Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Classical Moment: Selected Essays on Knowledge and its Pleasures

James V. Schall, The Classical Moment: Selected Essays on Knowledge and its Pleasures. South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine's Press, 2014. 155 pages. ISBN 978-1-58731-124-6.

James V. Schall is one of the best essayists of our time. He can communicate great truths in a few words. The Classical Moment: Selected Essays on Knowledge and Its Pleasures are short essays, one to four pages, of eternal truths. The essays on this book deal in a delightful way with knowledge and its pleasures. These essays originally appeared in both print and online sources. Reading Schall is always a delightful experience. One feels both stimulated and taught in the best sense.These are what I would call light essays that can be read in a few minutes. Schall is an excellent teacher through the written word.

Schall's contention is that "each of us, writer and reader, also belongs to reality, to what is. We all seek, in our classical moment, to be moved by the truth of things. In our lives and in our essays, in our reading and our conversation, we have all been, to use Maritain's phrase in the second from the last essay, 'touched by fire' (4). " Schall intends through 53 selected essays to facilitate classical moments where we contact the "truth of things" or reality. These are essays that one can enjoy at one's leisure.

Schall explains his use of truth of things in his essay, "the reality of things." He thinks that "truth is based on the reality of things! Truth occurs when the mind conforms to a reality it did not itself create" (9). He quotes from the early church father, Irenaeus who said, "the truth leads to faith, for the faith is based on the reality of things" (9). Another translation reads, "faith is produced by the truth; for faith rests on things that truly are" (9). Irenaeus further adds: "The truth leads to faith, because faith is founded on the reality of things, in order that we might believe in things as they are. Believing in this way, we thus must always protect, in their regard, the firmness of our conviction about them" (9-10). Truth is when we say what is that it is as Aristotle taught us. Schall says that it takes courage to say what is that it is. Faith concerns truth. Faith calls us to live in relationship with truth. This is an example of one of the many essays in this book that brings us in contact with the "truth of things."

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