10 May 2016

Seeking to be wise

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.



  1. The Consequences of Ideas and Sophie's World are two books I have that are assisting my personal grapple with philosophy. My 17year old and I loved Sophie's World. It really challenged our thinking as it introduced us to the world of philosophy and also left us confused and muddled at different places. Yes - enormous gaps here. Happy Learning to you!

  2. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & Don't let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. Just another perspective. :)

  3. Ooh! I hope you tell us how it goes. Universe Next Door was a life changing book for me. :) I never finished Sophie's World because I attempted reading it at a very difficult time in my life, but you make me want to get back to it... ♥

  4. So Philosophy for Dummies is out? Just kidding, great post as always. Lisa @ https://hopewellslibraryoflife.wordpress.com/

  5. I'm so glad you're back writing. If your gap in education is philosophy, then you have nothing to worry about. For me it's basic things like grammar, not to mention science and foreign languages. May the Lord grant me mercy when we get to philosophy. Thankfully I love to learn and I get to learn alongside my children. I'm so glad that the amazing books scheduled in AO are our teachers and I just get to come along for the ride. Except for maybe grammar. I really need to be able to teach that *sigh*, but I digress. So glad to see you back here.

  6. Glad to see you posting about Y9! We'll start that in a few months... although I think this post has made me a little nervous. :-) I just found my copy of Sophie's World - I remember finding that very helpful and fascinating when I read it years ago.

  7. Oh, I'm so glad you wrote this. I was about to schedule The God Who is There in YR 9, but I can see that we are not ready for it either. Off to look up some of the books on that wonderful list!


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