Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Pinterest Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr Connect on YouTube

Pulling up Roots from Reality – A Review of a Cogent Analysis of the Post-Cartesian West

May 2, 2016
René Descartes

René Descartes

Over the years I have attempted to trace the philosophical disaster of our modern world. Certainly the fundamental roots can be traced back to the breakdown of the medieval synthesis, the rise of nominalism, and the doubts of Descartes. These introduced a disconnect from reality. Descartes introduced a radical doubt in anything seen or experienced, and this disconnects us from reality. If we pull up roots from reality and the revelation of creation, we live increasingly within our mind and out of touch with reality.

Welcome to the modern, post-Cartesian age, a strange landscape in which reality and stubborn facts aren’t considered too important. (N.B. To me, it is a strange paradox of modern times that we idolize the physical sciences; I have written more on that topic here: On the Cartesian Anxiety of our Times.)

Two of the most extreme examples of the disconnect from reality in our times are the celebration of homosexual activity and so-called transgenderism. If a “cultural Neanderthal” like me suggests that the design of the body speaks against homosexual acts by a simple consideration that the biology of sexuality is violated, I am greeted with responses ranging from blank stares to indignation (“What does the body have to do with it? It’s what I think and feel that matters!”) And thus the disconnect from reality and the retreat into the mind and psyche is complete.

How did we get here?

A few years ago, we priests of the Archdiocese of Washington attended our annual professional day. In reviewing my notes from that conference, I was once again inspired and instructed by the teaching of Msgr. Brian Bransfield, who was then the Associate General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He presented a brief, cogent description of the stages of our collective journey out of reality and into the self-defined world of personal opinion and the mind. It was really an aside within a much longer talk, but I am always appreciative of those who can see and describe the stages of our current malaise.

Allow me to quote from Msgr. Bransfield and then supply some commentary of my own. Please direct any criticism at me, not him, since I am merely excerpting from a larger talk (and context is important).

Here is the excerpt I’d like to discuss:

We can trace the fragmentation of the last four hundred years in steps:

  1. To establish clear certainty in his search for knowledge, Descartes set up a dualism between the material and spiritual.
  2. And in the dualism [he] introduced a separation in which he set man’s internal mind in opposition to external reality.
  3. [Next, he] … elevated the mind (the thinking subject) and reduced the external, objective world of concrete reality.
  4. Man’s understanding of himself and the world has been in a downward spiral ever since. Only the mind and what the mind says is reality, is real.
  5. [And] thus there is … a collapse between the mind and reality. And in the collapse, reality loses.
  6. [And so] reality becomes a mere label (nominalism). The child in the womb is not called a child; it is labeled something else. A refugee seeking asylum is not called a person, but is labeled undocumented.
  7. [So] the mind now “creates” rather than conforms to reality.
  8. Relativism is born; the thinking subject is … autonomous. Notice that word: “autonomous.”
  9. And [thus] the ultimate absurdity is enthroned: nihilism, nothing—not as a privation but as a positive reality. There is nothing, no relation between reality (be it the child in the womb, the prisoner on death row, or the immigrant on the border) and our conscience. There is no communion between reality and the mind.

Let’s look at each point in detail. Msgr. Bransfield’s description is in bold, black italics while my meager commentary is in plain red text.

We can trace the fragmentation of the last four hundred years in steps:

Notice the use of the word fragmentation. If we live in our heads rather than in reality, then there is very little to unite us with one another. If what I think constitutes my reality, and if the same is true for you, then we are fragmented rather than united because there is nothing outside ourselves to unite us. Each of us is living in his own little world, not in a shared experience called reality.

  1. To establish clear certainty in his search for knowledge, Descartes set up a dualism between the material and spiritual.

This began the disconnect between the actual world and what we think. Descartes entertained or struggled with radical doubt; he could not be sure that there was really anything “out there,” that is, outside his own mind. The only thing he knew for sure was that he existed, because he was a thinking agent. (This was the source of the memorable “Cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am)). That is all that was certain for Descartes; everything else might have been a dream or deception.

