The gulf between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ and the Pope

Pope Benedict speaks truth to power and George Weigel describes why he thinks the Pope is one of the few adults in the discussion.

“Why don’t we get this today, the pope then asked? He might have said, rightly, that we don’t get this because Christophobia is a major defect of 21st-century European high culture — an irrational refusal to concede to Christianity any nurturing role in building a Europe of civility, tolerance, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Rather, Professor Ratzinger took a more academic tack and noted that the 21st-century West is still paralyzed by what we assume to be “the unbridgeable gulf . . . between ‘is’ and ‘ought’” as defined by Immanuel Kant and, above all, David Hume. This bifurcation leads to a thoroughly positivistic notion of reason and to a thoroughly positivistic notion of law: The only reason that counts is scientific reason, and the only law that matters is black-letter law. But this amounts to an enormous impoverishment of human understanding, and a very brittle, indeed dangerous, notion of law, Benedict suggested. Against this self-demeaning positivism, “the windows must be flung open again,” so that “reason . . . can rediscover its true greatness” and human beings can learn once again that “man is not self-creating freedom.” “

There is something different in the history of western culture, something that has generated a wealth and security never before seen in human history. A proper understanding of its sources is needed to continue the progress.

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