Podcast: Curiosity

Mere FidelityOur latest Mere Fidelity podcast went online earlier today. Within it Matt, Derek, and I discuss the issue of curiosity, taking an essay by John Webster as our starting point.

In the show I reference this, from St. Bernard:

Food that is badly cooked and indigestible induces physical disorders and damages the body instead of nourishing it. In the same way if a glut of knowledge stuffed into the memory, that stomach of the mind, has not been cooked on the fi re of love, and transfused and digested by certain skills of the soul, its habits and actions – since, as life and conduct bear witness, the mind is rendered good through its knowledge of good – will not that knowledge be rendered sinful?

Matt also mentions the following Oliver O’Donovan quotation (which he previously quoted here):

There is a folly of opinion, which finds satisfaction, as the proverb says, not in understanding but in expressing one’s mind (Prov. 18:2). Unlike the inconsiderate folly, this has exposed itself to the dialectic of social interrogation. But driven by a dread of having nothing to contribute to the social exchange, it allows society’s exchanges to direct it, rather than the realities that they should be communicating.  ‘Where we are now’ becomes the sole measure of truth—always ‘we,’ never ‘I,’ for the voice is that of the immanent collective, not of a formed judgment.

Here is the ‘simple’ of the Proverbs, who ‘believes everything’ (14:15), and here is the ‘scoffer,’ who ‘does not like to be reproved’ (15:12), the suggestible and the counter-suggestible, one echoing the current views and the other reacting against them, both wholly creatures of them, forming no judgment and offering no dialogical resistance. Opinion gains no coherence, and so has no prospect of growth. It is neither accumulative nor critical but reactive, a series of discontinued beginnings.

A self too weak to interrogate or argue with the successive new reports of reality that reach it makes no contribution to communications by reporting its own experience or questioning others’ reports. The mind is lively enough—images of the world and its doings and constantly formed and re-formed—but it is no more than a screen onto which public reflections are projected….The passions aroused by the news have a purely representative character, like those aroused by tragedy on the stage. Sharpening our arrows of opinion and firing them off at actors they will never reach, pronouncing judgments that involve us in no actual responsibility, we go through the motions of playing a part in the great communicative drama and so work off surplus active impulses before turning to the tasks that actually lie before us. We may, perhaps, feel more resolute about those tasks as a result of the exercise, but this is not the result of anything we have learned.

Take a listen and leave any thoughts in the comments!

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed.

[As an expression of my disagreement with Matt’s opinions on cat videos, here’s a link to a livestream video of kittens.]

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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10 Responses to Podcast: Curiosity

  1. William Fehringer says:

    “Yes — and No.” – Peter Abelard


  2. quinnjones2 says:

    I have listened to this once – and to some parts of it twice. It’s another thoughtful and challenging discussion – thank you. I’m still not sure though that I understand what curiosity is exactly, in this context! Next week I am going to start going to a course on NT Greek. This was not my original plan, but this course was mentioned in our Diocesan email yesterday, so at a time when I had thought that my student days were over I shall now be grappling with Greek. I believe that what drew me to it was not curiosity, but I may be mistaken about that. I have thought on many occasions about how much I wished I could read the NT in the original Greek text, and I felt frustrated that I couldn’t do so. I have been very interested in comments by theologians and translators on many texts in the Scriptures and I value their work.
    I shall begin with the Greek alphabet – I have already found it online. I have also ordered from Amazon two books for beginners which were recommended by the course tutor. I like being in the position of having no knowledge about this subject and having my L-plates on.
    The tutor told me that my knowledge of German grammar should help me – I hope so.
    I actually found German very difficult at first. I persevered because I wanted to understand the letters I was receiving from my German penfriend, so initially my interest was not academic!
    I’m still not sure if curiosity is motivating me – I think I will listen to your podcast again, and then reflect and pray 🙂

  3. William Fehringer says:

    Greek is a challenge, but you’ll find affinities with German — and big contrasts — in their systems of inflection and syntax. I studied Attic Greek and have a relatively easy time with Koine. Though my greek’s a little rusty, I’m happy to discuss grammar points with you should you get stuck. I can even try some correspondence using my prose comp books.

    • quinnjones2 says:

      Thank you, William! I think I will find it challenging, but I am really looking forward to it. We first learnt German from the old textbook ‘Deutsches Leben’, which was written in Gothic script. We didn’t take kindly to that script at first, but we eventually learned to decipher it, so I hope that it won’t take me too long to learn the Greek alphabet! I found German grammar and so on difficult and intricate, but also fascinating, so I hope that I won’t be overly daunted by Greek 🙂
      Thank you again.

  4. quinnjones2 says:

    Thank you, William – I have sent you an email.

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