Thus the wall of separation between the thinking mind and reality was introduced.

By the way, radical doubt, though an intriguing theory and one we have all wrestled with a bit, is wholly useless at the end of the day. One cannot possibly live by it. Such folks sit on chairs that may or may not be there and avoid walking into walls that may or may not be there. But of course they are there. The doubters ignore the overwhelming evidence of reality in theory, but must navigate it in actuality. Their theory of radical doubt is useless and they violate it at every moment.

But useless though it is, the theory has proven quite intoxicating to the decaying West, which loves its dualisms and prefers conflict to synthesis.

  1. And in the dualism [he] introduced a separation in which he set man’s internal mind in opposition to external reality

And thus begins the retreat out of reality and into our minds. We start to live up in our heads and think something is so just because we think it to be so.

  1. [Next, he] … elevated the mind (the thinking subject) and reduced the external, objective world of concrete reality.

What we think becomes more important that what actually is. Thought, opinion, and feeling trump reality. Many people today do not even sense the need to check what they think against the facts. They don’t believe it’s necessary because thinking it makes it so.

Today we often hear phrases such as “That may true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Or (more humorously) “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up!” And thus what we think trumps reality. We actually start to believe that statements like “Truth is relative” are real arguments (they are not). It’s really just lazy “living up in our head” and a stubborn refusal to engage reality.

  1. Man’s understanding of himself and the world have been in a downward spiral ever since. Only the mind and what the mind says is reality, is real.

This partly explains the shredding of tradition and the iconoclastic tendencies of the modern age. Who cares what the ancients said or thought? If you and I (who are contemporaries) can’t even agree on what is real, and if all that matters is what I think, then why should what I care what you think, let alone what someone who lived centuries ago thought? If we all just live up in our heads rather than in reality, then what do I have in common with you let alone with The Founding Fathers, St. Thomas, or Jesus for that matter. All that matters is what I think; everything else goes in the shredder.

  1. [And] thus there is … a collapse between the mind and reality. And in the collapse, reality loses.  Exactly!
  1. [And so] reality becomes a mere label (nominalism). The child in the womb is not called a child; it is labeled something else. A refugee seeking asylum is not called a person, but is labeled undocumented.

And thus the modern battle over terminology: pro-abortion or pro-choice, baby or fetus, fornication or cohabitation, homosexual or gay, redefining marriage or marriage freedom, refugee or “undocumented” (or even worse, “illegal alien”).

So much hinges on terminology, semantics, euphemisms, and redefinition; thought overrules reality. If we can influence thought, then reality doesn’t matter. Never mind that a baby has been dismembered alive, this is all about “choice” and “reproductive freedom.” And “sodomy” is such an unpleasant reality; let’s just call it “gay love.” And men can call themselves women and we are supposed to say, “Isn’t that nice.”

It’s as if we suppose that our terminology and thoughts can somehow change reality. They cannot. But in this post-Cartesian fog we’re in, that is exactly what we suppose. Away with reality; all that matters is what I think!

  1. [So] the mind now “creates” rather than conforms to reality.

 Yes, or so we think.

  1. Relativism is born; the thinking subject is … autonomous. Notice that word: “autonomous.”

And here is where things begin to get scary. Reality is what I say it is. No one gets to tell me what to do or what to think; I should answer to no one.

As Pope Benedict warned, while this attitude marches under the banners of tolerance and freedom, the ultimate result is tyranny.

This is because if you and I cannot agree on something outside ourselves to which each of us is bound (e.g., reality) and to which we must answer, then we cannot appeal to that. Instead we must resort to the use of power to enact our view. Raw power—be it political, economic, or merely the power of popular opinion—is now used to impose agendas. Appeals to reason, common sense, justice, religious values, and even to constitutional parameters are becoming increasingly difficult.

