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    Entries in Law (1)


    Is Language All We Have?

    Those who share the sacramental language, those who share sacramentally in the language of the future, form a community, or, better, a movement within the world.

    -Herbert McCabe, OP, Law, Love, and Language

    What is the relationship between ethics and language?  Great question, particularly for Christians.  Ethics is my discipline.  I'm fascinated by the logic leading to ethical decisions, particularly how Christian people engage in moral reasoning.  It is a complex field, full of twists and turns.  Many would think that this wouldn't be the case.  The interplay between sources of moral reasoning--Scripture, reason, tradition, experience--are weighted differently depending on whereabout in the Kingdom one is examining an ethical question.  Different groups employ different criteria for different purposes, and at times come to different conclusions.

    This summer I read Herbert McCabe's Law, Love, and Language.  In that particular book, McCabe examines those approaches to ethics that rely on law or love as central principles of moral reasoning, and finds each coming up short.  Love becomes too vague, and law fails because of a certain rigidity that comes with the assumption that humankind has unity "by nature", rather than as an ongoing goal of history.  

    McCabe believes that " the study of human behavior as communication."  It is not a study of moral platitudes, nor a study of a particular virtue we are called to embody with our lives, but is a way of communicating.  This way of understanding ethics does not exclude such moral principles, or laws, which add precision to our definition of love, but encompasses both law and love through understanding Christianity as "essentially about our communication with each other in Christ, our participation in the world of the future."  This yields "a way of life, a way of discovering about the depths of life, out of which decisions about our behaviour will emerge."

    If this is the case, language matters--our spoken words and our unspoken forms of communication (our practices)--for the life of the Christian community.  In fact, you could say that it is all that we have.

    Is it?