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.

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