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Walker Percy & In-Breakings Of Grace

We are a couple of weeks away from this year’s Walker Percy Weekend [1] — please buy your tickets [2] if you haven’t yet! — and we have a great line-up of speakers and topics [3]. Alas, it is my sad duty to inform you that for the first time in five years, my dear friend Ralph Wood of Baylor won’t be joining us. He couldn’t fit it into his travel schedule. But he will be there in spirit, and in more than spirit: one of his prize students, Jessica Hooten Wilson, will be there to promote her wonderful new book about Percy’s novels [4], and to teach a class on her favorite Percy novel, The Last Gentleman.

No Ralph Wood in St. Francisville this year, but here’s good news: there’s a Ralph Wood essay about Percy and Love In The Ruins in the new issue of TAC — and it’s available online, right here. [5] Excerpt:

Percy’s philosophically astute psychiatrist identifies this far deeper trouble in a single lapidary claim: “Descartes ripped body loose from mind and turned the very soul into a ghost that haunts its own house.” Dr. More traces our illness to René Descartes, the 17th century French philosopher whose notorious motto was “Cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.” Descartes’ animating idea marked a fundamental “turn to the subject,” a relocation of ultimate authority in subjective human consciousness rather than any transcendent reality.

It is safe to say that, prior to Descartes, human reason seated itself either in the natural order or else in divine revelation. In the medieval tradition, reason brought these two thought-originating sources into harmony. Thus were mind, soul, and body regarded as having an inseparable relation: they were wondrously intertwined. So also, in this bi-millennial way of construing the world, was the created order seen as having multiple causes—first and final, no less than efficient and material causes. This meant that creation was not a thing that stood over against us, but as the realm in which we participate—living and moving and having our being there, as both ancient Stoics and St. Paul insisted. The physical creation was understood as God’s great book of metaphors and analogies for grasping his will for the world.

After Descartes, by contrast, the sensible realm becomes a purposeless thing, a domain of physical causes awaiting our own mastery and manipulation. Nature no longer encompasses humanity as its crowning participant. The soul drops out altogether and is replaced by disembodied mind. Shorn of its spiritual qualities, the mind becomes a calculating faculty for bare, abstract thinking. To yank the mind free from the body is also to untether it from history, tradition, and locality. After Descartes, the mind allegedly stands outside these given things so as to operate equally well at anytime and anywhere. Insofar as belief in God is kept at all, it is an entailment of the human. Atheism was sure to follow. Marx made truth itself a human production, whether social or economic. Nietzsche went further, insisted that nothing whatever can stand over against the human will to power, not even socially constructed truth. Hence the cry of Zarathustra: “If there were gods, how could I endure not to be a god!”


As Wordsworth said of Milton, so might we plead: “Percy, wert thou living at this hour!” Though it’s 28 years past his death and 47 since publication of Love in the Ruins, he might call Christians to a similar kind of hope. Though he would be witty rather than solemn, I believe he would summon his fellow believers, not to a culture war against the twin evils of the left and the right, but rather to a drastic renewal of our badly fractured churches. Father Rinaldo Smith’s tiny flock might find its successors in small gatherings of Christians from across the denominations in order that the Gospel might survive amidst the Dark Ages that have already begun. Aboard the church’s rickety ark riding out the storm, these remnant Christians would create communities of refuge for those who desire “a better country” (Heb. 11:14) than our bestial and angelic Cities of the Plain.

For nearly a half century, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been making a similar summons. He has confessed that we Christians are likely to remain a permanent minority from here on in—barring, of course, a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a phoenix-like rebirth from our moral and spiritual ashes. We Christians will never be in charge of things again, the future pope acknowledged. We seem to be back where we began—as a minority faith in an overwhelmingly pagan world. Hence these startling words from a 1969 radio address entitled “What Will the Church Be Like in 2000?”:

She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision. As a small society, she will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members…. The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek…. But when the trial [of] this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.

