Wiseblood Books

When only one kind of truth prevails…

Friend of Dappled Things, Fr. Damian Ference, excerpts Walker Percy’s address upon receiving the Laetare Award from the University of Notre Dame in 1989:

While truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. If only one kind of truth prevails, the abstract and technical truth of science, then, nothing stands in the way of a demeaning of, and a destruction of, human life, for what appear to be short-term goals. It’s no accident, I think, that German science—great as it was—ended in the destruction of the holocaust.

Whether you’re a longtime reader of Percy’s work, or would like to find out what all the fuss is about, Fr. Ference’s article at Word on Fire is a terrific start. Their next book discussion group will focus on Percy’s Love in the Ruins. We suggest you follow along!

Comments

  1. Lara Minton says:

    Right, mention the Holocaust and Hitler and watch thinking stop. This statement would be more meaningful as follows:

    While truth should prevail, it is a disaster when only one kind of truth prevails at the expense of another. If only one kind of truth prevails, the abstract and unprovable truth of religion, then, nothing stands in the way of a demeaning of, and a destruction of, human life, for what appear to be short-term goals. It’s no accident, I think, that fundamental belief systems — popular as they are—have resulted in so much war and bloodshed in our times and over the course of history.

  2. Yes, well, we all know Godwin’s Law, but frankly that itself is turning into a cliche. Like somehow you can use that to ignore the existence of something so *especially* bad as the Nazis. The troubling thing about the Nazis is precisely that Nazism emerged in the country that in a sense was the height of culture, the center of Western sophistication and enlightened thought. This should trouble us as moderns in a particular way. How easily we brush over the fact that the man who is often considered the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Heidegger, supported the Nazis. I don’t think we can just cry “fundamentalism!” and leave it at that, which should probably become a corollary of Godwin’s Law.

  3. It should be noted that Percy did not mention the Holocaust and Hitler as handy extremes with broad cultural recognition. He mentioned them because of his own deep attraction to German high culture as he experienced it during his visit there in the years before World War II. When the atrocities came to light, it forced a reckoning within his soul. And in fact, the destruction of human life he mentioned in The Thanatos Syndrome was not the politcally expedient extermination of the Jews, but rather, the intellectually justified (by German thinkers) elimination of the mentally ill. People who were judged – by scientists – as not fit to live because they lacked a certain quality of life.

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