Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wisdom in Ordering Things

Thomas Aquinas, recalling Aristotle, said in a famous passage that “it is the nature of a wise man to order things” (Sapientis est ordinare). He then suggests that we can find a twofold order in things: first, that of the relation of the parts of something to each other so that they form a complete whole, and second, the order of the whole to some end or purpose beyond itself.   -- James Schall, The Order of Things

This caught my interest this morning, and browsing around the internet to find out more about it, I came across this:

“So the proper order of learning will be the following. First, boys should be instructed in logical matters, because logic teaches the method of the whole of philosophy. Second, they are to be instructed in mathematics, which does not require experience and does not transcend the imagination. Third, they should be trained in the natural sciences which, though not transcending sense and imagination, nevertheless require experience. Fourth, they are to be instructed in the moral sciences, which require experience and a soul free from passion, as is said in the first book [of the Nicomachean Ethics]. Fifth, they should be taught in matters concerning wisdom and divine science, which go beyond the imagination and require a vigorous mind.” -Thomas Aquinas, In VI Ethic., lect. 7.

My son-in-law has been leading/facilitating a small family seminar on Aristotle's Organon, which is the collection of the Philosopher's works on Logic.    We carry on the discussion through Google video hangout, since not all the participants live locally.  You can find the Organon all over the internet, including an inexpensive Kindle edition,   I like this interlinear version at the Logic Musem.

In his Categories or Praedicamenta, which is what we are currently reading, Aristotle starts by summarizing the way terms can be used -- equivocally, univocally, or derivatively.   He quickly goes on to talking about the manner in which things may be said or predicated of things.

My youngest, PG, is in 8th grade this year.    I wonder how I could incorporate logic into his curriculum in a cross-curricular way.  Something to think about.

I want to think about the twofold order of things mentioned by Schall:  the way the parts are ordered towards the whole, and the way the whole is ordered towards something else (its end).

I know that moderns don't particularly like the idea of things having a purpose beyond themselves.   However, it's almost impossible not to let a broad teleogical assumption slip in, even if one is trying to preserve a careful detachment about the specifics of what that purpose is.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this!