A Metaphysical Prophet by Patrick Henry Reardon

A Metaphysical Prophet

When the turmoil of this century’s final decade has at last been reduced to a memory, it is my personal hope that, of all the works published in these recent days, the most influential will prove to be Fides et Ratio, this year’s encyclical of Pope John Paul II, calling for a strenuous renewal of philosophy along the ancient lines bequeathed us by the philosophia perennis et universalis. Should that hope prove to be justified, let me further suggest, the intellectual life of our children will see a large improvement over the modern world’s morass of subjectivism, relativism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, skepticism, and (to use the Holy Father’s own expressions) “caprice,” “undifferentiated pluralism,” and “lack of confidence in truth,” even to the point that “everything is reduced to opinion” and “many people stumble through life to the very edge of the abyss without knowing where they are going.” Decrying our modern forfeiture of the traditional “core of philosophical insight” that should provide the foundation and structure for a stable social order, the pope ascribes our great loss largely to an excessive and unhealthy preoccupation with critical epistemology and reductionist linguistics in recent times.

Now it is singularly curious (and we hope will also be providential) that this caution and exhortation were solemnly expressed by so high and revered an authority during 1998, the jubilee anniversary of two other publications that had given voice to these identical concerns back in 1948. One of those works was Leisure: The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper, an eminent German Thomist. The other was Ideas Have Consequences, the first published book of Richard M. Weaver, then an almost unknown professor of undergraduate English at the University of Chicago. Both of these books this editor of Touchstone regards as absolutely de rigeur, essential reading—even rereading—for anyone anxious to preserve the life and health of the mind in these days of its terrible trial. (For quite different reasons, by the way, the same imperative seems pertinent also to yet another book that appeared in 1948, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain.)

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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