John Paul on the patient as person[While John Paul II was in the hopital recovering from the attempt on his life, he explained to his doctors] how the patient, in danger of losing his subjectivity, had to fight constantly to regain it and once more become "the subject of his illness" instead of simply remaining "the object of treatment." He pointed out that the doctors are certainly not responsible for this state of affairs... but that they ought to be aware of the danger and of the efforts which the patient is obliged to make to regain control of himself. This problem of the transformation of the individual into a thing occurs everywhere in the realm of social relations. According to John Paul II it is one of the biggest problems of philosophy – and one of the most serious problems in the modern world.
Be Not Afraid
Mar. 10, 2010, at 11:01pm
The only part of the story about the chief exorcist’s claims that Satan is at work in the Vatican (including among Cardinals and Bishops) I find impossible to believe is this comment from another Roman exorcist repudiating the charge:
“Cardinals might be better or worse, but all have upright intentions and seek the glory of God,” he said.”
Mar. 9, 2010, at 12:34pm
I was a supporter of the Iraq invasion at the time. But a comment by Daniel Pipes in the Corner this morning expresses well my worries now.
“It takes a cynical mind not to share in the achievement of Iraq’s national elections.” So writes the Wall Street Journal editorial board today. I’m no cynic, but my mood about Iraq could variously be described as depressed, despairing, despondent, dejected, pessimistic, melancholic, and gloomy.
That’s because the Iraqi regime (along with those of Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority) is a kept institution that cannot survive without constant American support. As long as Washington pumps money and sacrifices lives to maintain the Baghdad government, the latter can hobble along. Remove those props and Iranian-backed Islamists soon take over.
Tehran has aspired to seize effective control of Iraq since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. With many levers at hand, from mosques to schools to militias to politicians, the Iranian despots are well placed to inherit the country.
It does no good to remove a tyrant militarily if the moral conditions that allowed his rise to power remain in force on the ground. We would have done much better, I now think, to support internal resistance.
Mar. 7, 2010, at 2:52pm
Speaking of fanaticism and intimidation in religion, now this.
Al-Qaida’s American-born spokesman on Sunday called on Muslims serving in the U.S. armed forces to emulate the Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood…
“Nidal Hasan is a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role-model who has opened a door, lit a path and shown the way forward for every Muslim who finds himself among the unbelievers,” Gadahn said.
In the latest video, Gadahn said those planning attacks did not need to use only firearms like Hasan, but could use other weapons. “As the blessed operations of September 11th showed, a little imagination and planning and a limited budget can turn almost anything into a deadly, effective and convenient weapon.”
Gadahn said fighters should target mass transportation systems in the West and also wreak havoc “by killing or capturing people in government, industry and the media.”
Mar. 7, 2010, at 1:58pm
Several years ago Jules and I heard Cardinal Schönborn give a lecture about the then newly released Catechism of the Catholic Church. Afterwards, someone in the audience asked the Cardinal what the Church was going to do about dissenting theologians and catechists. He answered with moving humility that he himself, who had headed the group that had authored the catechism, had been unable to stop the teaching of heterodoxy in his own diocese of Vienna. Then he told us that he had recently found himself sitting beside a highly-placed Muslim cleric on an airplane who had asked a similar question: Why did the Church not crack down on dissent within its ranks? His response was to point to the mystery of freedom in the Christian vision.
Yesterday I spoke with a friend who had just run into a friend of hers and discovered that he had left the Church months ago. She was full of sorrow for him and remorse that she had not even known—had done nothing to reach out to him. She prayed with him on the spot and recommitted herself to being a better friend from here on out.
When Ayaan Hirsi Ali was asked whether she was concerned about the influence of fundamentalist Christians in our society, she said (paraphrasing from memory), “No. When Christians ask me if I’m a believer and I say, ‘no’, they don’t try to kill me; they say they’ll pray for me.”
