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Characters in Search of Their Author

Characters in Search of Their Author

The Gifford Lectures, 1999-2000

Ralph McInerny

“McInerny at his best. Profound and intelligible, a commanding intellect, refreshing to read as he addresses the time-transcending. A major contribution to a distinguished series.” —Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America

Is the conviction that there is a God the default position of the human mind? This is the suggestion of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes, as well as Cardinal Newman and even St. Thomas Aquinas. But however natural it is for human beings to acknowledge their maker, it seems almost as natural to throw up obstacles between man and God. Characters in Search of Their Author, the Gifford Lectures delivered by Ralph McInerny in Glasgow in 1999–2000, is devoted to clearing away some of these impediments, mainly those fashioned by philosophers.

The first series of lectures traces the progressive dismissal of natural theology by modern and contemporary philosophers. Are all intellectual difficulties intellectual in origin? McInerny invites his reader to consider the ordinary acknowledgment or denial of God as analogous to falling into or out of love. The upshot may be a simple judgment, but the way to it is through the emotions and types of discourse that seldom appear in logic books.

The recovery of natural theology is the theme of the second series of lectures. Making critical use of philosophers from Kierkegaard and Newman to Thomas Aquinas, McInerny brings us to the point where the age-old task can once more begin.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02261-7
152 pages
Publication Year: 2001

Ralph McInerny (1929–2010) was professor of philosophy and the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He was the author and editor of numerous books.

“. . . lively and wide-ranging discourses on the decline of natural theology and its prospects for recovery within contemporary philosophy, with reflections on the relationship between faith and reason, presented in a colloquial idiom and governed throughout by McInerny’s genial Thomism.” — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“In lucidity and breadth and depth, Characters in Search of their Author resembles Etienne Gilson’s Unison of Philosophical Experience, and, like the work of Gilson, should be a permanent addition to the personal library of anyone who is attempting to understand the animosity of contemporary philosophy to matters of faith.” — The Review of Metaphysics

“McInerny at his best. Profound and intelligible, a commanding intellect, refreshing to read as he addresses the time-transcending. A major contribution to a distinguished series.” —Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America

“McInerny joins learning, wit, and lucidity in producing a reliable, and enjoyable, guide to reasoned faith and faithful reason.” — First Things

“. . . clear and lively.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Vintage McInerny, crackling with wit and insight.” — New Oxford Review

“McInerny has done an excellent job of identifying and rejecting a number of widely current assumptions about the natural-theology tradition as found in Thomas Aquinas and still articulated in Catholic doctrine. For all Protestants, McInerny’s fine discussion of preliminary issues is an opportunity to reevaluate whether our objections to natural theology are genuine objections to the classical view articulated by Aquinas and still taught by the Catholic Church today.” — Calvin Theological Journal

“The main strengths of this book are its breadth and conciseness in examining an important array of contemporary objections to natural theology and the interesting use and analysis of a variety of thinkers in the Christian religious and Western philosophical tradition. McInerny’s book is a well-written, philosophically interesting contribution to a contemporary philosophy of religion.” — Theological Studies

“As John Paul II has insisted in his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, believers must come to the defense of natural reason, of the capacity of our created nature to know the world made by God. McInerny fulfills this injunction with an admirable combination of learning, wit, grace, and clarity.” — Crisis

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First Glance at St. Thomas Aquinas

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Ralph McInerny

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Modernity and Religion


Edited by Ralph McInerny

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Quest of the Absolute

Birth and Decline of European Romanticism

Louis Dupré

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Words of Wisdom

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John W. Carlson

Characters in Search of Their Author

The Gifford Lectures, 1999-2000

Ralph McInerny

 Characters in Search of Their Author: The Gifford Lectures, 1999-2000
Cloth Edition
Paper Edition

“McInerny at his best. Profound and intelligible, a commanding intellect, refreshing to read as he addresses the time-transcending. A major contribution to a distinguished series.” —Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America

Is the conviction that there is a God the default position of the human mind? This is the suggestion of Vatican II’s Gaudium et spes, as well as Cardinal Newman and even St. Thomas Aquinas. But however natural it is for human beings to acknowledge their maker, it seems almost as natural to throw up obstacles between man and God. Characters in Search of Their Author, the Gifford Lectures delivered by Ralph McInerny in Glasgow in 1999–2000, is devoted to clearing away some of these impediments, mainly those fashioned by philosophers.

The first series of lectures traces the progressive dismissal of natural theology by modern and contemporary philosophers. Are all intellectual difficulties intellectual in origin? McInerny invites his reader to consider the ordinary acknowledgment or denial of God as analogous to falling into or out of love. The upshot may be a simple judgment, but the way to it is through the emotions and types of discourse that seldom appear in logic books.

The recovery of natural theology is the theme of the second series of lectures. Making critical use of philosophers from Kierkegaard and Newman to Thomas Aquinas, McInerny brings us to the point where the age-old task can once more begin.

ISBN: 978-0-268-02261-7

152 pages

“. . . lively and wide-ranging discourses on the decline of natural theology and its prospects for recovery within contemporary philosophy, with reflections on the relationship between faith and reason, presented in a colloquial idiom and governed throughout by McInerny’s genial Thomism.” — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

“In lucidity and breadth and depth, Characters in Search of their Author resembles Etienne Gilson’s Unison of Philosophical Experience, and, like the work of Gilson, should be a permanent addition to the personal library of anyone who is attempting to understand the animosity of contemporary philosophy to matters of faith.” — The Review of Metaphysics

“McInerny at his best. Profound and intelligible, a commanding intellect, refreshing to read as he addresses the time-transcending. A major contribution to a distinguished series.” —Jude P. Dougherty, Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America

“McInerny joins learning, wit, and lucidity in producing a reliable, and enjoyable, guide to reasoned faith and faithful reason.” — First Things

“. . . clear and lively.” — Times Literary Supplement

“Vintage McInerny, crackling with wit and insight.” — New Oxford Review

“McInerny has done an excellent job of identifying and rejecting a number of widely current assumptions about the natural-theology tradition as found in Thomas Aquinas and still articulated in Catholic doctrine. For all Protestants, McInerny’s fine discussion of preliminary issues is an opportunity to reevaluate whether our objections to natural theology are genuine objections to the classical view articulated by Aquinas and still taught by the Catholic Church today.” — Calvin Theological Journal

“The main strengths of this book are its breadth and conciseness in examining an important array of contemporary objections to natural theology and the interesting use and analysis of a variety of thinkers in the Christian religious and Western philosophical tradition. McInerny’s book is a well-written, philosophically interesting contribution to a contemporary philosophy of religion.” — Theological Studies

“As John Paul II has insisted in his 1998 encyclical, Fides et Ratio, believers must come to the defense of natural reason, of the capacity of our created nature to know the world made by God. McInerny fulfills this injunction with an admirable combination of learning, wit, grace, and clarity.” — Crisis