The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.61.3

“The liberal arts (8:696c) have long been seen as ideal preparatory studies for philosophy and detailed scientific investigation.  They are usually counted seven in number and include what the medievals called the trivium, i.e., grammar, rhetoric, and logic, and the quadrivium, i.e., arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.  They are designated liberal because they pertain to the contemplative rather than to the productive life of man, and so liberate him to contemplate the higher things.  The trivium prepares the learner to think and speak correctly, and so to communicate well with others, whereas the quadrivium disciplines him in the use of logically rigorous quantitative techniques that also have application in the sciences.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §61.  PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION  //  [paragraph] 3 //   [page] 188)

Obiter Dicta:  A sign in which universities have adopted a focus on technical skills education and money producing career education is the erosion of various liberal arts courses.  An argument which has been made in the past for liberal arts instruction is that the world is contingent (changes often and in many ways) and that the foundational and wide nature of liberal arts instruction is the best preparation for unknowns.  Another argument for liberal arts instruction is that it provides persons with the communication skills needed to make the world a human experience rather than just a technical, technological, or financial experience.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.61.2

“Various philosophies of education have been implicit in the development of educational theories from antiquity to the present (5:162b-166b).  These include humanism, which sees service to the community of man as an essential end of education; naturalism, which sees man as inherently good and construes the task of education as that of returning him to his state of unfettered innocence; scientism, which would apply the methods of science, and particularly psychology, to educational practice; nationalism, which, like communism, would subordinate the individual to the good of the nation or state; progressivism, which values freedom and sees education as a never-ending process, as the continuous reconstruction of experience in order to direct future action; social deconstructionism, which sees the primary task of education as addressing current problems and inaugurating drastic social reform; and traditionalism, which holds that the school should refrain from social involvement and plans for the future and concentrate instead on intellectual development while drawing from the traditions of all ages.  A Thomistic philosophy of education would see its goal as virtuous living and the contemplation of truth; moreover, it is a lifelong process of self-activity, self-direction, and self-realization that nonetheless requires mature guidance, for the learner is the principal agent in the educational process while the educator is essentially an instrumental cause [§35.9] who brings potentialities to realization by giving extrinsic aid to the natural reason.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §61.  PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION  //  [paragraph] 2 //   [pages] 187 and 188)

Obiter Dicta:  One of the finer expositions on Roman Catholic thought about education is Cardinal John Henry Newman’s (A.D. 1801 to 1890) The Idea of a University (A.D. 1873). Catholic associations on university campuses called Newman clubs take their inspiration from him.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.61.1

“The philosophy of education (5:162a) is an expression popularized by pragmatists [§100.1] to signify a study of the fundamental principles of the theory of education, as distinguished from the science of education, i.e., the empirical study of the educational process, and from the art of education, i.e., the techniques or methods of educational practice.  For pragmatists the philosophy of education deals principally with the values [§62] or goals of education.  A broader vision would include (1) the nature of man as he is capable of being educated, (2) the goal or character of the truly educated man, (3) the trained abilities that man acquires in achieving this goal, and (4) the agents by which man is educated.  In this context the term education should not be limited to merely academic training, but rather taken in its widest sense of the development of all facets of the human personality—physical, moral, and intellectual—in their individual and social aspects.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §61.  PHILOSOPHY OF EDUCATION  //  [paragraph] 1 //   [page] 187)

Obiter Dicta:  Father Wallace writes, “…the term education should not be limited to merely academic training, but rather taken in its widest sense of the development of all facets of the human personality—physical, moral…”.  In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle (385 to 322 B.C.) makes the point that people attain the virtues (such as courage and generosity) and vices (such as cowardice and stinginess) through training; that is, through education.  To make this point, he uses the example of the difference between things which are “by nature” and things which are “by learning/education”.  A person takes a rock in hand and attempts to make it float when s/he lets go of the rock by means of repetition, encouragement, reward, threat, punishment; all the techniques used to change people’s behaviors.  And, as one would expect, the rock simply falls to the ground each and every time it is released.  The reason it falls is that it is the rock’s nature to fall to the ground when released.  By contrast, Aristotle points out that a person’s character can be changed by means of tools of education/formation, such as repetition (habitual practice), encouragement, reward, threat, punishment.  Virtues and vices are matters of moral/ethical character and they can be learned by means of education/formation.  A person can be made (trained/educated) to be courageous or cowardly, generous or stingy.  A rock can be made (trained/educated) to float when released from a person’s hand.

