Thursday, August 15, 2013

Science, Truth, & Morality

Just as Einstein noted that a physicist must not restrict himself solely to physics but must also be a philosopher so that he can "make clear in his own mind just how far the concepts which he uses are justified, and are necessities," Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2009 encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate ("Charity in Truth"), relates the importance of combating a segmentation of knowledge to that of economic prosperity (my emphasis and [comments]):
30. In this context, the theme of integral human development takes on an even broader range of meanings: the correlation between its multiple elements requires a commitment to foster the interaction of the different levels of human knowledge in order to promote the authentic development of peoples. Often it is thought that development, or the socio-economic measures that go with it, merely require to be implemented through joint action. This joint action, however, needs to be given direction, because “all social action involves a doctrine”. In view of the complexity of the issues, it is obvious that the various disciplines have to work together through an orderly interdisciplinary exchange. Charity does not exclude knowledge, but rather requires, promotes, and animates it from within. Knowledge is never purely the work of the intellect. It can certainly be reduced to calculation and experiment, but if it aspires to be wisdom capable of directing man in the light of his first beginnings and his final ends, it must be “seasoned” with the “salt” of charity. Deeds without knowledge are blind, and knowledge without love is sterile. [Summa Theologiæ, Iª q. 12 a. 13 ad 3: "[Faith is] a kind of knowledge, inasmuch as the intellect is determined by faith to some knowable object." Cf. this.] Indeed, “the individual who is animated by true charity labours skilfully to discover the causes of misery, to find the means to combat it, to overcome it resolutely”. Faced with the phenomena that lie before us, charity in truth requires first of all that we know and understand, acknowledging and respecting the specific competence of every level of knowledge. Charity is not an added extra, like an appendix to work already concluded in each of the various disciplines: it engages them in dialogue from the very beginning. The demands of love do not contradict those of reason. Human knowledge is insufficient and the conclusions of science cannot indicate by themselves the path towards integral human development. There is always a need to push further ahead [This is what Einstein means, too, by saying: "At a time like the present, when experience forces us to seek a newer and more solid foundation..."]: this is what is required by charity in truth. Going beyond, however, never means prescinding from the conclusions of reason, nor contradicting its results. Intelligence and love are not in separate compartments: love is rich in intelligence and intelligence is full of love.
31. This means that moral evaluation and scientific research must go hand in hand [Morality involves determining what the greatest good is in a given situation. It involves much more than resolving never to kill anybody, to "be nice," etc. It guides even questions in science such as "How should I approach this problem?", "What methodology should I use?", "Where is it taking me?", "It is worth it?", etc.; consequently, morality is vitally important for those who seek truth (cf. Veritatis Splendor).], and that charity must animate them in a harmonious interdisciplinary whole, marked by unity and distinction. The Church's social doctrine, which has “an important interdisciplinary dimension”, can exercise, in this perspective, a function of extraordinary effectiveness. It allows faith, theology, metaphysics and science to come together in a collaborative effort in the service of humanity. It is here above all that the Church's social doctrine displays its dimension of wisdom. Paul VI had seen clearly that among the causes of underdevelopment there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis, for which “a clear vision of all economic, social, cultural and spiritual aspects” is required. The excessive segmentation of knowledge [Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical LetterFides et Ratio (14 September 1998), 85: AAS 91 (1999), 72-73.], the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences [Cf. ibid., 83: loc. cit., 70-71.], the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions. The “broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application” [Benedict XVI, Address at the University of Regensburg, 12 September 2006.] is indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems.
An excellent book that tackles this problem is The Way toward Wisdom (vide this excerpt and this article) by Benedict Ashley, O.P., a proponent of River Forest Thomism.

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