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THREE PHILOSOPHIES OF LIFE PETER KREEFT Three Philosophies of Life Ecclesiastes: Life as Vanity Job: Life as Suffering Song of Songs: Life as Love IGNATIUS PRESS SAN FRANCISCO for John Mallon who knows Cover by Riz Boncan Marsella © 1989 Ignatius Press, San Francisco All rights reserved ISBN 0-89870-262-3 Library of Congress catalogue number 89-84054 Printed in the United States of America CONTENTS Introduction 7 The Inexhaustibility of Wisdom Literature (7); Three Philosophies of Life (8); Three Metaphysical Moods (9); Three Theological Virtues (10); "The Divine Comedy" before Dante (11) Ecclesiastes: Life as Vanity 13 The Greatness of Ecclesiastes (15); Ecclesiastes as Ethics (17); Ecclesiastes the Existentialist (18); The Modernity of Ecclesiastes (19); God's Silence in Ec- clesiastes (22); The Summary of Ecclesiastes (23); The Author of Ecclesiastes (24); Short-Range Meanings- Enough? (29); The Great Cover-Up (32); Vive Ways to Hide an Elephant (33); The Obscene Syllogism (35); Five "Toils" (36); Five Vanities (45); The Need for an Answer: Three Demonic Doors (51); Rules for Talking Back (53); One More Answer to Ecclesiastes: The Divine Interruption (56); The Postscript (57); Conclusion (57) Job: Life as Suffering 59 1. The "Problem of Evil" (63); 2. The Problem of Faith versus Experience (76); 3. The Problem of the Meaning of Life (84); 4. The Problem of God (87) Song of Songs: Life as Love 97 1. Love Is a Song (102); 2. Love Is the Greatest Song (103); 3. Love Is Dialogue (105); 4. Love Is Synergis- tic (106); 5. Love Is Alive (107); 6. Love Is Gospel (108); 7. Love Is Power (109); 8. Love Is Work (no); THREE PHILOSOPHIES OF LIFE 9. Love Is Desire and Fulfillment (112); 10. Suffering Goes with Love (113); 11. Love Is Free (114); 12. Love Is True to Reality (116); 13. Love Is Accurate (116); 14. Love Is Simple (120); 15. Love Is Indi- vidual (122); 16. Love Is All Conquering (125); 11. Love Is a Surprise (125); 18. Love Is Fearless (127); 19. Love Is Exchange of Selves (128); 20. Love Is Triumphalistic (130); 21. Love Is Natural (131); 22. Love Is Faithful (133); 23. Love Is Ready (134); 24. Love Is All Inclusive (136); 25. Love Is "Sexist" (137); 26. Love Is as Strong as Death (138) INTRODUCTION The Inexhaustibility of Wisdom Literature I have been a philosopher for all of my adult life, and the three most profound books of philosophy that I have ever read are Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs. In fact, the book that first made me a philosopher, at about age fifteen, was Ecclesiastes. Books of philosophy can be classified in many ways: ancient versus modern, Eastern versus Western, optimistic versus pessimistic, theistic versus atheistic, rationalistic versus ir- rationalistic, monistic versus pluralistic, and many others. But the most important distinction of all, says Gabriel Marcel, is between "the full" and "the empty", the solid and the shallow, the profound and the trivial. When you have read all the books in all the libraries of the world, when you have accompanied all the world's sages on all their journeys into wisdom, you will not have found three more profound books than Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Songs. These three books are literally inexhaustible. They brim with a mysterious power of renewal. I continually find new nourishment in rereading them, and I never tire of teaching them. They quintessentially exemplify my definition of a classic. A classic is like a cow: it gives fresh milk every morning. A classic is a book that rewards endlessly repeated re- reading. A classic is like the morning, like nature herself: ever young, ever renewing. N o , not even like nature, for she, like us, is doomed to die. Only God is ever young, and only the Book he inspired never grows old. When God wanted to inspire some philosophy, why would he inspire anything but the best? But the best is not necessarily the most sophisticated. Plato says, in the Ion, that the gods deliberately chose the poorest poets to inspire the greatest poems so that the glory would be theirs, not man's. It is exactly what Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians. And we see this 7 8 THREE PHILOSOPHIES OF LIFE principle at work throughout the Bible: the striking contrast between the primitiveness of the poet and the profundity of the poem, between the smallness of the singer and the greatness of the song, between the absence of human sophistication and the presence of divine sophia, divine wisdom. Something is always breaking through the words, something you can never fully grasp but also never fully miss if only you stand there with uncovered soul. Stand i

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