Friday, August 11, 2017

Two Essays on the University

Josef Pieper, What Does "Academic" Mean?: Two Essays on the Chances of the University Today. Translated by Dan Farrelly and introduction by James V. Schall. South Bend, Ind.: St. Augustine's Press, 2015. 82 pages. ISBN 978-1-58731-933-4

This short book contains two lectures that Josef Pieper presented at the University of Munster in Germany in 1950. This is the first time it has been published in English. These two essays analyzes the purpose of the university and what does the word "Academic" mean and how its meaning is related to the purpose of the university. Pieper traces the word, academic, to Plato's academy. Pieper thinks the primary thrust of the academic is theoretical, not practical. The second essay focuses on how philosophy's subject is the totality of being.

James V. Schall wrote the introduction to this book. He states that a university "is not an economic or business corporation, nor is it a political institution. It is not a church, a union, or a club. While it has relations to and dealings with all of these otherwise existing institutions of culture and public order, it is itself. It is 'set apart' lest the highest things we can know through serious reflection be neglected" (ix). Schall is saying that the university has its own purpose and that purpose is to know the truth of things. It is a place where "everything can be discussed--not just discussed, but known as true or false. We need to know the purpose of the University to know whether or not it is achieving its purpose. It does seem that the university tends to seek other things, instead, of its true purpose.

An important point of this book is the role of philosophy in the university. Pieper says that philosophy is not really a subject, it is an act. It is the act of philosophizing. Schall asserts, "philosophy means individuals in every discipline, students and thinkers, who think philosophically, who have the habit of confronting what actually is " (x). Philosophy is openness to the whole of reality. This point and this book is related to Pieper's book on leisure. There must be a place set apart from to normal business to contemplate the whole of reality.

Another point made by Pieper is that philosophy must be open to knowledge in all disciplines, even theology. In addition, he believes philosophy "exists in conversation and listening as demonstrated in Plato's dialogues. He believes that Plato's Academy is still the model for the modern university. He states that Plato's academy was a philosophical school. Based on this fact, academic means philosophical and an academic institution is a philosophical one. Philosophical means theoretical, not practical. Theoretical basically means, "an attitude towards the world which is only concerned with the fact that things reveals themselves as they are." This requires a silence, and a listening to what is.  To be "aiming at truth and nothing else is the essence of theoria" (8).

Josef Pieper has covered much ground in this short book. He helps us to remember the purpose of the university and the role of philosophy in the university. In addition, he shows us that the focus of the university should be achieving truth or knowing the truth of things and this is achieved through focusing on the theoretical.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pope Benedict XVI: Faith, Reason and the University Part 2

Outline of Pope Benedict's Lecture

  1. He reflects on his early days as a professor at the University of Bonn. 
  2. He states how the theology faculty shared with the other faculties the responsibility for the "right use of reason."
  3. The university was proud of the theology faculty, and this faculty inquired about the reasonableness of faith.
  4. He says that it is still reasonable "to raise the question of God through the use of reason."
  5. He states that violence is "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul." It is against reason and God to spread the faith through violence.
  6. God is a God of reason. There exists a "profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the Biblical understanding of faith in God."
  7. In the gospel of John, the evangelist says that God is logos which means reason and word--"A reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason."
  8. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought happened because of God's providence, not chance.
  9. During the Hellenistic period, Biblical faith and the best of Greek thought were mutually enriching.
  10. It was in the late Middle Ages that Greek thought and Biblical faith was first separated by Dun Scotus and voluntarism.
  11. The pope disagrees with Muslim teaching that says God is not "bound to truth and goodness" because He is exalted beyond them. Instead, the Christian faith has always asserted that a real analogy exists between reason and God.
  12. There are three stages of Dehellenization. The first occurred with the Protestant reformers because they thought that in scholastic theology they confronted a "faith system totally conditioned by philosophy." A faith system alien to the Biblical faith. The principle of sola scriptura sought faith in a pure form as originally found in the Biblical record. Metaphysics was considered a foreign source. When Kant stated that thinking must be set aside to make room for faith, he carried the reformers program further than they probably would have wanted to go.
  13. The liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries ushered in the second stage of DeHellenization. Adolf von Harnack is its leading representative. Harnack's basic idea was to return the man Jesus to his simple message before it was layered with theology. 
  14. Another part of this stage is the synthesis made between Cartesianism and empiricism. This synthesis "presupposes the mathematical structure of matter." It is that structure that makes it possible to understand nature. In addition, it emphasizes exploiting nature for our own benefit. Third, "only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield decisive certainty."
  15. Only the kind of certainty that comes from the mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Therefore, history, psychology, sociology, and philosophy is forced to "conform to this science of canon of scientificity." Of course, this method leaves out the "question of God." If science is only this, then it leads to the reduction of men and women, "for the specific human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by science, so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective."
  16. We are in the third stage of DeHellenization. Because of cultural pluralism, it is said today that the "synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was an initial inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures." The pope disagrees. He thinks that the "fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and human reason are part of the faith itself."
  17. The pope's reason for this critique of modern thought is for the purpose "of broadening our concept of reason and its application." I have always preferred Thomas Aquinas' view of reason than modern man. The pope is asserting that reason is broader than the empirically falsifiable. 
  18. Theology belongs in the university as "inquiry into the rationality of faith." Both philosophy and theology in "listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding."
  19. It is the task of the university to rediscover this breadth of reason.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Pope Benedict: Faith, Reason and the University

Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason edited by Bainard Cowan. South Bend, IN: ST. Augustine's Press, 2011. 128 pages ISBN 978-1-58731-325-7.

Pope Benedict delivered a lecture at the University of Regensburg on Faith, Reason, and the University on 12 September 2006. It became quickly controversial because he reflected on some comments made by the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paeleogus. Muslims reacted violently because of remarks made by the Byzantine emperor and reflected on by the former pope. Basically, the comments had to do with Muslims and spreading the faith by violence. The offensive words was: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was knew, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached" (112). The pope's point was that spreading the faith by violence was unreasonable. In addition, "violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the soul." The main point was that acting in violence was acting against reason which was contrary to God's nature. The Muslim teaching taught that God was transcendent, and that His will "was not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality'(113).  The pope is using this historical event to lead into his address about the relationship between faith, reason, and the university. He ties the nature of God with logos-reason. He believes that the university and modern culture must broaden their concept of reason. It must discover the breadth of reason. Modern man's view of reason is too limited. The pope argues there is a real harmony between the best of Greek thought and the Christian faith. He discusses three different stages of dehellenization: the reformation; liberal theology of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the separating faith and human reason.

Gained Horizons: Regensburg and the Enlargement of Reason is a collection of essays that responds to the Pope's lecture. The contributors addressed the lecture from their different disciplines: philosophy, theology, political thought and literary criticism. It analyzes the "broader nature of reason" and the modern forces that work against it in "politics, culture, and education." Some of the leading thinkers are represented in this volume. Jean Betheke Elshtain states that the God approachable by reason is the source of rulers being subject to laws. Peter Augustine Lawler discusses human and divine reason as expressed by the American founders. Marc Guerra discusses how reason and faith was mutually nurtured in the Western Tradition. Nalin Ranasinghe argues that reason as developed in the Greek tradition is an "essential" part of Christianity. It cannot be de-hellenized without harm. Bruce Fingerhut states that voluntarism addressed in the lecture was a source of the violence that reacted to it. However, the greater impact was the voluntarism  in Western theology beginning with nominalism in the Middle Ages. Glenn Arbery shows how people are imprisoned in theory in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. R. R. Reno criticizes the modern university because of a lack of ambition in regards to reason. He shows how Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict were defenders of reason. Mary Mumbach discusses the courage shown by Benedict in his lecture. The book contains the complete lecture delivered by Pope Benedict in the appendix. Both the pope's lecture and the essay responses argue for the importance of reason and its harmony with the Christian faith.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Jesuit Model of Education

"The Jesuit Model of Education" was a lecture given at a conference for educators, especially principals, in 2004 by Fr. Michael McMahon. He does a good job in describing the history, objectives, religious emphasis, ends or purposes, means, teaching, curriculum, the role of the classics, and so on. Many of the points made by the authors could be applied to Protestant education.

First, the author describes the history of Jesuit education. He states that even those who criticize Roman Catholicism recognize the great good accomplished by Jesuit education. The Jesuits was founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola. The Jesuits were organized for evangelization and apostolic ministry. They quickly realized that the "way to defend the Faith was through education." Jesuits have been educating Catholics for almost 500 years. The Jesuit model of education is based on the Ratio Studiorum,, the Jesuit manual of education. McMahon states, "The landmark achievement of the Jesuits was to give order, hierarchy, structure, unity, and methodology to education." The Ratio Studiorum does not emphasize the theoretical side of education; instead, it focuses on the practical method of organizing and "conducting" schools.


Why did the Jesuits make education an important work of the order? The founder of the order helps us understand the motivation of the Jesuits: "The end of the Society is not only to care for the salvation and perfection of their own souls with divine grace, but with the same [divine grace] seriously devote themselves to the salvation and perfection of their neighbors. For it was especially instituted for the defense and propagation of the Faith, and the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine." In other words, the motivation was the salvation of their own souls and the souls of others. The Jesuit philosophy of education combined the scholastic philosophy with the teachings of the church, faith and reason. What was of utmost importance was a correct understanding of "human nature as created by Almighty God and the ultimate destiny of man."

