Tolerance and Virtue

by Andrew Simmons                                                                           Friday,  March 20, 2015

When Socrates spoke on the two principles of knowledge and ignorance, there is the notion that sound ethical behavior arises from knowledge and evil by the latter. Morality becomes centered on the progression towards knowledge.For Aristotle, this was the point of pure contemplation upon one’s existence. In order to produce a ethical modern society, we are encouraged to go out and learn about the cultures that compose our communities. This coincides with Augustine’s statement, which is also used by Aquinas, that “one cannot love what they do not know”. Yet, when confronted with ideas that one does not like, we are told to practice tolerance as a form of social virtue. The problem is the emphasis on tolerance does not work with the pursuit of knowledgable love. Rather, it does that opposite by acting as a censure in which we force ourselves to be ignorant of another.

Tolerance is defined primarily as accepting the existence of traits and practices that one does not approve of. But what is happening in order to allow communication between two individuals tolerating the other? In the theoretical scenario of an African-American citizen conversing with a racially biased individual, is it just these two simply accepting, as a present reality, the conflicting differences between the two? I say no, as, especially in situations of race and prejudice, the conscious awareness of these traits cannot be simply accepted. If communication is possible, it is only because these negative characteristics are pushed into the background. We know they are there, but we choose to not let them immediately dictate the current situation. As such, one is never fully addressing another as they are in their totality.

This is important in terms of the inability for tolerance to fully resolve the problems of social communication. This can be seen explicitly in the growing circular arguments of “You are not tolerant” followed by “You are not tolerant of my intolerance”. What is happening here is not a rhetorical means of evading tolerance, but a showing of tolerances own limitation. Tolerance, as a permanent means of creating peace, becomes obstructed by its own intolerance towards the intolerant. Within any social relationship, there is this initial moment of tolerance in which one differs their attention away from traits they do not like. But, in the growth of knowledge and communication with that individual, there arises this point in which tolerance of these characteristics is no longer possible. There is this process by which those who promote tolerance must become intolerant of another’s refusal to be tolerant. In dialogues concerning sexuality for instance, there is this necessary moment in which the conservative and liberal can no longer tolerate the other.

What should not be concluded from this is intolerance being the more lasting method of communication. It does not follow that the limitations of tolerance should lead to an opposite unlimited intolerance. Intolerance is just as limited as it focuses on changing perspectives of individual characteristics. What truly elevates relationships within society is the application of the virtue. With specific differences in mind, the general definition of the virtues are that they are dispositions/attitudes towards life that allow for one to be a good person. To understand its relationship to tolerance and intolerance, virtue acts as a mediator between when to reasonably be tolerant or intolerant. The mediating principle of virtue is important as it clarifies my view of tolerance: it is inherently pragmatic. It is important, but its importance should be understood within the confines of pragmatism. Virtues provide a means of elevating relationships outside of a tolerance/intolerance dynamic. In lifting one up towards goodness, there is an ethical condition that goes beyond needing to tolerate.

Andrew Simmons is a graduate from Aquinas College and  a student of the Ukrainian Catholic University. He is working on a masters in philosophy <and theology>, but has to go through a lot of language courses. He finally remembered that he has his own blog https://musingconvert.wordpress.com/

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Catholicism and the University: The Analogy of Catholicism

by Andrew Simmons                                                                           Saturday,  March 14, 2015

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In the City of God, Augustine presented the world as being divided between two groups: the City of God and the City of Men. The rift between these demonstrate the clear “otherness” each city displays towards the other. As Christopher Dawson relates in his Dynamics of World History, the two cities have served as a metanarrative for the medieval world’s inconclusive attitude towards Church and State. This rift appears again within the current spheres of the secular and the religious insomuch as each are credited with their own autonomy. Tensions arise when either of these institutions seek to assert themselves upon the other. One particular focal point of this tension can be found in the Catholic university. How does it identify itself when the secular and religious compose its student demographic? Has it not become a sort of unitive point in which both cities have been interwoven with each other? It is my view that this conflict arises from the burden poorly handled by those assuming the catholic identity. Moving from the whole to the particular, an answer to this dilemma can be found in harkening back to the very understanding of this identity: Catholic.

