Skip to main content

Another Blogger on the Relation between Metaphysics and Ethics

        James V. Schall, S. J., in a blog entitled "On 'Catholic' Universities", on the website "The Catholic Thing",  expressed some ideas very similar to what I have been working towards. That is, that metaphysical questions should be discussed prior to any discussion of ethical issues. The purpose of his article is to discuss a problem with many modern universities. Near the middle of his article he says the following:

         "Why is it that the bulk of the education provided at such great cost to both graduates and undergraduates by our best schools," Fortin wondered, "is so often perceived by the students themselves as anemic and antiseptic to the nth degree?" Fortin’s comment echoes one of Allan Bloom’s, namely, that the unhappiest students today are found in twenty or thirty "best" and most expensive universities. In their teeming minds, they find that they have arrived at the “best” schools, spent all this money, but are left basically empty of soul.
Fortin goes on with his explanation: “The reason, I suppose, is that most faculty members are themselves products of the modern research university and imbued with its peculiar ethos.” “What is this peculiar ethos?” we inquire. It is this: We do our research on man without knowing what man is. Indeed, we presuppose or claim we have proved that no human nature exists. Hence, no limits on science or on our “research” can be found.
Leo Strauss had it right in The City and Man: “The conquest of nature requires the conquest of human nature and hence in the first place the questioning of the unchangeability of human nature: an unchangeable human nature might set absolute limits to progress.” It is this “progress” to which our universities are addicted in their “research.”
We set about “creating” a new man and a new humanity. We have given up on virtue with the discipline and grace needed both to understand and practice it. We do not just “lower our sights.” In our complete autonomy from nature and reason, we accept nothing but what we first will." (Schall, James V., On "Catholic" Universities)

We cannot discuss ethical questions until we have first discovered what man is. I have recently posted part 5 of our look at what humans are, we will continue our discussion a little bit later. In the meantime, I would encourage my readers to read the article by James V. Schall, it is quite interesting.

(Permission to quote Schall's article was given by the blog editor of "The Catholic Thing".)

Popular posts from this blog

How Kant’s Synthesis of Empiricism and Rationalism resulted in Agnosticism

Immanuel Kant, presented with the extreme empiricism of Hume and the extreme rationalism of Liebniz, which he discovered through the writings Wolff, sought to take a middle road between these two extreme philosophical positions. I would submit that Kant’s synthesis of these two views leads to an agnosticism about what Kant called “the thing-in-itself”, and ultimately to the philosophical positions known as Atheism, determinism, and nihilism.

Kant’s Sources
First of all, Kant was influenced by Hume’s empiricism and Newton’s physics. He saw that the physical sciences, in contrast to rationalistic metaphysics, were actually making advances. They were making discoveries, and building a system of knowledge that accurately described the world of our sense perceptions. Rationalistic metaphysics, on the other hand, was floundering amidst the combating systems that the philosophers were erecting. It did not provide new knowledge, and only led to unacceptable conclusions, such as the Absolute Mon…


Leisure: The Basis of Culture & the Philosophical Act. Josef Pieper. Translated by Alexander Dru. 1963. Reprint, Ignatius Press, 2009. 143 pp. $12.99. ISBN 978-1-58617-256-5.
            This book is composed of two articles written by the German philosopher Josef Pieper. Though the two articles are intimately connected, they form two distinct works; as such, this book review will begin by giving a brief introduction to the works in question, followed by and exposition of each of the works individually. The two articles that are included in this book, Leisure: the Basis of Culture and The Philosophical Act, were both published in 1947, and, as such, were written during the cultural crisis in Germany that followed the Second World War. Not only did Pieper have the cultural crisis in mind when he wrote these articles, but he was also writing in light of the works of the most well-known German philosopher of the time – Martin Heidegger. As such, any reader who is familiar with Heidegg…

A Short outline of Charles Taylor's: The Malaise of Modernity

            This is simply an outline of Taylor’s basic argument in this short work written by Charles Taylor. The idea of this outline is to help the reader understand the book by providing a simple outline of the basic argument that Taylor is presenting here. The book, which is essentially the manuscript is the fruit of a series of presentations that Taylor made at the Massey Conferences which are hosted by Massey College and Radio-Canada, is divided into 10 chapters. In the first chapter Taylor essentially proposes three causes (recognizing that there may be more) of the Malaise of Modernity: (1) Individualism or the Loss of Sense, (2) The Primacy of Instrumental Reason or the Loss of Ends, and (3) The effect on society and politics in general of the loss of sense to an inauthentic individualism and the domination of instrumental reason, or, the loss of true freedom. Taylor considers the first Malaise in chapters 2 to 8, the second in c…