Yet it’s not as if two millennia of Christian existence have made no difference. In a 1997 interview with Peter Seewald, a German atheist reporter, Cardinal Ratzinger declared that we have been given two unparalleled gifts wherewith to build such enclaves of radical Christian excellence: (1) the inexhaustible fund of Christian thought and art, and (2) the unsurpassable witness of our saints and martyrs. On a sure prophetic and sacramental foundation, such mustard seed churches will “live in an intensive struggle against evil.” They will seek to keep “what is essential to man from being destroyed.” They will bring “good into the world,” prophesied the future pope, and thus “let God in.”

This, of course, is what The Benedict Option [6] is based on. I’m not going to spoil the rest of the long essay by telling you what Ralph has to say about all this — and what Percy does — but I hope you will check it out. [5]

These passages from Ralph’s essay really hit home with me this week. I am re-writing the proposal for my next book. In fact, just thinking about Ralph, and Walker Percy, prompted me to pour myself a finger or two of this incredible Reservoir bourbon my Virginia friends gave me recently (see photo). It’s the best sipping whiskey I’ve tasted in ages.

I submitted a proposal for the next book, and had it returned by my editor with the comment that it reads, as is, like the takeaway is, “We should all spend more time thinking about Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.” I missed the mark, then. I wouldn’t read a book as dull and worthy-sounding as that one. I’ve got to find the edge.

A friend suggested that I ought to consider the paradox I inhabit: I spend my days howling like Jeremiah on this blog about how the sky is falling, but in person, I am cheerful and amiable. How do I keep up hope despite it all? Part of it is my disposition, I think; nobody who likes to eat and to drink and to tell funny stories as much as I do can ever be permanently gloomy. But there is philosophical and theological seriousness there too. It has to do with the culture of the Christian church, and with the kind of people (at their best) that Christianity produces.

It has something to do as well with the profound sense of meaning, meaning embedded in the material world, that comes from my Christian faith. That is to say, from a sacramental view of life. And it has to do with the fact that like Percy, I’m a natural ironist who is inclined to see the absurdity in life, and to cherish it.

How to talk about this in a way that doesn’t sound insufferably abstract or worthwhile-Canadian-initiative [7]-ish?

And there’s this, which another friend pointed out to me. My wife once said that I’m a “weirdo magnet,” meaning that I have this uncanny ability to draw unusual people and unusual events to me. She’s right about that. I bat far above average in having encounters with the numinous, and with people who also have had them. I think that being open to them certainly helps — that, and the fact that I don’t mind talking about these mysteries openly. You’d be surprised by what people will tell you has happened to them once they know that you won’t automatically call them crazy for saying so. My friend, a solid, Ivy-educated professional who has had run-ins with the numinous himself, says that I should write about people like me: those “who had their faith in secularism destroyed by the collapse of the immanent frame and a kind of supernatural invasion.”

I think he’s onto something there too. But how to tie it all together? How to tie it all together into a book that actual people will read, and argue about?

Maybe I’ll get an idea or two at Walker Percy Weekend. Say, if you’re coming, I hope you’ll show up at the off-the-menu conversation I’ll be hosting on the back porch at the Magnolia Cafe with Fare Forward‘s Charlie Clark, about his essay “The Walker Percy Option.” [8] TAC is sponsoring the event, and will provide frosty longnecks for ticket holders, though you don’t have to be a ticket-holder to come to the talk (only to get free beer). “If the Benedict Option imagines a faithful remnant waiting out the flood, the Walker Percy Option imagines an unfaithful one, nonetheless borne up by grace,” writes Charlie. More:

Like all Christians, Percy believed that man’s immortal soul had been jeopardized by his fall from grace, that his original connection to the divine had been severed by sin. But he saw the problem of modernity through a narrower lens. Influenced by existentialism, he saw that man had fallen not only from grace, but (more recently) from himself as well. Moderns were uncomfortable in their own skin, alienated from their daily lives, restless, angry—and this in spite of unprecedented wealth and leisure. Like the secular existentialists of his age, Percy became convinced that something about modernity hampered human flourishing. It blocked not just the special grace by which the monks attended to the counsels of perfection, it interfered with the common, everyday grace that makes an ordinary life feel worth living.

