Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Humility or Gift

The Virtue of Humility is the conceptual disguise of the deeper ontology of reality as constitutively relational. St. Josemaria Escriva preached:

“Humility is such an important virtue that, if it is lacking, there can be no virtue. I well repeat again that, in the interior life, humility is the salt which seasons all the foods. For even though a particular act may seem virtuous, it cannot be, if it is the consequence of pride, of vanity, or of stupidity, or if we do it thinking about ourselves, putting ourselves before the service of God, the good of souls and the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

“When our attention turns to ourselves and we dwell on whether others are going to praise or criticize us, we are dong ourselves very great harm. God alone should interest us, and for his sake, all those who belong to Opus Dei and all the souls in the world without exception. So, away with self! It is a hindrance.”

Personalist Anthropology: On July 10th I posted what I consider a most insightful presentation of relational anthropology by J. Penacobo: Part of what I posted is the following:

“Classical anthropology studies man objectively and so it very well reaches the main elements of humanity: the human being is a rational animal, has a spiritual soul, possessing a substantial unity of body and spirit, and has two sets of faculties; spiritual intellect and will and sensibility: internal senses and emotions.

“Objective anthropology is the basis for "virtue ethics" which teaches that the integration of the person is the fruit of the exercise of the four cardinal virtues. That is to say, man fulfills himself to the extent that his intellect develops the virtue of prudence. Through prudence, man determines what is due to others in justice (the virtue of the will) and how to submit the two sets of sensitive tendencies to reason through the virtues of temperance and fortitude. This is a fine way to identify what fulfills man in his pursuit of the truth and the good. Certainly, it is better than the raw human goal: “Know and will all you can and want.” Virtue ethics perspective can free man of all the degrading ancient and modern hedonisms: “Enjoy all the pleasure you can.”

“However, classical objective anthropology could not study the subjectivity of man and was insufficient to explore the richness of the human person in his unique personal identity including sexuality and his existential condition in history, which includes inter-subjectivity in relationships like the family and society. The entire area of sexual and social ethics in the Western culture has been inadequately grounded with respect to the richness and dignity of the human person.”[1]

I consider the objective, classical anthropology to be an abstraction. I consider that the human person be considered a “substance,” a category of the mind that responds to the way we “receive” reality from the experience of sensual perception, because that is the way we know. It is not the way things outside of us. The epistemological turn in modern physics has taught us that. It is not erroneous, but, as incomplete, neither is it fully realist. It is distorted by the way we know. The reliability of the Heisenberg indeterminacy principle testifies to this.

Knowing real things as “substance” is equivalent to knowing things conceptually. Pace the work of Sokolowski on concepts not being “things,”[2] nevertheless they are a mediation of whatever sort between my knowing and the sensed reality. “Substance,” then, is my way of knowing, not the way the reality is in itself. In fact, the only being that I have a direct experience of without any noetic mediation is my self as acting self.

This is the “theological epistemology” that Benedict XVI sets as the root experience of the knowledge of God and self. The believing subject is the locus of the “I” of the revealing Christ. One must becoming “another Christ” – and that means “prayer” since Christ is pure relation to the Father and as incarnate is prayer – in order to know Christ. This is the burden of the Mt. 11, 27 and Jn. 6, 44: Only the Father knows the Son, and no one can come to me unless the Father draw him.

Returning to the point: Virtue anthropology – and particularly the virtue of humility - seems to be an abstraction of a deeper anthropology of self-giftedness. The existential gift of self seems to be the raw reality that the virtue of humility is all about. To be in the real world and navigate in it, it seems we will have to transcend the objectified idea of substance as thing-in-itself that is universally understood as the primary meaning of being.

[1] Blog below: July 10, 2010.

[2] R. Sokolowski “Introduction to Phenomenology,” Cambridge (2000) 97-104.

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