USC Book Club: Seeking the Truth of Things
Seeking the Truth of Things: confessions of a (catholic) philosopher
By Al Gini
Review: While certainly not a textbook, Seeking the Truth of Things introduces some of the world’s greatest thinkers and philosophical concepts. Telling stories on the ground rather than from the fabled ivory tower, Al Gini invites the reader to explore deep questions of meaning without the Philosophy 101 prerequisite.
Gini insists that he is a small “c” catholic philosopher, because he wants to be “open to understanding and appreciating all philosophies—not just defending one,” but in each idea explored, it’s clear that he’s guided by the notion that “although human beings are unique individuals, we are communal creatures in need of one another”—a big “C” Catholic principle as well.
—Meghan Murphy-Gill, Associate Editor, U.S. CATHOLIC
ACTA Publications says: Al Gini is a philosopher who writes for real people about things they actually care about: the meaning of work, moral courage, choice, sin, laughter, and leisure. In Seeking the Truth of Things, he explores his lifelong quest for wisdom.
Available at book stores or from ACTA Publications: 800-397-2282 or shop online at www.actapublications.com
Suggested Discussion Questions from ACTA Publications:
Chapter I: HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH PHILOSOPHY
1. Have you “fallen in love” with some form of knowledge? Share it with others and why it is important to you.
2. What would your definition of philosophy be? Under that definition, are you a philosopher? Why or why not?
3. What does “catholic philosophy” mean to you? Would it be spelled with a small “c” or a capital “C”? Why?
Chapter II: THE EXAMINED LIFE
1. Is the unexamined life worth living? Explain your answer.
2. What do you think William James meant by the “philosophical attitude of mind”? Describe someone who has such an attitude. What do you like/dislike about that person?
3. Do you believe that Catholicism has something to offer the world regarding ethics and values? What is it?
Chapter III: THE NEED FOR MEANING
1. What is your favorite “philosophical” book? Why?
2. What do you think is the meaning of life? Does suffering and death negate that meaning? Explain your answer.
3. Are Catholics happier than other people? Why or why not?
Chapter IV: TOO MANY CHANGES, TOO MANY CHOICES
1. In general, do you like change and choice in your life? Give examples of each and why you like or dislike it.
2. What is “true freedom” to you? How to you recognize it? What prevents you from exercising it?
3. Is Catholicism conducive or obstructive to change and choice? Explain your answer.
Chapter V: THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
1. Which of the original seven deadly sins is your “favorite”? Why?
2. Compare the two lists of new seven deadly sins on page 51. Which elements of each speak most to you? If you were going to substitute a new sin on each list, what would they be and why?
3. Has Catholicism lost its sense of sin or just its sense of punishment? Give examples of your answer.
Chapter VI: A SHORT PRIMER ON MORAL COURAGE
1. What is courage? Give examples from your own life or the lives of people you know personally.
2. “The narcissist does not see past the needs and wants of self” (p. 58). What do you observe in our culture that leads you to think it is becoming more (or less) narcissistic?
3. What in Catholicism offsets the human tendency to worry about self? Is this always a good thing? Explain.
Chapter VII: A PHILOSOPY OF WORK
1. Name all the kinds of work you have done in your life (both paid and unpaid). What work was the most meaningful to you? Why?
2. What do you think of Pope John Paul II’s assertion that work is “a fundamental right of all human beings” page 73)? What does this mean for people who are unemployed, retired, or homemakers?
3. Does Catholic social teaching on work have something to offer our society today? What is it and how might you help to bring it about?
Chapter VIII: A PHILOSOPHY OF LAUGHTER AND LEISURE
1. What is so funny?
2. How do you re-create yourself? Do you spend enough time just “doing nothing”? Why or why not?
3. Does Catholicism spend more time celebrating joy or comforting sorrow? Give examples of each. What might you do to help balance the equation?