This week we’re discussing the middle of chapter 1, pages 46-63, of Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith.
Summary: Lots of Augustine
After the first section, which we read last week, covering incomplete anthropology, now Smith begins developing his idea of a more complete, holistic anthropology, one where man is not only a thinking or believing thing, but also a loving thing. And, that love or care is not general or abstract, but always intentional. Our love and care in the world always has direct objects, direction, aims.
Again we get echoes of Poetic Knowledge: Smith writes that most of the time we are not making deliberate, conscious choices, rationally decided, but are “simply involved in the world,” making choices on the gut-level, a prerational, affective place rather than a cognitive place. We can’t always articulate why we make the choices we do, but it is a prerational (poetic) love that directs those choices.
Smith says that love is what ultimately governs our vision of the good life. What we love is what we pledge allegiance to. What we love is what we worship.
Page 63 contained what I thought was a perfect summary of his position:
This love or desire – which is unconscious or noncognitive – is always aimed at some vision of the good life, some particular articulation of the kingdom. What primes us to be so oriented – and act accordingly – is a set of habits or dispositions that are formed in us through affective, bodily means, especially bodily practices, routines, or rituals that grab hold of our hearts through our imagination, which is closely linked to our bodily senses.
I did a little googling to find a summary of Augustine’s development of rightly ordered loves (other than C.S. Lewis’ more-often quoted summary), and I found this helpful article: St. Augustine on Rightly Ordered Love.
Further Book Club Conversation
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Next week: pages 63-73, the rest of chapter 1.