We can say that Jesuit education was preparation for both life in this world and for "everlasting life." Their goal was to form the souls of young people for God. The concept of "form" is very important to the model of Jesuit education. They are trying to create a certain type of person. The author notes, "We are intimately involved in the formation of citizens for heaven, souls made for the beautific vision." The Jesuit model of education is not just speaking about the training of the mind. They emphasize the formation of the whole person, mind, body, soul, and character. In addition, they believe the religious end of man or religion needs to permeate every class, not just religious classes.

The Ends

The ultimate end of Jesuit education is to "lead students to the knowledge and love of God." They want to form students a love and knowledge of God, a love and knowledge of the Catholic faith, an enthusiasm for the Catholic faith, and people who will manifest the importance of the Catholic faith in their lives. They are attempting to form Christ in each of their students. McMahon states, "The proximate educational aims are, first, to develop all the powers of the body and soul. It's the whole man that is being formed: his body, senses, memory, imagination, intellect, and will. It is developing, disciplining, and directing all the capacities of the human personality." This is what Jesuits think should be the purpose of education. The Ratio Studiorum states, "The development of the student's intellectual capacity is the school's most characteristic part. However, this development will be defective and even dangerous unless it is strengthened and completed by the training of the will and the formation of character."


The first principle of the curriculum is that "The curriculum is to achieve formation, not just information." I have already mention how important the word form or formation are to the Jesuit model of education. McMahon states, "The curriculum is structured to develop the intellectual and moral habits to form the character." It was a consistent theme of Christian education to form both the mind and character. Part of the goal is to create in the student the skills of learning. There is similarity with the Jesuit Model of education and Mortimer Adler's padeia proposal. The author states that simply providing information does not form the soul. The methodology of Jesuit education was to form the man in such a way that he will be able to think for himself. To think well is accomplished by developing intellectual and moral habits in the student. The second principle of the curriculum is that the "study is to be intensive rather than extensive." Since the goal is to form, not simply to inform the student, and the way to do this is by being intensive, "by studying in depth a relatively small number of subjects rather than superficially studying a large number." It also emphasizes studying the most important things thoroughly. There seems to be much wisdom in the two principles of the curriculum. It does seem that modern education puts too much emphasis on inputting information, instead of forming the student by developing intellectual and moral habits. It also seems true that studying less is studying more.

The Classics

McMahon said for the high school, Jesuits thought that studying the humanities--literature, language, and history was the most important thing. They thought that studying these subjects, without excluding others, "contributed to the balanced formation of the human being, making him a fit receptacle for the grace of God." This is true because the humanities teach "abiding and universal values for human values." They emphasized studying the great classics, books, and authors. They believed the great books were helpful in forming the person. They believed "The great thoughts and the noble deeds seem to make the pages palpitate life." Homer's heroes and their deeds, for example, "flames in the mind long after the music of the language died from the ear, and the beauty of the imagery has faded from the memory." It is these things and things similar that calls for the best in humans which educates them. It should teach praise for what is noble and scorn for what is base. Much of the truths learned through reason will fits snugly with the truths of the Christian faith. McMahon states, "By utilizing these perennial works, the Jesuits formed the soul by noble deeds and great acts; inspired their students and provided a vision for the young mind. These are abiding concepts in education and is why it is so necessary to build our schools upon them. By such studies, the Jesuits fostered in their students the ability to think worthwhile thoughts and express them effectively." In addition, the Jesuits emphasized providing worthwhile knowledge, not just learning anything; encourage students to think things through with their teachers and their peers; to organize their knowledge in a workable form, and to express it effectively. All three columns  of Adler's Padeia Proposal are emphasized in the Jesuit model of education. The Jesuits emphasized the eloquenta perfecta: "knowing the right things, knowing them well, being able to organize them properly, and express them in the proper manner."

These are some of the important points I noticed in the presentation of the Jesuit model of education. Many of these things would be useful for evangelicals in educating their students. One might question the emphasis on memory work, and the emphasis on the teacher. Jesuits have been educating students for over 400 years. It seems that not only Catholics, but other groups should utilize their principles of education.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Paidea Proposal: Mortimer Adler's Proposal to Reform Education

Mortimer J. Adler, The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto, Simom & Schuster, 1998, 84 pages, ISBN 978-0-684-84188-5.

The Padeia Proposal is Mortimer Adler's proposal for reforming public education. This book presents his philosophy for reforming K-12 public education. Paideia is from the Greek pais, paidos: the upbringing of a child. It is similar to the Latin humanitas related to the term humanities which refers to the general learning that is needed to become an educated human being. Adler's basic proposal is how schooling can help students to become educated persons.

Adler believes that this type of education is required because of two advances in Western Civilization: "universal suffrage and universal schooling." Universal schooling refers to the privilege that all people once they reach a certain age have the right to vote. The second is that individuals are required to go to school for several years. One requirement of this schooling is to prepare students to fulfill their citizenship duties.