The philosophical stance by which the Church identifies the nature of the world is the analogia entis. Proponents of the stance can trace their origin to the works of St. Thomas Aquinas and his Aristotelian stance in the 12th century. As clarified by Erich Przywara, the analogy of being stipulates that the transcendent is “in-beyond” the nature of creation; the transcendent is outside of the world while also remaining immanent to what it does . There remains no radical ontological separation between the created and uncreated within the analogia entis. What is presented is a unity of what are two very distinct philosophical stances: The Platonic and the Aristotelian.

The founders of these two schools held two very different views of the world. Plato viewed truth and reality as entirely pertaining to the transcendent in which the created domain is an image of these transcendent forms. To unify the multitude of forms, Plotinus proposed that these forms are in the mind of God and united within his one Being. Aristotle differed by asserting that these divine ideas are immanent to the created world, while proposing that the divine is indifferent to the operations of the created world. There is no personal God by which the world refers to. Rather, there is merely many beings united in an act of existence with their reality fully within them. Man need not work to ascend a divine ladder, but focus on contemplating themselves and the idea that is within them; God contemplates himself, while creation works to contemplate itself amid its own changing. This difference between the two schools is seen in Aristotle’s rejection of Plato’s assertion that the arts can be inspired by a divine agency.

The response with the dynamics of history have shown how the unity of these two schools have been a difficult and tumultuous road. From the Platonic/Neo-Platonic perspective, the secular and the Church in this world share the same status as images but distinct in that they reflect different eternal ideas. Plotinus further adds to this by making both of these ideas intermingled in the unity of God’s Being. For the Aristotelian view, both share existence but contain different principles within their very actions. Yet, in history, the actions of both are intermingled and confused which halts an immediate knowledge of pure difference. The Church works to be the form of the secular by making it part a divinely oriented society. Meanwhile, the secular perceives the Church as arising from the same social institutions that compose the secular.

This conflict proceeds from the Medieval struggle to distance the two. The monastic communities were able to succeed by separating themselves from the feudal system, while the Pope could not amid the Investiture crises. Medieval society was able to maintain two strictly different codes of law, but the practice of these laws differed in regards to bishops and popes who maintained both ecclesial and secular authority. Universities, especially within Aquinas own time, shared this struggle between whether the Church or the secular should lead it. Essentially, the struggle pertained to whether one community would restrict the ability for students and teachers to perform their duties. The ecclesiastical fear was that the secular would reduce the university to serving particular needs of the local bureaucracies. Concerns such as this are practically reversed today as the secular fears a limitation of knowledge by the Church; fears which have become justified following the implementation of the Codex of Errors. The Church’s response to modernity has hard-locked the identity of the Church from the secular; meanwhile, the secular’s antipathy towards the ancien regime has created an antithetical structure. Each has proceeded to police and monitor those among their ranks for issues of liberalism or conservatism. From where does the synthesis arise that resolves these two?

What needs to be recognized, regardless of the feud, is that there has never been a clear and definitive break within the shared intellectual history. Any such breaks within a system of thought has continued within that thought’s very history. To point out an example of this, the Church’s history brings with it the continued knowledge of its detractors. The heretic continues on through the historical data just as much as the orthodox. The Gnostics, Nomians, Antinomians, Ebionites, and Docetists are recorded within its earliest histories. Arius follows alongside Nicea, and Nestorius proceeds alongside Chalcedon. Modernity’s principles continue to be entirely accessible from the Church’s own writings in Vatican I. If this knowledge was to be confined to some punitive abyss, it should have been forgotten. Rather, the Church has become a nexus of knowledge in which its benefactors and detractors are united within the historical procession towards the divine. Secular history also contain this nexus as the “Age of Reason”, the Enlightenment, Modernity, and Postmodernity have also continue to appeal to the ancients. As Umberto Eco points out in his From the Tree to the Labyrinth, the Enlightenment, for all its assaults on the aforementioned ancien regime, still keeps the knowledge of its antithesis in its encyclopedic pool of knowledge.

