Tuesday, September 15, 2009

...and Robert George at the Meeting in Rimini


From Mirror of Justice:

"Elementary Experience" and Natural Law

At the urging of my pals Mary Ann Glendon and Joseph Weiler, I accepted an invitation to speak (in a tag-team partnership with Mary Ann) at the 30th annual "Meeting for Friendship of Peoples" hosted by Communion & Liberation in Rimini, Italy. The meeting, which I had often heard about but never before attended, is quite remarkable. Over the course of a week, several hundred thousand people crowd into an Italian beach town to hear academic and religious lectures, attend concerts and other performances, and socialize. Mary Ann and I were assigned the topic "Elementary Experience and Natural Law." I'm revising my reflections on the subject to present as a lecture at the University of St. Thomas Law School in a few weeks, but in case MoJ readers are interested, here are the opening paragraphs of my presentation.

One’s knowledge of natural law, like all knowledge, begins with experience (one might even say “elementary experience”) but it does not end or even tarry there. Knowing is an activity—an intellectual activity, to be sure, but an activity nonetheless. We all have the experience of knowing. But to know is not merely to experience. Knowing is a complex and dynamic activity. The role of experience in the activity of knowing is to supply data on which the inquiring intellect works in the cause of achieving understanding. Insights are insights into data. They are, as Bernard Lonergan brilliantly demonstrated by inviting readers to observe and reflect on their own ordinary intellectual operations, the fruit of a dynamic and integrated process of experiencing, understanding, and judging... [read the rest here]

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."