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Signals of Transcendence

The current issue of The New York Review of Books contains a generous excerpt from a new book by the late Ronald Dworkin: Religion Without God. In it he presents a careful statement of an approach to religion which he distinguishes both from scientific naturalism and from orthodox theism. It strikes me as essentially a "neo-Kantian" approach. I say this not to slight it, but to situate it within a tradition. Here is a key affirmation that he makes:

What, then, should we count as a religious attitude? I will try to provide a reasonably abstract and hence ecumenical account. The religious attitude accepts the full, independent reality of value. It accepts the objective truth of two central judgments about value. The first holds that human life has objective meaning or importance. Each person has an innate and inescapable responsibility to try to make his life a successful one: that means living well, accepting ethical responsibilities to oneself as well as moral responsibilities to others, not just if we happen to think this important but because it is in itself important whether we think so or not.The second holds that what we call naturethe universe as a whole and in all its partsis not just a matter of fact but is itself sublime: something of intrinsic value and wonder. Together these two comprehensive value judgments declare inherent value in both dimensions of human life: biological and biographical. We are part of nature because we have a physical being and duration: nature is the locus and nutrient of our physical lives. We are apart from nature because we are conscious of ourselves as making a life and must make decisions that, taken together, determine what life we have made.

Dworkin seems willing to characterize that "sublime" as "supernatural." In this he finds himself much closer to Albert Einstein than to Richard Dawkins. But where he takes leave of theistic religion is in his refusal to countenance that such a stance either requires or assumes the reality of a "supernatural person."Pope Benedict famously created an initiative called "The Courtyard of the Gentiles" which he entrusted to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi. Ravasi has already sponsored several high profile dialogues between believers and non-believers who are open to religion, as is Dworkin.Reading Dworkin's account raises the question: were we to participate in such a dialogue, what grounds would we propose to move beyond the affirmation of value to the reality of a personal God who is the Source of such value? Or, to use the words of the First Letter of Peter: what account would we give of the hope that is in us?

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Is the goal of such a dialogue evangelization? If it is, and if Dworkin or other interlocutors have assented to it, haven't they subtly already conceded their ground?I've always felt we can make very happy partnerships with honest agnostics who won't commit to faith because of (too) scrupulous intellectual honesty. They're over the hardest hurdle already and what remains depends largely on their experience dealing with believers. Should we worry too much about the ground rules if they're already interested in dialogue? Aren't we most of the way home? Or, have i misunderstood the question?Preach the Gospel without ceasing. Use words when necessary.

Steven,you write: "Ive always felt we can make very happy partnerships with honest agnostics who wont commit to faith because of (too) scrupulous intellectual honesty."I have no difficulty with that. But does the "partnership" include, at times, discussion of the basic views that each affirms? I would hope that there would be place for honest exchange of the sort that Dworkin himself exhibits. In which case, what does the person who professes "theistic religion," and more specifically Christian commitment, say regarding the grounds of his or her commitment? With "scrupulous intellectual honesty?"

"Were we to participate in such a dialogue, what grounds would we propose to move beyond the affirmation of value to the reality of a personal God who is the Source of such value?"What is the role of personal experience in all this? Is it bracketed out as not being as rigorous as reason? Is it necessary to convince agnostics of the possibility of divine revelation?

The only ground, it seems to me, to justify the affirmation of a personal God is to appeal to revelation, and ultimately faith in that revelation. The best that we could hope for is that our articulation of revelation, is reasonable, although not necessarily bound to the categories of reason itself.In other words, we are going to have to embrace a certain mysticism and the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church has frequently assumed a cautious and even oppositional approach to mysticism. Karl Rahner once said something to the effect that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or nothing at all.The hesitation from Pope Benedict in this regard, more than the allusion to Mohammed, was what was for me most troubling about the Regnesburg address.But, I think that we should be bold in this. The revelation of the name of God in Exodus as "I AM" meaning a noun that is simultaneously a verb is one example. The verbality of "being" itself is a paradox that cannot be reconciled through our existing conceptual categories.

I would suggest turning a staff into a snake. Just make sure that the snake is bigger than that of your counterpart.

