Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: Beauty for Truth's Sake 2

From Chapter 2: Educating the Poetic Imagination

For the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition, music was not just one of the subjects to be studied for a master’s degree. In a certain broader sense the choral art was the foundation of the educational process. As we read in Plato’s Laws, “the whole choral art is also in our view the whole of education; and of this art, rhythms and harmonies form the part which has to do with the voice.” Music in this wider sense included song, poetry, story, and dance (“gymnastic”).

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[T]he greatest scientists have never ceased to be motivated by the desire to find beauty in their equations, and their breakthroughs are often the result of an intuition, or an imaginative leap.

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Poetry and the poetic imagination depend very largely on the interplay of likeness and difference. Simile, metaphor, contrast, analogy, are all used to connect one experience with another.

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A “symbol” is something that, by virtue of its analogous properties, or some other reason, represents something else. It is not just a “sign,” which is made to correspond to something by an arbitrary convention (like a road sign), but has some natural resemblance to what it represents. Traditional cosmologies were ways of reading the cosmos itself as a fabric woven of natural symbols.

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Eventually, every created thing can be seen as a manifestation of its own interior essence, and the world is transformed into a radiant book to be read with eyes sensitive to spiritual light.

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To take the examples motioned earlier, a tree is a natural symbol of the way the visible (trunk and branches) comes from the invisible (roots and seed), linking higher and lower realities into one living pattern. As such, it can function either as a symbol of the world as a whole (Yggdrasil, in the Norse myths), or of tradition, or of the Church, or of Man. A star by its piercing and remote beauty represents the “light” of higher realities, or the angels, or the thoughts of God, and so on. In each case, these associations are not arbitrary but precise and natural, even to a large extent predictable and consistent from one culture to another (though capable of many applications and variations). The symbol and the archetype to which it refers are not separate things, for the symbol is simply the manifestation of the archetype in a particular milieu or place of existence. It is “meaning made tangible.”



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Shelfie

I’m still slowly working my way through my math books and I’m working on the next post in my “Squaring the Circle” series, but it’s super-slow, now that we’ve gone back to having regular Morning Times. In the meantime, here’s a picture of some of the math books I’ve been gathering.


I don’t know why that Atlas of Military History is there – it’s my youngest son’s book.  The coin is a German schilling #1Son found when he was in Guatemala this summer.

4 comments :

  1. Wow, my quote lines up perfectly with yours ... your quotes expand and emphasize the ideas of the arts being a firm foundation for the rest of learning. I love it.

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    1. I had just finished reading The Liberal Arts Tradition when I read this chapter, and that's the thing that hit me hardest in TLAT -- that what I'd been thinking of as the content of a liberal arts education was actually the foundation! And that I'd been missing a huge part of it, thinking it was one of my personal preferences, not something FOUNDATIONAL that I really ought to have been nurturing my children in.

      Blows my mind.

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  2. Yes, I was going to say yours and Dawn's quotes are all of a piece. :)

    I love your shelfie! Wow, a collection of math books....that's a category I could stand to expand. What are your favorites there?

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    1. So far, my favorite one for my own use is the the fat gold on the bottom of the left-hand stack. That one's A History of Mathematics by Merzbach and Boyer.

      For teaching math to my own kids, I'm combining what I've learned from Ruth Beechick's Easy Start in Arithmetic and Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics with Horace Grant's Arithmetic for Young Children and his Second Stage of Arithmetic. Plus we're using the Life of Fred books, kind of for fun. So I don't really have a favorite book in that category, because I haven't found anything that really works the way I want it to.

      I have three picture books there -- How We Know the Earth is Round, and two you can't see in the picture, The History of Counting, and The Librarian who Measured the Earth. I love all three of those and there are some others I'd like to have, too. This kind of thing is really important for understanding math in the history of culture and ideas, as Caldecott suggested in Chapter one of his book.

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