The Overly-Active Intellect

I have been assiduously giving thanks each night, but have tended to forget about writing up anything till I’m already in bed, or trying to avoid the computer.  I’ve determined that being engrossed by a screen — internet or, sometimes, television — is a major contributor to my sleepnessness.  Something about the light must act to waken whatever part of the brain is responsible for falling asleep, because it definitely requires an hour at least afterwards to calm down sufficiently for me to sleep.  So I’ve been trying — with mixed success — to get off the computer by about 9:00pm.  It definitely does help me to fall asleep in good time, though, so for learning that I am grateful.

I have also learned that I do not much understand Aquinas’ concept of the Active Intellect, but I do understand his concept of it better than I understand Al Farabi’s.  My tutorial on Monday on this topic ended up with me feeling more confused, and sure I made my students more confused, than they were at the beginning.  But hopefully they took away the conclusion that the subject is a difficult one not easily to be mastered . . .

For the next two weeks we are largely concerned with Dante’s Commedia.  Each time I read it I am reminded of how wonderful a work it is, how beautiful and compact and yet deep and resonant and full of unfolding layers.  I learned this week that he took much less time in writing it than I had thought, seven or eight years perhaps.  I don’t even know what to say about that besides that it simply adds to my awe at Dante’s accomplishment.

Here he is in Giotto’s painting of him:

I like this picture best of all the Dante ones for several reasons, not least that Giotto actually knew him so this is presumably what he looked like.  I once bought a postcard of it at the Casa di Dante museum in Florence, but sent it to a friend and was not able to acquire another one before I left the city (or, indeed, Italy).  Another trip is in order, obviously!


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