Quotable Notes

I’m going over various notes right now, typing things up for a friend, and I’m turning up some great quotes. Some are serious. There are also some inside jokes, like “Flee women and bishops.” But in honor of a funny quote related to utilitarianism – “We should make bumper stickers that say, ‘Jesus would push the fat man,” I bring you this happy bit of satire:


Women & Philosophy

For awhile now, I’ve been trying to articulate to myself why I find it so meaningful to have women for philosophy professors this semester.

On one level, the meaningfulness of this is sort of moot: of course I think that women should be included in philosophy, and my professors are women in the discipline, etc. But I don’t think this is quite it. If this were the whole story, I would be more-or-less satisfied to simply know of women in the discipline, right?

This morning, I listened to one of these professors talk about Carol Gilligan, masculine/feminine characteristics, and the way each of us has blended characteristics, to greater or lesser degree.

A few weeks ago, I listened to a different professor talk about social norms for women’s body hair. “Visual alternatives” was a recurring phrase; she and our reading suggested that we have a lack of visual alternatives when it comes to women and shaving. [Your option: shave. Hair is only allowed on your head. And there you need a lot of it, preferably.]

So: I’m smushing these two discussions together to explain why I find it so meaningful to have these women as teachers.

First: I identify with feminine characteristics, on the whole. I was a little bit surprised, earlier this semester, to read Simone De Beauvoir writing, “if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman.'” But after some thought, I realized that although I don’t think I would say this first, “woman” is nonetheless towards the top of my list of defining characteristics. (I also identify with a whole heap of masculine traits (like, hmm, maybe rational) – but I’m speaking in general terms here.)

Then, point two: these women – because they too structure their identity, at least in part, in being a woman – are sort of like “visual” alternatives. They represent and embody and act out the possibility of being philosophical and feminine both. They are role models in a rather literal sense of the term: they model for me the conjunction of the “role” philosopher and the “role” woman.

And I hadn’t realized, until now, just how much I needed these sorts of role models.

Saint Catherine’s Disputation with the Philosophers

Wanwood Leafmeal

If I write you a letter, there is a decent chance that I will write a Hopkins poem on the back of the envelope.

It’s fall, so I felt justified in pulling out “Spring and Fall” for a letter today – and you all get it too.

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What héart héard of, ghóst guéssed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

-clicking image will link to source-

More quotes.

It’s about time for some Jamie Smith quotes to show up on my blog. I have been a fan of his stuff for awhile. I bumped into his blog about a year ago, thought that Desiring the Kingdom looked good, found myself a copy, and loved it. What did I like so much? Well, although I did actually like the content of the book, I mostly loved its style, method, and presuppositions.

So, one, I think he’s a fantastic example of philosophical rigor integrated with an attention to all things practical, such that his work is fairly accessible to non-philosophers. Two, I think it’s safe to say that his philosophical interests lie primarily in “continental” philosophy. Looking back, I think I was drawn to his work because of the quintessentially continental themes throughout. In other words, he was presupposing all sorts of things (about our conditionedness, primarily) that I’d been trying to articulate for the previous semester. Anyways, since Desiring the Kingdom, I’ve picked up a few of his other texts. Most recently, I read The Fall of Interpretation.

Now, it’s a rare occasion when I read some philosophy that makes me cry. [Clarifying: these are not tears of “Why, Hegel, why are you so impossibly confusing?”] On a day-to-day level, philosophy isn’t emotional, life-changing stuff. But, once in awhile, I’ll happen across a bit of philosophy that speaks directly to something that I’m really anxious about.

You can tell where this is going: I cried over The Fall of Interpretation. (The introduction, actually, not the quotes below.) It’s not the bestest, most brilliant thing I’ve ever read. But it is very good. And it was tremendously pertinent to Abigail of June 2013. It’s a book I want to revisit, especially having just finished Truth and Method. (Speaking of books that I’d like to revisit! Huge swaths of my copy are underlined and starred. It was so good. And yet I just speed walked through the beautiful park that is Truth and Method. I haven’t fully enjoyed it, because I haven’t sat down on a bench to enjoy the view for awhile.)

Well, hey, getting around to the two quotes I’ve selected. They speak to the two most significant lessons I took from Smith: 1) a sense of joy in plurality, rather than a fearful grasping after monolithic truth that denies contingency, and 2) the responsibility of interpretation and the importance of love and charity when interpreting.

