Thursday, August 22, 2013

Walker Percy's Twentieth-Century Thomism Part 2


Lawler states, "The Thomist's view is that language is a gift to be used responsibly by those created in God's image" (81). With this gift comes responsibility. The human's ability to use language shows "a value scale of rightness, authenticity; in short, a concept of human nature and what is proper to it" (81). This idea includes "human needs;" Percy writes: An organism is oriented toward the world according to its organismic needs, but a person is oriented in the mode of truth-untruth" (81-82). In other words, people can live authentic or unauthentic lives. Martin Heidegger states that the difference between authenticity and authenticity "is rooted in the human's "primordial relation to language" (82). it is living in accordance with one's true self. Lawler states than an inauthentic self is one that is self-deceived or diverted" (82). This experience of being diverted is what Percy calls being stuck in everydayness.

"The Limited Truth of Existentialism"

Percy agrees with the existentialists that "the experience of human alienation is not a treatable symptom of one's maladjustment to one's environment or society" (83). It is part of the human condition. Percy thinks that "Man is alienated by the nature of his being here" (83). Percy thinks that trying to "cure human beings completely of their anxious misery is actually to deprive them of their humanity" (83). We are dealing with the symptoms instead of the cause. Man is alienated because he is a fallen creature. Lawler, however, says the Thomist's agreement with the existentialist can be only limited because the existentialist is no realist. The existentialist "sees no natural foundation for self-consciousness, and so no natural connection between language and things" (83).

"Natural Science"

Percy seeks to bridge the division between "American empiricism and European existentialism" (84). He thinks we need both perspectives to understand the human condition. Percy criticizes the behaviorists in much of his writing. He disagrees with the idea that "everything man does can be explained by operant conditioning" or Skinner behaviorism.

Percy sees the compatibility between theological and scientific truth. He think revelation complements reason. Percy disagrees with both Christian anti-evolutionists and anti-Christian evolutionists. He wonders why scientists try so hard to prove that humans are not unique. Percy thinks that both the theories of Freud and Darwin "were not radical enough. For neither can account for his own activity by his own theory" (86). In addition, he thinks the scientist "cannot explain why our century has been either the most lonely or the most murderous yet" (87).    

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