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The need for serious philosophical anthropology

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PHILOSOPHY BOWLING RESULTS

• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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John Paul II begins his truly brilliant work ‘The Theology of the Body’ with this assertion (paraphrased) – ‘Before we can possibly understand God we must understand man’.  This is not to say that all there is to say about God is what we can say about man, but it is to press the point that we are made in God’s image.

Novack makes a similar assertion in his new book ‘No One Sees God’.  

‘If you make mistakes about your own nature, you will make as many mistakes about God, and quite properly then reject what your inquiries put before you.  The God you will fantasize will appear to you not very great, a delusion or a snare from which others ought to be freed.  You will despise this God.’

I wholeheartedly agree that anthropology is central to inquiry about everything else, including God (I would also include ethics).  Before we argue about God, we should argue about man.  If you think we don’t know anything other than matter, then you will likely think that you are also only material.  If you don’t think the life of a human person involves teleological striving, then you likely won’t imagine the possibility of discoverable meaning.  

This will sound like a strange thing to say, but sometimes I think we worry about God too much.  We would be better served to worry more about man.  I try to do this in my Intro class, it is essentially a class on human nature.  So, theists and atheists alike – do yourself a favor and take a break from ‘God-talk’ and talk about the human experience.  Read books that can facilitate this (Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos is highly recommended).  Think about language, meaning, relationships, love and sex.

Yes, sex.  Notice that the issue of sex here is central to questions about man, and so also for questions about God.  Hitchens argues that religion comes from a ‘dangerous sexual repression’.  If he thinks that human sexuality and its meaning is central to an adequate anthropology and an adequate theology, then he concurs with JPII.  The the central thesis of JPII’s ‘Theology of the Body’ is that man can only understand himself fully as gift, and that we image/iconize the Trinity most clearly in the loving and reciprocated gift of oneself in sexual intercourse!  (An argument, I might add, that does not sound sexually repressed!)

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