Percy’s anti-modernism is not reactionary. He does not propose to re-erect a premodern social imaginary “amid the high tide of liquid modernity,” as Dreher says. When his characters imagine a coming calamity that will usher in a new order, it is a sign of madness, not wisdom. Rather, Percy’s vision is forward-looking, synthetic—even syncretistic. It tolerates a high degree of imperfection, the rough edges that are the mark of all real and natural things. He envisioned a new humanism, one that combined an affirmation of animal life with an openness to higher perfections, and which could rescue believer and unbeliever alike from the common disaster of estrangement from their selves. This vision, Percy’s Bad Catholic Existentialism, may not promise eternal salvation, but it does create occasions for further in-breakings of grace. The cure for our modern ills can be found through cathedral doors—and not just behind monastery walls.

Creating occasions for further in-breakings of grace. Hmmm … I like the way this is going.

I hope we see you at the Mag on Friday afternoon, June 1, to talk about all this — and that we see you for the rest of the weekend as well. Again, buy tickets here [2].

The Magnolia Cafe, St. Francisville, La.


30 Comments (Open | Close)

30 Comments To "Walker Percy & In-Breakings Of Grace"

#1 Comment By Bill Cobbett On May 16, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

Wait…beer? At a Walker Percy Option talk? And in the middle of the afternoon? Oh no, this will not do, not at all. I will bring a bottle of Monkey Shoulder. Yes that should rectify things a bit.

#2 Comment By Bernie On May 16, 2018 @ 7:17 pm

Rod, I must have missed it in the post, but what time is your meeting at the Mag on Friday?

[NFR: Four p.m. — RD]

#3 Comment By Mark On May 16, 2018 @ 8:37 pm

Someday I will get back. Was at the inaugural festival. Can that be five years ago? My wife still comments it was the perfect weekend. Indeed it was.

#4 Comment By Khalid mir On May 16, 2018 @ 8:58 pm

Finding the edge. Not easy! Good luck!

(An old medieval formulation..I think..God is a Being whose centre is everywhere and periphery nowhere)

Your post reminded me of a poem by Denise Levertov:

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see
the subway Bible poster said, meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,
grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform
into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being
hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

#5 Comment By Shane Ayers On May 17, 2018 @ 12:08 am


I apologize for the long-winded comment in advance.

I am a fan of your blog and of your writing on the Benedict Option. I hold deep sympathies with you. However, I want to suggest something that may relegate my comment to the digital wastebasket: Walker Percy is wrong.

He is not wrong in everything, and not in his conclusions; but his premise is wrong—at least one of them. Or rather, one of the premises of his work is doubtful, but offered with false certainty. He is wrong about Descartes.

I know you hold pretty strong opinions about the dangers of Modernity, but I also know that you are not so dogmatic that you dismiss differing opinions out of hand. So here goes.

Percy quite obviously has in mind Descartes’s First Philosophy when he claims that the philosopher created a “fault line” in the modern mind (and Ralph Wood, too, in his latest article—whom I also greatly respect). This is a popular reading of Descartes, but I do not think it is a very close reading. The argument generally goes like this: in the past, existence (an existent thing) was always conceived in the mind co-existent with (or participating in, whichever you prefer) essence (or its essence). So a man had a “nature,” if you will; so, too, did a tree; so did the universe. But Descartes severed this unity with his skeptical premises, which are sometimes wrongly summarized as mind-body dualism (it would be more accurate to summarize the position as material-essence dualism). One thought followed another, and BAM: we have modernity.

But I think this is not fair, and not at all self-evident from Descartes’ book. Here’s some evidence for my claim:

First, Descartes specifically introduces his work as a means of refuting skeptics on their own premises; and by using the skeptics’ own premises still arrive at the traditional claim that the soul is immortal and outlives the body. This is an entirely traditional conclusion—obviously in a Christian theological sense, but it is also the traditional understanding of Aristotle. So Descartes aims to prove, by the very premises of skeptics, that the soul is still immortal. This is hardly stereotypical modernist stuff.

