January 01, 2010
Mary, Table of Intellectual Faith
Happy New Year everyone!
Fr. Araujo rightly observes the tension between the types of rationality that dominate contemporary legal reasoning and the types of reasoning that Catholics see as harmonious with faith. His question for us points deeper into the nature and structure of legal reasoning and the values that it advances.
John Paul II was particularly aware of the tensions between scientific rationality and the faithful Catholic life. In Fides et Ratio, he wrote that Mary, the Seat of Wisdom, is the “sure haven for all who devote their lives to the pursuit of wisdom.” (108) The encyclical interprets her “unqualified yes to Gabriel’s message as a leap of faith that made possible the salvation of all persons.” It is this parable of Mary that illustrates the proper relation of faith and reason that Catholic philosophers should seek to emulate. Just as she put aside her worldly concerns so that “the Word might take on flesh and become one of us,” so too should the faithful Catholic philosopher offer natural reason in the service of the divine. The encyclical notes that the “ancients” saw Mary as the “table of intellectual faith. In her they saw a suitable image of true philosophy and realized that they must be philosophizing with Mary.” Taken in this light, Catholic thought is engaged in the pursuit of true wisdom when it thinks like Mary thought.
Imagine the full human range of reason and emotion that Mary would have experienced. The feelings of joy, fear, confidence, self-doubt, pride, humility, triumph, wonder, awe, and mystery. What were Mary’s self-understandings? Surely, her heart and mind were united in her affirmation of her role in God’s plan. Mary knew what the modern world has only recently begun to re-discover, that rationality and affectivity are inseparable (see for example, Antonio Damasio’s Descartes' Error).
The reduction of the fullness of human reason to the dispassionate discursive rationality of scientific inquiry is particularly troublesome for lawyers. In her interesting book, The Language of Law School, the linguistic anthropologist, Elizabeth Mertz, suggests that legal education, particularly in the first year, promotes objective, dispassionate modes of legal analyses, which denude the student of moral intuitions and empathetic emotion. What’s more, this sort of disengagement from moral feeling may be necessary for the professional formation of the contemporary America lawyer. Nonetheless, when legal education and legal reasoning obscure the fullness of human wisdom in favor of instrumentalism, consumerism, and fanciful conceptions of autonomy, we should rightly be aghast, because as St. Augustine taught, the emotional detachment of the Stoic is fundamentally incompatible with a faithful Christian life.