the medievals were not perfect, and many of the problems in the modern period have roots in the High and Late Scholastic philosophers like Aquinas and Occham, the material seemed far more relevant and interesting to me, as a Christian student of philosophy, overall, than modern and contemporary issues. Indeed, Plantinga, a Calvinist, sees himself as within the intellectual tradition of Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure and the Reformers. If there is going to be a context to my philosophical investigations and musings, I would rather it be with these men than with those whose fundamental presuppositions about telology, God and man are opposed to my own.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Currently Reading: January 2012

I am currently reading the following titles this month for either work, leisure, or both. Since I teach at a classical school, the line is often rather fuzzy. 

Though I technically began reading it last Fall, I am in the middle of reading The Peloponnesian War, by the ancient Greek historian, Thucydides. I purchased Strasser's The Landmark Thucydides edition, which features informative appendices written by professors of classics and history, as well as explanatory notes and detailed maps. The translation is surprisingly readable and I am enjoying a first-hand account of an ancient war that marked the end of one era of classical Greece and the rise of a new. I was inspired by reading selections with my ninth graders and by reading Victor Davis Hanson's books Carnage and Culture and The Soul of Battle.

For work, I am reading selections from Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, one of the most comprehensive and systematic tomes of theology and philosophy produced by the Medieval Scholastics. Aquinas is attempting to synthesize his Christianity with the newly re-discovered Aristotelian  philosophy. While I disagree with this father of modern Roman Catholic theology on may issues, he is undoubtedly one of the greatest minds in intellectual history. The selections my 10th graders and I are reading cover his views on the Cardinal and Theological Virtues, as well as Natural Law.

My ninth grade humanities class is currently working through Plato's Republic. We read Euthyphro, The Apology, and Crito prior, so this is not their first attempt at Plato's dialogues. I really enjoy the Hackett Press edition and the Grube translation. It is very readable and the explanatory notes in the back, as well as the chapter summaries are very helpful.

At the same time, I am reading Melville's Billy Budd with several colleagues at Providence. I was a little apprehensive at first due to a bad experience with Moby Dick in junior high, but either my tastes have improved or his magnum opus is not typical of all his other work.

Finally, I have started re-reading Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse (free pdf download) again. I read it last year with my tenth grade class and they enjoyed it enough that I decided to make it an annual event. So now, on Fridays, we read and discuss a chapter from this great poem about King Alfred and his fight against the Danes.