“At Pentecost Yahweh’s pneuma affirms the multiplicity of creation […]. A creational-pneumatic hermeneutic opens the door for an understanding of truth divorced from monologism, which in itself opens the door to those who have been shut out of the kingdom, so to speak – excluded because their interpretation was different. The truth, in creation, is plural…”

“Interpretation becomes not so much a matter of ‘correctness’ as responsibility; the interpreter has an obligation to ‘do justice’ to the transcendence of what is interpreted”

Untitled; Melly Wirtes; click to follow link

Terrible Love

If we can be divinely fed with a morsel and divinely blessed with a touch, then the terrible pleasure we find in a particular face can certainly instruct us in the nature of the very grandest love

from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead

It wasn’t until this last January or so that I realized how oddly fierce love can be. I had just finished visiting my grandparents, and as I drove home I thought about what a nice time I’d had, and how much I cared about them – and the feeling of care wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. It was much more like Robinson’s “terrible pleasure.” A binding of them to my affections and well-being, for better or worse.

This has especially been on my mind as I start “again”, in a new place – finding new people to care about, and missing others that I already care about. More faces. More fierce love. Good thing it isn’t a limited resource.

[Note: I think I’m entering quotes/links/photographs season… don’t expect much by way of original blog activity during the semester.]


The goal of human existence is that man should dwell at peace in all his relationships: with God, with himself, with his fellows, with nature, a peace which is not merely the absence of hostility, though certainly it is that, but a peace which at its highest is enjoyment. To dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in nature, to enjoy living with one’s fellows, to enjoy life with oneself. A condition of shalom is justice, and a component in justice is liberation from oppression. Never can there be shalom without justice. Yet shalom is more than justice. Justice can be grim. In shalom there is delight. … I suggest that if the activities of the scholar are to be justified, that justification must be found ultimately in the contribution of scholarship to the cause of justice-in-shalom. The vocation of the scholar, like the vocation of everyone else, is to serve that end.

Nicholas Wolterstorff, from Reason within the Bounds of Religion

Words that serve as a postlude to my summer and a prelude to my fall. Besides, it’s fitting that I drag out some shalom-lingo as I begin my time among the Kuyperians.

Butchering Chickens and Resurrection

I’m going to try and remember a blog post I wrote mentally a few months ago, right now. I wrote it while cleaning meat bird carcasses. That’s my preferred task when it comes to butchering chickens, since I’m not too huge on killing birds and I’m even less a fan of the smell that accompanies plucking dirty carcasses that have just been plunged into boiling water to loosen their feathers.  So I spend butchering evenings with my hands in ice cold water, doing the nit-picky cleaning work while the carcasses cool off.

This year I was in a pretty grim mood around butchering time, which probably explains some of this train of thought, but as I pulled the few remaining neck feathers off those chicken carcasses, I thought about the normalcy of death. The Christian tradition – well, especially the piece of that tradition that I grew up in – tended to romanticize Christ’s crucifixion. I’m thinking of all those hymns that reference blood, and crimson, and being washed…

yeah, no, death is just sort of grimy and brown. Those white meat birds die and they get muddy brown feathers. Stringy feathers, with globs of dirt and blood. No crimson romance about it. Brown as in dirt. Brown like plain-old-normal-life. They die. We die. There it is.

I have never “gotten” sermons on John 11 that emphasize Jesus’ anger about death. They don’t resonate. I’m also thinking of my Ash Wednesday post, and the difficulty I had reconciling the liturgy of that day with the coinciding emphasis on immortality in class. Moreover, I don’t like Easter Sunday. Maybe it’s a personality thing – I’d rather be contrite than enthused. But, maybe it’s more serious than that. I think I’m failing to understand – appreciate? (I can’t quite come up with the appropriate verb) the resurrection.

Sometimes I talk myself into liking the resurrection because it affirms embodied existence, or some such schmancy-sounding idea. But those pep talks must be lacking, since they don’t stick.

I guess this is the part of the blog where I wimp out and say, “Yup, don’t know. Just talking to myself.”

I’ll close with these “possibilities” –

perhaps it’s as simple as “Jesus is alive.”

perhaps I should return to the line from the John’s gospel that I love so much, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

perhaps, thinking in Girardian terms, the resurrection is essential because it affirms that the sacrifice of a scapegoat is not the final word

or perhaps, per Robert Jenson, the resurrection is part and parcel of the “sheerly promissory reality” that is God – we must have an alive Christ to have a God of hope.

Meh. I’m slowly working on it.