Jason West

Episode 17,  Jun 21, 2021, 06:36 PM

Scholars and intellectuals, like artists, often if not always stand on the shoulders of others, those women and men, ancient and modern, who have gone before. At times, in conversation, the lineage surfaces and our debt to them is vivid, our gratitude palpable. So, it is for Jason West. As President, vice-Chancellor and Professor at Newman Theological College, Edmonton, he and his colleagues have enlivened Catholic Studies and the Humanities. In a casual conversation last fall he talked about his current thinking about art, poetry, painting and music, and how the work of the eminent Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) had given him an entry point to consider the relationship of aesthetics to his first love, logic and the place of reason as a portal to glimpsing what is True.

Jacques Maritain was raised a protestant in France initially studying science at the Sorbonne in Paris. He became disillusioned with the perspective of scientism that dominate the academy. Attending the lectures of Henri Bergson whose work highlighted the place of intuition and sympathy Maritain and his wife Raissa Oumansoff, a Russian Jew, set upon a new path which led to their entering the Roman Catholic Church. Maritain has written “just about everything” and Jason West was working through his book Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry. Knowing Professor West’s penchant for logic and reason I was interested on hearing how art and the third transcendental, the beautiful, was woven into his thought.  

Professor West’s intellectual journey took him from atheism through the study of medieval logic and the work of Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas. A solitary month reading and rereading Saint Augustine’s The Confessions and a friend’s casual invitation to attend the Roman Catholic liturgy, not unlike Maritain, led him into the Church.     

Our conversation begins with Maritain, art, logic and reason and concludes thinking about the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Welcome to our conversation.