Political Philosophy and Revelation

Political Philosophy and Revelation

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Political Philosophy and Revelation
    Book Description:

    A collection of Fr. James Schall's recent essays, Political Philosophy and Revelation offers a learned, erudite, and coherent statement on the relationship between reason and revelation in the modern world. It addresses political philosophy in the context of an awareness of other humane and practical sciences, including history, literature, economics, theology, ethics and metaphysics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2155-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Why is it, I wonder, that we can find out more about what is happening in the world before us by reading Plato or Aristotle than we can by reading the newspapers or the leading professional journals in the field, all now online, as are Plato and Aristotle? We cannot imagine that any actual politician pays much attention to what scholars say. Yet, when we read of Callicles, or Thrasymachus, or Nicias, or Seneca, we constantly encounter familiar figures, great and small, of our own time. We are ever being admonished to find and pursue a “practical” education, a “how-to”...

  4. PART I. The Principle of All Reality
    • 1. Books That Are “Great”—Books That Are “True”
      (pp. 3-14)

      The first thing that I want to establish in this book is that I am concerned with the truth. I will approach this topic delicately through a lecture that I gave to students in a small college in North Carolina. It catches, I think, the spirit of what this book is about; namely, that revelation addresses itself to the reason, that reason is not just thinking or talking but distinguishing between this and that, between what is true and what is not. Ultimately, we need to think for ourselves, but thinking for ourselves does not presume to make truth to...

    • 2. On Rereading the Apology of Socrates
      (pp. 15-23)

      Each semester, with a class, I reread theApology of Socrates.It is something to which I always look forward. Nothing alerts us to greatness and truth quite like this small tractate does. When they read it, I encourage (order!) students to shut off their cell phones, TVs, cool music, and expel roommates. Read it in silence. Learn, with Cicero, what being “less” alone when you are alone means. Each semester theApologyis both a familiar and a new text.

      The written dialogue, the text, exists almost in spite of us. At least someone in every age and in...

    • 3. The Purpose of Creation
      (pp. 24-30)

      It may seem odd that a chapter on the “purpose of creation” follows ones on books and onThe Apology of Socrates.The purpose of creation will come up again in these pages. It comes up here because, in their own ways, seeking books that tell the truth to our souls, beginning usually with theApology of Socrates,asks first about why we exist. Socrates himself, he tells us, spent his early years trying to figure out the meaning of the cosmos. We do seek the truth of knowing how things are, of how they fit together. We are loathe...

  5. PART II. On Something or Other Really Existing
    • 4. On the Things That Depend on Philosophy
      (pp. 33-46)

      What can it mean to suggest that things can “depend” on philosophy? And what things might these be? Philosophy, after all, is “for its own sake.” Philosophers, moreover, even in classical times, were considered to be rather odd or eccentric. To “depend” on them was, to say the least, to be quite rash. Even St. Paul associated philosophy with “foolishness,” and in Athens, it was said to be difficult to distinguish the philosopher from the fool. To the normal man, both philosopher and fool seemed to be distinctly peculiar. Yet, this same “normal man,” who might greet the professional philosopher...

    • 5. On the Conquest of Human Nature: Ancients, Moderns—Medievals, Futures
      (pp. 47-56)

      The basic thesis that I will argue in this chapter is that the principal time period from which we must protect ourselves is not that belonging to the ancients, the medievals, or even the moderns, but, to coin a phrase, to the “futures.” No doubt the only temporal thing we can “do” anything about, via the present, is the future, even though, with memory and forgiveness, we can do something to repair our actual past. The “now” is the only point at which we can affect anything in the future. The future, of course, for the moment, only exists in...

    • 6. Why Political Philosophy Is Not a Natural Science
      (pp. 57-72)

      Political science departments in universities are variously also called “government,” “politics,” or, more dubiously, “social science” departments. Unlike other university departments such as history, English, or physics, political science has traditionally maintained a subsection within its general sphere of interest devoted to “theory” or “political philosophy.” This division brings up the question: “Why is not the philosophic consideration of politics located in the philosophy department?” Or perhaps we could put it another way: “Even though they sometimes list courses that are clearly related to political philosophy, are contemporary philosophy departments in fact ‘philosophic’ enough to deal philosophically with political things?”...

