Good Shepherd Catholic Radio is sponsoring an on-line seminar offered by Dr. Ronald Muller, professor of philosophy and former president of Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The seminar is Christian Ethics and will be conducted on-line via six Zoom sessions on Thursday evenings beginning Thursday, January 14th, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM.

For more information and to register, please contact Dr. Muller at 248-410-3575 or email abb303@gmail.com. Enrollment is limited.

Our text, Dietrich von Hildebrand’s work entitled “Christian Ethics” or simply “Ethics,” introduces the work by pointing out that; “In our daily lives we are continually aware of the fundamental difference between the moral sphere and all other spheres of human existence.  As soon as a moral problem arises, we are transported into a “world” of its own.”

Von Hildebrand goes on to point to the fundamental task and purpose of the study of ethics;  “In order to understand this moral sphere, we must immerse ourselves in the rich qualitative plenitude of moral data and bring ourselves to a full state of “wondering” about them.”

This is the task of ethics; to carefully consider the moral phenomena we discover in human experience and to philosophize with regard to what we see and experience directly.  This is the task for ethics, and in a larger context, the task of all genuine philosophy: to study the natures of things to determine the wisest insights we can establish about how they are in themselves.

This is the theme of the “Prolegomena” introducing the work.  Looking over it again after some 40 years, I realized how these introductory pages are an important statement of the methodology of good philosophy.  We’ll begin by reviewing this section (pp. 1-19) as a review of good form in philosophy.

Here, von Hildebrand emphasizes the importance of focusing faithfully on the data of experience in the manner of the phenomenological tradition.  For example we focus upon the datum of moral obligation to do something when we witness someone in danger.  The idea is to respect how things actually present themselves with the purpose of understanding them in their inner essences and natures.  (This was not what Freud did when he contended that love is nothing but hormonal reactions.  Understanding that love is a response to the goodness of the other, something we see clearly as the reason why we love our friends and family, we understand that Freud attempted to advance a conceptual (materialistic) interpretation of love at the expense of what we truly experience.)

“Datum” come from the Latin word dare meaning to give.  A “datum” is what we discover in experience, the fact to be investigated and understood.  It is the given which we want to understand.  Good philosophy entails being scrupulously attentive to the natures of things, as they are in themselves, and guarding against “all constructions and explanations which are incompatible with the nature of moral data as presented in experience.”

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