Not enough to define man as individual of the speciesBut it is not enough to define a man as an individual of the species Homo (or even Homo sapiens). The term ‘person’ has been coined to signify that a man cannot be wholly contained within the concept ‘individual member of the species’, but that there is something more to him, a particular richness and perfection in the manner of his being, which can only be brought out by the use of the word ‘person’…Speaking figuratively, we can say that the person as a subject is distinguished from even the most advanced animals by a specific inner self, an inner life, characteristic only of persons…Inner life means spiritual life. It revolves around truth and goodness.
Love and Responsibility
Aug. 7 at 2:28pm
A couple of recent articles about wrongdoing and forgiveness together with some conversations, both in person and online, have revived my ever-ready ruminating on this subject.
I keep being surprised and disturbed and taken aback by how much basic misunderstanding there is out there, even among otherwise mature and thoughtful Christians.
Let's take a case: person A (we'll call her Ann) is offended by person B (we'll call him Bob.)
Ann says to Bob, "That offended me." And Bob responds, "I certainly didn't mean any offense!"
For many (especially many offenders), this should be the end of the matter. He hadn't meant to offend; time for her to forgive and move on.
But, notice that the real …continue reading
Aug. 4 at 10:51pm
I’m still editing Foundations of Management, that book by Juan Antonio Perez Lopez, my husband’s late mentor. I continue to be happily surprised at how personalist-friendly it is. The book is lengthy and systematic, but this post will be neither: just a little something to whet the appetite.
On the Limits of Coercive Power
Juan Antonio distinguishes between power and authority. Power in business organizations is generally measured in terms of money: if you have enough of it to offer—or sufficient power to take enough of it away—you can force anyone to do anything, can’t you? Whether it functions as a carrot or a stick. It’s the “universal …
Aug. 4 at 10:49am
Having heard somewhere that Dietrich von Hildebrand had "discovered" Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning and founder of Logotherapy, I asked Alice von Hildebrand to tell me the story the other day.
Some of her details are off. For instance, according to The Victor Frankl Institute website, he was in a concentration camp for 3, not 7 years. But the gist is true and touching.
N.B. "Gogo" was von Hildebrand's nickname.
Von Hildebrand's Wikipedia page mentions the journal in which he published Frankl's essay:
Aug. 2 at 12:09pm
I've noticed in recent years that my favorite thinkers-about-love regularly refer to "the gaze of love." I have immediately in mind Dietrich von HIldebrand, Karol Wojtyla, Jean Vanier, and Roger Scruton. Plato, of course, called the eyes "the windows to the soul." It is in and through the eyes of someone who loves us that we feel and experience ourselves as loved, as valuable, and hence discover our reality as personal selves.
Maria Fedoryka discusses the point in the talks she gave for us a few years back. When parents gaze with love into the face of their tiny child, they are, in a profound sense, communicating to that child her very being, her sense of self: "You are good; you are …continue reading
Jul. 30 at 10:13am
One of my ongoing mental preoccupations is the problem of community. How do we establish it without getting it wrong? What are the sound principles of "intentional" communal living? By "intentional" I mean a kind of communal life that is deliberately adopted and cultivated, as opposed to what occurs spontaneously just from the fact of our living in society.
I've been pondering it since my undergraduate days, when my discovery of philosophy coincided with the imploding of the covenant communities that had been a major influence, for both good and bad, in the spirituality at my alma mater.
At Steubenville I had learned "how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity." Never …continue reading
Jul. 28 at 11:07am
No single person has done more to shape our understanding of Christian personalism than our former professor, John F. Crosby. Last week he and his wife, Pia, visited us in New Hampshire, and he kindly agreed to sit down with me for a recorded conversation about personalism and phenomenology, von Hildebrand, Newman and Wojtyla.
One of the questions I asked had to do with von Hildebrand and Vatican II. Von Hildebrand is well-known for his passionate opposition to the liturgical abuses that followed in the wake of the Council. Less well-known is his profound influence on the substance of its teachings.
Click here to hear the recording of his answer to that question.
(Sorry about our dog whining in the background!)
Members can listen to the full interview at the Member Feed.
Pia and John Crosby sitting at our kitchen table with Alice von Hildebrand.
Jul. 25 at 9:34pm
Business management is not my thing. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal arts type who much prefers words to numbers.
Business lit traffics in words, of course, but it’s so often saturated with the kind of deadly prose you produce when you’re writing for journals that exist to publish articles by people who have to publish there or they won’t gain tenure. They’re read by people in pursuit of tenure and, possibly, by people trying to deny other people tenure. Are they ever read voluntarily, for pleasure? I doubt it.
So it’s a breath of fresh air to discover Juan Antonio Perez Lopez, whose book, Foundations of Management, I’ve been …continue reading
Jul. 23 at 11:48am
Jul. 22 at 10:27am
Alice von Hildebrand is with us for the summer, as usual. She is busy putting the finishing touches on the story of her years of teaching at Hunter City College of New York, soon to be published under the title, Memoirs of a Happy Failure. The manuscript includes several photographs. One in particular stood out.
It's not just that I haven't seen many pictures of her and her husband together; it's that the gesture is so exceptionally eloquent and moving.
A few days after I noticed this, she fowarded to me a copy of the conversion story of one of her former students, Stephanie Block.* Here is part of it.
One semester turned into another and fascinated, I took every course Alice Jourdain …
Jul. 20 at 3:21pm
Katie addressed immigration just the other day, and I wrote about it here last year. There’s plenty more to say, though. So much, in fact, that it’s worth mentioning some things I won’t be addressing here:
At least I’ll try to avoid both. I’m certainly not qualified to do either. What I would like is to identify a few avoidable impediments to the conversation.
