Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ongoing education

One of the things our Founder stressed all his life was the need for "study." He didn't just mean book learning: he meant taking every opportunity to broaden one's horizons and acquire new knowledge and awareness that could then be put to the service of evangelization. Today I was leafing through the newsletter of the Lumen Christi Institute for Catholic Thought here in Chicago--I haven't attended a single one of the seminars they offer (they usually fall on the same evenings as choir practice), but I do get a lot of insight out of the summaries they offer in the newsletter, which is a real service in itself.

The summer issue highlighted a set of  conferences on the thought of  20th century philosopher Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe (Oxford). I'd heard the name, but really didn't know a thing about her contributions to the world of the mind. Well, one of her students (now a Professor Emeritus himself) was in Chicago to talk about Anscombe, and the write-up alone intrigued me.

Among other things, Anscombe didn't write in a vacuum. She applied her philosopher's mind to the questions and issues of the day. As an undergrad student, she protested Oxford's decision to grant President Harry Truman an honorary degree, arguing that the atomic bombs violated the moral teaching that we never do evil that good may come from it. Years later, as a professor,  "she argued [in a series of articles] that acceptance of contraception would have two unintended and socially devastating consequences: (1) it would lead to the gradual acceptance of abortion, and (2) it would leave us with a distorted picture of the true nature of marriage, which is essentially as social institution oriented to the procreation of children and the establishment of the family."  All you have to do is pick up a newspaper to see how on target that prediction was.

Anscombe didn't let philosophers off the hook, either. It was she who kick-started "the movement known as virtue ethics"--"that philosophers ought to return their attention to the concept of the the necessary means to achieving a good human life." In other words, philosophers were not to be people with their heads in the clouds, but fully engaged human beings, leaders in a society of good.

You can find audio files of Professor Muller's lectures on the Lumen Christi site.

1 comment:

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

Wow, thanks! Now I have to look up Anscombe for myself and learn more... I love to "study" myself, but I just never seem to have enough time!