Jesus Meets Aristotle

Welcome To A Series of Sessions On Philosophy and Catholicism!

Dear St. Thomas Parishioners,

 It is indeed hard to believe, but for the last 4 years we have been meeting with such a nice group of you during our Jesus meets Aristotle Philosophy Dinners. It has been such a delight and a great challenge for me personally to share and discuss with you something as close to my heart as philosophical discourse.  Therefore, I would like to invite you again to our Philosophy Pasta Dinner on March 1, at 6:30 PM (lecture and discussion will start at 7PM), in our Toomey Room. This time I would love to present and discuss with you one of the most appreciated branches of philosophical distinctions, that is, an EPISTEMOLOGY. In addition to some classic texts from Greece, through medieval St. Thomas and the classical and modern period in epistemology, I would like to share with you the most current developments in the world of science, more specifically in the words of theoretical physics (maybe we could decipher what a LHC – Large Hardon Collider – does and why it is so important to follow what it does?) and the fields of neuroscience (with Sir John Eccles and his famous In the Understanding of the Brain and also Mind and Brain). I hope you will be able to find time to join us and be part of the discussion on how much we need a healthy balance between the scientific world and the yearning of the human spirit.     Fr. Mirek

Please call the office to reserve your seat by February 27th so that we know how many we will be serving.  There is no charge for this dinner but your free will donation is always appreciated.








An Introduction To Philosophy:

Have you ever wondered while gazing upon a starry sky:

 - Is anybody out there?

 - Am I alone here?

 - What is my destination and purpose in life?

 - How do I know what I know?

If you have, on very basic level you have become a philosopher. My own journey with philosophy began over 20 years ago, and every day, with every question asked, with every book read and problem solved I cannot get enough of it. The fascination that comes from the simple idea that I can think, and such process, will continue as long as I live. This forces me each morning to not only be very thankful and appreciative of such a gift, but makes me so eager to share it with others. General questions and ideas give field to more specific aspects of our knowledge and its unfolding in matters of our mind and brain dualism, Macro and Micro Cosmos with M – Theories and possibilities of organic life being discovered on surrounding planets in neighboring Galaxies is only a fraction of what human mind is capable to comprehend and process through a critical thinking. In addition to scientific fields of knowledge, philosophical anthropology and even ethology fuels numerous philosophical conclusions that need to be categorized and systematized and possibilities and endless. Such attitude in my own world of exploration and meditation I will call philosophy.

“ Philosophy is sometimes dismissed as a wholly “ head in the clouds” discipline with no relevance to everyday life. The truth is that philosophy can be, and often is, very relevant indeed. Philosophical questions include some of the most exciting, puzzling and important questions ever asked. They can challenge our most fundamental beliefs (…). “ ( Law, Stephen; Philosophy, p. 14).

Philosophy, strictly speaking is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word "philosophy" comes from the Ancient Greek φιλο σοφία (philo sophia), which literally means "love of wisdom".

According to Karl Jaspers ( 1883 – 1969 ) during the period from 800 to 200 BC, similar revolutionary thinking appeared in Persia, India, China and the Occident ( The West ). The period is referred to as the Axis or Axial Age and Jaspers, in his Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte (The Origin and Goal of History), identified a number of key Axial Age thinkers as having had a profound influence on future philosophies and religions, and identified characteristics common to each area from which those thinkers emerged. The word axial in the phrase Axial Age means pivotal. Jaspers saw in these developments in religion and philosophy a striking parallel without any obvious direct transmission of ideas from one region to the other, having found no recorded proof of any extensive intercommunication between Ancient Greece, the Middle East, India, and China. Jaspers held up this age as unique, and one to which the rest of the history of human thought might be compared. He described the Axial Age as "an interregnum between two ages of great empire, a pause for liberty, a deep breath bringing the most lucid consciousness". (Jaspers, 1953, p. 51 quoted in Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of our Religious Traditions p. 367 ). In other words, German Philosopher describes a particular phenomenon that took place and grow roots in VI century B.C., when people slowly begun a transformation from various Theogonies and Mythologies toward more precise and critical thinking, that in time would be called Philosophy, and continues to this day in many forms and schools of thought.

Western philosophy has a long history, conventionally divided into four large eras - the Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Contemporary. The Ancient era runs through the fall of Rome and includes the Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. The Medieval period runs until roughly the late 15th century and the Renaissance. The "Modern" is a word with more varied use, which includes everything from Post-Medieval through the specific period up to the 20th century. Contemporary philosophy encompasses the philosophical developments of the 20th century up to the present day.

Western Philosophy is generally said to begin in the Greek cities of western Asia Minor (Ionia) with Thales of Miletus, who was active around 585 B.C. and left us the opaque dictum, "all is water." His most noted students were Anaximenes of Miletus ("all is air") and Anaximander (all is apeiron).

Other thinkers and schools appeared throughout Greece over the next few centuries but the key figure in transforming Greek philosophy into a unified and continuous project - the one still being pursued today - is Socrates, who studied under several Sophists. It is said that following a visit to the Oracle of Delphi he spent much of his life questioning anyone in Athens who would engage him, in order to disprove the oracular prophecy that there would be no man wiser than Socrates. Through these live dialogues, he examined common but critical concepts that lacked clear or concrete definitions, such as beauty and truth, and the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice. Socrates' awareness of his own ignorance allowed him to discover his errors as well as the errors of those who claimed knowledge based upon falsifiable or unclear precepts and beliefs. He wrote nothing, but inspired many disciples, including many sons of prominent Athenian citizens (including Plato), which led to his trial and execution in 399 B.C. on the charge that his philosophy and sophistry were undermining the youth, piety, and moral fiber of the city. He was offered a chance to flee from his fate but chose to remain in Athens, abide by his principles, and drink the poison hemlock.

Socrates' most important student was Plato, who founded the Academy of Athens and wrote a number of dialogues, which applied the Socratic method of inquiry to examine philosophical problems. Some central ideas of Plato's dialogues are the Theory of Forms, i.e., that the mind is imbued with an innate capacity to understand and contemplate concepts from a higher order preeminent world, concepts more real, permanent, and universal than or representative of the things of this world, which are only changing and temporal; the idea of the immortal soul being superior to the body; the idea of evil as simple ignorance of truth; that true knowledge leads to true virtue; that art is subordinate to moral purpose; and that the society of the city-state should be governed by a merit class of propertyless philosopher kings, with no permanent wives or paternity rights over their children, and be protected by an athletically gifted, honorable, duty bound military class. In the later dialogues Socrates figures less prominently, but Plato had previously woven his own thoughts into some of Socrates' words. Interestingly, in his most famous work, The Republic, Plato critiques democracy, condemns tyranny, and proposes a three tiered merit based structure of society, with workers, guardians and philosophers, in an equal relationship, where no innocents would ever be put to death again, citing the philosophers' relentless love of truth and knowledge of the forms or ideals, concern for general welfare and lack of propertied interest as causes for their being suited to govern.

Plato's most outstanding student was Aristotle, perhaps the first truly systematic philosopher. His theory of HYLOMORPHISM conceives substance as a compound of matter and form. The word "hylomorphism" is a Greek term made up of words ὑλη hyle, "wood, matter" and μορφή, morphē, "form." Aristotle, whose name means the best purpose more than 2300 years after his death, remains one of the most influential people who ever lived. He contributed to almost every field of human knowledge then in existence, and he was the founder of many new fields.


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Hope to see many of you there!