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J. L. A. Garcia Death of the (Hand)maiden: Contemporary Philosophy in Faith and Reason Though the actual text was not made public until the twentieth anniversary ofJohn Paul II's ascension to the papacy, the recent encyclical Fides et Ratio bears an official proclamation date of a month earlier—September 14, which Catholics celebrate as the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This seems at first distasteful triumphalism: reason contests, but is defeated by, faith. Such an interpretation would, I think, be misguided, for Pope John Paul II means the official dating to make a subtler point. For him, it is only through reflection on the mysteries of Christ's life and death, accepted in faith, that the mystery of man, which reason naturally seeks to penetrate, can begin adequately to be grasped, (sec. 60, quoting Gaudium et Spes [below], and his own first encyclical Redemptor hominis, sec. 8) Faith and reason, then, are not contestants but partners, "friends," as Pope Leo XIII called them. (sec. cj) The cross's triumph is not over reason, but a triumphjòr reason as well, since it helps reason achieve the knowledge it seeks. Thus, the image with which the encyclical commences: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises."This view is implicLOGOS 2:3 SUMMER 1999 12LOGOS it, too, in what must be theVatican II text most frequently cited in recent papal writings: The Truth is that only in the mystery ofthe Incarnate Word does the mystery ofman take on light . . . Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of His love, fully reveals man to himselfand brings to light his most high calling. (Gaudium et Spes, 22) This "Truth" is the one defended in John Paul II's major treatment of recent moral theology, The Splendor of Truth. It also holds the key to the reconciliation of faith and reason the new encyclical proposes. The text's opening paragraph proclaims that "God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself." To respond to this natural urge is to undertake philosophical reflection. It seems to be for this reason that, in contrast to other recent encyclicals—which have begun with reflections on Scriptural passages—this one takes as its initial text the Delphic injunction, "Know yourself." Identifying the quest to know with the quest to know humanity narrows things considerably, ofcourse, and reducing it to the quest for self-knowledge narrows them still more. Here, John Paul II shows his modernity in his evident comfort with the tendency within Western philosophy since Descartes to turn inward toward the subject. "Modern philosophy clearly has the great merit of focusing attention upon man." (sec. r) Rather than proceeding first to the study of being, metaphysics, or of reasoning itself, logic, such philosophy undertakes first to understand the person , recognizing that the other studies will become necessary along the way to that understanding. For all the citations ofAquinas that fill the notes to this and other recent encyclicals, this methodology owes less to Thomas (or Aristotle ) than to the phenomenological movement, in which tradition Karol Wojtyla undertook his early philosophical studies. The phenomenologists , a group of central European thinkers in the late CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHY IN FAITH AND REASON nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, sought to study in close detail the contents of human experience, often claiming to "bracket " or set aside the metaphysical question of this experience's connection to external reality. Franz Brentano, the movement's inspiration, identified the good with what we love in a way that we experience as richtig (correct), and the young Wojtyla seems especially to have been drawn to the studies Max Scheler, Alexius Meinong, and Nicolai Hartmann undertook to map the realm ofvalues as it is presented in human emotional experience. The phenomenologists ' "bracketing" should only have been a methodological step, but it led many of them—most notoriously, Edmund Husserl—into forms of idealism or skepticism in which the real world was denied or deemed unknowable and irrelevant. Wojtyla never followed the phenomenologists into that dead end, but he has remained sympathetic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-791X
Print ISSN
1091-6687
Pages
pp. 11-19
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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