What type of philosophy personalism isPersonalism is a philosophy, it is not merely an attitude. It is a philosophy but not a system…its central affirmation being the existence of free and creative persons, it introduces into the heart of its constructions a principle of unpredictability which excludes any desire for a definitive system. Nothing is more repugnant to it than the taste, so common today, for an apparatus of thought and action functioning like an automatic distributor of solutions and instructions; a barrier to research; an insurance against disquiet, ordeal and risk. Moreover, a movement of original reflection should not be too quick to tie up the sheaf of its findings.
Oct. 19, 2012, at 11:50am
Two weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning T.S. Eliot's "impersonal theory of poetry", according to which a good poem should contain "no trace" of the subjectivity and individuality of the poet who wrote it. Thanks to a reader, I have since found an essay by John Henry Newman that confirms and improves my thinking. "Literature," Newman writes,
… is essentially a personal work, it is … the expression of that one person's ideas and feelings, — ideas and feelings personal to himself, though others may have parallel and similar ones, — proper to himself in the same sense as his voice, his air, his countenance, his carriage, and his action, are personal. In other words, Literature expresses, …
Oct. 15, 2012, at 10:01pm
“What were you thinking?”
It’s finally happened: I’ve been a mother so long that I now address the All-Wise God like one of my kids, maybe a recalcitrant toddler or a teenager in the throes of a mood swing—someone who needs to be encouraged to think rationally. But this was the prayer that kept coming to mind when I heard the news that our friend Peter
had died suddenly and altogether unexpectedly.
I’m abandoning my futile attempts to try to write about something else this week. Luckily, Peter is relevant to personalism, if only because by age 23 he had already “become who he was,” as John Paul the Great urges everybody to do.
Everyone who knew him could have easily imagined him …continue reading
Oct. 12, 2012, at 12:57pm
October 12 is a big day for personalists of our stripe. It is the birthday of both Edith Stein (1891) and Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889).
To mark the happy occasion, a characterically personalist passage from each:
In order to understand the nature of the heart, we must realize that in many respects the heart is more the real self of the person than his intellect or will.
In the moral sphere it is the will which has the character of a last, valid word. Here the voice of our free spiritual center counts above all.
We find the true self primarily in the will. In many other domains, however, it is the heart which is the most intimate part of the person, the core, the real self, rather …
Oct. 11, 2012, at 9:37am
Today, the first day of the Year of Faith proclaimed by the Pope, is also the 50th anniversary of the convening of Vatican II. George Weigel has an article on the Council at National Review Online. He writes of how different it looks 50 years out from how it looked at the beginning, when Hans Küng was riding high and so much doctrine seemed obsolete.
Then, in yet another unexpected twist in the story-line, two men of genius, both men of the Council, arose to provide the Church with authoritative keys for properly interpreting the documents of Vatican II. That, history will likely show, was the great task taken on by the unexpected Polish pope, John Paul II (who as a hitherto-obscure …
Oct. 8, 2012, at 4:31pm
The other day, my son and I had the following conversation:
Mama: Gabe, why don’t you go play with the toys?
Gabe: Wah! Wah! You’re FORCING me to play with toys!
Mama: Well, what do you WANT to do?
Gabe: I WANT to play with toys, but you can’t make me!
There you have it: love of free will run amok. Gabe is four, but his line of reasoning is common in teenagers,
and even in much older people who really ought to know better.
The core of the Gabe Axiom is this:
The object of my choice doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is I who choose it.
The extremist version (which, unhappily, my son appears to espouse) goes like this:
I will accept even something good and desirable only if …
Oct. 7, 2012, at 11:21pm
Back in August, I posted a reflection on Boys Love, Not Just to Hit, But to Get Hit. Are Girls the Same? In the meantime, I came across an article on the sports page, citing Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, as having a similar attitude—inspired by the oath of the Navy SEALS.
Witten came back from a spleen injury to help lead the Cowboys over the World Champion Giants in the first game of the year. His toughness, dedication and grit were an inspiration to the team—much like the injured Willis Reed in game 7 of the NBA championship in 1970, beating my beloved Lakers. Witten said he was inspired by a meeting with the Navy SEALS in San Diego during training camp. He hung a section of …continue reading
Oct. 5, 2012, at 8:33pm
Last February, Steven Hayward wrote a provocative post in the Corner warning conservatives against the "semantic infiltration of 'values'". To use the term, he argued, is to concede vital territory to our opponents. The point is, “values” is a term derived from philosophical subjectivism (specifically from Nietzschean nihilism), and as such makes a huge rhetorical concession to moral relativism. Conservatives shouldn’t use it.
Needless to say (in this forum), I agree with Hayward's rejection of subjectivism and moral relativism. But, I think he's wrong to assume that the term itself involves us in any concessions to those evils. Further, I think conservatives make the mistake of …continue reading
Oct. 4, 2012, at 3:39pm
In my second year of graduate school at the University of Dallas, in the Fall of 1974, my father died. We’d been expecting it, but it still came as a shock. That’s the way death is. Even if you know it’s coming, it’s always an unexpected surprise. It just seems so wrong and out of place. (And, of course, it is not what God originally intended; it is unnatural, a result of sin.)
We’d been told the previous Christmas that it would be his last, that he had less than a year. I was home for the summer and he grew increasingly weak. My sister, who was engaged, arranged for her wedding in early September so that he could be a part of it. He was able to come to the church—the last time he …continue reading
Oct. 2, 2012, at 7:35pm
In a book I have been reading on (John Henry) Newman and his Contemporaries, I came across the following thought-provoking quote by T.S. Eliot:
Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.
