Posts tagged with: relativism

[Part 1 is here.]

That most colossal blunder of Marxist experiments, the Soviet Union, collapsed more than twenty years ago, and yet Marxist thinking still penetrates the warp and woof of contemporary culture, so much so that it’s easy even for avowedly anti-Marxist conservatives to think from within the box of Marxism when considering the problem of cultural decay. Breaking out of that box means emphasizing but also stretching beyond such factors as insider cronyism, class envy, and the debilitating effects of the welfare state.

So, for instance, the influential 18th century philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau rejected the doctrines of the trinity, the deity of Christ, miracles, and the idea of original sin, writing that at one point as a young man he suddenly felt very strongly “that man is naturally good” and that it was only from the institutions of civilization “that men become wicked.” Rousseau’s view has had enormous cultural consequences, giving credence to the perennial human impulse to do whatever feels natural, never mind how stupid or destructive.

The English writer and psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple put it this way in an interview he gave for The Truth Project: (more…)

Blog author: ehilton
Thursday, April 4, 2013
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In a world apparently dominated by Christian footwear, a Berlin-based company has come to the rescue of atheists. Atheist Shoes boast a line of footwear that proudly announces the wearer’s lack of faith. The soles of the shoes (not to be confused with “souls”, mind you) state “Ich bin Atheist” (“I am an atheist”). The company  thinks the world needed a “nice, understated way for people to profess their godlessness”, and the founders of the company wanted to help atheists proclaim their unbelief, especially in a world hostile to non-believers (despite the fact that Christians are now among the most persecuted people on the planet right now.)

We’re lucky to live in Berlin, a city where roughly two thirds of the population are atheists, but we’re conscious there are still places where it’s difficult to be godless.

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Benedict XVI has resigned, effective February 28, 2013.On April 19, 2005, Joseph Ratzinger was elected to become the next Pope after John Paul II. Several Acton Institute analysts wrote articles looking ahead to what kind of papacy the world could expect from Benedict XVI. Take a look and let us know how we did. (We’ve added links where they are still available).

Alejandro Chafuen, a member of the Acton Institute’s board of directors, wrote a piece on April 20, 2005, titled, “Benedict XVI: A defender of personal freedom” for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He said:

Benedict XVI argues that freedom, coupled with consciousness and love, comprise the essence of being. With freedom comes an incalculability – and thus the world can never be reduced to mathematical logic. In his view, where the particular is more important than the universal, “the person, the unique and unrepeatable, is at the same time the ultimate and highest thing. In such view of the world, the person is not just an individual; a reproduction arising from the diffusion of the idea into matter, but rather, precisely, a “person.”

According to Benedict XVI, the Greeks saw human beings as mere individuals, subject to the polis (citystate). Christianity, however, sees man as a person more than an individual. This passage from individual to the person is what led the change from antiquity to Christianity. Or, as the cardinal put it, “from Plato to faith.”

As a Roman Catholic, I and many others are already deeply grateful to Ratzinger and his teachings on creative freedom, that characteristic mark of the “infinity-related” human person. We can be sure that the newest pope will continue the legacyof John Paul II, placing freedom and dignity at the core of his teachings.

Kevin Schmiesing, a research fellow for the Acton Institute, wrote “New pope starts debate on direction of Catholic Church” for the Detroit News on April 20, 2005. He said:

…Benedict, like John Paul, is no reactionary. He is a champion of Vatican II, in the same way that his predecessor was — that is, of the true spirit of Vatican II, which engages the modern world with the perennial truths of the Gospel, rather than capitulating to modern trends and thereby emptying the faith of the bracing vision of human dignity and salvation that it has to offer. (more…)

Over on National Review Online, Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg considers what will be Pope Benedict’s last legacy:

In forthcoming weeks, there will be many commentaries on what this Pope has achieved in a relatively short time. This ranges from his efforts to root out what Ratzinger once called the “filth” of sexual deviancy that has inflicted such damage on the priesthood, his successful outreach to Catholicism’s Eastern Orthodox brothers, his generally excellent bishop appointments, to his reforms of the liturgy.

But we need to remember that Benedict XVI is arguably the most intellectual pope to sit in Peter’s Chair for centuries—even more so than his saintly predecessor, who was certainly no slouch in the world of ideas. And if there is one single thing that stands out in Benedict’s papacy, it’s this: his laser-like focus on the root-cause of the intellectual crisis that explains not only Western culture’s present wallowing in facile relativism that’s on full display in the content-free rhetoric of your average EU politician, but also the trauma that explains the violence and rage that continues to shake the Islamic world and which Islam seems incapable of resolving on its own terms.

And that problem is one of reason.

Read more . . .

Acton On The AirDr. Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, has become something of a regular guest on Kresta in the Afternoon of late; below you’ll find audio of his two most recent appearances.

Leading off, Sam appeared with host Al Kresta on February 15th to discuss Pope Benedict’s concept of the dictatorship of relativism in the context of the HHS mandate debate, and the potential consequences of the death of absolute truth. Listen via the audio player below:

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Then, on the 22nd, Dr. Gregg made another appearance with Kresta to discuss the concept of ordered liberty, contrasting the concepts of freedom for excellence vs. freedom of indifference. You can listen to the interview below, and if you’re interested, head over to the Acton bookshoppe to pick up a copy of On Ordered Liberty, his book on the same topic.

