Published Humanitas, Volume IX, No. 1, 1996
The Catholic University of America
Our disoriented and fragmenting Western society urgently needs cathartic vision—vision that dispels the debauched imagination of escape and imparts a realistic sense of new possibilities. It is to great artists primarily and to individuals of rare wisdom that we must look for curative, centering insight. Without the penetrating glance that recognizes and recoils from evil, no amount of formal intellectual brilliance can point us towards a more humane existence. Indeed, the present age illustrates in abundance the extent to which abstract intellectualism can express and abet the flight from reality and responsibility.
Just as we cannot do without great orienting visions of the whole, so lack of intellectual discipline can retard and disperse any restorative creative impulse, to say nothing of aggravating a deteriorating cultural and social situation. Although no philosopher or critic can supersede or take the place of the imaginative mastermind, conceptual elucidations of insight are indispensable in the economy of the human spirit. Thought assists in the absorption and transmission of creative vision, serving to hold on to, elaborate and apply it. Philosophical discernment is needed also to help unmask the false pretenses of warped imagination. Without intellectual stringency, including a disciplined use of terms, confusion threatens, not in the realm of ideas and imagination only, but—since the two shape our approach to life—in the world of practice.
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