Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chp 6: Taking a Chance with Others: The Beginning of the Moral Life

Wadell begins this chapter by recounting a story of moral formation on the F Train. He writes, “We learn that all morality begins in and is an elaboration of the discovery that something other than ourselves is real—whether it is nature, another person, or God—and the moral life is the ongoing attempt to understand, deepen, and apply this discovery” (145) Furthermore, this exploration of something other than ourselves is “the threshold of every friendship” (146).

Learning to acknowledge the other is foundational to our morality. When we embrace a stranger, we are placed outside of ourselves. This is the beginning of friendship. “What is remarkable about the moral life,” Wadell writes, “is not that morality is friendship, but that all our friends were once strangers” (148).

Friendships do not appear out of thin air; we must seek a connection with others. Once that connection is forged we begin the “adventure” of a moral life. This adventure is a moral adventure that is “the adventure of another person shaping, challenging, and enlarging our world as we do their own.... it is part of the history of every friendship” (147).

Thus, a once-stranger becomes integral to our moral formation. As Wadell writes, “we cannot be ourselves without them” (144). By recognizing something outside ourselves, we gain a new perspective. Our moral formation begins and grows with the continued presence of the outside influence.

Wadell concludes the book saying, “the Christian moral life is what happens when we grant God, and others, the freedom to be our friends” (167). Our moral life is a consequence of our relationships with others. Our friends, especially play a crucial role in our moral formation. Without these relationships, we are incomplete.

Wadell on the Purpose of Morality and the Goal of Friendship

Questions for discussion and further thought:

Charity, Wadell says, is supposed to "[change] us unto God" (137). He also says that "The purpose of the moral life is to make our way to God, to return to God through love" (127). How much is the point of Christian morality for this life (if at all), and how much is for the next life, or life after death?

Wadell claims that Thomas thinks a friendship is like a certain kind of conversation. In a conversation, people come together for the purpose of discussing things. Thus Wadell says that "the focus of a friendship is not primarily the friends but the good which joins them" (136). Does this mean we choose our friends? If the focus is not the person or the friend, but rather the good, then what must this mean for friendship with God? What is the focus in that relationship?

Wadell explains how Thomas believes friendship with God is possible and how "fullest self is acquired" in this friendship (140). Is friendship with God alone enough for the moral life? Why or why not? If we need other people, then to what extent are these friendships important?

Being BFF with God (Friendship... ch. 5)

"...a sharing in which each friend delights in the goodness of the other, seeks their good, desires their happiness, and finally becomes one with them" (120).

"Charity, this friendship with God, is the love with which the Christian life begins, the love by which it is sustained, and the love in which it is eternally perfected" (120-121).

God is the best friend any of us could have is essentially what Wadell is getting at.

" is a happiness we could never give ourself; it is the gift, the unexcelled graciousness, upon which our friendship with God, and therefore, our life, begins" (123).

To add to our discussion yesterday when asked if we choose to be friends with people, Wadell answers that question in reference to the friendship we have with God by saying, "To love God as friend is to love a God who always loves us first" (124). God chose to love us and in God's love we all have a friend.

In order to be friends with someone you must be equals. Seeing as how this is impossible to be equal to God, Wadell fixes that problem by discussing the grace of God. "Grace is 'a certain habitual gift, by which spoiled human nature is healed, and once healed, is raised up to perform works which merit eternal life.'...Grace 'elevates' us to the end that is our fullness" (125). Without grace we cannot be friends with God because we would not be on God's level, but because God loves us, God gives us grace so that we can join God in friendship.

The latter part of chapter 5 more generalizes friendship, reminding us that it is reciprocal, while also telling us how friendship changes us, including our friendship with God. "No one who is a friend of God remains the same, and that is the tremendously reassuring sign that we do not hope for goodness in vain. In charity we become exactly who we need to become, we begin to hint of holiness" (137). So in God's friendship we still strive for the ultimate goodness and our friendship with God gets us closer to that point.

Friendship, Wadell reminds us, not only make us like the other person, but also grossly unlike the other person, even in our friendship with God. "Love brings likeness, not identity" (138). "If charity is truly friendship, it makes us more fully someone who is not God, it makes us more fully ourselves" (139). "We become more like God because we come to love what God loves, we make God's good our own; but we also become more unlike God because we become more genuinely ourselves" (140).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A look at Aristotle's Ethics

“Friendship is a fitting model for the moral life because it respects that the change of self necessary for wholeness is impossible apart from those relationships in which love for that wholeness can be shared” p.25

“What is the best way of life and how are we to achieve it?” p. 31

“In order to be there is something that we have to become” p32

“Human nature was not given, it was achieved. It was a wholeness to accomplish by the kind of life and activities which Aristotle called the virtues, by which human beings were constituted” P.33

Aristotle does not think that individual acts will bring about the good in a person. Instead, Aristotle agues that ‘eudemonia’ must be achieved—which “is no a single highest good, some particular good which surpasses all others, but the kind of life in which all those intrinsic goods are included…eudemonia is the complete and perfectly satisfying life”
(p. 37) MacIntyre points out that morality for Aristotle is “the making and remaking of persons”, and also, “And ethics of virtue always suggests something crucial to human wholeness that is lacking, that something more has to be done is a person is ever to be established. (P. 41)

“…to be human is to have some special function to achieve”(41)

Chapter 1 Frienship and the Moral Life

Friendship and the Moral Life:

“Friendships are not sought, they emerge.” “Warrenton was a school of friendship not because it sought to make us friends, but because it presented us with a purpose that made friendship possible.” P.3

“Warrenton was an argument which said to be human was to have a story to live and the task of our lifetime is to live so that we not only bring that story to completion, but to embody the fullness that story represents.” P.5

“Friendship is not only a good for the moral life, it is indispensable; there is simply no other way to come in touch with the goods that make us whole than through relationships with those who share them.” P.5

~Wadell begins by giving us an account of the school he attended and how friends were made from strangers through working for a shared purpose.

He then goes on to speak about this one time when he was a new professor one of his students approached him and was bold enough to say that he hated ethics. The reason that we hate Ethics and Morality is that we find in divisive “and how far apart we are on things we consider important” Although these matters may be avoided at all costs, one question cannot be overlooked and that is “How must our lives be shaped.” Socrates says that we should not focus on “what should I do” but “how shall I live”. This is the difference between quandary and virtue ethics. In quandary ethics, we are alone, adrift on an island of our own personal beliefs. This type of ethics also only addresses a small portion of our lives: the part in which we face a crisis. It does not call for a change in lifestyle, but a second’s worth of a decision. Quandary ethics prescribes that we create our own moralities. Virtue ethics calls for us to instead be faithful to a higher ideal and we are shaped by ethics, not the other way around. In virtue ethics, friendship is indispensable.

“Friendship is a fitting model for the moral life because it respects that the change of self necessary for wholeness is impossible apart from those relationships in which love for that wholeness can be shared” p.25

Monday, December 3, 2007

Aristotle on Friendship

Paul Wadell makes the comment that "everyone wants to be happy, it is the great longing with which we are born and with which we die." (67-68). It is how we are to start to go about achieving that happiness that Wadell concerns himself with during this chapter. In the first section, he summarizes Aristotle's attempt to construct the polis as that community in which all must participate in order to become virtuous, and thus happy. However, Aristotle, after years of reflection, intrusion of the realities of society, and the teaching of others, comes to realize that the polis is not capable of providing the relationship necessary for virtuous living. This is when he turns to friendship. In the second section of chapter 3, Wadell discusses the three types of friendship that Aristotle defined. Aristotle defined the three types of friendship as:
1) Friendships of pleasure; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to the pleasure that they each receive,
2) Friendships of usefulness; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to their mutual gain from each other and,
3) Friendships of character; those friendships which are based on the attraction of each friend to the other due to each one's goodness and virtue.

He goes on to say that the third type of friendship is more important than the other two, although all three are still friendships and needed in a fully lived life, because the friendship is based on something which, during the friendship, can do nothing but grow and flourish, which leads the two friends to continue their attraction to each other all the more. However, Wadell then goes on to say that this third type of friendship is the one which leads us, as humankind, to the ultimate, although unattainable, goal of happiness. Is this truly the ultimate goal of humankind? How do these ideals of friendship fit in with other views of friendship and love? Is it possible that none of these types is more important than the others? Are these types of friendships stepping stones for each other as well as the ideas of eros and agape?

