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why study philopsohy by dr

why study philopsohy by dr

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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Sep 11, 2009
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33The Newman GuideHere is one of the clearest criteria for choosingor judging a college: you can be almost certainthat any college that has dropped philosophyand theology from its core curriculum is notserious about a liberal arts education. And in
my experience I nd that this is true of many
of the colleges in America.This raises two questions: (1) What arephilosophy and theology, and why are theycrucial to a young person’s education today?(2) Aren’t they outdated, impractical, abstract,
irrelevant, elitist, superuous and even dan
-gerous to faith and sanity?
Some Definitions
“Philosophy” means “the love of wisdom.”Wisdom is the knowledge of ultimate causes,explanations and principles. It includesknowledge of values, not just facts. It givesyou a “big picture,” a “world-view” and a“life-view.” It explores such questions asthese: What is the essence of a human being?What is the meaning (value, goal, purpose)of human life? What is a good life? What isa good society? Are there higher laws thanman’s laws? Are we here by chance or design?Are we fated or free? How do we know whatis good or evil? How do we know anything?Is anything certain? Can reason prove (or dis-prove) the existence of God? Why do we suf-
fer? Why do we die? Is there life aer death?
Anyone who is simply not
inthese questions is less than fully human, lessthan fully reasonable. Reasonable persons,even if skeptical about the possibility of an-swering them, will not dismiss them as unan-swerable without looking (that is not reason but prejudice) but will examine the claimsof philosophers to have given reasonable an-
swers to these questions before seling into a
comfortable, fashionable skepticism.Theology comes in two forms, philo-sophical and religious. Philosophical theol-ogy (“natural theology”) is a subdivision ofphilosophy. It uses natural human reason toexplore the greatest of all questions, the ques-tions about God. Religious theology (or “re-vealed theology”) is a rational exploration ofthe meaning and consequences of faith in arevealed religion—in our case, the “depositof faith” or “Sacred Tradition” of the Catho-lic Church which comes from Christ and Hisapostles, and the scriptures they wrote.In most Catholic universities today, Sa-cred Tradition is no longer sacred. It is treatedas something to be “dissented” from (“diss”
is the rst part of “dissent”), as an enemy to
enlightenment, progress, maturity and lib-eration, or at least as an embarrassment to be“tweaked,” “nuanced” or “massaged” rather
than as a gi to be gratefully, faithfully and
lovingly explored.Most Catholic universities today havephilosophy departments that are excellentspiritually as well as academically, but havedeeply compromised theology departments.
Their eect on students is much more oen
to weaken their faith than to strengthen it,not only in controversial moral issues such asabortion, contraception, cloning, euthanasiaand sexual morality, but even in fundamen-tal doctrines such as Christ’s divinity andresurrection and the historical truth of the
Why Study Philosophy and Theology?
Dr. Peter Kree
Dr. Kree is a well-respected Catholic apologist and since 1965 has served as professor of philosophyat Boston College. He is the author of more than 50 books on philosophy, theology and apologetics.
Why Study Philosophy and Theology?34The Newman GuideGospels.We badly need good philosophy and the-ology. But why? To answer this question, lookat
they are taught. They are taught in
colleges and universities. So to nd the “why”of philosophy and theology, we must nd the
“why” of colleges and universities.
The Goal of Education
Considering the trillions of dollars spent onuniversities by parents, governments andfoundations, it is amazing that most of thepeople who go there (the students) and mostof the people who pay for them (the parentsand the govern-ment) never evenask, much lessanswer, this ques-tion: What is thepurpose of theuniversity? It is
the most inuen
-tial institution inWestern civiliza-tion, and mostof us don’t reallyknow exactly whywe entrust ourchildren to them.The commonest answer is probably totrain them for a career. A B.A. looks good onyour resume to prospective employers. Thatis not only a crass, materialistic answer, butalso an illogical one. Consider what it means.It means that the reason students shouldstudy in universities is so that they can get
high grade-point averages and thus get beer
 jobs when they graduate.
What does “beer jobs” mean? It meansrst of all, to most of them, beer-paying jobs.But why do they need beer paying jobs? For
