My fine friends, I would like to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the lamentable lack of blogging these past few weeks. Because of a variety of concerns, I was brought to a fundamental cross-roads in the execution of the ramblings that I let spill forth from my brain onto this digital surface. My first option was to crank out half-assed, meaningless blog entries every day or two, all the while remaining ignorant of the world around me and despising my body for the betterment of a half-assed blog. Luckily for you, I chose the higher road in this situation and also chose to be arrogant enough to tell you. ;-) In all seriousness, though, I decided that it is more important for me to live life, experience the world a bit more, keep up on the news, and keep reading to enhance the quality of my writing and thought. Additionally, I have had to take on extra responsibilities in the world, as I am going to be teaching fourth grade CCD starting this week and also am bracing myself in hope of an upswing in our business’ order backlog as we begin a new advertising campaign. Additionally, I have been trying to make more time to discuss the matters of the present day (and life in general) with all those amiable people that I know, as such dialogue is a fundamental constituent of any kind of personal growth.
Anyway, I now would like to talk about the Pope’s address in Regensburg on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. I’m going to completely circumvent the ridiculous controversy that broiled over the propaganda-driven reading of the text by those who wanted to incite the ire of the Arab world by distorting the words of the Church’s beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI. Please note that I am going to probably treat some philosophical systems with great brevity, not touching on major themes within said systems. Such omissions are not desirable but are only in the nature of such a reflection.
The shadow of empiricist thought remains deeply ingrained on our minds, thanks in no part to the preliminary foundations set down by Rene Descartes, the man who is, in my opinion, the inadvertent progenitor of modern relativistic thought. Cartesian philosophy begins with a total denial of the material world in order to rationalistically prove from purely certain grounds the existence of the world. This dualistic split of the material from the rational is a complete turn-around from the Aristotelian notion of the world and its ultimate relationship to the intangible, starting the long move of thought to the realm of “pure” knowledge of ideas and (in some systems, in various ways) being.
This split ultimately leads us to the empiricism that is found in David Hume, an ideological system which provides only perceptual knowledge as the standard for human knowing. This type of knowledge relies upon empirically analyzing the world, realizing that absolute certainty is impossible, as it would require a complete investigation of all perceptible phenomena in reality. Cause and effect is greatly reduced in such a system of thought, implying that we are only able to perceive the strings of causality in our experiences by means of experimental (empirical!) knowledge. Hume’s system denies that it is provable that such a relationship exists in reality but is instead imposed upon the external world by the mind as it experiences perceptual reality.
However, let’s turn to the noble Emanuel Kant, who tries to counter Hume’s skepticism about man’s ability to have certain knowledge. For the sake of brevity, we will proceed directly to the question of how the mind perceives cause-and-effect relationships in the Kantian system of philosophy. In this system, the cause-and-effect that we perceive is reflective of the mind’s perceptual categories which exist a priori to the experience of sensation. This means that the human perception of causality is something which is placed upon reality by the mind, not derived from reality. Ultimately, we still remain with our brain locked in a casket, in the same scenario as that which Descartes placed us in and Hume buried us into. While there is some nobility in Kant’s system as a whole, the great detriment is the fact that it ultimately sows the worst seed (as David Hume ironically holds his hand): Relativism.
At this point, you should be seeing the growth of overall intellectual climate of today, one which only gives primacy to empirical knowledge, derived from experimentation. Modern and post-Modern systems have grown in various ways since the days of Kant but are ultimately related to this major stumbling which is ultimately tied to the “Cartesian revolution.” Such a blatant denial of substantialistic (Platonic/Aristotelian) thought is lamentable for the entire body of human knowledge, as it is nothing more than a shrinking of the overall understanding of knowledge, removing its very foundations from under it. Any epistemological system that is built without a substantial base is one which is doomed to be meaningless and provide no true sense of what is right action, for it will have no basis in the world as it is experienced. Classical thought ascribed rationality to the material world, teaching that the substance (that which stands under all accidental qualities) of material objects is the very principle upon which our knowledge is contingent. Substance dictates the rational action of the material world which is united to the Truth which supports all of reality, making it perceivable by the mind because of the mind’s inherent ability to perceive the nature of reality and hence understand and integrate sensory experience.
It is in light of this that the Pope stands in order to proclaim the necessity of an understanding of God that is rational and therefore in continuity with creation by means of that creative rationality, the Johannine summation of YHWH as Logos. The great strength of substantialistic thought is that it affirms the possibility of true knowledge being gained by reflection upon reality, giving humanity a capacity for the Truth. The Holy Father suggests that we should regain this notion of the Truth as an expansion of thought, not as a regression from modernity to the thoughts of antiquity. Without such Platonic forms of thought, it is impossible for dialogue to truly take place, as dialogue is always a conversation about a Word, a Logos, which is held in common between the two parties. If man cannot perceive the Truth in external realities, he is unable to hold anything in common with the rest of humanity and dialogue is impossible. The regaining of the Platonic/Aristotelian idea of Form/Substance is the only way by which true dialogue can occur.
The Pope’s positive message is that religion, when it is truly religion, a re-ligation – a re-binding- of man to the Truth, is essential for any kind of dialogue precisely because of its orientation to the perceived Truth which stands outside of humanity and is perceivable to humanity. Religion will always triumph over mere relativism when it comes to the dialogue of cultures, for pure relativism proclaims that everyone is right, a proposition that ultimately predicates that nobody is wrong. In relativism, truth is internalized into the people/groups who are attempting to dialogue and is not able to be shared because of the claims of each group. Indeed, there is not a dialogue in these cases so much as there is a story-telling session, isolating man from man instead of uniting all of humanity.
This is the positive message of Benedict XVI as he addresses a world that is desperately in need of true dialogue which unites all to the Truth which is manifest in objective reality as experienced by man. The sphere of human consciousness must be expanded once again to include religion, the re-ligation of mankind to the Truth. Christianity plays a special role in this formation by means of reflection and explication of faith in God who is Logos and is not only Logos but is ultimately Agape, love which unites plurality into a unity of individuation. The rationality of Faith builds bridges between humanity is therefore akin to the greatest movements of Love which manifests itself as the ontological union between beings. Benedict rightly proclaims that religion (and Truth-oriented philosophies of the world) must remain as part of Man’s understanding, for Truth and Love are only attainable when man does not destroy himself by reducing reality to mere perceptions that are removed from the Truth and by casting doubt upon the primacy of the self which underlies all thought and ultimately functions as the unifying and unified member of all dialogue.
My friends, if you have made it thus far, I’m touched, as I’m certain that my reflections are riddled with holes which demand much more thought and therefore prevent this rambling from being a unified whole. Perhaps some day I will return to such thoughts in a more systematic way. For now, I must be going. I will break from this and be writing some poetry that I have been thinking of lately. Look for it in the coming days.