Saturday, April 14, 2012

Need for Some Knowledge of Philosophy

"The Catholic Church in Korea has grown quickly; that the Catholic culture has been internalized by the Christians is not as easily said, but it is an area of concern that will be addressed philosophically by the Church in the future." Such were the words of the president of the Catholic Philosophical Society in a recent interview by the Catholic Times. 

Korea has benefited a great deal from the Confucian ethic and culture that was prevalent during the Joseon dynasty. It lasted over 500 years and still has a strong influence on the thinking of modern-day Koreans, he said.  Along with the influence of Buddhism, Christianity did not start off with a 'blank tablet' but with a strong understanding of the natural law thinking with which Christians are familiar. However, this basic understanding of who we are and how we are to live is no longer a common understanding of society.

Philosophical thinking is a way of maintaining the ethical way of living that Korea has experienced throughout its long history. "Philosophy is considered difficult, not part of us," the president said, and in the recent past, he went on to say, it was not easy to express oneself in concrete ways about our present problems, and many philosophers escaped into theories. But it is philosophy that can help solve many of the problems we now face.

The Catholic Philosophy movement has had two seminars yearly, and has published papers each year but has not been very good in making its work known to the public. The new president wants to change this by making known what the philosophers are doing to help the Catholic culture take root in Catholic thinking.

To help understand our present situation is the work of philosophy, he says. He gives us the example of the term: the common good. The common good of the United States or Europe is not the same as the common good of Korea. When we read the Catholic culture through the eyes of philosophy and apply it to our Korean way of thinking, our cultural approach to life changes, he  said.

The president makes clear that Catholic philosophy does not change our culture directly. Catholic philosophy began in the West and brought to Korea a Catholic culture whose strangeness has disappeared. But its melding into the feeling and conscientiousness of Catholic thinking by Koreans, in the final process of inculturation, will take much time before we have a Catholic culture that is part of our Christian way of thinking.

Looking over the present situation in Korea, there is sadness that much of what the young are importing from the West is a culture far removed from Christianity. To know this is in itself a big step in attempts to distinguish between what is helpful and what is destructive to the traditional Korean way of life. Hopefully, with a grounding in  philosophy the young will have the tools to make a wiser judgement on what to accept and what to reject.

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