25 January 2006

Et nos cedamus amori

A quick quiz on what will almost certainly be the most studied discussion of aspects of ancient philosophy for months to come: Benedict XVI's encyclical, released today, "Deus caritas est".

1. The first footnote in the encyclical is to:

(a) The opening lines of the gospel of John
(b) Thomas Aquinas, S.T., on caritas
(c) Aristotle on friendship
(d) Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil
2. The first difficulty the Pope raises is an echo of:
(a) Augustine's Confessions
(b) Aristotle on friendship
(c) I Corinthians 13
(d) Tina Turner, "What's Love Got to Do With It?"
3. True or false. The Pope gives an interpretation of Metaphysics Lambda.

4. Which passage from Plato is discussed?
(a) The Cave Allegory
(b) Aristophanes' tale from the Symposium
(c) The charioteer from the Phaedrus
(d) None of the above: Plato is not discussed

5. The first half of the encyclical is principally concerned with:
(a) eros
(b) antiphilesis
(c) philia
(d) storge


1. (d) "According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Christianity had poisoned eros, which for its part, while not completely succumbing, gradually degenerated into vice." [1] Cf. Jenseits von Gut und Böse, IV, 168.

2. (b) "So we need to ask: are all these forms of love basically one, so that love, in its many and varied manifestations, is ultimately a single reality, or are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?" See NE 1155b12: po\teron e\(n ei)=doj th=j fili/aj e)sti\n h)\ plei/w..

3. True.
"The divine power that Aristotle at the height of Greek philosophy sought to grasp through reflection, is indeed for every being an object of desire and of love —and as the object of love this divinity moves the world[6]—but in itself it lacks nothing and does not love: it is solely the object of love." [6] Cf. Metaphysics, XII, 7

4. (b) "
Of all other creatures, not one is capable of being the helper that man needs, even though he has assigned a name to all the wild beasts and birds and thus made them fully a part of his life. So God forms woman from the rib of man. Now Adam finds the helper that he needed: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). Here one might detect hints of ideas that are also found, for example, in the myth mentioned by Plato, according to which man was originally spherical, because he was complete in himself and self-sufficient. But as a punishment for pride, he was split in two by Zeus, so that now he longs for his other half, striving with all his being to possess it and thus regain his integrity." [8] Plato, Symposium, XIV-XV, 189c-192d.

5. (a), eros, regarded as inseparable from agape: "
The Greeks—not unlike other cultures—considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a “divine madness” which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness. All other powers in heaven and on earth thus appear secondary: “Omnia vincit amor” says Virgil in the Bucolics—love conquers all—and he adds: “et nos cedamus amori”—let us, too, yield to love."


5 correct: You have a good sense of humor; or you are a serious Catholic; or you are a serious time-waster and accidentally stumbled upon vatican.va. In any case, raise a toast to eros.

4 correct: Next time, pleonekteon yourself.

3 correct: That's fine. Out of misguided agape, we're counting your score as a 4.

2 correct: You are probably yielding a little too much to love. Perhaps you are in love with love.

1 correct: For penance, purchase and read one of the books on the sidebar.

0 correct: Congratulations, you've reached a limit!


Catherine Osborne said...

I'm afraid I cheated and looked at your answers, and so without looking up the vatican website I was initially rather convinced that the Holy Father must have plagiarised his encyclical from Eros Unveiled by C. Osborne. But now, on reflection, seeing that there is a mention of Aristophanes's speech which I don't deal with in that book, I'm rather reaching the conclusion that he and I both have a hot line to the same source of inspiration.

Michael Pakaluk said...

Catherine, Indeed, and I hope you are on the invitation list for one of those seminars at Castelgandolfo. I wonder, have you considered sending a copy of your book to Benedict?

For readers of this blog, here are the opening sentences from the BMCR review:

"With this study of Eros, Catherine Osborne challenges contemporary and widely held assumptions regarding eros and agape as two divergent, if not opposing forms of love. The position articulated by Anders Nygren has found a receptive audience for a number of generations. Osborne's argument, however, has to contend with more than popularized Christian teaching, for non-Christian popular understanding of erotic love is also far removed from the cosmic spiritual bond of true eros for which she is making her case. Her rehabilitation of eros proceeds by way of analysis of ancient and medieval documents, but her work is more systematic than historical in its attempt to account for divine eros in human relationships. Her primary thesis is that true love implies a relationship which cannot be based on either the need of the lover or the potential benefits to be derived from the beloved."

See http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/1995/95.09.16.html.

Catherine Osborne said...

Mm. Good thinking, Michael. I might do that!