PK: Intellectual Passion

“The function which I attribute . . . to scientific passion is that of distinguishing between demonstrable facts which are of scientific interest, and those which are not. Only a tiny fraction of all knowable facts are of interest to scientists, and scientific passion serves also as a guide in the assessment of what is relatively slight. I want to show that this appreciation depends ultimately on a sense of intellectual beauty; that it is an emotional response which can never be dispassionately defined, any more than we dispassionately define the beauty of a work of art or the excellence of a noble action.”

Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, 135.

Quotable: Hans Urs von Balthasar

“Before the dawn of the technical age it was easier to create genuine culture from genuine recollection. Life was more peaceful, man’s surrounding expressed eternal values more directly. . . . How immediately can a landscape absent of men unite us to God, for example high mountains, a large forest, or a freely flowing river! . . . In the cities, however, only man’s handwriting is everywhere visible. . . . Concrete and glass do not speak of God; they only point to man who is practically glorified in them. The cities do not transcend man; hence they do not guide to transcendence. Quickly and greedily they devour the surrounding countries and turn it into a dirty, defiled forecourt of cities. For some years now the Roman Campagna has ceased to exist, the Swiss landscape likewise. The Rhine has long ‘had it.’ Overnight, ‘nature’ will be turned into a reservation, a ‘national park’ within the civilized world; and besides, in national parks–mostly crowded–it is not very easy to pray either.”

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The God Question and Modern Man, trans. Hild Greaf (New York: Seabury Press, 1967), 57.