A Theology of Knitting? Bonaventure, the Common Arts, and the Human Good

Phillip Donnelly discusses the importance of the common arts for the human good.

One of the most remarkable features of contemporary culture is that many of the “common” (mechanical) arts of tangible making that were once understood to be practical, now seem useless. The practitioners of almost any common art today, whether blacksmithing or bread baking, now find that they can no longer earn a living through these arts because they cannot compete with the economies of scale that industrial production makes possible. Nowhere is this more apparent than the art of knitting: why spend hours knitting a pair of socks when you can buy several pairs for a few dollars? Nevertheless, people do still knit, even if not for obvious economic advantage. What are the human benefits that come only through the practice of such common arts? Do the common arts contribute to the human good? If they do, what does the loss of these arts imply for post-industrial life and education? This workshop considers such questions by drawing on the account of the common arts offered by the 13th- century Franciscan theologian, St. Bonaventure, in his text “Retracing the Arts to Theology” (De reductione artium ad theologiam).

Phillip Donnelly

PHILLIP Donne y Phillip J. Donnelly, PhD, serves as Director of the Great Texts Program in the Honors College at Baylor University. His research focuses on the historical intersections between philosophy, theology, and imaginative literature, with particular a ention to Renaissance literature and the reception of classical educational traditions. He is currently nishing a book on the verbal arts and Christian faith.

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