Faith, Reason, Benedict
A reader writes:
"Are you certain there is no difference between “neutral rationality” and “reason as a neutral way of understanding the world?” Or perhaps you are misreading what the current pope is saying. Consider this most recent encyclical in light of paragraph #5 of JP II’s 1998 encyclical “Fides et Ratio:”
5. On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life... [P]ositive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all.
If you consider Pope Benedict’s words in light of this and the rest of Fides et Ratio, does the paragraph you cite not take on a different meaning than that which you ascribed to it? In other words, Pope Benedict does not say that we should ignore reason, but that “neutral rationality on its own is unable to protect us." Pope John Paul II, on whose work Pope Benedict builds, did not "attack reason as a neutral way of understanding the world" and neither does Benedict. I am assuming that the current pope means to say, like his predecessor, that reason, "rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being."
That strikes me as a more persuasive reading than mine on that point. Thanks.