The nexus not only provides a structure for a continuation of knowledge, but also points to a proper understanding of what it means to refer to one as “catholic”. In regards to its very etymology, when one is identified as being catholic, they are identified as “universal”. There never is, historically speaking, a pure mimesis of what is contrary to it, as the detractors are caught up in its very universality. The heretics and excommunicants are the Church’s excommunicants and heretics; they are still identified in regards to it and still compose its history. Duns Scotus speaks of language as the symbols by which the understandings of our minds are expressed to each other. As such, the word “catholic” is not some Derridean construct from rhetoric detached from the intellect. Catholic, much like “multiplicity” or “all”, are these singular expressions of understanding that contain all particulars within them. To use a Deleuzian phrase, it is the “One-All” term that unites the many within one understanding, definition, and identity. As such, there should never be a willingness to cast something out of this unity, especially within the Catholic university. Anything less would detract from this universality. If one is going to assert that transcendent principles are in-beyond all, it must assert that true universality of this phrase.

Andrew Simmons is a graduate from Aquinas College and  a student of the Ukrainian Catholic University. He is working on a masters in philosophy <and theology>, but has to go through a lot of language courses. He finally remembered that he has his own blog https://musingconvert.wordpress.com/

Discerning Life

I want to slay dragons!

I want to slay dragons!

‘You can do anything that you want!’ is a refrain often heard when we try to decide what to do when we grow up. Now that I’m older I have to ask ‘Why would we want too?’. I was given no hints on actual discernment. All I’ve learned so far is that I want to be an adult who doesn’t give kids crappy advice. ‘You can do anything you’ve set your mind too.’ is another one I heard, but how does one go about setting one’s mind? ‘Just follow your dream’ but nothing on how hard that may be or what they mean by dream (I’ve always wanted to be a wizard, that’s a dream right?). A bunch of spineless adults giving useless aphorisms (I don’t know how they managed that, unless they set their mind to it). You might think that growing up in a Christian community might be better, but ‘God has a plan for you’ only makes me cringe at the thought of messing the plan (that he didn’t deign to tell me) up.

This leads into my first piece of advice: God doesn’t give a shit (well He does, but not in the way you think). If God wanted everything to run perfectly like a well-oiled machine, He would have made us well-oiled machines. God wants us to get to heaven, so anything we choose to do has to glorify God. Remember the parable of the talents? Nothing in the parable says how they invested the talents the Master gave them, it was all about whether they used them in a way to increase the glory of their Lord, or not. If you are using your gifts to know, love, and serve God, that’s what God cares about.

Second piece of advice: know your gifts, desires, and passions. Perhaps you have a talent for figures, the only way to know that is to have done figures. The only way to know if you have a passion for cooking is by cooking. For example, I learned that I like to program because my brother gave me a how-to programming book and I worked through it. The joy I had (and still do) by building something through programming was something different than when I played with LEGO sets or Erector sets. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I had a passion for programming. Anything I end up doing for God, I want to show Him my love for Him through my love of programming. Once you know your gifts and passions,  you need to know your gifts and passions.

My third piece of advice: practice. Gifts and passions will fade if you do not use them. Use it, at least a little, every day. Cook a meal or snack to develop cooking, write an essay or poem to develop writing. Get your friends and family to help critique you so that you improve faster. A little bit a day, is better than none, even better than a lot. If you do too much you’ll burn out, then you’ll need a break. Do a big painting once a week or once a month, and small sketches every day in between. If you feel like you can do more, do so, but don’t overstuff yourself.

