Saturday, August 20, 2011

Two items (both subscriber-only) on philosophy and religion from recent issues of National Review.

Michael Knox Beran:
Peter Gay said of [philosopher Denis] Diderot that atheism “repelled him even though he accepted it as true,” while Catholicism “moved him even though he rejected it as false.” Writing to his mistress, Sophie Volland, Diderot “cursed the philosophy — his own — that reduced their love to a blind encounter of atoms. ‘I am furious at being entangled in a confounded philosophy which my mind cannot refrain from approving and my heart from denying.’”
Daniel J. Mahoney:
[Reinhold] Niebuhr argued with great conviction, and no little eloquence, that Christianity offered a more truthful or “empirical” account of the nature of man than the secular alternatives, ancient, modern, and contemporary. His apologia for Christianity had the added attraction of being rooted in reflection on human nature and thus not depending on revelation per se.

In Niebuhr’s view, Christianity put forward a compellingly paradoxical view of humankind as existing at the “juncture” of nature and spirit, “perilously caught,” in [John Patrick] Diggins’s paraphrase, “between its freedom and its finitude.” . . . Diggins pungently summarizes Niebuhr’s position: “The law of love is normative, but the fact of sin is universal.”