the money, of course. Silly question. But whydo they need money? That is an even sillierquestion. Life has expenses.
life? Mostof them hope to marry and raise families, andit takes a lot of money to do that. Why does afamily need a lot of money? The two most ex-pensive things a family needs money for are ahouse and a college education for the kids.Ah, so a student should study to get highgrades to get an impressive resume to get a
good job, to nance his family when it sends
his kids to college to study, to get high grades,et cetera, et cetera.This is arguing in a circle. It is like a tigerpacing round and round his cage in a zoo. Is
there a beer answer? There is if you know
some philosophy. Lets look.Probably the most commonsensical and
inuential philos
-opher of all timewas Aristotle. Ar-istotle says thatthere are three“whys,” three pur-poses, ends or rea-sons for anyoneever to study andlearn anything,in school or outof it. Thus thereare three kinds of“sciences,” whichhe called “produc-tive,” “practical” and “theoretical.” (Aristotleused “science” in a much broader way thanwe do, meaning any ordered body of knowl-edge through causes and reasons.)The purpose of the “productive sciences”(which we today call technology) is to producethings, to make, improve or repair materialthings in the world, and thus to improve ourworld. Farming, surgery, shipbuilding, car-pentry, writing and tailoring were examplesin Aristotle’s era as well as ours, while oursalso includes many new ones like cybernet-ics, aviation and electrical engineering.The purpose of the “practical sciences”(which meant learning how to do or practice
What is the purpose of the
university? It is the most inuential
institution in Western civilization,and most of us don’t reallyknow exactly why we entrustour children to them.
Peter Kreeft35The Newman Guideanything, how to act) is to improve your own behavior in some area of your own life. Thetwo most important of these areas, Aristotlesaid, were ethics and politics. (Aristotle sawpolitics not as a pragmatic, bureaucratic busi-ness of running a state’s economy, but as so-cial ethics, the science of the good life for acommunity.) Other examples of “practical sci-ences” include economics, athletics, rhetoricand military science.The third kind of sciences is the “theoreti-cal” or “speculative” (contemplative), i.e., thosethat seek the truth for its own sake, that seek toknow just for the sake of knowing rather thanfor the sake of action or production (though,of course, theywill have impor-tant practical ap-plication). Thesesciences includetheology, phi-losophy, physics,astronomy, biol-ogy, psychologyand math.Theoreti-cal sciences aremore importantthan practicalsciences for thevery same rea-son practical sciences are more importantthan productive sciences: because their endand goal is more intimate to us. Productivesciences perfect some external thing in thematerial world that we use; practical sciencesperfect our own action, our own lives; andtheoretical sciences perfect our very selves,our souls, our minds. They make us biggerpersons.And that is the reason for going to col-
lege in the rst place: not to make money, orthings, or even to live beer, but to
to be more, to grow your mind as you growyour body.
The Big Picture
What we have been doing for the last severalparagraphs is philosophy. We need philoso-phy because we need to explore such reasons,reasons for studying, reasons for universities’existence, even (especially) reasons for yourown existence. For one of the primary ques-tions all great philosophers ask is: What is themeaning of life, the reason for being, the pointand purpose and end of human existence inthis world? If you don’t know that, you don’tknow anything because you don’t know thepoint of everything. If you don’t know that,you may get all A’sin all your subjects,
 but you unk Life.
The answer tothat question for anyintelligent, honestand serious Chris-tian, Jew or Muslimis God. Supremewisdom is aboutknowing God. Andphilosophy is thepursuit of wisdom.So philosophy is ul-timately the pursuitof God, using thetools of natural hu-man reason and theology by faith in super-natural divine revelation.The “wisdom” philosophy pursues is nota factual knowledge like physics or history; but a knowledge, and understanding, andappreciation, of values, of what ought to berather than merely what is. For instance, weneed to know whether career (work) or fam-ily is more important, because most of us willinvest enormous emotional and physical en-ergy in both, and they will always compete
and conict to some extent.
We want to know the meaning of fall-ing in love and romance and sex. What is its
We want to know the meaning offalling in love and romance and sex.What is its meaning, its purpose?For two generations now we have been asking every conceivablequestion... but not this one, not the
very rst and most basic one.

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