Monday, September 20, 2010

Pope Benedict to the Youth of Scotland

Pope Benedict, in his homily at a public mass in Scotland, made the following remarks to the young people gathered there, remarks I now share with you because they both reinforce what we have been learning, and because ultimately, they are directed at you.

"Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics of Scotland. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol – which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.

There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!"
For excellent coverage of the Papal Trip (and all other universal Church happenings, check out

Unit I Review

I. Stephen Hawking Article
A. Metaphysics (why) vs. Physics (how)
B. Knowledge (Fact) vs. Wisdom (Knowledge applied to experience in the pursuit of Truth)
C. "God of the Gaps" theory - and its flaw (parent analogy)
D. The Relationship between Science & Faith

II. The Allegory of the Cave
A. Be able to name & describe the elements of the Allegory.
B. Apply the Allegory to the Christian Narrative (the story of Chrsitianity)
C. Apply the Allegory to our Society
D. Apply the Allegory to the Matrix

III. Laughter will Save the World
A. Generation of Addicts
B. Escape from Reality
C. Laughter from Despair
D. Temptation of all thinking people: Ignorance is Bliss
E. We laugh due to incongruities: we are both human, and yet divine (made in God's Image).

IV. What it Means to be Human
A. Two different perspectives
1. Materialist
2. Idealist
B. The concept of Self is unique to humanity.
C. View persons as Subjects, not Objects
D. The Devil's work is to convince us to view persons as Objects, not Subjects
E. God is Personal (God is a "self")

V. Identity
A. We are unique in our capacity to fail to achieve our potential.
B. To lose our goodness is to lose our being. (when we fail to be good, we fail to be what we are intended to be.)
C. When we possess an object it in turn possesses us.
D. To attain ourselves we must give ourselves away.
E. Every choice we make has an impact on the core of our being, the part of our being that makes choices.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Identity by Peter Kreeft

The Article is available online at this link.
"Triangles can never be non-triangular, and rocks are always guaranteed to be rocky...but humans can be inhuman."

1. Why do you think we have the ability to be inhuman? Can you theorize any benefits from us having the capicity to be inhuman? Explain what the world would be like if we were as bound to our "humanness" as a triagle is to triangularity.

"Whatever is must be good." - Boethius
2. What is Boethius saying here? Does that mean nothing that exists is evil? How do you explain the presence of evil in the world if whatever is must be good?

"That's what happened in Eden. Once we laid hands on the fruit we desired, the horrible effect took place immediately: it laid its hands on us."

3. How are we possessed by that which we possess? Why is that, at least in Kreeft's estimation, a bad thing? Give some examples of being owned by what you own.

"Frodo and Sam...attain themselves and save their selves only because they give themselves away – for others, for the Shire, for the world;"

4. This statement defies logic: how can you attain something by losing it or giving it away? Explain how it is more noble, more dignified, to attain one's self by giving ones' self away?
" Gollum is obsessed with his cause, with his possession of the Ring. He almost has no self left, he's so selfish. He talks to himself more than to others. He makes no distinction between himself and his "Precious". He's confused about who he is."

5. Many of the "gurus" or experts in our culture say that the first step toward solving our individual (or social) problems is to "find ourselves." According to the line of thinking in the quote above, why might we never be able to truly find ourselves?

"Sauron is uncomfortably familiar. He's only an exaggeration or an enlargement of us, or at least, of one possibility for us."

6. What can be done to avoid the "monster we might become"? Sauron seems to have become a monster because he put so much of himself into something beyond himself. Aren't we encouraged to do this all the time with sports, hobbies, even school work? How do we keep from becoming defined by the things we put ourselves into?

"Countless people who are caught off guard, children especially, fall in love with Aslan...Aslan is Jesus. ... You feel towards Aslan, spontaneously, the way Jesus' contemporaries felt towards Him."

7. Are you familiar with the Narnia Chronicles? In what way is Aslan like Jesus? If you are not familiar: what is another example of a character from a story you know that is Christ-like? What makes the character like Jesus? Is it obvious from the start? Is it more effective if it is not obvious?

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, which I know you ALL read this summer: " "Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you... into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into either a heavenly creature or a hellish creature...Each of us at each moment is progressing towards the one state or the other."


9. What is Kreeft's solution for avoiding becoming a lowly worm, a proud pharisee, or a wishy-washy Charlie Brown?

"What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own self?" People hear that and resist it because it's direct and challenging because it's familiar. They read Tolkien's story and see it, and they can't resist it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What it means to be human

When we reduce Manet's painting to mere pigment on canvas we completely miss the "woman" that is portrayed. Gone is any hint of emotion - the piece fails to evoke from us any response. However, when we suspend the knowledge of the paints and the canvas, the image strikes us and begins to stimulate a response. Then, we are free to reintroduce the knowledge that we are looking at paint on fabric and we are able to appreciate not only the power of the image, but also the skill of the artist who created it.
Read Roger Scruton's article on What it means to be human, then answer the questions below.
(Note: the painting above was recreated with 5000 Pantone Swatches - the little squares of color you find in the hardware store. Though the color and basic composition remains, there is no trace of the "fading innocence" of the young woman at the bar.)

1. Scruton asks at the end of the first paragraph if biology is not sufficient to explain the human condition. He also asks, and so do I, Why must we bother with this consept of soul? On what grounds do we believe that the soul exists or that it is the final end of of our existence?

2. The author remarks that one who does not see the intangible elements of this (or presumably any painting) "doesn't understand what he is looking at." Explain why you agree or disagree.

3. "The concepts that we spontaneously use to describe the human being do not explain; they interpret." Offer your own account of the difference between an explanation and an interpretation, using examples to illustrate your meaning.

4. Explain the quote from John Milton's Paradise Lost: "For smiles from Reason flow...and are of love the food".

5. What is the one concept that, according to Scruton, differentiates humans from other organisms? How much of a difference does that make, really?

6. Immanuel Kant argued that self-consciousness and freedom are two sides of a coin. What does this mean? and how does Kant resolve the paradox?

7. What is the "Devil's work"? Who is actively involved in doing to Devil's work in our culture or community? Provide as many examples as you can. Finally, and you don't have to commit this to paper, but answer it to yourself: how often do you find yourself in the Devil's employ?

8. What is your reaction to the author quoting the Koran and using a muslim conept as a means to explain the concept of soul?

9. Scruton writes that humans are "subjects in a world of objects." What does this mean, and what are the implications of this perspective.

10. What is significant about God's use of a reflexive pronoun? Why is that a "crucial detail" in the understanding of human nature?

11. "If Manet's work were perfectly copied and then burned, we would confront a new canvas but the same woman." How is this so? What does this reveal to us about human identity and immortality?

There. Not 12 questions... only 11.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. Basso