Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 22 (René Descartes )

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Descartes, René
Discourse on Method
& The Meditation

This is an old one. It must be a used course book I purchased in college for a sophomore class I took on epistemology because it is highlighted from front to back, and not by me.

The course was taught by a youngish priest named Fr. C. He always wore a brown or blue v-neck sweater over his habit, with his collar clearly visible. His hair was longish on top, parted way over to the side and combed horizontally across his head in a straight line. A lock often fell down over his eyes has he lectured which he was always brushing away.

He often spoke of his love for opera and wine. He was a brutal grammarian, for which I thank him (note the lack of a dangled preposition in the last phrase). My father used to say that the Jesuits taught you the two most useful skills in the world: how to write and how to bullshit. The former is certainly true, but I think I picked up most of the latter long before I encountered the Jesuits. They helped me hone the skill by teaching me logic and proper sentence construction.

I also remember that there were two positions for which Fr. C had no patience: that morals were relative or that God might not exist. He enjoyed using Descartes to skewer any doubt one might have in the existence of God and then once that was settled to ensure that we understood that all morals came forth from that God and were universal and absolute.

There was another course book, I recall, for this class, written by a well-known theologian at the college, Avery Dulles (brother of John Foster), that was kind of a survey of writers: Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Locke -- I can't recall the other, maybe Kant. It had a maroon cover with white text (Fordham school colors). I lost it somewhere along the way.

from The Meditations

Finally I observe that, since each of all the movements which are in the part of the brain by which the mind is immediately affected causes merely one particular feeling, nothing better could be wished for or imagined than that among all the feelings it is capable of causing, this movement makes the mind feel the one most proper and most generally useful for the preservation of the human body, where it is in full health. But experience shows that all the perceptions which nature has given us are such as I have just said, and there there is nothing to be found in them which does not make apparent the power and goodness of God who produced them.

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