Tag: Thomas Aquinas

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Translated from EPISTOLA DE MODO STUDENDI: Enter through rivers and not immediately into the sea. Master that which is easier before you tackle the more difficult. Be slow to speak. Don’t frequent noisy places. Live a good moral life. Pray. Love the space in which you study. Be pleasant to all people. Don’t worry about the […]

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Get Over Yourself

 

shutterstock_316021166Finally! An academic research grant I can get behind! From Quartz:

Self-obsessed people who just can’t “get over themselves” hardly sound like a subject worthy of academic research. But Candace Vogler, from the University of Chicago, and Jennifer Frey, from the University of South Carolina, disagree. The importance of “getting over yourself” — or self-transcendence — is key to their major 28-month project on virtue, happiness, and the meaning of life. The research proposal received a $2.1-million grant from the John Templeton Foundation and unites a team of around 20 international scholars, working in philosophy, religion, and psychology.

Okay, full disclosure: the John Templeton Foundation is also the parent of Templeton Press, publishers of the Virtue series to which I contribute (which are available here!)

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I thought many of you would appreciate Dr. Taylor Marshall’s essay called, “Islamic Refugee Crisis: Good Samaritan or Maccabean Response? Or both.” I believe that even non-Catholics will appreciate Dr. Marshall’s reasoning here. Using the Bible and citing Thomas Aquinas, he argues that our duty towards our nation’s common good requires us to refuse to bring […]

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Knowledge and Faith Can Be the Same Thing

 

F-K VennIt is commonly assumed that an item of knowledge and an article article of faith can never be the same thing. This assumption is mistaken. In this post, I will explain only one point: trust in authority can be a source of knowledge. That’s what faith is: trust. It’s still the first definition of “faith” in the dictionary. Also see the Latin fides and the Greek pistis.

So don’t believe the hype that categorically separates faith from knowledge. This separation ranges from the view William James attributes to a schoolboy (“Faith is when you believe something that you know ain’t true”) to Kant’s more sophisticated idea that “I had to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith” (in beliefs that might well be true).

We should also reject the hype that says that an argument from authority is necessarily fallacious. The best logic textbook in print will tell you otherwise. It will even tell you that there is such a thing as a valid argument appealing to an infallible authority! (“Valid” is a technical term in logic; be sure to look it up first if you’re inclined to complain that there are no infallible authorities.)

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An earlier essay on metaphysics seems to have generated as much confusion as clarity. Here’s a point-by-point summary of the earlier post along with a bit more background information the lack of which may have made things less clear the last time around. 1. Materialism is a thesis in the area of philosophy called “metaphysics,” the study of reality and […]

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Cue Up The Band

 

shutterstock_106322621Peggy Noonan writes today in the Wall Street Journal that the US needs a military that acts swiftly and doesn’t brag. I agree with that first point — especially with the suggestion that we should have cut to the chase and sent in the troops to rescue the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. The military would have been delighted to execute such an assignment, a good thing would have been accomplished, and we would have demonstrated that America hasn’t completely forgotten how to flex its muscles. Nigeria’s not going to declare war on us. And is the international community likely to get on their high horse over the rescue of innocent girls? And so what if they do?

I wasn’t as convinced, however, by her assertion that great militaries shouldn’t brag. I understand the principle behind it: don’t showboat and let the guns do the talking. But I suspect the truth is that pomp and ceremony have always been a component of military might — and probably for good reason. Triumphalism is actually pretty effective at producing the “shock and awe” factor that great militaries like to inspire in civilian populations, both at home and abroad. I myself tend to react reflexively against propaganda, so the flag-waving jingoism often misses with me, but there’s no denying that plenty of people like it and it tends to make an impression. Compared to missiles and tanks, flags and musicians are cheap and safe. If there’s a chance of forestalling a war with a parade … throw the parade.

On a less utilitarian level, I’m inclined to think that the bragging may actually be a healthy and natural part of military prowess. Of course, I say that as someone who has never had any justification whatsoever to engage in that kind of self-aggrandizement. But I’m guided here mainly by reflection on how soldiers and military pomp were regarded historically. There seems to have been widespread agreement among the ancients that soldiers fought for honor and, insofar as they did their jobs valiantly,  deserved it in a way that few other members of society did. Sedentary brainiacs (read: people like me or Peggy Noonan) find it easy to wrinkle our noses and piously suggest that war is no laughing matter. The people who are throwing the parades, however, know this far better than we.