Friendship and the Moral Life~Preface

*This book is an argument for another way to think about the moral life (xiii).

*Aristotle articulated "Friendships are not only enjoyable, they are also highly morally formative" (xiii).

* "The moral life is the seeking of and growing in the good in the company of friends who also want to be good" (xiii).

* "This book argues that the central concern of the moral life is the formation of a good and worthy character, the development of virtues that will help guide us to authentic human flourishing" (xiv).

* "Virtues are habits we develope by practice, but we learn what it means to practice a particular virtue and have the opportunity to grow in it through relationships with others who share our hunger for the good" (xiv).

* "This book is an invitation to open up our sense of the moral life" (xv).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Friendship as a Reciprocal Love

In his second chapter, Meilaender poses the challenge of friendship being reciprocal. He demonstrates that in fact friendship love must be reciprocated. This seems like common sense to most. Meilaender then poses the question of how do you handle the idea of reciprocal love in friendship is the Christian is to love his or her enemy. He points out the differences between these two loves, the agape love or Christian self-giving love, and the philia love or friendship reciprocal love.

Meilaender tries to first solve the conflicting ideals of the philia love and agape love through Seneca’s writings. Seneca writes “the wiseman desires friends…if only for the purpose of practicing friendship, in order that his noble qualities may not lie dormant.” (38). This line of thought makes friendship not necessary and says that human beings can be self-sufficient on their own.

Meilaender does not see this as true. He then looks at the Epicurus way of dealing with friendship. Epicurus believes that “the first cause of friendship was man’s needs” (40). He was see that Epicurus is arguing something different than Seneca. Epicurus believes that human beings need friendship. “Friendship, a reciprocal and mutual love, recognizes this truth about our nature: that we need not only to give ourselves in love but also to receive love in return” (41). Here we can hear echoes of the familiar phrase no man is an island. Epicurus wants to argue that part of being human means that we need to give love and receive love and that we are not self-sufficient individuals whom can cut themselves off from others. We see the importance now for philia love, however Meilaender makes a point that we have sharply contrasted agape and philia love.

We see our best form of agape love through the love of God. Only God who is eternal and perfect can continue to give love without needing love in return. God can not fall into the notions of philia and reciprocal love because then God would be dependant on love being reciprocated.

Meilaender places these two loves within Christian possibility when he says: “Christian through cannot make reciprocity a required feature of all love. A mutual love like friendship, however important for human life and well being cannot stand alone. Christian thought knows also a love which does not seek its own.” Here we understand that Christians can know the love of reciprocated friendship love but since they also know the agape love of Christ and aspire to that they must practice both of these types of love. We must succumb to our human nature and our need for others in mutual love, but we as Christians must also “love in a ways which is not dependent on any return.” Here we see the intermingling of philia and agape love.

We see these two loves commingled through Jesus’ Golden Rule: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friend” (50). Another example of the great bridging of the two loves is through the Trinity. Each person in the Trinity Begets freely (agape love) and also receives the love and offers the love back (philia love). Through these two holy models we can begin to understand how these two loves are not so separate as through earlier in the chapter. In fact for Christians, philia and agape love very much must be intertwined in practice.

Meilaender: Friendship as Preferential Love

Gilbert Meilaender poses interesting insight into the world of friendship as it belongs to Christians. He begins by saying, “Friend must be preceded by various modifiers” (6). Friend, like love, has multiple uses and meanings depending on the situation. However, can Christian’s have friends since they are called to a universal friendship? Dr. Johnson says, “All friendship is preferring the interest of a friend, to the neglect, or perhaps, against the interest of others. Now Christianity recommends universal benevolence, to consider all men as our brethren; which is contrary to the virtue of friendship” (7).

Meilaender brings up the two most common competing theories about friendship from a couple of classicists- Plato and Aristotle. Plato thinks, “friendship is a universal love which grows out of more particular, affective attachments” (8). He thinks of friendship out of sentiment for all of humanity. Aristotle thinks otherwise, “friendship is a narrowing down of the many towards whom we have good will to a few friends whom we especially choose” (8). There are dangers for both, as acknowledged by Socrates. Preferential love can be too narrow; it can become too possessive or dependent. Rather, he suggests that friendship (philia) is a sublimated eros, where lovers can share a life in pursuit of wisdom. It is more disinterested love. Kierkegaard writes, “it is an impossibility of love according to both explanations simultaneously” (27).

Aristotle thinks that preferential love is the highest sort of friendship and that no one would choose to live without friends. He also notices that friends expect certain treatment from us as well as a certain obligation. Strangers, on the other hand, have no expectations and do not feel offense like a friend would. However, Meilaender notices, the story of the Good Samaritan disregards Aristotle’s observations. The Good Samaritan was a stranger to the man he helped. There were no loyalties of friendship and yet he treats that other man as a friend. The implicit point from this Christian story, says Meilaender, is, “The stranger, just as much as the friend has claim upon us for all the care and consideration on which we can muster and that to fail here would be not only injustice but also a betrayal of common humanity” (16). However, the Good Samaritan is also criticizes because the good Samaritan is unrealistic and maybe even lonely since apparently his time and money was not needed by anyone else.

Augustine is also introduced in this reading. He thinks, “The highest form of friendship, intimated by out particular friendship is, that which joins all who share in the love of God. Thus, particular friendships (philia) are transcended into caritas itself, God’s love that unites those who are his. Yet, caritas itself, though universal in scope, does not lack the intimacy of philia” (17). There is, in a sense, a divine lottery. Because of time, place, or circumstance, we become closer to some than others. However, this is all God’s doing because these closer friends “are merely the school in which we learn what it would be like to love anyone, in which we become more open and ready to receive others” (20). Preferential friendship is extended into a larger context.

Contemporary Christian thinkers have other suggestions. Some criticize Augustine because he begins with earthly, natural love and extends that into a universal scope. They think that it should “build down” from universal love into particular attachments. Johnathon Edwards, by contrast, “cannot regard any bond of love as virtuous which is not a narrowing and specifying of universal and general benevolence” (24). Preferential love runs the danger of being egocentric and exclusive to too few. Jeremy Taylor offers to try to justify particular loves on the basis of universal charity. He thinks that since human beings are finite, that our benevolence towards toward others is finite too. He says, “universal love much be expressed in this way” (26). Infinite friendship must be left to God because he is the only one who can do that. Kierkegaard makes this statement, “It is no mistake because when we are speaking of neighbor love, of “friendship of the world,” it really makes no difference” (28).

It seems that how we Christians experience friendship and the love we are to give to everyone as Christians is different. Can they be reconciled? Meilaender thinks that there are various moral goods in human life and friendship, in whatever form is one of them. Both kinds of friendship are necessary though. There is both a universal and a personal factor when it comes to this because we are humans. We need close friends but we also need to take that view of friendship to the service of all of our neighbors. The dynamic force of love will always hold this tension. He says, “To prefer some to others, but to remain open to those others and refuse to harm them for the sake of those we prefer—this may not be ‘friendship of the world,’ but it can be defended as a legitimate way of incorporating the love of friendship as we actually experience it into a system of Christian belief” (31).

Our temporality is what confuses us. Meilaender, after all this, thinks, “to claim that all must strive to transcend that mark would be mistaken—but equally mistaken would be the claim that none should” (35).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Toward Liberating Conscience

Anne Patrick starts her chapter by introducing Pope John Paul II's encyclical Veritas Splendor by saying that it is important because it highlights the danger of celebrating individual liberty in modern society and shows that true fulfillment comes from expressing one's freedom. She states that the encyclical's purpose is to "inspire moral seriousness and a life of loving discipleship," (170). Going off of these ideas from Veritas Splendor, Patrick introduces McCabe and says that we should take this document as a training manual instead of a rule book. She explains that since everyone is different and has different dispositions, even in moral theology, different moral advice will work for different people, as if the training book were a set of glasses that someone could look through to see clearer, knowing that everyone has different vision strengths and weaknesses.

Then she points out that the idea of moral theology came out of the practice of confession, which has recently been declining among Catholics. In contrast to this, seeking "spiritual direction" has been increasing among Catholics. Because of this, the church has been hesitant to say that pluralism is right for certain debatable moral issues, one of these being sexuality. Because of recent scientific data, Catholic sexual teachings are being questioned by some Catholics.