First, I'll admit that I haven't done my reading. My current NYRB sits nearly untouched, and I have not yet gotten to the Dworkin piece. I proceed wholly on what we have here. So I may be off down the wrong path for that or other reasons.It seems to me that what we may be wondering about, in fact, is the road to Damascus. What is the path that conversion follows? It seems to me that Jim's experiential emphasis is right, and that a preoccupation with intellectual assent may be out of sequence. The heart is converted, profession and assent follow. If that be true, then the Dworkins and other honest agnostics are the most fertile field for this sort of dialogue. They yearn to convert, in my experience. They need to find their way beyond their intellects to a point where their intellects can assent, once converted. Thus, my quotation from St. Francis. I think our contribution is not a thing we say, but an evident joy we draw from our Christian commitment. Our dialogue is not a persuasive exchange over finer doctrinal points, but the communication of the more tangible value that our faith brings to human life. I know people like Dworkin. I think they yearn to come to Church, or come back to Church. They're also educated people, smart enough to know the history and read the New York Times. They know, intuitively, what the Holy Father means by "a self-referential Church" and they have rejected it before he ever described it. Their reasons, while altogether fastidious, squeamish, and too-scrupulous, are honest. They originate in a conscientious desire for truth, one perhaps over-indulged to the brink of narcissism but truthful nonetheless. They need something from us. They need our confidence that under all of the headlines and hierarchy something true can be found, and that truth sustains us with hope and joy. I suppose I'm saying dialogue may not the the right idiom. Use words when necessary. We need to be the Church in a way that reaches out to the existential peripheries, to the griefs and anxieties of the people of this age--such people as Dworkin. They are, I think, waiting for us.That may not be satisfying. But I'm not certain we can define a programmatic answer. Surely, if we could, we would have done it by now.

+William D. Borders, Spiritual Living in Secular Society (Baltimore: Cathedral Foundation Press, 1996), 134."It is the intellect that recognizes truth that leads to belief, but the will is not absent from believing; in the gift of faith, our intelligence is disposed to admit the testimony of God, our love for Him and the truth He reveals. The very essence of faith requires love, and it is love that enables a person, having recognized truth, to yield entirely in commitment and conduct."Our question may, then, be: How do we entice people to love? Do we seek an eros of evangelization? How I yearn for the First Things article about that!

Well all you have to do now, Steven, is calmly explain to them just how "altogether fastidious, squeamish, and too-scrupulous" they are (but honest!), as well as how they are "over-indulged to the brink of narcissism" (but truthful!) Then I'm sure you'll be reeling them in, net after net. You'll be a real fisher of men then.

I too found the excerpt from Dworkin to be really stimulating. Let me pick up on some things that George D has said.First, For the scientific naturalist, all that there is is the physical universe. Whatever values are, they are "grounded" in and are themselves caused by physical processes. So when Dworkin says that values are real but "ungrounded," that's a very big claim. As he himself mentions, he is following Hume's "fact-value 'fork'."We "theists" (apparently a term with no long pedigree) would say that ultimately, God is the "ground" both the physical universe and of values, which are not wholly reducible to the physical. But then, what can we rightly say about the referent of our word 'God?' If I remember correctly, Paul Tillich spoke of God as the "Ground of Being." That is, unless I misunderstand Tillich, God is not any being, but is the ground of whatever beings there are.By good fortune, I've been reading Karl Rahner's small book "Encounters with Silence." For Rahner, all people have an opening to transcendence, but what to say about the Transcendent is beyond us if it were not for Jesus. That is, Rahner speaks of the "Incomrehensible." What makes it possible for us to have some sound comprehension of the actual God is Revelation, which it self would be far from hopelessly paradoxical were it not for the coming of Jesus as true man and His telling us of just who God His Father and the Spirit are. For us to accept by faith this Revelation is the only secure access we have into the "Incomprehensible."What this means for dialogue with agnostics and/or atheists is that we believers have both to be careful about the kinds of claims we make about God and His accessibility to us and to keep in mind that these claims are all at bottom the fruit of the faith that God the "Incomprehensible" has given to some and not to others. Indeed, by faith we know that God loves and offers salvation to every human being, but how He offers it to non-believers is by no means evident to us.Rahner, I think, is very, very good about this matter and so is Nicholas Lash. It just may be that God has led Dworkin to his line of argument as a way of preparing some non-believers to find reason to re-think their positions. I'd say the same about Thomas Nagel, also of NYU. (For what it's worth, Nagel's latest book about all this (the title of which escapes me now) is unfortunate and at best "premature" for any dialogue between theists and non-theists.)

