Episode 17: The Death of a Whisky Priest

In episode 17 of Sacred and Profane Love, I speak with Dr. Angela Knoble about Graham Greene’s masterpiece, The Power and the Glory.  Set in Mexico during a period of brutal religious persecution, Greene’s novel explores questions of what true power and glory consist in, and what sort of love and life can make one a witness to it.

I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Works under discussion in this episode:

Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory

Norman Sherry, The Life of Graham Greene

Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II  47 On Prudence

Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II 124 On Martyrdom

Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II 68 On the Gifts of the Spirit

Angela Knobel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Her main areas of research are Thomas Aquinas’s virtue theory, ethics, and bioethics. Her papers have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The ThomistAmerican Catholic Philosophical QuarterlyNova et VeteraInternational Philosophical Quarterly and The Journal of Moral Theology.
Jennifer A. Frey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology

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This podcast is a project of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and is made possible through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Content copyright the University of South Carolina and the University of Chicago.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

 

 

 

Episode 16: King Lear’s Vision

After a hiatus over the summer, I am back to recording and releasing new episodes of Sacred and Profane Love!  For all of the podcast’s fans, thank you so much for your patience and encouragement over the long summer. I am planning to release new episodes from now until late May, as many as I can manage in light of an insanely busy writing, teaching, and speaking schedule.  So, if you enjoy this humble podcast, be sure to subscribe and to share it with your friends.

In episode 16, “King Lear’s Vision,” I speak with Professor and poet Troy Jollimore about the connections between love and perception.  In his recent book, Love’s Vision, Jollimore, drawing on Plato and Iris Murdoch, argues that true love consists in grasping the objective value of the beloved rather than the projection of it.  This vision involves the bestowal of patient, loving, and imaginative attention on the objectively valuable qualities the beloved truly possesses. We explore this theme of love’s vision (or lack thereof) in Shakespeare’s darkest and wildest tragedy, King Lear.  Reading Lear, we conclude, can help to open our eyes to the fact that we need to get out of our own way—i.e., to put aside our deep insecurities and vices—in order to see and love people for who they really are.

Works referenced in this Episode:

  • Stanley Cavell, The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear.  In Must We Mean What We Say? Cambridge University Press, 1976
  • Troy Jollimore, Love’s Vision, Princeton University Press, 2011
  • Iris Murdoch, “Literature and Philosophy: A Conversation with Bryan Magee” and “Vision and Choice in Morality,” in Existentialists and Mystics, Penguin Books, 1992.
  • Plato, The Symposium, in Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper, Hackett Publishing, 1997.
  • William Shakespeare, King Lear, in The Arden Shakespeare, edited by R.A. Foakes, Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1997.
Troy Jollimore holds a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton and currently teaches at California State University, Chico. He is the author of three books of philosophy, including Love’s Vision and On Loyalty.  He is also the author of three collections of poetry: At Lake Scugog, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, and Syllabus of Errors.  He has received fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and the Guggenheim Foundation.
Jennifer A. Frey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action, ethics, and law, with a particular focus on the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition.  She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology

Episode 15 Sacred and Profane Love: Faustian Ambitions

In episode 15 of Sacred and Profane Love, titled, “Faustian Ambitions,” I speak with my colleague and neighbor, Professor Anne Pollok, about Johann  Wolfgang von Goethe’s famous tragedy, Faust.  For the purposes of our conversation, we use the Norton Critical Edition, translated by Walter Arndt and edited by Cyrus Hamlin, which is available here.  Goethe’s drama deals with the infinite striving that lies at the heart of the human condition, and how our quest for the transcendent can go terribly awry.

 

Anne Pollok is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina.  She did her Dr. Phil at the Martin Luther University in Halle-Wittenberg, and was a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Stanford University prior to her appointment at UofSC.  Her main areas of research are in early modern, aesthetics, and 20th century philosophy of culture.

