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Why understanding seeks faith Print E-mail
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The people who are most discouraged and made despondent by the barbarity and stupidity of human behavior at this time are those who think highly of homo sapiens as a product of evolution, and who still cling to an optimistic belief in the civilizing influence of progress and enlightenment. To them, the appalling outbursts of bestial ferocity in the totalitarian states, and the obstinate selfishness and stupid greed of capitalist society, are not merely shocking and alarming. For them, these things are the utter negation of everything in which they have believed. It is as though the bottom had dropped out of their universe. The whole thing looks like a denial of all reason, and they feel as if the whole world had gone mad together.

If it is best that we lower our sights lest we imply that there really is something objectively good for ourselves and for others; if finally the world we thought we wanted turns out to be a world that somehow seems to have gone "mad," then we must begin to suspect the theories on which this world is built.

Why does understanding seek faith? It is because understanding does not succeed in explaining what it sets out to understand. Things actually happen and take place that do not explain themselves. There seems to be a constant diversity between the theories of modernity, which are based upon the autonomy of the human intellect that admits no knowledge but what proceeds from human will, and the kinds of things that actually happen to which our minds as original sources ought to be open. In other words, the troubled searching but never finding, which is characteristic of modern thought, the fear of finding out that something indeed arises outside of ourselves that we ought to do and hold, something that would require our change of hearts, leave their own empirical records in the lives and thoughts of our kind.

 

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