Patrick then returns to the idea of the rule book and training book. She quotes McCabe again who says that the virtues cannot be fitted into a rule book without reducing them. He wishes that Christian morality could be looked at the way Aristotle and Aquinas looked at it, which is "the movement towards our real selves and towards God guided by the New Law which . . . is no written code but nothing other than the presence in us of the Holy Spirit," (173).

Patrick then returns to the idea of pluralism. She suggests that the spiritual life recognizes diversity in morality, and one way we can see this is by the recent shift from patriarchal to egalitarian-feminist understandings of goodness in recent literature (174). She thinks that spirituality is on the rise because of the appeal to question, search, experiment and discern spirituality without having to be right all the time, as she thinks people feel they have to be with studying doctrines. This is especially appealing to those that feel religious authorities can be overly controlling, (175). Also, she thinks by appreciating historical change, people have more hope for the future when we see how far we have come and that there is a possibility for things to change. Also, she points out that appreciating other religions comes into play here, especially ones which share some of the same ideals. She notes even nonreligious religions, such as secular feminists or peace actiists. This helps those in touch with spirituality to question ideas such as sexuality and patricarchy. Here she quotes Elizabeth Johnson who questions God's role as male: "Is this idea of God not the reflection of patriarchal imagination, which prizes nothing more than unopposed power-over and unquestioned loyalty? Is not the transcendent, omnipotent, impassible symbol of Go the quintessential embodiment of the solitary ruling male ego, above the fray, perfectly happy in himself, filled with power in the face of the obsreperousness of others? (177).

Patrick also thinks that this idea of spirituality holds a different meaning for fulfillment here on earth as opposed to traditional views "when earthly existence was regarded mainly as a testing period preliminary to 'real' fulfillment in the afterlife," (177). Also, she thinks this approach means we can understand grace in more personal terms, for example, as understanding grace to be the "spirit of God."

What these new understandings of God and grace do, in her mind, is to consider matters of justice and egology to be at the heart of discipleship (178). She points out that while there are various ways of understanding spirituality, they all share an appreciation for history. Patrick quotes Roger Haight who writes that in Matthew's gospel, it is how we treat others that matters, not on orthodoxy or regular church attendance. What Patrick is calling for is a balance between an "other-worldly" spirituality and a "this-worldly" spirituality.

What she thinks we should do, then, is renew moral theology to include connections with spirituality and collaboration between experts from both disciplines (180). Here is where Patrick brings in the example of the man on a bus with a shotgun and the two editorials resulting from that incident. Here is where responsibility is questioned. Patrick suggests two types of responsibility: passive and creative. She states that "Creative responsibility looks beyond the predefined role descriptions of the 'good Catholic,' 'the good homemaker,' and the like and sees a myriad of needs and possibilities for action--indeed, a world calling for transformation," (184). She notes here that she believes that both men and women are at a disadvantage when it comes to practicing creative responsibility because of our society, but especially women because of the passive roles they are conditioned to practice because of our culture. Here she quotes sociologist Virginia Sapiro and her findings from 1983. Patrick then quotes Madonna Kolbenschlag's study of fairy tales where women are taught to wait for someone else to "awaken them to existence," (186), instead of taking their spirituality into their own hands.

Then Patrick talks about the "Map of the Moral Life," where she identifies 5 crucial and interrelated elements: God, the moral agent, the context or situation calling for a moral response, the principles and values inflencing that response, and the persons who mediate or interpret for the agent the other factors (188-189). For God, she points out how crucial it is the way we understand God, and how different that can look to different people. The agent is looked at as having a different level of responsibility to situations depending on age, commitments, marital status, and gender. Principles and values include rules or norms and goods. Patrick points out that rules and values can sometimes be in conflict with each other, making this element difficult to grapple. Circumstances and events, can be, as Patrick points out, different "Depending on one's experiences and perspective, the same objective data will have different meanings for different agents," (192). Her last element shapes how we view the other four elements.

Then Patrick talks about "The Rachel Principle," where the biblical Rachel is looked at as everywoman, "mourning every loss from violence and injustice," (196). Here Patrick introduces the idea of solidarity, or challenging us to love our neighbors, which is more than support for a people's cause (196). Here is where we are called to look at those who are oppressed and change the structures that make the people oppressed, and not just agreeing or supporting their cause. Patrick says, "Asking Rachel what she is going through will invite a whole range of activity designed to allow Rachel to know that there is hope for her future," (196). Also, by looking at who Rachel was in the Bible, Patrick wants to point out that even Rachel is product of scandal. Patrick says, ". . . we will do well to remember that for every Rachel we encounter, there is a Leah and a Zilpah and a Bilhah, a less-favored sister and a pair of female slaves," (197).

1. what do you guys think about spirituality vs. doctrine? what are the dangers in each? (especially in spirituality, as Patrick already touched on the dangers of doctrines in the chapter).
2. what do you think about the issue of patriarchy? what about women as being in charicteristically passive roles? is this true?
3. what do you think about the inclusion of other religions in regards to spirituality? what about questions of sexuality? (this really ties in with the first question).
4. what about thinking of the here and now as a fulfillment of our lives instead of the traditional afterlife fulfillment?

Thanks guys! see you tomorrow! hope you had a happy thanksgiving! :)

Mary & Anthropology

  • The first section argues that we need an anthropology that can better reflect humanity, one that can "encompass the difference, multiplicity, non-homogeneity, and creativity of the human-man and woman" (12). Furthermore, this anthropology must address how "the human word becomes divine word" (16).
  • Mary is such an example of "divine word", "a word that becomes 'divine word' for human beings" (17). And, like humanity, the images of Mary are vast, varying from culture to culture (18).
  • The second section begins by talking about 'base communities', which are "true communities", "ecclesial", and "base" (161-2). They are strongly bonded communities, founded on the church, and are constituted with the "poor and humble" (162). This is linked to Mary, who was "totally God's"& "totally the people's" (162).
  • The Magnificat has a dual expression: one of complete acceptance and one of complete denial. Through this song, Mary accepts all of the Lord's servants (poor & humble though they be) and rejects all sin which would separate the Lord from His servants.
  • Through devotion to Mary, we come to sing this song ourselves - we accept the poor, the undesirable, the diseased while rejecting all sin and injustice.
While talking about the need for a revitalized anthropology, Gebara & Bingemer state "we are both product and producers of what we live, know, inherit, believe, and hope" (15). In essence, we are tellers of the story, having been given the story from generations of the past. We are not wholly independent of the story we've been given, but continue the story in our own lives. We are able to do this because we continue to experience God in our lives today.

One of the ways in which we experience God is through the story and through human word made divine. Here, Mary is a central figure. She is "an 'endless' revelation of God" (18). There are many traditions that speak about the Holy Mother, and "they do not have to be mutually exclusive" (18). Just as we value diversity in education and politics, we can come to appreciate the many ways in which Mary exemplifies the Christian life and speaks to different cultures.

This is not to say that we need not be mindful of negative stereotypes that have stemmed from devotion to Mary. Rather, we need to tell the story with our gained perspective and re-claim the strengths of the story. For example, Paul VI claimed that "Mary of Nazareth, 'far from being a passively submissive woman or one with alienating religiosity, was indeed a woman who did not hesitate to say that God is the one who vindicates the poor and the oppressed and who has cast the powerful off their thrones'" (163-4). We can follow this example and place it at the center of our story, rather than stories of being passive and submissive.

In doing so, we can learn to take up her song, the Magnificat - accepting God's will and rejecting sin and all its forces. Devotion to Mary, hence, is a calling to accept God's will and to praise God, despite its many forms.

So, knowing that we are called to accept God's will and reject sin, what are our obligations? If Mary is the Mother of the poor, ought we not also work to protect and serve them? If we have strong obligations, are we called to them in ways besides Mary?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Deus Caritas Est Part II

The complete focus of the church should be one of love. The church should seek the integral good of man. "Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community. Unfortunately, society has become swarmed with concerns of material things. However, in response to this the church must retain its sole responsibility in love. "The social service which they were meant to provide was absolutely concrete, yet at the same time it was also a spiritual service; theirs was a truly spiritual office which carried out an essential responsibility of the church, namely a well-ordered love of neighbor.

