Ep. 65—Reason With Stories, Philosophize With Your Life (Vision of the Soul Pt. III)—James Matthew Wilson
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Modernity elevated pure, abstract reasoning as the only way to know about reality. Reason having disenchanted everything else, modernity then became disenchanted with reason. The ascendancy of reason over superstitious myths was viewed by the postmodernists as just another myth to be exposed.
The postmodernists were right to see that the dictates of reason were not wholly separate from our lives, self-images and desires, but were colored by the stories we tell about ourselves. But they were wrong to conclude that reason is therefore inherently suspect.
That’s because human life really is imbued with an intelligible, narrative form, and we are capable of telling true stories about ourselves that reflect the actual story-form of our lives and history as a whole. Reason can function as a gloss on the story of creation. The mistake was thinking that it could ever be sealed off in a laboratory to begin with.
It’s time to go back to seeing our lives and history itself as the intelligible stories they really are: to set mythos alongside logos as an essential way of apprehending truth—and then to go beyond both as words dissolve in silent contemplation of the One who told the story before it began.
This is the conclusion of a three-part interview with poet-philosopher James Matthew Wilson about his book The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness and Beauty in the Western Tradition.
[2:52] Recovering the role of storytelling in the perception of truth; the modern attempt to isolate reason from narrative
[12:33] How Plato used stories not just as examples but to advance his argument and get at a comprehensive truth that reason reaches only partially and inefficiently
[20:55] Story as the form and meaning of a human life
[24:47] Modern abandonment of story as a means to truth; logos is crippled without mythos
[30:42] Descartes’ reduction of reason to a tool for the gaining of mastery over the world
[33:45] The Jordan Peterson-Campbell-Jung archetypal approach as a “poor man’s metaphysics”
[38:29] Logos as a gloss on mythos
[41:45] Postmodernist suspicion of reason as conditioned by narrative
[44:05] The highest form of the intellectual life is silent prayer, not scholarship or analysis
[49:10] Philosophy as a way of life; the invention of the “intellectual” as a noun
[53:10] Practical takeaways: pray, ponder and play
The Vision of the Soul https://www.amazon.com/Vision-Soul Goodness-Western-Tradition/dp/0813229286
James Matthew Wilson https://www.jamesmatthewwilson.com/
JMW Twitter https://twitter.com/JMWSPT
Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus. Download the Catholic Culture Podcast soundtrack.
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