Archives for posts with tag: Classical theist

Civilization Is A Conversation

The popular philosopher Stefan Molyneux (https://freedomainradio.com) often reminds his audience that “civilization is a conversation. ” I read about the same idea before in a blog article by John C. Wright (www.scifiwright.com) about the Great Books. A philosopher himself, as well as a novelist, Mr Wright is an alumnus of St. John’s College of liberal arts. I gather the school’s Great Books program was inspired from the writings of philosopher Mortimer Adler on “The Great Conversation” and his editing work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books series.

According to classical philosophers and other classical writers who had to know philosophy as a general foundation for their field, philosophy and science, literature and arts, civilization in a word, is a great conversation, and philosophy is its common language. It began to spread from Greece some six centuries before Christ.

Metaphysics, or philosophy properly so called, is the conversation about the fundamentals of everything that is or may be, especially the “why”, the causes. The “how” is more particularly the domain of empirical sciences and mathematics.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that examines the use of practical reason, or moral conscience. Why is there a sense of right and wrong? Why is conscience attracted to the good and repulsed by evil? Why is happiness connected to the good? These are some of the main questions of moral philosophy.

The moral questions are of course paramount also to religion and theology. Philosophy is the greatest achievement of the human mind unaided by faith, since it derives its information from the senses, external and internal. But the self-revelation of God being at the same time the revelation of man to himself (e. g. John 2:25), the Judaeo-Christian revelation is a very reliable source of information for philosophy, particularly for natural theology (or theodicy) and ethics.

Christian theologians, philosophers, and authors of literary or scientific writings were the ones who kept the conversation ongoing and timeless. It is timeless because philosophia perennis, the common philosophy of humanity (as philosopher Jacques Maritain would say), known also as Aristotelian-Thomism, or classical theist philosophy, is true in all essentials and those essentials are not subject to time. True philosophy is therefore capable of organic, continuous development upon this perennial basis.

Up to the 1960s, every generation educated by learned masters had access to the great works of the past and to a common philosophical framework. Scholars and writers could thus contribute to build on and transmit the intellectual and moral treasure of civilization, the treasure of human wisdom.

 

Conversation Slows Down

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Food of the Intellect

Certain foods are natural for the body, but it takes a fair amount of training and reasoning to choose the right aliments, prepare them properly, and eat quantities suitable for our real needs.

Truth is the natural food of the intellect. We are capable of arriving at truth by correct reasoning, that is, the right use of a trained intellect previously nurtured in truth or, at least, not impeded in its appetite for truth.

In theory, feeding body or mind seems straightforward and easy, but experience tells both are often not done as they should.

French Catholic philosopher Marcel Clément wrote that, in his youth in the 1930s, he was looking forward to studying philosophy. But instead of the traditional introduction to history of Greek philosophy and systematic presentation of basic concepts, he was given the views of various philosophers and schools of thought. Seeing how those philosophers were contradicting each other, he naively remarked: “Which one is right? Which system can we hold true? They cannot be all true, or else philosophy does not exist.” He was answered that he had a dogmatic mindset and that philosophy could do perfectly well without absolute truth.

Then, on the occasion of a dissertation on Greek ethics, he became acquainted with Aristotle and knew for sure that philosophy existed. He devoted the rest of his life to write about and teach philosophy and Catholic thought, particularly the social doctrine of the Church.
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Intellectual atheists try to present their main premise as rational, but it is not. For example, the titles of these two best-sellers, The God Delusion and God Is Not Great, advertise clearly the lack of rational thinking in those books. Even an atheist like Terry Eagleton felt compelled to refute such a presentation of atheism. In his book Reason, Faith, and Revelation: Reflections on the God Debate, he did us the service of exposing the irrationality and naive faith in Progress of “Ditchkins,” as he humorously branded the Dawkins-Hitchens duo.

I can speak only of the impression I get from the titles, but judging by what Eagleton and others said, my impression is not false.

God Is Not Great (Christopher Hitchens)

This proposition is simply a contradiction in terms: if there is a God, he is necessarily great, otherwise he would be no god at all. Maybe irony was intended, but it came out rather as mockery, which is not a good predictor of sound philosophy, especially considering the accusatory tone of the rest of the title: How Religion Poisons Everything.

The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins)

The main premise of materialist atheists is that there is nothing to existence but matter and that those who admit the existence of God as creator of the world are delusional. However, the atheist premise is indemonstrable and self-refuting while the God-created world is perfectly rational in sound philosophy (from Aristotle onwards).
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Catholic theology and its handmaiden, Scholastic philosophy, are complex, very consistent and organic (capable of development) systems with precise and interrelated language and concepts that cannot be comprehended if one does not grasp their exact meaning.

Scholastic philosophy is not the system of a particular school of philosophy, let alone one philosopher. We call it Thomism because the term is useful in a historical perspective, but its proper name is Philosophia perennis, that is, the love of wisdom for all times. It is the common philosophy of man, the treasure of philosophy as Maritain put it, hence it is not limited to a time, or place, or religious or social organization. If the Catholic Church is its guardian, she is not its owner; Philosophia perennis is a servant to theology but not a slave. It has a separate and autonomous existence as a science in its own right, and accordingly, philosophy and theology were always taught separately (the basics of philosophy first). The treasure of Philosophia perennis is open to all men to study and use, and many schools of classical theist philosophy may exist, as long as the concepts are not deformed. Those who deform it are adhering to, or starting, another philosophy that will never account exactly for the truth nor lead them to any wisdom, insofar as philosophy can lead to wisdom.
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