My Mind As A Catholic

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Three things happened on October 31st:. You would know then that I am someone who is very keen on and proficient at presenting rational justifications for why I believe what I believe, as well as not at all easily persuaded by the arguments of proponents of other theological views Christian or otherwise. At the same time, you would have also known me as a stalwart proponent of Reformed Calvinistic theology.

Funny enough, my introduction to Reformed theology came from learning about debates between Protestants and Catholics. There were a lot of factors that have gone into this decision. One of the things that has always struck me about the sorts of people who cross from one side of the Tiber to the other. Of course, conversions can happen in either direction, but there is a marked difference in quality between those who convert from Catholicism to Protestantism, and those who make the journey in the opposite direction.

In my experience, those who convert from Catholicism to Protestantism are usually either nominal Catholics, or those who have received substandard catechesis. By contrast, Protestant converts to Catholicism tend to come from the best and the brightest—pastors, professional theologians, and graduates from top Protestant seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Geneva College, and in my case Wycliffe College check out this line-up and this one to see what I mean. A perusal of some of their testimonies should give you an idea of what normally drives most of these converts—dissatisfaction with the subjectivity that comes with Sola Scriptura which results in some of the Reformed to propose alternate final authorities , inability to account for foundational theological presuppositions e.

The Formation of the Catholic Mind

Only Catholicism has had such success in winning over the best and brightest of the Reformed world. Between late and early , a number of my friends and acquaintances had crossed the Tiber. Alarmed by this trend, I started a Reformation apologetics study group and put out several articles vindicating Protestant theology from Catholic criticisms the group has since been closed down, and many of the articles removed. I tried to muster my best apologetics resources in this endeavour, yet despite this, the conversions continued to happen, and the doubts of my colleagues were not being assuaged.


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At the same time, I was also actively engaged in a Catholics and Reformed discussion group which has been responsible for more than a few Tiber crossings. I threw all of my best arguments into the ring, and found that all of them were met and defeated there. For every objection to Catholicism that I could muster up, there was a ready response. For every scriptural or patristic quote that I raised, the Catholic exegesis of said quotes consistently showed themselves to be superior. Eventually, I came to accept that their way of reading Scripture and Church History was the only way that actually did justice to their overall context.

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Thus, through a series of clashes, crises, and conversions, my carefully constructed catena of cavils against Catholicism collapsed. However, the spread of the positivist or phenomenalist view of the science of psychology has resulted in a very widely adopted identification of mind merely with the conscious states, ignoring any principle or subject to which these states belong.

The mind in this sense is only the sum of the conscious processes or activities of the individual with their special modes of operating. This, however, is a quite inadequate conception of the mind.

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It may, of course, be convenient and quite legitimate for some purposes to investigate certain activities or operations of this mind or soul, without raising the ultimate question of the metaphysical nature of the principle or substance which is the basis and source of these phenomena; and it may also serve as a useful economy of language to employ the term mind, merely to designate mental life as a stream of consciousness. But the adoption of this phraseology must not cause us to lose sight of the fact that along with the action there is the agent, that underlying the forms of mental behaviour there is the being which behaves.


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The connection of our abiding personal identity, nay the simplest exercise of self-conscious memory, compels us to acknowledge the reality of a permanent principle, the subject and connecting bond of the transitory states. Mind adequately conceived must thus be held to include the subject or agent along with states or activities, and it should be the business of a complete science of mind to investigate both. All our rational knowledge of the nature of the mind must be derived from the study of its operations.

Consequently metaphysical or rational psychology logically follows empirical or phenomenal psychology. The careful observation, description, and analysis of the activities of the mind lead up to our philosophical conclusions as to the inner nature of the subject and the source of those activities. In connection with the investigation of our mental operations there arises the question, whether these are to be deemed coextensive with consciousness. Are there unconscious mental processes? The problem under different forms has occupied the attention of philosophers from Leibniz to J.

Mill, whilst in recent years the phenomena of hypnotism, "multiple personality ", and abnormal forms of mental life have brought the question of the relation between the unconscious and the conscious processes in the human organism into greater prominence. That all forms of mental life, perception thought, feeling, and volition are profoundly affected in character by nervous processes and by vital activities, which do not emerge into the strata of conscious life, seems to be indisputably established.

Whether however, unconscious processes which affect conclusions of the intellect and resolutions of the will, but are in themselves quite unconscious, should be called mental states, or conceived as acts of the mind, has been keenly disputed. In favour of the doctrine of unconscious mental processes have been urged the fact that many of our ordinary sensations arise out of an aggregate of impressions individually too faint to be separately perceivable, the fact that attention may reveal to us experiences previously unnoticed, the fact that unobserved trains of thought may result in sudden reminiscences, and that in abnormal mental conditions hypnotized, somnambulistic, and hysterical patients often accomplish difficult intellectual feats whilst remaining utterly unaware of the rational intermediate steps leading up to the final results.

