The Life of the Mind

Latest on my list s Clifford Williams’ brief little books The Life of the Mind. It’s a Renewed Minds book, connected to the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Helpful for my impending Worldview class. Perhaps its most important contribution (at least so far; I’m currently half way through) is its discussion of the intrinsic value of learning. While recognizing the utilitarian value of learning, Williams wants to affirm that we, as Christians, have more than a merely instrumental view of knowledge and learning. This is an important emphasis in our era where the pragmatic emphasis has almost overwhelmed this important emphasis. Here is Williams’ explanation:

This view differs from most Christian defenses of involvement in higher education, which focus largely on fulfilling more practical needs. It focuses, instead, on how Christian learning shapes our character and on the claim that learning is good in and of itself. This approach, as a rationale for Christian higher education, appeals not only to vocational preparation or to transforming secular culture. As such, it is an answer to the question, Why should Christians study things that have little bearing on their future jobs or that do not aim to make them good witnesses to their faith?

Perhaps I enjoyed the book because it confirms my love of learning; but I hope more because it is right. Williams describes several motives for a love of learning and makes a case for the intrinsic value of learning (not of course, all learning) before he lays out more pragmatic considerations. Another book I’d like to make my students read!

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