I hope those of my readers in DC will join me tonight at the Catholic Information Center on K Street at 6:30 pm for when Dr. Peter A. Redpath presents “A Not-So-Elementary Christian Metaphysics”. And for those who cannot join us, I will highly recommend his work to you, even if writers like Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas are not part of your regular conversation or reading. For this book, as its cover art rather dramatically illustrates, drops a bomb on many of the sacred cows of contemporary, secular philosophy, which have brought about the rather selfish, ignorant culture which, sad to say, we find ourselves mucking about in at present.
Very early on in his book, Dr. Redpath gives a clear indication that he intends to call a philosophical spade a spade. Metaphysics, as you may recall, is traditionally the area of philosophy which concerns itself with the nature of being and reality. Unfortunately, over time and under the influence of so-called progressives, it has become such a muddle that even alleged experts can no longer bring themselves to define exactly what it means. For example, have a look at the contortionist act performed by those who compiled the entry on metaphysics for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and you will rather quickly develop a splitting headache.
Dr. Redpath argues that part of the reason why everything’s gone relative is because modern philosophy, from the time of the Enlightenment through the various branches of socialism and beyond, has adopted a view of human reason which is completely out of touch with reality and morality. It discounts the individual and the eternal in favor of the collective, and of course the elites who must control that collective. For example, he points out that socialist propaganda and “secularized fundamentalism” have given birth to a “metaphysical myth in the form of utopian history that the whole of science, philosophy, wisdom, and truth are contained in the story, ‘narrative’, of the birth and development of the practical science of modern physics, which only the socialistically-minded, mathematical physicist, like a shaman, can supposedly comprehend.”
And in case some of you were not already squirming in your seats, he goes on to write that in the case of utopian-socialist, secular humanists:
For their adherents, metaphysics is the epic poetic story, an Enlightened fairy-tale history, about evolution, or emergence, of human consciousness, the universal human spirit (“true science”) from backward states of selfishness and primitive religions like Judaism and Catholicism to that of a new political world order dominated by Enlightened systematic science and the religion of love of humanity, “secular humanism”. And tolerance is this mythical history’s chief engine of progress, story-telling, and means of reading history.
Dr. Redpath then charts the development of metaphysics in Western philosophy, working his way from the Ancients through to the present day. While this sounds somewhat like a philosophy survey, and perhaps in some respects it is, it is much more than that, and indeed much more readable than a straight-forward philosophy textbook. How can you not stop and laugh, and want to read a chapter with the rather eye-catching title, “Plato’s Advice About How to Avoid Becoming a Philosophical Bastard,” for example, which talks about how Socrates tried to keep his students from veering off into sophistry, an illness which has claimed the brains of many modern political commentators and so-called journalists?
In another section, Dr. Redpath explores why it is that the promises of the secularist scientific and philosophical classes contradict themselves. Some of these, he writes, “tend to glory in the claim that no natural aims or ends exist in reality. Such a claim is the statement of a fool or ignoramus. If what they say is true, modern science can contribute nothing to wisdom and moral culture, helping human beings improve their lives, become wiser, happy. So conceived, modern science is worthless. If so, why would anyone seek to possess it?”
Of course in saying this Dr. Redpath is not denying the advances that modern science has made in helping us to live longer, physically healthier lives. Rather, he is questioning whether this advancement, alone, without any other meaning, is enough on which to base an entire philosophy, or indeed an entire civilization. “I do not deny – I celebrate – the many marvels of modern mathematics, mathematical physics, and modern technology as real human goods that have immeasurably improved my life,” he writes, “and I am convinced that many of the practitioners of these studies engage in their work with the best of intentions (while simultaneously not realizing the behavioral contradiction they practice when claiming that science has no real end or good that, by nature, it pursues.)”
He gives a rather apt example of the progressive’s meaningless view of the universe, which personally I found rather devastatingly funny. “To me,” he writes, “this situation resembles that of a marvelous chef who, at times, can create culinary masterpieces and, at times, can only destroy meals. All the while this poor soul cooks, he has no idea of what he is doing or why; nor can he tell anyone else.”
In countering this understanding of the “why” behind our human efforts, Dr. Redpath reminds us that Aquinas, Plato, and many others always held that these types of advances actually do have a purpose. It is through the imagination and creativity in the sciences, in art, in music, and so on, that human beings have always come to understand that there are immaterial realities which can be known, rather than natural phenomena simply reacted to in terror. Through these ways of knowing mankind liberated itself, rather than remaining enslaved to ignorance, as secular humanists and moral relativists would have us believe. Meanwhile, so-called progressives from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Karl Marx to Peter Singer are more intent on returning us to a primitive, dog-eat-dog world, even while clothing that anarchy in the trappings of a supposedly more enlightened and humane way of being.
The broad appeal of this book is the fact that it was written at this particular time in which we live, when so many of the authorities which dominate our governments, universities, and institutions are so opposed to human reason in their embrace of secular, “progressive” philosophy couched as virtue. Works such as these provide us with the opportunity to ask questions about where we are going as a culture, which many of the present elites do not want us to ask. Do yourself a favor, then, and read Dr. Redpath’s excellent book, so that you can ask them.
If you are someone who has never picked up a philosophy book, gentle reader, or have not done so in quite a long time, there is much to enjoy and to learn in this volume. At the same time, those who regularly return to thinkers like Boethius or Kant will, I suspect, discover much to think about within these pages to challenge some of their long-held notions. And of course if you are not sure it is for you, and happen to be in the Washington D.C. area, then come along tonight to hear the man himself – and be sure to snag me at the reception afterwards and say hello.