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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 94, Issue 1, Winter 2020

The Philosophical Legacy of John Henry Newman

Robert E. Wood
Pages 57-72

The Heart in Newman’s Thought

Newman’s view of the heart corresponds with the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church. His motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, exhibits his central religious preoccupation. There are three factors involved in religious existence: intellectual apprehension, emotional realization, and moral action. The center, located in the heart, is typically considered secondary: clear conception and moral action are all that is required. For Newman, this is truncated religion, for religion has its deepest root in the heart. Here is where he considers conscience. Like taste and common sense, it is an intellectual virtue; but unlike the former, it is always emotional. It is a privileged place of relation to God, the Supreme Judge. A peculiar set of emotional matters cluster around this relation. It plays in relation to the work of intellect as theology in relation to devotion. This exhibits an instance of the larger relation between notional and real assent. The latter deals with concrete matters and is a relation of “the whole person.” Its aim is to realize what we already accept. That may occur organically through experience, but it can also be invoked meditatively in solitude. Imagination is the chief vehicle of that realization.

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