Monday, May 14, 2012

On the Cartesian Anxiety of Our Time

An enlightening article from Monsignor Charles Pope.
1. The retreat into the mind and loss of connection with reality. In radically distrusting his senses, Descartes disconnects himself (and us) from the world of reality. What is real is only what is in my mind. The actual “is-ness” of things is no longer the basis of reality. Now, it is just my thoughts that are real. Reality is not “out there” but it is only in my mind. It is what I think that matters.

This leads to a lot of the absurdity of modern times where we tend to overlook reality and reduce everything to opinion. We often think of things abstractly and as “issues.”

For example, abortion is an “issue” for many people, rather than the dismemberment of a human baby. Many tend to think of abortion abstractly and repackage “it” as choice, or a woman’s right. But abortion is not an abstraction. There is something actually happening “out there” in the real world. An actual child is being dismembered and suctioned into a jar. But the Cartesian retreat into the mind allows many to continue to think of abortion abstractly and as an issue. And the mind, detached from reality can do some pretty awful rationalizing. Showing actual pictures of abortion seems to have little affect on those who have retreated into their minds and think of abortion abstractly as an issue, rather than a real thing.

The same is true for the issue of homosexuality. Any even rudimentary look into the biology and design of the body makes it clear that something is disordered with homosexual activity. The man is for the woman, not for the man. The biology is clear. But with the Cartesian retreat into the mind, the body no longer has anything to say to many people. “What does the body have to do with it?” Many ask. All that seems to matter is what they think. It is opinion, not reality, that wins the day. Thought overrules the body, dismisses the external reality. Here again is the Cartesian flight from the real world into the mind.

And the same holds true for just about every moral issue today. It is merely my thoughts and intentions that matter. What I am actually doing is, to the Cartesian dualist is not that important. It is what I think that matters.

2. Reality is no longer revelatoryThe revelation that comes simply from the way things are,  is “not reliable” and is mere opinion in this Cartesian world we have inherited. Scripture and the Natural Law tradition had held that creation and the way things are were revelatory for us. St. Paul says, For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made (Romans 1:18-19). There was a confidence in the Scriptures, and Natural Law Tradition, that the created world, that reality, provided a reliable guide to what was right and true. We had only to study the “is-ness” of things to learn. But this is all jettisoned in the Cartesian world, which remains skeptical that we can really know or reliably perceive the “there” out there. (Read entire article.)


PV said...

The blog of msgr. Charles Pope is a treasure. I recommend also the word on fire youtube channel of Fr. Robert Barron (he appears in the video at the end of the post about the Cartesian anxiety).

julygirl said...

Yes, but what is truth and who has it? Isn't what we believe merely what someone else has told us is truth, and aren't thinking and believing two different processes? As Christians Jesus told us that He is the Way and the Truth, we must start from there. Once one starts delving into the thinking of different philosophers and philosophies, trouble and confusion follows.

lara77 said...

The interesting article on Cartesian thought does not change the reality for many young women today. As many women now make more money than men and control their finances; that goes with control of their life decisions re. contraception and abortion. One may heartily disagree with the choices of many young women but "the genie is out of the bottle." As for the issue of homosexuality I will say that knowing family members and friends who are gay I know that it was never a choice. I believe as many scientists do that we are wired at birth. I know of a particluar young man who was different as a young boy; all the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father did not change his sexual orientation. He is a dear gentle soul who is kind and loving. Again, many will disagee with me and that is fine. I witnessed it close at hand for my whole life; I will let Jesus be the judge of that young man.

elena maria vidal said...

Of course, my dear Lara, Jesus is the Judge of us all, even of those who do not believe. He who is all Mercy and Justice judges each soul at the hour of death. This does not mean we are not allowed to ponder the origins of the phenomena of our time. I am sure we both know many wonderful persons with same sex attraction. I know that I do, and I have the highest regard for some of those friends who have come thru for me in difficult times. But we are still allowed to be objective when speaking of generalities.

elena maria vidal said...

In fact we have a duty to be ruled not by sentiment but by reason. For instance, law is not based upon sentiment. The statistics show that as far as monogamous relationships go, persons with a same sex attraction have many difficulties, and are much less monogamous than heterosexuals, even with all the divorces among heterosexuals, etc. (There are many links to studies in the above link.) Also, there is no precedent in law or history or tradition for two persons of the same gender to marry. Not even in ancient Sodom were they allowed to marry, not in Carthage, Rome, Greece or Egypt, or any of the great pagan civilizations. Not in China or India or any place. This is a matter without legitimate precedent. It is not just, therefore, to the rest of the population to inflict such laws upon the wide mass of people for whom same sex marriage has no cultural precedent. And, as I said above, while there are exceptions, the statistics widely show that most homosexual persons have trouble maintaining stable lasting sexual relationships, even in states where they are not allowed to legally share their lives.