Launch of “Philosophical Papers” by Cardinal Cahal B Daly

27 Mar 2007


27th MARCH 2007

Launch of “Philosophical Papers” by Cardinal Cahal B Daly

Dr Thomas Kelly, head of the Department of Philosophy at NUI Maynooth, launched Philosophical Papers, by the Archbishop Emeritus of Armagh, Cardinal Cahal B Day. Philosophical Papers is a collection of articles previously published in various journals by Cardinal Daly. The launch took place in Nazareth House in Dublin over the weekend.

At the launch Cardinal Daly said: “The common theme linking these papers is the importance and the validity of metaphysics. We live, thank God, in an age of science; but the extraordinary successes of science carry with them the danger of thinking that only science is verifiable knowledge, that scientific proof is the only kind of proof that is conclusive, and indeed that science is the only kind of rational knowledge. Outside of science, it is claimed, there is only irrational belief, including religion and various other kinds of superstition. One can justly use the term ‘scientism’ to describe this view.

“French and German philosophers have been to the fore in questioning this view. Merleau-Ponty said that the philosophical mission of the twentieth century is to ‘explain the irrational’ and to ‘integrate it into an enlarged reason’. I reject the term ‘irrational’, and I suggest the term ‘meta rational’ as a more fitting term for what Merleau-Ponty was exploring.

“One could equally speak of mystery, the mystery involved in existing, in knowing, and in recognising moral values. The ‘mystery’ is not ‘the irrational’, for it is a precondition of all that we can know or say. It is, once more, the French and German traditions in philosophy which have stressed the element of ‘mystery’ involved in all knowing and in all experience: mystery is the presence within all experience of an ‘I’ and a ‘being’ which are not describable in empirical terms. Wittgenstein also pointed to this phenomenon, calling it ‘the mystical’ which ‘shows itself’ but is not empirically verifiable.

“There is in all knowing and in all reasoning a number of “givens”, or “taken for granteds” – such as the “I” who knows and reasons, and the ‘being’ which is known and reasoned about and spoken about. These ‘givens’ and ‘taken for granteds’ are not irrational, for they are the very stuff of reasoning and of the rational. These are the subject-matter of the reasoning which we call metaphysics.

“I risk over-simplifying, and this would be to fall into the same trap into which both rationalism and scientism have fallen. There is no ‘quick fix’. You just have to read the book! The French priest-philosopher, Malebranche, said about his metaphysical writings: ‘I will not bring you into a strange country, but I will perhaps teach you that you are a stranger in your own country’.

“May I draw some practical conclusions from what I have written and from what I have been saying? It is clear that the various traditions in philosophy – especially the British and the French – have largely worked in sealed-off compartments, with little contact and little mutual understanding of one another. Philosophical traditions, different ways of doing philosophy, obviously have some merit, but they carry the risk of becoming self-serving. They can become closed to other ways of doing philosophy, other insights and other influences. There is great need for dialogue between the various national or linguistic traditions in philosophy: for example, between the British and the French tradition. These have largely ignored one another, each regarding the other as doing something which, whatever it may be, is not philosophy. Something similar is true of the British and German traditions in philosophy, and also of the two English-language traditions, namely the British and the North American. Multi-la tfkeral dialogue could benefit all the participants and would certainly benefit philosophy itself.

“The thomistic tradition, free of what Wittgenstein might call the cultural “cramps” of modem philosophies, is now proving to be a valuable participant in contemporary philosophical dialogue. Irish philosophers can contribute much to this dialogue, and can learn much from it. Among other things, we in Ireland might learn something we need to learn about dialogue itself. We might learn, to start with, that genuine dialogue is based on a shared search for truth, which must be presumed to be equally sincere on both sides; and we must learn that dialogue has no room, whatever, for the trading of insults or for imputations of moral turpitude or mental defectiveness against one’s partners in dialogue. Authentic dialogue has zero tolerance for setting up caricatures of our opponent’s position and demolishing it – and then claiming one has disproved that position. Unfortunately such insults and imputations and caricatures have marred some of our domestic debates on philosophical, ethical and religious issues up to now. If there are any such in what I myself have written, I am truly contrite, and late in the day though it be for me, I firmly promise amendment.

“May I add in conclusion the name of the best guidebook to dialogue which I know: it is a document by Pope Paul VI, published in 1964, during the Second Vatican Council; its title is Ecclesiam Suam. I suggest that this document is required reading for all who seek authentic dialogue in a shared exploration into truth.”



    * Cardinal Cahal B Daly is the author of a series of books on violence and the search for peace in Northern Ireland and on other topics. Cardinal Daly published a book of memoirs Steps on My Pilgrim Journey in 1998 and in 2003 published a book on the environment Minding of Planet Earth and is currently working on a book on the Eucharist.
    * Cardinal Daly was appointed Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise in 1967 and was appointed Bishop of Down and Connor in 1982. In 1990 he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and was appointed Cardinal in 1991 by the late Pope John Paul II. In 1996, after six years in Armagh, Cardinal Daly’s retirement on grounds of age was accepted by the Pope.

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