Friday, May 16, 2008

Quid est veritas?

John Allen reports on a conference being held in Lugano, Switzerland, which is bringing together some Catholic prelates, as well as secular, atheist and some former-Catholic philosophers and thinker to talk about the importance of the quest for Truth. Allen has often underscored that this is one of the central "planks" of Benedict's Papacy.

He devotes a large part of the article to the views of Simon Blackburn, an atheist philosopher at Cambrdige, including excerpts from an informal interview. Money quote:
hat's precisely my point. We're living in a new world, in which there is a much more clear recognition of the need to fight a battle on behalf of the West, which at least on that canon of issues puts you and the pope in the same boat.

Yes, that's right. I don't mind at all finding myself talking alongside representatives of the Church of England or the Roman Catholic church if that's the message we're trying to convey. I've often put it slightly mischievously by saying, "Even Christians are human!" I think there are a lot of values that humanity needs to defend. I'd just have to listen to exactly what they say.

Would you as a secular intellectual with no particular affinity for religious systems nevertheless be prepared to say that it's helpful to have someone with the cultural standing of the pope making this argument?

It could be, yes. I think it's important. The defense of values is something that has to be done again and again and again. You can never rest. Insofar as he's defending what I would recognize as Enlightenment values, then of course I'm very pleased to hear it. Naturally, as a non-religious and certainly non-Catholic thinker, I'd be worried about whether some of the values he's defending are ones I can't subscribe to.
While the Holy Father is not present at this gathering, one can be sure that he is pleased at such conversations. I am reminded of that famous exchange between the then Cardinal Ratzinger had with the atheist German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas.

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