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At least since the time of Plato, philosophers have been speculating on the nature of the human person. However, while one may call this speculation, it is not a hollow academic exercise. For one's perspective on the human person determines one's action. And a "philosophy of man" widely held in society goes a long way to determining the nature of that society.
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I was a child of the 1960s. Reaching adolescence at about the same time the hippies became popular and the radical student movement began to burst into public consciousness, I thought I glimpsed the seeds of a bright new future for the world.
Modern Catholic social teaching is generally seen as having begun with Pope Leo XIII's 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum (On New Things).
One of the least-examined assumptions of our supposedly enlightened age is the belief that history can be compared with an individual's growth from childhood to maturity. Just as the child leaves behind its imaginary world of toys and Santa Claus, so too does the mature society abandon its comforting notions of God, objective morality and other "superstitions."
I believe God wants me to be president," George W. Bush once said. Well, perhaps. One's personal call from God is a mysterious thing and God's "plan" for human history is even harder for mortals to fathom.