Notebook

Life with Reason

In a fine review article in First Things, Jennifer A Fray cites Elizabeth Anscombe‘s syllabus of errors from the mid-1980s. It is made up of ‘twenty theses, commonly held by her fellow analytic philosophers, that she deemed inimical to the Christian religion and that could, she insisted, be shown ‘false on purely philosophical grounds’.’ Nearly all these theses pit nature—conceived of as formless, and thus empty of objective meaning or purpose—against reason. I think of Chapman’s line in his Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron from 1608: ‘O of what contraries consists a man! Of what impossible mixtures!’ It is tragic, though (and, when you think of it, comical), that nature and reason, body and soul should be thought of in terms of contradiction. On the resolution of this quandary, the Church has crucial things to say. How we need, now, not rhetorical effusions of sentiment, but thinkers of Anscomb’s stature, integrity, and clarity apt to conduct metaphysical enquiry in the terms here outlined: ‘Metaphysics is not the project of constructing static systems of reality; rather, it is a lived praxis whose defining aim is wisdom.’