"The church can never be exempted from practicing charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love."

Society cannot live without love. Love plays a vital role in all humane and just societies. Without love, man would not exist, and the state would have to provide everything for humans. "The state would have to provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person--every person--needs: namely, loving personal concern.

Along with the focus of love, the other mission of the church is charity. "The church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word. The church is built on charitable acts. Charitable acts are part of any Christian tradition. "The church's deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity. These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable."

"The church is God's family in the world. In this family no one ought to go without the necessities of life. Without in any way detracting from this commandment of universal love, the church also has a specific responsibility: within the ecclesial family no member should suffer through being in need." This validates a good point. It is our mission as Christians to provide a healthy and happy life for all people. These works and concerns for others aren't because Christians are forcing their beliefs on others--these works show our faith themselves. These acts demonstrate the love we have as Christians. "It is the responsibility of the church's charitable organizations to reinforce this awareness in their members, so that by their activity--as well as their words, their silence, their example--they may be credible witnesses to Christ."

The church doesn't want to take over the state, the church's position in this matter is to provide a conscience and a sense for good living for people in politics. "The church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Deus Caritas Est

Pope Benedict XVI begins by discussing the current misuse and overgeneralization of the word ‘love’, which has many different forms and expressions. (As we fall into the first generation to adopt the slang of the internet—i.e., “i luv u 2!”—we ought to be acutely aware of this abuse of the word.) Benedict poses the question, “are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?” (2). In the past, theologians have focused most of their attention in particular on the fundamentals of ‘eros’ and ‘agape’ love. Benedict explores Nietzsche’s criticism that “Christianity poisoned eros love,” and admits that in the past the Church has tended to associate eros love purely with sex and the body. This association proved damaging to our perception of eros, particularly in those periods of history in which the body was viewed in a very negative light.

In truth, the Church, “has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility” (6). Eros love is not merely “sex” or some undisciplined and purely biological expression of love. Rather, Benedict writes, eros “calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing” out beyond ourselves, ascending “in ecstasy” towards God (6). Even if eros initially stems from desire, it eventually grows more concerned with the other and moves out beyond the self into agape love. In a sense, agape love purifies eros love. Thus, agape love and eros love exist in a mutual and inseparable union, and humans cannot achieve the fullness of God’s true love without both. They are forms of love that represent different dimensions of the single reality of God’s love, and to cut off one from the other is to discount the fullness of love.

Benedict goes on to describe the ways in which God, who is love, expresses His love for creation, beginning with God’s relationship with Israel. The fidelity and forgiveness of the relationship exemplifies both God’s eros and agape love for His people. Benedict focuses on Song of Songs in particular as an expression of God’s unity with man, “a unity in which both God and man remain themselves and yet become fully one” (10). He then touches briefly on the connection between eros and marriage, saying that in terms of creation, eros fulfils its deepest purpose when it “directs man towards marriage” (10).

The last few paragraphs of Part I focus on Jesus, who displayed the most radical form of love that Christians can encounter, and His continuous expression of love through the Eucharist. Benedict explains (much more articulately than I!), “The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God's presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus' self-gift, sharing in his body and blood” (13). Through this sharing in Christ’s body and blood, which is the bodily extension of God’s agape love, we draw nearer not only to God in a mutual giving and receiving of love, but we also draw nearer to our neighbor. Benedict emphasizes the importance of the connection between our love of God and our love of our neighbor. As we mature in the fullness of love for God, we begin to look upon others through the eyes of Christ, and thus to serve and spread God’s love within our community. Indeed, “love grows through love,” and we are called to reunite all the earth with God’s love (18).

NOTE: This is purely a summary, and I didn't go into the many connections between Deus Caritas Est and Theology of the Body, because I trust that we'll do that in class. However, if you'd like to explore more, feel free to check out this link for a glimpse at Christopher West's analysis of the encyclical:
There are also links to all sorts of information on Theology of the Body.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Christopher West Theology of the Body for Beginners

  1. Christianity values the body because humans "can experience the spiritual world - in and through the physical world, in and through their bodies" (3).
  2. Since Jesus is the Word made flesh, God's mystery is revealed to us in Jesus’ human body.
  3. The exchange of sexual love between a husband and a wife to produce a child is the “earthly image” that resembles the "eternal exchange of love" between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
  4. Spouses have to give themselves to each other completely in total self-giving love so that they may become one flesh just liked Jesus gave Himself completely in self-giving love to the Church.
  5. In order to love each other like Christ loved us, married couples must express their love as free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

George Weigel, a Catholic theologian, thinks John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” “has barely begun to shape the Church’s theology, preaching, and religious education” and he predicts “it will compel a dramatic development of thinking about virtually every major theme in the Creed” (WH, pp. 336, 343, 853). Why is “Theology of the Body” such an important work and what effect could the Pope’s teaching have on future generations?

By reading John Paul II’s work, individuals can come to understand why the Pope thinks the body is such an important and essential part of theology. Many people think that Christianity often views the body as a bad thing and the spirit as the only holy thing. This is however very far from the truth! “As bodily creatures, this is in a certain sense the only way we can experience the spiritual world – in and through the physical world, in and through our bodies” (3). The physicality of the sacraments allows us to “intimately encounter God through our bodily senses” (4). The Pope says, “The body, in fact, and it alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine” (Feb. 20, 1980).

To emphasize the idea that people needed to recognize the importance of the body, the Word was made flesh! “In “the body of Jesus ‘we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see’” (CCC, n. 477). On Christmas, “the mystery of a God took on human” form and Christians should no longer deny the theology of the flesh, the theology of the body (7). Through the life of Jesus “God has made himself known” (7). God did not need to send Jesus into the world, but He did it “out of sheer goodness and generosity. God wanted to create a great multitude of other persons to share in his own eternal, ecstatic exchange of love” (8).

To understand the type of love God wants to share with us, we have to understand the Trinity. The love shared between God the Father and His Son Jesus is the Holy Spirit. “God imprinted in our sexuality the call to participate in a “created version” of his eternal exchange of love” (8). The love shared between a husband and a wife can produce a child. This is therefore an earthly resemblance of the love poured out in the Holy Trinity.

The sexual love exchanged between a married couple is also supposed to reflect the relationship of Christ and the Church. Christ gave “up his body for his Bride (the Church) so that we might become “one flesh” with him” (9). Married couples are supposed to reflect the union of Christ and the Church and “to give themselves up for one another out of reverence for Christ” (81). The love between husbands and wives “must express the same free, total, faithful, fruitful love that Christ expresses” (91).

The Pope believes if people begin to follow this kind of theology, we can move from a “culture of death” to a “culture of life”. The idea of family will begin to flourish once again and cultures will “live the truth of love and life” (14). “The Father of Lies wants us to speak his own language with our bodies”, but God calls us to speak the language of truth and life instead (92).

How do John Paul II's ideas tie into the idea of Hauerwas' church? Does John Paul II embrace Anne Patrick's Liberation Theology or does he completely disregard her ideas?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stanley Hauerwas: from The Peacable Kingdom

1.) We are unable to stand outside our histories in midair, as it were; we are destined to discover ourselves only within God’s history, for God is our beginning and our end (29).

2.) Christian ethics is specifically formed by a very definite story with determinative content (29).

3.) We do not come to see merely by looking, but must develop disciplined skills through initiation into that community that attempts to live faithful to the story of God (29-30).

4.) The Christian story trains us to see that in most of our life we act as if this is not God’s world and therein lies our fundamental sin.

5.) Sin is not some universal tendency of humankind to be inhuman or immoral, though sin may involve inhumanity and immorality. We are not sinful because we participate in some general human condition, but because we deceive ourselves about the nature of reality and so would crucify the very one who calls us to God’s kingdom (31).

Hauerwas defines what sin is and how sin is prevalent in mankind. In addition he refutes other notions about sin such as Niebuhr’s position of classically defining sin, which ultimately contradicts itself. It is a contradiction because it is classically regarded as an essential part of human nature, while at the same time an inherited evil which is inevitable ( Sanctify Them in Truth 64). He states sin to be a matter of unbelief, a turning away from the transcendent, by failing to acknowledge our own dependency. Thus the notion we try and be the master of our own destiny. The refusal to acknowledge this dependency and to live in communion with the transcendent, leads the self to a desire finite goods (66). If it is necessary to acknowledge this dependency, humility becomes a virtue required by Christians. The humility exemplified by the cross of Christ (67).

