The major cultural outlook on truth and knowledge today is to the effect that there is no objective truth or reality, that what we call “facts” are only human products, that there is nothing more to knowledge than the “best professional practice” as currently defined, and that reality is, in the words of Lily Tomlin, “only a collective hunch.”
I decided to discuss the use of pornography [(porne = prostitute) + (graphy = drawing)] because: (1) it presents us with a peculiarly vivid case of spiritual formation and possible spiritual transformation, and (2) it is such a wide spread problem for people today, and also among Christians and those in ministry—and a problem which generates a lot of hopelessness in those involved.
The human being stands in his or her world condemned to act, and to act on the basis of whatever ideas, images, beliefs, impulses, desires and emotions they may have in the moment of action. We have no choice about that. We may have some choice about what ideas, beliefs, impulses, etc. will be available to us in future situations where we must act. That will largely depend upon what is given to us from the world we come into and what we are prepared to do now. But whatever world we come into, the human problem is to find in knowledge a solid basis for action.
Students in our colleges and universities live constantly in a tension between two authority systems: one more or less vaguely associated with science and the other with religion. Both systems are “blind” in the sense that the edicts they impose on thought and behavior are never, for the vast majority of people, reduced to anything close to understanding, verification, or proof. An illustration comes from a recent experience reported by one of my students.
What is business (manufacturing, commerce) for? Today the spontaneous response to this question is: The business of business is to make money for those who are engaged in it. In fact, this answer is now regarded as so obvious that you might be thought stupid or uninformed if you even ask the question. But that is only one of the effects of the pervasive miseducation that goes on in contemporary society, which fosters an understanding of success essentially in terms of fame, position and material goods. However, that only reflects a quite recent view of the professions—of which we will here assume business to be one—and, even today, is definitely not the view of success in professional life shared by the public in general. No business or other profession that advertises its ‘services’ announces to the public that it is there for the purpose of enriching itself or those involved...
When I was approached last December about the possibility of bringing this commencement address, it was because of the thought, or hope, that I might be able to cast light on the problem of how to balance the intellectual life with the spiritual life. I work as a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, which calls for something in the way of an intellectual life – or at least a sturdy appearance thereof – and I have recently published a book on the spiritual life and its disciplines. These facts are perhaps what stimulated the generous thought that I could say something interesting and useful about this problem of balance within the individual Christian, and within the body of the Church; of the intellectual life and the spiritual.
Let us understand "wisdom" in the following manner: a person has wisdom provided that (i) he understands the certain and the probable sources of frustration and joy in his self, in his relations to others, and in his relations to his non-human environment, and (ii) he habitually utilizes this understanding in selecting those routes of thought and behavior which maximize the fulfillment of his total system of needs and wants. This understanding of "wisdom" harmonizes with the discussions of wisdom in both Eastern and Western philosophy. It is agreed on all sides that wisdom involves the direction of life by relevant knowledge, and thus, that it incorporates both a theoretical and a practical element.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, to make any significant association of logic with psychology was a dreadful faux pas, one almost utterly beyond redemption. It drew scorn and pity upon you. Although Dewey's influence was not totally absent, extraordinary effort was required for dominant logicians such as Rudolph Carnap merely to be civil toward his views and treatments of (what Dewey took to be) logical matters. Defining psychologism in logic as essentially a confusion of the objective (in this case, logical relations) with the subjective (in this case, the psychological), Carnap exempted Dewey from it on the sole grounds that he consistently dealt with subjective or mentalistic processes such as 'thinking' or 'inquiry'.
"Piety" refers to the inward and outward states and acts that constitute a life of devotion--chiefly to God, but commonly extended to parents, as when we speak of "filial piety," and by further extension to any relationship appropriately similar to that of child to parent. Thus, externally viewed, it consists of routine activities carried out in sustaining a relationship that honors those who give us life and well-being.
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