Thursday, September 15, 2016

Faith and Learning

John of Salisbury, The Metalogicon

Faith and Learning in John of Salisbury’s The Metalogicon
            Some Christians are suspicious of Liberal Arts Education, Higher Education and the life of the mind. Others see an unbridgeable gulf built between faith and liberal learning. Some Christians think that believers should only read Christian books. I was told by friends that going to a public university might endanger my faith. Personally, I experienced a separation between the life of learning and the life of faith as a college student. It seemed that my church emphasized the life of faith; while, the university emphasized reason. I spent most of my undergraduate years bringing these two worlds together--the life of the mind and the life of faith. Has this conflict between faith and learning always existed? Tertullian did say, “What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens?” However, this was a minority position in the Christian Church. The release of a twelfth century work on education, The Metalogicon by John of Salisbury provides an example of the relationship of faith and learning in the Middle Ages. McGarry states that this work might even be the birth of modern pedagogy. The Metalogicon was originally completed in 1159 and it is basically “a defense of logic in its broad sense” (xvi).
John of Salisbury (ca. 1115-1180) studied with many of the greatest scholars of the twelfth century. He was born of "humble origin at Old Sarum (Salisbury) in southern England, between 1115 and 1120" (xvi). He showed sign while a child of an "above-average intellect" and was considered a prospect for a future church leader. Though he lacked the financial means, "we soon find him 'learning the psalter from a local priest" (xvi). Because of his earnest desire for additional learning, he went to France in 1136. He studied in Paris and Chartres for about twelve years with some of the most brilliant scholars of the time. With the assistance of his teachers, John "became thoroughly grounded  in the seven liberal arts. In addition, he studied theology under Simon of Poissy, and was "ordained to the priesthood" (xvii). He spent six years or more training and working for the papal court. John was requested to return to England "in 1154 to assume the important position of secretary to Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury" (xvii). As assistant to Theobald , "he served on many important diplomatic missions, and journeyed several times to Italy (xvii)," France and around England. He later served Theobald's replacement, Thomas Becket, as his assistant. He completed the Metalogicon and the Policratius by 1159. After Beckett's death, he was befriended by Louis VII and appointed to the episcopate of Chartres. John's writings were more influential than his political activities. McGarry states, "Although he was influential in the affairs of his day, John of Salisbury is especially admired by posterity for his writings. Particularly important are his Policratius, or 'Statesman's Book, his Metalogicon, or 'Defense of the Trivium,' and his letters" (xviii). 
The Metalogicon demonstrates the author extensive knowledge of both Christian and pagan writers. His chief sources are works of "classical antiquity" (xxiii). Some of the major authors he quotes are Plato, Aristotle, Porphyry, Cicero, Seneca, Quintilian, Vergil, and many of the Church Fathers and medieval writers. The Metalogicon is a major work on medieval pedagogy. McGarry claims that it is "a classic in the history of educational theory" (xxv). The Metalogicon, observes McGarry, "reflecting its versatile author, sparkles with many facets. It is important enough to be something of a landmark in several fields of learning, including philosophy, theology, psychology, , and education" (xxvi). "In philosophy," it is the first major work "to urge and provide a blueprint for a widespread study of the whole of Aristotelian logic" (xxvi). Its promotion of inductive and deductive reasoning "led naturally, not only into thirteenth-century scholasticism, but also even in modern science" (xxvi).  McGarry asserts, “In theology, its concept of the cooperative relation between faith and reason suggests the maxim of mutual corroboration accepted by thirteenth-century thinkers” (xxvi).  "In psychology," it is an early example "of empirical psychology" (xxvi).  McGarry notes, "Finally, it is a treasure-trove of information concerning twelfth-century pedagogy, as well as an enduring classic by its own right in the field of educational theory" (xxvii). In addition, it is a great example of  "spoiling the Egyptians;" the compatibility of faith and learning; and cultivating virtue.