On the other side it is urged that most of those phenomena can be accounted for by merely subconscious processes which escape attention and are forgotten; or, at all events, by unconscious cerebration, the working out of purely physical nervous processes without any concomitant mental state till the final cerebral situation is reached, when the corresponding mental act is evoked.

The dispute is probably, at least in part, grounded on differences of definition.

If, however, the mind be identified with the soul, and if the latter be allowed to be the principle of vegetative life, there can be no valid reason for denying that the principle of our mental life may be also the subject of unconscious activities. But if we confine the term mind to the soul, viewed as conscious, or as the subject of intellectual operations, then by definition we exclude unconscious states from the sphere of mind. Still whatever terminology we may find it convenient to adopt, the fact remains, that our most purely intelectual operations are profoundly influenced by changes which take place below the surface of consciousness.

A related question is that of the simple or composite character of consciousness. Is mind, or conscious life, an amalgam or product of units which are not conscious? One response is offered in the "mind-stuff" or "mind-dust" theory. This is a necessary deduction from the extreme materialistic evolutionist hypothesis when it seeks to explain the origin of human minds in this universe. According to W.

The Mind That Is Catholic

Clifford, who invented the term "mind-stuff", those who accept evolution must, for the sake of consistency, assume that there is attached to every particle of matter in the universe a bit of rudimentary feeling or intelligence, and "when the material molecules are so combined as to form the film on the under-side of a jelly fish, the elements of mind-stuff which go along with them are so combined as to form the faint beginnings of sentience. When the matter takes the complex form of the living human brain, the corresponding mind-stuff takes the form of human consciousness, having intelligence and volition" Lectures and Essays, Spencer and other thorough-going evolutionists are driven to a similar conclusion.

But the true inference is rather, that the incredibility of the conclusion proves the untenableness of the materialistic form of evolution which these writers adopt.

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There is no evidence whatever of this universal mind-stuff which they postulate. It is of an inconceivable character. As Professor James says, to call it "nascent" consciousness is merely a verbal quibble which explains nothing. No multiplicity and no grouping or fusing of unconscious elements can be conceived as constituting an act of conscious intelligence. The unity and simplicity which characterize the simplest acts of the mind are incompatible with such a theory.

The opposition of mind and matter brings us face to face with the great controversy of Dualism and Monism. Are there two forms of being in the universe ultimately and radically distinct? Our experience at all events appears to reveal to us two fundamentally contrasted forms of reality. On the one side, there is facing us matter occupying space, subject to motion, possessed of inertia and resistance permanent indestructible, and seemingly independent of our observation.

On the other, there is our own mind, immediately revealing itself to us in simple unextended acts of consciousness, which seem to be born and then annihilated. Through these conscious acts we apprehend the material world. All our knowledge of it is dependent on them, and in the last resort limited by them. By analogy we ascribe to other human organisms minds like our own.

A craving to find unity in the seeming multiplicity of experience has led many thinkers to accept a monistic explanation, in which the apparent duality of mind and matter is reduced to a single underlying principle or substratum. Materialism considers matter itself, body material substance, as this principle. For the materialist, mind, feelings, thoughts, and volitions are but "functions" or "aspects" of matter; mental life is an epiphenomenon , a by-product in the working of the Universe, which can in no way interfere with the course of physical changes or modify the movement of any particle of matter in the world; indeed, in strict consistency it should be held that successive mental acts do not influence or condition each other, but that thoughts and volitions are mere incidental appendages of certain nerve processes in the brain; and these latter are determined exclusively and completely by antecedent material processes.

The Integrated Catholic Woman: Mind, Body, Soul

In other words, the materialistic theory, when consistently thought out, leads invariably to the startling conclusion that the human mind has had no real influence on the history of the human race. On the other hand, the idealistic monist denies altogether the existence of any extra-mental, independent material world. So far from mind being a mere aspect or epiphenomenon attached to matter, the material universe is a creation of the mind and entirely dependent on it. Its esse is percipi. It exists only in and for the mind.

Our ideas are the only things of which we can be truly certain. And, indeed, if we were compelled to embrace monism, it seems to us there can be little doubt as to the logical superiority of the idealistic position. But there is no philosophical compulsion to adopt either a materialistic or an idealistic monism.

Mind is also contrasted with mechanical theories as cause or explanation of the order of the world. The affirmation of mind in this connection is equivalent to teleologism, or idealism in the sense of there being intelligence and purpose governing the working of the universe. This is the meaning of the word in Bacon's well-known statement: "I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend and the Alcoran than that this universal frame is without a mind" Essays: Of Atheism.

Origin of mental life

It is, in fact, the doctrine of theism. The world as given demands a rational account of its present character. The proximate explanations of much, especially in the inorganic and non-living portion of it, can be furnished by material energies acting according to known laws. But reason demands an account of all the contents of the universe-living and conscious beings as well as lifeless matter- and, moreover, it insists on carrying the inquiry back until it reaches an ultimate explanation.