Usually one side talks about illegal aliens (or, less …continue reading
Jul. 15 at 11:42am
A few months ago I read that the growing and intractable problem of an ancient culture of thievery among Roma immigrants had induced a French politician to call for their expulsion. The Catholic Church had condemned the call as racist and inhumane.
"Okay," I thought. "But what about the thievery?" It bothered me that the Church would condemn a politician's proposed solution without proposing a practical alternative. Are French citizens supposed to just roll over and let themselves be robbed?continue reading
Jul. 13 at 9:59pm
We were out of town this week, so we got to see how the other half lives—that is, people who aren't fortunate enough to belong to our home parish.
At first, we enjoyed the variety. One priest preached about how great it is to be 70, because you can finally say whatever you like: what do you have to lose? It was a solid homily, even if it did include more about Lois Lerner and the IRS than I was expecting.
Then, the next day, there was the much more ancient priest, the one we’re always startled but happy to see still alive and kicking each year, who radiates a really glorious indifference to conventional wisdom. Speaking about people who try to …continue reading
Jul. 12 at 4:38pm
July 11 is the Feast of St. Benedict, whose deservedly famous Rule is the basis of virtually all rules in all monastic orders to this day. I first learned about it from Alice von Hildebrand, who drew my attention to the affinity between Benedictine spirituality and the phenomenological method of philosophy her husband had espoused. The prologue to the Rule begins like this:
Listen carefully, my child,
to your master's precepts,
and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20)
It's the emphasis on listening that stands out, and then, a listening of the heart. Philosophy is all too often a construction of the mind. Clever thinkers elaborate theories. The aim of phenomenolgy, as Husserl …continue reading
Jul. 11 at 1:14pm
These days, for my insomnia, I'm listening to Walter Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. I've just come across Franklin's list of "conversational sins". It's good. (I'm afraid I've committed them all.)
1. Talking overmuch
2. Seeming uninterested
3. Speaking too much about your own life
4. Prying for personal secrets
5. Telling long and pointless stories
6. Contradicting or disputing someone directly
7. Ridiculing or railing against things, except in small, witty doses
8. Spreading scandal
Notice how beautifully the list coheres with personaliism. Genunine interpersonal communion, of which conversation is a major aspect, involves a transcendence of the ego, and an attention to, …continue reading
Jul. 7 at 8:49am
Yesterday I got an email from a new member who has been following our modesty discussions with great interest. He said he would like to host a conversation with local friends and colleagues on the subject and wanted to know whether I had readings to recommend.
I didn't, really. I mean, I've read countless articles of varying quality on the objectification of women and the value of modesty. Member Rhett pasted a passage from The Privilege of Being a Woman, a book far superior to most, in terms of linking modesty to the beauty, dignity and high spiritual calling of femininity. Years ago, I read with great admiration Wendy Shallit's book A Return to Modesty. If I remember rightly, she was a …continue reading
Jul. 3 at 11:59pm
Last week, we took a look at the modesty wars. We identified a false alternative: either you fall into indifferentism on the subject or you’re obliged to go around trying (vainly and illicitly) to probe the intentions of other people’s hearts. There's got to be a better way.
And there is. Katie and others have been urging that we take seriously the harm done by a fixation on externals, a tendency to see a woman as less a person than an occasion of sin. To rebel against this isn’t a flight into over-abstraction. Nor is it tantamount to “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” How to strike the right balance in everyday decisions is still under discussion, especially among those of us raising …continue reading
Jul. 1 at 11:52am
What does it mean to love?
Well-catechized Catholics are typically ready with an answer to this question. "To love means to will and do the good." Travel a mile in Catholic circles, and every two or three minutes you will come across an article or talk or homily passionately proclaiming that "love isn't a feeling, it's an action."
I suppose I'm revealing something intimate about myself when I say I hate this. I hate it so much that hearing it makes me break out in spiritual hives. To refrain from getting mad at the one saying it, I have to quick remind myself: "He doesn't know any better; this is what everyone is taught. And—remember!— there's an important sense in which it's perfectly …continue reading
Jun. 26 at 1:48am
The modesty wars have been raging so long already that now we’re in the throes of a backlash against a backlash against a backlash (as Simcha Fisher put it the other day).
First came a tendency, more Puritan than Catholic, to devise dress codes that micromanaged every centimeter of flesh from collarbone and kneecap, at least. They focused everybody’s attention firmly on the outside of the cup, the whited part of the sepulchre.
This fomented phariseeism, some objected, and made womanhood itself seem suspect and dirty.
Then came the reaction: people got fed up with the holier-than-thou-ness of it all and refused to humor the micromanagers of appearance any longer. …continue reading
Jun. 24 at 10:55am
A few years ago I spent some Lenten days alone at our summer house, on retreat and cleaning out the attic. I found there boxes of letters and diaries from my youth. (I was a prolific letter-writer in those pre-email days.) Reading through them filled me with melancholy. I didn't really like the person I found there—so much self-absorption and sentimentality!—but I sympathized with her. She was sincere in her unreality, poor thing. I accepted that she was me, and that I'd had a lot to learn in the years since. I thanked God for all He has taught me, in His goodness and mercy. He had meted out reality in a measure I could manage, surrounding me all the while with love and friendship and …continue reading
Jun. 24 at 10:43am
My search for a Newman quote this morning brought me to his Wikipedia page and this arresting description of him by James Froude (brother of Hurrell Froude, the close friend and companion of Newman's youth, who first opened Newman to Catholicism and helped him launch the Oxford Movement.)
Newman's face was "remarkably like that of Julius Caesar.... I have often thought of the resemblance, and believed that it extended to the temperament. In both there was an original force of character which refused to be moulded by circumstances, which was to make its own way, and become a power in the world; a clearness of intellectual perception, a disdain for conventionalities, a temper imperious and …