Saturday, July 11, 2009

Anyone seeking to reform the Church must share the Church's faith

"Anyone seeking to reform the Church must share the Church's faith and accept the essentials of her mission. The Church cannot take seriously the reform advocated by those who deny that Christ was Son of God and Redeemer, who assert that the Scriptures teach error, or who hold that the Church should not require orthodoxy on the part of her members. Proposals coming from a perspective alien to the Christian faith should be treated with the utmost suspicion if not dismissed as unworthy of consideration."

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., Church and society: the Laurence J. McGinley Lectures: 1988-2007 (New York, NY: Fordham University Press, 2008), 404-405, as quoted by James F. Keating in his review, The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 663-664.

Franks on the natural law

"one must be in the right sort of community in order to learn what nature has to teach. . . . Natural law . . . is only promulgated by being learned, through the growth of prudence, and our success in developing knowledge of the natural law is very much subect to our community's success in fostering such knowledge."
". . . actually learning what nature has to teach depends on communally mediated practical wisdom."

Christopher A. Franks, "The usury prohibition and natural law: a reappraisal," The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 651. Franks is summarizing Pamela M. Hall's Narrative and the natural law: an interpretation of Thomistic ethics (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), and is, like Hall, opposed to the idea that, for Aquinas, the "natural law . . . function[s] autonomously as some sort of moral anchor amid peculiarly modern forms of moral uncertainty" (631) "for an allegedly . . . universal audience" (649). No, "for Aquinas God's answer to the obscurity of the natural law is revelation" (650) and the virtues of the Christian community.

Martin on Catholic reserve

"over the two millennia of the Catholic Church's existence, she has defined the meaning of some ten or twelve texts."

Francis Martin, "Mary in sacred scripture: an ecumenical reflection," The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 554n61. Cited is Maurice Gilbert, "Textes bibliques dont l'Église a défini le sens," in L'autorité de l'Écriture, ed. Jean-Michel Poffet (Paris: Cerf, 2002).

Sterne on the Shandean mode of argument

"many an undertaking critick would have built two stories higher upon worse foundations."

     Laurence Sterne, The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., V.3 (Penguin ed. ed. Melvin & Joan New (2003), 320; GBWW, 1st ed., 1952, vol. 36, p. 390).

Grafton on the new medium of print

"The Evangelical demand for literal reading of Scripture was dangerous enough in itself. . . . [But] These dangers were magnified thousands of times . . . by the new medium of print, which Tyndale, like Luther, greatly prized and deftly used. Debates on small points, instead of being settled by conversation, turned into mortal combat simply because scholars conducted them in print. The new medium, cold, distant and precise, enabled writers to excerpt, anatomize and mutilate their opponents' words, paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence, using all the textual violence they could devise."

Anthony Grafton, "Violence in words: the damage caused by both destroying texts and by imprisoning ideas in chains of paper," Times literary supplement no. 5495 (July 25, 2008): 4-5. I'm not sure I follow this. No writers before the age of print "excerpt[ed], anatomize[d] and mutilate[d] their opponents' words, paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence, using all the textual violence they could devise"?

Yes, but what if you aren't a national depository, have very limited funds, and must therefore choose?

"As a national depository, Cambridge University Library was entitled to a copy of every book published. Nevertheless, it disdained to collect items deemed beneath its dignity, and thereby refused books by Austen, Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth."

Timothy Larsen, "Reading habits," Books and culture 14, no. 5 (September/October 2008): 34, and here:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Seaford on our hostility to limit

"Among the ancient Greeks there is what I call a culture of limit. By contrast, our culture is characterized by hostility to closure (limit) in various spheres: economic, metaphysical, conceptual, narrative, and others.
"This opposition is related to an opposition in basic forms of life. For the Greeks, the realm of freedom (economic and ethical) was stable self-sufficiency; and this determined the manner in which they . . . reacted to the unlimitedness of money. But we react to it in a manner determined by the fact that for us the realm of freedom is constant exchange. . . . The same is true of the modern theoretical hostility to metaphysics, the postmodern fetishization of fragmentation, depthlessness, and indeterminacy, and its sublimation of the universe of free-floating images. . . .
"the Greek culture of the limit provides a place that allows us to see the oddness, the historical contingency of the lethally limiting unlimitedness in our economy, social practices, and theory. Hellenism is one of a number of precious resources--a way of being, understanding and perceiving--that can help to liberate us from the homogenized sensibility of our hyper-monetized, atomized, and self-destructive culture of the unlimited."

Richard Seaford, "World without limits: the Greek discovery that man could never be too rich" [Presidential address to the Classical Association, Glasgow, 2009], Times literary supplement no. 5542 (June 19, 2009): 15. "one of a number of precious resources" indeed. It was because I had just read "The usury prohibition and natural law: a reappraisal," by Christopher A. Franks (The Thomist 72, no. 4 (October 2008): 625-660), which is very fine, but which draws upon the sublimation of Aristotle by Aquinas, that this caught my eye and sounded so familiar.