Society and discordAll the members of human society stand in need of each other’s assistance, and are likewise exposed to mutual injuries. Where the necessary assistance is reciprocally afforded from love, from gratitude, from friendship, and esteem, the society flourishes and is happy…Society, however cannot subsist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another. The moment that injury begins, the moment that mutual resentment and animosity take place, all the bands of it are broke asunder, and the different members of which it consisted are, as it were, dissipated and scattered abroad by the violence and opposition of their discordant affections.
Theory of Moral Sentiments
Dec. 28, 2011, at 5:01pm
In his great work Homo Viator, Gabriel Marcel reflects on the problem of despair, the threat of meaninglessness and absurdity, and the stance of defiance against reality as we find it (and whomever is responsible for it). He discusses the philosophy of the atheistic absurdist Albert Camus in a chapter entitled “The Refusal of Salvation and the Exaltation of the Man of Absurdity.”
Marcel regards this kind of absurdist approach not so much as a real philosophy, or a solid position that can actually be defended, but rather as a “contagion” and an “infiltration by which evil can reach our very foundations.” But, if there are no rational foundations to such an attitude, how does …continue reading
Dec. 28, 2011, at 7:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the fourth of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
We know how dangerous it is to think of human beings in terms of general types or patterns. We think of someone as a typical Serb, a typical woman, a typical adolescent. If we think that this is all there is to them, that there is nothing else of significance about them besides being a typical this or that, then we lose sight of them as persons. We have only to consider the point of view of people who are …continue reading
Dec. 27, 2011, at 9:47am
Fr. Ian Ker, author of the definitive biography of Cardinal Newman, is out with one of G.K. Chesterton. John J. Miller has an audio interview with Fr. Ker at the Corner today. It's difficult to hear, but worthwhile if you turn the volume all the way up and concentrate.
Dec. 26, 2011, at 12:04pm
The experience of life, of death, of time, of celebration—e.g., Christmas—is decidedly different for the religious man compared to the secular man. Mircea Eliade, in his book The Sacred and the Profane, offers four points of difference here (pp. 202-206).
The religious man believes that there is an absolute reality, the sacred, transcending but manifesting itself in this world and making it real. Second, he not only believes that life has a sacred origin but also that persons can only be fulfilled to the extent that they are genuinely religious, i.e., in contact with the sacred. Third, he believes that the history of this world and of his own life involves the history of …continue reading
Dec. 26, 2011, at 7:33am
The Pope's Christmas message is a gift for the Church and the world. As we sense evil and disaster impending, he reminds us that "God's arm is not too short to save," and that it was in order to do just that that He came into the world.
Veni ad salvandum nos! Come to save us! This is the cry raised by men and women in every age, who sense that by themselves they cannot prevail over difficulties and dangers. They need to put their hands in a greater and stronger hand, a hand which reaches out to them from on high. Dear brothers and sisters, this hand is Christ, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. He is the hand that God extends to humanity, to draw us out of the mire of sin and to set …
Dec. 25, 2011, at 8:45pm
The following is taken from the Magnificat meditation for Christmas Eve. It was written by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, now Brother Simeon, a Cistercian monk in Spencer, MA. It fits in with Dr. Healy's post below.
The eternal Gob becomes what he most loves on earth—a child. But this is no mere sweet sentimentality on God's part: If he loves the childlike it is because they are empty enough to receive what he wants to give, a mystery Guerric of Igny expounds:
"If in the depths of your soul you were to keep a quiet silence, the all-powerful Word would flow from the Father's throne secretly into you. Happy then is the person who has so fled the world's tumult, who has so withdrawn into the …
Dec. 23, 2011, at 8:15pm
Several days ago I began compiling a list of links for Christmas. I wasn't able to finish it. But, with a few days left to contemplate and celebrate, here are a few items I'd gathered so far:
Newman sermon, Religious Joy.
Roger Kaplan on The Weapons of the Spirit, at the American Spectator.
T.S. Eliot reading The Long Journey of the Magi (hat tip, Kris McLaughlin)
The Alistair Sim version of the classic Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol.
It's a Wonderful Life. I highly recommend reading this article before watching it again. It throws new light on the film's message, which is not what it's often taken for. It's not romantic optimism: life is wonderful, no matter what happens to you. …continue reading
Dec. 21, 2011, at 1:12pm
Be still, and know that I am God.--Ps. 46:10
But Yahweh is in His holy temple, let the whole earth be silent before Him. –Hab. 2:2
The Lamb then broke the seventh seal, and there was silence in heaven. –Apoc. 8:1
Silence before the Lord Yahweh! –Zeph. 1:7
When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens from the royal throne, leaped your all-powerful Word. –Wis. 18:14-15
We are often reminded during the holiday season to keep Christ in Christmas. This, of course, is a noble aim. However, it can never be achieved via billboards, advertisements, and public announcements, which themselves just contribute to the clutter …continue reading
Dec. 21, 2011, at 7:00am
Editor’s note: What follows is the third of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
St. Augustine is famous for warning us not to lose ourselves in the world outside and for admonishing us to turn within, to enter into the "inner man." He explores the interiority of man like no one before him did. Now Pope John Paul II is likewise fascinated with the interiority of persons. He announces one of the great themes of his personalist philosophy when he writes: "We can say that the person as a …continue reading
Dec. 20, 2011, at 10:01am
I have been asked to offer some thoughts on Christmas music, while not failing to bring in the distinctive perspective of personalism. This is a joyful task for me, since there is hardly anything I love more than to speak about music, which has accompanied me through life, giving me both expressible nourishment and solace. Truly, one can speak of the "consolation of music."