With George and Bernard I would also dwell on the crucial importance of revelation in disclosing the character of the Transcendent reality whom we call "God." And I agree with Steven on the importance of the "heart" as well as the head in coming to faith.However, since Dworkin is making an explicitly philosophical argument, I think he must also be engaged at that level. So, even with regard to Rahner, though he may not venture much beyond affirming the "Incomprehensibility" of the Transcendent referent, I believe he would affirm the reality of such a referent, whereas Dworkin, as I understand him, does not. It strikes me anew, in the light of the Dworkin piece, how important it is for Catholic universities to have robust Departments of Philosophy, ones that represent approaches to what Dworkin calls "grounded realism" (in distinction to his own stance of "ungrounded realism"). These approaches can take a variety of forms: transcendental Thomism, Phenomenology, Personalism. But they would seek to make a case for a personal Ground of the universe of fact and of value -- if the two can indeed be so tidily separated.

It seems to me that Rahner's thoughts about the "Incomprehensible" track Kierkegaard's musings about what he termed the "Absolutely Different." Kierkegaard saw Jesus as the ultimate paradox--so completely unlike us, yet so wholly one of us, even to the point of surrending to a horrific physical death-- and the most necessary link in God's Revelation because the human reality of Jesus is, as Bernard quotes from Rahner, "the only secure access we have into the 'Incomprehensible.'" I also think it's true, as Jim P. and Steven M. note, that we first grasp Revelation through Jesus experientially and that the intellectual leap of faith follows. Bringing others like Dworkin who believe that the universe is "something of intrinsic value and wonder" to religious faith may be one of the great challenges of the 21st century.

About the need "for Catholic universities to have robust Departments of Philosophy"...This seems even more important today than when JPII lauded philosophy in "Fides et Ratio" as "one of the noblest of human tasks." He went on in that encyccal to state that "the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life. At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it." (para. 5)

If I were doing the The Courtyard of the Gentiles, I would:Pick another name. Really.Talk about mystery. Mystery begins where knowledge ends. The attempt to deal with mystery, including the mysteries of life, the mysteries of the heart, and transcendence, is the domain of religion.Talk about reason. How can we think about faith in rational terms? Reason goes well beyond scientific proof. We reason about complicated things all the time. We gather information, we check facts, we recognize patterns, we make connections, we abstract, we draw diagrams, we map patterns to one another, we deconstruct by creating a new context by which to see things, we name, we describe, we categorize, we make judgments, we tell stories. We do what scientists do prior to the experiment, when they exercise scientific insight to figure out how to set up the experiment in the first place.Talk about existence, and its relationship to both God and mystery. Why do we exist? Why do we continue to exist day after day after day? What sustains us in being? Why is there not nothing? If the basic is-ness of things is mysterious, and if we frame this mystery by saying it has a cause, and give this cause the name God, then anyone can talk about God.

I think we are unwise to exclude an experiential approach from a philosophical discussion. I say to that for many reasons, but the chief one is that a philosophical engagement with Dworkin that seeks a shared rational basis is, it seems to me, an expedition that cannot succeed if our definition of philosophy begins from Thomism, phenomenology (which, in and JPII's expressions, I would argue still is Thomism), or personalism (an expression of Thomist ideas). Those approaches begin from premises that Dworkin cannot share. This, for example, is why I say that JPII's personalism does not escape Thomism: apart from the phenomena themselves, he yet held to "correct" understandings and "adequate" readings of experiences. If one did not share his view of what is "correct" and "adequate" from the start, one never can appreciate the phenomena in the way he did. (As long as you were a Catholic at the beginning of the discussion, you came out a Catholic at the end.) Dworkin never can be reached if, first, he must accept that his understandings are incorrect and his readings inadequate. He began from a neutral position, a set of modern premises whose raison d'etre is the exclusion of those sorts of objective claims from philosophical discourse in a line of thought that traces from the nominalists and, arguably, earlier. The crisis of modernity is the division between that point of view which will admit revelation to a rational, philosophic discourse and another point of view which cannot. Is it hopeless? I think no. But the division cannot be overcome from within the safe frame of the old debate about modernity--the relative importance of reason and revelation and their relationship. The other side is braced for that, and has been for a long time. Catholic schools of philosophy have a stiff challenge ahead of them, and the hardest part will come when they realize they must give up that old debate if they want to engage in the evangelical task at which only they can succeed--to overcome that epistemological division. To me, it seems that the only way to do that is by way of existential priority, to appeal to experience without the life raft of correct, adequate understandings on which to rest.

