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Intellectual Appetite

A Theological Grammar

Paul J. Griffiths

Publication Year: 2012

The appetite for knowledge--wanting to know things--is very strong in humans. Some will sacrifice all other goods (sex, power, food, life itself) for it. But this is not a simple appetite, and this book treats some of its complications, deformations, beauties, and intensities.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-18

This book is about intellectual appetite. This appetite, Aristotle claimed at the beginning of the Metaphysics, is natural to us, a proper constituent of human nature like (he did not say this) the capacity to torture or to laugh. It is, he seems to have thought, an appetite other creatures lack. ...

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2. Curiositas

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pp. 19-22

... And so, every love that belongs to a studious soul which wants to know what it does not know is not a love of what it does not know but rather of what it does know. It is because of what it does know that it wants to know what it does not know. But someone so curious ...

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3. World

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pp. 23-28

... What is called “world” is not only the fabric made by God—heaven and earth, sea, visibles and invisibles; those who live in the world are also called “world,” just as the term “house” includes both walls and those who live inside them. And sometimes we praise the house and ...

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4. Damage

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pp. 29-49

... This elegant and pithy passage, from Augustine’s commentary on John (In Ioannis Evangelium 39.8), occurs as part of an exposition of the various senses in which God is triune, as an element of which Augustine discusses the idea of participation— participation, that is, of the three divine persons ...

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5. Gift

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pp. 50-74

... We do more for you, O God, than is necessary, so that you might be in our debt. But which of us has anything not already yours? You pay debts while owing no one; you forgive debts without losing anything. ...

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6. Participation

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pp. 75-91

... For we too have been made by his grace something we were not: that is, children of God. However, we were something previously, something very much inferior: that is, children of men. Therefore, he descended that we might ascend: remaining in his nature he became a participant in ours, ...

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7. Appetite

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pp. 92-123

. . . we should love that very love by which we love what we ought love, just as we ought hate the love by which we love what we ought not love. For certainly we hate that yearning of ours by which we yearn for the flesh against the spirit—and what is such yearning if not bad love? And we love that yearning of ours by which the spirit ...

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8. Wonder

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pp. 124-138

... This power of memory is great, very great, my God, of vast and endless depth. Who gets to the bottom of it? And although this power belongs to my soul and is proper to my nature, even I myself do not grasp all that I am. Is it then that the soul is too constricted to possess itself? Where then is the part of itself it does not grasp? ...

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9. Owning

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pp. 139-162

... Augustine here (the extract is taken from De libero arbitrio 2.7.19) distinguishes what is proper and private from what is public and held in common. He makes the distinction in terms first of ownership: if something is private, you alone hold it, whereas if something is public it is freely available to ...

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10. Kidnapping

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pp. 163-186

... Augustine here (De doctrina christiana 4.29.62) identifies theft with alienation, with removing something from its proper place to another, and thus making it alien to its rightful owner— and, by implication, to the place in which it now finds itself. Doing this with words would be a strange act, and Augustine ...

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11. Spectacle

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pp. 187-202

... Repudiating and abandoning, therefore, theatrical and poetical idiocies, let us offer to minds famished and parched by a raging hunger and thirst for curiosity’s vanities and frustratedly desirous of getting refreshment and satisfaction from empty images as if from painted feasts, the food and drink of the study and interpretation of the scriptures. ...

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12. Novelty

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pp. 203-215

... But we miserable human beings, bored by what we know and delighted by novelties, would rather study than know, even though knowledge is study’s goal. And those who find leisure boring would rather struggle than win, even though victory is struggle’s goal. And those bored by a healthy body prefer to eat than to be satisfied, as they also ...

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13. Loquacity

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pp. 216-220

... Curiosity is nothing but vanity. Most often, one wants to know only in order to talk about it. One does not go on a sea voyage for the sole pleasure of looking, without the hope of ever discussing it with someone. ...

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14. Gratitute

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pp. 221-231

In this last chapter I offer thanks to those, living and dead, whose words have made possible the words of this book. Memory being what it is, it is likely that some who have helped me are not thanked. For that, in no case deliberate, I apologise. A large majority of the thanks offered are to those ...


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pp. 233-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780813217765
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813216867

Page Count: 246
Publication Year: 2012