Richard Feringer's Notes on Rosenstock-Huessy's Works

Feringer notes
Last edited: 11-98


1.If the university is one where the student is promoted for answering questions on tests, it is no place to ask serious questions.

2.ERH makes a distinction between “people” and “public.” Public is the group with which one must agree, must get along, and therefore he characterizes these as persons who are drawn together by some abstract principle, such as the American Rifle Assoc or the Republican party, or the Democrat party. .  The members of these groups are not known to each other, other than by common belief in a “principle.”

3.Where one belongs to a group in order to put all of one’s values together, such as Christian or Jew, then that is a people.  The politician addresses the “public.”  Academe, in general, addresses “the public.”  One idea today, another tomorrow; that is the public.

4.Four types of groups to which we can belong;

a.people of our blood.

b.people of the spirit (same values).

c.public,  “…which comes together in common mental spirit, intellectual pursuits, such as college students.”

d.mass man, people who are starved, fearful, who can be manipulated  “…under the promise of food,”  for instance.

(Category b contains the people to which one can give a life, a group upon which the           maintenance of the community depends. To study abstractions is not serious business; rather one must put ideas into practice.  “…anybody who is           interested in the life of Jesus doesn’t know what Christianity is.”  (p.7)

5.What is serious business is those ideas that infer or describe actions that can last for generations.  Most intellectual thought is entertainment, an interim, but one which has no lasting import. A thought of lasting import is about something that “…is necessary.”  And – necessary for “the people”.  To shovel snow is necessary for the individual, but not for the people.

6.The “eye” shows us what is only physical about a person, but if you wish  to find the spirit of the person, listen to him/her. (p.11)

7.Four divisions of human physiology:

a.Genitals, directed by the sense of flair, smell, anticipation – sensitivity for the future.

b.Heart, one has sound, song, praise, curses you hear.

c.Eyes, go directly to the brain – mass man worships the brain.

d.Skin, hands, feet  equal the individual “for the moment.”

Heart is for the future, and academic thinking is of the eye.

8.Figuratively, “people of God” live in opposition – those of the heart and of the genitals  make the long- range decisions while those of the skin and the eye make the immediate decisions.

9.People of the heart and genitals are thus capable of being members of a “people” that lasts at least four generations.

Individually we are between our parents and our children; “we” are in the present.  “If you can bring yourself to see your decisions in the light of these two generations…that’s enough eternity, so to speak.”  (p.13)

If we look at our own lives only, we cannot tell what is “really” important.  If we look at these two generations, then we can see what must serve those generations.

ERH quotes from Hugo of St. Victor (11th Century),  “…the church (true religion) has existed since Adam and Eve — Christ has only made it visible.”   Therefore, all denominations have the same root. (p.14)

Important decisions are those that will allow the human race to continue through time, and to make such decisions that when one acts on them one has joined into “the holy spirit.”

10.It is a “people,” then, that through time represents the “holy spirit.”  (p.16)  ERH defines, in greater detail, as to how this takes place.  And what we call reason  is of a secondary order BECAUSE REASON ALONE, OR AS A PRINCIPLE GUIDE, CANNOT LEAD US TO JOIN THE “PEOPLE.”

11.Christianity is based on the brittle, frail, next-to-impossible proposition that the Word will unite two or more people in the spirit,  when they had no idea of each other’s existence before. The consequences of organizing to bring about this unity cannot be predicted.

12.If one belongs to a “people,” one lives in three streams of consciousness,

a.How I think of myself and call myself.

b.What others say to my face (tending to be polite rather than candid).

c.What others say behind my back.

Hell is when all three of these streams are different, and heaven is the opposite. And of course, it is the latter that we must strive for all our lives.  (p.19)

13.Death as the fountainhead  of life  is the problem of Judaism and of Christianity, that the word and wisdom of one generation can inspire the next generation. Thus, Jews and Christians are special only in that they have focussed on this problem.

Liberal Arts College – 1960 – Review

The thrust of this essay is to argue how colleges and universities today do not prepare us for creating a future.  The author describes different types of groups we belong to, what those groups mean to us in terms of past, present, and future, and how traditional colleges should not be mistaken in teaching about the past and present only.  The essay thus serves as a useful foundation for curriculum development;  by inference one may assume ERH also indicates what the liberal arts college should be.