Spring 2013

Introduction: Catholicity and Education

Introducing our theme of “Education” is Robert Spaemann’s “The Courage to Educate.” Originally published in 1978, the article presents questions about the state of education that are perhaps even more important for us to ponder now. “Why has it become necessary to point out something self-evident? Why has it become necessary to be courageous to educate?” Spaemann asks. He sketches an outline of what education really is—a formation of the human being—and then points out a number of ways this idea has been mistreated. It seems we no longer believe that education is about an affirmation of the future—in a word, that it is worth truly educating our children. He writes that “we must ask ourselves what resources we are actually living on, and the questions of how our children should live can only give impetus to do so. Many things that are being said publicly today can actually be said only by people who have no children or who have written off their children.”

In “The Universality of the University,” Jean-Luc Marion reflects on the fragmentation of the university and points out that not only is universality being lost, but also even specialization and any goods that come therein. “If professionalization and specialization . . . allowed an individual truly to know a genus of reality,” write Marion, “then they would already obtain much more than simple qualification: they would provide access to an experience of truth in action.” But not even this exists presently in our universities. Marion goes on to argue that the principle for true universality of the university is the ultimately unknowable transcendence of God.

D. C. Schindler responds to Marion in his article “On the Universality of the University.” His response first attempts to formulate what Marion presents as the principle that accounts for the universality of the university, namely, the self and God, both of which transcend our knowledge and so ought to be understood primarily in terms of love. Schindler proposes an alternative approach to what it calls the catholicity of the university, an approach inspired by John Paul II’s call in Fides et ratio for a “philosophy of being.”  The argument turns on an affirmation of the traditional metaphysical understanding of truth as ontological, and suggests that a recovery of the language of truth, thus understood, in the disciplines would help heal the fragmentation that besets the modern university.  This is because a recognition of the matter studied in the disciplines as concerned with truth—that is, a recognition that each discipline studies being under a particular aspect—brings to light their common rootedness in a reality that transcends their particularity without compromising what makes each unique. Schindler concludes with a comparison between this metaphysical approach to truth and the one presented by Marion, specifically in relation to the question of what sort of conversation each generates.