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Political Philosophy and Revelation

James V. Schall, SJ

Publication Year: 2013

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press

Title Page, Copyright, Quotes

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pp. ix-xiv

Why is it, I wonder, that we can find out more about what is happening in the world before us by reading Plato or Aristotle than we can by reading the newspapers or the leading professional journals in the field, all now online, as are Plato and Aristotle? We cannot imagine that any...

Part I. The Principle of All Reality

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1. Books That Are “Great”—Books That Are “True”

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pp. 3-14

The first thing that I want to establish in this book is that I am concerned with the truth. I will approach this topic delicately through a lecture that I gave to students in a small college in North Carolina. It catches, I think, the spirit of what this book is about; namely, that revelation addresses itself to the reason, that reason is not just thinking...

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2. On Rereading the Apology of Socrates

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pp. 15-23

Each semester, with a class, I reread the Apology of Socrates. It is something to which I always look forward. Nothing alerts us to greatness and truth quite like this small tractate does. When they read it, I encourage (order!) students to shut off their cell phones, TVs, cool music, and expel roommates. Read it in silence. Learn, with Cicero, what being...

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3. The Purpose of Creation

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pp. 24-30

It may seem odd that a chapter on the “purpose of creation” follows ones on books and on The Apology of Socrates. The purpose of creation will come up again in these pages. It comes up here because, in their own ways, seeking books that tell the truth to our souls, beginning usually...

Part II. On Something or Other Really Existing

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4. On the Things That Depend on Philosophy

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pp. 33-46

What can it mean to suggest that things can “depend” on philosophy? And what things might these be? Philosophy, after all, is “for its own sake.” Philosophers, moreover, even in classical times, were considered to be rather odd or eccentric. To “depend” on them was, to say the...

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5. On the Conquest of Human Nature: Ancients, Moderns—Medievals, Futures

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pp. 47-56

The basic thesis that I will argue in this chapter is that the principal time period from which we must protect ourselves is not that belonging to the ancients, the medievals, or even the moderns, but, to coin a phrase, to the “futures.” No doubt the only temporal thing we can “do”...

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6. Why Political Philosophy Is Not a Natural Science

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pp. 57-72

Political science departments in universities are variously also called “government,” “politics,” or, more dubiously, “social science” departments. Unlike other university departments such as history, English, or physics, political science has traditionally maintained a subsection within...

Part III. Sufficient Understanding to See the Truth

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7. The Rational Animal

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pp. 75-82

As a gift that she thought I might enjoy, a student gave me a book entitled, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes. I often point out to students that, according to Aristotle, wit is a sign of intelligence. If someone has to have repeated the...

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8. Liberal Education—“Missing Many Allusions”: On Why Not to Study the Bible and the Classics

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pp. 83-92

If man is indeed a “rational animal,” his main endeavor has to be an understanding of what this combination of mind and body means. And it is well to pay attention to all the sources that are available in this endeavor. In 1960, the editors of...

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9. On Praise and Celebration

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pp. 93-104

Ultimately, the end of the rational animal, as well as the end of liberal education, is nothing less than the capacity to praise and the incentive to celebrate what is. If we so choose, we can reasonably approach what Catholicism is about from the angle of the Fall, of original sin, of the dire consequences of both natural and human disasters. Such things...

Part IV. On Finding a Natural Explanation for Mysteries

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10. Thomism and Atheism

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pp. 107-117

Harry Jaffa wrote a book entitled Thomism and Aristotelianism, in which he reflected on Aristotle’s magnanimous man. Jaffa wondered whether the magnanimous man’s affirmative judgment about his own worth was compatible with the Christian notion of humility.1 After some discussion over the years, it is generally agreed that the two kinds of life

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11. The Definitive Kingdom

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pp. 118-131

Every civilized city is an active order composed of mortal men during the time they are precisely the mortals. Politics as such describes their order insofar as they are alive in this world. The existing polity reflects the inner order or disorder of the citizens’ souls as they associate...

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12. A Roman Catholic Reading of Plato’s Gorgias

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pp. 132-148

When a Catholic priest says his daily Office or Breviary, he reads the 150 Psalms of the Old Testament in the course of a month, often repeating several of them. This Breviary is an official document of the Catholic Church. After reading it for a while, one notices, before each...

Part V. At the Calling of All Nations

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13. Ratzinger on the Modern Mind

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pp. 151-163

Back in 1996, Joseph Ratzinger gave an address in Mexico on a constant concern of his, namely, the condition and roots of the modern mind. This chapter will recall that earlier address. The standard question hovering about the intellectual world since the crisis of Marxism and before...

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14. From Cambridge to Regensburg: On Intellectual Courage

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pp. 164-177

The relatively small cities of Cambridge in Massachusetts and Regensburg in Bavaria both are homes of famous universities, of Harvard in Cambridge, of Regensburg in Bavaria. Regensburg is an ancient city going back, under the name of Ratisbona, to the time of the...

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15. “Intellectual Charity”

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pp. 178-186

For a course in medieval political philosophy, I had occasion to look at the chapter on the Arab philosophers—Al Kindi, Al Ghazeli, Al Farabi, Avecenna, and Averroes, among others—in Etienne Gilson’s famous History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. This book was...

Part VI. Much That Is Fair

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16. “Plato’s Charm”: On the “Audience” of Political Philosophy

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pp. 189-202

People, places, and things, each in a different way, can enchant us, fascinate us, yes, charm us. Each of these latter words—enchant, fascinate, charm—somehow has to do with the mystery of being itself, of why there is something, not nothing. Why can things from outside of...

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17. On That by Which Human Things Are Measured

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pp. 203-216

The great modern “heresy,” if I dare use that antimodern but still noble word, is that no truth can be found. Especially we find no truth according to which man is to live a life that orders him to a good whose essence is not concocted by himself. The truth is that there is no truth...

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18. On the “Right” to Be Born

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pp. 217-224

As with so many chapters in this book, this chapter too relates to Plato. Benedict XVI, in Caritas in veritatem, addressed the troubled meaning of the word “right.” Perhaps no word in modern philosophy has caused more trouble to both state and Church than this, at first sight, noble word. Many a philosopher, like Maritain, and pope, like John

Part VII. On Following the Pull of the Divine Nous

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19. On Political Philosophy and the Understanding of Things: Reflections on Fifty Years of Writing

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pp. 227-239

The Catholic University of America Press published in November 2008 a collection of twenty-two academic essays of mine under the somewhat provocative title The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays. The first of these essays appeared in 1957 and the last in 2008. Such...

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20. Revelation and Political Philosophy: On Locating the Best City

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pp. 240-252

Philosophy is the quest for knowledge of the whole by a being that is himself a whole but not the whole. The quest is given with our being. It makes us be what we are, both acting and thinking beings. It explains the constant dynamism that charges through our lives whether we like it or not. Further, it incites us to know what we are in order that we might choose to be what we ought to be. We are the only beings in the

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21. “A Plan of Surpassing Beauty”

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pp. 253-264

Ultimately, political philosophy and revelation point in the same direction. “How could man ever have known that he was weak and mortal by nature, whereas God was immortal and mighty, if he had not had experience of both?” Irenaeus of Lyons asked. “To discover his weakness...

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Conclusion: What Is “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy?”

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pp. 265-272

Let me conclude these reflections on philosophy, revelation, and political philosophy with a succinct statement of how they fit together. A course in “Roman Catholic Political Philosophy” is rarely found in any academic institution, including those sponsored by the Church...


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pp. 273-278


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pp. 279-282

E-ISBN-13: 9780813221557
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813221540

Publication Year: 2013