U.S. Intellectual History Blog

The Uses Of Intellectual History: Stanley Fish, Donatism, and Tim’s Obscurity

I’m not generally a big fan of Professor Stanley Fish’s work. But a post yesterday at his NYT weblog, Think Again, titled “Roland Burris and St. Augustine,” exhibits nicely the useful applications of Western intellectual history to the present. Check it out.

As a personal side note to Catholic readers, I once got in trouble for bringing up the Donatist heresy during an RCIA class (I was a sponsor). One of my old parishes had a very unorthodox pastor, so I sought to reassure our potential converts that a priest’s ability to confer the sacraments was not dependent on his personal foibles. The leader of the RCIA program, a lapsed unlaicized priest, shook his head in disapproval at me for bringing up such an obscure subject. But hey, that’s one of the hazards of allowing a (formerly) budding intellectual historian to sponsor incoming adult converts! – TL

3 Thoughts on this Post

  1. I haven’t finished the whole article yet because I’m flitting from thing to thing, but I was annoyed by Fish’s fast and loose use of analogy.

    “If the rectitude of the office-holder is crucial, how far back does one go in an effort to validate it? College? High school? Grade school? Sand box?”

    I mean really…the exaggeration here and in the next paragraph confuse a point I think I actually agree with him on.

    The governor of Illinois is suspected of being paid for naming a Senator. So the person so named will be cast under the suspicion. That has nothing to do with what Blagojevich did in kindergarten. Nor does it have anything to do with a sinful priest marrying a couple. Maybe if he took money under the table to marry them ….nope can’t even think of an analogy that works.

    All of this is to say–the problem is that Blagojevich hasn’t actually been indicted for anything. And Illinois needs a senator and the governor is the legal one to appoint him. And there is no evidence that Burris participated in any underhanded dealing.

    None of which actually gets at Fish’s point about St. Augustine, which at first blush seemed to take his argument back to steady ground.

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