Archives for category: Religion and philosophy

Prometheus a Hero?

Is the Promethean outcry of atheists against the gods actually heroic? Back when I was somewhat agnostic, I thought so, especially when reading science-fiction. Now I think that the Promethean stance is merely an attempt to give some spiritual and poetic appeal to the dreary landscape of irrationality and nihilism.

Atheistic worldviews can never account for the total reality. Even when drawing from spiritualist or Gnostic views, they usually end up, like Prometheus, in hating the gods and attaching themselves to the rock of materialism, to the point of becoming one with it. In fact, this metaphor may be a half-conscious admission that the transcendent part of reality is inexplicable to atheists, hence their usual attempts to explain it away.

Franz Kafka wrote a satirical, and a bit obscure, comment about the myth of Prometheus, ending with: “Everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary […]” “The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth, it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.” (Complete quote below.)

The phrase “substratum of truth” probably alludes to archetypes or other truths, such as the hero or demigod who wants to help lesser beings, but the legend of Prometheus has so many different origins and retellings that it varies widely from one story to another, to the extent of becoming meaningless.


Franz Kafka wrote a short piece on Prometheus, outlining his perspective on four aspects of his myth:

According to the first, he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his liver, which was perpetually renewed.

According to the second, Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with it.

According to the third, his treachery was forgotten in the course of thousands of years, forgotten by the gods, the eagles, forgotten by himself.

According to the fourth, everyone grew weary of the meaningless affair. The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.

There remains the inexplicable mass of rock. The legend tried to explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn to end in the inexplicable.

Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories. Glatzer, Nahum N., ed. Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir. Schocken Book, Inc.: New York, 1971.

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Lewis and Tolkien Debate Myths and Lies

The following 8:45-minute clip is from EWTN’s documentary “Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’: A Catholic Worldview” (2011). It portrays a debate between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on whether or not myths are lies. This debate was instrumental in C.S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzBT39gx-TE

Kevin O’Brien, director and founder of the Theater of the Word, Incorporated, a Catholic convert from atheism, plays the role of Tolkien. Al Marsh is C.S. Lewis.

The whole thing is here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjCfb35jqZ0

The narrator is Joseph Pearce, a Catholic convert from agnosticism, writer and professor of literature. The script is based on his book Tolkien: Man and Myth, A Literary Life.

Transcript of the 8:45-minute clip: Myths_and_Lies_Tolkien_Lewis.pdf

Three Reformers, Three Rebuilders

In his essay on Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau, Jacques Maritain pointed out the fateful ideas that were ferments in transforming Christendom into the modern secularist world. Reviewing the book once again, I came to the conclusion that the 20th century, though it featured the most horrendous consequences of de-Christianization, also saw refreshing beams of light. Three great writers, in particular, responded and gave an accurate assessment of the damage, and paths of healing.

Against the individualistic view of religion brought forth by Martin Luther, another German-speaking theologian stands for a comprehensive view of Redemption and reconciliation founded on the transcendentals –the Beautiful, the Good and the True– thus on classical philosophy and theology. Amongst a phenomenal production, Father Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988) gave the Church his monumental trilogy: Herrlichkeit (Glory, or “Theo-aesthetics”), Theodramatik and Theologik. He also tellingly chose Communio as the name of the quarterly theological journal he founded.

Against the rationalistic destruction of philosophy effected by a great scientist but terrible philosopher, René Descartes, Maritain himself (1882-1973) opposed his life’s work to spark a renewal of Thomism, or philosophia perennis. The common philosophy of humanity, enveloped and exemplified everywhere in the works of saint Thomas Aquinas, can be developed and applied to every new problem of any human culture.

Against the false, unreal worldviews and the false moral superiority à la Jean-Jacques Rousseau pervading the post-modern thought, the English-speaking world was graced with a literary genius who is a miracle of sanity. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), also a Thomist, is known to his admirers as the “apostle of common sense”.

 

The chronological order and the overlap of these three writers and their fields recall the logical order of operation of the transcendentals in human life.