It would seem that a sharp distinction is being made between those things (events) which are “by nature” and those things (the virtues and vices of human character) which are “by education/formation”.  It is valuable to keep in mind that the ability/capability of the human person to be formed through education/training/formation is part of the nature of the human person.  A human person is a being which “by nature” can learn skills and attain character traits by means of education/training/formation.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.60.4

“There is no unanimity as to what constitutes the philosophy of religion (12:255a), as opposed to the study of religion described in the preceding paragraphs.  The term of relatively recent origin, and is variously used to designate (1) natural theology [§41], or (2) more precisely a post-Kantian idealistic substitute for what was natural theology in a pre-Kantian realism, or (3) simply a curricular category that covers a variety of topics ranging from the history, sociology (12:261b), and psychology (12:258d) of religion to the problems in epistemology and metaphysics.  It is possible, however, to distinguish the philosophy of religion from natural theology on the following basis (16:349a):  natural theology is concerned only with the philosopher’s inquiry into man’s knowledge of God through natural reason, whereas the philosophy of religion takes into account all aspects of religious experience and relationships, focusing on the meaning of religion and its role in man’s personal and social existence [§101.4].  Although it considers religion in a context broad enough to include the Judeo-Christian tradition, it does so in a philosophical spirit that does not itself serve a theological purpose; it is intent merely to seek out the properly human significance of religion as it can be grasped and lived cooperatively by all men.  To accomplish this goal it must view Christianity as a sort of abstract dialectic, and this puts it under much the same tensions as are found in Christian philosophy [§1.8].”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §60.  PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION  //  [paragraph] 4 //   [pages] 186 and 187)

Obiter Dicta:  Philosophy is interested in discovering and understanding the-way-things-are; their essences/natures.  Religion, what it is and how it is practiced is a real thing.  Being a real thing which can be understood and known, philosophy seeks to understand this human phenomenon.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.60.3

“A symbol (13:860c) is a particular type of sign [§3.4]:  a sensible reality, e.g., a word, gesture, or artifact, that betokens something that cannot be directly perceived, properly described, or adequately defined by abstract concepts.  The symbol, by its suggestive capacity, thus discloses something that man could not otherwise know, at least with the same richness or power.  Because it communicates levels of meaning and reality that are not accessible in immediate experience or conceptual thought, the symbol as such  is in some sense revelatory.  Thus it is ideal for expressing religious truths that cannot be pictured in any literal way.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §60.  PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION  //  [paragraph] 3 //   [page] 186)

Obiter Dicta:  The eucharistic host and wine, when consecrated, is an interesting and unique reality.  It is at one and the same time a symbol and a reality.  It is a symbol of Jesus and his passion/death/resurrection and it is Jesus actually; body and blood, soul and divinity.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.60.2

Myth (10:185c) is the normal form for expressing the content of religion before the elaboration of philosophical definitions, and even side by side with them.  Myth is also rite, although it is not always the explanation of a rite nor does every rite postulate a myth.  The recitation of the myth itself is a rite, as is shown by the conditions, e.g., of secrecy and of ceremony, for communicating it.  The myth seeks to give expression to religious experience without separating it from the concrete elements of that experience.  To maintain this connection is properly the function of symbols.  Only the myth projects this experience beyond the actual and profane time in order to emphasize the absolute value attributable to it [§103.2-3].”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §60.  PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION  //  [paragraph] 2 //   [pages] 185 and 186)

Obiter Dicta:  The English word “myth” is derived from the ancient Greek word μῦθος (pronounced moo-thos) which means “story”.  In the earliest Greek language literature, such as the Iliad (c. 760 B.C.), the word μῦθος did not mean a false story as it tends to mean today.  The words/concepts for true and false, as we understand these words in our world of modernity, did not yet exist in the Greek language of that time.  A μῦθος simply meant a story which, whether factual or not, accurately communicates the intended meaning/message.  The reason we know that μῦθος at this early period did not mean a false story is that a generation or so later a Greek language poet will use the phrase “false story” (ψσευδος (or perhaps ψευδής) μῦθος—pronounced pseudos (pseudays) moo-thos) to communicate the idea of a false story.  That this poet had to add the word for false (ψσευδος/ψευδής) to the word for story, so as to create the idea of a false story, indicates that the word story (μῦθος) in itself did not mean false story.