In the video below, Fr. Robert Barron laments that we can’t even have a decent argument anymore since we seem to agree on so little; we just end up talking past one another. The final result is the use of raw power. Reality is what I think; I am autonomous. If you don’t agree with me, at first I will first ignore you. If that doesn’t work, I will work to marginalize you, to eliminate your influence. And if necessary, I will destroy you.

Welcome to the dark side of the Cartesian divide. 

  1. [And thus] the ultimate absurdity is enthroned: nihilism, nothing—not as a privation but as a positive reality. There is nothing, no relation between reality (be it the child in the womb, the prisoner on death row, or the immigrant on the border) and our conscience. There is no communion between reality and the mind.

Yes, today we witness the exaltation of nothing, the outright celebration that “nothing is true.” Indeed, we live in self-congratulatory times where many, if not most, applaud their nihilism as being “open-minded,” “tolerant,” “humanitarian,” and so forth.

But as Msgr. Bransfield points out, all this really does is to sever communion. There is nothing humanitarian about it because there is no real communion between human beings possible when I just live in my own head. Further, there is nothing to be tolerant of because there is nothing out there (outside what I think) to tolerate. And there is absolutely nothing open-minded in any of it, because it is the ultimate in close-mindedness to say, “Reality is what I think it is, and that settles it.” For the modern post-Cartesian, tolerance is “your right to agree with me.” Being open-minded means you agree with me. And humanitarianism is only what I say it is.

So here we are in a post-Cartesian malaise, with the vast majority of us living up inside our own heads. In this climate the Church must keep shouting reality.

It is dark now and it will likely get darker. But reality has a funny way of reasserting itself. Our little collective experiment in unreality will necessarily run its course. Let us pray that our reintroduction to reality will not be too harsh. But I am afraid that it will be.

https://youtu.be/CYJ9BOcOxy8

Filed in: Culture, philosophy

Comments (25)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. My book The Mystery of Reason (Leominster: Gracewing, 2000) deals with this topic of realism

  2. Deacon john says:

    Thanks Monsignor. I too heard Msgr. Brian Bransfield once and he is a great teacher. Thanks for sharing this with us, it will make for great homily material. This disconnect from reality is the fruit of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil where we decide for ourselves in our mind what is good and evil, the cure is to eat from the tree of life where Jesus opens our eyes to see and ears to hear. Didn’t he say they have eyes and do not see and ears and do not hear?

  3. edraCruz says:

    Imposition of dictatorship of relativism on people of faith, yes, that it is. The moderns now say there is no more absolutes, no more concrete standards, no more moral grounds, no more conscience and no more GOD. ‘I think therefore I am’ is therefore in itself a relative for one can now say ‘I think therefore I am not’ or even declare ‘I do not think therefore I am’ or the worst ‘I do not think therefore I am not’. That is why an actress boldly declared a baby in the womb is not a person and he is worthy to be aborted because he cannot even talk. Goodness gracious, so now a person who had a heart attack and now debilitated of speech impediment can now be declared not a person? May The ALMIGHTY GOD who formed this actress in her mother’s womb please come now and declare The Truth to her please. YHWH SHEKINAH. LORD of Love have mercy on us.

  4. Jesudason Thomas says:

    Descartes’ Cogito, ergo sum has been explained in all its stringence and practical implications. It is amazing to see, how a thought can lead us to erroneous conclusions.
    Thank you for the erudite and critical Analysis.
    Fr. Jesudason Thomas.

  5. Patsy Jo says:

    I am going to print this and read often. We are presented so many sides to issues in effort to confuse. Thank you for good directions daily. WHAT a blessing in this worldly world!

  6. Claire says:

    So well written, this is an excellent analysis on the subject of modern day’s illness. Thank you Monsignor Pope. God help us! Let us pray constantly and may we be true witnesses of Christ our Saviour.

  7. Richard Connell says:

    Descartes was a great mathematician and his philosophical musings were lame, but because he was a great mathematician he philosophical musings were treated as credible. We see the same thing today with Stephen Hawking.

