Quotable: O’Donaghue

“Now one main result of the de Lubac revolution (which Balthasar accepted and still accepts) was the devaluation and gradual disappearance of philosophy as the preparation for an in a real sense the basis of theology. This process has coincided with the reaction against the manuals whether philosophical or theological, coincided also with the breakdown of essentialist thinking (ie., discourse by way of clear definition, distinction, and logical demonstration) and the coming of what came to be called Existentialism on the one hand and, on the other, the revival of Nominalism in the shape of Logical Positivism and Linguistic Analysis. In other words, the Platonic-Aristotelian realism of Aquinas and the ‘Scholastic’ tradition came to be ousted by its natural enemies and alternative options, Subjectivism and Nominalism – the one seeing the human subject (as general and common to all men) as the horizon of enquiry and truth, the other refusing to admit any horizon other than that of sense-observation and the words that sound in the ear. So it comes that courses in philosophy in Catholic seminaries and universities today provide nothing like an objective natural ground for revelation but instead provide either an analysis of consciousness or an analysis of language. That mighty theology of man, natural man in his natural integrity (damaged but not destroyed by the Fall), a theology that provides an ethic which no scriptural quotation could overturn, is now in ruins and the way is open to every kind of sane and insane biblical anthropology ranging from that of Bultmannian, who simply affirms the call to transformation, to that of the kind of born-again Christians who would slay all the enemies of the Word of God as he understands it.”

O’Donaghue, “A Theology of Beauty,” The Analogy of Beauty, pg. 6

This is one of those paragraphs that fascinates me. It is dense and hard to unpack, but contains so many talking points, so many questions. It is especially relevant for my thesis which is essentially a defense of the an argument from natural theology. I could explain more, but in the words of Christopher Hitchens:

Hugh Hewitt: Now you do not, and this is applicable to his works as well to everyone else you talk about here. You don’t give the reader a break. You’re just assuming they know these books like Money, and that they know these authors like Rushdie, and that they’re familiar with the great works of English literature for the last many hundred years. Did you just have to decide at the beginning you were just going to spare no quarter, and they’re just going to have to catch up?

Christopher Hitchens: Yes, absolutely. And my reason for that is that’s how I know most of what I know, is reading a paragraph in a book, and realizing that I was expected to get a reference there, and I didn’t quite get it, and regarding that as a reproach to myself.

HH: Well, that’s like Adorno to me. I had no idea who this fellow was, and I had to read this with Wikipedia open.

CH: Well, aren’t you glad?

HH: Well, yes I am, but I’m wondering, isn’t that rare these days? Didn’t your editor say you can’t do that, Christopher? People won’t slog through with you?

CH: No, they didn’t. No, there was no, there was no dumbing down, because dumbing down in this case would not have been of me. I mean, I’d have had to find another way of saying what I already know?

HH: Yeah.

CH: It would have been much more boring.

HH: You’re right.

CH: But it would also be very condescending to the readers. I’d rather do anything than patronize people. I’d rather say look, I know this. There’s no reason you shouldn’t. And if you didn’t, don’t complain. I’ve just given you the opportunity to check it out.

HH: Yeah, go check it out.

CH: And I backed myself, saying I think there is a gold standard in writing, and in the world of ideas. And I know something about it, and I’d like to introduce you to it, too.

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