web analytics
27 Sep

Aesthetics, Art and Wittgenstein

Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, National Gallery of Ireland (WikiCommons)

Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ, National Gallery of Ireland (WikiCommons)

Much of Wittgenstein’s writing was, at one remove, about aesthetics: questions of meaning, perception and emergence of sense. Yet there was little available explicitly about his aesthetics until notes from his lectures given by him in 1938 were collected and published in 1966 as Wittgenstein’s Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology, and Religious Belief (Hagberg, SEP). The notes, taken by students Rush Rhees, Yorick Smythies, and James Taylor, together with notes on conversations about Freud and lectures on religious belief were edited by Cyril Barrett. Given the protective attitude Wittgenstein’s students had to his work and legacy, this was not a trivial task and the volume is probably his most enduring contribution to philosophy (eg see The Herald, The Times (paywall)).

What might surprise some is that this work was done by an Irish Jesuit. Born on 9th May 1925 in Dublin, Cyril Barrett graduated from UCD in 1947 with a first in Latin and History. Barrett entered the Society of Jesus in 1942 and was ordained in 1956. After teaching in various institutions he became one of the two founding members of the philosophy department in Warwick University in 1965, where he stayed until his retirement as reader in philosophy in 1992. After retirement he was a tutor in Oxford. He kept writing up to his last days in Milltown Dublin, where he died on 30th December 2003.

As well as Wittgenstein’s Lectures and Conversations, in 1990 Barrett published a commentary on Wittgenstein’s works, Wittgenstein on Ethics and Religious Belief. In this he argued that questions of value (ethics and religious belief) were of prime importance to Wittgenstein, and “intimately interwoven” in his thought.
Read More

25 Sep

Catholic Scholasticism in Marsh’s Library

Title page from "Collegii Salmanticensis ... theologicus Angelici Doctoris Diui Thomae complectens", 1637 © Marsh's Library (CC)

Title page from “Collegii Salmanticensis … theologicus Angelici Doctoris Diui Thomae complectens”, 1637
© Marsh’s Library (CC)

This book, Collegii Salmanticensis … theologicus Angelici Doctoris Diui Thomae complectens published in Madrid in 1637, is a collection of commentaries on the theology of the “Angelic Doctor”, Thomas Aquinas.  It was originally owned by Narcissus Marsh and is now part of the Marsh’s Library collection. The first Irish Colleges were set up with the support of Irish Jesuit priest James Archer in Salamanca (where this book was written) and Madrid (where it was printed) during the late 16th century.

18 Sep

The Great Scottish Debate: Duns Scotus and Eriugena

Stained glass depicting monks battling demons

Debates over national dividing lines can get heated. Consider the 17th century discussions over the two philosophers John Duns Scotus and John Scottus Eriugena.

In 1620, a book by the bishop of Ossory David RotheBrigida thaumaturga, was published in Paris. It was on the surface an account of the life of St Brigid of Kildare, but that life is used as a metaphor by Rothe for the medieval mission of the Irish to Europe and of the mission of clergy to Ireland (a Catholic country under Protestant rule). The latter required financial security for Irish seminary students, which was their due (according to Rothe) given the huge contribution the Irish had made to France in the past, scholastically and religiously, including the work of John Scottus Eriugena.

Not the type of thing that would have the writer called a “devil”, one might think, but that was not all Rothe wrote. The work also targets Scottish scholar Thomas Dempster who claimed a large number of Irish saints and scholars for Scotland. As the historian Liam Chambers points out, this claim undermined Rothe’s argument for French aid for the Irish and left the Irish Counter-Reformation without native saints. Roth systematically rebutts Dempster’s claims, even going so far as to say all described as “Scotia” or Scots in the Middle Ages are Irish.
Read More

02 Sep

Old Library, New Name: Russell Library, Maynooth University

St Joseph's House, Maynooth © Bart Busschots on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

St Joseph’s House, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth
© Bart Busschots on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Maynooth University is the new name for the third-level institution located in the North Kildare town. Though formally established as an autonomous university in 1997, the university’s history stems from the establishment of the Royal College of St. Patrick on 5th June 1795 by Act of Parliament. Maynooth University has its origins in the seminary set up on the Duke of Leinster’s lands in 1795, St. Patrick’s College. It was intended “for the better education of persons professing the popish or Roman Catholic religion” and, one assumes, in the hope of stemming ideas coming from Revolutionary France.

The seminary was first housed in the house built by the Duke’s steward, John Stoyte, with the lay students in Riverside House (until 1814. Lay students were not admitted again until 1966). Stoyte House was extended soon after by architect Michael Stapleton by adding two symmetrical wings, each with an archway to the grounds beyond (the Long Corridor). The other two sides of the square were completed in 1809 (New House) and 1824 (Humanity House/Dunboyne House), in a similar style to Stoyte House.
Read More