“And so when statistics concerning the lack of belief among scientists are trotted out, my response, honestly, is ‘who cares?'”

A wonderful piece by Fr. Robert Barron.


“Calvary’s Lost Catholicism” – An Interview with Patrick Cassidy

First Things was kind enough to publish my recent interview with Patrick Cassidy. Here it is: Calvary’s Lost Catholicism: An Interview with Patrick Cassidy.”Calvary

Thanks to Matthew Schmitz for the editing back-and-forth! And to Ambassador Michael Novak for his helpful suggestions about the piece.

Patrick Cassidy’s website is here.

~ Peter

Conversation and Philosophy

Bernard Henri Levy (left) and Jean Paul Sartre refuse to discuss matters at the Musée Grévin waxwork museum in Paris, France. Photo by Sylvain Sonnet/Hemis/Corbis

Nigel Warburton writes an enjoyable piece in Philosophy without Conversation is No Better than Dogma, and I recommend it for good reading (I say to the crowd eagerly awaiting my literary recommendations). But a few points on his argument:

  • Is not the point of philosophy to find the truth? Not to, as he writes, “to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves.”
  • How is that the Socratic method was passed down to us as writing? Nigel doesn’t mention how writing can be taken up and turned into conversation (which is a mightily difficult task).
  • Why is dogma wrong? That’s an implicit assumption in the title and one which – I’d imagine – would be drawn out something like: (1) dogma is the assertion of truth rather than an argument for it, (2) dogma is uncritically accepted by its adherents, and (3) dogma is characteristic of religion which is antithetical to the spirit of philosophy.
    • Might it not be that dogma is to religion as principles are to philosophy? It is true that religious dogma cannot properly enter the sphere of philosophy (if it indeed has a separate sphere). But is our ideal for philosophy that every student and teacher has their own individual philosophy? (“This is my special error!”)

Conversation is good. But I think truth is the aim of philosophy and, as such, conversation is a mediate good and not the summum bonum.

Yet conversation is not merely a means which should be discarded aside once one “gets” truth. Getting truth (for a Christian, anyways) takes place in a relationship, not in the elucidation of a formula. Conversation is a good itself and – perhaps – a necessary condition for us to gain truth. In fact, if you understand conversation to be a type of communion (the highest form of conversation), then conversation (i.e. speaking, talking, chatting, arguing, debating, agreeing, etc.) is the beginning of such communion.

Anyways, Nigel. You are sort of right. Conversation is good. Philosophy is not dead words on paper. But conversation itself is not the point of philosophy. Hopefully we are not studying merely to fill gaps in our discussions.

Joy to the World by Scott Hahn – One

unnamedIMAGE Publishing graciously asked me to write a post about Scott Hahn’s latest book, Joy to the World. Partly out of necessity (what with finals falling from on high upon me) I have decided to do another “blogging through a book.” They will, needless to say, be short, but will try and pick out one idea per chapter to meditate on for the week in advent.

In his first chapter, “A Light Goes on Bethlehem,” Dr. Hahn relates the story of his daughter Hannah being in Jerusalem on a family trip. She’s bored to tears by historical sites – even as they’re visiting the site where Jesus was born (which was attested to by the earliest Christian sources). But her encounter with the Holy Land is transformed at a nearby orphanage. There small orphans need to be held and Hannah lights up and eagerly cradles and cares for the orphans. Here the difference between an inherited Christianity and a lived Christianity is seen. The lived Christianity is the fulfillment of the most beautiful theory of Christ, and far more powerful.

Hahn writes, “The family is the key to Christmas. The family is the key to Christianity. Pope Saint John Paul II noted that everything good – history, humanity, salvation – ‘passes by way of the family.’ […] Salvation itself finds meaning only in familial relations.”

Christmas most explicitly is seen in relations of dependence. God is so humble as to make Himself need one of his creations, namely, Mary. Scott Hahn points out, Christ is not the classical hero – he’s not here to win glory or to conquer nations in the conventional manner. “He is visible only because other arms are holding him,” Hahn writes.

What does this mean, that Christ makes Himself need us? It certainly throws most of our ideas about ourselves and God out of balance. God is no longer only a rule-maker and a law-giver. Nor is he simply a lover of mankind. He does something much more unexpected and radical. He gives Himself to us so that we can love Him. Which means that He mysteriously places himself in a position of human need.

