Bernard Lonergan on Community

A Community is not just a number of men within a geographical frontier. It is an achievement of common meaning, and there are kinds and degrees of achievement. Common meaning is potential when there is a common field of experience, and to withdraw from that common field is to get out of touch. Common meaning is formal when there is common understanding, and one withdraws from that common understanding by misunderstanding, by incomprehension, by mutual incomprehension. Common meaning is actual inasmuch as there are common judgments, areas in which all affirm and deny in the same manner; and one withdraws from that common judgment when one disagrees, when one considers true what others hold false and false what they think true. Common meaning is realized by decisions and choices, especially by permanent dedication, in the love that makes families, in the loyalty that makes states, in the faith that makes religions. Community coheres or divides, begins or ends, just where the common field of experience, common understanding, common judgment, common commitments begin and end.

from Method in Theology (Univ. of Toronto Pr, 1990 [Originally 1972]), 79.


Philosophy and Aesthetics: 3 Variations

I couldn’t come up with 5 varieties like I did with history and theology some weeks ago. In any case, here’s an attempt at delineating modes of interplay available to the fields of philosophy and aesthetics.

Philosophical Aesthetics. Or philosophy of beauty. This is a branch of philosophy. Typical analytical modes of evaluation will be deployed to interrogate the adequacy of the prevailing conceptual apparatus used to frame how we talk and argue about art, beauty, etc. Consider Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment.

Aesthetics of Philosophy. A branch of rhetoric (?) Something like the study of philosophy as literature. Here rhetorical and literary categories of description and evaluation will be deployed to bring to view how the presentation of a philosopher’s authorial voice complements content, projects a model of reasonableness, and cultivates a taste for the charms (and thereby reinforcing the persuasiveness) of its modes of appeal. For instance, consider how the operative aesthetic sensibilities informing Wittgenstein’s Tractatus control his thought and expression—how W.’s prose show us a glimpse of a beauty of which we cannot speak. Related is Clifford Geertz’s Works and Lives, or nearly anything by Wayne Booth.

Aesthetic Contemplation. This is not a branch of philosophy but an approach to the pursuit of truth. Let’s call it imagination seeking understanding. Or perhaps the study of literature/art as a philosophical stimulant. Works more by an appeal to the imagination as the basis of its rhetorical strategy. It isn’t trying to steamroll you by way of its incontrovertible rationality, so it doesn’t wear its logic on its sleeve. Instead it proceeds by exploratory insight and life-like description, so its leverages of persuasion are less coercive and more invitational. Consider Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

Know Thyself…

Am I right to catch a pattern or convergence of logic between these three comments?

  • Theologian

Someone rightly said, “A person either has character or he invents a method.” I believe that and have been trying for years to trade method for character.

from Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology, Eds. Hunsinger and Placher (Yale Univ. Pr, 1994), 19.

  • Church Leader

It [this study] will encourage leaders to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than on techniques for manipulating or motivating others.

from Ed Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Rev. Ed. (Church Publishing, 2017), 14.

  • Preacher

This book suggests that one answer to the question of what is wrong with preaching is that preachers are working with inadequate metaphors of identity, what we will call “homiletic identities,” that fail to encourage a more faithful preaching in the image and practice of Christ. Identity shapes practice; if you know who you are, you know what to do. If you do not know who you are as a preacher, then your preaching suffers.

This book asks not what is the right technique to master, but rather what is the right homiletic identity to be mastered by.

from Trygve Johnson, The Preacher as Liturgical Artist (Cascade, 2014), xii. The metaphors of identity Johnson proceeds to unpack are those of the preacher as teacher, herald, and liturgical artist — for those wondering.

Darren Sarisky on Webster-style theological theology

…operating theologically entails that the discipline cannot frame an account of its own procedures without direct recourse to theological categories…

This requires, first, that theologians grant God priority in their study, rather than allowing a philosophical account of the subjective conditions of the enquirer to determine their method. The problem with a transcendental anthropology is that it grants only the slightest formative role to theology in conceiving of the nature of the human knower, and, among other things, this obscures the way in which theological reason is caught in the dynamics of the fall and regeneration. Taking one’s cue from a theological ontology, by contrast, sets the discussion of theological inquiry into an entirely different register. In this case, who the human inquirer is is spelled out by recourse to a theological anthropology; the proximate objects of study, written texts, are understood as part of the deposit of ecclesial tradition; and the practice of intellectual reflection can be unpacked as an episode in the history of the reconciliation of God and human beings, one in which inquirers together form the company of the saints. What makes the crucial difference is that each of these topics is viewed sub specie divnitatis.

from Theological Theology: Essays in Honor of John Webster, Eds. Nelson, Sarisky, and Stratis (Bloomsbury, 2015), 3.

Robert Joustra on the false ultimacy of politics

[Reviewing Nick Spencer’s The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable]

Maybe our politics has become so ultimate because it’s one of the last things we have in common. Public narrows to mean political. The state, the last public project, exhausts our collective imagination, when it’s really only one institution, a specifically political one to exercise the good of justice, but hardly all goods. It thus has an essential but deeply limited function. The American solution, so far, has been to enforce a kind of commonness via those same mechanisms, spiraling the existential stakes of the normally banal routines of political stewardship into a kind of moral, cultural, and spiritual winner-takes-all. The better solution, probably, is to have more things in common, to branch out from the winner-takes-all hysteria of modern politics and rediscover other facets of human life, art, music, literature, sports, family, and so on, whose goods can never be exhausted by something as rude and mundane as politics. By making everything political, we’ve ruined everything, like the good Samaritan, who ends up as a stand-in for just the most fashionable debates on the size of government, a political problem so far removed from the actual parable that an outsider would have to do considerable study to learn how we got here.

from “The Politics of the Good Samaritan,” Comment (Jan 2018)

See also an earlier post on this same theme HERE

Gilbert Meilaender on when curiosity can be vicious

Many possibilities may pique my curiosity — I may wonder how … human beings respond to experiments harmful to their bodies, or even to suffering; how the development of a fertilized egg could be stimulated to produce a monster rather than a normal human being; how to preserve a human being alive forever. I may wonder, but it would be wrong to seek to know. Not, in every case, because I cannot know, but because I cannot possess such knowledge while willing what is good. … To love the good and to possess what we love are, in this life, not always compatible. Hence, to seek always to love the good is to commit ourselves to a life that seeks to receive, not to possess.

Although Augustine does not outline for us any general principle by which we can always distinguish a proper desire for knowledge from the vice of curiosity, we can learn from him the attitude which may at least make virtue possible — an attitude characterized by a reverent desire to understand creation rather than a longing to possess the experience of knowing.

from The Theory and Practice of Virtue (Univ. Notre Dame Pr., 1984), 140.