On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Does It All Connect?

Last night I was talking to my husband about the Wendell Berry books he was reading (a Christmas gift from yours truly). We discussed briefly the fact that Berry sees areas being interconnected that not everyone sees as connected at all. This really resonated with me because I had just recently listened to Dale Alquist discussing the fact that Chesterton is neglected in schools because he doesn't pigeonhole easily into one discipline. Alquist pointed out that Chesterton wrote fiction, poetry, literary criticism, essays on economics and sociology, essays on theology and art. So no one area could claim him as "theirs." It also reminded me of some things that Joseph Pearce pointed out in Small is Still Beautiful about E.F. Schumacher and the ways in which he saw the connection between philosophy and economics.

It seems to me that one of the things I've learned over the past decades is that a person's philosophy and theology should influence the other areas of their life (like their economic policies, their ways of treating the environment, the ways they raise their children, their attitudes towards health care issues, for example). Yet somehow I think that often we tend to compartmentalize and do things in our work life or our shopping life, or our home life, or our approach to our health, that are not consistent with what we claim our philosophy or theology to be. I think that modern educational systems where learning is compartmentalized have a great deal to do with this. Education used to be far more integrated, but now we have specialists for everything.

I think that perhaps one of the beauty of homeschooling (especially for the moms and dads delivering the instruction) is that you get to see again how things can integrate together. If you are teaching your children from a Christian perspective, for example, integrity and math, compassion and ecology, thankfulness and science, beauty, and literature, truth and history, well they all work together (and you can switch them around as well). It's also true that history and literature integrate together, as do science and history, or literature and science. Philosophy and history, philosophy and science, philosophy and ecology, philosophy and economics, philosophy, and literature are also integrally connected. Only sometimes we just don't seem to get it these days or perhaps we simply choose to live unconnected lives.

However, integrating philosophy with economic theory apparently is a forgotten notion to most modern economists. One of the radically different things about E.F. Schumacher is that he did just that. The recommendations that he ended up making as a result had an impact on a lot of thinkers at one point. Unfortunately, the economists whom most people listen to weren't listening to him. I would highly recommend Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful and Joseph Pearce's book Small Is Still Beautiful to anyone who's interested in the connection between philosophy, economics, and even ecology. I'd also recommend the discussion going on at www.smallisstillbeautiful.com


At 9:46 PM, Blogger shenyuen said...

hello my aunt.
life is going.
I hope yours is too.

you'll hear from me soon (before FL at least ;)


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