Winter 2011

Introduction: Towards a Human Ecology: Person, Life, Nature

Peter Casarella, in “‘The Proper Weight of Love’: What Can We Learn From Pope John Paul II’s The Jeweler’s Shop?” interprets the play as an artistic unfolding of the relationship between time and eternity. “The jeweler reveals that eternity encompasses the finitude of a life not just because of its expansiveness but because our lives owe their existence to a Source or Creator. The embrace of eternity as a personal reality of love is what we implicitly aim to discover when we focus on the weight or specific gravity of our lives.”

Adrian J. Walker, in “‘Original Wholeness’: (Living) Nature Between God and Technê,” reflects on Aristotle’s understanding of nature as the innate principle in and through which a body is the primary, original source of its parts’ “standing together.” Walker shows how the original wholeness of nature is an intra-worldly analogue to God’s self-communication: “The life of animate beings is a received self-constitution, a caused uncausedness, a derived originality. . . . God, in the very act of communicating himself, produces matter as the receiver of his gift and, at the same time, lets matter originally co-produce the gift it receives.”

D. C. Schindler, in “Analogia Naturae: What Does Inanimate Matter Contribute to the Meaning of Life?” uncovers an essential aspect of analogy, namely, the positivity of difference.Within a  properly analogical concept of nature, the lower level not only reflects the higher at a diminished grade, but, at the same time, adds something to the higher and so contributes something genuine to the meaning of nature. “The very ecstatic quality that material being contributes to the meaning of life,” Schindler argues, “it also receives back from life in a surprising, but fulfilling way. And all of this belongs to the profound exchange of being that constitutes the analogy of nature, which thus reveals the whole cosmos to be suffused with the meaning of gift.”

Edith Stein is best known as a martyr and a saint. In “Why Do We Need the Philosophy of Edith Stein?” Mette Lebech highlights an aspect of Stein’s life that has been neglected—her original and enduring contribution to philosophy. Lebech traces the itinerary of Stein’s life and writings from her days as a student of Husserl through her embrace of the Carmelite vocation. Faithful to philosophy’s ancient vocation to seek the things themselves, Stein “allows us to see that philosophy is not just a competition of worldviews issuing in a war of words.” Rather, “it is possible to discern what is true in different worldviews (those of classical and modern thought in particular) by criticizing them by means of one another. . . . Stein’s attempt at mediating between traditions thus contributes toward safeguarding the meaningfulness of philosophy and toward enabling us to trust in the meaningfulness of life.”

Finally, Joseph Ratzinger’s essay, “Difficulties Confronting the Faith in Europe Today,” first presented in 1989, returns to the theme of “human ecology.” After rehearsing some common objections to the Catholic faith based on the Church’s sexual morality and sacramental order, Ratzinger notes how these various objections are linked together: “They spring from one and the same vision of humanity within which there operates a particular notion of human freedom.”

Faced with this cultural situation, in order to express “the logic of the Faith in its integrity, the good sense and reasonableness of its view of reality and life,” Ratzinger emphasizes the importance of renewed theological reflection regarding i.) the doctrine of creation; ii.) the metaphysical dimension of Christology; and iii.) the eschatological meaning of the Kingdom of God.