Even though the author was quite busy with “administrative concerns and trifles of court life,” he thought it was necessary to answer Cornificius who “claimed that logical studies are useless” (9). John describes Cornificius, “Barring no means in his effort to console himself for his own want of knowledge, he has contrived to improve his own reputation by making many others ignoramuses like himself” (9). It seems that Cornificius discouraged people from studying the liberal arts. The author states that Cornificius and his followers “preferred remaining foolish to learning the truth from the humble, to whom God gives grace. Having prematurely seated themselves in the master’s chair, they blush to descend to the pupil’s bench”(17). In other words, they are not teachable. They lack the virtue of humility. John repeatedly makes the point that the intellectual life needs the moral virtues.  In addition, he discouraged people from learning eloquence. John writes, “I consequently wonder (though not sufficiently, as it is beyond me) what is the real aim of one who denies that eloquence should be studied; who asserts that it comes as a natural gift to one who is not mute, just as sight does to one who is not blind, and hearing to one who is not deaf; and who further maintains that although nature’s gift is strengthened by exercise, nothing is to be gained by learning the art [of eloquence], or at least that the benefit accruing is not worth the effort that must be expended” (9). John is strongly opposed to this idea arguing instead, “Just as eloquence, unenlightened by reason, is rash and blind, so wisdom, without the power of expression, is feeble and maimed. He believes that the end of education is wisdom and eloquence. This idea was also believed by Greek and Roman writers, including Cicero.
John also argues for the importance of effort in our studies. The student must help nature by “use and exercise” (28). In addition, they must curb their appetites. He thinks it is important that a student has an aptitude for learning, but talent without hard work is useless. He uses Scaurus Rufus as an example. He “was far from naturally bright, but that by assiduously employing his meager natural talents, he became so accomplished that he even called Cicero himself a barbarian” (30). In other words, students can improve their minds if they put forth the effort. John argues, “just as natural ability easily deteriorates when neglected, so it is strengthened by cultivation and care” (30). In the rest of book I he discusses logic, grammar, and the liberal arts. John states, “The nature of art, the various kinds of innate abilities, and the fact that natural talents should be cultivated and developed by the arts” (33). In other words, art is the means for developing the intellectual virtues. There are different types of art. In describing the liberal arts, he notes, “The liberal arts are said to have become so efficacious among our ancestors, who studied them diligently, that they enabled them to comprehend everything they read, elevated their understanding to all things, and empowered them to cut through the knots of all problems of solutions” (36). The liberal arts enables the student to acquire knowledge and the skills of reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking. John states that grammar “is the science of speaking and writing correctly--the starting point of all liberal studies” (37). Grammar is the foundation, the beginning of all learning. Liberal studies provides the tools for lifelong learning. The author notes, "Quintilian also praises this art [grammar] to the point of declaring that we should continue the use of grammar and the love of reading 'not merely during our school days, but to the end of our life" (61). Though the body grows weaker as we age, the mind, in contrast, can grow stroger during our lifetime. Grammar is important be cause "it equips us both to receive and impart knowledge" (61).  The author asks, “do not our forefathers tell us that liberal studies are so useful that one who has mastered them can, without a teacher, understand all books and everything written (63)?” There is a close connection between books and learning as stated by Schall in The Life of the Mind.
