The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. William Shakespeare, As You Like It
I suspect I've been living my life as a fool, knowing not what I did not know. It's a humbling place to be. I mean, I guess I always knew that I knew nothing about philosophy, but until last week, I didn't think that mattered very much.
Last week, Jemimah started AO9 Term II. The week before, she'd been in kindergarten, but that's another issue. Anyway, there were two books in the first week that actually brought both her and me to our knees. One was Postmodern Times - A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture by Gene Edward Veith Jr.; the other, The God Who Is There by Francis Schaefer. Jemimah managed the first chapter of each with little problem, but - oh my - those second chapters were doozies! Liberally peppered with words like existentialism, postmodernism, classical rationalism and positivism, and assuming at least a passing knowledge of the beliefs of Kant, Nietzsche and Freud, the chapters were almost meaningless. Even having the word defined on first usage is useless if you've confused it with myriad others a few pages further on.
I say that these chapters were almost meaningless, but there was one powerful message that came out of these chapters, and that is that modern evangelistic methods must depend on the beliefs and knowledge of the age in which we live, and that if we are unaware of the issues in the minds of those we seek to minister to, we will fail to engage them at all. That was sobering, and it made me want to read more. It made me want to understand. But how?
I turned, as I always do, to those clever than myself, the leadership and members of AmblesideOnline, and as always they were my saviours. Clearly it became evident that we would need some introductory philosophy books to act as a bridge between foolishness and wisdom. They couldn't be too complicated - they were to be a means to an end, in this case providing a foundation for the understanding of these two books and those that will come after, and they couldn't be too long. They also couldn't be more difficult that the books we were attempting to read..
This is the list they came up with:
:: The Consequences of Ideas by R C Sproul
:: Books on philosophy by John Frame, Vern Poythress or Groothuis
:: History of Philosophy and Christian Thought by Ronald Nash
:: Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey
:: Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy by Greg Ganssle
:: Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
:: The Universe Next Door by James Sire
:: Teach Yourself 101 Key Ideas: Philosophy by Paul Oliver
:: Living the Answer (website) by David Vogel
Wow, what a wonderful selection. If you're a member of the AO Facebook Group, you can read the discussion, and the comments that were made about the books. It's worth your while.
In the end, we decided on Sophie's World, mainly because it's a novel, it's by Gaarder, whom I love, and most importantly, I already have it. I scheduled it at three chapters a week to get through it by the end of term. Veith we are continuing with at a slightly slower pace; Schaefer we have moved to Term III. We started last week.
Learning what you do not know is humbling. I realise now that what I thought of as my scientific rationalism may have been thought of differently by those who understood more, and it leaves me wondering how foolish I must have sounded in conversations where I thought I knew what I was talking about, but in reality was merely a fool.
Gaps in education - we all have them. A big, gaping hole in mine is just about to be filled.