In high quality literature and poetry, beauty leads to the True and the Good. Chesterton was also a great poet and a fine artist; Maritain wrote beautifully and was a connoisseur of fine art; von Balthasar was an incredibly well-read man, a translator, a literary critic of French and German literature and an excellent pianist.

Metaphysics is the highest and deepest inquiry into truth that the human intellect unaided by faith can achieve. The common and precise language and categories of classical theist philosophy are the frame for the basic principles in every science, especially theology.

Theology, supporting itself on the gifts of faith and Divine Revelation proceeding from the Goodness of God, explains spiritual reality and its embodiment in worship and Christian life, where man responds to the call to holiness, or the invitation to the perfection of goodness.

 

(Linked document updated Feb. 28, 2016)

Naturalism and the 666

I recently had to search and add some instruction to the little I knew about the book of Revelation, thanks to a Protestant who was trying to convert me. I thanked him by trying to convert him in my turn. When the subject of Apocalypse arose, I shared my personal theory about the 666. Unfortunately, I checked it only after our conversation, and it proved a complete anachronism. I feel fairly ridiculous about this, now that I have learned a much better, and real Catholic, interpretation.

My enlightenment came from Naji Mouawad, a Maronite (Lebanese rite) Catholic, interviewed by Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osODD9qeRLo). Both the guest and the host are remarkable scholars and theologians, and I learned many things in this brief overview.

Mr Mouawad’s biblical lectures, developed over 15 years, are available for purchase on his website, named “Qorbono” (https://www.qorbono.com/). He advises to respect the specific order and begin at the beginning of his 200 talks. The first group of talks, titled “Catholic Foundation” are a pre-requisite to the study of the book of Revelation.

My failed attempt at the interpretation of the 666 symbolism is proof that it is fruitless to examine a detail of the puzzle without referring again and again to the big picture – the “Catholic foundation” – to discover where and how the little piece fits. In the case, I did it the Protestant way, following my own dim light.

Naji Mouawad uses the well-known allusion to the number 666 as the numerical value of letters in the name of Caesar Neron (the count is 666 with the final “n”, without the “n” it equals 616). However, the key to the symbol is to combine the allusion to Nero with a clear biblical passage about another king, Salomon, who collected taxes in disobedience, and raised 666 talents of gold in the year.

Nero is clearly the extreme – though not exactly rare – example of the wicked ungodly ruler, while Salomon’s whole story is a serious warning that the best can fall from grace when they stop listening to God, and oppose their will to the Lord’s commandments. Both followed what the New Testament calls the spirit of the world, and what philosophy and theology call naturalism, to its logical consequences.

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Spiritual Catharsis: Nights of the Soul

The theological concept of catharsis is in fact the same than the Greek purgation of passions in tragedy, but it runs much more profound, as Bishop Barron pointed out in this YouTube comment, where he gives an example of the traditional practice of spiritual catharsis, taken from Thomas Merton’s book Firewatch.

The purgation of passions is demanded to every Christian in the universal call to holiness. However, its turning point, usually decisive, is not often successfully passed in this life, as most of us back off when confronted to the Night of the senses, also called by St Teresa of Avila the Fourth Mansions of the Inner Castle.

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Catharsis

The Greek word catharsis, heard in Christopher Nolan’s movie Inception, was unfamiliar to me. The authors I read usually translated it by purgation (same in French and English), or used other words to convey the idea. Nolan applies it to the relationship between Fischer (the “inception” target) and his father. Reading some reviews afterwards, I came upon Bishop Robert Barron’s YouTube commentary of Inception, where he dwells mostly on the spiritual Christian meaning of catharsis.

Bishop Barron says how he was taken aback by the “relentlessly secular” aspect of the movie, and the “mercenary purpose” of the “inception.” He then proceeds to describe the “old venerable spiritual practice” of Catholic contemplatives on their “inner journey to discover God.” This type of catharsis is quite expectedly absent from Nolan’s movie, as it is applicable only to ascetic and mystic theology. The film author used the term rather in the second and third meanings, related to literature and psychology respectively.

Four meanings

The first meaning of catharsis is medical, and retains its original Greek literal sense of bodily purgation in an attempt to cure an illness. A cathartic substance is a purgative one.

