All young people will acquire and exhibit aesthetic preferences. But only those who are exposed to a range of works of art, who observe how these works are produced, who understand something about the artist behind the works, and who encounter thoughtful discussion of issues of craft and taste are likely to develop an aesthetic sense that goes beyond schlock or transcends what happens to be the most popular among peers at the moment.
Howard Gardner, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed, p. 135
For all the secularism of the age, in a quite tangible sense the Roman Catholic Church itself attained a pinnacle of glory in the Renaissance. Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican all stand as astonishing monuments to the Church’s final moments as undisputed sovereign of Western culture. Here the full grandeur of the Catholic Church’s self-conception was articulated, encompassing Genesis and the biblical drama (the Sistine ceiling), classical Greek philosophy and science (the School of Athens), poetry and the creative arts (the Parnassus), all culminating in the theology and supreme pantheon of Roman Catholic Christianity (La Disputa del Sacramento, The Triumph of the Church). The procession of the centuries, the history of the Western soul, was here given immortal embodiment. Under the guidance of the inspired albeit thoroughly unpreistlike Pope Julius II, protean artists like Raphael, Bramante, and Michelangelo painted, sculpted, designed, and constructed works of art of unsurpassed beauty and power to celebrate the majestic Catholic vision. Thus the Mother Church, mediatrix between God and man, matrix of Western culture, now assembled and integrated all her diverse elements: Judaism and Hellenism, Scholasticism and Humanism, Platonism and Aristotelianism, pagan myth and biblical revelation. With Renaissance artistic imagery as its language, a new pictorial Summa was written, integrating the dialectical components of Western culture in a transcendent synthesis. It was as if the Church, subconsciously aware of the wrenching fate about to befall it, called forth from itself its most exalted cultural self-understanding and found artists of seemingly divine stature to incarnate that image.
Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind, pp. 228-9
The fruits of the righteous
were more pleasing to the Knower of all
than the fruits
and produce of the treees.
The beauty that exists in nature
extolled the human mind,
and Paradise lauded
the flowers gave praise to virtuous life,
the Garden to free will,
and the earth to human thought.
Blessed is He who made Adam so great!
St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymn VI on Paradise, 13
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
While I do not agree with all of Gardner’s arguments and conclusions, I believe this is an excellent book for those educators and parents who are struggling to convey truth, beauty, and goodness in a modern world which so often struggles with those concepts and their content. The most important message that Gardner conveys is that we must educate ourselves and our children to be fact-checkers and truth-seekers. Rather than merely filling heads with information, education must be geared to creating thinkers and innovators who are familiar with the methods by which truth is sought in the various academic disciplines. In history, for instance, while remembering certain people, places, and dates is important, what is far more important is knowing how historians discover and discern historical information in the first place. To this end, Gardner recommends continuing and expanding the Socratic Method of teaching as one that engages the minds of students a meaningful way. I recommend this book for parents, teachers, and anyone else interested in a traditional education for the modern age.