John states, "The chief aids to philosophical inquiry and the practice of virtue are reading, learning, meditation, and assiduous application" (64). The author describes what these different terms mean. Reading analyzes the written words in a text. Learning "likewise generally studies what is written, but also some times moves on to what is preserved in the memory and is not in the writing, or to those things that become evident when one understands the given subject" (64). Meditation goes deeper than reading because it goes beyond the apparent meaning of the written work. Assiduous application depends on "scientific knowledge" which is produced through reading, learning, and meditation. This scientific knowledge prepares the ground for virtue. John asserts, "Scientific knowledge, by the nature of things, must precede the practice and cultivation of virtue, 'which does not run without knowing where it is going' " (64). The author believes for all this to bear fruit requires grace. He writes, "It is accordingly evident that grammar, which is the basis and root of scientific knowledge, implants, as it were, the seed [of virtue] in nature's furrow after grace has readied the ground. This seed, provided again that cooperating grace is present, increases in substance and strength until it becomes solid virtue, and it grows in manifold respects until it fructifies in good works, wherefore men are called and actually are 'good' " (65). What does he mean by the term, good works? Next, he says that it is "grace alone which makes a man good" (65). What does this mean? It is grace "that brings about the willing and the doing of good" (65). This seems to refer to a passage in Philippians, chapter 2. He even says that it is grace that "imparts the faculty of writing and speaking correctly to those whom it is given, and supplies them with the various arts" (65). John seems to be saying if we have the ability to master the liberal arts this is a gift of God's grace. He adds that if we despise or scorn God's grace, it will leave. This seems to imply that some are gifted for learning and some are not. Finally John states, "One who aspires to become a philosopher should therefore apply himself to reading, learning, and meditation, as well as the performance of good works, lest the Lord becomes angry and take away what he seems to possess" (65). Later on, the author seems to define what he means by good works. He asserts, "Since, however, it is not right to allow any school or day be without religion, subject matter was presented to foster faith, to build up morals and to . . . perform good works" (68). In this passage we have many of the themes of this book. It argues for cultivating both the intellectual and moral virtues, and the doing of good works. 
The author gives another example of the interrelationship of learning and virtue. He states, "A man cannot be the servant of both learning and carnal vice" (70-71). Second, he says it is important that the student cultivate the virtues of charity and humility. It is easy to lose humility as the student progresses in learning. An exampple of temperance is the discernment in the selection of books. John notes, "That which preempts the place that something is better is, for this reason, disadvantageous, and does not deserve tobe called 'good.' To examine and pore over everything that has been written, regardless of whether it is worth reading, is as pointless as to fritter away one's time with old wives' tales" (70). This is an example of the medieval distinction between study and curiosity.
Book II defines logic and reasoning and shows how it is valuable to “all fields of philosophy” (74). He defines logic as “the science of argumentative reasoning which provides a solid basis for the whole activity of prudence” (74). Prudence is practical wisdom and it the “root of all the virtues” (74). It seems prudence is both an intellectual and a moral virtue. It connects the moral and intellectual virtues together. The author says that the most desirable thing is wisdom, “whose fruit consists in the love of what is good and the practice of virtue” (74). He believes that the “human mind must apply itself to the quest of wisdom” (74). He shows how the moral and intellectual life are related in this part of his book. This is a theme that is prominent in The Great Tradition. John states,  "Logic is exercised in inquiry into the truth. The latter [truth]. . . is the subject matter of the primary virtue which is called 'prudence'; whereas various utilities and necessities constitute the subject matter of the remaining three [basic virtues]. Prudence consists entirely in insight into the truth, together with a certain skill in investigating the latter; whereas justice embraces the truth and fortitude defends it, while temperance moderates the activities of the aforesaid virtues" (74). Cultivating the moral virtues s necessary if we are going to pursue the intellectual life. John makes an important point about civility in conversation. He writes, "One who [really loves the truth hates wrangling, whereas one who is charitable instinctively and spontaneously withdraws from contention" (73). And people say the Medieval period was the dark ages. What would they say about us? 
The author makes a remarkable assertion, "One who comprehends truth is wise, one who loves it is good, 'one who orders his life according with it happy' (75)." This is a reference to Proverbs 3:18: "She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast is blessed" (ESV). This passage is referring to getting wisdom. Both the Bible and John thinks there is a connection between happiness and wisdom. Later, he says that those who get understanding are happy. John thinks part of this knowledge is understanding what is temporal and what is eternal. In addition, knowing the truth "will set us free, and will lead us from slavery to liberty" by freeing us from vice (75). The author thinks vanity and truth are opposed to each other. He who understands truth will escape the clutches of vanity.
