Shaffett, John E. "Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism." Catholic Library World, Vol. 84, No. 4 (June 2014): 270.
Reasonable Pleasures: The Strange Coherences of Catholicism
By James V. Schall, Ignatius, 2013, 218 pp., ISBN 978-1-58617-787-4, $16.95
Father Schall retired from Georetown University last year. He has written many excellent books on the relationship between faith and reason. In Reasonable Pleasures Schall shows how the mind’s pursuit of truth is pleasurable. He notes, “Aristotle taught that every activity that is normal to us, including thinking, has its own proper pleasure” (12). Pleasure “enhances” the particular activity performed. The subtitle points out how Catholic Christianity, reason, and pleasure are not opposed to each other. Schall in eight chapters demonstrate the reasonable pleasures of knowing the truth of various topics: dogma, humor, sports, hell, temporal existence, “worship,” and “eternal life.”
In the introductory chapter Schall states three truths: The importance of learning from the past; we are more than minds; and we can know all things through our minds. He believes that truth is knowable and that things exist outside of our minds and knowing reality or the “truth of things” is pleasurable.
Schall’s first essay is on dogma. He explains what it is and why it is important. He defines dogma as “an accurate statement of what is true” (30). In contrast to modern thinking, he thinks dogma is a good thing. The reason for this is that “a dogma is intended to clarify, to state accurately, to illuminate what can be stated about an experience, an ultimate issue, or something connected to it” (31). This is what Schall attempts to do in these essays. He illuminates the topics of reason, pleasure, faith, learning, and eternal life. For example, the author states that to live correctly we must think correctly. Ideas matter and they have consequences, both good and bad.
In his essay on eternal life, Schall argues that man’s end is eternal life. One of the problems of modern man is that they try to make earthy, temporal, existence into heaven on earth. Faith not only answers reason, but provides meaning to our temporal life.
In addition, Schall argues that faith and reason are compatible. They fulfill one another. He asserts that “revelation is a claim to truth,” and “this truth will be coherent with all other truths, including the truths of reason” (39). This affirms Aquinas’s assertion that “grace builds on nature” (39).
Schall in Reasonable Pleasures shows how faith, reason, and pleasures are coherent in the Catholic faith. He also shows that truth is knowable and reality exists outside of our minds and we can know it. Schall believes that revelation answers reason’s questions. He states, “the truths of revelation, while often not directly able to be proved or understood by human reason, still, when thought about, cause reason to be more, not less, reason” (194). This is vintage Schall and is recommended to all readers who are interested in the “truth of things.”