September 23, 2010

The philosophical habit of mind

In his Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk located the importance of John Henry Newman as a great “philosopher of tradition” in his skill in articulating the value of knowledge, the limits of reason and science, the danger of utilitarianism and rationalism, the nature of intellectual virtue, and the necessity of such virtue for the grasp of first principles. But perhaps the fundamental feature of Newman’s defense of tradition is his natural deference to classical Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotle. To be precise, Newman conceives  and defends tradition with a mind formed and disciplined by a study of the Stagirite.

Angelo Bottone’s new book, The Philosophical Habit of Mind. Rhetoric and Person in John Henry Newman’s Dublin Writings—as far as I can tell without having read it yet …—seems to be on the same wavelength as Russell Kirk. “This work,” as the book’s cover says, “offers an original exploration of the influences of philosophers such as Aristotle, Cicero and Locke on Newman’s own thought. Aristotle’s inspiration is presented in a new light and compared with Ciceronian rhetoric and the Utilitarianism of Locke and his followers. Moreover, the intellectual, moral and artistic dimensions of the human person in Newman’s Dublin Writings are discussed, in conjunction with his concepts of the unity of knowledge and of the philosophical habit of mind.”

Angelo, besides being an associate lecturer at the School of Arts of the Dublin Business School, where he teaches Introduction to Philosophy, Critical Thinking, Theories of Knowledge and Philosophy of Science, is a highly appreciated contributor of this blog. That’s also why I wish him all the very best with this new book.


The leaves are falling, falling as from far,
from wilting in the heavens' farthest gardens:
They're falling to negate the summer's mirth.

And in the nights the heavy Earth
falls into solitude from star to star.

We all are falling. This my hand here bends.
And look at others: Fall's in all their calling.

And yet there's One, who's holding all this falling
forever tender in His upturned hands...

Rainer Maria Rilke
[Translation by Walter A. Aue]


Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit, 
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten; 
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde. 

Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde 
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.

Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt. 
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen. 

Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen 
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.