This chapter chiefly aims to consider the philosophical problem of human will and freedom and their essential connection to religious, human nature as a masterpiece of creation from the perspectives of philosophy as a historical enterprise; i.e., philosophical anthropology; Mortimer J. Adler’s commonsense realist philosophical reflections on the nature of human freedom; and Karol Wojtyła’s analogous considerations of the same topics. Within this context, I will attempt to connect the problem of human freedom (strictly-speaking: free, perfect, unbending will) as a historical/philosophical Western enterprise to the concept of the human person as first formulated by Christian thinkers and philosophers of the first centuries and their successors.
Mortimer J. Adler maintained that religion is mainly an individual and historical, cultural activity, enterprise, through which people learn answers to Great Questions, while philosophy is chiefly an individual and historical, cultural enterprise, through which people enter into a Great Conversation about answers to such Great Questions. While Adler did not think that any one religion exists that provides ready-made, complete answers to the whole truth about God, human beings, and the world, this chapter defends the claim that, in Western Civilization, Christianity, and most precisely, historically, Catholicism tends to do this better than any other religion precisely because it is, and historically has been, the best friend, defender, of the Great Ideas, including those of Freedom and Religion, as the paradigms, chief measures, of human rationality at its best.
Living a purely human life, one not open to a dimension that transcends simply being human, betrays the proper definition of what being human means. This reveals itself in relation to the Great Ideas of freedom and religion. Religion conceived as the relationship between a human being and God requires an openness to a reality qualitatively different than purely human reality. And real freedom of choice is a condition sine qua non inclining human beings to transcend a purely human plane of living. This chapter focuses on the philosophical life and teachings of Czesław Martyniak about the Great Ideas of religion and freedom as motivational causes of personal transcendence and pursuit of perfection.
This chapter considers the human ability to exercise acts of faith, especially religious faith. For existential reasons, especially the prospect of death, human beings open up to the absolute being, forming a religious relationship, the development of which depends on individual persons’ free decisions. Such relationship may remain unfulfilled or it may become the reason for striving for fulfillment. This reality involves dramatic choices, which require human actions be transformed in a soteriological perspective. The way to achieve this is through religious actions such as prayer, sacrifice, or asceticism. Such actions have an individual character, yet their effects are manifest in various social dimensions. In this chapter, h these dimensions are considered.
Using some intuitions contained in Mortimer J. Adler’s teachings, this chapter presents reasons why the Great Ideas of Religion and Freedom are of crucial importance: for personally grasping human transcendence, and to show the main reasons that underlie some narrow, unrealistic, understandings of the aforementioned ideas—main effects of which are different forms of human enslavement. Better to elucidate Adler’s thought on these issues, among others, some investigations of Karol Wojtyła will be discussed, which seem to fully correspond with Adler’s, and, in many respects, complement them.
This chapter argues that the Great Ideas are integral to Mortimer J. Adler’s Great Books Movement in much the same way that the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path are integral to Buddhism. Both use ‘Great’ and ‘Noble’ to point toward human excellence. For Adler, the Great Ideas are the metaphysical and moral concepts out of which Western civilization developed. They are the main topics in an ongoing great conversation that shapes Western culture. Precisely because these Great Ideas are great, insofar as they point toward human excellence (virtue), they ought not be considered the exclusive property of the West. Instead, as Adler recognized, they should be utilized in the analysis of other cultural traditions. This chapter uses two of Adler’s Great Ideas, freedom and religion, to analyze Buddhism as it is encountered in the early Indian Buddhist texts. It asserts all human philosophy and culture, including that of Buddhism, is ultimately based in religion, thereby making religion the greatest of Adler’s and the Buddha’s Great philosophical and cultural ideas.
Many modern scholars understand Confucianism and the Analects to a philosophy of State and societal order that includes personal attention to rituals of propriety and bearing. The question whether Confucianism is religion or philosophy is a byproduct of the Western Enlightenment, or Cartesian thinking lacking, historical embeddedness. Confucianism, therefore, is thought by many to have been a secular formula for statecraft, grounded in Confucius’s spurning the overtly religious in favor of a this-worldly policy platform, which gestured respectfully, but perfunctorily, toward Heaven, while focusing efforts on cultivating the ideal citizen on earth. Coupled with the historical, textual, and archaeological record of ancient and classical China, recent scholarship provides evidence that calls this view into question. This chapter follows the lead of new scholarship to view the Confucian junzi (gentleman) as an exemplary synthesis of the great idea of religion and freedom. It defends the claim that Confucius considered freedom to be greatness in concert with Heaven and that the ideal of greatness in concert with Heaven is the great idea of religion and freedom in classical Chinese history and thought and as understood by Mortimer J. Adler.
In large part, Mortimer J. Adler’s philosophical teaching arises from his conviction that thinkers of Greek antiquity and the Middle Ages, especially Aristotle and Saint Thomas Aquinas, had focused their considerations on commonsense cognition of the found world, while thinkers of modern times had detached their philosophical considerations from commonsense and the real world. This chapter considers the issue of commonsense realism within Adler’s philosophy. In addition, because Adler’s concept of commonsense realism shapes his epistemological, anthropological, ethical, social, and religious thought, I will focus on his concept of the Great Idea of Religion against this background, and also because Adler’s philosophical realism led him eventually to embrace religious faith—to become a Christian.
For many decades, the crisis of Western civilization has been a ubiquitous theme in scholarly discussions. In this chapter, some manifestations of that crisis are examined. It is shown that the philosophical basis of this dialogue chiefly consists in an anthropological errors; i.e., a misunderstanding of human nature that results in erroneous conceptualizations of the ideas of religion and freedom. At the root of the crisis lies an erroneous anthropology essentially connected to a rejection of human beings as metaphysical animals. This chapter explains the nature of this mistaken understanding of the human person and attempts to show how ways how to remedy the mistake.