  6. PART III. Sufficient Understanding to See the Truth
    • 7. The Rational Animal
      (pp. 75-82)

      As a gift that she thought I might enjoy, a student gave me a book entitled,Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes.I often point out to students that, according to Aristotle, wit is a sign of intelligence. If someone has to have repeated the same joke four or five times before he gets the point, chances are that he is not the swiftest intellect on the block. Intelligence is a question of seeing relations through distinguishing things. And relations are at the heart of metaphysics, of how things stand and stand to each...

    • 8. Liberal Education—“Missing Many Allusions”: On Why Not to Study the Bible and the Classics
      (pp. 83-92)

      If man is indeed a “rational animal,” his main endeavor has to be an understanding of what this combination of mind and body means. And it is well to pay attention to all the sources that are available in this endeavor. In 1960, the editors ofDelta: The Cambridge Literary Magazineasked C. S. Lewis about a comment he had made on the presuppositions of a liberal education. An objector to Lewis’s view observed that one could understand, say, the graveyard scene inHamletwithout, as Lewis implied, knowing the Bible or the classics. In his reply, Lewis made the...

    • 9. On Praise and Celebration
      (pp. 93-104)

      Ultimately, the end of the rational animal, as well as the end of liberal education, is nothing less than the capacity to praise and the incentive to celebratewhatis. If we so choose, we can reasonably approach what Catholicism is about from the angle of the Fall, of original sin, of the dire consequences of both natural and human disasters. Such things abide and repeat themselves over the centuries. Much ideology arises out of the claim to be able to eradicate either natural or moral disasters. Yet they recur in most times and places, even under the best regimes,...

  7. PART IV. On Finding a Natural Explanation for Mysteries
    • 10. Thomism and Atheism
      (pp. 107-117)

      Harry Jaffa wrote a book entitledThomism and Aristotelianism,in which he reflected on Aristotle’s magnanimous man. Jaffa wondered whether the magnanimous man’s affirmative judgment about his own worth was compatible with the Christian notion of humility.¹ After some discussion over the years, it is generally agreed that the two kinds of life are rather more compatible than it first seemed to Jaffa. Humility and truth are presupposed to each other.

      However, no one much expects that “Thomism” and “atheism” will be so deftly reconciled with each other as “Thomism” and “Aristotelianism.” Still, we know that the early Christians in...

    • 11. The Definitive Kingdom
      (pp. 118-131)

      Every civilized city is an active order composed of mortal men during the time they are precisely the mortals. Politics as such describes their order insofar as they are alive in this world. The existing polity reflects the inner order or disorder of the citizens’ souls as they associate to achieve the end they define as happiness. Politics, which is natural to man, does not in principle affirm that this world is the individual citizen’s only destiny. Men are by nature to be sure political animals. What they are fully capable of being as mortals is not possible outside the...

    • 12. A Roman Catholic Reading of Plato’s Gorgias
      (pp. 132-148)

      When a Catholic priest says his daily Office or Breviary, he reads the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament in the course of a month, often repeating several of them. This Breviary is an official document of the Catholic Church. After reading it for a while, one notices, before each Psalm often is placed a brief one- or two-line statement from the New Testament or from one of the Fathers of the Church. These short passages always point to the coming of Christ or to some aspect of Christ’s life, like the Passion or the Resurrection. New Testament readings in...

  8. PART V. At the Calling of All Nations
    • 13. Ratzinger on the Modern Mind
      (pp. 151-163)

      Back in 1996, Joseph Ratzinger gave an address in Mexico on a constant concern of his, namely, the condition and roots of the modern mind. This chapter will recall that earlier address. The standard question hovering about the intellectual world since the crisis of Marxism and before the reassertion of Islam was this: “Where does the intellectual left go next, especially if it refuses to consider orthodoxy?” In the West, the obvious, most likely answer, I think, is that it goes in the direction of ecology and environmentalism. These all-embracing systems can provide an apparently plausible, natural justification to reduce...

    • 14. From Cambridge to Regensburg: On Intellectual Courage
      (pp. 164-177)

      The relatively small cities of Cambridge in Massachusetts and Regensburg in Bavaria both are homes of famous universities, of Harvard in Cambridge, of Regensburg in Bavaria. Regensburg is an ancient city going back, under the name of Ratisbona, to the time of the Stoic philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius. Harvard is the oldest of the universities in the United States. Older ones can be found in Latin America. Though attempts to found a fourth Bavarian university in Regensburg go back to 1487, its full establishment was not until relatively recently in 1965.

      What do these two cities and their respective universities have...