Once you have a goal, give yourself a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline, you’ll never get done. If you do have a deadline, a month, or five years, then you can break the project down into bits. A novel (50,000 words) in a month is about 1,700 words a day, in five years about 200 words a week, without a deadline: 1,000 words a day for a week then nothing.

Mommy!

Mommy!

My final piece of advice is prayer. Without God at the center of your discernment it will all be fruitless. If a toddler draws a crayon picture then puts it on the fridge himself, it means far less than if daddy put it on the fridge. Remember for whom you make refrigerator art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua Fahey is a Chestertonian who is still discerning

The World Against Us

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The world, we become aware of the world as we start to understand our individuality. The world is cruel and heartless. It is an apathetic and monstrous conglomeration of evil. And as we learn about ourselves and struggle to express ourselves, we treat the world in various ways.

Villain. A villain would plot the defeat of the world. Usually by destruction or subjugation, but enthrallment has been a popular choice as well. Defeat is what a villain seeks to impose, and often receives instead (at least in stories). Villains are inherently selfish, self-centered, to that end they have no or little qualms to bend rules or outright break them. The rebellious teenager is a villain.

Coward. A coward sees the world and runs from it. After the first fight we have with the world, and we lose, there is the thought that since we can never win it is better to run. This is also selfish, for a coward (like a villain) is after self-preservation. The end of a villain may be death, but a coward can never find a safe-haven, can never find an end. Cowards always run from problems because they never want to get hurt, and they never want to hurt others. Dreamers are cowards.

Traitor. A traitor sees the world as his master. They are traitorous because they sacrifice themselves and others in this act, but it is a selfish sacrifice. They seek a place to be, but they are too tired to fight for it or search for it. They may try to influence the world to their own ends, but in the act of service to the world they become corrupted by it. In the act of placing their hand in the flame, they become burned. As such all efforts, no matter how noble the goal, are tainted by the evil of the world. Corrupt politicians are traitors.

IMG_0044Christ. Christ offered another way. Turn the other cheek. Like the villain, a christian stands against the world, unlike the villain, a christian does not seek to destroy it, but to save it. Like the coward, a christian recognizes he cannot win against the world, unlike a coward, the christian does not run away for he knows God is with him. Like the traitor, a christian is called to serve and to self-sacrifice, but unlike the traitor, the master being served is pure and free of corruption who never asks us to sacrifice our purity or to sacrifice others. Only Christ can make a stand against the world heroic. Only Christ can make the coward’s fear into courageous witness. Only Christ can turn the traitor’s service into something good and pure. Christ showed us all three on the cross. He stood against the world, let the world torture and kill Him, and sacrificed himself in order to save all humankind.

 

 

Joshua Fahey is a Chestertonian who found Christ through cowardice and is working on that Courage thing.

Virtue of catholicism (small c)

On our heartsRacism is bad, but why is racism bad? First we should define racism. The easiest way to define racism is prejudice involving the race of the persons involved. That is, the belief that one or more races is inferior or superior to one or more other races. A stereotype on steroids, if you will. Racism tends to focus on petty differences between over-simplified boxes that no one quite fits into. This puts up walls, misunderstandings (intentional or otherwise), hatred, and callous bias between peoples. Superficial walls that, like Jericho, must be broken down by heroic virtue. Jackie Robinson was a great ballplayer, he had to be to play in the Major Leagues, but if that was all he had it would have meant nothing. What changed the hearts of many people was his courage, his fortitude in turning the other cheek. Gandhi changed the hearts of the British with the same fortitude. They broke down the walls with their profound humanity that even touched hardened hearts.
Virtue is the only bridge that can cross between peoples, virtue is the only way to break down the walls. Political Correctness tries to remove hatred from speech, but all it does is isolate us in our own universe. It removes the intimacy needed to hate, but by doing so it removes the same intimacy needed to profoundly connect to one another. Instead of getting rid of the boxes known as stereotypes so that we might see the person, it changes the shape of the box and reinforces it so that no one might be hurt. It is an obsessive compassion that kills understanding and that eventually kills compassion and empathy. Political Correctness has failed, and in so doing has opened up a path for reactionaries to reinstitute new forms of racism.

