I pointed out the problems with his presentation, which were roughly as follows:
- He tries to implicate classical education as a whole by citing the shortcomings of a few of its modern exponents and conflates classical education with their somewhat idiosyncratic beliefs, mistaking the whole for its parts;
- He asserts a historical connection (without argument or evidence) between ethical and ontological relativism that simply does not exist;
- He asserts not only that Greek and Roman philosophical and culture influences are fundamentally alien to Christian thought, but that such influences were absent historically until the Renaissance, in clear disregard of the fact that such influences have been a part of Jewish and Christian thought since before the writing of the New Testament.
In any case, a month or so ago, Quine posted a couple of comments on the post. He did not directly address any of my arguments or defend the problems with his presentation I cited in my post. I have also responded David's more recent comments, but he has yet to directly respond to them. This is first problem I am noticing in this discussion: that it is difficult to have a dialog if the other person does not directly address your arguments.
In fact, his chief concern seems to be to point out that I am a Catholic, hoping that in doing so Protestants will be scared away from classical education. This strategy not only does not make much logical sense, it ill serves the people he is seeking to enlighten on this subject.
His argument (nowhere stated but clearly implicit) seems to be this:
Some classical educators are CatholicThe problem with this inference should be obvious. It also ignores the fact that most modern classical educators are Protestants and that the modern neo-classical education movement was started by a prominent Reformed Protestant minister.
Therefore classical education is inherently Catholic
Again, this is my summary of what Quine seems to be saying, not his own words. Quine seems not to want to make his reasoning explicit, relying instead on innuendo, forcing me, in order to respond, to ferret out his actual reasoning.
If this is not his argument (or at least one of them), then I would be glad to be told exactly what it is in clear terms, but, again, this would require him to be clear and direct in his comments and responsive to the points I have already made. I really don't think I am being unfair or impolite in asking for this.
Quine has said a few other things in his comments (again, in the form more of assertions than arguments) that warrant a response. So what I propose to do is to respond to these in parts, the first of which is this post. I would be glad to have David respond or to clarify his position as we go along.
Here are the positions I will set forth:
- That as a matter of history, philosophy, and theology, there are numerous beliefs which Christianity shares with the the best ideals of the Greeks and Romans and that the view that holds that the only relationship between the Christian and the classical is one of opposition is the view of an extreme Christian minority and is dwarfed by the almost unanimous voice of Christian thinkers since the earliest days of the Church.
- That not only is classical education not historically or inherently Catholic, but that it is a shared inheritance of both Catholics and Protestants.
- That the Protestant Reformers, far from opposing the great classical thinkers of Greece and Rome, were almost without exception classically trained themselves, close and mostly enthusiastic readers of the great works of the classical writers, in large part proponents of classical education, and, in several cases, classical educators themselves.
I would also submit that these positions are so well-established as to not even be debatable. If Quine is in disagreement with them, I would love to hear his arguments and his evidence. But in doing so, he needs to demonstrate that he has read outside the limited confines of the writings of Francis Schaeffer, a very influential 20th century Protestant writer he seems to rely on for most of his beliefs about these and other issues.
Schaeffer was a largely self-taught Reformed Protestant who had some insightful things to say about modern culture and I myself learned a great deal from him, but to rely on him as the chief source for history and theology is not only to do him a disservice (I doubt if he himself would have advised it), but is to severely limit your knowledge of these subjects.
Classical education is the inculcation of wisdom and virtue. It consists of the study of the liberal arts and the great books of the classical and Christian West. If Quine is going to take the position that it is inconsistent with Christianity, then he is going to find himself at odds not only with historic Christianity, but with the Protestant Reformers themselves.
In the next post, we'll address the question of the historic relationship between the Church and classical thought throughout history.