Religious Education

Given I’d “glommed on” to Wittgenstein, as my thesis advisor Richard Rorty might have put it, as a user of the verb “to glom,” I found myself wandering over to the Religion Department half the time.

Victor Prellar was there, in Religion.  He’d been an Anglican priest in one chapter, I think it was, and now he was sharing Wittgenstein with higher level students.  Princeton includes a small grad school, although it prides itself on its focus on undergrads.  I was invited, as an interested undergrad, to attend his upper class seminars. At one point I spaced out writing a final paper, which annoyed him.  We stayed friends.

Wittgenstein was a religious man, I think that’s fair to say.  He chose a life of asceticism over a life of wealth and privilege, and his passion for logic gained him audiences with Gottlob Frege, and later Bertrand Russell.  The latter came to recognize great genius in Ludwig, and took him under his wing as a protege.

Fast forward and I’m getting lectures from some of the best in the business, not just Rorty and Prellar.  Diamond was great on William James.  My teachers of both Milton (Paradise Lost) and Machiavelli (The Prince) were both fantastic.  Princeton was not short on highly talented teachers.

I bring up all this lineage to help me plant a spear or javelin in an even more distant future, long after the turn of the millennium.  I’ve gone ahead and branded a few memes as “Quaker” just to see if “Quaker schools” might gain some traction around curriculum you won’t get just anywhere.  Dig around in my blogs and you’ll find them.  Think “philosophy of mathematics.”

I’m doubtful about finding the correspondence on my end, however I well recollect a long back-and-forth with Dr. Suber at Earlham College, long before I’d ever visited the campus.  I was hoping to get on his rather exhaustive list of “philosophy websites” around the web, however he was skeptical that Synergetics really counted.  I finally convinced him.  This quote marked the turning point:

The integration of geometry and philosophy in
a single conceptual system providing a
common language
and accounting for both the
physical and metaphysical.
Synergetics 251.50

A funny piece of trivia and synchronistic event:  Dr. Suber listed Synergetics immediately adjacent to Systematic Ideology, for alphabetical order reasons, and the latter was a link to Trevor Blake’s website.  Trevor lives just blocks from me, I see him fairly often.

Trevor (likewise atheist-friendly) has also participated in critical and specific ways to save the Bucky stuff, a transcendentalist corpus in which I specialize.  He inherited Joe Moore’s U-haul truck’s worth of materials, which he stashed and organized, Sam Lanahan helping with finances.

When I finally did make it to Earlham, I was invited to address their Philosophy Club, a somewhat brown bag lunch affair.  I spoke on two topics:  whether members of the natural numbers N might have infinite digits (the consensus among professionals is “no” only real numbers can have that); and on tetravolumes, more of that almost-trademarked Quaker stuff, at least in my niche of the market.

What all this “Quaker + geek” stuff traces back to is probably Right Sharing of World Resources and the GNU project (Richard Stallman et al).  I’ve written about him on Q2 before:  my idea of a prophet.

A branch of engineering decided to give the world the benefit of its craftsmanship for free, as a side-result of its master practitioners agreeing to empower one another.  Rather than let the lawyers control ownership, the engineers would on their own take ownership, of the whole idea of ownership.

In my telling, some Quakers were paying close attention, and nothing in Quakerism has any problem with engineering.  If you’re into outward violence and designing “killingry” to amplify “acting out,” then fie on that, however “livingry” remains the focus of so many talented people, whether they call themselves “religious” or not.

If they’re loyal to humanity as a whole, I’m happy to think of them as religious in a way I might respect.  Religious education is not antithetical to an Engineering education.  Quakerism embraces science, including computer science, as Earlham College makes obvious.


Category: Quakerism