  8. Miles V Schmidt says:

    Excellent analysis of the current culture. When I attended the University of Michigan in the late 1960’s, one could see the trend as liberals would always toot the phrase “Academic Freedom”. However, once you disagreed with the Left’s positions, they shouted you down or wouldn’t let you speak. No discourse, pure ideology! Unfortunately, it’s only gotten worse. Back then, traditional religious viewpoints still carried some weight. Today, we see how religious freedom is denied in refusing to bake a cake honoring gay “marriage”, traditional religious expression is ridiculed as coming from “dogmatic fundamentalists”, and references to God as creator of our universe as faulty because it does not square with materialistic determinism.

  9. Jeremy Cox says:

    Have you read “The Gods of the copybook headings” by Rudyard Kipling?

  10. Romulus says:

    Let me take you down
    Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
    Nothing is real
    And nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry Fields forever

    Living is easy with eyes closed
    Misunderstanding all you see
    It’s getting hard to be someone
    But it all works out
    It doesn’t matter much to me

    Let me take you down
    Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
    Nothing is real
    And nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry Fields forever

    No one I think is in my tree
    I mean it must be high or low
    That is you can’t, you know, tune in
    But it’s all right
    That is I think it’s not too bad

    Let me take you down
    Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
    Nothing is real
    And nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry Fields forever

    Always, no sometimes, think it’s me
    But you know I know when it’s a dream
    I think I know I mean a yes
    But it’s all wrong
    That is I think I disagree

    Let me take you down
    Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
    Nothing is real
    And nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry Fields forever
    Strawberry Fields forever
    Strawberry Fields forever

  11. Bee Bee says:

    Way back when I was was studying philosophy in college in the 1970’s, and the professors were gung-ho for nihilism and the idea that there was no reality except in our minds, I really thought they were a bunch of loons.

    I observed to one TA (teaching assistant) in one of the classes that in spite of all their claims, it sure was funny how they lived as if there was a reality outside of themselves. And I posed the question: Why oh why, if reality is only in your own mind, why would you choose this particular reality? Why, for instance, are you creating the reality of having to complete a Master in Philosophy program, along with classes, papers, tests and the possibility of failure? Why not just make yourself a full Doctor of Philosophy at Harvard or whatever the best school is, and pay yourself a million dollars a year, and create bestselling books that you never have to really write? There was no answer. Because they had none.

    Stub your toe in the dark on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and reality comes intruding in. Try denying your smarting toe in the reality “you are creating.” Absurd.

    Philosophy is supposed to be love of knowledge. But they seemed to love absurdity, and themselves, not knowledge or the truth.

  12. Dan says:

    “It is dark now and it will likely get darker.”

    Well, at least it wasn’t unanticipated, even a hundred years ago:

    “Come not to me, King Alfred, Save always for the ale:
    Why should my harmless hinds be slain
    Because the chiefs cry once again,
    As in all fights, that we shall gain,
    And in all fights we fail?

    “Your scalds still thunder and prophesy
    That crown that never comes;
    Friend, I will watch the certain things,
    Swine, and slow moons like silver rings,
    And the ripening of the plums.”

    And Alfred answered, drinking,
    And gravely, without blame,
    “Nor bear I boast of scald or king,
    The thing I bear is a lesser thing,
    But comes in a better name.

    “Out of the mouth of the Mother of God,
    More than the doors of doom,
    I call the muster of Wessex men
    From grassy hamlet or ditch or den,
    To break and be broken, God knows when,
    But I have seen for whom.

    “Out of the mouth of the Mother of God
    Like a little word come I;
    For I go gathering Christian men
    From sunken paving and ford and fen,
    To die in a battle, God knows when,
    By God, but I know why.

    “And this is the word of Mary,
    The word of the world’s desire
    ‘No more of comfort shall ye get,
    Save that the sky grows darker yet
    And the sea rises higher.'”