SpectaclesI know I said virtue was the only bridge available to cross between peoples. But how can we construct that bridge? What are the materials to be used? Brotherhood and love are the foundation of bridge-building virtue. It should be no surprise that I as a Catholic believe in the catholicism (small c) of salvation. As an American I have had the privilege of profound encounters with many cultures and races. As a Catholic I have had the grace to profoundly connect with them as brothers and sisters. It is this virtue that allowed St. Patrick to evangelize the Irish, and this virtue which allowed John Paul II to defy Communism and defeat it. This virtue whose perfection is agape, self-sacrificing love. We celebrate this Easter the death of one innocent man who raised himself from the dead. We celebrate his blood pouring out for all nations and peoples, so that we may become brothers in Christ. We celebrate our catholicism, we celebrate our oneness, we celebrate as the family of God.

 

 

Joshua Fahey is a Chestertonian who wishes you all a happy Easter.

Beings-unto-God

by Andrew Simmons                                                                           Thursday,  Feb 13

“Since all creatures, even those devoid of understanding, are ordered to God as to an ultimate end, all achieve this end to the extent that they participate somewhat in His likeness. Intellectual creatures attain it in a more special way, that is, through their proper operation of understanding Him. Hence, this must be the end of the intellectual creature, namely, to understand God.” – St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, III. Q. 25. A. 1

Cowper-Assisi

Frank Cadogan Cowper’s Saint Francis of Assisi

Following the Renaissance and the recovery of more Greco-Roman philosophers, scholars mainly focused on presenting Christianity in accordance to pagan philosophers rather than Christianizing them (which, arguably, is what Augustine did for Plato, and Aquinas did to Aristotle). The change in emphasis led to dramatic theological changes that resulted in a return to an old Greco-Roman juxtaposition between the supernatural and the natural. Whether it was Duns Scotus or Thomas Cajetan, the changes in scholasticism did create the theological conditions ripe for reformers such as Luther, Zwingli, Wesley, and Calvin (there might be more merit to Luther’s statement of “the Aristotelian Church” than we give credit for). And, as time progressed, it also dramatically affected the views held by those of our time. The change is mainly this: with a severing of the supernatural and the natural, the natural was viewed as being radically autonomous from the other. In demonstrating the problem of this juxtaposition, I hope to provide a small glimpse of a harmonized view in which all are oriented as beings-unto-God.

In regards to the general societal indifference towards God, it should not come as any surprise to see the full spectrum of responses to our current Pope. His statements against capitalism and blatant consumerism in particular have caused the most shock as it impacted a formerly complacent bunch of Catholics. Perhaps the main reason for this is that modern Christians have been inculcated towards a belief that there is a natural end for mankind apart from God. Following the general aphorism “well that is just how the world works”, modern Christians seem to believe that God simply works to direct them towards a suitable natural end in which eternal life is part of some detached life known by sola fide.

The effects of this detachment from a natural way of life can be seen in two individuals: Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Nietzsche writes, “The Christians have never led the life which Jesus commanded them to lead…The Buddhist behaves differently from the non-Buddhist; but the Christian behaves as all the rest of the worlds does” (Nietzsche, 95). The self-professed “Antichrist” was tired of the doctrine sola fide common throughout his Protestant upbringing. What he wanted to see among Christians is something more akin to the demeanor of Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot (Kaufman, 343-344).  Myshkin, for Dostoevksy, is the portrayal of one who truly lives out the Christian life. It, however, is not a life that ends well for Myshkin. For Kierkegaard, this is very much the point of Christianity. He states that the price of “Christianity is superhuman. And yet the New Testament bids the Christian take up the imitation of Christ.” (Kierkegaard, 152) In making the articles of faith detached from practical living, Christian “lives, exactly like those of the heathens, reveal that man exists in relativity. People’s lives are nothing but relativities.” (Kierkegaard, 149)