The concept of using stories, whether true or false, to get a point across is still a common practice.  For example, for generations school children were told the story of George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree and telling his father when asked, “I cannot tell a lie.  I chopped down the cherry tree.”  The reason they were told this story was to teach children to be truthful.  However, most historians, if asked, would say that the factuality of this story cannot be determined or would say that the event this story relates never happened; in which case, the story would be false.  And yet, notice what is happening in this classroom.  A story which is suspected or known to be false is used to teach children to be truthful.  This is a good example of the use of story to get a meaning across irregardless of its factualness; its truth.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.60.1

Religion (12:240b) is difficult to define for, although a universal and unique phenomenon, each person tends to define it in terms of his own religious experience.  For Catholics, viewed subjectively religion is a virtue that leads man to tender to God the homage that is due to him; as an objective manner of behavior and concrete manifestation of virtue, it comprises belief in one God, personal and infinite in his attributes, an attitude of absolute respect and submission, exterior acts that express this belief and this attitude in worship, and, as required by all exterior human activity, institutions to regulate that activity.  For anthropologists and others concerned with the history of religion these notions are broadened to include, more or less pragmatically, any beliefs, rites, and institutions that occupy, in a group, the place that revelation reserves for religion.  The central core of religious experience, however, is commonly regarded as the sacred (12:816a), as opposed to the profane.  This represents an order of reality whose presence commands man’s attention and at times escapes him; it is simultaneously desired and regarded with awe.  In other words it possesses an essentially ambivalent character, that of the mysterium fascinans et tremendum, which makes man feel at once irresistibly attracted by its grandeur and frightened by is superiority.  In this context religion is usually studied along with magic (9:65b), because their opposition can clarify what phenomena are properly religious.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §60.  PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION  //  [paragraph] 1 //   [page] 185)

Obiter Dicta:  The English word sacred is derived from the Latin word sacer/sacra which means holy and also refers to the rites of worship.  Latin has another word for holy which is sanctus which means holy in the sense of the virtue of holiness.

The word holy applies to anything which is dedicated to God’s use or anyone who is assigned a divine task by God.  Since each and every person has a mission in life, each and every person is holy on that account and can be called holy.  Quite often; however, holiness is taken as a metaphor for virtues such as goodness, sinlessness, purity, and the like.  These virtuous qualities are; however, secondary to and derived from the primary notion of holiness which is the reality of being dedicated to God’s use in the sense of being assigned to and undertaking a particular divine task or role.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.59.3

“There is no one philosophy of history; the main positions may be grouped under the following headings:  (1) classical cyclicism, which envisions an eternal universe featuring a continuous recurrence of historical experience; (2) providential history, which sees the historical process as initiated by a divine creative act and proceeding meaningfully to a conclusion—being theological in character, this is better named theology of history (7:26b); (3) explanatory laws, which claims the existence of laws or keys revealing the metaphysic of the historical process, among which might be mentioned destiny, factors such as race, geography, or economics, and apocalyptic events such as the invention of printing; (4) interpretative history, which recognizes the unpredictable character of free human choice and so is non-deterministic, yet discerns patterns or trends in the historical process as a whole; (5) philosophically oriented history, which concentrates on relations and causes, epistemological problems, and a philosophy of man with emphasis on human freedom; and (6) progressivist theories, which are based on the idea that progress (11:834a) is a law of nature which finds application in the cultural development of man.  Christian thinkers do not reject the possibility of progress but they question its inevitability; they see the endless cyclic recurrences as finally meaningless; and they favor an interpretative history that discerns a linear theological development toward an eternal goal that is beyond the temporal order and so is metahistorical.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §59.  PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY  //  [paragraph] 3  //   [pages] 184 and 185)

Obiter Dicta:  Poetry of ancient, pre-Christian, Greece evidenced a culture which was pathologically concerned with ephemerality; the daily grind, the same old same old, the eternal return of the same.  Human existence was perceived as a never ending spirit numbing circle; an eternity without hope.  The predominant question in this culture, preoccupied and weighed down with ephemerality, was how to escape this dailyness.  The answer to this problem which was adopted by this ancient culture was fame.  The solution of fame can be seen in the Iliad of Homer in the person of Achilles. Achilles would only fight in the war with Troy if his fighting would result in fame.  Fame, it was hoped, provided an immortal memory of honor and glory.

Unfortunately, this answer was no solution to the problem of ephemerality.  Fame is like ash or snowflakes on the tongue; it eventually dissolves and its flavor is soon after forgotten.

Christianity provides a solution which is adopted throughout Greek culture and much of the rest of the world. That solution is salvation to an eternity of bliss filled happiness in communion with God in heaven.  The Christian sees human existence not as an ephemeral circle but as a line of reasonably happy living ever spiraling upward to an ever-lasting happiness.