After posting the entry below, I found (by way of the Drudge Report) another article, this one in the New York Times, on Scientology and its defectors. It featured a young couple who had been raised in Scientology, who had been true believers and had dedicated themselves to working for it for years. Over time, witnessing the way staff were treated, and sensing the whole thing was a giant sham, they grew disillusioned and wanted to leave. But,
They could not just up and go. For one, they said, the church had taken their passports. But even more important, they knew that if they left the Sea Org without going through the church’s official exit process, they would be declared “suppressive persons” — antisocial enemies of Scientology. They would lose the possibility of living for eternity. Their parents, siblings and friends who are Scientologists would have to disconnect completely from them, or risk being declared suppressive themselves.
“You’re in fear,” Mr. Collbran said. “You’re so into it, it’s everything you know: your family, your eternity.”
I am appreciating more and more the place of freedom in personal life, and the wrong of all forms of coercion and intimidation in religion. And I am thanking God for the radical difference on that score between Christianity and other faiths.
UPDATE: Later in the NYT article, a current spokesman for the church of Scientology defends their practice of shunning apostates this way:
Mr. Davis, the church’s current spokesman, said Scientologists are no different from Mormons, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Amish who practice shunning or excommunication.
“These are common religious tenets,” he said. “The very survival of a religion is contingent on its protecting itself.”
Excommunication in the Catholic Church, as I understand it, is not something the faithful do to the sinner, so much as what the sinner does to himself. In any case, it does not entail shunning the ex-communicant personally. It means rather that he may not receive the Sacraments of the Church unless and until he repents.
Mar. 7, 2010, at 12:08pm
The Wall Street Journal has an article today about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas, who spied for Israel and later converted to Christianity. I found the last few paragraphs especially interesting.
As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can’t be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Do you consider your father a fanatic? “He’s not a fanatic,” says Mr. Yousef. “He’s a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don’t want to admit this is an ideological war.
“The problem is not in Muslims,” he continues. “The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to.”
These are all dangerous words. Of the threats issued to his life by Islamists, he says, “That’s not the worst thing that can happen to you. I’m OK with it, I’m not afraid. . Palestinians have reason to kill me. Some Israelis may want to kill me. My goal is not to defeat my enemy. It is to win over my enemy.”
Mar. 5, 2010, at 4:48pm
Personalist Project Adviser Josef Seifert is the seventh member of the Pontifical Academy for Life to call for its president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, to step down or be removed from office over public comments that “appeared to condone the abortion of the unborn twins of a nine-year-old rape victim in Brazil.”
Here is an article about the scandal.
See also Professor Seifert’s open letter on the question. The whole thing is more than worth reading, but below is a sample paragraph, responding to the Archbishop’s published suggestion that the moral status of such “therapeutic abortions” was a difficult question addressed to the consciences of those directly involved.
He even said that it was an act of mercy and life-saving, given the alleged danger the girl had been in and the terrible abuse the girl had suffered and the pains she might have had to suffer in the future. All of this implies that it was even a good act under the circumstances. All of these and similar statements are in full tune with a moral theological position that has been widespread among many Catholic moral theologians for decades and still is held by many, mainly among those theologians who opposed Humanae Vitae. This ethical view is called proportionalism or consequentialism. According to it, there are no intrinsically morally wrong acts which to commit is sinful under all circumstances. There is no intrinsically wrong act at all, according to this opinion, that could not be justified by its consequences, i.e., if it’s foreseeable good consequences outweigh the bad ones. This position, which also I have criticized in many articles and an unpublished book, would undermine the basis not only of Church doctrine but of Socratic ethics and of morality itself, and was clearly condemned in Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Veritatis splendor, which taught unambiguously that this position (defended by Fuchs, Demmer, Böckle, Schüller, and many other Catholic moral theologians), is gravely false and contrary to Catholic ethical teaching.
Feb. 28, 2010, at 11:22pm
Katie’s recent post about intimacy without love (better read it before this one) reminds me of a passage in Jane Eyre, which beautifully illustrates her point. St. John, a zealous clergyman who also happens to be Jane Eyre’s cousin, has just asked her to be his wife and to accompany him to India to do missionary work. He frankly admits that he is not in love with her; he wants her by his side mainly because of the important role she can play in his missionary activities.