Second, although Descartes does indeed use “cogito ergo sum” as a part of his argument, he never stays there. He is simply and intentionally stripping away all sense data as a premise for his own argument (which he basically said he was going to do in his introduction, which no one takes seriously for some reason). He works his way back from that point of absolute skepticism to affirm the reality of the body, the existence of a good God, and pretty much everything else. He obviously does not feel content to stop at affirming his mind and nothing else.

Third, the position of Percy and Wood, et al., seems to assume that, at the very least, Descartes laid the framework of modernity by assuming that the mind (or individual) is the foundational unit to measure the universe. Well, okay, but how come we don’t take down Aristotle by that same logic? Aristotle assumes, a priori, in the existence of the law of non-contradiction. If someone is skeptical of even that simple reality then you can’t speak to them (says Aristotle). This isn’t exactly Descartes, but if we used the same sort of blame-game on Aristotle, couldn’t we say that he assumes the basic measuring stick of the universe to be man’s innate logic? So logic is all that matters! Everything is now cause-and-effect, and Aristotle stripped the universe of all mystery! (Please note: I am NOT making this argument; just making a reduction ad absurdam). I may be making a straw-man here by not fully understanding and representing the anti-Descartes position, but I’ve yet to encounter an anti-Descartes position that does not make a straw-man of Descartes’ First Philosophy.

Fourth, to make Descartes out to be a villain, it seems to me that we have to ignore his own stated intentions. We have to read into his philosophical work a secret motive that he didn’t ever state, that isn’t self-evident from the book, and one that we have a bias towards believing if we want to make him a villain: namely, that he didn’t really want to affirm God’s existence or the soul’s immortality; he was only covering his ass by tacking these elements on to his argument. I don’t buy it. Stopping at “cogito ergo sum” is rather stupid for a man whose scientific work is based on empiricism. He rather needs the senses. So why do we so glibly assume that his commitments are false and his motives hidden?

Therefore, I just cannot buy this notion that Descartes caused modernity. I think a better reading of Descartes is that he was already operating inside of, coping with, and responding to modernity. If we take his stated purpose in First Philosophy in good faith, then he is responding to a skepticism already significant enough to catch his attention. He is a man steeped in Catholicism; and though he rejects part of the philosophical tradition that came before him, he is no radical either. He is not a skeptic. He ends up on the same side as the old Scholastics. Perhaps he is a very relevant figure to Christianity and modernity, but not in the way Percy thinks. He is a man standing between two worlds, trying to bring them in sync.

#6 Comment By Rich Kennedy On May 17, 2018 @ 1:08 am

No way can I make it. However, how can I get a pair, a set of those Walker Percy double old fashioned glasses? Seriously. Very nice.

[NFR: They come with your ticket, I’m afraid. You need a glass for your cocktails at the Bourbon Stroll. — RD]

#7 Comment By Rob G On May 17, 2018 @ 6:24 am

That Ralph Wood piece is outstanding. Made me want to dig out my copy of LITR and re-read it immediately!

#8 Comment By Thaomas On May 17, 2018 @ 7:11 am

“Part of it is my disposition, I think; nobody who likes to eat and to drink and to tell funny stories as much as I do can ever be permanently gloomy. But there is philosophical and theological seriousness there too. It has to do with the culture of the Christian church, and with the kind of people (at their best) that Christianity produces.

It has something to do as well with the profound sense of meaning, meaning embedded in the material world, that comes from my Christian faith. That is to say, from a sacramental view of life. And it has to do with the fact that like Percy, I’m a natural ironist who is inclined to see the absurdity in life, and to cherish it.”

Exactly the formula we use to survive Trump and the forces that produced and sustain him. 🙂

#9 Comment By Maggie Gallagher On May 17, 2018 @ 7:59 am

I wish you would write about the new biography of Rene Girard, The Evolution of Desire. Quite a fascinating story.