“His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which to put to death their hostility…” (70). What does this say about our duty to non-Christians? Our “obligation to be witnesses means we cannot safeguard ourselves from new challenges”. What challenges does this present in our interaction with non-Christian religions?

Taking into consideration our last class discussion, would Hauerwas claim that Christianity is the only way to locate ourselves and put us on the path to perfection? Would he say that the habits and practices within Christianity is the most effective way to find happiness?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hauerwas: Learning to Speak Christian

1) Learning the language of any craft is to learn to tell the stories constitutive of the trade.

2) Teaching the “language of prayer” is a physical act akin to carving stone.

3) The language and the action are inseparable and are how we acquire the skills of the craft.

4) The craft of theology is handed down by the masters, and our education in the craft will reflect the tradition of said masters.

5) Our education is not stagnant; we must, in time, become masters ourselves and teach new generations.

Christianity is an education in the language of the craft. How do we learn to “speak” Christian?

We all know that Hauerwas is a big fan of stories. Stories give us an identity. The Story of Christianity, much like the story of stone carving, names “as well as constitutes the virtues” necessary to practice a craft (112). The Story of Christianity is needed to tell us not only the history of the religion, but also to teach us how to be Christian.

We learn to be Christian in many ways. Christianity, like stone carving, “gains its purpose and intelligibility from other stories and traditions” (115). Our Christian education depends on stories. However, our Christian education must form “people in the habits of speech that make possible the virtues constitutive of the Christian tradition” (114).

However, education poses a problem in its presentation. As Hauerwas notes, education is very often presented as information; we can be spoon-fed dogma and we take it on face value. This type of education “By its very nature, is not meant to do any work and is thereby open to ideological distortions” (114). Christianity, like stone carving, takes effort on the part of the practitioner.

Often, Christians run the risk of trying “to substitute something called ‘education’ for what only tradition can do.” (116). Our education in the Christian language must not subvert the traditions of the faith—that is, we cannot just create our own unique religion. As Hauerwas says, “No matter how much effort we may as Christians put into education, the education that results, if it is not shaped by the practices of the church, may reflect a quite different understanding of the world than determined by the Gospel.” (117-8)

We also learn stories from the masters of the craft. In stone carving, there is a very clear hierarchy: master teaches apprentice the skills and traditions of the craft. “Education,” says Hauerwas, “happens through imitating a master. Yet the key to learning from a master is learning when it is appropriate to depart from what one has learned from the master” (115). Each apprentice must gain a foundation and then hone his or her own particular abilities. Traditions change, and as such so must the people within those traditions.

This does not mean we should change the practices of the faith entirely. As Hauerwas states, “instead of trying to describe the faith in new concepts, we should instead try to teach the language and practices of the faith.” Our goal, as Christians, is to become masters of the craft and pass it on to other generations through our actions and stories.

Learning to speak Christian is learning to exercise the virtues of the craft. It is, in Hauerwas’ words, “to be habituated” (120). As we learn the language and form Christian habits--from the existing examples of the traditions and that of the masters—we hone our Christian skill. We learn how to live Christian lives and how to shape the traditions to our context. Essentially, learning to speak Christian is learning how each of us can best glorify God.

Why is it so important that we learn from the masters of a craft and then make the craft our own? Is this how we assure the Story’s continuity or can this self-reflection corrupt the Story?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hauerwas The Church as God's New Languag

According to Hauerwas...
1. Pentacost is a main point in the narrative of God. It all goes back to Babel when people did not attribute thier power and gifts to God and lost a common language. Pentacost and the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus reUNITE human beings so they have through the holy spirit and Jesus they have a community with a simlilar "language." ->Church

2.The Church's main purpose is to humbly give WITNESS to the story of Jesus. I use the word witness because the church tells of the presence of Christ and is the indirect presence of Christ in the World.

3.The Church is God's creation/agent for the unity of humanity. It through the help of the holy spirit creates community that help recognize the others as "other" and still accept them as a part of the narrative of Christ.

4. The narrative of Christ is only as good as the where, how and who that tell the story.

Hauerwas states the necessity of Church to tell the story of Christ so can there be a possibility that the church stops producing saints? Would Hauerwas say itis possible?

I think that sadly it is possible. Though the church has a lot on its side to keep it from falling. The reason humanity fell the first time at Babel was because it did not give God the recognition he needed. In Babel humankind went to a level where they realized that through cooperation they can acheive anything but did not realize the can do this because of the power of God and the gifts that he gave them. So he made them realize that they are his creatures and that we need to be humble in our everday lives especially in our relationship with him.

Though the church now also has the example of Jesus on thier side from becoming to big headed. "For how can we be prideful when the very God we worship is most fully manifest on a cross." As the church since our mission is to retell that story of Christ in our lives and through our actions then we are constantly reminded to keep with the mission of Christ and to become such awesome lovers that we are willing to give our lives for others. Also in our aspect of church we have church leaders who live and act in a way to preach and tell stories of there own lives so we not only have examples and exemplars from the past but we have current preachers and friends constantly working and liveing the narrative of Jesus.

Finally on the Church's side for not falling is the grace given by God through the Holy Spirit to manifest the word into peoples hearts. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in this world to keep renewing his people to the story. The Holy Spirit in the historical and everlasting event of Pentacost creates a way for the people of God to unify themselves in Church because now they all have one langauge in the History of Jesus Christ.

So yes it is possible for the church to become an empty vessel that has no heart and changes no one but it would have to completely go against God, his story, his Son, and his Spirit to do so.

What about those people who are not Christian how do they fit into this plan?
And if pentacost and the church can be the alternative to war... does that mean that these non christians are not apart of that peace promise and if some are not apart of the peace plan can peace really be attainable?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hauerwas on Story and Theology

1. As human beings we enjoy stories, especially if they relate to us in some way. When they relate to us, they are defined as a "good" story because we recognize ourselves in them. The Bible is the best story written because it is "God's way of always being with human beings as they are, as the concrete, temporal beings who have a beginning and an end--who are, in other words, stories themselves" (72).

2. The word "story" can often be misused in that a story need not be factual to be truthful. This can be an attack on the existence of Jesus, because we do not demand any historical fact to back up the written story, but rather the story itself defines who Jesus is and who the church says He is.

3. A story is not merely a series of events that unfold, "but rather the interaction of events and the people that make them" (76). Stories are interchangable in that two or more stories may be told to make the same point.

4. Story is not always necessary, but when trying to make a point there is no other way to do so.

How do we use stories to speak of God? How do we know which ones are "true" according to Hauerwas?

Because a story is defined by our own being and that in a good story we see ourselves, we use stories to better understand God. We must understand ourselves in order to understand God. Knowing oneself cannot exist without knowing God and vice versa. "[T]o ask how I am to know which story best helps me know myself or God is in fact two interdependent questions, not in the sense that one is logically necesary for the answer to the other, but rather each is morally necessary to the other if we are to have a story that provides us with the skills to form our lives truthfully" (81).

A true story is more than a statement of fact. "[A] true story is one that helps me to uncover the true path that is also the path for me through the unknown and foreign" (80). True stories "must enable us to know what our engagements have committed us to" (80). As in the previous Hauerwas reading, we must realize that community creates some part of who we are. Therefore, community defines who we are as Christians and what we will write about. Being a part of a community is one of these engagements in which we are committed and we must understand our role in the community in order to understand the engagement itself and stories about our community give us guidance.

Hauerwas says to understand which stories about God are true we must go directly to Scripture. Christians, by definition, "produce truthful lives" (80), which means that the stories they have told about themselves and their place in the world and events they have been a part of are truthful and tell some part of who God is. Hauerwas also states that theology is biography (81) in that they are about something or someone, both self and God. If the stories are about ourselves, who are truthful beings, then it is truthful about God as well. If we know a story to be true of God, then coincidentally it is also true of ourselves. In fact, there are stories that are necessary to understand God, which, in turn are necessary to know ourselves. Neither the stories of ourselves or of God came first or are more important than the other.