‘God and nature intended you for a missionary’s wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not for love. A missionary’s wife you must - shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you - not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign’s service.’
Remarkably, Jane actually considers the proposal. After some serious soul searching she decides that, though it would be very hard on her and almost certainly lead to her premature death, she could go to India with St. John and serve him well (‘He will never love me; but he shall approve me’). But she cannot go as his wife. It would be wrong. About that she is both certain and adamant.
‘Consent, then, to his demand is possible: but for one item - one dreadful item. It is - that he asks me to be his wife, and has no more of a husband’s heart for me than that frowning giant of a rock… He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon, and that is all. Unmarried to him, this would never grieve me; but can I let him complete his calculations - coolly put into practice his plans - go through the wedding ceremony? Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous. I will never undergo it. As his sister, I might accompany him - not as his wife: I will tell him so.’
When Jane thinks of the proposed marriage as a “monstrous” martyrdom, she expresses the same truth as Vivian Gornick: that “to live without intimacy in the most intimate of circumstances is to sustain permanent damage to the spirit.” It is not a noble self-giving but a lamentable self-squandering.
Feb. 27, 2010, at 1:15pm
NRO’s Corner today marks the second anniversary of the death of William F. Buckley, Jr. by posting a remarkable note of his to a friend, written about something he had published in 1962.
In the passage you quote from Up From Liberalism I intended, indeed, to refer to the religious truth that is our central heritage and to the moral philosophy and human insight that derive from it. Sometimes this position is referred to (in a phrase going back, I believe, to the days of the Roman Empire) as “the morality of the last days”—by which is meant the world-view of men who know that death is close. But, in the long view, we all stand sentenced to death, and whether it comes in 1995 or tomorrow makes no difference. That is why the morality of the last days always applies to what is “finally important in human experience.” All our techniques of social welfare, all our science, all our comfort, all our liberty, all our democracy and foreign aid and grandiloquent orations—all that means nothing to me and nothing to you in the moment when we go. At that moment we must put our souls in order, and the way to do that was lighted for us by Jesus, and since then we have had need of no other light. That is what is finally important; it has not changed; and it will not change. It is truth, which shall ever abide in the future. And if it is “reactionary” to hold a truth that will be valid for all future time, then words have lost their meaning, and men their reason.
Feb. 23, 2010, at 11:02pm
Reading a short biography of the nineteenth century American feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, I came across an intriguing line of argument in favor of changes in the (then) marriage laws to allow more easily for divorce. Speaking of “English radicals of the Enlightenment,” the author, Vivian Gornick, tells us:
Among people like William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, and later, Robert Owen, the French Revolution had sharpened the conviction that beyond the need for political equality [between men and women] lay an equally great need to create the conditions in which the inner life could flourish. First on the list of their demands was a radical revision of the marriage laws. For these remarkable thinkers, marriage without intimacy—that is, the marriage commonly made without friendship or love out of economic and social considerations—was a prime villain in the matter of stunted or deformed inner lives. They saw that, at best, such arrangements promised neutrality of feeling, and they wrote eloquently to demonstrate that neutrality of feeling is a dangerous illusion: to live without intimacy in the most intimate of circumstances is to sustain permanent damage to the spirit. Forced by law to live in the presence of such an absence, one’s inner being closes down—is made cold, defensive, remote—and all too soon one becomes incapable of human empathy: a danger both to oneself and the world. Goodwin and Owen became known as “sexual radicals” as a consequence of writing and speaking endlessly about the death-in-life that is marriage without friendship or love.
Setting aside the question of divorce and laws governing marriage, I find it a remarkably personalistic insight, and one that is deeply true. The same line of thought could, I think, be used to make a compelling case against both arranged marriages and the hook-up culture prevailing in our society today. The objective intimacy of bodily union must be matched by subjective intimacy and self-giving or it becomes positively harmful.
But I’d love to know how it strikes others.