John states that the reason for the need of logic is because "There was [evident] need of a science to discriminate between what is true and what is false, and to show which reasoning really adheres to the path of valid argumentative proof, and which [merely] has the [external] appearance of truth, or, in other words, which reasoning warrants assent, and which should be held in suspicion. Otherwise, it would be impossible to ascertain the truth by reasoning" (76). We need not only the art of grammar, but also the art of logic. He sees Aristotle as the founder of this logic: "Aristotle perceived and explained the rules of the art ]of logic], . . . and he is honored as its principal founder. While Aristotle shares the distinction of being an authority in other branches of learning, he has a monopoly on this one, which is his very own" (77). This is high praise indeed. Aristotle "esteemed knowledge of the truth as the greatest good in human life" (76). Since it is through logic we acquire truth, then, the art of logic is essential to learning. John states, "Logic derives its name from the fact it is rational. For it both provides and examines reasons" (79). There are three different subdivisions of logic: demonstration, probability, and sophistry. "Demonstrative logic flourishes in the [basic] principles of [the various] sciences, and progresses further to deducing conclusions from these. . . . Probable logic [on the other hand] is concerned with propositions which, to all or many men, or at least to the wis, seem to be valid. . . . Probable logic includes dialectic and rhetoric. . . . But sophistry, which is 'seeming, rather than real' wisdom, merely wears a disguise of probability or necessity. It has no care at all for the facts. Its only objective is to lose its adversary in a fog of delusions. . . . [Dialectic] "makes inquiry into the truth, using the ready instruments of moderate probability" (79). Dialectic is basically, "effective argumentation" (80). The author believes that the "only sure road to truth is humility" (88).
In Book III John analyzes different works of Aristotle: Categories, On Interpretation, and Topics. The most detailed of the analysis is of Aristotle's Topics. He does make an important observation while discussing Aristotle's On Interpretation: "Our own generation enjoys the legacy bequeathed to it by that which preceded it. We frequently know more, not because we have moved ahead by our own natural ability, but because we are supported by the [mental] strength of others, and possess riches that we have inherited from our forefathers. Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to [puny] dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature" (167). John and Bernard demonstrate a different spirit than intellectuals in our own time. John would think it was a sin not to acknowledge our debt to those who preceded us.
John states that three of Aristotle's books are essential for understanding the art of logic: Topics, Analytics, and Refutations. He thinks if these three "are thoroughly mastered, and the habit of employing them is firmly fixed by practice and exercise, then one who applies them in demonstration, dialectic, and sophistry will have a wide command of invention and judgement in every branch of learning" (171). He believes the most essential of the three are the Topics, "especially for those whose aim is [to prove with] probability. While the science of the Topics chiefly builds up our power of invention, it also assists our judgement in no small measure" (171). This ability is very helpful to the dialectician and the orator. Syllogisms are an important part of the Topics and logic. He defines different types of syllogisms. "A sophism is a contentious syllogism, a philosopheme is a demonstrative syllogism; an argument is a dialectical syllogism; an aporeme is a dialectical syllogism that reasons to a contradiction. A knowledge of all [these kinds of] syllogisms is necessary, and they are employed with great utility in every branch of study" (196). He thinks a student should "become well versed in disputation" (196). We can see why disputations were so important to students in the Medieval period.
John emphasizes reason as an important guide: "Nothing, however, is less becoming a craftsman than to let the whims of [blind] chance replace the [enlightened] decision of reason as his guide. We should search everywhere to find abundant reasons whereby we may [convincingly] establish or overthrow a thesis, and thus we will become masters for proof and refutation" (198). Disputations train the student to successfully argue to a conclusion. The author, does not think disputations are for the purpose of beating an opponent in debate. In stead, its aim is the search for truth. 
John believes that the search for truth is a joint venture. John argues, "In the samr way the logician must become a skilled master of the instruments of his art, so that he is familiar with its principles, is amply provided with likely proofs, and is ready with all the methods of deductive and inductive reasoning. He should also carefully estimate the strength of his opponent, since the issue frequently depends on the accurate appraisal of this. 'It does not lie in the power of one person alone to bring to a successful conclusion, by himself, a joint enterprise, which requires the cooperation of another" (199). Another example that the aim is truth: "A good intellect readily assents to what is true, and rejects what is false" (199). Mortimer Adler mentions in his writings that the goal of a debate is truth, not victory. John give other reasons for the importance of others in our search for truth. He writes, "Although one may sometimes profitably exercise [his reason] alone, just as he does with a partner, still [mutual] discussion is evidently more profitable than [solitary] meditation" (200).