The second meaning, in classical literature, is the emotional release provided by an artistic or theatrical experience, such as a Greek tragedy. Maritain alluded to this in passing in his book Three Reformers, and quoted it as “the purgation of passions by tragedy.”

The classic metaphor probably mutated into the psychoanalytic contemporary meaning of liberation from repressed feelings and traumatic experiences. This third meaning is especially obvious in the movie when Nolan appends it with the word “reconciliation” while speaking of Fischer’s relationship with his father.

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Arianism and Rebellion

Posted on John C. Wright’s blog:

November 14, 2013
Arius and his followers denied that Jesus was fully God by nature (homoousios) and added a superfluous iota (homoiousios) to the theological term to make him a divinized man, thus a lesser “god” than the Father Almighty.

November 15, 2013
Affirming that Christ is not God by nature leads immediately to denying him God’s authority and power for a host of things. Another logical and immediate consequence is the loss of reverence and obedience to the Church founded by Jesus Christ, whose authority is automatically suspicious if her founder is not God. A third most important consequence is that the Eucharist and other sacraments are then deemed to be human inventions and not the only means to receive God’s grace (the Church teaches that everybody who is saved, including non-Christians, is saved through actual or desired baptism, that is, through the Church, the Body of Christ). Every heresy, false religion or schism, as every grave sin, is basically a refusal of God’s authority over one’s conscience. For Christians, it is also the denial of the Church’s authority to assess what comes from God or not, and to distribute God’s gifts as instructed. Some consequences take time to become manifest; for example, the Arians would not think, in the 4th Century, to abrogate the Eucharist, but Luther did a thousand years later.

I agree entirely with Mr. Wright that the territories plagued for three centuries with Arianism were easy prey for the barbarians.

[See also the preceding comment by John C. Wright on various errors and heresies and his answer to Stephen J. on the same question of Arianism.]

Leftism and Sturm und Drang

Posted on Bruce G. Charlton’s blog [Leftism as rebellion against reality]:

November 15, 2013
This is very perceptive and well said: rebellion against reality can never win, but will never cease.

Maritain pointed out interesting things on the subject in his essay on Luther. He said that the Reformer was in fact the precursor of the Romantic movement [Sturm und Drang] in opposing his subjectivity, his self, to God and the entire Church. His phrase “Tell them Dr Luther will have it so” is a proud refusal to accept anything from “the other” that would not fit his views. Luther is the type of charismatic “hero” whose heroism consists in being a (preferably young and genius) rebel against all authority, and doing the contrary of real heroic deeds.

It appears that the layer added by political correctness to the inversion of values was previously taught to modern people by the Romantic movement. All this ultimately boils down to the original sin: I am god unto myself and owe nothing to anyone, particularly to God – hence the propensity to gradually negate God’s authority, then his existence. The philosophically inclined usually call that enlightenment.

Another pearl from David Warren :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/18/the-idleness-of-saint-thomas/

and a development following comments [comments erased since] :

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/06/25/quote-for-the-day/

Other quotes:

Beauty is the splendor of Truth.
Plato

Beauty is akin to the Good.
Plato. The Symposium

The light of God’s face shines in all its beauty on the countenance of Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15) […] Consequently, the decisive answer to every one of man’s questions […] is given by Jesus Christ, or rather is Jesus Christ himself […]

Jesus Christ, the “light of the nations”, shines upon the face of his Church, which he sends forth to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Hence the Church, as the People of God among the nations […] offers to everyone the answer which comes from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor (Introduction)

I found this marvelous insight on the Church Militant in the letter Chesterton wrote to his mother the very day of his baptism (July 1922):

I have thought about you, and all that I owe to you and my father, not only in the way of affection, but of the ideals of honour and freedom and charity and all other good things you always taught me: and I am not conscious of the smallest break or difference in those ideals but only of a new and necessary way of fighting for them. I think, as Cecil did, that the fight for the family and the free citizen and everything decent must now be waged by [the] one fighting form of Christianity.

From G. K. Chesterton’s Biography by Maisie Ward
Chapter 23 on Chesterton’s conversion and baptism

Excerpts:
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On Catholic Theology and Western Civ

Another witty piece from David Warren as an answer to a comment under http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/2013/01/14/james-m-buchanan (comments have been erased since).

