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C.D.C. Reeve - Action, Contemplation, HappinessQuestioning the Divide between Contemplation and Action

A Review of

Action, Contemplation, and Happiness: An Essay on Aristotle

C.D.C. Reeve

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Daniel Greeson.

Professor C.D.C. Reeve is the Delta Kappa Epsilon Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina and is one of the preeminent contemporary interpreters of ancient Greek philosophy. He has not only published new and updated translations of Plato and Aristotle but has also contributed many important interpretative works that continue to break new light upon well-trod texts essential to the western intellectual tradition. His most recent contribution, Action, Contemplation, and Happiness: An Essay on Aristotle, is a welcome addition to his already burgeoning corpus.

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Doulos Christou Press has recently released a new volume in its “Resources for a New Monasticism” series: On Prayer and the Contemplative Life By St. Thomas Aquinas.

You can order this new book through Amazon.

Here is an excerpt:

Is the Active Life a Hindrance to the Contemplative Life?

St. Gregory says: “They who would hold the citadel of contemplation must first exercise themselves on the battle-field of toil.”

We may consider the active life from two points of view. For we may first of all consider the actual occupation with, and practice of, external works; and from this point of view it is clear that the active life is a hindrance to the contemplative, for it is impossible for a man to be simultaneously occupied with external works, and yet at leisure for divine contemplation.

But we may also consider the active life from the standpoint of the harmony and order which it introduces into the interior passions of the soul; and from this point of view the active life is an assistance to contemplation since this latter is hindered by the disturbance arising from the passions. Thus St. Gregory says: “They who would hold the citadel of contemplation must first needs exercise themselves on the battle-field of toil; they must learn, forsooth, whether they still do harm to their neighbors, whether they bear with equanimity the harm their neighbors may do them; whether, when temporal good things are set before them, their minds are overwhelmed with joy; whether when such things are withdrawn they are over much grieved. And lastly, they must ask themselves whether, when they withdraw within upon themselves and search into the things of the spirit, they do not carry with them the shadows of things corporeal, or whether, if perchance they have touched upon them, they discreetly repel them.”

Thus, then, the exercises of the active life are conducive to contemplation, for they still those interior passions whence arise those imaginations which serve as a hindrance to contemplation. Continue Reading…