Top critical review
15 people found this helpful
on November 16, 2005
This is an interesting essay on the relationship between philosophy and theology. The essayist, Pope John Paul II, viewed each discipline as legitimate in its own sphere and as mutually reinforcing in combination. Philosophy, according to the Pope, lends conceptual precision to theology and enables theology to speak in a universal voice; theology, for its part, provides philosophy with a problem set and explains its ultimate meaning. Since truth is unitary and derived from God, philosophy and theology can never come into conflict.
This last statement will seem pretty outrageous to anyone acquainted with Western philosophy, especially as the field developed after 1600. It would be even tougher to reconcile Christian revelation with Buddhist philosophy, with its denial of unchanging essences. Perhaps it's telling that the Pope simply asserts (repeatedly) that faith and reason form a harmonious whole. Since he never tries to demonstrate the truth of this assertion (how could he?), his essay will seem unconvincing to anyone not already a committed Christian.
However, the Pope did offer many valuable observations on man's orientation towards truth, on the human need for metaphysics, and on the historical relationship between Catholic theology and philosophy. He also has some nice pointed remarks about fundamentalism and attempts to identify Christianity with particular cultures. As always, the Pope was more interesting than religious conservatives would like to admit.