Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association

Volume 83, 2009

Reason in Context

Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ
Pages 1-14

Reason in an Age of Anxiety
On the Vocation of Philosophy

In response both to the current age of anxiety and the recent call of Caritas in Veritate, I argue for a re-framed understanding of rationality, based upon the insights of Franciscan John Duns Scotus. For Scotus, “rational” means capable of self-movement. Consequently, the will (not the intellect) is the rational potency. Re-casting the contemporary fundamentalist “suspicion of reason” as a “suspicion of the intellect,” my central argument advocates a return to a more complete understanding of the rational. In this effort, I draw upon spiritual insights to contextualize and explain the Franciscan attention to the will (as source of love). Scotus’s use of Anselm in his analysis of the will’s affections is an effort to expand the concept of rationality to include ordered loving and conversion, key Franciscan values. Two important implications of this shift in perspective are the recovery of beauty and harmony as significant moral categories, and the capacity of the rational will for restrained use (usus pauper). This latter point is able to ground an ethics of sustainability and justice, opening up space for intercultural and interfaith dialogue.