  13. yan says:

    I’ve studied philosophy for many years. One thing I’ve consistently felt is that Descartes always receives a bad rap from conservatives. I want to say 1st, Descartes would not have wanted his philosophical ideas to become the basis for a rebellion against God. So, we must understand that Descartes was not a destroyer and so we should be careful as Christians not to slander the man. 2nd, Descartes was really trying to solve genuine philosophical problems that medieval philosophy had not adequately solved.

    Conservatives, especially various kinds of neo-Thomists, have been trying for many scores of years to somehow revitalize the Aristotelian epistemology in an attempt to provide philosophical justification for a realist epistemology in order to defend Church teaching on the objective reality and truth of the existing world. In light of modern science, such efforts have simply not been persuasive. That is in spite of the fact that science operates on the implicit and naive belief that the sensory world actual exists and that our sensations actually tell us something true and real about the world. Science runs our world, and still we cannot provide a philosophy upon which science can ground its naive beliefs!

    This is a simple intellectual failure, not a conspiracy of atheists against religious people. It’s not as if philosophy had to take a particular course after Descartes. It went the way it did because that was simply the best we could do. Perhaps one day we will do better. On the other hand, perhaps it is just not possible to provide a self-consistent, completely rational and fool-proof justification for the belief that the world is real. If not, we should not despair of faith, which does not depend on the adequacy of any philosophy.

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      Over the years Yan I have found you to be argumentative in the sense that you take minor things and magnify them and then argue against your straw man. Well I am not your straw man and you are arguing against things that I did not say, and do not hold. For you to say that I “slander” Descartes slander itself. I speak to his influence not to the man. I indicate that he was struggling, not conspiring as you say. He was heir to the nominalist issues that preceded him. I think his solution was poor, but that does not make him a bad man and I do not say that. Again I, and it would seem Msgr. Bransfield, speak to his influence. I find you Liberal/conservative posturing not only irritating but inaccurate. I was not taught philosophy in college by anything even resembling a conservative. But they all spoke to the “Cartesian divide” in the sense that Descartes’ articulated a concern so deep that philosophy and the western world have never really been the same. There was a pivot that took place in Western thinking at that time and it has come to be called the Cartesian divide. This is an observation shared by most reasonable observers of history. It is that shift in thinking that Bransfield’s remarks are directed an my commentary.

      Your comment is similar to another comment that did not make it through moderation (due to the personal and angry tone and off subject remarks) by someone who “courageously” called himself “Anonymous Philosophy Professor”. At least your remarks were more carefully stated and not a rant. But that said, I cannot agree with your basic premises that I (or Bransfield) alleged atheist conspiracies or blame “liberals” or even blame Descartes the man. At the end I agree with your remark that the Cartesian divide is rooted in an intellectual failure. That is all.

      I remain astonished at how many people take things personally that are in no way meant that way. We have to recover and ability to discuss ideas, and not retreat to notions that assert personal attacks, or allege “camps” or see conspiracies. This post is a discussion of the Cartesian divide, its premises and what it has wrought. The “intellectual failure” has affected most western thought ever since. That’s bigger than the little camps you mention or merely modern distinctions like liberal/conservative etc. et al.

      • Anonymous Philosophy Professor says:

        I admit I was annoyed in my first reply and wrote in a sarcastic tone, but I don’t understand why you think my comments were “off subject”. I took issue with your central claim that Cartesian dualism is the source of the modern schizophrenia you diagnosed above and provide specific and substantive criticism of that claim. For example, I pointed out that Descartes’ radical doubt about the reliability of our senses existed long before Descartes in such authors as Pyrrho and Sextus Empiricus and was much more prominent before Descartes than after him. An additional example is that, to this day, there are no and have not been any philosophers who accept the kind of hyperbolic doubt that Descartes describes since Descartes wrote; on the other hand, this kind of doubt was very popular in antiquity and whole schools of followers were devoted to it. Furthermore, I pointed out that the position of the Catholic Church does not escape your criticism of Cartesian dualism because it accepts the very same dualism regarding the mind and the body because it can be found in all of the doctors of the church (e.g. Augustine and Aquinas). The church does, of course, reject radical doubt of the senses, but radical doubt need not be the only source of justification for dualism. There are others, some of which the Church has accepted. So, I’m sorry I don’t understand how my remarks were “off subject”. Please explain.

