When speaking of evangelization in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG), Pope Francis addresses the topics of the common good and social peace (EG 217-237). He speaks of four principles in this regard: time is greater than space (222-225), unity prevails over conflict (226-230), realities are more important than ideas (231-233), and the whole is greater than the part (234-237). He returns to the third principle in Laudato Si’ (LS), where he invites us to confront the ecological crisis by thinking about the common good and pursuing the path of dialogue (LS 201).
His insistence on the crucial importance of the real world in protecting us from isolation in the heady world of ideas is also extremely relevant to and present in contemporary philosophical debates. In various cultural contexts – not only in Europe but also in the United States and Australia – there is talk of a “new realism” and even of a return to metaphysics.
So it is easy to imagine that there is a convergence between the debate stirred up by Francis’ words and contemporary philosophical discussions. This should come as no surprise, since it was precisely the Catholic philosophical tradition, whose most recent proponents belonged to the Neo-Scholastic circles of the early 20th century, that upheld the primacy of reality, seemingly without great success judging from the anti-metaphysical turn in philosophy during that century.