Is the story of the Bible as good when told by someone else than by reading it yourself? Do we have to read it to understand it or can it be taught? Do we get the same results and understand the same thing when we read it or when the same idea is told to us?

What are the stories that are necessary to know ourselves and therefore God?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stanley Hauerwas: A Community of Character

1. Tradition, which is formed through mediation on scripture, creates a shared history of a community that leads to forming a community’s identity; therefore scripture is dependent on community to continually find value in the scripture.

2. Currently theories of biblical ethics takes appropriate scriptures and uses it to fit what “our intuitive assumptions about what an ‘ethic’ should look like,” (57) this separates the “ethical lesson” from the narrative that makes the ethic understandable.

3. Scripture receives moral authority through the church using the wisdom of the past, through reflection and interpretation on the scriptures (which creates tradition), to further lead the community of the church in the present.

4. Scripture as narrative is essential because all is understood through stories with a beginning and progression; therefore the stories of scripture are the stories of God, which lead to a better understanding of the character of God.

On page 57 Hauerwas states, “ The very idea that the Bible is revealed (or inspired) is a claim that creates more trouble than it is worth? Does this mean that Hauerwas does not see the scriptures as Divinely inspired? Does that lead us Christians and Jews with scriptures that are purely manmade?

Hauerwas argues that the notion that scripture contains a revealed morality that can be used by individuals in the present day “flounders” (58). This is because some scriptures at the present time are seen as morally perverse and are typically dismissed. This way of singling out what is seen as morally important and what is seen as something that can be dismissed leads to subjectivity and ultimately we gain a morality from scripture that is solely dependent upon what is appealing to the ethicist. Another flaw in believing that scripture creates a standard of orthodoxy is the fact that there are contradictions through out scripture that were specifically left in. How can we find one set of biblical ethics when there are contradictions within the scripture? Once again if we choose to pick between these contradicting ethics we are being subjective.

This leaves us with the notion that scripture is purely manmade and that there can be no ethics pulled from scripture. This notion has potential to be damaging because we loose the validity of scripture . Hauerwas saves the importance of scripture through the theories of tradition and narrative. Tradition is essential to the Christian community. Our community is founded off of the shared history that is written in scripture (58). Reflection and belief in this documented past is what creates our community. This is essential to know because it is where scripture receives its authority. Through the Christian community’s reflection and every continuing interpretation on the past events dictated by scripture, the Christian community is validating the importance of scripture in its formation and continuation of its community. The community is using the stories and lessons of the scriptures to help in framing an understanding of our current world.

The notion of stories is also essential for discovering the moral significance of scripture. “The moral use of scripture, therefore, lies precisely in its power to help us remember the stories of God for the continual guidance of our community and individual lives” (66). We as humans learn and understand best through stories. We understand and relate to other through sharing stories. It is the direct notion of human understanding that we begin to value the importance of scripture. Scripture is narrative that renders the character of God. It is through the stories of scripture that we best understand the character of God. Therefore scripture is the stories of God. It is through this statement that we gain the significance of scripture back. Scripture is written by humans, however, it is the written history of a community, and how they came to understand the character of God. These stories are then seen as authority because our Christian community reflects on these stories and forms our traditions and understanding around them.

Did God reveal himself to the writers of scripture and that was how they were able to write on the Character of God or are the scriptures the written understanding of God?

Monday, October 8, 2007

MacIntyre & Moral Agency

  1. MacIntyre identifies to main modes of moral judgment: 1) assertive and absolute judgment and 2) tentativeness to give any definite answer or identify universal principles underlying any judgment given. Because of their common inability to self-criticize, dialogue about any shared presuppositions is impossible. The result is thoughtlessness, a lack of self-knowledge.
  2. We need a knowledge of the principles that direct our moral decisions - knowledge that is practical in nature - in order to have true moral agency.
  3. Aristotle asks four sets of questions that focus on how moral agency can be instilled. The first deals with how we might distinguish between our desire to be satisfied and desire for objects for the sake of the object. The second questions how we can learn to act for the best in every present situation. The third examines how practice is to be unified with the agent's life. The fourth set questions what types of social relationships can foster and facilitate the achievement of goods.
  4. The end result is that we need rigorous moral training, likened to training of tuna fishermen, that fosters reflection, teamwork, and individual striving. This training is necessary, though it may not be sufficient.
  5. To gain moral agency, we must first engage in practices that instill reflection, teamwork, and individual striving rather than focusing on theories we could adopt. We can't simply be told what to think and how to act: we must experience what it means to make moral decisions.
MacIntyre first proposes that what we need for moral agency is thoughtfulness - "an unwilling[ness] to allow thought to rest content with unscrutinized metaphors or unidentified presuppositions" (3). How are we to attain this thoughtfulness?

MacIntyre argues that this manner of knowledge must be practical rather than theoretical (3). In order to be thoughtful, we must be able "to discriminate among the various objects of attention presented to us by our desires" - to be able to discern which objects we desire for their ability to satisfy a need rather than because of some external force. In essence, we must be aware of the nature of the objects and the source of our desires. MacIntyre elucidates this with the example of the influence of advertising, by which we can be unconsciously swayed to choose some product over another (3).

Our goal, then, is to become aware of these unknown influences over our desires. MacIntyre argues that, in order to gain this awareness, we must discuss and question our desires and about the practices in which we engage. He borrows “an agenda for practical reflection” (4) from Aristotle in the form of four sets of questions, through which we can realize the origins and goals of our desires.

First, we must examine whether the goods we wish to obtain are objects of desire for desire’s sake or because they are good for humans to obtain in general and for us to obtain in particular. Secondly, we need to consider how we might come to act in the best manner when faced with a situation that must be addressed without thinking. Thirdly, we must consider the necessity for unity within the moral agent’s life. Lastly, we should reflect on “the types of social relationship in and through which the goods of such practice are achieved” (4).

However, these questions cannot be our starting point for thoughtfulness. Before we can reflect, we must first deem it to be the most desirous action, which is not the popular choice in today’s world (as MacIntyre explains when he talks of the assertive and the uncertain modes of moral judgment, p. 1).

Gladly, MacIntyre does not rest complacent with this manner of reflection. This may explain how we can reflect on our desires once we wish to examine them, but not how we may come to desire that. Hence, MacIntyre proposes that we need a manner of training program – such as tuna fishermen experience – to instill three major qualities: teamwork, individual striving, and reflection.

Tuna fishermen have to have confidence in their own abilities, but also be aware of their limitations. They must be able to trust those around them in order to survive, both people in their immediate presence and the Coast Guard. The strenuous schedule, intense need for cooperation, and high level of danger make reflection necessary, as MacIntyre argues (7). Without this reflection, the fishermen would not be self-aware of their capabilities and limitations, hence putting the rest of the crew at risk.

So, to extend the analogy, our moral training needs to require teamwork, individual striving, and reflection. The training must be rigorous and structured so that we become aware of salient influences, but also so that we become engaged in the task of purging ourselves of negative influences.

So, then, can everyone be trained morally? If so, of what should the training consist—how would it require teamwork, individual striving, and reflection? If not, who gets to be trained, and how do we deal with those who are excluded?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

MacIntyre on Morality, Virtue, and The End in After Virtue

1. Moral arguments today are seemingly irresoluble because we do not have an established way of deciding between premises that are too disparate to be weighed against one another, we presume impersonal criteria when presenting arguments, and our conception of morality is fragmented and decontextualized.
Virtues are necessary in order to acquire the internal goods of a particular practice, or to succeed in that practice.
Virtues can thus be witnessed in (and developed through) practices, which are never isolated but themselves have histories and are passed on to us through traditions of communities.
People, too, have narrative histories, and it is only within the context of a unitary narrative that a person’s actions can be intelligible and a person’s life be both intelligible and unified.
We need to understand life as a narrated ‘quest’, which presupposes that there is a telos toward which we are working, and it is only on the grounds of one’s success or failure to both understand and reach this telos that we can judge a life to be good or otherwise.

What then is needed in order for us to regain a coherent moral scheme, one that we can comprehend?

MacIntyre seems to present virtue as the key to rehabilitating a fragmented conception of morality. He claims that “A practice involves…the achievement of goods” (283) and that practices could not “flourish in societies in which the virtues were not valued” (285). Thus, we need virtues in order to achieve goods. But, he says, this does not necessarily mean that “whatever flows from a virtue is right” (288). So virtues alone cannot make for a good human life. Then what can make for a good life?

