Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Method of Education Works Even if You're Not Terribly Bright and Don’t Know What You’re Doing—Exhibit A: Eldest Daughter

Poetic Knowledge(Follow the discussion of Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education, by James S. Taylor at Mystie's blog)

When I first officially started home schooling my children I didn’t have much to go on – just the idea that I wanted them to have a real childhood, something like what C.S. Lewis described in Surprised by Joy and what Raymond and Dorothy Moore described in Home-Grown Kids. So even though I’ve gone through various phases and have changed focus in various ways over the years, what we’ve done has generally been pretty relaxed in one sense, but academically challenging in another.

An awful lot of what Taylor is writing about is putting words to things that I had a vague idea of before, but plenty of it is stuff I’ve never heard of before and can barely understand. I finished reading this section on Friday and I freely admit to having to wade through several pages that felt like a marsh full of reeds, hoping for some solid ground to put my feet on or a tree I could cling to or something.

When the time came to begin writing this post I found that though I’d liked several passages I didn’t have anything to say, so I turned to my eldest daughter and asked her to read the section and pose a question or three for me to answer, since I function better in conversation mode than in essay mode. She took the book read over it, and less than an hour later presented me with the following:

“How does the idea that the most basic form of knowledge of being entails “getting inside it and possessing it spiritually… unassisted by rational dialogue” relate to your studies of astronomy?”

“At this level of knowledge, is the initial “estimation” of a thing’s goodness or badness more or less likely to be correct?”

“Taylor uses philosophical terms in the same way lawyers and doctors use obscure language in text books. Can his ideas be understood through poetic knowledge, or is a “rational act” required to decipher the meaning?”

“Absolute truth – objective truth – subjective truth –
Which one is the Bible?”

If Aquinas is right (p. 62), then chameleons are higher life forms than humans.

I admit that I am almost completely stumped. She is at least ten times smarter than I am, and I like to take some credit for it, because I am, after all, the one who provided her education. My second daughter disagrees. She says that it’s because “genius skips a generation” and Eldest Daughter got it from my daddy. That young lady will be on bread and water for the rest of the week.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Well, if I worked really hard maybe I could come up with answers to a couple of those, but instead I think I’ll go ahead and grant Eldest Daughter her Bachelor of Arts.

In the meantime, here are some of the passages from the book that caught my eye:

“It is the habit of noticing what is happening here and now
and reflecting with the natural powers upon that experience
that cultivates the connatural degree of knowledge.”

“Here, where the ordinary becomes illuminated, is when the habit of poetry sees something marvelous in the thing itself, especially in its relation to another real thing where the art of juxtaposition and metaphor produce a third thing.”

“Poetic knowledge is the wonder of the thing itself—not the essences of trees but the stately presence of the hawthorn in summer is the stuff of poetic experience.”

“…the play’s the thing”

Wholeness and integration…”

“…we are, throughout, poetic beings even as we live and move among the most ordinary and everyday experiences.”

“It is this ‘ordinary’ and ‘everyday functioning’ of the mind with reality that is poetic, that is knowledge, and informs all that can be learned, that most people in the present day have ceased to believe in.”

“What is important is engagement with reality, not simply discerning of reality.”

“…it is the appetites that move us toward the perceived good.”

“…appetite assimilates one to what is desired;
one becomes like what one loves…”


  1. Those were some of my favorite quotes, too!

    Your daughter asks some great questions! I wondered about that third one too. My guess is that you would need both? Personally I feel like I'm missing out on the philosophical understanding to completely grasp his points, but that I am partially absorbing them "poetically".

  2. I'm speechless... Like you, here I am, trying to grasp and find a place to set my reasoning foot, so to speak, and your daughter gets us those questions in an hour or so!

    Your second daughter gave me a good laugh! But don't worry, I give you the credit, honest.

    For the questions:
    1. I'm not sure about this one
    2. I would say correct, but I will add you need to keep knowing about it to ratify that intuition, or to get an even "second intuition or estimation".
    3. Rational act... but wait... I get some flashes too (or are these non drug but tea induced visions? ha ha ha)
    4. Absolute truth (does that then encompasses all the other truths?)

    5. No, it can't be... FALSE.

  3. Oh, Kelly! You gave me the chuckle of the day with the title of your post! Those girls must keep you on your toes. I give you the credit, too. You gave them the time and leisure to be so brilliant.

  4. "“Taylor uses philosophical terms in the same way lawyers and doctors use obscure language in text books. Can his ideas be understood through poetic knowledge, or is a “rational act” required to decipher the meaning?”"

    That is *hilarious*. She nailed him, I think. :)

  5. I'm glad for the chuckles. :-)

    Willa, I think it's something that you can do without having the language to describe it, but if you're going to talk about, explain it, teach it, to anyone then you do have to have the vocabulary. He said in there somewhere that the reason this doesn't show up in ancient and medieval literature is because it was assumed.

    Sylvia, I think "absolute truth" is something that is self-evident, like 1+1=2. I think the Bible itself is a combination of the first two, but then it becomes subjectively true for a person as he internalizes it. If that makes sense.

  6. Thanks for a lot to think about, and for a peek into your family home school. I'm glad for the quotes you passed on.


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