Happy New Year!
WordPress.com sent me an end-of-year summary of the traffic for Into the Clarities, and I was happy to see that the readership has about tripled since it began in 2014 — and there were more posts in 2014. I’m glad that enough of you have found the posts here helpful, and have even taken the time to comment, which I enjoy greatly, and which makes this a much more collaborative project.
We all want to be consistent with the stands we take in public, and so as a form of self-discipline (or self-bullying), I’d like to take a public stand on what I expect shall be covered here in the coming months of 2016. So, in the spirit of making New Year’s Resolutions, my plans.
First, there are several posts remaining concerning Christianization. The subject of intolerance as a result of Christianization (or was it the result of the centralization of the Empire?) begs, foremost, to be covered. There are several pieces about Augustine and conscience that shall follow. The subject of law in this period (which has some delicious-looking books devoted to it) may need to wait, though it would be nice to cover it. Themistius deserves his own post. So does Lactantius. Eusebius does, as well. Time permitting, I will have separate posts looking at Symmachus and Ambrose of Milan and Prudentius, Paulinus of Nola and Ausonius of Bordeaux. Gregory the Great will be covered after these. The eastern half of the Empire will almost certainly need to wait until next year, though one can always hope. These, I hope, will illustrate the beginning of a world that came to maturity in the so-called “Middle Ages”, and which was, eventually, altered with secularization.
Second, there are a small handful of books on the nature of emotions that are burning through the shelf they’re resting on, one in particular demanding a writeup. The category of “emotion” is, apparently, itself a modern invention, displacing a set of earlier categories (passions, affections, sentiments, appetites). This story should be illuminating for illustrating both secularization and the anthropological turn of the modern period — and the nature of that anthropology. (This book of Dixon’s is the only one on emotions I promise to cover in a chapter-by-chapter summary on this list of books on emotion.) Against those who see emotions as irrational, some argue for a tight connection between reason and the emotions, and a dependence of the former on the latter. It’s becoming a popular topic. Then there is the current body of clinical research on the emotions, some of which is summarized in various anthologies, their nature and function and their relation to health and disease, and these have inspired more popular treatments from people who wish to evangelize with this current research. “EQ” has been advanced next to “IQ”, as being more fateful, and both self-help and business books (so many, very many, a seemingly endless number of business books) have been written that marshal this clinical work. As someone who is brought back to childhood trauma often enough to wish to understand it (and to manage its occasionally-crippling effects), and whose ecclesiastical home has an enormous body of ascetical literature dealing with “the passions” that is, in my experience, misapplied by well-intentioned priests who are untrained as therapists and know nothing about psychology (relying instead on one-size-fits-all formulae and some often-low-brow gimmicks), this is a topic of great personal and professional interest. (Eventually, I may get to this or that book on Thomas Aquinas and the passions.)
Third, there are at least three articles on secularization, secularism, and secularity –and multiple books– that I cannot, in good conscience, put off summarizing and interacting with any longer. Charles Taylor, Louis Dupré, and Alasdair MacIntyre, Peter Berger, Hans Blumenberg, Steve Bruce, David Martin and Hugh McLeod scream for treatment, as do others, but the first three of these I plan to get to this year, and the first of these before February begins.
Four, likely during the spring or over the summer, I plan to post a series of summaries of my current advisor’s (Robert Cummings Neville) Philosophical Theology, which is three volumes, both as an aid to memory and for reference.
If I make it to the Investiture Controversy and to the late Medieval political writings of figures like Marsilius of Padua and Dante, I’ll be super-happy. I make no promises, though.
Again, Happy New Year! A blessed, joyful, fruitful, productive and enriching 2016 to all of you.