"Faith in a hard Ground"

This week's Catholic Herald carries an abridged version of Elizabeth Anscombe's classic essay on Humanae Vitae, given as a paper at the University of Melbourne in 1978. (Cf. Defending a virtue under fire)

The full text of the paper is included in the newly published collection of essays by GEM Anscombe on religion, philosophy and ethics: "Faith in a Hard Ground" (edited by Mary Geach and Luke Gormally.) The preface by Luke Gormally and the Introduction by Mary Geach are most helpful, as are the additional footnotes supplied by them

I well remember from my days as an undergraduate philosopher at Oxford the excitement of being able to support essays with material from a Catholic philosopher who was so well versed in the British analytical tradition. The essays in this collection are written at a variety of levels and cover a wide area of ground - from "Hume on Miracles", to contraception, the embryo, to the fundamental question "What is it to believe someone?"

The encouragement (and polite, but ruthless dissection) of independent thought, characteristic of the teaching of philosophy in Britain makes for very thought-provoking writing and Anscombe was a classic exponent of this tradition whilst remaining humble in her acceptance of the Church's magisterium and obedient even when this cost her much soul-searching. I heartily recommend this collection to philosophy undergraduates who are in search of some relief from the secular consensus, to those trained in continental schools who will find these essays refreshing in their originality, and to anyone who has an interest in thinking through the important philosophical and ethical problems of our day.

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