Adler believes there should be "a one-track system of schooling." In other words, he believes there should be one type of education for all students. In disagrees with the two track system of sending one group of students to college prep courses and another group of students to vocational courses. He believes that the best education for the best should be the best education for all. He thinks schooling should prepare students "for the duties of self-governing citizenship and for the enjoyment of things of the mind and spirit that are essential to a good human life." The end of education should determine the means of education. John Dewey said that vocational training is "not the education of free men and women." Adler agrees that students are "educable in various degrees," but he still believes that all students should receive the "same kind and quality of education."

Adler sees education as "a lifelong process of which schooling is only a small but necessary part." He believes schooling is to provide the tools to become educated in a lifetime. He thinks the ultimate goal of schooling "is to help human beings become educated persons." He generally thinks that people do not become educated till they reach their fifties. He believes that becoming educated requires both schooling and experience. In addition, he thinks schooling that "does not prepare the individual for further learning has failed, no matter what else it succeeds in doing." Schooling should not only prepare the student for further learning; it should also "prepare all of them for the continuation of education in adult life."

How can schools accomplish this task? Adler argues that they can do this "by imparting to them the skills of learning and giving them the stimulation that will motivate them to keep their minds actively engaged in learning." The skills of learning are basically the liberal arts: read, writing, speaking, listening, measuring, evaluating, and thinking. By having these skills the students will be able to be lifelong learners. To live well involves both learning "as well as earning."

The Padeia Proposal includes four parts. The first part covers the philosophy of schooling citizens of the rebublic which was covered above. The second part discuuses the "essentials of basic schooling." These include: The same objectives for all; the same course of study for all; overcoming initial impediments; and individual differences. The chapter on the same objectives for all discusses why the Padeia Proposal "advocates the same objectives for all without exception." He believes that having the same objectives for all is the way to achieve the goal of preparing the student to continue learning after they leave school. Students should be able "look forward not only to growing up but also to continued growth in all human dimensions throughout life." A two track system works against this goal. It provides only some students the means to achieve this end. A second reason is the need to prepare students for citizenship duties and responsibilities. The third reason is the student will need "to earn a living in one or another vocation."

In chapter four he describes the method of proving this basic schooling for all students. He divides schooling into three columns of learning. Column one is the "acquisition of organized knowledge." This is acquired through lectures and responses, and textbooks and other aids. The second column is developing the intellectual skills through "coaching, exercises, and supervised practice" by performing the operations of reading, writing, listening, speaking, calculating, problem solving, measuring, estimating, and exercising critical judgement. The last column is enlarging understanding and values through socratic questioning and active participation in the discussion of books (not textbooks), and involvement in other artistic activities. Schools today tend to spend most of their time if not all their column of column 1--didactic instruction and the use of textbooks.

Part three discusses teaching and learning. It includes a chapter on preparing teachers and  a chapter on the principal. Another chapter describes some things that need to be kept in mind. First, "all genuine learning" is active, not passive. It exercises the mind, not just the memory. How do we involve the mind in learning? We do it "by inviting and entertaining questions, by encouraging and sustaining inquiry, by supervising helpfully a wide variety of exercises and drills, by leading discussions . . ." All learning is by discovery either with aid from someone else or no aid from another. Most learning is done by receiving assistance from someone else. Someone who knows what needs to be learned. However, it is not by poring the information in the student's head. This is a form of brainwashing, not teaching. The main actor in learning is the learner himself with assistance from another. The teacher is like a midwife helping a woman to deliver a baby. It is the pregnant woman who is doing all the work. The midwife is assisting the woman to deliver the baby. Adler thinks Dewey's assertion that learning is by doing is often misinterpreted. He believes Dewey is talking about intellectual doing. The student learn to read by reading, to write by writing, and so on. The teacher is to guide the student in helping them to develop the intellectual skills of learning. Adler believes the third column needs to be emphasized more where the student both asks and answers questions.

The last part of The Padeia Proposal discusses issues beyond basic schooling. The first chapter of this part is on "Higher Learning." Dewey said, "The goal at which any phrase of education, true to itself, should aim in more education." In other words, basic schooling should prepare the student for more learning. As long as we are breathing, we should be learning. It takes a lifetime to become an educated human being. Another chapter discusses "earning and living well." Basic schooling has two goals in mind: "One is equipping all the children of this country to earn a living for themselves. The other is enabling them to lead good human lives." Aristotle's Ethics is a good guidebook on living well. It is prospering in all areas of our life. It is the goal of living a full and meaningful life. By acquiring the skills of the liberal arts, the student will be able to accomplish both these goals.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Catholicism and Intelligence

James V. Schall, Catholicism and Intelligence, Emmaus Road, 2017, ISBN 9781945125287, 165.