In my previous article “Likeness and the Afterlife,” I made the assertion that human beings generally pursue some sort of likeness to live by. The answer to this juxtaposition lies in why one is not able to live without needing to be consummated in a likeness. Philosophers such as Duns Scotus and Cajetan assert that humanity exists wholly as a self-autonomous “pure nature”. Humanity, to be brief, is complete and exists without the need for God to further perfect their existence. I, from the standpoint of the existentialists and the writings of Henri de Lubac, assert the contrary: humanity is radically dynamic and not autonomous. For Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, the essence of man is absurdity which requires an inventive intuition to make sense of (albeit only briefly and relatively). For the Catholic existentialist Gabriel Marcel, the essence of man is ambiguous but finds itself immersed in the wonders of being amongst other beings; the culmination of this statement is found in his assertion that “to be is to be with others”. For Martin Heidegger, who is commonly lumped with the existentialists, the natural end of man could only be a being-unto-death which convicts us to be individuals but also terminates our existence.

With Heidegger’s being-unto-death, it needs to be asked if one can be satisfied with such an end. Is the totality of human satisfaction found in solely embracing its definitive end? Heidegger does present those who put an immense amount of faith in self-determination with an immense obstacle. The pursuit of becoming independent falters in light of the individual ceasing to be in death. Henri de Lubac, however, saves the dignity of our individuality away from the being-unto-death.  He challenges what he calls a “metaphysic of self-sufficiency” with a claim of “radical incompleteness” (de Lubac, 59).  In Catholic theology, one needs sanctification in order to walk the Christian life. Sanctification is the act of God that infuses the believer with faith, hope, and charity. It is not something added to one’s nature or radically opposed to it, but is a perfecting of the human being. For my assertion of searching for likeness, it is God placing upon an individual the means to be able to live out the likeness of Christ. Grace does not turn humanity into super-humanity. Rather, it reveals the individuals radical need to be oriented towards the likeness.

Sources:

De Lubac, Henri. A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 1984.

Kaufmann, Walter. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 2013.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Trans. Anthony M. Ludovici. New York: Barnes & Nobles, Inc. 2006.

Kierkegaard, Soren. The Diary of Soren Kierkegaard. Ed. Peter Rohdes. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc. 1960.

Andrew Simmons is a graduate from Aquinas College. He studied  for a double major in History and Theology with a minor in Catholic Studies. In 2010, during his freshman year, he converted to Catholicism. He find himself reading more of those dastardly modern philosophers and theologians in order to feel more relevant. It would be easier if the moderns would stop deconstructing the point of being relevant. 

Likeness and the Afterlife

by Andrew Simmons                                                                           Thursday,  Jan 30

“Thus when the power-crazed person whose motto is ‘Caesar or nothing’ doesn’t become Caesar, he despairs over that. But this indicates something else: that he cannot stand being himself precisely because he failed to become Caesar…And by not becoming Caesar he despairs at not being able to be rid of himself.” –Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death, p. 49

kierkegaard-Beaton

image credit: Kate Beaton, creator of Hark! A Vagrant.

It is clear that there are and remain several underlying questions among Christians about Hell. The release of Love Wins by Rob Bell did not create the discussion, but merely stoked the fires over whether or not Hell contradicts Christian love. Some would say that a God who condemns is not one who loves; conversely, other Christians maintain the importance of hell based on moral principles. In fact, the entire discourse seems to hang on whether or not the law possesses a power over where a person goes. This is not an article about whether or not the lawful or the lawless are right in this situation. The aim of this is to add to the discussion by calling to mind the foundation of the discourse in general: the person. Whatever may occur in the afterlife, it pertains less to moralistic categories, but, rather, reflects personal development.