Feb. 18, 2010, at 12:55pm
A Barnes and Noble review of a new collection of Heinrich von Kleist’s prose ends with a paragraph that succinctly captures a salient feature of modernity.
Fifty years ago, Martin Greenberg tried to determine the particular quality that gives Kleist his startling modernity. He pointed, finally, to “the questionableness at the heart of his world, the almost diabolical ambiguity of its atmosphere, the way things tremble and shift and make one wonder if they are what they seem.” In essence, Kleist consistently subverts our expectations. Like the earthquake in Chile, his fiction causes the apparently solid ground beneath our feet to shudder, crack, and, finally, give way.
I know von Kleist’s name from the story I often heard told in philosophy classes on Kant’s epistemology: that this great 19th century German poet, playwright and story-teller was so appalled by Kan’t theory that the human mind cannot attain objective reality that he committed suicide.
Being an artist of exceptional sensitivity, Von Kleist no doubt felt sooner and suffered more from the spiritual malaise that afflicts the modern world. His despair is negative testimony to the human need for truth, certainty, the metaphysical stability and inherent meaningfulness of reality.
Here is a contrasting sense of reality from Edith Stein, who, as a woman who went from being a Jewish German atheist to Catholic Carmelite nun eventually gassed to death in Auschwitz, knew as much von Kleist about the ambiguities of the modern world.
In the knowledge that being holds me, I rest securely. This security, however, is not self-assurance of one who under her own power stands on firm ground, but rather the sweet and blissful security of the child that is lifted up and carried by a strong arm.
Feb. 17, 2010, at 12:03pm
This great idea came in from a friend yesterday:
The chapter in DvH’s Transformation in Christ called ‘True Simplicity’ makes great reading in preparation for Lent. If you haven’t read the entire book yet, you might find that chapter helpful in getting “motivated” about Lenten penitential practices. (Maybe you’re already sufficiently motivated?!) So many discussions of Lenten penitence focus on the disciplinary aspect—developing the habit of giving up things voluntarily in order to be able to resist a temptation when it becomes necessary—without highlighting the positive value of creating a state of interior simplicity.
Feb. 16, 2010, at 12:48am
On the eve of Valentine’s day I was at Notre Dame University, giving a talk on Catholic (courtship for the annual Edith Stein conference organized by students)—on conjugal love in the Catholic vision, and what it reveals about the nature and vocation of persons.
It is perhaps my favorite of all topics—the one that has been closest to my heart and most on my mind during the more than 20 years since I discovered philosophy through a course on the nature of love in my junior year in Steubenville. I’ve been mulling a book on the subject ever since. And yet, whenever I agree to give a talk, I find myself overwhelmed. There’s too much to say. Too much truth and beauty, too much height and depth to contain in a short space of time! It becomes a kind of ordeal for me. Then I remember St. Augustine writing of the impossibility of praising God adequately, “And yet woe to me if I do not try!”
One day a year or two ago I found myself participating in a strange debate at a website dedicated to female sexuality in all its permutations. Another participant wrote in a sort of bored and cynical tone that Catholic and Islamic sexual morality boiled down to the same woman-oppressing thing: virginity until marriage.
I was taken aback—stunned wordless that anyone could see it that way. Of course it’s true that both religions demand virginity until marriage and fidelity until death. But the why and the how are so radically different that I found it hard to believe that anyone could see them as basically the same. In truth, the two sets of beliefs are almost opposites—in some respects more distant from each other than Christianity is from the secular hedonism that prevails in our culture.
I decided that this theme too should be explored in a book. I hope to write it someday. But meanwhile, here is an article that begins to show what I mean. According to it, in the Islamic view, romantic love is “a disease”, in essential conflict with commitment to Allah. In Christianity, it is exalted; it is an icon of the Holy Trinity. In marriage it becomes a Sacrament, a path to holiness, helping achieve the redemption of the world.
Feb. 10, 2010, at 1:36am
Something about these lines from an LA Times op ed about the Chicago way of politicking bothered me.