Catholicism and Intelligence by Fr. James V. Schall is a collection of essays that shows the relationship between Catholicism and intelligence. Some might even think there is not a relationship between Catholicism and intelligence. Schall would argue otherwise. Schall is a modern-day Chesterton who speaks truth to the heart. He agrees with St. Thomas Aquinas that the "greatest service we can offer our neighbor is to know the truth, to speak the truth" (xvii). This book is based on two premises: "First, what is peculiar or distinct about Catholicism is this: what the faith holds is intrinsically intelligible even if not always understood by given persons. And second, intelligence has its own structure or form that is rooted in the principle of non-contradiction--'Nothing can be and not be at the same time in the same way.' 'Intelligences' or understandings that maintain that everything is true even if contradictory cannot stand" (xviii). Schall emphasizes in all his books the truth of what is. He has claimed many times in his writings that Catholicism is a religion of intelligence. It respects the truth and what we can know by our mind. It believes faith and intelligence are compatible with each other. If you like other Schall books, you will like this one.

Schall says that "the essence of all ideology is that, at some point in explication, it does not conform to the way things are" (64). It is through intelligence that we make sense of the world. In chapter one, Schall asks the question, Why do I exist? This is an important question that needs to be asked by everyone. He criticizes Descartes idea that we have to go through a tortuous exercise to prove that we exist. Schall states, "That each of us exists and know that he exists need not be proved from something more clear. Nothing is clear" (2). One can always rely on the fact that Schall will speak sense. From Descartes, Schall goes on to discuss many issues. In answering the question why we exist, the reader needs to consider the fact "that a universe, with actual rational beings in it, has a source" (12). Schall believes that we exist to "participate in eternal life, that is in the inner life of God as it is made known to us" (14). There are some things we cannot know without revelation. It takes both reason and revelation to know why we exist.

Chesterton believes that what Chesterton saw 100 years ago has come True. He notes, "Catholicism almost alone defends reason that is based on the integrity of the mind related to what is" (50). To deny revelation is to "make us less capable of knowing and see what is. It takes both revelation and reason to know what is. It is wrong to think either is sufficient by itself. Schall states, "Of these curious things that we cannot figure out by ourselves, revelation sheds light on our minds" (58).

In his essay, "On What Replaces Christianity," Schall thinks the central idea is that "man can save himself." He needs no other Savior. Nothing is wrong with him that he cannot fix by himself. In addition, he does not have a "transcendent destiny." Life in this world is all that exists. Schall argues, "Without a theory or reality in which each human being has a transcendent origin and destiny, the whole record of mankind on this planet seems to mean nothing ..."(74).

Another good essay is "On the Openness to the Whole of Reality." Philosophy was meant to be open to all that is. "Knowledge is not to be reduced to what could be established by this or that method" (81). This is what is called reductionism. Reality is much bigger than our methods for acquiring truth. Every method is limited. Aquinas argued, "nothing we come across in reality, including revelation, can be excluded from our consideration on the grounds that the truth of what is does not arise from human reason alone" (81). Revelation is not closed, but open to reason. Revelation, actually, speaks to reason. Schall notes, "Revelation was itself addressed to reason. Through reason, revelation is addressed to the whole man. Thus, revelation was not conceived to be irrational. In seeking to understand the meaning of revelation, reason in fact became more, not less, reasonable" (85). There are other excellent essays contained in this book. Fr. Schall once again gives us much to chew on.

Authenticity as Self-Transcendence

Authenticity As Self-Transcendence: The Enduring Insights of Bernard Lonergan
By Michael H. McCarthy, Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame, 2015, 435 pp., ISBN 978-0-268-03537-2, $49.00.

This is the author's version of a work that was submitted/accepted for publication in the following source:
Catholic Library World  86 (4) June 2016

Bernard Lonergan is considered one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century. He is little known, however, except in certain circles. McCarthy, professor emeritus of philosophy at Vassar College, studied his work, Insight, as a doctoral student in the 1960s and continued to study him as a professor of philosophy. McCarthy thinks the ideas of Lonergan effectively addresses the cultural crisis of modern times. McCarthy notes, “Despite our highly specialized knowledge of human nature and history, we are no longer confident, as a society and culture, that our most important factual and evaluative judgments are objectively true” (ix). Lonergan spent his life studying this cultural crises and the tradition of philosophical and theological Christianity to provide answers to this crisis. Longergan shows how to “meet the cultural challenges of the modern age while remaining faithful” (xi) to the Christian tradition.
            Authenticity as Transcendence is divided into four chapters.Chapter one orients the reader to Lonergan’s project and how the appropriation of both the old and new can provide direction for solving the cultural crisis of our time. Chapter two describes Lonergan’s philosophical anthropology and how it can address the problems created by influential thinkers: Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Neitzche, and others. Lonergan analyzed human subjectivity to show how authenticity as self-transcendence could be defended. In chapter three he shows how modern secularism developed comparing the ideas of Charles Taylor with Bernard Lonergan, In the last chapter he analyzes the discoveries of Lonergan to address the modern predicament.

