Monday, August 08, 2005

Hmmm, thinking

My sister had an interesting post a little while ago on the philosophical limitations of the scientific method. She notes, for one thing, that some of our highest values - justice, mercy, love etc. - can not be "proved" through empirical observation. Today, while going through then-Cardinal Ratzinger's Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion, I came upon some very interesting paragraphs on belief and certainty.

Ratzinger first relates Buber's famous story about the argument between a rabbi and an atheist, in which the rabbi overcomes the atheist's arguments with the disquieting statement: "And yet, perhaps it is true." Cardinal Ratzinger notes that this "perhaps" is faith's greatest advantage, as well as its greatest weakness. In the still, silent moments of his life an unbeliever must always admit that the beautiful, wild dream of the Divine may be true; at the same time, in our highly empirical age, that which can not be scientifically proved is automatically suspect to many learned people. Perhaps God is real, or maybe it is only a beautiful dream, after all. Perhaps, perhaps.

But the Cardinal adds:

Is it really only perhaps? If the forms of verification of modern natural science were the only way in which man could arrive at any certainty, then faith would indeed have to be classified in the realm of mere "perhaps" and to be constantly fused with doubt, to be virtually identical with it. But just as a person becomes certain of another's love without being able to subject it to the methods of scientific experimentation, so in the contact between God and man there is a certainty of a quite different kind from the certainty of objectivizing thought. We live faith, not as a hypothesis, but as the certainty on which our life is based.

(Emphasis his).

This is quite close to what my sister was saying!

Ratzinger continues:
If two people regard their love merely as a hypothesis that is constantly in need of new verification, they destroy love in that way. It is contradicted in its essence if one tries to to make it something one can grasp in one's hand. By then it has already been destroyed. Perhaps so many relationships break down today because we are aware of the certainty only of the verified hypothesis and do not admit the ultimate validity of anything not scientifically proved. Thus, the essential phenomena of human life escape us, with their quite different kind of certainty, which is in truth far higher.

Ahhh. Little bits like this are why I love reading Ratzinger. His suggestions about why relationships fall apart so often nowadays reminds me of an article I found via the Curt Jester, which stated that the traditional vows of "'till death do us part" were being replaced by "for as long as we shall love each other."


1 comment:

  1. Absolutely awesome... I picked up the book at Wal-Mart, if for no other reason to encourage them to stock more Catholic literature! I started reading it and I've found that I generally have to read his stuff two or three times through to make sure I caught it - not because it's complex, but perhaps because it's so clear I feel like I missed something!

    His first two speeches in the book on theology in academia are awesome. I just finished his third offering discussing the nature(s) of the Holy Spirit. I really recommend this book for anyone interested in thinking about this stuff on a different level!!!