Archives for posts with tag: Theology

Civilization Is A Conversation

The popular philosopher Stefan Molyneux (https://freedomainradio.com) often reminds his audience that “civilization is a conversation. ” I read about the same idea before in a blog article by John C. Wright (www.scifiwright.com) about the Great Books. A philosopher himself, as well as a novelist, Mr Wright is an alumnus of St. John’s College of liberal arts. I gather the school’s Great Books program was inspired from the writings of philosopher Mortimer Adler on “The Great Conversation” and his editing work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books series.

According to classical philosophers and other classical writers who had to know philosophy as a general foundation for their field, philosophy and science, literature and arts, civilization in a word, is a great conversation, and philosophy is its common language. It began to spread from Greece some six centuries before Christ.

Metaphysics, or philosophy properly so called, is the conversation about the fundamentals of everything that is or may be, especially the “why”, the causes. The “how” is more particularly the domain of empirical sciences and mathematics.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that examines the use of practical reason, or moral conscience. Why is there a sense of right and wrong? Why is conscience attracted to the good and repulsed by evil? Why is happiness connected to the good? These are some of the main questions of moral philosophy.

The moral questions are of course paramount also to religion and theology. Philosophy is the greatest achievement of the human mind unaided by faith, since it derives its information from the senses, external and internal. But the self-revelation of God being at the same time the revelation of man to himself (e. g. John 2:25), the Judaeo-Christian revelation is a very reliable source of information for philosophy, particularly for natural theology (or theodicy) and ethics.

Christian theologians, philosophers, and authors of literary or scientific writings were the ones who kept the conversation ongoing and timeless. It is timeless because philosophia perennis, the common philosophy of humanity (as philosopher Jacques Maritain would say), known also as Aristotelian-Thomism, or classical theist philosophy, is true in all essentials and those essentials are not subject to time. True philosophy is therefore capable of organic, continuous development upon this perennial basis.

Up to the 1960s, every generation educated by learned masters had access to the great works of the past and to a common philosophical framework. Scholars and writers could thus contribute to build on and transmit the intellectual and moral treasure of civilization, the treasure of human wisdom.

 

Conversation Slows Down

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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)

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

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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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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