The quote is open to several interpretations. In the book on Newman, it is meant to corroborate John Keble's beautiful idea, that poetry is
a kind of medicine divinely bestowed upon man, which gives healing relief to mental emotion, yet without detriment to modest reserve, and while giving …
Oct. 1, 2012, at 11:57pm
Last week, I bit off more than I could chew. It was like going to the All You Can Eat Chinese buffet
and then thinking you might still have some room for a Coney Island country omelette with saussage gravy. (The buffet is what I promised my kids if they’d let me translate Amor y Autoestima; the omelette is so dense that it has never been consumed in one sitting by anyone but my teenage son).
My subject: forming an accurate picture of the one true God, unclouded by human limitations. In a thousand words or less.
That was silly.
Rather than try to tie up every loose end, I’d like to address one in particular: the part where I said
You can only give what you possess—and we don’t possess …
Sep. 28, 2012, at 10:14pm
Maria and I had 5 kids who are now in their 20’s and 30’s (and another five now in heaven, lost to miscarriages). When our kids were little, about the age of our current 4 grandkids (10 and under), they wanted me to tell them stories before they went to sleep. This, of course, is a very common and clever way for little ones to eek out another 20-30 minutes of wakefulness before slumber becomes mandatory. Many possibilities are available for these bedtime stories. For instance, my son-in-law tells imaginary stories that build on each other with a thread of connection each night. However, by happenstance, one night I stumbled upon a wonderful topic for children’s stories: things I had …continue reading
Sep. 27, 2012, at 11:10pm
judg[ing] people by our own reactions, fears and desires. We do not see them as separate people who possess their own souls and live their own lives, but as part of ourselves and our lives….we attribute to them motives which we would have in the same circumstances.
People who walk around imagining they’re privy to the inmost depths of other people’s souls are hard to live with, and conflicts with them are difficult to resolve.
Sep. 25, 2012, at 11:38am
I do think that in this on-going conversation we should try to imagine our way into the truth implied in both Eph. 5: 21 (be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ) and Eph. 5: 22 (wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord). We all agree that this does not involve literally giving orders and simply expecting obedience, which would quite evidently violate Casti Connubii as well as the teaching of JPII. Thus, whatever “headship” means—the man as the head of the family, the woman as the heart, each with their own responsibilities and priorities—it must be within the mutual subjection to Christ. Still, if man and woman are truly complementary and thus not merely the …continue reading
Sep. 24, 2012, at 11:03am
A chance to quibble with Roger Kimball doesn't come along every day of the week, so I'm going to grab it while I can. I found it on p.7 of his new book, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in the Age of Amnesia. This paragraph:
What a relativist really believes (or believes he believes) is that 1) there is no such thing as value (as distinct from mere preference) and 2) there is no such thing as truth. The word "absolute" is merely an emollient, a verbal sedative intended to forestall unhappiness. What after all is the difference between saying "There is no such thing as absolute truth" and saying "There is no such thing as truth"? Take your time.
I get what he means and I …continue reading
Sep. 22, 2012, at 1:42pm
I've been preoccupied for the last couple of days with a lively discussion over at Ricochet about a talk by Fr. Barron that a member there linked. I clicked and listened, expecting to like it. I don't know very much about Fr. Barron, but practically everyone I know admires him, so I was ready to too. I'd seen a few of his You Tube clips, which I found mostly sound and engaging, if not particularly deep. He's plainly a thoughtful, sincere, orthodox Catholic priest with a gift for apologetics and a sympathetic openness to contemporary culture—which is ideal for the New Evangelization. I was happy when I heard he'd been named Rector of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.
But I thought this …continue reading
Sep. 18, 2012, at 9:52pm
The other day, my husband and I were taking a walk. We looked up and saw this:
Here are some questions we didn’t ask:
No, we ruled coincidence out. In fact, there were three separate things the letters told us.
Sep. 18, 2012, at 9:41am
Newsweek is featuring an article by the admirable Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose books Infidel and The Caged Virgin impressed me deeply. Since reading them, I've been hoping to do an in-depth study comparing and contrasting Islamic and Christian sexual morality.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali was raised as a devout, fundamentalist Muslim in Somalia, Saudia Arabia, Ethiopia,and Kenya. When she was a teenager she came across western books, including Jane Austen and Danielle Steel, that awakened in her heart a desire for love. When her father arranged for her to marry a man she didn't know and didn't care for, she gathered the courage to flee to Holland. While there, she began working as a translator among …continue reading
Sep. 14, 2012, at 9:36pm
God be with him. And God bless him for his fearlessness!
I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of men. ... Looking beyond your country, I also come symbolically to all the countries of the Middle East as a pilgrim of peace, as a friend of God and as a friend of all the inhabitants of all the countries of the region, whatever their origins and beliefs. ... Your joys and sorrows are constantly present in the Pope's prayers and I ask God to accompany you and to comfort you. Let me assure you that I pray especially for the many people who suffer in this region. The statue of St. Maron reminds me of what you live and endure.
Sep. 14, 2012, at 8:24pm
My copy came in the mail today. As Anthony knows, I tend to be a rather severe critic of other people's dating theories, so I picked this up with some trepidation. I'd so hate not to be able to endorse something by a friend!
So I'm very happy to be able to report: so far so good. The Forward, by Lino Rulli, is warm and funny and teasing. Proof positive that Anthony can't possibly be guilty of taking himself too seriously (a common failing of authors of advice books).
Then, on page 2, he neatly explains a core feature of …continue reading