Authenticity is a good introduction to the “enduring insights” of Bernard Lonergan. Even a reader unfamiliar with Lonergan will come away from the book with a general knowledge of the important ideas of Lonergan and the modern cultural crisis. Hopefully, the book will make Lonergan more widely known.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How to Become Educated

How to Become Educated by Mortimer Adler, July 1979.

I caught Mortimer Adler's vision on becoming an educated early on in my college career. I have continued to pursue that vision for the last thirty years. I recently read a lecture Adler gave right before his seventy-seventh birthday. In this speech, he tells us how we can become an educated human being.

Young people seldom ask what is required to become educated. Adler believes this is a question people tend to ask in the later years. I began to ask this question while I was a college student. Adler believes we can only become educated in our later years. In our schooling, we can acquire the tools to become educated, but it does not occur in the schooling for young people.

Adler asserted that he did not regard himself as educated till he was in his fifties. He says that he was not educated even when he received his Ph.D. I remember another article I read by Adler stated that college graduation is just the beginning of learning. Most of what we learn in school we will not remember; but if we acquired the skills of the liberal arts--"the skills of reading and writing, of talking and listening, of asking questions and seeking answers to them, of defending what I thought was true and arguing against what I thought was false"--we can go on learning the rest of our lives and during the later years of our life we will become an educated human being. In addition, our schooling should have introduced us to the world of learning.

Most important, our schooling schooling should open up books to us. It should introduce us to the great authors, books, and ideas. The books need to be over our heads if we are going to grow intellectually. We will not really understand them while in school, but later on as we read them again and again, the light will come on. The skills of learning we acquired in our schooling we need to improve by continual use.

Adler states that the understanding he has acquired over the years came "slowly with the years and with the accumulation of challenging experiences that demanded reflective thought." Most of it came from his thinking and learning, by himself or through reading books, through the conversations he had with others about books, and through travel. He discovered that the process to become educated is a life-long process.

Adler gives some recommendations on becoming educated.
First, he provides a list of books that should be reread many times: The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides; some of the shorter dialogues by Plato (Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Protagoras, Symposium); Aristotle's Ethics and Politics; Plutarch's Lives; Augustine's Confessions; Dante's Divine Comedy; Montaigne's Essays; Four Shakespeare plays (Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, and Othello); Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government; Swift's Gulliver Travels; John Stuart Mill's essay on Liberty, his essay on Representative Government; The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay; and Tolstoy's War and Peace.

His second recommendation is not to read these books once, but many times. He suggest to read actively with pencil in hand. You need to have a conversation with the author, marking the text as needed. In addition, you need to read them and discuss them with others.

He gives a brief list of ideas that need to be understood: Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Liberty, Equality, Justice, Law, Constitution, Government, Democracy, Man, God, Nature, World, Love, Virtue, and Happiness.

If we persistently pursue these recommendations, we will one day be an educated human being.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Religious Belief and Reason Part 6

5.7 The Rational Stance
            Clark asserts, “Because of the possibility of error, those who accept belief in God as basic belief should nonetheless be concerned with evidence for and against belief in God.”[1] Classical foundationalism is wrong to think that we can have absolute certainty in this life. It does not seem to be a valid aim in the search for truth. Reformed epistemologists think we should trust our cognitive capacities to grasp truth. We should assume our beliefs are innocent until proven guilty. However, we do get things wrong. Our cognitive faculties are finite and the whole person is affected by original sin. There must be a way to evaluate if our beliefs are correct or not. Following Thomas Reid, Reformed epistemologists believe that you should “trust the beliefs produced by your cognitive faculties in the appropriate circumstances, unless you have good reason to reject them.”[2]
            It seems true that our cognitive faculties “seem less reliable in matters of fundamental human concern such as the nature of morality, the nature of persons, social and political thought, and belief in God.”[3] These things are closer to us and our views play a greater role in our interpretations. Believing that the goal of rationality is truth, Reformed epistemologists must do two things to make the attainment of truth more probable. First, they should seek “supporting evidence for immediately produced beliefs of fundamental human concern.”[4] This will give them more confidence about the trustworthiness of their beliefs. This does not mean that basic beliefs are irrational without supporting evidence, but it does seem to improve the epistemic status of beliefs when they are supported with supporting evidence. This seems to make Reformed epistemology similar to the “Augustinian view of faith and reason: fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).”[5] Second, they should be willing to consider opposing beliefs or “contrary evidence to root out false beliefs.”[6] Since it is possible to be wrong about their beliefs, they should be open to correction by contrary evidence. Clark thinks Reformed epistemologists should take the following position: “Trust the deliverances of reason, seek supporting evidence, and be open to contrary evidence.”[7]
            Reformed epistemologists think that belief in God does not require arguments or supporting evidence to be considered rational. But because of the problem of error, they should seek supporting evidence to add additional support for their beliefs.
5.8 Objections to Reformed Epistemology
Clark states that Reformed epistemology “has been rejected for three primary reasons.”[8] First, some philosophers reject the idea that we have a sensus divinitatus “and so reject the parity argument.”[9] Second, some philosophers think that Reformed epistemology “is too latitudinarian, permitting the rational acceptability of virtually any belief.”[10] Gary Cutter claims that the argument for the sensus divinitatus could be used to defend the belief in the Great Pumpkin. Third, Reformed epistemology has been rejected because it is considered “as a form of fideism.”[11] Fideism is the idea that belief in God “should be held in the absence of or even in opposition to reason.”[12] Clark thinks that Reformed epistemology is not a form of fideism because “it goes to great lengths to show that belief in God is rational.”[13] Forrest states that one difference between fideism and Reformed epistemology is that Reformed epistemology “requires defense against known objections, such as the Argument from Evil;[14] in contrast, fideism “dismiss such objections as either irrelevant or, worse, intellectual temptations.”[15] However, if fideism is defined as the belief in the existence of God without argument or supporting evidence, then it would be considered a “kind of fideism.”[16]
6 Conclusion
Is religious belief rational? Do religious believers need evidence for their belief in God to count as rational? Classical Foundationalists have argued that religious belief needs evidence to be considered rational. There have been three responses to this argument. First, there is the argument that there is plenty of evidence that supports the rationality of religious belief. Second, there are believers that argue that reason has nothing to do with faith. “I believe because it is absurd.” Third, Reformed epistemologists challenge the criteria of classical foundationalism to be considered rational. It is irresponsible to argue that reason has nothing to do with faith. A proper response would be natural theology or Reformed epistemology or a combination of the two. It might be useful to look at these three responses in more detail.

