instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Being formal ain't natural

In the post below, I gave an example of what I think is an error caused [in part] by thinking in "bad Catholic" terms rather than in terms of what is true. In (not-so-)brief, the error is dividing authoritative statements (that is, statements made by religious authorities as religious authorities) into doctrine and personal judgment (or "empirical claim[s] about contingent matters of fact"), then ignoring (with or without lip service toward respectful consideration) the latter.

Commenting on the post, Steven Riddle commits what I think is the dual of that error: of dividing authoritative statements into Big-T Tradition and little-t tradition, then ignoring (with or without lip service toward respectful consideration) the latter.

Note that in both cases, the distinction involved is real and important. The error lies in ignoring as "of little relevance" the non-doctrinal, non-Traditional category. To do that is to treat the Catholic Faith like a formal language with a symbology so rigorously defined that every sentence can be precisely and unambiguously interpreted.

Human language doesn't work that way. Non-doctrinal statements shed light on doctrinal statements. Small-t traditions shed light on capital-T Tradition. Non-doctrinal statements and small-t traditions are not difficulties the solutions to which we know exist but may not be interested in chasing down. They are human means by which, and along with which, doctrine and Tradition are related and passed on.

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