Quote:

“You don’t admit of any possibility of error in your theological framework.” (quoting the commenter)

My dear CTC, it is time you realized that it is not my theological framework. After fifty years of shopping, I bought into the Catlick one; or more precisely, found that I already more-or-less had. And in the end you’re not arguing with me. You’re arguing with my buddy Thomas Aquinas, & all his buddies. And having tried to argue with them myself, let me tell ya…

It is a working out, over twentyish centuries of often quite heated argument & debate, of what the best minds could discern in the Christian Revelation, on the principle of non-contradiction. The result has been concisely & carefully set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which you might want to obtain as a kind of phone directory to what “people like me” (i.e. Catlicks) believe.

Is it infallible? No, nothing from the hand of man is infallible (& check that CCC for what we mean when we say the pope is pronouncing on doctrine “infallibly”). It isn’t “infallible,” in the sense you might use, but it is extremely good, because if anyone, Catlick or non-Catlick, can find a contradiction in the thing, we sweat it through until we’ve fixed it.

But by now that body of doctrine has been remarkably stable for a very long time. This is because our best minds have been sweating it through for all these centuries. And in fact most of it was clear enough to the candid & honest & intelligent from early on: working from what they sincerely believed, & for cause, that Christ had told them about what’s what, checked & re-checked interminably against the known facts of “reality.”

You don’t have to believe a word of it. There are many soi-disant Catholics who never bother to consult it (even before speaking publicly “as a Catholic”), & who believe what they want to believe. Some of them even serve in your Congress. “Cafeteria Catlicks,” if you will. People who don’t listen when being corrected on fact. What can I say?

But there it is, Catholic Doctrine. And since the whole of Western Civ was erected upon it, I suggest you check it out. So that you can know, at least, what it is you are rejecting as you walk off into the scientistic aether, pitching Western Civ to the dogs.

Otiosus / David Warren

Peace from Heavens to Men of Goodwill

It is Advent and a timely season to wish peace to all who have a place in their heart for Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

To an unbeliever who is a man of goodwill, John C. Wright offers his advice on  “How to Find God”  (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/how-to-find-god/, December 4).

His essay titled “Christ and Nothing” on December 6 is also a very good read (http://www.scifiwright.com/2012/12/christ-and-nothing-2).

Degrees of Abstraction – Degrees of Knowledge

(Updated November 2015)

As Chesterton said in Philosophy for the Schoolroom, any argument should begin with the parties stating their “infallible dogmas” (=axioms, first principles, undisputable first facts), so that the discussion could proceed to the real basis of the point in dispute.

This is to say most arguments would come to a full stop there, as the disagreement is most often in the very first steps of grasping reality and reasoning about it.

Chesterton was alluding to real philosophical dispute, where the different parties speak the same language, but in the case where one or more of the parties ignore philosophy, the problem lies at a more profound level. There is another step before axioms, which is largely forgotten now that philosophy is unknown or deformed by most people. This step is the hierarchy of sciences based on the different degrees of abstraction.

__________
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Meditatio Mortis from Bruce G. Charlton

Interesting post today from Dr Charlton on immortality of the soul: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2012/09/at-death-ancient-versus-modern.html

A commenter refers to another post from Dr. Charlton on radical doubt that was pivotal in his own conversion, saying: “It certainly forced me to contemplate whether there’s any good reason to believe that we moderns are right in contradiction to more than 99% of the people who ever lived.” (http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2010/06/malignancy-of-radical-doubt.html)

Dr Charlton insists that belief in immortality of the soul is completely natural to all men of all eras except modern elites of the West. Note that he took 40 years to seriously explore other avenues before coming back to Christian faith and classical philosophy.

His post of September 14 on time and eternity is also very good: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/2012/09/eternity-as-out-of-time.html

It put back in my mind the historian of religions Mircea Eliade’s book The Sacred and The Profane, which is a good overview of how men have always and everywhere been religious, except modern types mostly disconnected from the natural world.

Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane (PDF)

Emotion over Truth

John C. Wright wrote the following in his essay Parable of the arbiters (July 13, 2012 scifiwright.com):
“The claim of the Protestant type would take us to the arbitration of the intellect. Oddly enough, Reformers are sometimes criticized (at least in Catholic circles) for their emphasis (we call it overemphasis) on the spontaneous and emotional and passionate nature of their communion with God.
I reject these criticisms as being a misunderstanding of the Protestant mind.”
[…]
“All Protestants, even those who reject Puritanism, have a strong inclination toward the ideal of pure worship, a simplicity and purity of rite.”
[…]
“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”

(Science-fiction writer, philosopher, lawyer and technical writer, John C. Wright was raised Lutheran but he was an atheist most of his life; he converted to Catholicism a few years ago.)

My comments (inspired mainly by Maritain’s essay on Luther in Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau and Blessed John Paul II’s Encyclical Fides et Ratio):

These criticisms are perfectly valid, but I grant you emotionalism is an important consequence of the real cause.

“Strong inclination”, “ideal”, “simplicity”, “purity”: if all those words are not moral or aesthetic emotion, I don’t know what they are. Not that they are unjustified, far from it, because love for beautiful ideals, simplicity and purity and all good things is our motivation to be and do good.

“It is not emotionalism. It is intellectualism.”
Our two superior faculties are not intellect and sensibility, they are intellect and will, the coupling of which in the liberty of TRUTH being the image of God in us. Thus the opposite of intellectualism is not emotionalism, it is voluntarism. Of course, decisions of the will are often expressed emotionally, this is why we tend to conflate the consequences and the cause.

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André Frossard asked one day to John Paul II what was the single most important saying he would leave to humanity if he was permitted to leave only one. Frossard expected the Pope would take a moment to think, but the answer came immediately: Truth will set you free.

All the Bible and all Christianity are contained in this short sentence expressing God’s plan for us: to set us free from evil so that we can welcome the Kingdom of God – that is, God himself – in our lives.

Nothing less than the one and whole Truth, who is a Person, can set us free. Nothing else than the love of truth can guide us on the way and ultimately bring us to the love of the One who said: I am the truth.

But there are obstacles:

It will happen with every sort of wicked deception of those who are heading toward destruction because they have refused to love the truth that would allow them to be saved. (2 Thess. 2:10)
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Transcendental Food

Transcendental Truth, Goodness and Beauty are the food of our main faculties, or ‘powers’, as St. Teresa de Jesus called them: intellect, will and imagination. In a previous post, I pointed out that truth is the food of the intellect. It must be added that the will feeds on goodness and imagination mainly on beauty. All three powers are naturally motivated by love to turn towards their natural food.

As transcendentals are nothing else than the being itself seen from different aspects, they are convertible. Everything is true, good or beautiful in the same measure that it is. Thus anything true is also good and beautiful in the same measure that it is true; anything good is necessarily true and beautiful; and nothing is beautiful that is not also true and good.

Beauty is a particular case though, and this reasoning applies properly only to metaphysical and moral beauty. Indeed, aesthetic beauty and imagination are linked to psycho-physical life, and neither the senses nor the sensitive faculties will exist in eternal life, while intellect and will, wherein reside our personality and likeness to God, are forever.
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First Mysteries of the Rosary and Covetousness

I use the following set of demands when praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary:
1. Annunciation – Humility
2. Visitation – Charity
3. Birth of the Savior – Detachment
4. Presentation at the Temple – Purity of mind and body
5. Finding in the Temple – Obedience

First things first in the twenty Mysteries proposed to our meditation: the fruits asked for in the first chaplet of the Rosary are the exact contrary to the threefold concupiscence, particularly pride, the gravest form of which is called by St. Thomas “the blackest of sins”.

André Frossard wrote that the Virgin Mary is the Evangelic figure of intelligence. She is indeed the one example of a human creature preserved from the irrationality of sin and free to live the perfectly virtuous life God intended for us all. She is the New Eve, where the New Adam could rise.