Now, predominately in the West, there is a reoccurring interpretation that the “image of God” and being made in God’s “likeness” are the same thing (Gen 1:26-27). As someone with an affinity for Eastern theology, this is not the case with the Eastern Christians (Catholic or Orthodox). From Fred J. Saato’s American Eastern Catholics, the image refers mainly to the characteristics of humanity that reflect God’s qualities. Likeness, however, deals with the later perfecting of these qualities (Saato, 62). What this essentially means is that we are all subject to being brought into the likeness of God. The Church Father’s understood this to be theosis. But I wish to add more with the notion of the likeness. Using Aquinas’s notion that the human person is a subject that is driven by desiring, I propose that the human person is driven towards attaining a likeness.

Whether it is impersonating our parents as kids or social icons as adults, we seek to find some symbol to adopt as the foundation for our lives. These personas to live by provide an element of security against life’s common anxiety. One can see it in the impersonating of celebrities, seeking out self-help gurus, or in adhering to any particular social leader. Yet, the symbols others seek to live by are bound to the same contingency as its pursuer. To further add onto the quote by Kierkegaard, it is not so much that one despairs of never becoming Caesar, but the despair in realizing that Caesar was never worth being in the first place. This sensation of despair is key to Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death; the text, however, is not purely psychological. The condition dubbed “the sickness unto death” is something Kierkegaard claims is only noticeable to the Christian.  Death is not the disease, but, for Kierkegaard, is the perceived cure for the afflicted. It is the termination of a life with nothing left to hope for.

The sickness is a condition often ignored due to the continuous affinity to distract one from the root cause.  Today, the world is gripped with constant struggles over ideals. Political activism has replaced a necessary need to ponder the reasons for why certain systems are even believed in. Yet, Kierkegaard, the ever constant social critic, does not begin the text with arguments against politics or social movements. He begins talking about what composes the human person. A person is the synthesis of two distinct concepts: the infinite and the finite. While the terminology is different, the medievals also had a similar understanding that the human person was the unity between eternity and materiality. The sickness is a great loathing for this condition. It is the struggle to accept one over the other. Yet, in failing to grasp that the person is a “both/and” and not an “either/or”, the troubled soul seeks to no longer be a united presence in the world. This, I believe, carries with it an eternal repercussion.

As the synthesis of the infinite and finite, the way one conducts himself is presumed to have an impact on this union. Aquinas states that the customs that we conduct ourselves by become something akin to a second nature (IIa-IIae, Q 49, A 1, ad 2). Whatever we fixate upon becomes a part of us. I wish to take this statement of second nature and apply it to likeness. By seeking out a likeness that is limited, we become trapped within that likeness. For Kierkegaard, one is to be grounded in Christ who brings about a paradoxical realization. When the person seeks out the likeness of Christ, it is always important to remember that Christ, in turn, sought out humanity in the Incarnation.  It is not simply adopting the mask of Christ, but it is taking up a mask that returns and inversely leaves you without one. It is the assumption of a likeness that embraces the eternal. It is a rejection of what Chesterton would refer to as the limiting cell of the madman (an actual reference to Nietzsche’s madman). If anything, hell is that limiting confinement upon which is written “He [the madman] believes in himself” (Chesterton, 21).

Sources:

Chesterton, G. K. Orthodoxy. New York: Image, 2001.

Kierkegaard, Soren. The Sickness unto Death. London: Penguin, 2004.

Saato, Fred J. American Eastern Catholicism. Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2006.

Image:

http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=33

Andrew Simmons is now a graduate from Aquinas College! He studied  for a double major in History and Theology with a minor in Catholic Studies. In 2010, during his freshman year, he converted to Catholicism. He is now plagued by questions about graduate school. The anxiety of choice!