    • 15. “Intellectual Charity”
      (pp. 178-186)

      For a course in medieval political philosophy, I had occasion to look at the chapter on the Arab philosophers—Al Kindi, Al Ghazeli, Al Farabi, Avecenna, and Averroes, among others—in Etienne Gilson’s famousHistory of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages.This book was first published on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29), 1954. It bears the imprimatur of Cardinal McGuigan. At the time, Gilson was the director of studies at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. Several of my own professors and friends, I think particularly of Clifford Kossel, SJ, Raymond Dennehy, and...

  9. PART VI. Much That Is Fair
    • 16. “Plato’s Charm”: On the “Audience” of Political Philosophy
      (pp. 189-202)

      People, places, and things, each in a different way, can enchant us, fascinate us, yes, charm us. Each of these latter words—enchant, fascinate, charm—somehow has to do with the mystery of being itself, of why there is something, not nothing. Why can things from outside of ourselves surprise us? Why do we not already know everything? We can be taken out of ourselves almost before we know it by some person or some place or site we encounter. We experience our very insufficiency as a wonder. What kind of beings are we that such striking things can happen...

    • 17. On That by Which Human Things Are Measured
      (pp. 203-216)

      The great modern “heresy,” if I dare use that antimodern but still noble word, is that no truth can be found. Especially we find no truth according to which man is to live a life that orders him to a good whose essence is not concocted by himself. The truth is that there is no truth. That contradictory truth, at least, is true. It is a pragmatic “truth.” We “make” it; therefore we know it. It conforms to our mind’s notion of what is true “for us.” We need it to be true in order that we be not bound...

    • 18. On the “Right” to Be Born
      (pp. 217-224)

      As with so many chapters in this book, this chapter too relates to Plato. Benedict XVI, inCaritas in veritatem,addressed the troubled meaning of the word “right.” Perhaps no word in modern philosophy has caused more trouble to both state and Church than this, at first sight, noble word. Many a philosopher, like Maritain, and pope, like John Paul II, have tried valiantly to save this word from the meaning that it had when it first appeared in modern thought, generally with Hobbes. The popes want the word to mean what is objectively due to the child. But neither...

  10. PART VII. On Following the Pull of the Divine Nous
    • 19. On Political Philosophy and the Understanding of Things: Reflections on Fifty Years of Writing
      (pp. 227-239)

      The Catholic University of America Press published in November 2008 a collection of twenty-two academic essays of mine under the somewhat provocative titleThe Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays.The first of these essays appeared in 1957 and the last in 2008. Such an occasion is an appropriate one for looking back over one’s publications to wonder what they were in fact about. Looking forward from 1957, one hardly suspects what will follow. Looking back, one wonders if it was not all there from the beginning. Not a few of the things I have written, or better...

    • 20. Revelation and Political Philosophy: On Locating the Best City
      (pp. 240-252)

      Philosophy is the quest for knowledge of the whole by a being that is himself a whole but notthewhole. The quest is given with our being. It makes us be what we are, both acting and thinking beings. It explains the constant dynamism that charges through our lives whether we like it or not. Further, it incites us to know what we are in order that we might choose to be what we ought to be. We are the only beings in the universe that cannot be what we are without our own decision actually to be what...

    • 21. “A Plan of Surpassing Beauty”
      (pp. 253-264)

      Ultimately, political philosophy and revelation point in the same direction. “How could man ever have known that he was weak and mortal by nature, whereas God was immortal and mighty, if he had not had experience of both?” Irenaeus of Lyons asked. “To discover his weakness through suffering is not in any sense evil; on the contrary, it is good not to have an erroneous view of one’s own nature.”¹ That is a central theme of this book, that it is “good not to have an erroneous view of one’s own nature.”

      Irenaeus goes on to reflect on whether, as...

  11. Conclusion: What Is “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy?”
    (pp. 265-272)

    Let me conclude these reflections on philosophy, revelation, and political philosophy with a succinct statement of how they fit together. A course in “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy” is rarely found in any academic institution, including those sponsored by the Church. We do find courses entitled “Religion and Politics,” “Social Doctrine of the Church,” or “Church and State.”¹ But “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy” is something different. It is a commonplace, going back to Plato, that most people consider philosophers and academics, not to mention clerics, to be rather foolish and naïve when it comes to dealing with the practical affairs of...

    (pp. 273-278)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 279-281)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-282)