[1] Ibid., 14.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 14.
[4] Ibid.

[5] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 15.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 11.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Religious Belief and Reason Part 5

5.6 Religious Experience
            Although Plantinga argues that to believe in God does not require propositional evidence or arguments to be considered rational, this does not mean that he thinks “that belief in God is not groundless.”[1] This is an important point because when Plantinga states that religious belief does not require evidence he is speaking of propositional evidence. This does not discount non-propositional evidence. Plantinga thinks that belief in God is grounded in “characteristic religious experiences such as beholding the divine majesty on the top of a mountain or the divine creativity when noticing the articulate beauty of the flower.”[2] C. Stephen Evans content that traditional theistic arguments-- “cosmic wonder,” “purposive order,” “moral obligation,” “human dignity,” and “joy”--can serve as signs that ground religious belief.[3] Other religious experiences mentioned by Plantinga “involve a sense of guilt (and forgiveness), despair, the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit, or direct contact with the divine (mysticism).”[4] Garcia states that Thomas Aquinas thought that “all human knowledge comes through experience, and that we do not experience God directly but only by way of his effects.”[5]Some believers describe personal religious experiences with “sensory metaphors: they claim to see, hear or be touched by God.”[6] Garcia thinks of Plantinga’s grounds “as a type of evidence and to hold that those who come to believe in God on the basis of such experiences are not in fact holding that belief as a basic belief but as a derived belief.”[7] In addition, she thinks it is difficult “to specify which triggering conditions will lead to belief in God’s existence.”[8]
            People who believe based on religious experience do not contend that their belief in God is “based on an argument (any more than belief in other persons is based on an argument).”[9] They think they have encountered God directly either through seeing or hearing and find themselves believing in God because of this experience. “Religious experience is typically taken as self-authenticating.”[10] Reformed epistemologists like Wolterstorff have been influenced by the thought of Thomas Reid and his moderate epistemology. They believe that “one might simply take it that one has a cognitive faculty that can be trusted when it produces belief in God when induced by the appropriate experiences.”[11] Richard Swinburne thinks we should trust what someone tells us unless we have good reason to doubt it. In other words, innocent until proven guilty. Evidentialist objectors seem to assume that a belief is guilty of falsehood unless proven innocent. So it seems we should trust someone’s testimony of religious experience unless we have good reason to doubt it. In addition, it seems those who do not have a religious experience can believe in God on the basis of the experience of others.[12]
            Although some philosophers do not accept religious experience as validating belief in God, Reformed epistemologists think religious experience grounds religious belief.[13] Since humans are more than mind or intelligence it seems valid to trust religious experience to ground religious belief. Is this what Pascal is asserting when he says that the heart knows some things that the mind does not. The philosophers who reject religious experience for grounding religious belief do so because they “deny that one can reliably infer from the experience that the source or cause of that experience was God.”[14] This seems like the rejection of traditional proofs because they do not give us the Biblical God; instead they give us a thin slice of God. This does not seem a valid argument. William Alston believes that perceptual beliefs face a similar problem. Yet we still trust our perceptual beliefs. Alston asserts, “if religious experiences and the beliefs they produce relevantly resemble perceptual experiences and the beliefs they produce, then we should not hold beliefs based upon religious experience to be suspect either.”[15]

[1] Ibid., 12.
[2] Ibid.

