The Mind That Is Catholic

The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays

JAMES V. SCHALL
Copyright Date: 2008
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32b452
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  • Book Info
    The Mind That Is Catholic
    Book Description:

    The Mind That Is Catholic, he presents a retrospective collection of his academic and literary essays written in the past fifty years. In each essay, he exemplifies the Catholic mind at its best--seeing the whole, leaving nothing out.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1826-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION. “A CERTAIN CRIME UNOBSERVED”
    (pp. 1-6)

    In a famous query in the Gorgias Socrates talks to Chaerephon, the very man, as he tells us in the Apology, who asked the Oracle, “who was the wisest man in Greece?” Socrates tells him to ask Gorgias, the philosophic-orator, precisely “what he is” (477c).¹ When anyone attempts to answer such a question for himself to himself, always a difficult and humbling endeavor, he comes up with an odd series of possible responses. He can, as in my case, answer: “He is a human being.” “He is a man.” “He is a cleric.” “He is an American.” “He is an...

  5. PART I. ON CATHOLIC THINKING
    • 1 THE MIND THAT IS CATHOLIC
      (pp. 9-18)

      Near the end the sixth of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, entitled The Magician’s Nephew, the young hero, Digory, has been tempted by the witch to take an apple, contrary to the instructions of Aslan, the Christ-symbolic character in these stories, back to his home.¹ There, in England, Digory’s mother lies seriously ill with no hope of recovery. He wants to give the apple to his mother. The magic apple will give her an inner-worldly immortality. Like the witch, she will not die. The witch uses this devotion to his mother as the bait for Digory to break the...

    • 2 “INFINITIZED BY THE SPIRIT”: Maritain and the Intellectual Vocation
      (pp. 19-32)

      Though realizing that it is but one, we live, if you will, in two worlds. The first is the world of things already in being and functioning by themselves according to what they are, by their own resources. such a world is simply there through no activity or cause of our own. We can learn something of how it “works,” but it is already there working by itself without us. In this sense, we are ourselves included in this world of things that come to be without ourselves being the primary cause of what it is for them to come...

    • 3 CHESTERTON, THE REAL “HERETIC”: “The Outstanding Eccentricity of the Peculiar Sect Called Roman Catholics”
      (pp. 33-44)

      No one, I presume, wants to be charged with having a “defective mind,” even if, perchance, he has one and knows it. However, as Chesterton implies in the chapter on “The Maniac,” in Orthodoxy, probably the last thing a “defective mind” would know about itself is that it is defective. it takes the normal to see what is abnormal. In order not to have such a “defective mind,” Chesterton tells us in Heretics, we need, as an antidote, the habit of “uproarious thinking.” What, I might ask, does he mean by “uproarious thinking?”

      Thinking, after all, seems to be rather...

    • 4 “THE VERY GRACIOUSNESS OF BEING”
      (pp. 45-58)

      The phrase “the very graciousness of being” (156) is taken from Marion Montgomery, a man who has been a quiet mentor and inspiration to many, including John Hittinger. In a fundamental sense, the phrase comes as close as anything to describe the purpose of Hittinger’s book Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace. The phrase suggests that something more than a closed world exists—“The seemingly trivial acts of graciousness may do much to preserve the dignity of persons” (160). No deterministic theory either of natural or social science really accounts for such acts. In fact, it makes them impossible And if there...

  6. PART II. RECKONING WITH PLATO
    • 5 ON THE UNIQUENESS OF SOCRATES: Political Philosophy and the Rediscovery of the Human Body
      (pp. 61-79)

      Near the end of his speech in the Symposium, Alcibiades affirmed that “many are the marvels which I might narrate in praise of Socrates; most of his ways might perhaps be paralleled in another man but his absolute unlikeness to any human being that is or ever was is perfectly astonishing” (221).¹ To describe the philosophic life simply as the imitation of Socrates is both accurate and ironic. It is accurate because the life of philosophy, the erotic seeking of the knowledge of the whole, involves a lifetime of questioning, of personal sacrifice, of moral and physical courage, of discovering...

    • 6 ON THE DEATH OF PLATO: Some Philosophical Thoughts on the Thracian Maidens
      (pp. 80-94)

      In volume three of his Order and History, Eric Voegelin reflects on the central importance both of Plato and Aristotle.¹ His treatise on Plato is an extraordinary analysis of Plato’s life and abiding philosophic importance. When I ask a class to read this volume on Plato, I insist that they do not read the last short paragraph of this book until they have read the rest of the book. I do not want them to miss the astonishment that I myself experienced on first reading it. Too often, of course, such is human nature, this admonition not to read a...

    • 7 WHAT IS PIETY?
      (pp. 95-102)

      The four dialogues on the trial and death of Socrates—the Euthyphro, the Apology, the Crito, and the Phaedo—were not written at once or in the chronological order of the events themselves. Time-wise, the Euthyphro comes first. It depicts a rather amusing scene. Socrates has just been indicted for impiety by the young and arrogant Meletus. On his way to the court, Socrates comes across a younger “prophet” who is also going to court to prosecute his own father. The whole scene is rather delightful and quite playful.