Thus the Rosary, this eminently Evangelic prayer, leads us to contemplate the essential virtues of the Blessed Virgin and ask in all humility to be bestowed them in our turn.
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Excerpted from an article by the remarkable David Warren titled:

In Defence of Hell (February 5, 2012)

http://oldcitizen.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=1381

…Many years ago, when my comfortable faith in atheism suddenly cracked, and I began realizing that the craziest claims of Christianity might be true – and that if they were, I was in big trouble – I found myself enchanted by the rhythms of the Church calendar…

…[I took] an almost sensual delight in the poetry of liturgical movements and expressions, in something telling a story, like a play. I felt a monition against neurosis, in the light of truths beginning to make sense above the level of “pure reason.”

In retrospect the Mass does its work at many levels, beginning with the most visible, for what is beautiful conducts us towards reverence, and reverence unfolds dimensionally into Love. You came for a reason, but like a winter coat, it was no longer necessary inside. You put it on again, when leaving.

My memory of those days was rekindled by a single phrase, a chapter heading, in a recent book by the Jesuit professor of government, James V. Schall. The book is rather generically entitled, The Modern Age; but the chapter, more specifically: “The Brighter Side of Hell.”

Reason cannot know its vocation, without faith; man cannot know his vocation, without God: the book makes points like these, while returning at successive angles to the extraordinary invocation in the opening of the Confessions of St Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.”
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Two thoughtful posts from Bruce G. Charlton :

The search for meaning and purpose (everywhere except Christianity)

For many decades I was searching for the meaning and purpose of life – and it was a serious search, involving a great deal of time, travel, effort and expense.

I was searching in many, many directions and places, in almost all places – except for Christianity.
*
Because I knew all about Christianity, and I knew that the answer was not there; and therefore I resented all discussion of Christianity because it was merely wasting my precious time.

I was impatient and irritable about Christianity, because I knew all about it and I knew it was nonsense.
*
When I eventually discovered Christianity was what I had supposedly been seeking, I felt pretty silly: I was pretty silly.
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Food of the Intellect

Certain foods are natural for the body, but it takes a fair amount of training and reasoning to choose the right aliments, prepare them properly, and eat quantities suitable for our real needs.

Truth is the natural food of the intellect. We are capable of arriving at truth by correct reasoning, that is, the right use of a trained intellect previously nurtured in truth or, at least, not impeded in its appetite for truth.

In theory, feeding body or mind seems straightforward and easy, but experience tells both are often not done as they should.

French Catholic philosopher Marcel Clément wrote that, in his youth in the 1930s, he was looking forward to studying philosophy. But instead of the traditional introduction to history of Greek philosophy and systematic presentation of basic concepts, he was given the views of various philosophers and schools of thought. Seeing how those philosophers were contradicting each other, he naively remarked: “Which one is right? Which system can we hold true? They cannot be all true, or else philosophy does not exist.” He was answered that he had a dogmatic mindset and that philosophy could do perfectly well without absolute truth.

Then, on the occasion of a dissertation on Greek ethics, he became acquainted with Aristotle and knew for sure that philosophy existed. He devoted the rest of his life to write about and teach philosophy and Catholic thought, particularly the social doctrine of the Church.
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What is God?

This was THE question for Thomas Aquinas at a very early age. He devoted all his life to answer it properly and systematically. Of course, he responded also to the second question “Who is God?” but this one needs Divine Revelation to be answered.

Without Revelation, a well-formed and open human intelligence can deduce the basics of the nature of God: eternal, immaterial, immutable, almighty, pure actuality, first cause, creator, even loving. At least, one great pagan philosopher did. Aristotle wrote, for example, that God as final cause moves the world as an object of love (Met. 12.7). Beautiful, is it not?
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Intellectual atheists try to present their main premise as rational, but it is not. For example, the titles of these two best-sellers, The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, advertise clearly the lack of rational thinking in those books. Even an atheist like Terry Eagleton felt compelled to refute such a presentation of atheism. In his book Reason, Faith, and Revelation: Reflections on the God Debate, he did us the service of exposing the irrationality and naive faith in Progress of “Ditchkins,” as he humorously branded the Dawkins-Hitchens duo.