        I understand why you might think that my wishing to be anonymous is cowardly. The reason I wish to be anonymous is because I don’t like to use my authority as a teacher to impose my own point of view on my students. Perhaps it is cowardly of me, but please believe I do not wish to be anonymous so that I can sling insults.

        • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

          You had comments of dualism and the hylomorphic theory and were anxious to use those to point out some sort of inconsistency in my (of the Church’s) thinking I guess you here mistake or understood Bransfield’s mention of a dualism with Gnostic dualism. Further it was off topic since I do not accept that the hylomorphic theory or model assert the hylomorphic theory has any inconsistency regarding Gnostic dualism but in fact seeks to refute it. But that was not mentioned and I don’t want to discuss that. Further, I did not connect Descartes with Gnostic dualism. From a Catholic perspective Gnostic dualism is a much older problem and we have fought it really since the First Century when Greek thought was encountered. I interpret Bransfield’s use of “dualism” here adjectively rather than nominally. Hence he not referring to formal Dualism, but a dualism in the sense of false dichotomy. Remember he was not addressing philosophers and spoke less formally.

          Your comments here about Catholic tradition I think are misplaced, and again stray from the topic. Mysticism, to which I think you refer, and also the ineffability of God are not ment to sever the mind and God, but rather, to more deeply unite the person to God. St. Thomas’ axiom that God is known, “tamquam tantum ignotum” is in the same tradition which admits the limits of language and human knowledge but does not deny any knowledge. It is an answer to nominalism, not an affirmation of it. As always, Orthodoxy is about balance. Understanding the limits of language and thought is not a denial of their efficacy or necessity. Pondering the thinking subject and the object of thought is important. I think Descartes and the “post-cartesian West got it wrong by allowing the nominalist critique to go too far. Clearly it was in deepening stages, but I don’t think it is wrong to see two critical figures and moments in history as being the end of the 13th Century and and the rise of nominalism (William of Occam et al) and also the unsuccessful but influential struggle of Descartes some 200 years later. It is a common shorthand to speak of the post-Cartesian west. Admittedly it IS a shorthand.

          I indicated that Descartes struggled with the resulting atmosphere that nominalism set forth. I have written on this before on this blog. I use “struggle” in a sympathetic sense and do not blame descartes personally for the modern world.

          As for your “rant” please understand how problematic that is for a discussion, especially on the tone deaf internet. As I have said, I mean nothing personally and Descartes is mentioned by way of influence not by way of personal. Clearly this is a shorthand that annoys you. But then, having that concern about personal attack, why did you engage as such? Why attack me and “the Catholic Church” ?? Is it so unrealistic of me to expect a philosophy teacher to be able to address the issues raised rather than attack authors and institutions? Why not simply say things like:

          I think Descartes is misunderstood here, and here’s why….
          I think more is at play here than is stated in the article and here’s why….
          I think Descartes is treated unfairly by many in their simplification of his thought and here’s why…
          I agree with Descartes and here’s why….

          I also helps NOT to address me, but rather the issues, since this engages other readers and lets them in on the discussion. Toe to toe debates with me are not the point of the combox, the sharing of ideas is. I don’t usually have the time to engage in this anyway. I set the table with the issues and hope readers think and discuss.

  14. Tom says:

    I remember one of my kids raving about the Albert Finney-Ewan McGregor movie “Big Fish”, encouraging me to go see it. I did, and I remember being very put off by this oft-repeated line “Reality can be whatever you want it to be.” “No you can’t,” I said to myself “Reality is….reality!” I never got to the level of thinking about Cartesian duality: it just struck me as a gross violation of common sense. But this idea of reality is what is in my head seems to be running rampant today.

