Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Non-specific wishlist

This is a modified form of a general letter I sent to a number of friends. I've received several responses already and decided to put this version here, casting my net a little wider. 

Some SCT readers have occasionally posed a question or three to me because I said something that seemed puzzling, or totally wrongheaded, or really wise possibly clever. This post is an express solicitation of a few (say, between one and three) questions -- of whatever length, depth, and detail you like -- to serve as starting-places for me. The aim here is to generate a document with something not unlike a medieval quodlibet or quaestio-responsio format -- a form that can, at its best, make a virtue of the asystematicity to which my thinking is prone in any case. 

In posting this I am aware of opening myself to questions from any number of positions; my aspiration is to generating some connections, or contrasts, between perspectives, and pressing myself towards a further degree of coherence, or else letting a thousand incoherences bloom. 

This latter point -- the embrace (or at least  acceptance) of a degree of a margin of irreducible "inconsistency" -- is, to a degree, at odds with the medieval model.  The great masters of quaestio-responsio, (say, Aquinas or Maximus the Confessor) are sometimes thought of as preeminently systematic thinkers. I suppose it depends on what one means by "systematic" -- I believe it was Ralph McInerny who remarked someplace that he could not understand why anyone would think this of Aquinas, and (if I am remembering rightly), that he considered it a giveaway that they had not really read St. Thomas.) Maximus clearly used the form to respond to questions arising in particular contexts, and seems never tried to arrange his thinking under general headings with anything like an "outline" structure; his Ambiguae can read like a miscellany, unless you are trying to go deep enough to fathom what kind of mind just comes up with responses like these. I suppose that to forestall misunderstandings -- but feel free to ask about this, too -- I should mention that I do not think of myself as adopting precisely the same approaches as the Byzantines or Scholastics, let alone of comparing myself with such thinkers as Maximus or Thomas by any criteria except aspiring to know and love truth -- or at least, aspiring to so aspire (and, at the right moment, to let go of aspiration altogether). My project is a different application of a similar form -- the final document may more resemble a hybrid of interview, epistolary exchange, open comment thread, and dissertation defense. We will see. 

Readers are invited to use whatever approach you like with question(s). Regard it as providing a writing prompt for a friend, or as a philosophical Ask-Me-Anything; if you've been reading me a while (but there's no requirement that this be so), you may put the hard question you think I'm always avoiding, or ask me AGAIN to please, for real this time, address your real arguments; or you could just pose something that you've been thinking about on your own if you are wanting to get a different perspective on it. Ask about something that's always puzzled (or bothered!) you about SCT, or share something about yourself, or challenge me to think about some(body's) other point of view or experience. Go deep or shallow, political or metaphysical, historical or contemporary, prosaic or poetical, as biographical or as abstract as you like; pull your punches or try to knock my teeth out; or just muse.

You may send me responses directly (the email address is indicated in the sidebar up at the top, under "About Me") or in the comments. Some of these responses will be excerpted on SCT during the coming year; others will only be included in the complete document. I'll group or string issues, and perhaps combine questions, as they seem to me to be linked, possibly thematically, possibly by questioner, possibly via some other criteria -- there will be poetic license involved, and I will not use anyone's name. Naturally, I do not promise to please anyone with my answers -- you may be left unsatisfied, or irritated -- but (barring the unlikely case of being overwhelmed by responses) I will try to respond to every serious question in the project.