Dante’s plea for the intellectual virtues
While sitting in my office a day or two before Christmas break, I overheard an excerpt of a remarkable elocution on the rashness of human judgment delivered by one of our faculty to the Junior/Senior literature class:
With this distinction take my argument
so you may stand on what you believe
of our first father and of our Delight [Christ]
And should you rush into what you don’t perceive,
let my words drag like lead weights on your feet
and make you slow to answer yes or no,
For of all fools that man’s the lowest ass
who’ll affirm or deny but not reflect,
impetuous in his haste down either pass,
For scurrying thought will often enough deflect
a man’s opinion into false terrain,
and then his self-love binds his intellect.
From the banks they depart worse than in vain
who fish for truth but haven’t learned the art-
as they’ve set out, they won’t return again.
Impressive! You can imagine my astonishment. Only later did I learn that these insightful words were authored by Dante!
As moderns who are fond of the objectivity of truth, we are not accustomed to thinking in these terms: one’s attitude affects one’s ability to see the truth. At Chesterton Academy of The Holy Family, it is essential that we cultivate the intellectual virtues which will enable us to become clear thinkers who readily, but not hastily, seek the truth in all things.