To my mind, such as it is, Sire's Habits of the Mind begins rather feebly -- the author relates personal experiences of coming of age in a salt-of-the-earth and decidedly "anti-intellectual" home environment. He describes his college-aged self as an "intellectual wannabe". I nearly dismissed the book after the first few paragraphs, but, entirely based on my high opinion of the author's The Universe Next Door, I pressed on. In chapter three, the author finally turns to the themes he presents best and begins to achieve the kind of resonance that characterizes that earlier volume. Opening the tenth (final) chapter, examining the concept of intellectual responsibility, Sire reflects on his "wannabe" confession and offers another: "Being an intellectual is after all . . . nothing to particularly admire or condemn."
This of ideology: "Truth cannot be constructed. To live in ideology is, as [Vaclav] Havel so eloquently reminds us, inevitably to live in a lie. Truth can only be revealed. We cannot be creators, only receptors."
And this of humility: "Without [humility] every virtue begins to become a vice. A passion for truth becomes a certitude that we . . . now possess it. . . Lack of humility -- arrogance -- is, in fact, one of the most frequent charges against intellectuals. Sometimes this charge can not be avoided . . . The real problem, however, is not the charge that you are arrogant but the distinct possibility that you actually are. Self-examination is always in order."
Quoting Richard John Neuhaus: "Few things have contributed so powerfully to the unbelief of the modern and postmodern world as the pretension of Christians to know more than we do. . . If Christians exhibited more intellectual patience, modesty, curiosity, and sense of adventure, there would be fewer atheists in the world, both of the rationalist and postmodern varieties."
Endure the first two chapters -- it gets better. As an examination of intellectual curiosity and intellectual courage, as these may be for some "a Christian calling", this is a very good, if not quite great, volume. In fact there are many `quotables' here that may remind the reader of Pascal's Pensees. A minor flaw: the volume (2000) contains a few more `typos' than most books. Perhaps a dozen or so where one might typically expect 2 or 3. Particularly noticeable given that the author is a long-time editor. But the thought here is less flawed than the proofing; for many books it is the opposite. The consideration of "reading directed thinking" versus "thinking directed reading" is quite valuable.
This of the theistic view of knowledge: "Our knowledge of God, our theology, is itself a boon to our knowledge of the universe. . . In other words, because God is the all-knowing knower of all things, we -- being made in His image -- can be the sometimes knowing knowers of somethings. . . All this is a gift of God, a 'supernatural charity'. . . it is not the 'autonomy of the human intellect,' our own or that of anyone else."
Recommended reading although not for all readers.