Food of the Intellect

Certain foods are natural for the body, but it takes a fair amount of training and reasoning to choose the right aliments, prepare them properly, and eat quantities suitable for our real needs.

Truth is the natural food of the intellect. We are capable of arriving at truth by correct reasoning, that is, the right use of a trained intellect previously nurtured in truth or, at least, not impeded in its appetite for truth.

In theory, feeding body or mind seems straightforward and easy, but experience tells both are often not done as they should.

French Catholic philosopher Marcel Clément wrote that, in his youth in the 1930s, he was looking forward to studying philosophy. But instead of the traditional introduction to history of Greek philosophy and systematic presentation of basic concepts, he was given the views of various philosophers and schools of thought. Seeing how those philosophers were contradicting each other, he naively remarked: “Which one is right? Which system can we hold true? They cannot be all true, or else philosophy does not exist.” He was answered that he had a dogmatic mindset and that philosophy could do perfectly well without absolute truth.

Then, on the occasion of a dissertation on Greek ethics, he became acquainted with Aristotle and knew for sure that philosophy existed. He devoted the rest of his life to write about and teach philosophy and Catholic thought, particularly the social doctrine of the Church.

My first experience of philosophy was not very good either. I recall my teacher tried to explain the basic concepts, but not in a very systematic way and with no previous acquaintance with the gripping history of the first Greek philosophers. Maybe I would not have listened, as I was almost cynical about truth at the time, but I was not given the chance. My second daughter had the same problem as Marcel Clément. Her teachers presented erroneous philosophies like Nietzsche’s without giving the students any hint of the basics before. My eldest was luckier and had a good teacher and a traditional introduction and we took occasion of her homework to discuss about it.

It is never too late to come to the truth and, soon after coming back to the Faith, I began to study philosophy by myself with Marcel Clément and Maritain’s fine introductions to philosophy. Nowadays, there are complete valuable philosophy courses and e-books for free all across the web, as well as used and new books at reasonable prices. My eldest daughter recently expressed the desire to read some philosophy in order to discuss with friends or acquaintances and I recommended her to buy Edward Feser’s book Philosophy of Mind: A Guide for Beginners and to read some of Maritain’s works.