This book was slow going for me in the beginning, but I stuck with it and it was worth it. Elie manages to bring together the lives of these four AmerThis book was slow going for me in the beginning, but I stuck with it and it was worth it. Elie manages to bring together the lives of these four American Catholics into a compelling and even surprising narrative. There are moments when Elie allows too much of his own voice and opinions to come out, but mostly he is content to recede into the background. What I appreciate most about this book, in the end, is how the author brings out the humanity of his main cast of characters. All of them struggle, all of them fail time and again, and all of them ultimately find solace in faith alone.
Perhaps the best book I have ever read on virtue, and perhaps relatedly, the best defense of the unity of the virtues thesis I have ever encountered.Perhaps the best book I have ever read on virtue, and perhaps relatedly, the best defense of the unity of the virtues thesis I have ever encountered.
The back cover of this book tells of its inevitable fate: it will be read and cherished by social conservatives, and ignored by almost everyone else.The back cover of this book tells of its inevitable fate: it will be read and cherished by social conservatives, and ignored by almost everyone else. For its there we find the predictable accolades from conservative columnists and television personalities, and the total absence of commentary or even acknowledgment from what the author herself calls the "mainstream, secular media." I was able to find reviews in traditionally conservative dailies and news magazines, but nothing in their left-leaning counterparts, apart from a mention by Douthat in the Times, which appears to have given it no real traction elsewhere. This is not helped by the fact that the book is published by Ignatius, the go-to press for traditionally minded Catholics. Of course, I don't know if that was the result of a principled choice or just where the book eventually landed, but I think it would have been better served coming out of a press that at least attempts to appeal to a wider audience. For this is a book whose provocative theses deserve widespread discussion.
What are the paradoxes of the sexual revolution that intrigue and humor Eberstadt the most? First and foremost, I think, is her claim that despite the fact that the left can claim the majority of the intelligenstia globally, there is a kind of willful ignorance on its part when it comes to critically and rationally assessing its own sacred cows and dogmas. She puts the will to disbelieve or even acknowledge the reality of the negative consequences of the sexual revolution on a par with the will to disbelieve the negative consequences of communism in a previous generation. Second is her claim that contraception and the revolution in sexual mores it allowed was supposed to benefit women and make them happier. But all the empirical, anecdotal, and cultural evidence, she argues, points to the opposite conclusion. Third, she notes that as we have become more liberationist about sex we have become increasingly puritanical about moralistic about food. And finally, she notes that although it has become the most universally execrated moral document of the twentieth century, Humanae Vitae is the encyclical whose moral claims and warnings are most born out by the literature in the empirical social sciences: that is, by actual empirical facts. And, in fact, it is true that all the negative global consequences that Pope Paul VI worried about in that document have come to fruition, in many cases more dramatically and disastrously than the Pope had dared to envision.
Of course, there will be rejoinders to all of these claims, and those rejoinders would no doubt be interesting and worth engaging. But we will never know, I think, because it appears as though the book will largely be ignored, in accordance with its first stated paradox. Ironically, then, the left's indifference to the book, while regrettable, is in large part its intellectual vindication.
Janet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understandJanet Smith takes on the thankless task of explaining and defending Humanae Vitae. This is still required reading for anyone who wishes to understand this maligned encyclical....more
I learned more from the God than the Action parts of this book. For me, this book lost steam once he started talking about the concept actus, becauseI learned more from the God than the Action parts of this book. For me, this book lost steam once he started talking about the concept actus, because at that point the author of the book seemed to have lost his ability to make Aquinas's project compelling.
But I really did appreciate his attempts, in the first half of the book, to explain his claim (which is certainly true) that Aquinas is not trying to lay out a doctrine or theory of God. Instead, he argues that what Aquinas is up to in the questions where he treats of God's simpleness, perfection, limitlessness, unchangeableness, and oneness, is that "he is engaged in the metalinguistic project of mapping out the grammar appropriate in divinis." (p. 17) He also notes that the reasons he offers are never ones internal to Christian faith or revelation. "Rather, Aquinas is uniquely concerned with showing 'whatever must belong to the first cause of all things which is beyond all that is caused.' Such a task does not involve settling upon certain empirical generalizations and finding a theory to unify them. It is solely a matter of logical analysis, or as Aquinas understood it, of philosophical grammar."
It is find to call this sort of "philosophical grammar" of the divine metaphysics, so long as we remain content in our low expectations of what we can expect from metaphysics in this domain. Because of the completely transcendent nature of God, saying that we can apply certain predicates of him is not to assume that we know what they mean, when applied in such a context. And here he sounds every bit like a follower of McCabe: "God escapes our grasp because every bit of knowledge we possess is knowledge about something. Yet such a statement already violates the divine mode of being. It does so precisely because God's way of being is not a mode of being, but being itself. And we have no way of formulating that since all our expresssions are articulated to fit modalities."(p. 18)
I also think Burrell does an admirable showing demonstrating what can be made intelligible about God, given what we can say he is not. From the fact that He is not complex, we can know that he does not have a form nor any potentiality; and from this we can infer that he does not have a body; and from this we can infer that God is to be identified with his own essence and nature, and so on.
This is a difficult book, but well worth the effort. I suspect that I shall be returning to it again and again if I am lucky enough to continue to teaThis is a difficult book, but well worth the effort. I suspect that I shall be returning to it again and again if I am lucky enough to continue to teach the Quinque Viae to undergraduates. If nothing else, it has forced me to return to Thomas's De Ente et Essentia, and finally given me the push I needed to read some of the more explicitly theological texts of Herbert McCabe. ...more