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Peter Robinson, at the Corner of NRO says that the pope’s deep and provocative speech on Tuesday echoes Leo Strauss on the interplay between reason and revelation. But that’s not qutite so. Strauss says that the tension between reason and revelation is the secret to the West’s vitality. But Ratzinger/Benedict writes, in the passage Peter quotes (and a great passage it is), of "the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between biblical faith and Greek philosophy."

Discussions - 23 Comments

The Pope’s words are indeed beautiful but questionable. The notion of a rappraochment would appear to imply that some agreement, and therefore, mutally agreed upon solution as to the best way to live, can be reached between reason and revelation. Such an "rapproachment" seems to be ruled out by Strauss’ characterization of their interaction as a tension. Is the Pope’s understanding of this "rapproachment" to say that philosophy need not be the handmaiden of philosophy? "From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II [the Byzantine emperor] was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God’s nature." Is the idea of "Greek thought now joined to faith" a role of service to theology, and thus not one of equals?

Is the Pope’s understanding of this "rapproachment" to say that philosophy need not be the handmaiden of philosophy? Should read, Is the Pope’s understanding of this "rapproachment" to say that philosophy need not be the handmaiden of THEOLOGY? Apologies.

FL: Exactly right--the words are beautiful but questionable.

I agree that there is no wholehearted agreement between Benedict and Strauss. Strauss understood there to be a tension between the two. And, if memory serves, he thought that the official recognition of philosophy by Christianity was regrettable.

We may find harmony between the two on what the moral law ought to be, but in general there is a tension between them, one that Prof. Lawler rightly stated was necessary for the revitalization of Western Civilization. The rejection of both is what has caused the Crisis of the West.

To deny "the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement" is to adhere to an ideological notion about Faith and Reason that I like to call "The Bunk Bed Theory":

That is, someone always has to be on top. (Like in a bunk bed!)

A fruitful tension: what are the sleeping arrangements of Faith and Reason? can the only possible arrangement be "bunk bed"-style?

Sed contra: Faith and Reason can sleep together in the same bed.

Why? Because God is love, and because philosophy is erotic.

Benedict don’t speak no bunk.

I’m not particularly well-qualified to contribute to this discussion. But, though more or less an outsider to the "reason/revelation" debate, I would humbly suggest that the most important thing to say about the Pope’s speech is that it makes a lot more sense than the hardcore "religion only" and "reason only" positions that seem to dominate popular discourse.
As political men and women, one of our crucial questions should always be: "Compared to what"?

Genuine wisdom from C.S. and David...

While the Bunk Bed analogy is useful it is limited in one fundamental respect. The tension between reason and revelation is a disagreement about how one ought to live. While one cannot deny that they are in agreement on some important matters, at the end of the day their answers to that question are not fundamentally compatible. They might be able to go to sleep in the same bed but they remain something of strange bedfellows.

This analogy is getting more and more interesting.

Truth does not contradict itself. The notion of a war between science and religion, faith and reason in the modern era can be traced back to Andrew White’s book in the 1870s and is a falsehood that still seems to survive today.

Tony - Tell us more about how you think White’s statement got such "traction."

Although I am unfamiliar with the book Mr. Williams refers to I wonder if in fact the "war between faith and reason in the modern era" can’t be traced back a bit further. Say Machiavelli’s "Exhortation to Seize Italy and to Free Her from the Barbarians." The final chapter of the Prince. It is true modern atheists, to paraphrase Burke, became seditious and enterprising, but the tension between faith and reason I don’t see as different in essence from the tension between philosophy and the city.

FL - Tell me if I misunderstand, but faith does not seem to be synonymous with piety.

Mr. Thomas, if I understand your query correctly, no I wouldn’t say that faith and piety are necesarily the same thing. My point was that the tension between faith and reason is in essence the same as that between philosophy and the city on these grounds. The polis by way of law, tracing its foundations back to the ancestral and ultimately the gods, establishes a communal understanding of the good and the first things. Philosophy begins by questioning this account of the whole. It is by way of questioning the law that it discovers nature. In so doing it discovers an authority higher than the law and even the gods.

If the philosopher is as Aristotle says he is (if I remember correctly), one who discourses on nature, then I don’t see how philosophy can ever come to some final rapproachment with faith. An omnipotent, providential God would in some way undermine the very notion of nature. Either nature is the standard and guide as to how one ought to live or faith is.

I’m sorry if this is too vague but I need some dinner.

FL, why must philosophy end up as that which does the same thing it did from the beginning? Might not part of philosophy’s journey be a realization that since it can it never know that it has discovered the deepest principles of nature, it is itself a kind of faith that the nature discoverable by the human mind is really nature? And might not part of philosophy’s journey be the following?

"...there is no substitute for Socratic or dialectical inquiry into the truth about the human self or soul. Such a search into the mystery of the dislocation of the self or soul can help people live better lives and provide the foundation for our otherwise empty talk about human dignity and human rights. This inquiry only points to evidence to the possible truth of biblical revelation, but it can be good for human beings even though they do not believe. ...It goes without saying that we should not defer to the authority of priests, although we should listen to what they have to day. But neither should we defer to to the Cartesian experts who incoherently deny the existence of the soul or self." Peter Lawler, Postmodernism Rightly Understood p. 104.

Of course, I could have quoted Pascal or Kierkegaard, who have some claim to be regarded as philosphers, no? But that wouldn’t have been as fun.

It’s hard to tell whether the source Carl quotes is speaking in his own name or giving the view of Walker Percy. But it is a fun quote. The radical choice between philosophy and revelation as extreme and absolute alterntives doesn’t correspond to real human exprience. Even those who locate all human dignity in the fact that the home mind is at home in the world have to go to explain that the mind’s being at home depends on the radical alienation of the whole human being from the world. The being who wonders is stuck with wandering...in that mystery alone there’s room for revelation.

To perhaps restate Peter’s excellent point.....Let’s gladly recall the "Life is Good" {t-shirt makers} doctrine: "Not all who wander are lost."

Gary has shown once again why he’s more entrepreneurial and more successful than I am. The Percy slogan is being at home with your homelessness, which is also found in Benardete’s and Cropsey’s work on Plato, for those who care.

Peter: Perhaps more entrepreneurial. Absolutely NOT more successful. There is a hierarchy to personal "balance sheets".

Thanks to Mr. Scott and Mr. Lawler for their comments on our homelessness. I particularly agree with the thought that "The radical choice between philosophy and revelation as extreme and absolute alterntives doesn’t correspond to real human exprience." I do not however see that as demanding that there be some kind of rapproachment between faith and reason. While it may in fact be true that neither can refute the other, the notion that there can be or must be a rapproachment strikes me as dishonest to both. Doesn’t the very notion of our homelessness imply that there can be no final rapproachment?

Let me add, tentatively, that those who overdo the tension or conflict between reason and revelation have, from the pope’s view, a fundamentally Islamic conception of God.

Professor Lawler, does your tentative suggestion mean that to overstate the tension is to imply that God must be essentially hostile to reason? The question at the end of my last comment was not meant rhetorically. Could you help me to understand your position on our homelessness? I asked the question at the end of my last comment because it seems to me that a rapproachment would amount to our having finally settled the matter of how one ought to live to our satisfaction. My understanding of homelessness was tied to the problem of finding a fully satisfactory answer to the question.

FL’s three questions in his last posts answered:
1. Yes
2. Yes
3. Probably not (and because of my limitations, not yours), but I may try later.

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