Intellectual Appetite

At the beginning of the “new school year” Paul Griffiths, Intellectual Appetite: A theological Grammar (Catholic University of America Press, 2009) will well repay even a quick review. As with his earlier work, it is crisply written and accessible to all. There are no footnotes, but a thoughtful reader will immediately grasp the wealth of learning that stands behind the piece. In the first chapter, Griffiths explains his intentions, and university students in particular will find his reflections on the traditional distinction between studiousness and curiosity well worth consideration as they face the forced-deeding frenzy that will mark most of courses they are required to “take.” Christian students struggling with the complex issues relating faith and reason will have even more to consider with this volume and may well wish to turn also to an earlier much shorter book by Griffiths on The Vice of Curiosity: An Essay on Intellectual Appetite (Winnipeg: Canadian Mennonite University, 2006).
Griffiths’ book and the beginning of the academic year necessitates serious students to consider once again the question posed by the great Dominican scholar, Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, “Do you want to do intellectual work?” in his classic The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, first published in 1920, revised in 1934, and still, thankfully, in print. Sertillanges’ question, although not always consciously asked, often lurks ominously in the back of many students’ minds. For those who allow it to come\to the fore, his volume offers a good many defensive practices to face the digital realities and mass of information delivery systems many of us need to face. And if the Sertilanges’ question proves stimulating, a number of equally important questions on the topic can be found in The Passionate Intellect: Incarnational Humanism and the Future of University Education (Baker Academic, 2006), co-authored by Norman Klassen (an active member of our Communio Circle and Chair of the English Department at St. Jerome’s University, Waterloo, ON) and Jens Zimmermann. These questions are available at and will make useful conversation points for university chaplaincies.
Peter Erb

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