      However, the dialogue has serious overtones. It is about “piety.” It...

  7. PART III. THE ABIDING IMPLICATIONS OF FRIENDSHIP
    • 8 ARISTOTLE ON FRIENDSHIP
      (pp. 105-113)

      Two of the most beautiful treatises from the ancient world are on the same subject—friendship. One is by Aristotle in books 8 and 9 of his Ethics; the other by Cicero. It should not go unnoticed that Thomas Aquinas commented not only on the whole of the Ethics, including the treatise on friendship, but that his discussions of charity as a theological virtue are also extensions of the analyses of friendship found in the classical writers, especially Cicero and Aristotle.

      “Friendship is something everyone ought to think about,” Cicero wisely affirmed.¹ Yet, like all things ethical—like laughter itself...

    • 9 THE TOTALITY OF SOCIETY: From Justice to Friendship
      (pp. 114-127)

      Human society has become for the modern world a complex reality, far too intricate for the mind of any one man to know thoroughly. Rarely do we understand it in its totality and unity. The basic structure of society can be grasped. Man can reflect on his experience and know the means and ends of his life in the city. Many ways enable us to discover the basic totality. The clearest way is to analyze the various aspects of law as it was set down and understood by St. Thomas Aquinas. We might also begin with justice, or the common...

    • 10 THE TRINITY: God Is Not Alone
      (pp. 128-148)

      Questions about the meaning and destiny of man constantly arise in modern literature and in modern societal thought; the hope for redemption and the longing to hear the voice of God in the world are realities of our times. But the modern world has had the greatest difficulty in understanding the reality of God, which Christians feel is the answer to questions that all modern men are asking. It is, therefore, of some importance to present, in a manner as clear and as simple as possible, the meaning of the Christian God, to see why it is that precisely the...

  8. PART IV. THE MEDIEVAL EXPERIENCE
    • 11 THE POINT OF MEDIEVAL POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 151-161)

      In 1973, the Spanish philosopher Salvador de Madariaga received the International Charlemagne Peace Prize in Aachen, in Germany. The city of Aachen, he pointed out, the ancient seat of the Holy Roman Empire, of Charlemagne himself, has its own name in most European languages—Aken, Aix la Chapelle, Aquisgrán. This variety of name implies a spiritual unity that predates the formation of modern European languages and states. At the conclusion of his remarks, de Madariaga recalled the common heritage of Europe, its diversity within its unity. He made a suggestion that sums up, perhaps better than any similar proposal, what...

    • 12 “POSSESSED OF BOTH A REASON AND A REVELATION”
      (pp. 162-177)

      In the summer of 1926, Étienne Gilson was invited to teach summer school at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. This was his first visit to the United States. His friend, Professor Albert G. A. Balz, had invited him to give two lecture courses, one, “The Development of Thought from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries,” the second, “The Evolution of French Thought since the Sixteenth Century.”¹ Gilson, haltingly learning English at the time, seems to have enjoyed this visit and these students. His foreword to the Richards Lecture, which he gave in Charlottesville in 1937, specifically recalls these earlier...

    • 13 AQUINAS AND THE DEFENSE OF ORDINARY THINGS: On “What Common Men Call Common Sense”
      (pp. 178-190)

      In 1964, Étienne Gilson, at that time residing at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto, gave the Fenwick Lectures on the occasion of the 175th year since the founding of Georgetown University. These lectures were subsequently published under the title The Spirit of Thomism. In the first discourse, Gilson remarked, perhaps sadly, perhaps frankly, that “not all good Christians love philosophy.”¹ We think of Tertullian’s famous question, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Gilson himself mentioned, in this same category, Arnobius and Peter Damian, as well as the Abbé Lucien Laberthonnière, who thought one had to choose...

  9. PART V. IMPLICATIONS OF CATHOLIC THOUGHT
    • 14 THE “REALISM” OF ST. AUGUSTINE’S “POLITICAL REALISM”: Augustine and Machiavelli
      (pp. 193-207)

      As a teacher in political philosophy over the years, I have become intrigued by the effect of reading with an average class of modern students both St. Augustine and Machiavelli, the archetypes of what is called in political philosophy “political realism.” Often these same students are bent on saving the world, largely, as far as I can tell, by going to law school, itself something of a problem in political philosophy. For we can, in this context, recall St. Augustine’s own sobering account of his early teaching career. In Rome, his own students failed to pay their bills. In Milan,...

    • 15 “MYSTIFYING INDEED”: On Being Fully Human
      (pp. 208-219)

      Every so often an event happens that causes us to stop, almost dead in our tracks. We say to ourselves: “This is really significant.” This event is not ordinary, which is why we notice it, even though it may chance to happen in the course of an ordinary day. We want to explain why it is so striking. The event can be, and usually is, the meeting of a particular person (all persons are particular, “singular”), or it can be the seeing of a work of art, the hearing some music, or even the witnessing a good game or match....