In every human era and still today, people become pathologically pre-occupied with ephemerality and seek some type of fame to escape it. A person begins to feel the tedium of life as a long held career ends, as aging reveals few future joys, as a life of tedious labor seems to stretch on with no end. Becoming pre-occupied with this vision of ephemeral dullness, s/he might grasp at some attempted significance; writing a block-buster book, marketing of some new thing to acquire wealth, pushing oneself toward the front in various associations, one last cosmetic or chemical attempt at a more youthful beauty or energy. In the end, these too are seen as ash on the tongue. And then, to this sorrow filled person, Christianity provides the solution of letting go of the attempt to acquire fame, accepting one’s life on life’s terms, and embracing oneself as one is. One no longer has to attempt to be-more by doing-more. The clarity provided by this letting-go and acceptance then allows one to see the solution to ephemerality which Christianity offers. By uniting one’s own letting-go and acceptance with the self-emptying of Christ, one is led to a reasonable happiness in one’s remaining life here below and to eternal bliss in the here-after.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.59.2

“The philosophy of history (7:22c) may be described generally as interpretative history; it deals with the basic or ultimate causes of the historical process as a whole, and attempts to see a discernible purposive plan in the multitude of events.  Some would equate it with meta-history (9:723d), which is concerned with the nature of history, its meaning, and the cause and significance of historical change, and so would see its end as the determination of laws regulating historical facts and the place of such facts in an explanatory view of the world.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §59.  PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY  //  [paragraph] 2  //   [page] 184)

Obiter Dicta:  Moderate realists, those persons who believe things are real, that they can be known as they are in themselves, and that they can be spoken about meaningfully; such persons believe that history, at its best, is the record of real events rooted in real things and persons; each having its own real essence/nature.  It is from this moderate realistic historical mindset that the idea of natural rights arises.  It sees natural rights as real things situated in the essences/natures of human beings.  Situated as they are in things/persons, these natural rights are always valid regardless of the historical period. These rights are timeless. Though their appropriation and application may be historically conditioned by the contingent historical period within which people live; these natural rights themselves are always valid.

Over the past couple/few centuries, a different ideology has arisen.  This ideology might be called historicism.  This ideology either does not believe that things and person and events of the past have essences/nature or does not believe that their essences/natures are significant.  Rather, the passage of events, the current historical process is seen as a thing which determines the values of things and persons and events.  In this mindset there are no natural rights, but only historical rights.  These historical rights might also be seen as being conventional rights; that is, rights which are chosen by the current group of people acting within their own historical consciousness and awareness.  Since these human rights are merely conventional, they are chosen and may be un-chosen, denied, negated.

In regard to this ideological difference between natural and conventional/historical rights, Leo Strauss in his Natural Right and History (page 1) writes, “About a generation ago, a American diplomat could still say that “the natural and divine foundation of the rights of man…is self-evident to all Americans.” At about the same time a German scholar could still describe the difference between German thought and that of Western Europe and the United States by saying that the West still attached decisive importance to natural right, while in Germany the very terms “natural right” and “humanity” “have now become almost incomprehensible…and have lost their original life and color.” While abandoning the idea of natural right and through abandoning it, he continued, German thought has “created the historical sense,” and thus was led eventually to unqualified relativism. (Ernst Troeltsch on Natural Law and Humanity, in Otto Gierke’s “Natural Law and the Theory of Society”, 1934.)

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.

The Elements of Philosophy: II.9.59.1

History (7:13d) as a term means either (1) the past of men, i.e., everything that has happened to men in the flow of time (in German, Geschichte), or (2) the study of the past in an attempt to discover and understand what happened (in German, Historie).  The two are not identical because it is practically impossible to recover the past as it actually was, either because ancient surviving records are scanty, or those of the recent past (though partial and incomplete) are too vast, or because the records themselves were created by men who may have given inaccurate or incomplete accounts, or because the historian is biased by his own times and culture and so cannot fully project himself back into the past to understand it on its own terms.  Historicity (7:31b), from the German Geschichtlichkeit, is a term reserved for something apart from the factually historical; it designates the historically significant, whether factually established or not, and may be described approximately as the full, authentic, active, and durative expression of a belief or movement in terms of personal  participation and in relation to a given time.  Historiography (7:5c) is the writing of history or the methodology used to study the past so as to understand and record it properly.”  (The Elements of Philosophy by Father William A. Wallace, O.P.; PART II.  //  CHAPTER 9.  PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMANITIES  //  [Section] §59.  PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY  //  [paragraph] 1  //   [pages] 183 and 184)

Obiter Dicta:  Moderate realism holds that things are real, that these things can be known as they are in themselves, and that they can be spoken of meaningfully.  Our human acts of conscious awareness are always acts of awareness of actual things.  With proper training and experience, the knower can come to know things as they actually are in themselves.  This type of actual awareness also applies to historical events.  We are able to know those events as they were in themselves.  We are able to know the core essence of those events and even, to some degree, the details of those events.  For example, Roman Catholics believe that participation in the Eucharistic Liturgy (mass) allows us to know the essence of the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Study of the same events helps us become aware of certain historical details of the same.

Key:  For an explanation of the reference and cross reference forms used in this book (e.g. [§19.6] and (11:292c), see previous posts in this blog entitled “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (7)” and “The Elements of Philosophy:  Preface (8)”.