Steven,I don't follow you (perhaps my shortcoming!). You write:"Dworkin never can be reached if, first, he must accept that his understandings are incorrect and his readings inadequate. He began from a neutral position, a set of modern premises whose raison detre is the exclusion of those sorts of objective claims from philosophical discourse..."I don't think he must "first accept his understandings are incorrect." If they are, it will emerge from the discussion, not prior to it.Further, does not his rejection of "scientific naturalism" stem from a conviction that it is an "inadequate reading" of experience? Thus he is not excluding objective claims from philosophic discourse. Or do I misread him?

Stephen, I don't know about "Thomism" in general, as it's evolved in some rather peculiar ways, but I've never seen anything in Aquinas himself that would prompt one to ignore either reason or evidence. Since he starts with the fact that we know things through our senses, it seems to me that he's the best bridge we've got.

Just a couple of small things. One is that all we have here is an extract from Dworkin's book. How will it develop? Another is that there are all sorts of things that the word 'phenomenology' refers to. Pope John Paul's version is not a serious player in philosophy, whatever its theological merits. A third is that I do not think that any major philosopher of any era has sought "to exclude an experiential approach" from ALL philosophical discussions. The question here is: Just what sort of experience is relevant to the PHILOSOPHICAL question of whether one should acknowledge some "REALITY" so transcendent to to every other "reality" that no predicate of any sort can be taken to apply both to "IT" and to any other reality in the same sense? Thomists, if I'm not mistaken, take it that what they call analogical predication is philosophically successful. If I read Rahner aright, he would not agree that it is philosophically successful BY ITSELF, but once we have the Revelation that Jesus is and brings, then we have a sound basis for employing analogical predication when talking about God. That is, theology has good reason for its use of analogical discourse. Unless one has this "supplement" that Revelation supplies, I'm not convinced that philosophical thought can properly employ this Thomistic process of analogical predication to the question of there being a God, especially to the question of whether such a God is a personal God.But as always, I have to admit that no one has ever had reason to appoint me to the philosophy faculty of any truly great university.

Pope Paul VI talked about dialogue in his first encyclical, issued during the Second Vatican Council. He addresses some of the questions that still capture us:"it seems to Us that the sort of relationship for the Church to establish with the world should be more in the nature of a dialogue, though theoretically other methods are not excluded..."If, in our desire to respect a man's freedom and dignity, his conversion to the true faith is not the immediate object of our dialogue with him, we nevertheless try to help him and to dispose him for a fuller sharing of ideas and convictions. Our dialogue, therefore, presupposes that there exists in us a state of mind which we wish to communicate and to foster in those around us. It is the state of mind which characterizes the man who realizes the seriousness of the apostolic mission and who sees his own salvation as inseparable from the salvation of others. His constant endeavor is to get everyone talking about the message which it has been given to him to communicate." Paul VI Ecclesiam Suam