Esp. his conversion. Speaking of the numinous.


[NFR: I didn’t know there was a biography of him out. Thanks for the heads-up. — RD]

#10 Comment By Pacopond On May 17, 2018 @ 8:38 am

I read the essay on TAC before I saw your post, Rod. Then you reminded me that I had met the writer, briefly, on the Bourbon crawl at the Walker Percy weekend.

I thought it an exceptional essay.

Like Ralph, I won’t be able to be in St. Francisville this year, but I hope the weekend is a rousing success.

#11 Comment By CatherineNY On May 17, 2018 @ 9:13 am

@Rod writes, ‘My wife once said that I’m a “weirdo magnet.”’ Please tell her that all your faithful readers thank her for that remark.

#12 Comment By mrscracker On May 17, 2018 @ 9:19 am

CatherineNY says:

@Rod writes, ‘My wife once said that I’m a “weirdo magnet.”’ Please tell her that all your faithful readers thank her for that remark.”
I’ll be one of the less weird attendees this year.

#13 Comment By JonF On May 17, 2018 @ 9:32 am

I’m still on track to be down there that weekend. Maybe I will make it into town in time for the cobfab at the Mag.

(Note to Mrs. Cracker: Thank you for your invitation, however you are right that I prefer to stay in St Francisville. But it was a wonderful offer of hospitality to someone whom you have barely met, and I am including you and yours in my prayers.)

#14 Comment By Haigha On May 17, 2018 @ 9:43 am

Shane Ayers writes better what I was going to say, so I’ll skip that. I’ll just note that all of these “traditionalist” attacks on Enlightenment thinkers–Hanby, Deneen, Schindler, Wood–proceed the same way. The Enlightenment thinker’s work is deemed to “imply” some conclusion that he never made and almost certainly would have opposed, on the grounds that subsequent thinkers who stood on his intellectual shoulders went off in other, problematic directions, which are in no way logically necessary from the precepts of the original thinker in question. Descartes is somehow responsible for Nietzsche and Marx, Locke is somehow responsible for the Progressives, etc.

By that reasoning, Christ is responsible for Savonarola, Torquemada, Mohammad, and the Salem witch trials, not to mention all of the current crop of post-Christian, victim-worshipping SJWs.

#15 Comment By Franklin Evans On May 17, 2018 @ 9:57 am

Ditto Catherine: We weirdos are in very good company. 😀

Rich Kennedy: subject to Rod’s willingness and arrangements you can make with him, I will gladly cede my glass to you via those arrangements. I have four, and the sentimental value pales compared to what is put into it and subsequently enjoyed.

#16 Comment By Siluan On May 17, 2018 @ 10:17 am

– Shane Ayers – Like it or not, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. The reason Descartes is perceived as the fault line in the modern mind is because that’s how he’s been almost universally read. I still remember my Intro to Philosophy professor (a secular leftist) basically explaining to us that it was Descartes’ views on epistemology and individuality that were important, while his later arguments were always considered weak. In short, while he thought he could deconstruct and then reconstruct belief, he was only ever successful in the deconstruction part.

Certainly he isn’t the father of modernity – I would personally give that dishonor to Nietzche – but he was one of a cloud of grandfathers and great uncles – along with the likes of Hume, Kant, Voltaire, even Aquinas and the Scholastics – of modernity.

– Rod – As the author of exactly zero published works, I’ll give you my $.02. I think using dichotomy is a good way to “find the edge”. Contrast the Good and the Beautiful with real evil and ugliness, and hopefully people will “get it”.

#17 Comment By Jon On May 17, 2018 @ 11:35 am

Here is where we depart. The problem is not with the ego cogito but its negation that pervades the popular consciousness in the name of an unsung materialism brought to us through popularizers of the physical sciences including biology. The life of mind has been relegated to the great trash bin of history and replaced by the brain. No soul, no psyche and no mind but the palpitating mass of protoplasm drenched in its own blood a veritable laboratory of chemicals but nothing more. And this is what needs be addressed.

