catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

In the Crypt last Sunday

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Sunday 30 April. The place was the Crypt of St Patrick’s Church in Grosvenor Street Sydney and the event was the launch of a book by James Franklin on Catholic values. Jim is a lecturer in mathematics at the Uni of NSW and he is probably best known as a leading champion of the late David Stove. He is also the author of a good humoured and informative book on the history of philosophy teaching in Australia. And last year he won a Eureka Prize awarded by the Catholic University for his contribution to ethical thinking.

The map does not show Laing Park which is on the other side of Grosvenor Street. The afternoon started well with the sight of a couple walking a cat on a lead in the park. Unusual, though not quite as unlikely as the lady who was walking a ferret in a tiny harness in a park in Kiribilli recently.

On the steps of the church, peering in, the tall, angular figure of David Armstrong, sometime Challis Professor of philosophy at Sydney. Has a leading agnostic and Australian materialist (The Materialist Theory of Mind) seen the light? No, he is just a friend of Jim Franklin.

Realizing that the crypt is most likely accessed from the side of the church rather than the front steps, we locate the gate that leads into a charming courtyard area.

John Russell appears, a blast from the past (Premier’s Department, Cabinet Division, Justice and Consumer Affairs Unit, 1983). He is an organiser and he introduces various people, one from his parish at Cronulla and another, Stephen Crittenden, Presenter of the ABC National Religion Report who is launching the book. He does not need to introduce Jim Franklin, we have met several times, especially at the book launches for Macleay Press books that Keith Windschuttle used to hold at the Tattersalls Club overlooking Hyde Park.

Numerous people do not need introduction. Susan Geason, fellow clerk in Justice and Consumer Affairs, later the creator of Syd Fish (detective), author of Great Australian Girls and currently completing books on Charlotte Bronte and the Deep Sleep mental hospital scandal of yesteryear. Not a religious person, though raised in contact with the Catholic faith, she is here as a friend of John Russell. Peter Coleman. Rob Stove, son of David, up from Melbourne for the weekend. He had a hand in the production of Jim’s book. We lunched on Saturday prior to his meeting with Bettina Arndt when he collected a bundle of papers for his work editing the biography of Heinz Arndt. Keith Windschuttle in close conversation (about garden fences) with Jean Curthoys. Eventually get to talk to Jean as Keith departs. She is reading Hayek and not enjoying it.

Wine is served and hot refreshments, prawns, party pies, sausage rolls and other tasty viands.

John Russell opens the proceedings, warming up the audience with a quick test of their knowledge of the Cathechism (lousy performance from the assembled company) and also a test on the Seven Deadly Sins. It seems that the Catholic Church (with the Greek Orthodox) has a slightly different list from the Protestants. I forget the details.

Stephen Crittenden then delivered the launching speech and finally Jim took the stage to explain the importance of Natural Law which is the basic assumption of his prizewinning work on ethics. The thesis of Natural Law defies the usual perception of the is/ought problem, also called the dualism of facts and values, according to which there is no logical way to proceed from statements of fact “this IS the case” to statements of value “this OUGHT to be the case”.

According to Natural Law there are values in nature just as there are facts, and the basic moral values can be found with the same degree of certainty (or probability) as the laws of science that are established by induction. This could be contested, but not by a cheerful guest under the influence of wine, prawns and sausage rolls.

Written by Admin

May 7, 2006 at 9:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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