Sunday, April 24, 2005

Politics, philosophy, poetry, and Providence

John Paul II's final book, Memory and Identity : Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium, examines national identity, the role of the state, and the future of Europe. Drawing on history of Polish national identity, the late Pope sees both nations and the Church as proper repositories of memory, memory being that which makes possible the expression of identity. Read more . . . Europe is in danger of losing that notion of identity, of becoming unrecognizable to itself, of losing the humanism that Christianity has helped it to attain. The dangers in the West are not limited to obvious totalitarian movements like communism and fascism, but include more insidious forms of moral and spiritual decay. These are fruitful ideas to consider when thinking about the current Church, and Pope Benedict's choice of the name of the patron of Europe indicates that he and John Paul shared an enthusiasm for the importance of the continent right now.

In reflecting on intellectual history, John Paul attempts to fuse objective, realist traditions (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas) with subjective, personalist ones (Augustine, Descartes, Kant, phenomenology). He makes a good effort to treat modern thought respectfully, calling attention to the good within Kant and the Enlightenment while also acknowledging their excesses and defects. These passages make him sound very much like Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor.

This last book in some ways is a good introduction to Wojtyla the intellectual, integrating his personalist philosophy, his political views, his poetic and dramatic visions, and his ecclesiology in one conversational book. Buy a copy and read it.
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