Pennsylvania College of  Technology
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Dr. Ed Vavra, 
Assoc. Prof. of Rhetoric

Food for Thought 
-- Some Quotations of Particular Interest

Huzinga, Men and Ideas:
     Through the whole evolution of Christian thought one finds two intellectual types in conflict. It is the conflict of those who like to appeal to Jerome and those who base themselves on Augustine, the contrast of the two religious temperaments that manifested themselves in the two Church Fathers. Jerome was the man of urbanity, for all his asceticism and monasticism susceptible to the commodities of culture: literature, relations of intellectual sympathy, enlightened ideas, forms of feminine thought, educational needs. Augustine -- well, one knows him, the man of the burning heart and absolute faith. (195)
Whenever there was a great religious crisis the words of Augustine outweighed those of Jerome in the scales of the ages. (195)

Russell, Bertrand, Bertrand Russell's Best (Mentor, 1958):
Mass hysteria is a phenomenon not confined to human beings; it may be seen in any gregarious species. I once saw a photograph of a large herd of wild elephants in Central Africa seeing an aeroplane for the first time, and all in a state of wild collective terror. The elephant, at most times, is a calm and sagacious beast, but this unprecedented phenomenon of a noisy, unknown animal in the sky had thrown the whole herd completely off its balance. Each separate animal was terrified, and its terror communicated itself to the others, causing a vast multiplication of panic. As, however, there were no journalists among them, the terror died down when the aeroplane was out of sight. (23-24)

     I do not understand where the "beauty" and "harmony" of nature are supposed to be found. Throughout the animal kingdom, animals ruthlessly prey upon each other. Most of them are either cruelly killed by other animals or slowly die of hunger. For my part, I am unable to see any very great beauty or harmony in the tapeworm. Let it not be said that this creature is sent as a punishment for our sins, for it is more prevalent among animals than among humans.
     I suppose what is meant by this "beauty" and "harmony" are such things as the beauty of the starry heavens. But one should remember that the stars every now and again explode and reduce everything in their neighborhood to a vague mist. (35)

For anybody not in the first division, especially for a person accustomed to reading and writing, prison is a severe and terrible punishment; but for me, thanks to Arthur Balfour, this was not so. I was much cheered on my arrival by the warder at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied 'agnostic.' He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: 'Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.' This remark kept me cheerful for about a week. (44)

Catholic teaching . . . has a two-fold basis; it rests, on the one hand, upon the asceticism which we already find in St. Paul, on the other, upon the view that it is good to bring into the world as many souls as possible, since every soul is capable of salvation. For some reason which I do not understand, the fact that souls are equally capable of damnation is not taken into account, and yet it seems quite as relevant. Catholics, for example, use their political influence to prevent Protestants from practising birth control, and yet they must hold that the great majority of Protestant children whom their political action causes to exist will endure eternal torment in the next world. This makes their action seem somewhat unkind, but doubtless these are mysteries which the profance cannot hope to understand. (54-55)

I am not myself in any degree ashamed of having changed my opinions. What physicist who was already active in 1900 would dream of boasting that his opinions had not changed during the last half century? In science men change their opinions when new knowledge becomes available, but philosophy in the minds of many is assimilated rather to theology than to science. A theologian proclaims eternal truths, the creeds remain unchanged since the Council of Nicaea. Where nobody knows anything, there is no point in changing your mind. (65-66)

To modern educated people, it seems obvious that matters of fact are to be ascertained by observation, not by consulting ancient authorities. But this is an entirely modern conception, which hardly existed before the seventeenth century. Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths. (67)

This border is a reproduction of
Thomas Hart Benton's
(American, 1889-1975)
Again (The Year of the Peril)
1941, Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on panel
State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, MO
 Jim's Fine Art Collection

Click here for the directory of my backgrounds based on art.

[for educational use only]