Friday, May 1, 2009

So what is our purpose?

As you know I have been struggling to give a succinct statement of our purpose. Most of my difficulty comes from trying to found a Society - partially scholarly, partially social, and with a good deal of Chesterton mixed in - with the hope of fulfilling at least a little of what Father Jaki intended. (His intentions are quoted in the initial posting, made three weeks ago, on the day he died.)

Yes, so far, we have this blogg, and a collection of interested persons from all over the world - so far I can mention New York and Massachusetts, USA; Toronto, Canada; Ireland, Italy, Australia - and an unknown number of visitors here who have not yet e-mailed me. Please note - there is no obligation to do so; we are not yet organized to an official level.

And so - I am confronted with the complexity of trying to unite a variety of interests, of people all around the world, interested in Jaki or in Duhem, in the history of science, in the philosophy of science - or just curious to see what will go on with the huge inheritance of the work of these prolific scholars.

I don't know much about scholarly organizations or running such international things. The most I can do is try to keep you supplied with interesting posts, and hope eventually there will be more of a plan, so we will have translations, commentaries, explorations, maybe journals and conferences and other things - all of which express our delight in that inheritance, and put it to good use.

In the end, it is not really just a simple study of Duhem or even of Jaki. It is about a much higher purpose.

Now, if you have read almost any book by Jaki, you will know that he usually brings up a certain quote:
Those who devote their lives to the purpose of proving that there is no purpose, constitute an interesting subject for study.
[A. N. Whitehead, The Function of Reason (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1929), p. 12.]
We, on the other hand, admit purpose as a reality. But what purpose might we have - and what can this "higher purpose" be?

We can find Jaki stating it, though he mentions it as part of another discussion which we shall not pursue today. But that use does not bring its truth into doubt.
...the purpose of man is to be the conscious voice of Nature's silent testimony about her having been created for the glory of God, the highest purpose of it all.
[Jaki The Purpose of it All introduction]
And in the end, all our efforts, be they in our work or our entertainment, in our Society or anywhere, must be towards that purpose: the greater glory of God.

This does not mean we have to all run out and become Jesuits (whose founder, St. Ignatius, used Ad majorem Dei gloriam, "to the greater glory of God" as a motto). But if we are not glorifying God, what are we doing? Serving ourselves? Or are we those odd folks which Whitehead mentioned?

Obviously, I am not trying to say that this Society is some sort of religious order. But then it's not a reading club, a literary society, a collection of library aides, or a group of lab assistants either. All such worthy tasks have a role to play: prayer, and thought, and research, and reading, and writing, and even simple friendships. (Would it not be wonderful if we could meet, over coffee or tea or beer, and talk about our work, our plans?) We must be far more catholic - more universal - in our purpose. We have work to do, but let us do it together - with humility, and with joy.

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