 

Jennifer A. Frey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action, ethics, and law, with a particular focus on the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition.  She has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, Self-Transcendence and Virtue: Perspectives from Philosophy, Theology, and Psychology

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This podcast is generously supported by The Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

 

 

Episode 14: Walker Percy on Being Lost in the Cosmos

dystopia
In episode 14 of Sacred and Profane Love, “Walker Percy on Being Lost in the Cosmos,” I speak with associate professor of Literature, Jessica Hooten Wilson, about Walker Percy’s dystopian, science fiction novel, Love in the Ruins.  We discuss the darkly comic adventures of Dr. Tom More as he tries to figure out how to live and love in the ruins of a society that seems eerily familiar to our own.  We also discuss Percy’s satirical take on the self-help genre, Lost in the Cosmos.  So bring out the Early Times this weekend, settle down on the porch, and enjoy a conversation about one of our greatest Southern writers.

Jessica Hooten Wilson is associate professor of literature at John Brown University.  She is the author of three books: Giving the Devil his Due: Flannery O’Connor and the Brothers Karamazov, Walker Percy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the Search for Influence, and A Guide to Walker Percy’s Novels. Currently, she is preparing Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel,Why Do the Heathen Rage? for publication.

 

This podcast is generously supported by the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. 

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

Living the Truth

Last week I was honored to give two lectures on Anscombe at the University of Pennsylvania–one for the Collegium Institute, which is embedded below, and one for he philosophy department, which hosted its first Anscombe archive conference.  You can read about the Collegium here, and how they acquired Anscome’s archive here.  If you are in the Philadephia area, you should definitely make a point of attending some of their public events.

I spent about three hours in the Anscombe archive last Thursday.  For me, it was an incredible experience that I am still processing, not only because of how exciting some of the unpublished material is (an entire manuscript on truth!), but also because it was a unique window into Anscombe’s private life.  I read a long philosophical exchange (on postcards!) between Anscombe and Kenny as he was losing his faith and she was trying to bring him back.  I read a letter from Philippa Foot to Anscombe explaining why she was an atheist.  I read some of her “hate mail” after her opposition to Truman became international news (yes, it had some undeniable misogynist overtones). I read her marginalia on drafts of NNL papers (yes, it is funny and sometimes unkind).  Finally, I read a letter from a Japanese victim of US war crimes that brought me to tears (he was writing from his hospital bed, describing what happened to him and his loved ones).  As someone who has long admired Elizabeth Anscombe, sorting through all of this was an incredible experience, and I’m currently drafting a proposal to make several return trips.

 

For some thoughts about Anscombe’s relevance to all of us today, see the lecture below.

 

 

What is Paris without her Cathedral?

My reflections on the fire in Paris are now published in The Point Magazine.  You can read the full piece on their site.

Here are some excerpts:

“Stepping inside the Notre Dame is a bit like stepping outside of ordinary time and space. The immense verticality of the entire structure, illuminated from outside through light refracted in the colors of the stained glass, isn’t accidental in its immediate effects on our consciousness. We are meant to experience our own smallness relative to its vastness; we are meant to be drawn upwards towards the light pouring in from all sides, and to recognize it as symbolic of an external revelation that illuminates and transfigures our minds and hearts. Her rose windows are meant to be occasions to contemplate the mysteries of human life—birth, love, sex, death—and the nature of eternity. As we enter, we are meant to feel deep in our hearts a yearning for that which is greater than ourselves; if we do not experience this awe and wonder, or stop to contemplate the depths of these mysteries, we have missed something of the structure’s essential intent.

In noting its essential meaning, I certainly do not wish to deny that one can marvel at it simply as an architectural achievement, or at its historical significance for France—these are clear aspects of its universal appeal. At the same time, there is something abstracted about this posture that does not quite touch the depths of emotions even secular people report of their own experiences inside it. The truth is that the Notre Dame cannot be reduced to a “monument to civilization” or “architectural wonder” or “historical landmark”; there is a definitive truth it aims to help visitors encounter. The Notre Dame was and still is a cathedral of the Catholic Church, wherein sacrifices, confessions, and prayers to God are made every day; the entire edifice is therefore designed to draw out our deep longing for union with an absolutely transcendent truth, goodness and beauty. A posture of detached observation and mere appreciation stands in tension with any experience of it as what it essentially is. Mere abstractions do not pierce the human heart.”