Thinking Things Through

Thinking Things Through: Essays in Philosophy and Christian Faith

Andrew Murray
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ATF (Australia) Ltd.
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Thinking Things Through
    Book Description:

    The life of a philosopher is foremost the life of thinking but it is also the life of imagination that dreams of and investigates possibilities that might not otherwise have been raised. The life of a Christian is the life of Faith, Hope and Charity, and so it both looks to things beyond this world and regards this world with compassion. The two can work together. Faith softens reason, and reason sharpens Faith. Imagination finds new ways to articulate in concrete circumstances what has belonged to long traditions of thought. These essays cover a wide range of topics either by way of simple reflection on life or in response to issues that arose around the time of their writing. The period of their writing was a varied one. Life looked so stable in the mid-nine-ties that we contemplated Australia becoming a republic and sought Aboriginal reconciliation. It remained uncomplicated at the time of the Olympic Games in 2000 but became troubled by political events and by the terrorist attacks of 2001. The essays respond to the issues of this time. Four essays not published in the Weekly have been added to take note of more recent changes that have taken place in the Church and in our world.

    eISBN: 978-1-921817-66-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Andrew Murray
    (pp. xv-14)

    Moral debate rages around us all the time. It tends to focus on issues that are either difficult or controversial or both, such as euthanasia or abortion. Within the Church things such as the publication of a new encyclical or the disclosure of wrong-doing by someone in authority generate similar discussions.

    Necessary though they are, these debates tend to obscure the most fundamental question of morals. It is a question that is unremarkable at first glance. Yet it is also one that precedes all these others and one that ought be asked every day.

    The question is this. What constitutes...

    (pp. 15-28)

    Preaching at Christmas has always struck me as a somewhat difficult task. It is instructive to reflect on why this might be so.

    Liturgical principles call for a homily that is connected to both the feast and the readings set down for the Mass. The readings are in fact designed to span four Masses. The first reading in each is from the Old Testament and speaks of the messianic hopes of Israel. The gospel readings cover the whole event from the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, through Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth and the visit by the shepherds to John’s...

    (pp. 29-58)

    It is over a decade since the publication of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical,Faith and Reason(Fides et Ratio). It was signed by the Pope on 14 September 1998, and was launched on 20 October of the same year, the twentieth anniversary of his pontificate, by press releases to the world media channels and by placement on the Vatican web site.

    The encyclical is a formidable piece of work on a difficult and long-lived topic—the relationship between revealed truth and the truth of natural reason. It brings the fruits of John Paul II’s long reflection as a Christian...

    (pp. 59-84)

    During the Gulf War the US Government went to extraordinary lengths to show what an evil person Saddam Hussein was. Members of the ruling order in exile from Kuwait hired one of the top American advertising firms to do the same thing. All sorts of rumours, later found to be false, were put around. Placards appeared in the United States clearly identifying Saddam with Adolf Hitler.

    There were reasons for all of this. For whatever purpose, a war was to be waged. Its success would be dependent on public support, since American soldiers would be involved. To have a clearly...

    (pp. 85-104)

    Recently I sat or perhaps I should say walked with a man who was dying. At first he was not dying, rather he was fighting. He was fighting cancer with which he had battled for twelve months. Then he was dying; then he died; and now he is dead. Not so long ago he was alive and well.

    These were an extraordinary series of transformations and one must wonder whether a person could ever expect to learn how to make them and especially how to make them well. Experience is no guide since dying is something that we can do...

    (pp. 105-126)

    Broadly speaking authority can be said to be grounded in two quite distinct ways.

    In the first and more primitive way, authority is won by a person who shows in speech and action that he or she is capable of forming a group of people into a unit and of leading them into action. This basis of authority has long been known, and so we see in Homer’sIliadhow Achilles was able to galvanise soldiers into action not just because of his strength but because of his ability to inspire with speech and to focus men’s minds on a...

    (pp. 127-142)

    The controversy surrounding the Wik legislation, relating to Native Title in Australian Law, raised again the question of whether the Church has a right to speak out in the political debates of the nation. It is important that we as Church address this issue, not from the point of view of our own theologies, but from the point of view of modern political life. We can begin to do this by examining the objections that were raised to statements by Church leaders.

    Some of the objections can be taken as superficial. These include those of objectors who welcome statements with...

    (pp. 143-154)

    Tolerance as a virtue disappeared from public and religious discourse in the West during the late Middle Ages. Societies that were culturally uniform and feudal and that professed a single religion seemed to have no need of it. The Church claimed ultimate authority over individuals and states, and its certainty of having appropriated the truths of revelation left no room for the recognition or acceptance of difference.

    Tolerance or toleration (the words are generally used interchangeably) can be defined as the willingness to endure differences in others patiently. It is implied that these differences are significant and that they are...

    (pp. 155-190)

    In his biography of Paul Keating, John Edwards notes with approval Keating’s recognition that economic management is key to successful government. He later speaks of Australia as ‘a country where economic policy [is] more important than any other’. What an appalling state of affairs! Although the nation needs to be economically healthy for many other things to happen well, that the economy have or be thought to have this pre-eminence in political affairs should give rise to serious concern.

    Politics is about relationships—relationships between groups of people in the country; relationships between this country and other countries. It is...

    (pp. 191-202)

    27 May 2007, marks the fortieth anniversary of the referendum that supported the constitutional amendment that meant that Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples could vote and be counted in the national census. Objectively and symbolically this established these peoples as full citizens of the state that claimed sovereignty over the land in which they had lived for some 40,000 years.

    We ought to be joyful about this referendum–that it took place, that it was won, and that it was won by a yes vote comprising over 90% of voters. It is no longer thinkable that a situation in...

    (pp. 203-208)

    Anzac Day always reminds me of great uncle Fred. He was really Thomas Frederick Murray, and I have seen his name written in stone on the cenotaph at Manly and in bronze at the War Memorial in Canberra. It is also inscribed at Lone Pine in Gallipoli, though none of us have seen it there. We know him from a photocopy of his war record and a few letters.

    The letters are those of a young man travelling aboard ship to the Middle East. They mention food, illness at sea, and something of the boredom of it all once the...

    (pp. 209-218)

    From time to time one hears speeches or sees written statements that seem to come from nowhere, to go nowhere and, while they may seem to address someone, to address no one. Although one presumes that any locution is meant for someone and suspects that this particular one may even be meant for oneself, one recognises that something is amiss - speaker and hearer do not meet in any recognisable way.

    In the early seventies, Richard B Gregg, made a rhetorical analysis of the speeches of three different protest movements. He began with the usual assumption in such studies that...

    (pp. 219-222)

    It is over five years since I began writing these essays inThe Catholic Weekly, and I decided some time ago it would be time for me to take a rest before moving on to other forms of writing. This then, is my last essay.

    In these essays, I have tried to reflect as a philosopher and as a Christian. Faith and reason, which John Paul II called ‘two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth’, have for me not found themselves in conflict, and remain solid guides to the understanding of a reality that...

  17. Topical Index
    (pp. 223-226)
  18. Index of Names
    (pp. 227-229)