- Series: A Sheed & Ward Classic
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Sheed & Ward (July 14, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0742549011
- ISBN-13: 978-0742549012
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,238 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (A Sheed & Ward Classic)
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About the Author
Father John Courtney Murray was one of America's foremost theologians. Born in New York City in 1904, he held degrees from Boston College, Woodstock College, and the Gregorian University in Rome, where he received his doctorate in theology. He was professor of theology at Woodstock College and editor of Theological Studies for over twenty-five years.
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Its timeliness is best shown in its chapters dealing with the relation of Church and State as addressed by the First Amendment which are applicable to present day events and its discussion of the Cold War particularly if one substitutes Islamic Extremists for the Soviet Union insofar as certain "pragmatists" did not take Soviet "dogma" seriously.
"Fr. Murray deals in his book with many questions, political and philosophical, ranging all over the lot, touching deeply on censorship, humanism, foreign policy, and other subjects. The first section, perhaps the most striking, is addressed to the recurring question: what does America stand for? WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS, he reminds an inattentive public who, alas, if they hold these truths, do not know they do. These truths, he says, are the patrimony of America. The Founders established a republic on the presumption of a natural law the rudiments of which are intelligible to all rational men (ut in pluribus), the refinements of which our Lords Spiritual (the learned and conscientious elite) must elaborate for us. Evil times have overtaken us. The natural law, which is indestructible, exists, but we do not acknowledge it, and hence fail to elaborate a public consensus based on it. The consensus is probably still there, in the interstices of our mind, and the natural law continues to govern our soundest instincts and emotions. But during the last century we got way behind, we were dazed by the shock troops of epistemological relativism and still are...We have failed to elaborate the consensus, admit its essential place in intelligible society, lavish upon it the kind of attention needed to rebuff the assault on the very idea of America. We are left with nothing substantive to believe in.
The consensus proper to American liberal society is purely procedural. It involves no agreement on the premises and purposes of political life and legal institutions; it is solely an agreement with regard to the method of making decisions and getting things done, whatever the things may be. The substance of American society is our "democratic institutions," conceived as purely formal categories. These institutions have no content; they are simply channels through which any kind of content may flow. In the end, the only life-or-death question for American society is that it should live or die under punctilious regard for correct democratic procedures.
That is not enough, obviously. And everyone appears to agree that is not enough, as witness the aching search for National Objectives."
The book is divided into three parts. Part One is titled "The American Proposition", and Buckley is spot on that the first portion is "perhaps the most striking." In this section Murray takes us through a brief, though very helpful and impressively done, sketch of the role of government as viewed by the ancient philosophers through the major movements leading up to the founding of America. I think any student of history (philosophical, cultural or American) will find this section particular engaging. These essays reflect, better than any other portion of the book, the great depth of Murray's thought. They are very rich and it is highly probably that a person would reap considerable fruit from revisiting them again and again.
In the second part of the book, "Four Unfinished Arguments", Murray deals with issues that anyone at all interested in modern American politics would find fascinating. Here he discusses issues facing education (especially Catholic education and its struggles with the state), censorship and the advantages/disadvantages to the American approach to law, Christianity and humanism, and what the future holds.
Part three is titled "The Uses of Doctrine." I found this portion of the book least engaging - not because of anything to do with Murray's writing or the ideas he offers, which are quite good - largely because it dealt with issues of foreign relations, the role of the military and the threats we face due to the increasingly grave threat of mass destruction that our technological advances has created (more specifically, rival powers having this potential and how to address the problem) which is something that, though I acknowledge is of grave importance, lies outside my scope of interest.
Overall, this is an excellent work and the book I've found most helpful in helping me engage the ideas of America's Founding Fathers through a Catholic lense.
The 1960 publication of We Hold These Truths marked a significant event in the history of modern American thought. Since that time, Sheed & Ward has kept the book in print and has published several studies of John Courtney Murray's life and work. We are proud to present a new edition of this classic text, which features a comprehensive introduction by Peter Lawler that places Murray in the context of Catholic and American history and thought while revealing his relevance today.
The product description above from Amazon's newer (and more pricey) release in paperback does a nice job of describing the product.
What is important about this work is it looks squarely at the question every Catholic must ask & answer: What do do with the Ameircan Proposition? It looks at mans relationships within the civil sphere, contrasting his frienships as a citizen of the City of Man (philia, and the mark of him who looks towards the City of God, caritas.