So, a few distinctions and clarifications.All philosophy utilizes reason and evidence in one way or another. I don't know whether that distinguishes Thomism in any helpful way from German idealism or utilitarianism. I personally would agree with Alasdair MacIntyre who finds Thomas just fine by himself and finds most unhelpful all that Thomas made possible for his followers--the analytical codification of reality, the system of the schoolmen. In the sense that MacIntyre accepts it, let us agree that Thomism is just fine as philosophy because it succeeds in the way that philosophy must succeed. Using reason and evidence, it explains reality to us. But we are in danger of becoming self-referential here if we proceed on the assumption that we are discussing the virtues of Thomism. Whether Thomism succeeds well in the relatively abstract sense of explaining reality to those who already are disposed to understand it would matter little to Dworkin. Indeed, we are not discussing the merits of philosophical systems at all. We are discussing the grounds we would propose to move beyond the affirmation of value to the reality of a personal God who is the Source of such value. I suggest that Dworkin and others like him would reject Thomism, and so it cannot help us. Their rejection would not come from a judgment of its clarity but rather from an epistemological prejudice against the sort of system that it is. Their minds are not disposed to receive it. If we want to reach this world's Dworkins, simply being right will not be enough, and neither will rational persuation. In other words, as I began this morning, I think we are not discussing an affair of the intellect really at all. Our evangelical task is to reason with the will, to convert the heart of a philosopher by means of rational argument. Square peg in a round hole, which is why it's a dilly of a problem. It requires a clear philosophical understanding, yes. It also requires ingenuity. If the clarity of Thomism were enough, we could mail out copies of the Summa and pour a drink in celebration. My glass is empty.Here I need to be clearer about something than I was at 4:23. I do mean to say that my own reading of +Wojtyla and, later, Pope John Paul does find him rigging his phenomenological analysis with a priori claims about what is correct and adequate. He never, in my very humble and arguable view, eludes the quite correct conclusion he reached in his second dissertation: Sheler's phenomenology is a poor vehicle for Catholic philosophy because it cannot adequately privilege moral truth if it begins from the subjective perception of the phenomena, themselves (thus, the importance of stressing "correct" and "adequate" interpretations which, I think, we would not find that Husserl stresses in quite the same way). On this view, to engage in dialogue with John Paul it seems to me Dworkin would have concede those claims of moral truth at the beginning. Otherwise, their dialogue never gets past the entry question (Does revelation exist?) and none of the phenomenological analysis gets them anywhere. Their dialogue is stillborn. That dialogue cannot happen in those terms because it has not found its way past the epistemological question which needs to be answered first. In other words, this is the reason why Fides et Ratio did not persuade Dworkin or others like him in 1998.Fr. Imbelli is quite right that Dworkin does make objective claims. I never would claim that modern philosophers do not make rigidly objective claims (and postmodern philosophers, funnily, even more so). The accent should rest on ">>those sorts<< of objective claims." It is the tradition that they reject a priori, and all of its objective claims that derive from revelation. The question remains--how can we reach over that fence? We reject their a prioris, they reject our a prioris. The whole thing is quite stale and predictable. Even that opaque passage I wrote at 4:23 and which perplexed Fr. Imbelli is proof of how quickly and easily I am apt to caricaturize Dworkin. Presumably, he would have caricatured me just as quickly and easily. All of which is why a dialogue needs to begin from somewhere else. And that returns me to the point I began with this morning. After five centuries, we should know our rational schemes won't do the job. Our most articulate overture to dialogue may be the disarming quality of joy that reason neither can explain nor explain away.

" Our most articulate overture to dialogue may be the disarming quality of joy that reason neither can explain nor explain away."And/or, perhaps, the disarming giving of love to one who seems not to merit it.

"Our evangelical task is to reason with the will, to convert the heart of a philosopher by means of rational argument."Steven ==Reason with the will? What do you mean by this? Is it a process? If so, what sorts of steps does it include? What are its objects? How does this differ from emotivism, which grounds the grasp of value in feeling of some sort? Or is it a kind of emotivism? What you say sounds a bit like Maritain and his notion of "connatural knowledge". I do think that there are severe problems with Thomas' epistemology (which is one reason I'm not a Thomist). But grounding the "perception" of value in the will as Thomas understands the will won't solve the problem of the grasp of value either.