That style is tough, focused, immune to any distractions but cosmetic niceties. And did we mention tough. A portly, veteran Chicago alderman once confided only about 40% jokingly, that he had taken up jogging to lose weight but quickly gave it up as boring because “you can’t knock anyone down.” That’s politics the Chicago way.
It reminds me a little of those who speak of suicide bombers as martyrs. I see them rather as fanatics willing to kill innocents mercilessly in the name of their faith. Martyrs are the opposite. They are innocents willing be killed rather than abandon their faith. And they frequently die imploring God’s mercy on their killers.
I see “toughness” as a kind of courage, an imperviousness the fears and pressures that beset the untough. A habit of using violence and coercion to get your political way—a penchant for knocking people down—is not toughness. It’s thuggery. Thugs and bullies are famously weak and cowardly. Not tough at all—just intimidating for anyone who isn’t really tough.
Feb. 9, 2010, at 12:48pm
Anthony Daniels (who also writes under the lovable penname Theodore Dalrymple) has a devastating critique of Ayn Rand’s godless individualism in the latest issue of New Criterion. Rand’s work is apparently enjoying a kind of renaissance in these days of exploding government and deepening debt. Though she has worthwhile insights into the errors and dangers of collectivism, her ideas are repulsively inhumane and as far as can be from the Christian personalism we are about here.
Humanity, according to Rand, is divided into heroes, creators, and geniuses on the one hand, and weaklings, parasites, and the feeble-minded on the other. Needless to say, the latter outnumber the former by a very wide margin, but only the former are truly human in the full sense of the word.
See also Whittaker Chamber’s 1957 take down of Atlas Shrugged.
Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind which finds this tone natural to it shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: “To a gas chamber — go!”
Jan. 29, 2010, at 4:46pm
Anyone who wades into Christian personalism (especially in the John-Pauline articulation) soon encounters what Damian Fedoryka calls “the hermeneutics of the gift.” Personal life can only be adequately understood and lived when it is recognized and received as a gift. We do not make ourselves; we cannot account for our existence; we can only accept it (or not) as a gift.
The due response to a gift is gratitude. And gratitude involves a sincere desire to “make a return”. Hence the essential vocation of personal life: the call to give ourselves in love, as we have received ourselves in love.
It is the same in the religious life of persons. We cannot save ourselves through works. We cannot earn our redemption. It comes through Grace. But it does not follow that works are unimportant. Works of love are the way we express our gratitude for the gift we have received.
Here is Ferreira again speaking of this key theme in Kierkegaard [emphasis in the original]:
Indeed, in Kierkegaard’s journals we find a lovely formulation of this dual commitment: he writes that Christianity is “grace, and then a striving born of gratitude.” The implication is that our effort is important, although it cannot be meritorious in the sense of entitling us or giving us a right to something from God. Kierkegaard is assuming here the importance of a distinction between what I can deserving something from someone in the sense of having a right or entitlement to it and what I call being gratefully receptive to it; that is, we may not have deserved or merited some good thing given to us, but we can do something to prepare ourselves for an appropriate reception of the gift, to embrace it gratefully, or to appropriately express our gratitude through the exercise of love.
Jan. 29, 2010, at 4:05pm
Lately I have found myself apologizing rather frequently to my children for the morbidities of the Irish-American heritage I have bequeathed to them from my line: the Jansenist-inspired heavy-handed moralizing tendency, the guilt and inferiority complexes, the insecurities, the second-guessing of self, the irrational fear of failure, the affective autism, and so on. The heritage on their father’s side seems so blessedly sound and uncomplicated in comparison. The Dutch generally are marvelously at ease with themselves and the world. They are even-tempered, steady, cheerful, imperturbable, outward-oriented, and unreflective. They are comfortable in their skins—patiently and good-humoredly accepting of their own short-comings and those of others.
In my sickliest moments, I am severely tempted to hate and resent being Irish, and to wish I were something else.
