My very first formal course in philosophy in 2005 was a graduate-level course in Continental Philosophy which was at the time far beyond my meager capacities.

An author we were studying expressed the opinion that “goodness was beyond being.” Now this view is actually 100% correct and in fact, the most important insight you can achieve about God. (I do not know, though, whether the author meant by this statement what I mean by it.)

I, however, heady with St. Thomas, wrote, critiquing this position: “He might as well have proposed that cats and dogs are beyond being and been admired as a ‘sublime’ thinker.”

The instructor, Jeffrey Wattles, commented on the margin: “Abusive.”

At the time, I imagined I was deflating a pompous fool, but this eventually taught me very clearly that there are levels of understanding that might be completely opaque to me and seem absurd when in fact they are very much correct when rightly understood. And right understanding can postpone arriving into my mind for a very long time.

Another memory about that course was a paper which I completely failed to understand. I had no idea what the author was talking about. And then Wattles started reading the paper aloud and explaining each sentence in it, one after another. And I understood his explanations perfectly. I was extremely impressed with Wattles at that point.

Categories: What Is God?

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