I can speak only of the impression I get from the titles, but judging by what Eagleton and others said, my impression is not false.

God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens)

This proposition is simply a contradiction in terms: if there is a God, he is necessarily great, otherwise he would be no god at all. Maybe irony was intended, but it came out rather as mockery, which is not a good predictor of sound philosophy, especially considering the accusatory tone of the rest of the title: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

The main premise of materialist atheists is that there is nothing to existence but matter and that those who admit the existence of God as creator of the world are delusional. However, the atheist premise is indemonstrable and self-refuting while the God-created world is perfectly rational in sound philosophy (from Aristotle onwards).
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In a post entitled Hypocrisy and moral inversion by Bruce Charlton, John C. Wright published excerpts from Dr. Charlton’s booklet Decline of the West explained. I had already perused this booklet and found it very good. Upon second reading of these excerpts and comments from another blogger I saw how well it corresponded to a quote from John Paul II provided in my answer below (edited).

Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s blog is: http://charltonteaching.blogspot.ca/


Hedonism, Sin and Truth

I think Dr. Charlton did a good exposition of the roots of Politically Correct behavior. Lust (hedonism, self-gratification) is the most widespread and obvious in the shallow worldview of our modern barbarians, and it usually goes hand in hand with power-seeking (pride) and greed. I would say lust is the more saintly of their reversed virtues: it does not even need to be disguised like the other two as self-righteousness and revenge of the wronged victim.
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The Meaning of Words

My first university studies were in translation. I never worked in the field because I am not perfectly bilingual, having never lived in English. I read and write often in English, but I speak it only occasionally and I still make mistakes that my readers are welcome to point out to me.

Translators have an unflattering Italian proverb: Traduttore, traditore – “Translator, traitor”. In any translation, no matter how literal, there are things lost, added, interpreted. It is the essential part of the trade to choose the words, phrases or style conveying a meaning as close as possible to the original, but even a very good translation will have a different ring, as both the language and the translator have a different voice and style. A fair translation is usually not quite as good as an original text of high quality, but in some rare cases an original of relatively lesser quality might appear in translation as the work of a genius, like Belloc said about Kipling and Chesterton :
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In a conversation about moral philosophy on another blog, someone asked: “Isn’t Christianity all about eudaimonia?” In other words, is Christianity a transcendent eudemonism like, for example, Kant said it was? Jacques Maritain responded on that in his book Moral Philosophy.


Excerpts from Jacques Maritain, Moral Philosophy
(http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/jmoral.htm)

Chapter 3 – The Discovery of Ethics – Aristotle

Aristotelian eudemonism
1. […] Eudaimonia is the state of a man in whom human nature and its essential aspirations have attained their complete fulfillment, and attained it in conformity with the true hierarchy of ends proper to that nature. […] It is necessary to find out what the ends of our nature are […] and to discover what kind of good above all others man is made for, the good which is uniquely appropriate to a rational being and through which he achieves the fulfillment of his nature.
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Catholic theology and its handmaiden, Scholastic philosophy, are complex, very consistent and organic (capable of development) systems with precise and interrelated language and concepts that cannot be comprehended if one does not grasp their exact meaning.

Scholastic philosophy is not the system of a particular school of philosophy, let alone one philosopher. We call it Thomism because the term is useful in a historical perspective, but its proper name is Philosophia perennis, that is, the love of wisdom for all times. It is the common philosophy of man, the treasure of philosophy as Maritain put it, hence it is not limited to a time, or place, or religious or social organization. If the Catholic Church is its guardian, she is not its owner; Philosophia perennis is a servant to theology but not a slave. It has a separate and autonomous existence as a science in its own right, and accordingly, philosophy and theology were always taught separately (the basics of philosophy first). The treasure of Philosophia perennis is open to all men to study and use, and many schools of classical theist philosophy may exist, as long as the concepts are not deformed. Those who deform it are adhering to, or starting, another philosophy that will never account exactly for the truth nor lead them to any wisdom, insofar as philosophy can lead to wisdom.
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“There are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands” (Chesterton)

