Friday, May 25, 2012

The Life of the Mind

The Life of the Mind : On the Joy and Travails of Thinking, by James V. Schall. Wilmington, Deleware: ISI Books, 2006. 214 pp. $25.00

James V. Schall, S. J., is Professor of Government at Georgetown University. He is the author of numerous books, including Another Sort of Learning, A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning, and On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs. 
This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Shaffett, J. E. Christian Librarian 50:139 no. 3 2007

Human beings take delight and pleasure in knowing. Because we have not only bodies but also minds, we are built to know “what is”. Reflecting on Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, Josef Pieper, Walker Percy, Wendell Berry, and even Charlie Brown, Father Schall discusses the various ways of thinking about the “joys and travails of thinking.” We can ask for no better guide to the life of the mind and how to nourish it than Father Schall.

This is a “book about thinking and reading, about thinking while reading, about being aware and being delighted in the very acts of either reading or thinking”(Schall, Xiii). Schall describes the experience of going into a library and having “no idea what to read, even when we know how to read”(Schall, 21). This is the reason for this book. Schall instructs us on acquiring books, keeping them and on re-reading them. He refers to C.S. Lewis’s perceptive remark “that if you have only read a great book once, you have not read it at all (though you must read it once in order to be able to read it again)” (Schall, 8).

Some of the topics covered are: “Books and the Intellectual Life”, the Liberal Arts, “On Taking Care of One’s Own Wisdom”, “On Knowing Nothing of Intellectual Delights”, “the Metaphysics of Walking”, “On the insufficiency of Apollo”, “On the things that Depend on Philosophy”, and “the Things that the Mind did not Make. The book includes three appendices. The first appendix consists of the twenty books that will nourish the life of the mind. The second appendix reproduces an interview of education and learning. The third appendix is a lecture given to seminarians on the pleasures of reading and the cultivation of the mind.

Father Schall is a master teacher, a man of profound wisdom and learning. He is an excellent guide to the things that really matter. Read this book and read Schall’s other books too. You will not be disappointed.
I will be re-reading Schall's A Catholic Mind and plan on reporting it this summer. It has been a general practice of mine is when I find an author I like is to read widely in their writings. This helps me to have a better grasp of their thinking.

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