Thursday, February 12, 2009

Foreign languages - part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the language of acronyms I now speak, which is a far cry from another language I've been having to learn of late.

I'm reminded of an old "Peanuts" cartoon I read as a child, and identified with at the time. Linus, Lucy, and Charlie Brown are lying on a hill, watching the clouds. In the first frame Linus says, "I can see North and South America, Europe and Africa!" In the second, Lucy says: "I can see George Washington crossing the Delaware!" In the third frame, Charlie is looking up at the clouds without speaking.

In the fourth frame, Linus and Lucy look at Charlie and together say, "So?"

Charlie responds, "I was going to say I see a ducky and a horsey."

One of my buddies from Chaplain School last year is a Special Forces (Green Beret) prior-service Soldier with many years' experience in the Army before becoming a Baptist Chaplain. He's an amazing young man, and has spent his whole time in the Army as a Guardsman. Go Guard! Hooah!

He's also getting a doctorate in St. Thomas Aquinas.

Not your average Baptist preacher, I'd say.

Anyway, he's got me reading some of the stuff he's using in his doctoral studies. (I think he's thinking I'm going to be some sort of SME (subject matter expert), but boy, does he have another think coming!) It's as if this stuff he has me reading (and for which I shelled out $42 plus shipping and handling!) is in a different language.

Here's an example -- just a single paragraph, only a few pages into the text -- you tell me!:

However, the 'obvious' connection of the factum and the secular can and must be called into question. It is not enough just to point out, like Hannah Arendt or Jurgen Habermas, that the concentration of post-Hobbesian political science on instrumental reason tended to obscure another dimension of human action, namely Aristotelian praxis, where one seeks not to control with precision, but with a necessary approximation to persuade, exhort, and encourage a growth in the virtues as ends in themselves. This displacement of classical politics by a new political 'science' is of course very important, yet what these thinkers ignore is the fact that the sphere of the 'artificial' is not necessarily identical with that of the instrumental, any more than poetry is merely technology. (John Milbank: Theology & Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, pp. 11-12)

In re John Milbank, my Aquinas-studying Baptist Green Beret Guardsman Buddy: I think I see a ducky and a horsey.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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Anonymous said...

Yup -- I think I see them too -- hope your friend's dissertation is more clear!

Here's Wikipedia re John Milbank: "A key part of the controversy surrounding Milbank concerns his view of the relationship between Theology and the social sciences. He argues that the social sciences are a product of the modern ethos of secularism, which stems from an ontology of violence. Theology, therefore, should not seek to make constructive use of social theory, for theology itself offers a comprehensive vision of all reality, extending to the social and political without the need for social theory. Milbank is sometimes described as a metaphysical theologian, in that he is concerned with establishing a Christian trinitarian ontology. He relies heavily on aspects of Augustine and Plato's thought, in particular its modification by the neo-Platonists. Together with Graham Ward and Catherine Pickstock, he has helped forge a new trajectory in constructive theology known as "radical orthodoxy" -- a predominantly Anglo-Catholic sensibility highly critical of modernity." ... Yikes! Definitely not my style (nor my theology).

Peace, Cina

Whirlwind said...

I didn't think this was so bad after all.


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