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What is Wrong with Curiosity? Augustine on Curiosity and the Use and the Abuse of the Intellect in the Confessions

Feb 8, 2020
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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E. John EllisonUniversity of Chicago

What could be wrong with curiosity? "Long live curiosity," proclaims the Museum of Science and Industry, and modernity unanimously praises it as the beginning of intellectual discovery. But, surprisingly, Augustine of Hippo criticizes “curiositas” in his Confessions. Is Augustine’s notion out-moded? Is the pursuit of knowledge adverse to Christian faith? Or could Augustine’s concern about the proper use and the abuse of intellectual pursuits inform ideas of liberal education?

Over dinner on Saturday evening, E. John Ellison (University of Chicago) will lead a discussion on the modern notion of curiosity and Augustine’s critique on curiositas especially in Confessions, Book 10.35. 

Open to undergraduate students. No prior reading required. Dinner will be served

Part III of the Winter 2020 Great Books and the Christian Tradition seminar series.

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Great Books and the Christian Tradition

From the School of Alexandria and the reading of Scripture in the Monasteries, through the re-formulation of the Liberal Arts in the medieval schools and universities, in the renewal of the tradition that included Petrarch, Erasmus, John Henry Newman, and Ressourcement, the development of the Liberal Arts Tradition has been intertwined with Christian thought. This series highlights the connection between the Liberal Arts and the Christian Intellectual Tradition and aims to recover the humanistic and contemplative spirit of a truly liberal education.

Other seminars in the series include:

I. Are the Great Books Good for us? Liberal Education and the Christian Tradition

II. Achievement and the Christian Life: What is Education For?

IV: Is it Rational to Believe in Miracles? A Discussion of David Hume's Argument Against Believing in Miracles

E. John Ellison is a PhD candidate in the Committee on Social Thought, at the University of Chicago. He obrtained his bachelors degree in Government from Harvard, and his doctoral research spans Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy, Platonism and Christianity, history of natural law, and liberalism. His dissertation is on "Law and Human Nature in Plato"