Centrality of sexSex occupies a central position in the personality. It represents a factor in human nature which essentially seeks to play decisive part in a man’s life. Sex can indeed keep silence, but when it speaks it is no mere obiter dictum, but a voice from the depths, the utterance of something central and of the utmost significance. In and with sex, man, in a special sense, gives himself.
Dietrich von Hildebrand
In Defense of Purity
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 …
Dec. 6, 2011, at 2:33pm
Tebow’s open display of faith offends many on the left because, unlike so many athletes who start press conferences with “First, I just want to thank God” for whatever it is that they have just accomplished, Tebow actually means it. And it drives many on the left — especially the sports media, which is rife with liberals — batty.
Dec. 1, 2011, at 10:04pm
The last chapter of the text for tomorrow's reading circle gathering is about the spirit of communion in the Liturgy. In it, von Hildebrand explains how all genuine values have a twofold unifying power: they unify the individual person from within (interior recollection) and they unify a collection of persons into a genuine communion.
It so happens that Anthony Esolen just published a piece in which this theme of the relation between objective values and interpersonal communion is also central. Like von Hildebrand, Esolen contrasts genuine communion sustained by value with its counterfeit rooted in mere pleasure:
Here we need not consider the sadness at the heart of pleasure seeking—the …
Dec. 1, 2011, at 9:27am
Didion complains that Woody Allen is stuck in the “fairly recent” notion of finding or making or inhabiting the self, as a central obsession. She’s right that it’s recent: those who trace it back to Augustine are exaggerating, a little. But surely the literature of “recent” centuries is richer for the works of people who’ve made this same faux pas. It’s what modern narrative art is mostly about, and Didion is sophomoric (“adolescent?”) in complaining that Woody Allen hasn’t managed to rehabilitate …
Nov. 30, 2011, at 11:10am
This Friday evening we will host the first of our First Friday Reading Circle for Personalist Project members. We'll be discussing the first four chapters of Dietrich von Hildebrand's classic, Liturgy and Peronality. Those who live in the area are welcome to join us at our home. Those who can't make it in person can listen to the podcast of Jules' introductory remarks, which we'll post at the member center over the weekend. There, too, you can comment or raise questions on what you read and hear.continue reading
Nov. 28, 2011, at 9:55am
When Joe Paterno was fired and the streets of the school's town erupted in outrage, my immediate reaction was: "What is the matter with those students?!"
Mary Graw Leary offers some answers over at the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse.
She thinks the main reason is the widespread sexualization of children in our culture. I think that's the main reason the abuse of children is so wretchedly commonplace. But the main reason the Penn Students responded as they did, is, I suspect, something different. I suspect it has to do with basic moral immaturity and ego-centrism (likewise lamentably widespread in our culture). They view Paterno according to what he means to them. They like …continue reading
Nov. 27, 2011, at 4:03pm
I find in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books a review of a book titled Family Politics: The Idea of Marriage in Modern Political Thought, by Scott Yenor. According to the review, it is "a philosophic reflection on the troubles of the modern family"—a critique of the post-Enlightenment view of marriage in light of John Paul II's teachings on the subject.
Being an intuitive rather than a methodical thinker, I am, I fear, rather prone to snap judgments. Nor is it fair to evaluate a book by a single review. But, with those caveats in mind, let me say that this review inclines me to think I won't much care for the book. I suspect it of being marred by two bad tendencies often …continue reading
Nov. 24, 2011, at 8:06am
Black Friday has been encroaching on Thanksgiving Thursday for many years now, and this year, it seems, will be no different. There are some conflicting reports about the exact opening hours of various retail chains, but the trend is clear. According to one article
Sears will be open on Thanksgiving morning, while Toys 'R' Us will open its doors at 10 pm Thursday, its earliest Black Friday opening ever. Walmart's jumbo-sized supercenters won't close at all.
Many Americans are not happy with this trend, but they seem powerless to stop it. Their objections and petitions are easily brushed aside by an appeal to what consumers want. "Our guests," says a Target representative, as if it is all …continue reading
Nov. 20, 2011, at 10:53am
"Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted up you ancient doors, that the King of Glory May come in!"
This being, in the Catholic Church, the great Solemnity of Christ the King, a couple of quick reflections—or fragments of reflections, since I am writing on the fly—on its implications for personhood.
The first is a question: Apart from the fact that we are told in Scripture "we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God," can we establish through philosophical reflection that the very concept of personhood entails royalty?
The second is about justice. I love this verse in Isaiah: "Say to those whose hearts are frightened: fear not, here is your God. …continue reading
Nov. 17, 2011, at 8:29am
On Tuesday Jules and I drove in to New York City for a Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project event. It featured a talk by his widow, Alice, on his life-long fight against relativism: "Relativism in the intellectual sphere and relativism in the moral sphere."
She spoke of her husband's dramatic and often very difficult life. "When I met him, he was a refugee. He had lost everything, because of his fight against Naziism, and yet, he radiated joy." His joy came from his faith, and his total confidence that "truth would win in the end."
She contrasted this joy with the kind of shallow optimism that brushes problems aside, that doesn't take evil seriously, that imagines that everything's …continue reading