Monday, March 5, 2012

Why Father Spitzer Rocks My World

I mentioned a while back that Husband bought me a few Catholic philosophy books for Christmas because I had told him that I wanted to learn about how to talk to people about our religious beliefs, and specifically be able to engage with my pro-abortion friends and family members on life issues. I've finally finished one of the books that he gave me! It's Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues by Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., and former president of Gonzaga University. It's a brief book, and I definitely recommend it if you're interested in learning some fundamental principles about the dignity of human life.

I'd like to share some of the things I've learned with you, especially because I know the idea of picking up a book that has anything remotely to do with the word "philosophy" has terrified me for years. But I promise that anything I write won't be a subsitute for what you would get out of reading this book.

The part that I think I'm most excited about at the moment is the Appendix at the back of the book. Maybe it's just because I read it last, so it's the freshest in my mind, but I am also excited about it for a very personal reason. My brother and sister are both at a point where they are rejecting even the existence of God. This makes me so distraught, but I try to hold out hope that they will return to God and love Him as He loves them.

In one of our big discussions/arguments (because people in my family don't really discuss, we argue), both of my siblings declared that humans are no different than any of the other animals on Earth. My brother, in fact, declared that humans are parasites. It was not a pretty conversation, and if you don't believe humans are special in some way, it's really hard to get to the concept of natural rights, including the right to life. So, the reason that this appendix has anything to do with my siblings is because it offers a pretty great explanation of why humans are in fact different from the other creatures on the planet. Father Spitzer refers heavily to Bernard Lonergan's work in this section(just so I'm appropriately giving credit here).

The basic premise of the argument is that all humans have an awareness of and longing for perfect and unconditional Truth, Love, Beauty, Goodness (Justice), and Being (Home). For example, this hunger and awareness for Truth can be observed in our knowledge that we do not know all that there is to know. Even if I knew all the math, all the science, and all the philosophy that humans had ever done, I would still know that my knowledge of the truths of the universe and existence was incomplete, and I'd still seek out more. This is something that no other creature does. Combine this with similar scenarios regarding Love (an awareness of and longing for perfect love, which no human is capable of giving), Beauty (an awareness that no matter how beautiful my painting, musical composition, or poem is, it could always be more perfect and beautiful), Goodness (the desire for perfect justice, which is very obviously not possible in this world), and Being (a longing for a place where I truly belong and will always belong, a true home), and you get humans, who in these ways stand out from the other animals of the Earth. If you go a little further, which is something I don't feel totally qualified to do, the awareness portion of the perfect, complete, and unconditional Truth, Love, Beautfy, Goodness, and Being, even though we never experience them in this lifetime, is used as evidence for the existence of God, who is the external source of our awareness of these things.

I know that someone who wants to reject all or part of this can just say that they disagree and even be angry about these claims, but I am excited to talk to my sister especially about these things. I know that these are things that she longs for, and I hope that I can share this concept with her and give her food for thought about why we are different from animals, and every good thing that can follow from that concept.

Seriously, go read this book!



  1. Sounds like a really good book. Thanks for posting about this. How depressed is your brother if he thinks he is a parasite? How sad. I will pray for your brother and sister.

    1. I know! I was so shocked when he said that. Thanks for your prayers.

  2. This is great information - thank-you for sharing it. I will add it to my list :).

    Praying for your brother and sister as well.

  3. Wow! Humans are parasites? I'm shocked too!!!
    Robert Spitzer's reasoning makes sense - we are all looking for something more. Maybe starting with your sister and encouraging her to look at things differently will open the door for your brother. It must be so hard to have such different beliefs. I'm praying for your brother, sister and you!

  4. 1. Your family reminds me of some of my family interactions. :)
    2. This book sounds awesome. I will have to check it out. Thanks for giving us a glimpse.
    3. It amazes me how folks who claim we are no different than animals or are the same as parasites fail to see that the very fact that they are capable of debating this issue and getting into an argument proves otherwise. Do parasites have philosophical debates about the meaning of their own lives?