[3] C. Stephen Evans, Why Christian Faith Still Makes Sense: A Response to Contemporary Challenges (Grand Rapids:Mi, 2015), 39-57.

[4] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 12; Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 10.

[5] Garcia, “Natural Theology,” 118.

[6] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 12.

[7] Garcia, “Natural Theology,” 118.

[8] Ibid., 120.

[9] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 12.
[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.; Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 10.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.; Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 10.

[14] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 13.
[15] Ibid., 13.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Religious Belief and Reason Part 4

5.5 Reformed Epistemology
Reformed Protestant thinkers, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff and William Alston reject the evidentialist demand for evidence because they consider belief in the existence of God as basic. Their epistemology is known as Reformed Epistemology. They argue that belief in God can be considered rational without arguments or evidence. Evans states that Plantinga accepts a form of foundationalism.[1] Plantinga argued in a paper that beliefs “are warranted without Enlightenment-approved evidence provided they are (a) grounded, and (b) defended against known objections. Such beliefs may then themselves be used as evidence for other beliefs.”[2] They argue that the evidentialist’ demand for evidence “cannot be met in a large number of cases with the cognitive equipment that we have.”[3] We cannot prove everything. Some things must be accepted as basic. Clark asserts, “No one has ever been able to offer proofs for the existence of other persons, inductive beliefs (e.g., that the sun will rise in the future), or the reality of the past.”[4] Reformed epistemologists believe that belief of God “can be among our basic beliefs.”[5] If this is true, “then natural theology that consists of arguments for God’s existence will not be necessary for reasonable belief in God.”[6] However, this does not mean Reformed epistemologists will reject giving arguments for God. Evans says that when the Reformed epistemologist argue that belief in God “can be reasonable without evidence, he is using the term evidence to mean propositional evidence.[7] Propositional evidence appeals to a proposition which can be true or false. Clark thinks that theism does not require propositional evidence to be considered rational.[8]
Second, Plantinga argues that classical foundationalism is “self-referentially inconsistent.” It fails its own test. “Is it rational, given its own conditions, to accept classical foundationalism. Classical foundationalism is not self-evident; “upon understanding it many people believe it is false.”[9] If it can be understood and rejected, then it is not self-evident. Classical Foundationalism is not evident to the senses because “one doesn’t see, taste, smell, touch or hear it.”[10] Even if one accepts classical foundationalism, they could be in error; therefore, it cannot be incorrigible. If classical foundationalism is neither self-evident, evident to the senses or incorrigible, can it be “inferred from propositions” that are self-evident, evident to the senses or incorrigible? It seems not. Therefore, classical foundationalism is irrational by its own standard.
Clark states that there are “at least” two reasons why belief in the existence of God can be considered rational even without evidence or arguments. The first is a “parity” argument. Clark asserts, “We must, by our nature, accept the deliverances of our cognitive faculties, including those that produce beliefs in the external world, other persons, that the future will be like the past, the reality of the past, and what other people tell us--just to name a few. For the sake of parity, we should trust the deliverances of the faculty that produces in us the belief in the divine (what Plantinga following John Calvin, calls the sensus divinitatus, the sense of the divine).[11] Some philosophers reject the idea that we have a sensus divinitatis “and so they reject the parity argument.”[12] Thomas Sullivan notes, “Unless grounds are cognitive grounds, unless grounds supply reason with information, having grounds says nothing about the rationality of one’s beliefs. If, however, grounds are cognitively grasped data, they would be the very stuff most people call evidence.”[13] The second reason is that believing in God “is more like belief in a person than belief in a scientific hypothesis.”[14] Relationships between people “demand trust, commitment, and faith.”[15] If believing in God is similar to believing in other persons, then trusting in God would be similar to trusting other people. Trusting in people is different from believing in an abstract concept. William James makes this argument in “The Will to Believe.”          

[1] Evans, Why the Christian Faith, 15.

[2] Forrest, “The Epistemology of Religion,” 10.

[3] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 9.

[4] Ibid., 9.

[5] Evans, Why the Christian Faith, 16.

[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.

[8] Clark, Return to Reason, 97.

[9] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 9.

[10] Ibid., 10.
[11] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 11; Laura L. Garcia, “Natural Theology and the Reformed Objection,” in Christian Perspectives on Religious Knowledge edited by C. Stephen Evans and Merold Westphal (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 114.

[12] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 11.

[13] Thomas Sullivan, “Adequate Evidence,” quoted in Laura Garcia, “Natural Theology and the Reformed Objection,” 118.

[14] Clark, “Religious Epistemology,” 11.

[15] Ibid.