When Chesterton wrote his book Orthodoxy (1908), he was still Protestant but like many other Catholic converts, several years before crossing the threshold (1922) he already admired how the good doctrine (ortho doxa) was profound and coherent. He called the heresies dull, and of course they are. Catholicism’s truly divine equilibrium is so fascinating and fills the mind so overwhelmingly that every heresy is pale and utterly boring in comparison.
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Recently, John C. Wright posted a quote of Bruce Charlton expressing that a return to Antiquity pagan morals and philosophy would be more likely to lessen the divide between our modern pagans and Christianity than direct Christian preaching. Dr Charlton was calling (half-seriously, of course) for pagan missionaries. Here is my take on the subject (in three different posts, slightly edited):

1. Interesting, but we have no need of pagan missionaries. We already have them anyway and they only wreak havoc: from the 18th and 19th centuries we had the Enlightenment prophets and the Progress worshippers. We still have many of those, but for half a century it has been much worse with the New Age missionaries. Absolutely nothing good can come from this church of the velvet-gloved Satan. And they are almost all impossible to convert without much fast and prayer and exorcisms.

Belloc made the following comparison between the modern pagans and the old while explaining why the “Modern Attack”, as he calls the new paganism, is so very dangerous to the Faith: “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding back into the dark.” (Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, 1938)
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The following piece is the first chapter of Father Henri de Lubac’s book The Drama of Atheist Humanism.

I found this remarkable English translation at IgnatiusInsight.com. I can certify it is outstanding, as I have the book in French and studied translation. The translator — certainly a theologian — captured and rendered wonderfully the poetic style, profound insight and exact theological, philosophical and historic views of the original, which is the work of a genius.

In this text written and published during World War II, the author presents the liberation from fate and idols and the awakening to human dignity experienced by Christian converts in Antiquity, followed by the reversal of atheist humanism. This reversal is examined in the rest of the book through considerations on the atheism of Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and Comte.


 A Tragic Misunderstanding

A wonderful piece of sculpture adorning the cathedral of Chartres represents Adam, head and shoulders barely roughed out, emerging from the earth from which he was made and being molded by the hands of God. The face of the first man reproduces the features of his modeler. This parable in stone translates for the eyes the mysterious words of Genesis: “God made man in his own image and likeness.”
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The following text is a reflection on several articles or books I read over the years by Catholic writers concerning the decay of Western civilization, particularly French author André Frossard, a convert from atheism. The three brands of atheism are taken from his writings, but the comments on atheists’ motivations are mine. Like Frossard, I brand myself in my agnostic period as a dumb atheist. Though I never actually doubted God’s existence, I was completely indifferent to spiritual reality for many years. The last paragraphs, on natural and eternal law and fundamental choices, are inspired from Jacques Maritain’s works on moral philosophy. The quote from Leon Bloy is from Maritain’s testimonial to that Christian writer who had a decisive influence on his own conversion to Catholicism.


 ATHEISM

Twenty years ago we had the historic chance to witness the bankruptcy of the first militant atheist government in the world. It crumbled to dust due to its own degradation. No war, no embargo, no pressure from the outside. It was living on philosophical errors, lies, disinformation and terror and it had silenced or lost to the West its best thinkers and artists. Perestroika and glasnost were intended to improve communism but, when the people caught a glimpse of truths forgotten for seventy years and of the political and social freedom still enjoyed in Western democracies, the grip of the system was gone and it soon died.
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I wrote the following page a few years ago to accompany GKC’s article “Philosophy for the Schoolroom” included after. It was an answer to a friend’s comment acknowledging doubt as a normal scientific attitude. As a cradle Catholic I never really saw a divide between faith and reason but it seems it has to be explained even to a pious Catholic convert. It was probably a remnant of former agnosticism or Protestant fundamentalism, or both. The philosophical comments inspired from Maritain were written more recently and reworked until now.


 Faith and reason

There is a widely spread state of mind pretending that faith and reason exclude each other and that being skeptical on everything is a fundamental scientific attitude. But, on the contrary, doubting everything is not at all scientific thinking. Science has to question everything. especially its postulates, but a true scientific mind does not doubt everything in the first place. I learned this from the works of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Then I read recently the following article by G. K. Chesterton.
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