Monday, November 26, 2012

Remembering Brabury (Schulz)

It's extremely difficult not to re-post a good Bradbury article. So, here it is.
Please make sure to visit the original source as well: Lutheran Philosopher

"Ray Bradbury died recently, in early June. There have been many fond memories of him popping up, here and there. For example, I heard an NPR reporter mention fondly how much he was missed at the recent ComCon. Many of us have been thinking of how his books kindled (foreshadowing pun intended) in us a love for books and reading, for talking about books and becoming authors ourselves.

Remember the scene toward the end of Fahrenheit 451 when Montag, fleeing from the book-burning firefighters, meets with Mr Granger and all the people who were the burned books inasmuch as they had each memorized great books in order to keep the books alive until they could be printed and read again? Montag himself was the Book of Ecclesiastes because he had memorized it; Granger was Plato's Republic because he had learned it by heart, four other folks were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and so on.

On the 50th anniversary of his book I had a chance to visit with Bradbury about Fahrenheit 451 -- okay, it was merely as a caller on a Public Radio show -- so I asked him if he were writing Fahrenheit today whether he would include these books of the Bible as in his 1953 modern classic. "No," he replied, and listed a few other pieces of literature instead. My reccollection is that he also deleted Plato from his hypothetical 2006 rewrite . One of my students, a fellow Bradbury fan, told me last fall semester that he had heard that Bradbury was actually very religious but had become reluctant to make an issue of it in public, so I wish I could have spoken with the great author in person, to encourage him to maintain the integrity with the Western tradition that he memorialized here in his book.

It seems to me that this is an obvious time and place to comment on the staggering a-literacy that we Westerners display today. I doubt that many of us would bother to read, much less to memorize these complete books. Even though Bradbury's living books apparently had developed a method to memorize the Great Books at one reading, I have learned from my decades of teaching that fewer and fewer folks (students and faculty) are reading these books as adults. This is particularly and inexplicably the case with the sui generis books of the Bible. It is nearly futile, I am reminded every year when I teach Christian apologetics, to teach apologetic defenses of Christian Truth to students who are not reading and meditating on God's written and verbally expired Word themselves. Truth be told, those who are in fact reading Scripture (or who take up their reading during the course) inevitably become living apologetics books themselves -- an accomplishment that is due to another Teacher than me. This is all very anti-Socratic, as Soren Kierkegaard explained. (See my article "Two Principles for Lutheran Teaching and Schlarship", Part 1, on the Documents page.)

Less obviously, I think that those of us who are undertaking graduate work or who dare to teach immortal minds in the classroom may be at some fault ourselves. I mean that our philosophy of language -- whether we explain it deliberately, as we ought always to do in Philosophy or whether we merely exhibit it, without providing our students any explanation -- may be deficient for literature in general and for the utterly unique reality of Holy Scripture in particular.

One of the most important books on this topic today is Phillip Cary's Outward Signs: The Powerlessness of External Things in Augustine's Thought. Cary offers the argument that Augustine and Calvin held a philosophy of biblical language (if I may put it this way) in which the words of Scripture are incidental, whereas what counts is what these external words may kick off inside, in a person's soul. Contrary to this ocassionalist view of language as something incidental, Aquinas and Luther believed and taught a philosophy of biblical language in which the text, the external Word, is inherently effective. Aha! I plan to post more of my thoughts on philosophy of language as I am reading and teaching Augustine's Confessions in my Medieval Philosophy course this semester.

First, though, I'm going to reread Fahrenheit 451 and maybe The Martian Chronicles as well, to remember the man who was these books and, in some significant sense, still is a teaching author by virtue of these printed and still-read texts."

-- Dr. Gregory Schulz

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