    • 16 TRANSCENDENCE AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 220-236)

      The primary task of political philosophy is to situate life itself in an intelligible context, in the whole, so that politics, as itself something essential to this life, to this whole, need not, however, function as a “substitute metaphysics.” Politics, in its self-justification, when its intrinsic limitations are not intellectually understood, can become a spurious description of the order of reality, itself dependent solely on human projections. This awareness that politics can claim to be more than itself implies that the defense of politics is the allowing it to remain itself. It is the highest practical science, but not the...

    • 17 MYSTICISM, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, AND PLAY
      (pp. 237-248)

      To link mysticism, political philosophy, and play together is, at first sight, rash. What could they possibly have in common, since they clearly are not the same? Mysticism relates to our contact, if we have any, with the “mysterion,” with the mystery that lies at the threshold or ground of all finite beings, among which we are. Religion is a natural virtue, pietas, an aspect of justice. It is our effort properly to relate ourselves to God as the origin of our existence in terms of what we “owe” for what we are and for what we receive, something obviously...

  10. PART VI. THINGS PRACTICAL AND IMPRACTICAL
    • 18 SPORTS AND PHILOSOPHY
      (pp. 251-260)

      On February 15, 1983, Vital Speeches published an address of mine entitled, “On the Seriousness of Sports.” This essay was later included in my book, Another Sort of Learning.¹ Originally, it was given at a Conference on Sports Journalism held at Harrah’s Club in Reno, Nevada. This state, as you know, is a well-known arena for a certain kind of sports, namely, “gaming sports,” as they are called. Last year, moreover, I published a book entitled, On the Unseriousness of Human Affairs: Teaching, Writing, Playing, Believing, Lecturing, Philosophizing, Singing, Dancing.² Note the words “playing” and “philosophizing” in the subtitle. They...

    • 19 THE REAL ALTERNATIVES TO JUST WAR
      (pp. 261-276)

      A calm and reasonable case can and should be made for the possession and effective use of adequate military and police force in today’s world. It is irresponsible not to talk about and plan for the necessity of force in the face of real turmoil and enemies actually present in the world. No talk of peace, justice, truth, or virtue is complete without a clear understanding that certain individuals, movements, and nations must be dealt with in terms of measured force, however much we would like to deal with them in a more peaceful or pleasant manner. Without force, many...

  11. PART VII. WHERE DOES IT LEAD?
    • 20 ON CHOOSING NOT TO SEE
      (pp. 279-285)

      One of the most instructive passages I have ever read is that found in C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man about the textbook writers and the waterfall. The story goes that the English poet Coleridge records the reaction of two ordinary tourists on first seeing a particularly lovely waterfall. One of these tourists called it “pretty,” while the other called it “sublime.” Coleridge, of course, thought the tourist calling it “sublime” was correct, while the one calling it merely “pretty” was lacking in some perception or appreciation of the reality before him. There was a note of “culpability” in...

    • 21 “THE ULTIMATE MEANING OF EXISTENCE”
      (pp. 286-295)

      The most penetrating question that a man can inquire of himself about himself is the obvious and simple inquiry, “Why do I exist?” Or to state it another way, “Why am I rather than am not?” No subsequent question is asked that does not anticipate and expect a prior answer to the existence question. I am quite well aware that I do not cause my own existence. I am likewise aware that “existence” is a special kind of word that refers to an “aspect” of our being unlike anything else about us. My existence belongs to me, no one else....

    • 22 “THE BEGINNING OF THE REAL STORY”
      (pp. 296-306)

      Narnia, too, like our own fallen world from which it differs in many ways, was not intended to last forever. This truth does not mean that there is no everlastingness, only that it is not ultimately found in Narnia or in this world. yet, intimations of forever are found both in Narnia and in this world in which our own dramas are played out. Our own existence, as Chesterton put it in “The Ethics of Elfland,” reveals “a hairbreadth escape: everything has been saved from a wreck. Every man has had one horrible adventure: as a hidden, untimely birth he...

  12. CONCLUSION. ON BEING ALLOWED TO READ MONTE CRISTO
    (pp. 307-312)

    The introduction of this book began, from Samuel Johnson, with the amusing and paradoxical consideration of madness and enthusiasm, of “praying always” and “not praying at all,” of how what is sane can seem to be insane and of how what is maniacal is seen by many to be sensible. This same point is made again in considering Chesterton as the “real heretic,” the man whose views were considered most outlandish precisely because they were really the ones closest to the truth. Chesterton had learned this paradox, to use his word, not from reading Scripture or apologetics but from reading...

  13. APPENDIX. POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY’S “HINT OF GLORY”: INTERVIEW OF JAMES V. SCHALL BY KENNETH MASUGI
    (pp. 313-326)
    KENNETH MASUGI and JAMES V. SCHALL
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 327-332)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 333-337)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 338-338)