In Book III he speaks of the need for temperance in the moral life by saying that not every disputable issue should be debated. He writes, “Many subjects do not admit of disputation. Some transcend human reasoning, and are consecrated entirely to faith” (201). John demonstrates his humility: "I am willing to admit my ignorance of what I do not know and of what, furthermore, there is no point of knowing" (201). This makes two point. The first point is that humility is needed for learning. Second, not everything is worth knowing.This agrees with what Thomas Aquinas taught about the relationship between faith and reason. Some things can be known by reason; other things can only be known by faith. In addition, John says faith and reason are different things. He would argue that the student needs both faith and reason in the quest for wisdom. 
In Book IV John notes his limited time for study because of his responsibilities. However, because of those who are speaking against the usefulness of liberal learning and being requested by others, he has summarized his ideas on this issue. In this book he analyzes Aristotle's Analytics. This book by Aristotle "examines reasoning" (204). John says that rhetoric is "clothing with words" (206). Wisdom needs eloquence which is the "ability to express oneself easily and adequately in a given language" (206). So, logic needs rhetoric. The Analytics "teaches what necessarily must be known. . . It explains the nature of dialectical, demonstrative, universal, particular, and indefinite propositions; as well as of terms, namely, predicates and subjects; and of perfect and imperfect syllogisms" (207). 
John gives his judgement on those opposing liberal learning: "Our Cornificius, opponent of logic, may likewise deservedly despised as the clown of philosophers. Not to mention Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, who, as our forefathers relate, initiated {the science of] philosophy  and brought it to perfection, Father Augustine, with whom it is rash to disagree, praised logic so highly that only the foolhardy and presumptuous would dare to rail against it" (241). Augustine argues that dialectics teaches us to learn. John gives a strong argument for pagan learning through his commendation of Aristotle. John states, "even though Aristotle has made several mistakes . . . his equal iin logic has yet to be found. Hence he should be regarded as a [learned] master of argumentative reasoning . . ." (244).
John argues that logic is not useful by itself. He notes, "By itself, logic is practically useless. Only when it is associated with other studies does logic shine" (244). This seems to suggest that liberal arts are not complete by themselves because they require disciplinary knowledge to work on. John shows prudence when he says that a certain leniency should be shown to students as they exercise their rhetorical skills. His comments also showing the importance of subject knowledge. John writes, "Considerable indulgence should, however, be shown to the young, in whom verbosity should be temporarily tolerated, so that they may thus acquire an abundance of eloquence" (244). In addition, "The minds of the immature, even as their [growing] bodies, must first be [well] fed, lest they become emaciated" (244-245). This reminds me of C. S. Lewis' comments about "irrigating desserts." However, "as students mature and grow in understanding, our tolerance of unrestrained verbosity should diminish" (245). This responsibility is laid on the teachers. 
John believes the students need "genuine goodness, unadulterated truth, and sound, trustworthy reasoning" (246). The combining of moral formation and intellectual learning is a constant theme in this work. In addition, the student needs both wisdom and eloquence. John believes the "appetite [for truth, goodness, and reason] has been implanted in man's nature by God; but it cannot obtain its objectives by nature alone, for it needs the assistance of grace" (246). This statement points to two other themes in this work. First, that the desire for truth is natural to our being. By our nature, we desire to know. Second, pursuing liberal learning and moral formation requires grace. John believes education should help us to love reason, wisdom, and beauty. John writes, "Although human infirmity dares not arrogantly promise these [three] to itself, it continually seeks after them, namely after true goodness, wisdom, and reason, and is occupied in loving them, until, by the exercise of love with the help of grace, it [ultimately] attains the objects of its affection" (247). It seems that a Christian Liberal Arts education should cultivate the intellectual virtues, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; the moral virtues, prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice; and  the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. 

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