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“If there was ever any doubt about one of the Obama Administration’s key philosophical commitments,” writes Acton Research Director Samuel Gregg in a new article in the American Spectator, “it was dispelled on Jan. 20 when the Department of Health and Human Services informed the Catholic Church that most of its agencies will be required to provide employees with insurance-coverage for contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs: i.e., products, procedures, and chemicals used to facilitate acts which the Church and plenty of others consider intrinsically evil.”

Gregg writes that “modern liberalism has a long history of trying to exclude consideration of the proper ends of human action from public discourse in the name of tolerance. But neither liberalism nor secularism are as neutral about such matters as they pretend.” In fact, that neutrality looks more and more like coercion. Gregg:

And here we come face-to-face with the essence of what a certain Joseph Ratzinger famously described in an April 2005 homily as “the dictatorship of relativism.” Most people think of tyrannies as involving the imposition of a defined set of ideas upon free citizens. Benedict XVI’s point was that the coercion at the heart of the dictatorship of relativism derives precisely from the fact that it “does not recognize anything as definitive.”

In this world, tolerance no longer creates the safety for us to express our views about the nature of good and evil and its implications for law and public morality. Instead, it serves to banish the truth as the reference point against which all of us must test our ideas and beliefs. The objective is to reduce everyone to modern Pontius Pilates who, whatever their private beliefs, wash their hands in the face of obvious injustices, such as what the Obama administration has just inflicted upon not only Catholics, but anyone whose convictions about the truth requires them to abstain from cooperating in acts they regard as evil per se.

Of course, modern liberals do have their preferred ends, which (despite all their endless chatter about reason) reflect their profoundly cramped vision of man’s intellect. Here they follow the eighteenth-century Scottish philosopher David Hume. He argued that “reason ought to be the slave of the passions.” Reason’s role, in other words, is not to identify what is rational for people to choose. Instead, reason is reduced to merely devising the means for realizing whatever goals that people, following the profound moral reasoning of a five year-old, “just feel like” choosing.

Read Samuel Gregg’s “Obama and the Dictatorship of Relativism” on the website of the American Spectator.

Acton’s prolific director of research Samuel Gregg writes at Crisis Magazine about those who would modernize the Catholic Church (theologically): “Dissenting Catholics’ Modernity Problem.” His reflection centers on the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, whose recent visit toGermany brought the modernizers out of the woodwork, and whose speeches and writings have placed the faithful in their proper context.

Judging from the hundreds of thousands of Germans who attended and watched Pope Benedict XVI’s September trip to his homeland (not to mention the tsunami of commentaries sparked by his Bundestag address), the pope’s visit was — once again — a success. And, once again, it was also an occasion for self-identified dissenting Catholics to inform the rest of us what the Church must do if it wants to remain “relevant.” To no-one’s surprise, their bottom-line remains the same. The Church is “out of touch.” Why? Because it’s insufficiently “modern.”

The “we-must-be-more-modern” argument reflects the workings of a logic that privileges whatever is considered “contemporary” (an ever-moving target) over the knowledge imparted by Christ to His Church from its very beginning.

Such reasoning often runs along the following lines. In modernity, X is considered not good; ergo, the Church must accept X is not good. Or, modern people regard X as good or licit; ergo, the Church should teach X is good or licit.

Hmm…

You don’t need to be a professional philosopher to recognize that these are what logicians call non sequiturs: arguments in which the conclusions don’t follow from the premises. The fact that something is considered modern tells us nothing about its goodness or evil, let alone whether it conforms to the truth found in Divine Revelation. It also produces very strange arguments such as the claim made in 1968 (of course) by the ex-Jesuit theologian John Giles Milhaven, that “modern people” (whoever they are) by virtue of their “modernity of spirit” (whatever that means) enjoyed a type of “standing dispensation” from God to pursue what they “feel” to be good.

Gregg sets this post-Enlightenment ethic of feelings against the Church’s foundation in reason, which makes it truly catholic. Those who would re-orient the Church,

marginalize the conviction that the fullness of Christian truth is to be found in the reasonable faith entrusted to and proclaimed by the Church. And the faith of that Church goes beyond the particular views held by us today to embrace the right belief (orthos-doxa) of the whole communio of believers, the living and the dead, from the apostles onward — the truth of which is confirmed by the consensus of the Church Fathers, the lives of the saints, the witness of the martyrs, and the teaching authority of the successors of Peter and the other apostles.

Of course, Catholicism doesn’t have an in-principle opposition to the post-Enlightenment world per se, any more than it allegedly locates everything that is good and true in the 13th century. Any effort to associate the fullness of Catholic faith with any one historical period risks relativizing those truths knowable by faith and reason that transcend time and bind Catholics across the ages.

Perhaps such a relativizing is what many dissenting Catholic activists want. If so, they should concede that this would mean making the Church in their own image rather than that of Christ the Logos. And there is no surer way of making the Church truly irrelevant in a modern world that desperately needs more reason and light than emotivism and darkness.

Full text here.