The relation between composer & performer
I imagine that for many readers, this post would have greatest value if any of the recommendations I make can still be acquired before Christmas, or at least during the season of the Christmas. This will stretch me, since many particularly precious works, and performances …continue reading
Dec. 18, 2011, at 10:02am
The world has lost one of its great moral heroes and deep thinkers. May he rest in peace, and find in eternity what he most sought on earth: Life in the Truth.
It will be easy to find news stories about Havel's remarkable legacy in the coming days. Here I just want to draw attention to the following passage from his essay, "Politics and Conscience." It is a good one to have in mind during the year ahead.
It is becoming evident...that a single, seemingly powerless person who dares to cry out the word of truth and to stand behind it with all his person and all his life, ready to pay a high price, has...greater power...than do thousands of anonymous voters... It is becoming evident that …
Dec. 17, 2011, at 4:04pm
Jules is currently reading a magisterial biography of the great German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Knowing that I'm ever on the lookout for illuminating quotations about love and marriage, this morning he sent me a link to Bonhoeffer's Wedding Sermon, written for a young couple from a prison cell in 1943.
Its personalist emphases are striking and powerful. Note how the following passage identifies freedom, responsibility and self-determination (lived out in a dynamic moral sphere of possibilities and risks) as hallmarks of human dignity:
With the ‘Yes’ that they have said to each other, they have by their free choice given a new direction to their lives; …
Dec. 17, 2011, at 8:17am
A friend at Ricochet shared a link to Peter Hitchens' public response to the death of his famous, militant atheist brother, Christopher, yesterday. It's a beautiful and moving tribute from someone with a philosophical habit of mind.
Much of civilisation rests on the proper response to death, simple unalloyed kindness, the desire to show sympathy for irrecoverable loss, the understanding that a unique and irreplaceable something has been lost to us. If we ceased to care, we wouldn’t be properly human.
The relationship between the two was notoriously fraught with tension. But Peter's admiration for his brother and his grief over the loss is real and palpable.
Here’s a thing I will say …
Dec. 16, 2011, at 10:43am
Great good news: Today the Vatican announced that Hildegard of Bingen will be canonized and named Doctor of the Church! Hear more here. I look forward to getting to know her better.
If anyone knows of a Hildegard scholar whom we might invite to teach us all more, do let us know.
Hat tip: Barbara Nicolosi.
Dec. 14, 2011, at 6:59am
Editor’s note: What follows is the second of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of timeless truths.
Back when he was still Archbishop of Cracow, Pope John Paul II once wrote to his friend, the great theologian Henri de Lubac: "I devote my very rare free moments to a work that is close to my heart and is devoted to the metaphysical sense and mystery of the person. The evil of our times consists in the first place in a kind of degradation, indeed in a pulverization, of the fundamental uniqueness of each human …continue reading
Dec. 12, 2011, at 9:30pm
The other day we visited Alice von Hildebrand at her apartment in New Rochelle, NY, where she has lived for more than 40 years. Below is an audio clip of her speaking of an article she's been writing on the problem of boredom in modern society. "Gogi" is a nickname for her husband, Dietrich von Hildebrand. (The photo doesn't do her justice, but I wanted you to be able to picture her as you listen to her voice.)
Alice von Hildebrand boredom: click here to listen
We'll post more soon at the member feed. (Hope you'll join us there!)
Dec. 12, 2011, at 10:09am
Over the weekend I expressed to a friend how much I love the re-introduction of "consubstantial" in the creed. Not that I had any difficulties with the previous translation. "One in being with" seems to me about as clear and direct as can be. Still, I like the change, and I think my liking has a lot to do with some passages from Newman's Grammar of Assent that I read and pondered many times while writing my master's thesis.
In the first of these, Newman deals with the charge, also heard today, that the term "consubstantial" is needlessly abstruse and likely to result only in unending, fruitless controversy. Newman shows how this objection has a long history in the Church and also how it …continue reading
Dec. 9, 2011, at 8:41am
An article by Jeffrey Lord in the American Spectator on the demonizing of conservatives reminds us of these lines from William F. Buckley's movement-launching book, God and Man at Yale, written when he was only 25 years old.
I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.
He is right, with one important caveat. The answer to collectivism isn't really individualism, but rather personalism. Why? Alice von Hildebrand frequently reminds us of a saying of her husband's: "The truth doesn't lie between two errors, but above …continue reading
Dec. 7, 2011, at 11:10am
Editor’s note: What follows is the first of a 10 part series on the personalist philosophy of Pope John Paul II written some years ago for Lay Witness Magazine. We asked for and received permission to re-publish the series here, to give fresh occasion for discussion of the issues at the center of our mission.
We don't have to listen to Pope John Paul II for long before noticing his fascination with the human person. We are struck by how often and how passionately he speaks about the dignity of the person. He has become a kind of prophet of personal dignity, witnessing to it before the conscience of mankind like no other world leader, indeed, like no previous pope. In fact, this …continue reading
Dec. 6, 2011, at 7:11pm
Searching for personalist gems to add to our quotation rotation, I've been looking through my copy of Raissa Maritain's Journal. This entry (written in 1918) struck a chord, particularly in terms of the person's essential orientation toward others:
21st April, — To Jacques: "Yesterday I had a good morning. Once again when I recollect myself, I again find the same simple demands of God: gentleness, humility, charity, interior simplicity; nothing else is asked of me. And suddenly I saw clearly why these virtues are demanded, because through them the soul becomes habitable for God and for one's neighbour in an intimate and permanent way. They make a pleasant cell of it. Hardness and pride repel, complexity disquiets. But humility and gentleness welcome, and simplicity reassures. These 'passive' virtues have an eminently social character."