An intellectual particle collider

One of the most interesting things about class discussions at Shimer College is the way that scholarly commonplaces will “spontaneously” emerge, unprompted by me. One example happened today: a student claimed that Aquinas’s proofs of the existence of God can’t possibly be meant to be demonstrative, but only to show the inadequacy of human reason on its own and the way it opens out onto the need for divine revelation, etc. — a familiar “pious” reading (for lack of a better word), and one I disagree with and so never explicitly brought up in class.

I can see how one might react to this and say, “See, this is the naive reading of some college student with no background — it shows how shallow that position is.” Yet I take it the opposite direction: “Before I’ve tended to view such readings as forced and agenda-driven, yet this naive student with no particular stake in the text came up with it unprompted — so maybe there’s more to it than I thought.”