  15. Jim says:

    Didn’t Hans Christian Anderson settle this when he wrote “The Emperor’s New Clothes”?

  16. Dan says:

    Monsignor,

    Remember, Descartes was a contemporary of Galileo. For all of human history, reason told us that the sun, the planets and the stars revolved around the Earth. It was settled science. Suddenly, with Copernicus and Galileo, what seemed reasonable was no longer true. Rather than being responsible for the “separation between the thinking mind and reality”, I think Descartes was responding to the radical advancements in science and the very heated arguments over religion. Reasonable people, like Isaac Newton, where trying to convert lead into gold!

    Descartes was a faithful Catholic. He was certainly cognizant of Jesus’ command: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with the love of thy whole heart, and thy whole soul, and thy whole strength, and thy whole mind”. Suddenly, what does it mean to know something? If I can not rely on my reason anymore what can I rely on? Descartes required a starting block. And, for this, he came up with one of the most profound statements in history, “cogito ergo sum”. From there he laid down a foundation that enable him to love God with his whole heart, soul and mind. And, he shared this with the world and for this he is accused of single handedly (a slight exaggeration) undermining Western Civilization!

    Descartes, like Galileo, could easily have fled to protestant parts of Europe and become Protestants themselves. Descartes even died in Protestant Sweden. However, Jesus also said that either you are with Him or you are against Him. To this end, He left us a Church to ensure we knew what was required of us. However, it is not enough for us to simply follow the Church’s commandments, “Does he hold himself bound in gratitude to such a servant, for obeying his commands?” It requires effort to know God, all of us have struggled to know God and to understand through reason what our faith demands of us. St. John Paul II even wrote an encyclical on this subject in our lifetime.

    If there is one person who should bear responsibility for undermining Western Civilization it should be Martin Luther. Martin Luther, like Thomas Jefferson and countless others, decided that they did not like certain parts of the Bible and just cut those parts out. Through the last five centuries, this led many westerners to create God in their image rather than the other way around. Then, if God is just another creation, then He can be done away with like any other choice. This is what has led the West to reinvent everything: marriage, sexuality, liberty, etc. Protestantism led to subjectivity to atheism.

    And, being an American, I take particular exception to the adulation that Thomas Jefferson receives. St. Paul said, “Every soul must be submissive to its lawful superiors; authority comes from God only, and all authorities that hold sway are of his ordinance.” However, Thomas Jefferson, said, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Which is it? Power comes from God or from man?

    • Msgr. Charles Pope says:

      I don’t know if you have read other comments or not, but again, and for the record one more time, I do not mean anything personal about Descartes, I do not claim that any one man is responsible for the decline of Western culture, including Martin Luther. This is NOT personal. This is about the Cartesian divide and what IT wrought. I have written before on Nominalism and what it wrought, I have also written on Martin Luther. But movements, even those named after men, are bigger than any one man. Descartes was probably a decent guy. I think struggled with what nominalism wrought and got the answer wrong. I think his answer had impact and set forth a revolution that fairly or not is called the Cartesian divide.

      So, one last time for the record: I do not dislike Descartes. This is NOT personal, it is about issues, ideas and theories.

  17. John Michael says:

    Msgr. Charles Pope; Thank you for your thought stimulating article.

  18. Michael Boggs says:

    As the eminent polymath Dr. Hans Biebfeldt once observed: “Cogito ergo cogito me cogitare.”

  19. Take Action ~ This will be the true test in the event you actually
    want to succeed. If there is a plan that’s being
    placed in your head asking you to do simply WORK IT.
    You may lose your focus (as happened with Trump when things went south) or drive.

  20. As it ended up, these menial assignments didn’t last just couple of
    days except for greater than a year. Will the ACN and Donald Trump Association Help a New Rep Succeed.
    This is around deciding to participate in an MLM or Network Marketing business
    and earn another individual rich selling and promoting a few for him or her and never starting your individual venture and branding yourself
    and your own personal products.