Certillange’s “The Intellectual Life” – Analysis of Chapter 7

Work definition

Preparation for work, as Sertillanges puts it, is a process that involves strategic planning. He argues that learning and producing are the bottom line of work. It is easy to understand the meaning of learning and producing from his argument. In the real sense, for work to be done, there must be a set of instructions or guidelines to be followed. Work requires knowledge that can only be acquired through learning, and this is the author’s major argument. He argues that great achievements are reached through working in small bits. In the very first paragraph of chapter seven, the author discourages the readers from rushing to the conclusion of something without a clear understanding of simple things first. He equates simplicity to streams and great things in the sea, which is a very wise use of figurative speech.

Productive engagement

In preparation for any kind or form of productive engagement, the author correctly noted that, in the current generation, reading is the only key to learning. Knowledge is passed on from one generation to another, and thus the world may be compared o a pool of the collective contributions of information. The author raises a very fundamental argument when he says it is only through reading and utilizing what we read that we can reach a level of ultimate learning. However, some people argue that we are not all meant to be lovers of reading. There are debates in many social settings where some people argue that not everyone can handle the pressure that comes along with concentrating and focusing on a text.

The author gives a unique and simple solution to this argument. He asserts that what makes people give up on reading is because they begin with big volumes and complicated materials at their starting point. He advises that in order to develop a reading habit, one must start with simple readings. In his own words, he calls this reading ‘little’. The author’s view on ‘much’ and ‘little’ has been just amazing especially where he argues that ‘much’ and ‘little’ are similar only in the same domain. The author is careful to demystify the interpretation that he tries to limit people from reading widely. He says in this chapter that people must be encouraged to read but at the same time, the right strategy to maintain a sustainable reading habit must be employed.

The reading little principles

Reading little is his strategy to develop a reading culture among beginners. Sertillanges advocates for an intelligent approach to reading as opposed to a passionate approach. In his explanation, he describes the latter as a clever way of monopolizing the soul and keeping it in a state of severe disturbance (Sertillanges, 1987). The author is very passionate about planning while setting out to read or learn something. He argues that our approach to learning should be like a housekeeper’s planning while going shopping. A housekeeper makes a list of the products he or she requires to buy in a market and then sets out for shopping. Equally, the author advises that we should approach reading with the same prudence.

Inordinate reading

Although many people think it is healthy, the author says that excessive reading is wrong. He calls it an inordinate reading practice. Inordinate reading, according to Sertillanges (1987), is a situation whereby one reads almost everything that he or she comes around. The author identifies some of the impacts that are associated with such kind of practice with a human mind. First, as he elucidates, warns that the mind is not to be fed. The impacts of excessive reading include being incapable of reflecting and concentrating a factor that can immensely ruin your productive capacity in terms of work (Sertillanges, 1987). He equates this to being a slave of oneself as the brain’s production capacity retrogresses (Sertillanges, 1987).

Reading can be used as a way of hiding our laziness tendencies as Sertillanges argues in this chapter. As he argues, reading should always be backed by purpose, and the purpose of reading should be meaningful to the reader. The author noted the common behavior of people running after the news when it is officially time for work (Sertillanges, 1987). People must find time to read during their free time not when everything is under pressure in the office. He warns that reading too much will reduce the brain’s ability to maintain its interior silence, which is very crucial. In this chapter, a lot alludes to our ability to control knowledge or information that comes into our minds. This is based on the assumption that everything we read may happen in our lives. Hence, the author warns that reading unconcernedly is dangerous because when the rim is right the accession will happen.

The spiritual aspect of reading

This chapter gets more interesting when the author alludes to Gods and Satan functions in relation to what we read. Many people think that reading is just an art that does not harbor any spiritual undertones. The author contradicts this assumption when he says that God stirs the good things, we read to save us while the devil stirs the bad thoughts, we cultivate through reading to destroy us. Depending on knowledge gathered from books is a positive thing but also every reader must acknowledge that the books are the creations of men, and every man’s work is tainted by his corruption (Sertillanges, 1987). Every work of men has an element of ignorance, and taking that into account, it is important for every reader to be careful with whatever he or she reads. Sertillanges advises the readers to filter the information they are exposing themselves to and maintain a critical mind in accepting the ideologies offered in a particular text.


In my opinion, the author has put up a very valid and informative message in this chapter of his book. I believe that his arguments are valid and well-intended to benefit the reader, unlike the popular self-gain books we are used to. The author has condemned the reading habit that is influenced by passion, not the purpose. He goes ahead and explains the harmful effects of extensive unplanned reading on the human intellectual capacity. This chapter gives an insightful approach to reading and opens the reader’s eye in terms of gaining knowledge. The author advises against passionate reading, which bombards the brain with multiple and conflicting pieces of information. Reading simple and steadily is the most effective way to enhance our reading capacity and to be in a position to allow our minds to get creative and innovative as well. In my view, the author has achieved great influence on the reader’s mind in the chapter summarized.


Sertillanges, A. G. (1987). The Intellectual Life. Its spirits, Conditions, Methods. United States, USA: Catholic University of America Press.

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ChalkyPapers. (2023, November 3). Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7. Retrieved from https://chalkypapers.com/certillanges-the-intellectual-life-analysis-of-chapter-7/


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"Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7." ChalkyPapers, 3 Nov. 2023, chalkypapers.com/certillanges-the-intellectual-life-analysis-of-chapter-7/.


ChalkyPapers. (2023) 'Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7'. 3 November.


ChalkyPapers. 2023. "Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7." November 3, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/certillanges-the-intellectual-life-analysis-of-chapter-7/.

1. ChalkyPapers. "Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7." November 3, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/certillanges-the-intellectual-life-analysis-of-chapter-7/.


ChalkyPapers. "Certillange's "The Intellectual Life" - Analysis of Chapter 7." November 3, 2023. https://chalkypapers.com/certillanges-the-intellectual-life-analysis-of-chapter-7/.