MacIntyre argues that we need “a conception of moral law” in addition to virtues if we are to have a good life (288). So, he says, it is clear that “the scope” of virtues “extends beyond the practices” within which we initially cultivate them, meaning that they exist in some broader context (288). This broader context for him is the whole of human life.

A person’s life draws its unity from a unitary story, or narrative. An important thing to remember about narratives is that our narratives are, in a sense, shared with others. MacIntyre explains, “I am part of their story, they are part of mine. The narrative of any one life is part of an interlocking set of narratives” (292). Thus a person’s life is a single whole, and so MacIntyre argues that “[s]omeone who genuinely possesses a virtue can be expected to manifest it in very different types of situations”. Accordingly, virtues, which enable us to achieve [internal] goods, are not confined to just one thing that we do but are manifest regularly throughout our life story.

Even so, if virtues alone cannot make for a ‘good life’, then we still need something to help guide us toward what is good for us. Here MacIntyre argues that we must simply search for a conception of “the final telos”, or of what is the good for humankind (292). This, he says, is the ‘quest’ of life. If we can eventually come to understand “the good”—the final, ultimate goal for humankind—then we will be able “to order other goods” accordingly and remain focused on the good (292). Because our lives ‘embody’ unitary narratives, we can look to our individual narratives and ask who we are, why we do things, and what is good truly good for us. Since our narratives are, in a sense, shared then we can also ask about the identity of others, why others do things, and what is truly good for all humankind (291-2). For MacIntyre, looking into our life stories and asking questions about ourselves and what is good is part of what it means to live a good life. “The good life for man is the life spent in seeking for the good life for man”. “[T]he virtues necessary for the seeking are those which will enable us to understand what more and what else the good life for man is” (293). MacIntyre says it’s also a necessary part of the good life not only to “sustain the form of the individual life in which that individual may seek out his or her good as the good of his or her whole life, but also [to] sustain[ ] those traditions which provide both practices and individual lives with their necessary historical context” (295-6). Thus he says it’s also a virtue to “hav[e] an adequate sense of the traditions to which one belongs or which confront one” (296).

Is MacIntyre right that we must have a telos around which to structure our lives? Is searching for it enough to really make for a good life, or do we have to know what the good is before we set out looking for it? Can we know what the good is before we look for it? Why or why not? How can we know that we’ve found the good?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Quandary Ethics

1. Looking at ethics as specific moral dilemmas and how to decide what to do is a new idea that Aristotle and other early philosophers did not practice. How to resolve moral problems should not be the main focus when developing our individual characters and how to live.
2. Instead of focusing on moral problems, we should focus on maintaining a “healthy moral life.”
3. Quandary ethics looks at situations where the right answer would be the answer that is right for everyone. Ethics should look at the individual and what principles the person has set for his or herself. What is right for everyone might not be right for me.
4. Conscientiousness is only one feature of moral character. Pincoffs thinks that quandary ethics only concerns itself with conscientiousness, but he argues that other qualities should make up a person’s moral character.
5. Even though we teach children and others to develop certain virtues and values, they are their own person and inevitably will develop their own character. Everyone will end up with their own moral life that differs from others, no matter what.

Since most people think of ethics in terms of quandary ethics, what is so bad about it?
Pincoffs begins his article by showing us that the idea of ethics as moral decision-making is a new idea. His biggest fear is that ethics will be thought of only as how to make difficult decisions. He says that if we think of ethics this way, then the great ethicists’ theories will be distorted by our quandary ethics lenses (166). These ethicists were concerned with “moral enlightenment, education, and the good for man” (166) instead of decision-making. Pincoffs points out that Aristotle concerned himself with studying qualities of characters to be followed or avoided (166).
Pincoffs wants to show that thinking about moral problems is not worthless, but should not be given too much emphasis. What is left out of quandary ethics is the idea that we were raised in a certain way and holds certain values. Pincoffs says, “The ‘we’ in question is not a mere place holder; rather, it refers to those of us who were well brought up, who have had some experience of life, who know something of the way in which the social order operates, who have some control over the direction of our lives…” (167). Pincoffs is afraid that quandary ethics may deal too much with a fixation on the negative perplexity that moral dilemmas offer. He states, “A well-founded ethics would encourage the development of moral sensitivity but would discourage the entertainment of moral quandaries that arise out of moral ineptness or pathological fixation,” (167). This is where Pincoffs brings in his analogy as a moral philosopher prescribing a way for a healthy moral life instead of curing moral illnesses.
Pincoffs then anticipates an argument in favor of quandary ethics that people might conceive our times as more problematic than other periods in history, and therefore it is necessary to think of ethics in the form of moral problems. However, Pincoffs proves this theory to be wrong for two reasons. The first is that we can see that there have been previous moments in history were this is just not true. Character ethics existed in times where there were just as much moral problems. The second reason he gives is that even if this were true, there would be no good reason why rules and decisions that came out of quandary ethics would be any more effective and transcend change when the qualities of character ethics do not (168).
Then Pincoffs goes on to attack why quandary ethics is wrong when we think about it as what is the correct thing to do for anyone in a given situation. He does this by bringing up the question of who the “we” are in this problem that is at hand. When using quandary ethics we look at what would be the correct thing to do after reviewing the rules and exceptions we have laid out for ourselves through our deliberations. He says, “What is supposedly relevant is the agreements I have made; what is supposedly not relevant is any personal wants or desires or characteristics that I may have,” (170). He then compares quandary ethics to traffic court, where hurrying to get home or wanting to go to the concert is irrelevant to the court or the decision made by quandary ethics.
Instead, Pincoffs suggests this idea that personal considerations should be relevant in moral situations that are not relevant in legal cases. He illustrates this by showing that to him, the school-board meeting may be a big deal if segregation is a big part of his life and people associate him with the school-board decision. This is an example where what might be right for him is not necessarily right for everyone else. He then describes this idea of commands versus orders, and how even if we think of ethics in this way, we still let our own character enter in the back door by interpreting situations in our own discretion. He says, “They [orders] do not tell us exactly what to do so much as they indicate what we should struggle toward in our own way. But since we are already moral beings with characters formed, the way in which I will abide by an order/rule is not the same as the way in which you will,” (173).
Pincoffs then goes onto explain why character ethics has to be formed based on every individuals’ own experience and moral values. He says that when a person does something out of a sense of moral obligation, he does so because he holds himself to this moral, not others. And if he is to have his own moral character, then he must only hold himself to his own moral obligations, not others (174).
And Pincoffs wants to point out that while acting out of moral obligations that arise out of moral decision-making may be considered socially responsible, he does not want to underemphasize other qualities that he feels are just as important as conscientiousness. He notes that while developing certain virtues may be an individualistic process (we will all come up with different ideals and emphasize certain things over others), we still have some qualities that are socially essential. But he is quick to point out that he wants expand this list past rule responsibility (177). He states that “We may encourage children and ourselves in the development of certain virtues, but the form that each person’s character assumes will inevitably be the result of his own selective cultivation and his own conception of what is and is not worthy of himself. It is, once we move beyond the minimal needs of society, his problem, peculiar to him, his training, and his ideals,” (178).
Given all that Pincoffs has said, what if there is a person who is brought up under bad instruction or has been taught vices instead of virtue? What happens to that person? Are they just on their own to make “bad” moral decisions?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chapter 4:Organism, Language and Grace (McCabe)

1) Organism: Like animals, we are sensual beings and have a consciousness. We are unlike machines who are manufactured and have no capacity to sense.
2) Language: To be classified as human, we must be a part of a linguistic and cultural system. Unlike Animals who are programmed to recognize symbols, Humans make and institute their own symbols.
3) Grace: Our “divine life” is our participation in God’s Narrative.
4) Aristotle and Descartes have opposing views on Human Freedom/Thinking using the open system/closed system views (respectively)

…what characterizes the human way of living is that it is shared more than the living of other animals(72). Descartes view of being human entailed a completely private way of living and thinking and seems to be in complete contradiction to Aristotle’s view that the only way to know that I am a free thinking being is if I am able to share my thoughts with others. Is it possible for humans to be Thinking/Free in the Cartesian tradition and if not, why?