This morning I have found in Kierkegaard a thought that helps me recover perspective. It’s taken from his copious Journals and Papers. (I got it from the Ferreira book mentioned above and below.) He writes of what he thinks Martin Luther got right. (Kierkegaard was a Lutheran with many criticisms of the Protestant Christendom of his day.)
What Luther says is excellent, the one thing needful and the sole explanation—that this whole doctrine )of the Atonement and in the main all Christianity) must be traced back to the struggle of the anguished conscience. Remove the anguished conscience, and you may as well close the churches and convert them into dance halls… An atonement is necessary only in the understanding of anguished conscience. If a man had the power to live without needing to eat, how could he understand the necessity of eating—something the hungry man easily understands. It is the same in the life the spirit.
When I consider that as a matter of fact many Dutch churches have been converted into dance halls or pottery studios or worse, I am grateful for the Irish talent for imparting anguish of conscience to her children. It is a gift. It leads us to God.
Jan. 26, 2010, at 2:08pm
I’ve just picked up a book called Love’s Grateful Striving: A Commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, by M. Jamie Ferreira, a professor at the University of Virginia, several of whose essays Jules has read and admired. The concluding paragraph of the introduction highlights a key characteristic of personalism as we hold it. From the Personalist Project’s “manifesto”: “We reject the ancient distinction between Greek and barbarian; we know that the birthright of a person belongs not to a select few but to every human being.”
Here is Professor Ferreira elucidating Kierkegaard’s (often overlooked) sense of solidarity with each and every person, including those lowest on the earthly scale.
When Kierkegaard insists that to love the neighbor is “essentially to will to exist equally for unconditionally every human being” (WL, p.84), he is not mouthing platitudes; he intends the claim for equality to be understood concretely. It is “due to Christianity,” he claims, that “the times are past when only the powerful and the prominent were human beings—and the others were bond servants and slaves” (p.74), and that “the times are past when those called the more lowly had no conception of themselves or only the conception of being slaves, or not merely being lowly human beings, but of not being human beings at all” (p.80). The love commandment is precisely a challenge because many have “inhumanly forgotten” that “whether a person is a man or woman, poorly or richly endowed, master or slave, beggar or plutocrat, the relationships among human beings ought and may never be such that the one worships and the other is the one worshipped” (p.125).
This point’s application to the political sphere comes naturally to Americans. It’s easy not to appreciate enough how new it is in history.
Jan. 24, 2010, at 4:46pm
Glenn Beck’s manner can be repellent, but I think he does an important truth-telling service with his new documentary called Revolutionary Holocaust. It’s available in five segments on You Tube, starting here.
The whole thing is a searing depiction of the evil the then Cardinal Wojtyla expressed in a letter to Henri De Lubac. (Emphasis mine.)
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 person. This evil is even more of the metaphysical order than of the moral order. To this disintegration planned at times by atheistic ideologies we must oppose, rather than sterile polemics, a kind of “recapitulation” of the inviolable mystery of the person.
I would love to hear what others think.
Jan. 23, 2010, at 5:26pm
A gathering with friends tonight will be focused on some of Benedict XVI’s writings about priesthood. These lines from his August 5, 2009 general audience stood out as helping illumine and “situate” the mission of the Personalist Project. He is speaking about the witness of St. John Vianney.
Dear brothers and sisters, 150 years after the death of the Holy Curé of Ars, contemporary society is facing challenges that are just as demanding and may have become even more complex. If in his time the ‘dictatorship of rationalism’ existed, in the current epoch a sort of ‘dictatorship of relativism’ is evident in many contexts. Both seem inadequate responses to the human being’s justifiable request to use his reason as a distinctive and constituative element of his own identity. Rationalism was inadequate becasue it failed to take into account human limitations and claims to make reason alone the criterion of all things, transforming it into a goddess; contemporary relativism humiliates reason becasue it arrives de facto at affirming that the human being can know nothing with certainty outside the positive scientific field. Today however, as in that time, man ‘a beggar for meaning and fulfillment’, is constantly in quest of exhaustive answers to the basic questions that he never ceases to ask himself.