Ideas Have Consequences: Chapter 9 – Piety & Justice

posted in: classical education 2

We’ve done it! We’ve made it through to the end of this short but very stretching and thought-provoking book.


Modern man is impious.

Piety is a discipline of the will through respect. It admits the right to exist of things larger than the go, of things different from the ego.

  • We are impious about nature

Nature means here Creation: “the substance of the world.” So, not the metaphysical or spiritual nature, but the physical world.

He contends that our tinkering with creation is shortsighted; we meddle with small parts without understanding the purpose as a whole, and thus produce evil consequences.

Nature seems best dealt with when we respect her without allowing ourselves to want too fiercely to possess her.

  • We are impious about neighbor

Weaver, probably unknowingly, agrees with the catechism definition of neighbor: All my fellow men are my neighbors.

This is a respecting of others’ right to exist. Chivalry, he says, embodied a pious view of brotherhood by respecting the rights of inferiors and even enemies. Remember he is writing not only in the wake of Nazi eugenics, but also of the atomic bombing of Japan, which was certainly an epitome of unchivalrous tactics.

Not until we have admitted that personality, like nature, has an origin that we cannot account for are we likely to desist from parricide and fratricide.

Of course, we do know the origin, and it is the reason we must respect and love our neighbor: the imago dei.

  • We are impious about the past

We aspire to a condition of collective amnesia.

After all, the past both inhibits and confuses. History dampens progressivist and political optimism when examined closely.

It has well been said that the chief trouble with the contemporary generation is that it has not read the minutes of the last meeting.

From piety and justice to wisdom

Our goal, as we consider ideas and behavior, should be wisdom, right actions stemming from right ideas:

The youth is an intellectual merely, a believer in ideas, who thinks that ideas can overcome the world. The mature man passes beyond intellectuality to wisdom; he believes in ideas, too, but life has taught him to be content to see them embodied, which is to see them under a sort of limitation.

That is, we will not be gnostics, thinking it is only the thoughts in our heads that matter. We will know that our ideas are always clothed in tangible, real living.

In other words, he has found that substance is a part of life, a part which is ineluctable.

Thoughts (or not) on Technology

I have an inkling that refuses to clothe itself in words that there’s something missing in Weaver’s conception of nature (that is, Creation) that is at the root of some of the issues I take with his conclusions and that makes his conclusions rather extreme. I know this disagreement that won’t manifest itself is grounded in God’s commission to man to have dominion over creation, to tend the garden, to seek out what God has hidden therein, and to bring that garden into its final fruition as a garden-city.

So, for a follow-up book, I have ordered John Dyer’s From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming & Corrupting Power of Technology. I want to balance out Weaver’s (and Postman‘s and Berman‘s) anti-technology bent with something firmly grounded in a biblical “metaphysical dream of the world.”

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2 Responses

  1. Pilgrim
    | Reply

    I am very sorry. I had to return the book today (I had checked out for about 12 weeks) and I didn’t get to read the last chapter.

    I am currently campaigning against the PreK4SA tax hike here in San Antonio. I live a block away from the mayor – I didn’t see his speech last night. I have been passionate about early childhood my whole life and I am crushed that I have to vote no against something that in theory is to support education. However, I feel this is a great opportunity to help our city realize how we can help parents, family, friends and neighbors prepare their kids for life – not just put them into school at an earlier age (they want to build 4 centers with space for 500 4 year old students a piece).

    So, anyway, I will read it at some point but it just didn’t happen this week. (Oh, I also have a joint birthday party for my older kids this weekend too – I think we are expecting 20 kids!).

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      You mean the government throwing [our] money at an issue doesn’t solve it?! Even if the blessing “it’s for the children” is invoked?

      Good for you for getting involved in the situation. I hope it doesn’t create stress. The best place to make a difference is still first within our own homes and families, radiating out from a solid grounding there.

      Good luck with the birthday party! And, I know all about not finishing because of library books being due. That’s why I never finished Roots of American Order – and I had it for 18 weeks! :)

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