One of my friends told me about a family practice of placing a piece of straw under the bed of Jesus in the creche set for every good deed they would perform during Advent. While almost humorous, such a family tradition strikes at a humble Christian truth: God allows Himself to need us and we can therefore minister to Him – through our families. As Mother Teresa said, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

The family then becomes where the image of Christ is most clearly seen, and perhaps particularly in how we can give to our family members – in how Christ is made present through their need and through the gift of their presence.

Scott Hahn Livestream Today at 4pm

Scott and Kimberly Hahn will be hosting a livestream discussing Dr. Hahn’s new book Joy to the World. You can watch it here.

Joy to the World is his most recently published book. It is a guided meditation through what Jesus’ familial identity means. What does it mean that Jesus came through the family? What does it mean that Christ was a son of a father?

I’ll be posting a review of the book on the 8th. I may also do a guided reading of it, where we would read a section of it leading up until Christmas. If I did that, would any readers be interested in reading alongside me and discussing it in the comments? Could be fun.

~ Peter


Humanum, a current interfaith conference on marriage and the complementarity of the sexes.



Aristotle on Number Theory

For class on Aristotle’s Categories I was asked to research his theory of numbers. Though preliminary, here are my findings. It’s a fascinating topic.

Part of the difficulty of determining whether Aristotle is talking about abstract numbers or things-as-quantified in the Categories is the phrase τα πεντε. It could be translated as “five” or “five things.” Is he talking about mathematical objects? Ideal numbers? Physical objects? None of these? Physical objects certainly hold some manner of position (θεσις) towards each other – Aristotle denies that number does so he can’t be talking about physical objects qua physical objects. Aristotle seems to say that numbers as mathematical objects has an ordering (ταξις), so is his theory of number about non-ideal mathematical objects?

In Physics 219b5-9, Aristotle distinguishes 2 senses of “number”: (1) what is counted or countable [physical referent] and (2) what we count with [mathematical object]. (Annas, 97)

(1) seems to mean some element of a thing’s, or a group of things’, existence, inhering in the objects themselves and enabling it to be counted. Continue reading

Porn Strangles Our Capacity to Experience Beauty

“[Porn] creates desensitization to beauty, robbing boys of their innocence through the elimination of the mysteries of the heart, severely impairing their ability to be awed or find pleasure in the beautiful. Jaded spirits are not very susceptible to formation. […] Pornography eradicates mystery, and without mystery, boys will lose their ability to wonder, and in a large part, their ability to become wise—which is the work of education.”

Boys, Porn, and Education

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: Part Two – Trust as the Basis of a Life

[Continued] While we flounder between our existential need for love and our desire for certainty, Angelo Roncalli was peacefully submitting his mind, will, and heart to God through the Church. Individual judgment was, for him, a fount of error wherein heresies and error lead people to lose their communion with the Church. Individual judgment, for Roncalli, had to be intimately united with the informing influence of the Church. Did he ignore this tension? Was he simply not aware of it?

No, Roncalli was certainly aware of it, but he also was not a reactionary. If I can venture a bold claim, it seems to me that Roncalli’s primary mode of living was trust. In 1925, when he was made a Bishop in order to go to Bulgaria, he wrote, “I insert in my coat of arms the words Oboedentia et pax […] These words are in a way my own history and my life.” (p. 206) Later, in 1962, while on retreat in Castel Gandolfo, Pope John XXIII wrote,  “The short Psalm 130 has always made, and still makes, a great impression on me.” (p. 312) Psalm 130 reads: Continue reading

Blogging Through Pope John XXIII: Part One – The Tension between Faith and Reason

I started my project of blogging through Pope John XXIII wondering whether this biography would explain or suggest why Vatican II was started. Could the Pope’s journals provide a lens through which to see the Council? Yes, but not the type I was expecting. What I discovered I was looking for was a “reason” – some type of argument for why the Church needed a council. But Pope John XXIII does not provide any argument.

Yet not having an argument did not meant it was an arbitrary decision for him. Pope John XXIII said, in his opening speech of the council on October 11, 1962:

“As regards the initiative for the great event which gathers us here, it will suffice to repeat as historical documentation our personal account of the first sudden bringing up in our heart and lips of the simple words, ‘Ecumenical Council.’ […] It was completely unexpected, like a flash of heavenly light, shedding sweetness in eyes and hearts. And at the same time it gave rise to a great fervor throughout the world in expectation of the holding of the Council.”

He goes on to say that the purpose of the council was not to change or advance doctrine by altering or clarifying confused matters. Continue reading