Because life is a series of edits

Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (1.1)

In Books, Educators, Pedagogy on June 15, 2012 at 8:30 am

DTK cover

Quotes from the first half of chapter 1, "Homo Liturgicus" :

"Behind every pedagogy is a philosophical anthropology; that is, implicit in every constellation of educational practices there is a set of assumptions about the nature of human persons." (p. 37)

"A dominant model, as old as Plato but rebirthed by Descartes and cultivated throughout modernity, sees the human person as fundamentally a thinking thing." (p. 39)

"Protestant Christianity (whether liberal or conservative) tends to operate with an overly cognitivist picture of the human person and thus tends to foster an overly intellectualist account of what it means to be or become a Christian…We could describe this as 'bobble head' Christianity, so fixated on the cognitive that it assumes a picture of human beings that look like bobble heads: mammoth heads that dwarf an almost nonexistent body." (pgs. 41-42)

"What defines us is not what we think – not the set of ideas we assent to – but rather what we believe, the commitments and trusts that orient our being-in-the-world. This moves the essence of the human person from the more abstract, disembodied world of ideas to a prerational level of commitments that are more ingrained in the human person. Before we are thinkers, we are believers." (p. 42)

"While it contests a narrow, naive focus on ideas, this model of the human person seems just to move the clash of ideas down a level to a clash of beliefs…The person-as-believer model still tends to operate with a very disembodied, individualistic picture of the human person…The believer feels like a chastened rationalist: beliefs still seem to be the sorts of things that are more commensurate with thinking." (p. 44-45)

"While the Reformed tradition of worldview-thinking generates a radical critique of rationalism and its attendant claims to objectivity and secularity, the critique still feels reductionistic insofar as it fails to accord a central role to embodiment and practice. Because of this blind spot, it continues to yield a quasi-rationalist pedagogy." (p. 45)

"The point is that the emphasis on belief does not go far enough…In contrast to both the person-as-thinker and the person-as-believer models, I want to articulate a more robustly Augustinian anthropology that sees humans as more fundamentally oriented and identified by love. Only such a robust anthropology – which accords a more central, formative place to embodiment – can yield a truly alternative understanding of pedagogy." (p. 46)

"If humans are conceived almost as beings without bodies, then they also are portrayed as creatures without histories, without any sense of unfolding and development over time…In contrast, we need a nonreductionistic understanding of human persons as embodied agents of desire or love." (pgs. 46-47)

"The point is to emphasize that the way we inhabit the world is not primarily as thinkers, or even believers, but as more affective, embodied creatures who make our way in the world more by feeling our way around it…The human person is the sort of creature who can never be captured in a snapshot; we need video in order to do justice to this dynamism." (p. 47)

"Our model of the person as lover begins from an affirmation of our intentional nature; further, with Heidegger, we would affirm that our most fundamental way of intending the world is not cognitive but noncognitive…Augustine would argue that the most fundamental way that we intend the world is love." (p. 50)

"This love or desire is a structural feature of being human. It is not just a characteristic of passionate people or romantic people or even specifically religious people. To be human is to be just such a lover – a creature whose orientation and form of life is most primordially shaped by what one loves as a ultimate, which constitutes an affective, gut-like orientation to the world that is prior to reflection and even eludes conceptual articulation. To say that humans are, at root, lovers is to emphasize that we are the sorts of animals for whom things matter in ways that we often don't (and can't) articulate." (p. 51)

"What distinguishes us (as individuals, but also as 'peoples') is not whether we love, but what we love…Our love can be aimed at different ends or pointed in different directions, and these differences are what define us as individuals and as communities." (p. 52)

"Augustine would say that the effect of sin on our love is not that we stop loving but that our love becomes disordered. It gets aimed at the wrong ends and finds 'enjoyment' in what it chould merely be 'using.'" (p. 52)

"To say that we are dynamic, intentional creatues entails a second characteristic: we are telelogical creatures. We are the sorts of animals whose love is aimed at different ends or goals…In other words, what we love is a specific vision of the good life, an implicit picture of what we think human flourishing looks like." (p. 52)

"Our ultimate love is oriented by and to a picture of what we think it looks like for us to live well, and that picture then governs, shapes, and motivates our decisions and actions…A vision of the good life captures our hearts and imaginations not by providing a set of rules or ideas, but by painting a picture of what it looks like for us to flourish and live well. This is why such pictures are communicated most powerfully in stories, legends, myths, plays, novels, and films rather than dissertations, messages, and monographs." (p. 53)

"Our ultimate love moves and motivates us because we are lured by this picture of human flourishing. Rather than being pushed by beliefs, we are pulled by a telos that we desire…When our imagination is hooked, we're hooked (and sometimes our imaginations can be hooked by very different visions than what we're feeding into our minds)…To be human is to desire 'the kingdom,' some version of the kingdom, which is the aim of our quest." (p. 54)

"Our habits constitute the fulcrum of our desire: they are the hinge that 'turns' our heart, our love, such that it is predisposed to be aimed in certain directions…Because for the most part we are desiring, imaginative, noncognitive animals, our desire for the kingdom is inscribed in our dispostions and habits and functions quite apart from our conscious reflection." (p. 56)

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