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

6 min read

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

1 of the healthiest manifestations of a healthful tradition is the existence of ebook clubs. The collecting of kindred spirits, preferably round the fireplace or at least in the flesh, to examine deserving tomes, each outdated and new, is a signal of a vivid and intellectually vigorous local community. Even though, as a resolute and dyed-in-the-wool techno-minimalist, I would usually advocate these traditional gatherings around their techno-equivalents, there is a area in our working day and age for online occasions and actions, like online book clubs. It is, consequently, with wonderful satisfaction that I have loved getting together just about every week with Father Joseph Fessio and Vivian Dudro of Ignatius Press to report sessions of the Fashioned Book Club. We have been accomplishing this for a few of a long time now and we’ve reviewed quite a few great publications. The recent title we’re talking about is Genuine Philosophy for Authentic People: Resources for Truthful Residing by Jesuit Father Robert McTeigue.

I’ve identified Father McTeigue for several several years. We were being on the college jointly at Ave Maria College. We bought on very well, not least because of to our shared delight in single malt whiskies and modest batch bourbons, which had been appreciated in the Queen Mary pub on the edge of campus. Time rolls on and equally of us rolled with it, in various directions or, rather, not in unique directions in terms of our shared theology and philosophy, and enjoy of superior literature, but in terms of our geographical places. In this sense, it has been a blessing to spend some time with him, albeit vicariously, discussing his newest ebook.

A person point that has struck me in the reading of Father McTeigue’s ebook is how a great deal I wish I could have been the proverbial fly on the wall in a single of his courses at Ave Maria College. This wish has been kindled by Father McTeigue’s giving of anecdotal illustrations from his encounter with his learners as a indicates of illustrating the extra abstract philosophical factors he is creating. The scene is set in this regard by a “parable” at the commencing of the book, which sets the scene and the tone for what follows. It is a dialogue amongst “Al” and “Fred” on the mother nature and that means of morality. It concludes with Al inquiring regardless of whether Fred is stating that morality is meaningless. This is Fred’s response:

Absolutely philosophical accounts of morality, in light of the antinomies I’ve just detailed, are meaningless. The record of philosophical moral reflection is a selection of quaint and uncomfortable conceits. A systematic, coherent account of the ethical lifetime just can not be realized. If you want steerage in morality, just question you just before performing, ‘What is the loving matter to do?’ That is about as trusted as any other try as a ethical concept, and it is a great deal far more concise.

Then comes Father McTeigue’s essay prompt: How should really Al reply to Fred?

Having go through this introductory “parable”, I wrote “blarney” in the margin of my duplicate of the e-book. It was meant as a compliment, an affectionate nod of deference to Father McTeigue’s Irish ancestry and the manner in which I had read 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 fewer of an authority than almighty Google, is “talk that aims to charm, pleasantly flatter, or persuade,” we could say that Father McTeigue aims to persuade us charmingly and succeeds in doing so. If flattery is any portion of his allure, it is that flattery which aims to persuade and emphatically not that which aims to deceive. Just take, for occasion, his charming employment of the text of St. Thomas Aquinas to connect the poet with the thinker:

Now the explanation why the thinker is as opposed to the poet is that both equally are worried with miracles. For the myths with which the poets offer are composed of wonders, and the philosophers themselves are moved to philosophize as a end result of ponder.

The most endearing factors of Father McTeigue’s persuasive artwork are the anecdotal jewels, set within the crown of his rhetoric, especially people jewels that have been mined from his knowledge in the classroom. There is the story of his remaining questioned by the instructor of an eighth-grade class to clarify to her learners why independence need to not be equated with license and why “real freedom” is not finding to do what ever we want, with no a person having the correct to inform us usually. Father McTeigue entered the classroom and requested two youthful ladies in the front row if he could study their eyeglasses. The females getting handed them their glasses, he then educated the course: “These eyeglasses are mine now. I am utilizing my flexibility to declare them mine. I have not ‘stolen’ them I have merely relocated them.” He then reminded the women that he was more substantial than they are and that he would use his independence to keep possession of the eyeglasses by power, if necessary. He then asked the course whether they needed to are living in a environment “wherein this type of point will come about to you just about every working day for the relaxation of your life.” If not, he instructed, they experienced far better seem for a much better definition of flexibility.

Father McTeigue is as very good at hammering home the place to his undergraduate college students as he is to eighth-graders. Choose, for occasion, this “accurate account of a conversation I experienced with a student”:

University student: I’m certain that there is no significant difference concerning a human person and any other sort of animal. And I needed you to be the initially to know.

ME: I’m not convinced that you’re not certain.

College student: Huh?

ME: I’m not convinced that you are certain that there is no substantial change among a human person and any other type of animal, due to the fact you are chatting with me and not a squirrel. Not only that, you wanted me to be the initially to know — what big difference would it make whom you advised first if there were no variance involving a person animal and another?

And the place, which he hoped the pupil had grasped, is that “there are some concerns we simply cannot afford to get mistaken, and among the them is: ‘What is a human?’”

Inviting us when once again to be the fortunate fly-on-the-wall in just one of his courses, he explains that pupils in the front row of his lessons “become my props to illustrate philosophical factors.” He then recounts his text to his learners: “Suppose I whacked George listed here in the brow,” he begins, using a swipe at George. “What would you think if, after undertaking so, I looked at my hand and claimed, ‘I question why the atoms of that hand did that? Why would the atoms of that hand want to hit George?’”

Is there a greater way of illustrating the absurdity of materialism? 

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

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