Critiques of modern philosophy affirm reason’s transcendent capacity

From Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio (1984):

The Second Vatican Council, for its part, offers a rich and fruitful teaching concerning philosophy. I cannot fail to note, especially in the context of this Encyclical Letter, that one chapter of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes amounts to a virtual compendium of the biblical anthropology from which philosophy too can draw inspiration. The chapter deals with the value of the human person created in the image of God, explains the dignity and superiority of the human being over the rest of creation, and declares the transcendent capacity of human reason.80 The problem of atheism is also dealt with in Gaudium et Spes, and the flaws of its philosophical vision are identified, especially in relation to the dignity and freedom of the human person.81 There is no doubt that the climactic section of the chapter is profoundly significant for philosophy; and it was this which I took up in my first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis and which serves as one of the constant reference-points of my teaching: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come, Christ the Lord. Christ, the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”.82

The Council also dealt with the study of philosophy required of candidates for the priesthood; and its recommendations have implications for Christian education as a whole. These are the Council’s words: “The philosophical disciplines should be taught in such a way that students acquire in the first place a solid and harmonious knowledge of the human being, of the world and of God, based upon the philosophical heritage which is enduringly valid, yet taking into account currents of modern philosophy”.83

These directives have been reiterated and developed in a number of other magisterial documents in order to guarantee a solid philosophical formation, especially for those preparing for theological studies. I have myself emphasized several times the importance of this philosophical formation for those who one day, in their pastoral life, will have to address the aspirations of the contemporary world and understand the causes of certain behaviour in order to respond in appropriate ways.84

80 Cf. Nos. 14-15.
81 Cf. ibid., 20-21.
82 Ibid., 22; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (4 March 1979), 8: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis [AAS] 71 (1979), 271-272.
83 Decree on Priestly Formation Optatam Totius, 15.
84 Cf. Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana (15 April 1979), Arts. 79-80: AAS 71 (1979), 495-496; Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (25 March 1992), 52: AAS 84 (1992), 750-751. Cf. also various remarks on the philosophy of Saint Thomas: Address to the International Pontifical Athenaeum “Angelicum” (17 November 1979): Insegnamenti II, 2 (1979), 1177-1189; Address to the Participants of the Eighth International Thomistic Congress (13 September 1980): Insegnamenti III, 2 (1980), 604-615; Address to the Participants at the International Congress of the Saint Thomas Society on the Doctrine of the Soul in Saint Thomas (4 January 1986): Insegnamenti IX, 1 (1986), 18-24. Also the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis (6 January 1970), 70-75: AAS 62 (1970), 366-368; Decree Sacra Theologia (20 January 1972): AAS 64 (1972), 583-586.

Fides et Ratio 60

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