The end of weak thought?

Recently, several people have noted the similarities between the message of Chief Rabbi Sacks and Pope Benedict, both offering a critique of materialism and the lack of truth in modern life.

In the 50’s-70’s, people looked for meaning, in the 80’s until today people looked for a moral order – either conservative or progressive- but without a sense of universal truth.  Is there a return to reason in religion? Are we entering a new era of truth?

Cardinal Odilo Pedro Scherer, archbishop of São Paulo in Brazil, suggested that the great contrast between Ratzinger and Benedict has nothing to do with politics, but with his legacy and impact. Ironically, Scherer suggested, this consummate theologian may well make his most important contributions as pope not in theology, but rather in philosophy and even cultural criticism.

Surveying Benedict’s efforts so far, Scherer identified three key themes: the relationship between faith and reason; natural law; and the centrality of the human person. All three, Scherer said, offer a challenge to what Italians call the pensiero debole, or “weak thought,” of the modern world, meaning a lack of confidence in the ability of the human mind to ever find objective truth.

“This may seem a little out of place, because logically you’d expect a pope to talk about the importance of faith,” Scherer said. “That obviously is also important to Benedict XVI. Yet from the beginning, the pope also has been calling attention to human reason, the human capacity to reach the truth.”

In that sense, Scherer suggested, the real surprise of the papacy so far is that Ratzinger the theologian has emerged as Benedict the philosopher.


3 responses to “The end of weak thought?

  1. It’s possible that both Ratzinger & Sacks are playing public roles.

    They are the “religious leaders” who the chatting class can point to as someone who claims to have religious truths.

    Not that the average follower or Church goer ascribes to these truths. But they play a role in the public square.

    But in certain ways this is not what they want to be. They want people to adopt an actual truth.

  2. Perhaps a historic truce has been brokered between the philosophers and the theologians, given that the enemies they share are much more pernicious than any proposition they will inevitably disagree on. As a corollary, there is a Habermasian quality to this: the Pope realizes that the normative underpinnings of any propositions are at serious risk from the erosion of a reasonable sphere of dialog. It may be more important to defend the conditions of possibility of dialog than to actually say any statement.

  3. Upon thinking over this matter, there is an elefant in the room of this, largely European, discussion, Islam and the rise of Islam in Europe in recent decades.

    Some have claimed that the relativism of European secular and religious thought cannot compete with the certainty of the Imams.

    By having the Head of the Catholic Church and the Head of the Jews strongly come out in favor of objective truth, they may be used as a counterweight to the Muslim minority.

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