I've wanted to avoid posting any more about the Dworkin piece until I actually had read it and now, after a busy day of teaching and the Mass of the Lord's Supper, I have read it. In its light, let me partially re-orient my comments.To begin, I give Dworkin rather less credit today than I did yesterday. The most striking thing about the whole essay is how little Dworkin appears to understand or take seriously the perspective of theism (at least, Jews, Christians, and Muslims) at all in any way that reflects its lived reality. His account of theism is alien to how my experience of four decades inside the Church. He is fighting with a straw man. And, from the perspective of a dialogue that aims for evangelization, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Does anyone here believe the Genesis account is a literal account of Creation, and that the fossil record that dates back beyond a few thousand years is something our faith obliges us to ignore or explain away? Dworkin appears to think we do. (These religions "make claims about matters of fact and about historical and contemporary causes and effects. Some believers do defend these claims with what they take to be scientific arguments; others profess to believe them as a matter of faith or through the evidence of sacred texts." He mentions no alternative.) His description of religious atheism appears to be premised on the severability of what he calls scientific arguments from value arguments. I'm not persuaded of that severability, mostly because I don't believe he correctly understands how we theists think about that scientific knowledge--our ability, for example, to distinguish the account of salvation from the march of events in history (i.e., that the literal historical truth of every Scriptural proposition need not be taken at face value for belief to be possible). The 'grounding' he talks about is a carefully drawn caricature. (Indeed, he tips his hand most unguardedly when he discusses "zealots," a word he takes no care to define and which seems to be the word he wants to use to describe people who the rest of the world understand to be religious.) He is at ease to identify religious belief with culture (right) but cannot carry that identification far enough to see that what believers believe about what he calls science is bound up inextricably with the values he wants to claim for religious atheism without all of the other commitments (grounding) that follow belief. Our experience of faith in ritual, sacraments, etc. is the source of truth from which the scientific knowledge and value claims validation together. To put it all another way, he does not understand the experience of being a theist at all. (And, indeed, he acknowledges that). (In a parenthetical way, I'm left wondering how his description of religious atheism is very different from Buddhism. It is interesting to me that he does not deal with Buddhism as a religion. Does he not believe it is theism? That's not an uncommon view. But then why be a religious atheist rather than a Buddhist? Perhaps he treats that elsewhere in the book.)I still hold to the idea that a dialogue with Dworkin's religious atheists cannot succeed on Dworkin's chosen philosophical ground, though. For reasons I've described already here it seems like there simply are too many unshared premises. He has categorized the relationship between faith and reason as we understand it as out of bounds. Ann has suggested that the alternative I've proposed is a variety of emotivism. I have drawn some influences from that direction through Burke, but that's not exactly what I have in mind. It's more a matter of the fact that I've been trying to lure this conversation to a less philosophical, more pastoral tone since my first posting. The tendency of modern philosophers and Thomists, both, is to think we can resolve these things only in our heads by exchanging rational propositions. Dworkin wants to have the argument that way, too. We make a mistake if we oblige him. Dworkin is right that his religious atheism is a variety of faith. He lacks the proper vocabulary to describe it because he doesn't understand the experience of speaking in that vocabulary, thinking in it. What is missing is not a philosophical argument, but a living experience. Promisingly, he acknowledges his awe before mystery. He allows that "A conviction of truth is a psychological fact," that these things are "emotional commitments" which are something more than merely subjective. Dworkin has opened the door to the authority of these intimately subjective experiences and, happily, those are languages that our tradition speaks fluently. That is the fruitful avenue for dialogue. Particularly because this thread has been dead for almost 24 hours, I suppose this may be my last opportunity to send to all this wish for a deep encounter with that living experience over the next two days, and all the joy that The Resurrected brings to us. A bit prematurely but sincerely, Buona Pasqua.

Steven,thank you for resuscitating the thread with a careful and considered reflection. I do not challenge what I take to be one of your central points: "The tendency of modern philosophers and Thomists, both, is to think we can resolve these things only in our heads by exchanging rational propositions." And I concur that "Dworkin has opened the door to the authority of these intimately subjective experiences and, happily, those are languages that our tradition speaks fluently. That is the fruitful avenue for dialogue."However, I find that you do indeed challenge some of Dworkin's views on "philosophical grounds." And that you engage him in dialogue by challenging him to enter the door he himself has opened. Thus you are not merely "luring the conversation" to a more pastoral tone; you are engaging in philosophical exchange as well. Indeed why separate "pastoral" and "philosophical"? the head and the heart? and why reduce philosophy to "propositions"? Does Plato?That said, I joyfully exchange prayers for a blessed Easter!

"And I concur that Dworkin has opened the door to the authority of these intimately subjective experiences and, happily, those are languages that our tradition speaks fluently."Fr. Imbelli ==Do you agree with Pascal that "The heart has its reasons which reason does not know"?