The new humanism that Walker Percy envisioned may not be through the revivification of the traditional narrative which has sustained Western Civilization for two millennia. We might have to search elsewhere such as in the iconography of indigenous cultures or through a new syncretism that preserves the memory of the old narrative which no longer sustains us at least not by itself. Perhaps this entails searching for the transcendent in nature without imprisoning it in existence.

#18 Comment By Greg On May 17, 2018 @ 11:53 am

A photo of my written proposal of marriage to my beautiful wife on a softcover of ‘The Moviegoer’, now museum framed and hanging in our bedroom, is not shown here. ;`]

#19 Comment By sigaliris On May 17, 2018 @ 4:38 pm

As a writer and reader, I have to say that “Weirdo Magnet” is a title I would feel compelled to pick up . . . .

#20 Comment By Shane Ayers On May 17, 2018 @ 6:04 pm

Re: Siluan. That’s exactly my point: your philosophy professor told you. The textbook summary of Descartes is always about his supposed skepticism (which he is refuting, mind you) and epistemology. But I would challenge you to give the book a try, without commentary. I think it may surprise you.

Focusing on the first half of First Philosophy is like stopping after Dantes Inferno (which is a very common thing for Lit classes to do). Not only is it an incomplete experience; it creates a totally different experience. Dantes work is a Comedy after all, so leaving the soul in Hell is the opposite of what he wants to accomplish–which is why Dante is so often taught as a voyeuristic and sadistic tourism rather than as the journey of his own soul. Ditto Descartes and skepticism. In both cases we have an unhealthy fascination with the “fall,” but no patience for the redemption.

#21 Comment By Brendan from Oz On May 17, 2018 @ 8:11 pm

Whilst attributing Pyrrhonism (Skepticism) to Descartes is demonstrably false, I’m not so sure his mind-body dualism can be so easily dismissed. Final Cause had already been done away with as explanatory of nature as res extensa (Bacon, Kepler) and Descartes could only find a place for it in the mind, res cogitans. See Principles of Philosophy.

The Empiricists (following the Pyrrhonism of Sextus Empiricus) naturally opposed Descartes, and the line of thought from Pyrrho through Hume, Kant and ultimately Heidegger came to dominate “Philosophy” to such an extent that Cultural Constructivism (thanks Pyrrhonism!) is the default way of thought taught today.

Not Descartes fault – and he says openly he is arguing against Skepticism by using their own assumptions – but his mind-body dualism can be found in his writings, even if he says they are “closely joined”.

Aristotle saw the logic already in the cosmos that he observed to be the measure, not Man, which is Sophistry and he openly dismissed it.

#22 Comment By Siluan On May 17, 2018 @ 10:01 pm

– Shane – the thing is though, we did read the entire Meditations before getting the lecture and discussion about it. We also dealt with a little of his later works in lecture. My professor was the kind who teaches you how to think more than what to think, and pretty sharp as well. I came to my conclusions about The Meditations on my own, from reading the whole text. I’ve virtually never seen anyone come to the conclusion that Descartes remotely proved his desired conclusions. In fact, I was left with an appreciable lack of certainty and a sense that personhood was a much more isolated and atomized concept than I had felt before. Virtually everyone I’ve heard critique the work since has more or less agreed.

Funny story, when the original The Matrix movie came out, a friend of mine who was a philosophy grad and I were watching it. When it came to the scene where Morphius explains what the Matrix is to Neo, I leaned over to my friend and said “oh my God, somebody made an action flick out of Descartes’ Meditations!” He just laughed.

BTW, I also read the entire Divine Comedy in college, and I agree with you there. I don’t know what kind of slacker professor would let people read just The Inferno. You can only truly understand what the Comedy is about by ready all three sections. One of these days I’ll have to read Rod’s book about it. (Although I technically disagree with Dante on theological grounds 😉 !)

#23 Comment By charles cosimano On May 18, 2018 @ 8:23 am

Thank God we live in an age where no one takes philosophers seriously.