As McCabe states “Human Freedom, which is an aspect of human thinking, depends on…the world of symbols and linguistic…meanings that are peculiar to the human story.”(72) To be linguistic means that we have inner monologues, which we express and we are capable of “forming aims and intentions for ourselves” (69). We are unlike animals in the way we act because “brute animals can act willingly or unwillingly, there is no possibility that they could have acted differently” (69) Humans are set apart mostly because we are linguistic which means we voice our thoughts, and even though one may argue that a dog is a thinking being, we are set apart from man’s best friend because we can express those thoughts.

As linguistic beings, humans live as characters in both a personal and social narratives. We differ from animals because we can enter into a human story with one another through language. I believe that it is quite impossible for one to do this under the Cartesian idea of consciousness. For Descartes, states McCabe, “consciousness is a way of being private; it belongs essentially to the hidden interior life.” As Descartes says in his Third Meditation, the only way for him to TRULY know that his thoughts were his own, he will “close [his] eyes, [he] will stop his ears, [he] will turn away [his] senses from their objects…” In every way Descartes turns himself away from any human contact. This does not lead to a human person being a thinking being. In fact, this method negates it. Senses are private to the organism experiencing them, and if we say the same for thought, we are no more of free thinkers than animals are.

McCabe agrees with Aristotle’s way of thinking on page 72 and points out that unlike sensations, which I have already established as being private for both animals and humans, “everyone can have my thoughts. If they could not, they would not be my thoughts…they are not unless they can be shared by others. The use of thought, then, is what frees us from the imprisonment in the isolated self.”

That leads directly to a sharing in the Grace Narrative of God. Language is the ability to transcend oneself. McCabe states that “self-transcendence is seen to be complete in grace, in sharing divine life.” So, then realizing that we are more than animals because we speak our thoughts, is it possible for one to enter into grace by being totally and completely alone? (the hermitage scenario) Is it possible for one to be completely alone in the Cartesian sense and enter and participate in the enacted narrative of God?

Monday, September 24, 2007

McCabe on Community and the Moral Life

  1. Being a person is a human activity, and therefore a person can be judged objectively as either a good or a bad human being.
  2. Every individual has a role and a function within a polis, or more specifically, a linguistic community. This polis is concerned with virtue.
  3. A linguistic community can be judged upon how well it fosters virtue in its citizens.
  4. A person can become a good person by recognizing that virtues are desirable, and then deliberately seeking to cultivate virtues for their own sake.
  5. The study of ethics does not merely discuss the nature of goodness, but intends to make individuals good.

    Is moral goodness or badness a characteristic, and if so, how does a person develop into either a good or bad person?
    McCabe begins by addressing the nature of moral goodness or badness in human life. He starts by analyzing Hume, who believes that humans only see what is the case and not what ought to be the case. Followers of Hume claim that, “Ought (prescription) can never be derived from is (description)” (17). Resting on the assumption that moral behavior looks at the way a person ought to behave, the Humeans assert that humans cannot make judgments on whether moral behavior is morally good or bad. In this light, to be a ‘good person’ is to fulfill a subjective definition of moral goodness based upon an individual’s feelings (or to tie in Fletcher, based upon the situation).

    McCabe disagrees, claiming that being a person is a definite human activity and that as such, an individual can be judged as being either a good or a bad human being, just as an informed person can judge a good or bad ice skater. “To be human,” he writes, “is to be political, to be part of a polis” (25). (Based upon this assertion, he does not believe there is a need to bring God into the discussion at all.) Every individual has a role and a function within a community, but “community and individuality are not rivals”: an individual is the product of his or her linguistic community (which is distinct from an animal grouping) but the individual is also the product of his or her “free decisions” (28). In seeking to become a good person, which McCabe describes as becoming more yourself, a human being must “be educated into and respond creatively and critically to the tradition of [a] place and time” (30). This education develops in the way we live our daily lives.

    So what does it mean for us to be part of these larger communities, specifically, our respective linguistic communities? Our capacity for creativity and our ability to create meanings sets us apart from animal groupings. Through this creation of meanings, a person’s statements achieve a sense of objectivity, and the person, “behave[s] in a way that is not simply individual” (35). McCabe hones in on Aquinas’s belief that human beings’ thoughts are not essentially private. As a result, we as humans “are constituted as who we are not just biologically… but also culturally, spiritually, by the linguistic community, the polis in which we live” (37).

    McCabe expands on this concept of polis through describing Aristotle’s belief that a polis must “concern itself with virtue” (38). If the primary focus of the polis is to shape people to grow in virtue, then McCabe argues that we can use this as the critical standard upon which to judge a society. In examining any society in a particular time, we must focus on the extent to which “it fosters the virtues of its citizens” (39). McCabe then takes this standard a step further by narrowing in on the virtue of justice. He argues that, “one who has the virtue of justice is one who has learnt to want the things that are just” regardless of external reward or honor (40). When a person does a just act in order to gain the approval of an outside party or the internalized teachings of his or her conscience, the person is not truly acting justly. To become just, McCabe writes, a person must discover, “a new way of being in the world,” and to recognize justice as desirable in itself (48). He believes that every person strives to attain fulfillment, and that this fulfillment can only be attained through the “deliberate cultivation of virtues” (57). McCabe discussed justice and courage, but what do you think are some other universal virtues necessary to being a good human being? Can a person possess certain virtues very strongly yet be devoid of others? If so, do you believe that some virtues are more important than others?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Virtue with McCoy and McCabe

1. Virtue in the sense of happiness, or flourishing, to make a success of life.

2. Virtues are comparative to skills because they are acquired through practice. Vices are also perfected by practice.

3. Only with the learning and acquisition of virtue are we able to recognize a good person and these moral perceptions and understandings from the society and tradition in which we are born and raised.

4. Intellect is not just in discovering meaning, but what meaning we impose on the world by our intelligent capability.

5. We need practical reason to develop intellectual virtue, which cannot be exercised without moral virtues, which in turn, are not effective without infused divine virtues.

How do humans come to be virtuous?
McCoy says that Aristotle wants to make a distinction between what we would consider virtue and what he believes virtue to be. Virtue is to acquire the “final good” or happiness. However, happiness is used in the sense of “eudaimonia, or flourishing, to make success of life”(McCoy 109). To become a flourishing human being means using a capacity that only man possesses, the activity of the human mind’s intellect. We use our natural capabilities to make sense of the world. Virtues, therefore, “are concerned with the promotion of human well being, determined by rational judgment and choice about appropriate courses of action or conduct”(113).

Intellect is what distinguishes human beings from animals. Animals can only approach with world through sensation. They see what they want, make a snap decision, and go for it. However, humans not only interpret the world through sensual engagement, “we add our understanding of the world through our intellectual capacity and linguistics” (McCabe 80). “We raise sensual meanings to concepts” (83). This allows us to be able to make a multitude of decisions and the chance to have acted differently. Moral understanding, therefore, is not some mysterious moral sense, but an education of being able to recognize a good act from a bad one. Intellect allows humans to be educated. Aristotle emphasizes the importance of education in becoming virtuous. “Only an educated person, the one who has learnt how to be good at being human, the virtuous person, is in a position clearly to recognize virtue for what it is” (9). Then we use intellect to distinguish and make choices that will fulfill our humanness.

McCabe compares learning virtue to a football game. There are boundaries, or prohibitions, and there are rules that guide the play. When one cheats, or commits a vice, one is not playing the game; one is playing outside the field of play. To play well does not need rule books, however, but training in accordance to the teaching. As children, when we commit a vice in the sense that we do not know it is a vice as of yet, we are reprimanded and taught the virtuous action. Encouragement and practice is what teaches us how to distinguish and use virtue.
We also acquire virtue by a natural inclination to become a flourishing human person. These virtues are not only rooted in our efforts, but in “the initiative of God”(89). Becoming a good human person, a flourishing person, is in part something we share with the gods, with whom we take the example of goodness. These natural inclinations rising from virtue “means taking the path that conforms to and spring from who you are and what you treat as ultimately satisfactory”(90). It is not a chance that we are human, being human is what it takes for us to each exist and we must fulfill it by the practice of practical intelligence in order be “flourishing.”
Is there an absolute truth in being and becoming a virtuous person? Is it possible for people to flourish as a result of vice instead of virtue?