Claire says something in the thread just below this one that I think is quite relevant to this discussion. It's about listening to a presentation at a math conference:". . . youre all waiting, all listening, all excited, and when something true is said, youre all delighted by it."That atmosphere sounds just like a Math conference [about proving Fermat's Last Theorem], for example:"One can only try to imagine the emotional rollercoaster Wiles must have been on in 1993-94. First a series of lectures at Cambridge University before an elite audience in an electrified atmosphere, culminating in Wiles simply writing Fermats formula on the blackboard and saying: I think Ill stop there. ("

Ann,I do. Indeed, it is the title I gave to the essay I wrote for the "Church in the 21st Century Resources" on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. Permit me to provide the link again: think there is a whole strand of the Christian spiritual-mystical tradition that seems to postulate a cognitive role for the affections. I think Bonaventure is one witness to this, as is Jonathan Edwards. Your previous reference to "connaturality in Thomas may also point in this direction.It receives succinct expression in Gregory the Great's maxim: "Amor ipse notitia."

Fr. Imbelli --About your first question about the Dworkin text:First, a semantic matter. In a recent Pew survey (as I remember it was Pew) it was found that something like 7 percent of the people who call themselves "atheists" have a strong conviction that there *is* a God. Dworkin himself notes that millions of "atheists" have experiences which they call "religious". So, if we aren't going to call all those folks crazy, we must grant that they have altered the old meaning of the term somewhat. Dworkin says that what they mean by "atheist" is a person who does not believe in a god who is a person, a god who created us and cares about us, but they do believe that there is some absolute, perhaps transcendent value(s) or source of value or set of values. (He's not too clear about that.) If this is indeed the explanation then the term "religious" can sensibly be extended to their intuitions, though the objects of their intuitions might be only finite, even material things. This is all too complex to go into here (I mean the great variety of religious experience), but it seems clear to me that Dworkin *has* had some sort of religious experience or set of experiencea which ground his theory of law, but what thenature of that experience is impossible to tell. Was it cognitive? Affective? A combination of both? I mean he has experienced some good objective value (a single force in nature, he says, plus the objective goodness of material objects, perhaps even other sorts of realities), and these objective valuables ground moral responsibility. But among those valuables there is no absolute, value-grounding *person*. So his god (those ultimate objective valuables) is impersonal but real.I think he's pretty mushy when he tries to describe the phenomenology of the experience(s) of those valuables. (Actually he describes very little of the experiences.) Still, his recognition that there is possibly a real dimension beyond the natural (i.e., the "supernatural") shows a good deal of courage on his part. Look what is happening to Nagel's reputation for his having dared say that there is more to reality than matter in motion! But Dworkin died in February so he, at least, won't suffer such slings and arrows. (By the way, Dworkin and Nagel jointly conducted a seminar on philosophy (and law?) at NYT for many years. Must have been interesting.)At any rate, I find it highly encouraging that two of the grandest old men of the philosophy establishment (both atheists in the old sense) are rejecting the reductionism of the neo-atheists, the neo-Darwinians, and most of the other scientists. "Science" has been uncritical of itself much too long. It needs these fundamental critiques desperately.

" Ravasi has already sponsored several high profile dialogues between believers and non-believers who are open to religion, as is Dworkin.Reading Dworkins account raises the question: were we to participate in such a dialogue, what grounds would we propose to move beyond the affirmation of value to the reality of a personal God who is the Source of such value? Or, to use the words of the First Letter of Peter: what account would we give of the hope that is in us?"Fr. Imbelli --I've found people with many different grounds for belief, and that includes many Catholics. Some appeal to reasons, some to feelings. Some need only probability, others seem content with an educated guess plus some evidence that God truly does him/her, the individual. Others, the immature ones, seem to proceed simply by habit. Some think that the God-hypothesis just fits the facts best. Others have mystical experiences of one sort or another. Some trust the poetry of some of the mystics, like that ofSt. John of the Cross. Etc., etc., etc.I suspect that Ravasi's Courtyards will do well only if the typical non-believers can grant that a dimension past the material one is at least possible. (For a long time many, many if not most intellectuals have not granted this, and many, many still don't.) This is why I think that Nagel and now Dworkin are so important historically. Nagel, at least, is revolutionary, and just in time for the Courtyards.

Like so many, Ann seems determined to have the last word. Today it is me. God bless!!!

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