Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Week in Review: Links and Logic

Apart from classes, this week featured two events of note.

On Wednesday we had a special Mass of the Holy Spirit for the opening of the school year. There’s a tradition to celebrate yearly Masses invoking the blessing of the Spirit for certain professions, from beginning-of-the-year Masses for schools, to “Red Masses” for lawyers and judges, to “Blue Masses” for police and firefighters. We converted one of the classroom areas into a chapel by bringing in the altar and ambo from our too-small-for-this-event chapel, and had about 50-60 people overall attend (not bad, given that the total student population is about 110). Beautiful music was provided by a schola of the Dominican student brothers. (“Schola” is short for “schola cantorum,” or “school of songs,” a traditional name for a church choir.) The Mass was celebrated by the school’s president, Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP, and the homily was given by the Rev. Br. Dominic David Maichrowicz, OP. You can find a video of his homily here; it’s worth a view.

(Side note: the title “Rev. Br.” is short for “Reverend Brother.” Br. Dominic David is a deacon. The normal form of address for a deacon is “Rev. Mr.,” but since he’s a Dominican brother, he’s styled “Rev. Br.” Once he’s a priest, it’ll simply be “Rev.” I’m considering doing a post on deacons, since a lot of people don’t seem to know much about them. Any interest, dear readers?)

I volunteered beforehand to lector for the first reading. Might as well put some of those seminary skills to use when the opportunity arises.

On Saturday, I participated in a student retreat given at DSPT. It was titled, "Turning Study into Prayer: How can the intellectual life transform and augment our spiritual life?" and was led by Fr. John Marie Bingham, OP. Only about 10 of us attended, but the small numbers simply aided in giving the event an intimate atmosphere. Fr. John Marie gave two presentations from which I derived several good points:

--always keep in mind, “How can what I’m learning bring me closer to God?”

--Knowledge is a good thing in itself, but, since bonum diffusivum est se (“the good spreads itself”), even better than us having knowledge is us sharing that knowledge with others; so always keep an eye toward sharing that knowledge, and in such a way that people without Ph.D.s can understand it. (Readers of this blog know that is one of my objectives in life, and a main reason that I keep this blog.)

--By our knowledge of things, we participate in them in some way. So, when we learn about God by studying theology and philosophy, in some way we come to participate in God. Study is a foretaste of heaven. (…which is easy to remember during a retreat, and hard to remember when you’ve got three papers due and are a month behind in your reading, but still good to keep in mind.)

The retreat also featured adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daytime prayer and recitation of the rosary, and was capped off by the celebration of Mass. A good day of rest and relaxation, and a good way to get into the proper mindset as the school year begins.

Later that evening my roommate and I caught most of the ND/Michigan State and USC/Stanford games at the apartment of his old roommate and the old roommate’s girlfriend. (I hesitate to use names, because previous experience has shown me that some people don’t like their names popping up in random people’s blog posts, and I would find it too odd of a question to ask them, “Hey, mind if I mention this in my blog?”) If they happen to run across this, please know I enjoyed your hospitality and good company. Oh, and as to the results of the two games mentioned above, I respond with the following: BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Bring it, Denard Robinson! We’ve finally got a front seven that will contain you! And for once, the Stanford game might be tougher than the USC game. We’ll see.

Interesting things we talked about in each class this week:

--History of Ancient Philosophy: The ancient Greek philosopher Anaximenes proposed that everything that exists is actually made of air, but that the air takes different forms depending on how condensed it is. This may sound silly, but…

--Philosophy of Nature: …think of the claim of modern physics that matter is simply a condensed form of energy. Perhaps Anaximenes was on to something. And he didn’t even have a Large Hadron Collider at his disposal.

--Introduction to the New Testament: There’s a prominent theme in Scripture that portrays salvation as a re-creation of the world. Consider: in the account of creation in Genesis chapter 1, the waters are separated from each other--the ancients thought there was water above the sky as well as on the earth, and for them water often represented chaos and destruction; when God saves Israel from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 14), He does so by separating the waters of the Red Sea; and in Mark 4, Luke 8, and Matthew 8, Jesus calms the sea during a storm, showing that he has power over the waters. Neat, huh?

--Aristotelian Logic: Did you know that “is” does not always mean the same thing? If you think about it, you know it, but Aristotle separated out five different kinds of “is,” or five predicables. The genus tells us what group out of a larger set of groups that differ in type a thing belongs to, e.g. Man is an animal--apes and elk and elephants are also animals, but they aren’t men. The species tells us what group a thing belongs to, so that all of things in a species differ only in number, not in kind, e.g. Paul is a man, and Nick is a man, and David is a man. A specific difference tells us what sets a thing apart from other things, e.g. Man is rational—no other thing has that quality; it’s what sets man apart from everything else. A property tells us a characteristic that belongs to that thing due to its specific difference, so that only that thing has that characteristic, e.g. Man is able to make jokes (because he is rational). An accident is a characteristic that a thing can have that can be had by other things, i.e. Man is hairy, but so are apes and elk and elephants (a little bit, anyway). It can get a little confusing to apply these, because some of these are used in biology, but they don’t mean quite the same thing as they do in logic. Logic is about relations, how one thing relates to another, not as much about the things themselves. If I haven’t scared you off now, we’ll get into this more another time.

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