Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Oops! Newman Does It Again

Perusing this article at The Catholic Herald, two paragraphs caught my eye before the others, because Philosophy Professor Thomas Pink mentions Newman (Blessed John Henry Newman):

Christianity came to me, as it must to anyone, at a particular time and place. But that time and place, an English public school in the 1970s, seemed to present Christianity only to contain it there – as a form of mildly liberal Protestantism combined, in some mutual tension, with evangelical enthusiasm. The school religion was the Christianity of the post-Victorian Establishment modified, to a degree, by the cultural loosening of the 1960s.

It was in the library that I discovered John Henry Newman’s
Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, and through Newman the Church Fathers. The Fathers were a revelation to me. Most astonishing of all, they clearly believed in the Mass – in a Eucharistic sacrifice and a change of elements, a change that took elements at a specific time and place, and transformed them into Someone really present, but not as Someone contained by a particular place or time. This Christianity came from somewhere quite different from the England of my family and school. It came from the Palestine of antiquity through Greece and Rome. And it was universal and not a religion subject to the authority of any state.

As I read him, Newman showed me that the contingency of history could unfold and reveal something eternal, not a mere object of memory, and not the property of a particular nation. My school religion was not really presenting me with this at all. The state and cultural establishment in which I had been brought up had tried to contain Christianity by seeking to suppress this very universality, and in particular – and most significantly it seemed to me – by denying the transcendent in the Eucharist.

As Newman said, "The Fathers made me Catholic" and through Newman, they had the same influence on Thomas Pink!

According to King's College London, Thomas Pink:

read history and philosophy at Cambridge, where he also received his PhD. After working for four years in London and New York for a City merchant bank, he returned to philosophy in 1990 as a Research Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. He then lectured at Sheffield University prior to moving to King's in 1996.

Among his publications is the volume on Free Will for OUP's Very Short Introduction series:

Every day we seem to make and act upon all kinds of choices: some trivial, others so consequential that they change the course of one's life, or even the course of history. But are these choices really free, or are we compelled to act the way we do by factors beyond our control? Is the feeling that we could have made different decisions just an illusion? And if our choices are not free, is it legitimate to hold people morally responsible for their actions?

Thomas Pink looks at the fundamental philosophical question of free will, critically examining the claim: If our actions are causally determined by events beyond our control, that means that we can never act freely, and so can never be held responsible for our actions.

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