#24 Comment By Shane Ayers On May 18, 2018 @ 11:04 am

I’ll need to bow out of the Descartes conversation after this, which is probably for the best. But I’d just like to offer a few responses:

Re: Brendan. I’m not smart enough to know exactly what you just said, but I’ll bite on just what I can chew: I think you’re mistaken to attribute Descartes with either starting or holding to a mind-body dualism. Descartes spends a good deal of time re-uniting the body and mind, and calls it a “substantial union”. To a philosophical reader, “substantial” should set off a lot Aristotelian alarm bells. Descartes rejects the notion that “the mind is in the body” as a pilot is in the ship (an old metaphor of the soul/body from the Platonists, I think). All this is dealt with far better in “Galileo Goes to Prison and Other Myths” in the chapter responding to the idea that “Descartes Originated Mind-Body Dualism”.

Re:Siluan. I’d just like to point out that I’m not the only one to read Descartes this way; as I said, the stock reading of Descartes is just what you propose, but it’s not necessarily what all scholars hold. The following link is not scholarly, but links to a number of scholarly works.


#25 Comment By Siluan On May 18, 2018 @ 1:46 pm

– Shane – Thanks, I’ll check out the link, and I appreciate the intelligent conversation.

#26 Comment By JonF On May 18, 2018 @ 2:03 pm

Re:” Kant and ultimately Heidegger came to dominate “Philosophy” to such an extent that Cultural Constructivism (thanks Pyrrhonism!)

In the Anglo world, Bertrand Russell and also the Pragmatist school is probably more influential, which tends to reduce philosophy to commentary on mathematical logic.

#27 Comment By TR On May 19, 2018 @ 7:21 pm

JonF–The Pragmatists, whom Russell did not like, did not “reduce philosophy to commentary on mathematical logic>” And Wittgenstein, whom Russell pretended not to understand, was probably far more influential in Anglo-American philosphy after 1950 than Russell.

As for Descartes and mind/body. Everyone sounds like a bunch of Biblical exegetes arguing. I’m too ignorant of the texts in questions to argue. But some very brilliant philosophers (e. g., Stephen Toulmin) have argued that he Descartes is indeed guilty of separating mind and body. I believe you will find it a commonplace in histories of philosophy. (“Believe” because I certainly haven’t read all of them.)

#28 Comment By JonF On May 21, 2018 @ 7:30 am

Re: The Pragmatists, whom Russell did not like, did not “reduce philosophy to commentary on mathematical logic>”

Correction accepted. I know a fair amount about Russell, but have only touched upon the Pragmatists. My point was that Anglo-American philosophy is a rather different beast than Continental philosophy– and has been for quite some time.

Re: . But some very brilliant philosophers (e. g., Stephen Toulmin) have argued that he Descartes is indeed guilty of separating mind and body.

Not of separating them, no– that distinction is ancient, and finds purchase in traditional metaphysics and theology going back to the Greeks, if not to the Egyptians. But Descartes did absolutize the separation, so that mind and body would seem to have not even a nodding acquaintance under his system. Spinoza saw this almost immediately which is why he put them back together again in his system as species of a single universal substance.

#29 Comment By mrscracker On May 21, 2018 @ 10:46 am


Sorry, just getting back to this article.
Thank you for your kind words & prayers.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in St. Francisville soon!

God bless!

#30 Comment By JonF On May 21, 2018 @ 6:27 pm

Unfortunately it turns out I will not be down there for WPW after all. The Maryland Unemployment folks have demanded my presence at a seminar on How To Find A Job that Friday. There is no obvious facility for rescheduling this, and I’d rather not subject myself to the coils of that bureaucracy again. Everything was just finally cleared up with them and I got my first funds from them last only week. I am of course totally bummed out of about this as I had been looking forward to seeing everyone again. Oh, and tasting odd bourbon concoctions too. And a road trip through the mountains and across the deep South, So, I shall have to content myself with a weekend with my Delaware friend, just three hours away, instead, if he’s free. I suppose there is always next year.