Michael Terheyden on 'Why I am Catholic: Philosophy and Ideas Matter'
Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude - Catholic Catechism
I have watched these ideas spread throughout our culture and mutate into many of the poisonous ideas and issues that are suffocating our society. I remember these as the main ideas that undermined what my parents and the Church had taught me as a child.As a result, I believe it is worth our time to reflect upon them. However, my reflection is not a complete statement on any of these ideas. It merely reflects certain aspects about them that left a strong impression on me. I hope it will help you on your faith journey.
In one respect, I attribute my earlier experience of beauty and goodness to the patterns and relationships (order, coherence, unity, truth) and meaning and purpose that I saw in a work of art or in a mathematical or scientific description of nature or in the struggle for freedom and justice throughout history or in the depth, wisdom and clarity I sometimes found in philosophy. But these are partial explanations at best. The Catholic Church explains this experience on another level altogether.
In paragraph 13, verse 5 of the Book of Wisdom in the Bible, we read that the greatness and beauty of created things comes from a corresponding perception of their Creator. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), "Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection. . . . 'By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth, and excellence, its own order and laws'. . ." (339).
But only human beings, with their unique powers of intellect and will, are said to be created in the image of God. We can freely choose good or evil. Thus, we shape our life and meet our destiny by our choices. The Church says, "Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude" (1731).
But, as I said, I was also exposed to some ideas that were not positive. In this article, I will explore some of the ideas from philosophy that had a negative impact on me. In the next article I will focus more on culture. Although there are others, the ideas I will refer to in this article are as follows: materialism, idealism, subjectivism, relativism, skepticism, and nihilism.
One of the first things I noticed about these ideas is that they lacked the order, coherence, unity, beauty, truth, and goodness that I experienced in my other studies. These ideas did not open me up to life beyond myself. Rather, they tended to close me up within myself. They were like a wall that blotted out anything other than myself, my needs, wants, and impulses. It felt like the difference between spring and winter.
I have watched these ideas spread throughout our culture and mutate into many of the poisonous ideas and issues that are suffocating our society. I also remember these as the main ideas that undermined what my parents and the Church had taught me as a child. As a result, I believe it is worth our time to reflect upon them. However, my reflection is not a complete statement on any of these ideas. It merely reflects certain aspects about them that left a strong impression on me. I hope it will help you on your faith journey.
Two ideas which make dramatic and opposite claims about the nature of reality are materialism and idealism. Materialism, claims that all reality is comprised of physical matter and that there is nothing more. Conversely, idealism describes reality as the mental construct of our minds or as ideas. Materialism leaves no room for the existence of spiritual reality or God, while idealism seems to make us all into false gods.
These claims about the nature of reality also suggest some of the ways we may come to know reality. For instance, when we claim to know something about a physical object, do we know the objective thing in itself, or just our idea or subjective experience of it? Oftentimes, materialists seem to absolutize objectivity, while idealists seem to absolutize subjectivity. To me, knowledge contains elements of both. Thus, I imagine reality is best understood as a composite of both matter and mind (God's mind not mine or yours).
The theory of subjectivism emphasizes the knower, feelings and experience over external facts. It claims that moral standards are based on one's conscience; therefore, the moral standards of religion or society are not valid. Like idealism, it offers us a world without objective truth or objective moral standards. However, subjectivism does not describe our lived experience. If moral truth is subjective, then people should have nothing to argue about, yet they are always arguing about right and wrong.
Relativism is a theory which claims that there is no objective standard to determine truth; therefore, truth varies. Yet, this theory makes an objective truth claim. To put it another way, it makes an absolute or universal claim that ...
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