Saturday, July 12, 2008

Philosophy at Night

I've always resented my body's need for sleep. What a waste of precious hours when all is quiet and still!

What hath night to do with sleep?
Night hath better sweets to prove

These days I feel it even more keenly, now that I have children to care for throughout the day. Night is when they sleep, and so I would rather be awake during it! Reading is difficult when there are diapers to change, baths to give, meals to make, attention and affection to bestow; thinking almost impossible. Serious thinking requires either the collaboration of a likeminded Intelligence, or else silence and solitude. For me, then, philosophy can only happen late at night.

. . . Wisdom's self
Oft seeks to sweet retirèd solitude,
Where with her best nurse Contemplation
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
That in the various bustle of resort
Were all to-ruffled and sometimes impaired.
He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit i' the center, and enjoy bright day,
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Benighted walks under the mid-day sun;
Himself is his own dungeon.

--Milton, Comus

Since the light of Philosophy turns the night into a mental day, how could I want to squander it in sleep?


Let no one, especially my collaborator Faber, be surprised or offended at all the non-Scotistic poetry posts from me lately. Variety is a good thing. Besides, it's also good to remember--with one more extract from Comus--

How charming is divine philosophy!
Not harsh and crabbèd as dull fools suppose,
But musical as is Apollo's lute,
And a perpetual feast of nectared sweets,
Where no crude surfeit regns.

With the scholastics, unlike the moderns, it's the thought rather than the words that is musical as Apollo's lute. That's as it should be.


Lee Faber said...

I don't know, the "Quaestio de formalitatibus/Logica Scoti" is pretty harsh and crabbed. It's divine to figure out what he's saying.

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