On St. Patrick’s Day, Blarney in Pursuit of the Truth| National Catholic Register


Father Robert McTeigue’s philosophical pedagogy is blarney at its purest and very best.

1 of the healthiest manifestations of a healthier lifestyle is the existence of e book golf equipment. The collecting of kindred spirits, ideally spherical the fireplace or at the very least in the flesh, to discuss deserving tomes, equally aged and new, is a sign of a vibrant and intellectually vigorous group. Though, as a resolute and dyed-in-the-wool techno-minimalist, I would always advocate these standard gatherings in excess of their techno-equivalents, there is a place in our day and age for on-line functions and pursuits, such as online e-book golf equipment. It is, hence, with terrific enjoyment that I have appreciated receiving alongside one another every single week with Father Joseph Fessio and Vivian Dudro of Ignatius Press to record sessions of the Shaped E-book Club. We’ve been performing this for a pair of yrs now and we’ve discussed several wonderful textbooks. The latest title we’re speaking about is Genuine Philosophy for Actual Men and women: Resources for Truthful Dwelling by Jesuit Father Robert McTeigue.

I have identified Father McTeigue for many several years. We were being on the school collectively at Ave Maria College. We received on properly, not least due to our shared delight in one malt whiskies and tiny batch bourbons, which have been enjoyed in the Queen Mary pub on the edge of campus. Time rolls on and both of us rolled with it, in different directions or, rather, not in distinct instructions in terms of our shared theology and philosophy, and appreciate of superior literature, but in terms of our geographical spots. In this perception, it has been a blessing to commit some time with him, albeit vicariously, talking about his most up-to-date guide.

Just one thing that has struck me in the reading through of Father McTeigue’s ebook is how a lot I wish I could have been the proverbial fly on the wall in one particular of his lessons at Ave Maria University. This wish has been kindled by Father McTeigue’s featuring of anecdotal examples from his encounter with his college students as a implies of illustrating the more summary philosophical points he is building. The scene is established in this respect by a “parable” at the commencing of the guide, which sets the scene and the tone for what follows. It is a dialogue in between “Al” and “Fred” on the nature and this means of morality. It concludes with Al asking no matter whether Fred is expressing that morality is meaningless. This is Fred’s reaction:

Undoubtedly philosophical accounts of morality, in light-weight of the antinomies I’ve just outlined, are meaningless. The record of philosophical moral reflection is a collection of quaint and embarrassing conceits. A systematic, coherent account of the ethical daily life just can’t be obtained. If you want guidance in morality, just request oneself in advance of performing, ‘What is the loving thing to do?’ That is about as reputable as any other attempt as a ethical concept, and it is a great deal more concise.

Then arrives Father McTeigue’s essay prompt: How need to Al reply to Fred?

Obtaining study this introductory “parable”, I wrote “blarney” in the margin of my copy of the e book. It was meant as a compliment, an affectionate nod of deference to Father McTeigue’s Irish ancestry and the method in which I had heard him use the present of the gab in his homilies. This blarney would characterize the rest of the book, in which Father McTeigue sets out, in persona Al, to reply to Fred.

 Reminding ourselves that blarney, according to no considerably less of an authority than almighty Google, is “talk that aims to allure, pleasantly flatter, or persuade,” we could say that Father McTeigue aims to persuade us charmingly and succeeds in performing so. If flattery is any component of his charm, it is that flattery which aims to persuade and emphatically not that which aims to deceive. Choose, for instance, his charming employment of the words and phrases of St. Thomas Aquinas to connect the poet with the thinker:

Now the purpose why the philosopher is in contrast to the poet is that equally are worried with miracles. For the myths with which the poets deal are composed of miracles, and the philosophers them selves are moved to philosophize as a result of wonder.

The most endearing areas of Father McTeigue’s persuasive art are the anecdotal jewels, established inside of the crown of his rhetoric, especially people jewels that have been mined from his encounter in the classroom. There is the tale of his becoming requested by the trainer of an eighth-quality course to describe to her students why liberty should really not be equated with license and why “real freedom” is not acquiring to do whichever we want, with no a single having the appropriate to convey to us usually. Father McTeigue entered the classroom and requested two younger ladies in the front row if he could analyze their eyeglasses. The ladies owning handed them their eyeglasses, he then informed the class: “These glasses are mine now. I am utilizing my freedom to declare them mine. I have not ‘stolen’ them I have simply relocated them.” He then reminded the ladies that he was even larger than they are and that he would use his independence to keep possession of the eyeglasses by power, if needed. He then requested the course no matter if they needed to are living in a earth “wherein this type of matter will materialize to you each individual working day for the relaxation of your life.” If not, he proposed, they had superior look for a improved definition of flexibility.

Father McTeigue is as fantastic at hammering home the issue to his undergraduate students as he is to eighth-graders. Consider, for instance, this “accurate account of a dialogue I experienced with a student”:

College student: I’m persuaded that there is no important variation in between a human person and any other variety of animal. And I required you to be the 1st to know.

ME: I’m not persuaded that you’re not persuaded.

Scholar: Huh?

ME: I’m not convinced that you are convinced that there is no significant distinction among a human person and any other sort of animal, due to the fact you’re conversing with me and not a squirrel. Not only that, you wanted me to be the very first to know — what variance would it make whom you instructed very first if there have been no variance in between just one animal and an additional?

And the stage, which he hoped the student experienced grasped, is that “there are some inquiries we basically are not able to afford to get improper, and among them is: ‘What is a human?’”

Inviting us when once more to be the privileged fly-on-the-wall in one of his classes, he explains that learners in the front row of his lessons “become my props to illustrate philosophical details.” He then recounts his text to his pupils: “Suppose I whacked George here in the forehead,” he starts, using a swipe at George. “What would you think if, after accomplishing so, I looked at my hand and reported, ‘I surprise why the atoms of that hand did that? Why would the atoms of that hand want to strike George?’”

Is there a much better way of illustrating the absurdity of materialism? 

Father McTeigue has the reward of the gab. His “talk aims to allure, or persuade.” His pedagogy is blarney at its purest and best. It is the use of explanation to exorcise the forked tongue of deceit. It banishes the sophistry of the serpent with the knowledge of the saint. Saint Patrick would indubitably approve.

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