What I Need to Know and How the Liberal Arts Can Help Me Know It
Duplex Cognitio: What I Need to Know and How the Liberal Arts Can Help Me Know It
http://www.phc.edu/news/docs/0510041Media.asp Todd Bates, assistant professor of rhetoric, launched Patrick Henry College's Faith and Reason lecture series on Tuesday, September 13 with his presentation of "Duplex Cognitio: What I Need To Know and How the Liberal Arts Can Help Me Know It." The series is designed to prompt campus-wide reflection and discussion on the relationship between faith and reason in the context of Christian liberal arts education .
In order to allow students to participate more fully in the day's events, all afternoon classes were cancelled. The lecture was followed by small group discussions, a special dinner, and a panel discussion. Discussion questions formulated by Dr. Bates guided the conversation during these sessions, which closed with a vigorous question and answer period.
In his lecture, Dr. Bates drew on the historic teachings of St. Augustine and argued from the duplex cognitio—the inseparability of knowledge of God and knowledge of the human soul—to the thesis that the liberal arts have a uniquely important role in a whole life devoted to learning and knowing what is true. As such, the liberal arts are an essential component in a college curriculum informed by a desire to know the fullness of truth, which is ultimately unified in God.
Windows Media Audio (.wma) file of this year's lecture is available here, and a .wma file of the faculty panel discussion here. If you'd like a .pdf transcript of this year's lecture, click here.
What do you most need to know to be successful in life? Consider all that can possibly be known in contemporary society. Out of that, what are the most important things to know? Are these things worth knowing and other things not worth knowing? Are these things different for a Christian? Who decides? How do you decide?
Fortunately, these questions are not new to us or to the contemporary society in which we live. They have been considered by thoughtful people throughout time. As Christians, we are blessed in belonging to a community that is not spatially or temporally bound. Christians understand life and reality from a committed position that is based on, saturated with, and ends with the Bible. It is from the grid of Scripture that Christendom has approached and answered the above questions and has many who have thought deeply on Scripture and its insights into life and knowledge. One of the greatest of these thinkers is the noble St. Augustine, bishop of Hippo. Though he wrote in the early fifth century, his insights are as prescient today as they were during his own time.
http://class.phc.edu/AngelUploads/Co...re-PrintVe.pdf There remains one thing more to consider. The correlated elements in the duplex cognitio involve two movements of the soul that are, once the movement has taken place, reciprocal. The soul turns inward in self-knowledge, which cannot be fully attained without the upward turn of the soul in knowledge of God. Robert Crouse summarizes this movement well saying, “Thus self-knowledge and knowledge of God stand in a dialectical relationship; the soul turns inward, to itself, in order to ascend to the knowledge of God; but that knowledge, in turn, involves a profoundly reformed self-knowledge.”12 There is, I think, another movement that is important for our study. It is the movement outward that completes the Augustinian “twin loves.” Why do the duplex cognitio and the liberal arts matter for the love of our neighbors?
If the above ideas are true, then the study of the liberal arts is indispensable for anyone who desires to shape culture. The reason for this is suggested in an insightful article from the National Humanities Institute. The article draws on the ideas of Claes Ryn, who teaches politics at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and proposes that “the real movers are those individuals in society who fashion and influence the way the public thinks about things or, as [Ryn] puts it, ‘the way people process information.’ The real movers, he says, are people who ‘draw us into their way of experiencing the world.’ These people, [Ryn] says, are the nation’s artists, authors, entertainers, and advertisers.”13
Those who have been liberally educated, by which it is meant those who have been trained through the liberal arts and who have achieved, at least in some sense, the aim of a true liberal education, the duplex cognitio, have been brought to view and experience the world in a distinct manner. This is principally a result of attaining wisdom, understood in all its Augustinian richness. As was argued above, the wise understand the order of the world in which they reside, understanding both their place in the world and the true end of all things—the glory of God (Romans 11:36). For Augustine, wisdom was never simply a matter of contemplation, but of action. Wisdom served as counselor to performance. Wisdom instructs knowledge in how to use material things well, which is the way of virtue. Material things would include, at least in its initial expressions, the disciplines within the ordo studiorum. One who has attained to true wisdom, then, will use the disciplines, and the products of those disciplines, in a way that is consistent with the knowledge and love of God—that which orders all things. One of Augustine’s more notable quotes is, “love and do what you will.” Augustine was confident that when one’s loves were ordered rightly, one’s actions would be consistent with this. George Lavere explains, “A soul perfectly united to God in love would enjoy the privileges of perfect understanding and perfect control of will. Total attachment to God would preclude any tendency to misuse our faculties in any way, thus turning from God our final end.”14 While being perfectly united to God in love may be beyond our reach this side of heaven, the principle remains sound. Love will manifest itself in action and production in the corporeal world in a way that is consistent with love of God. In short, things and others are loved rightly.
This is so cool. Thanks, Charles!