Archives for posts with tag: Enlightenment

Earthbound Giants vs Friends of the Forms

Responding to Contemporary Atheism
by Father James Brent, O.P., conference at The Thomistic Institute, July 2019
https://soundcloud.com/thomisticinstitute/responding-to-contemporary-atheism-fr-james-brent-op

SUMMARY

The question of what response to make to contemporary atheism is embedded in a large scale philosophical matrix outlined by philosopher Lloyd Gerson, mainly in his books “From Plato to Platonism” and “Aristotle and Other Platonists”.

Platonism is a large movement, a “big tent”, called by Gerson Ur-Platonism”, that can be defined in five negative positions:
1. Anti-materialism: it is false that everything that exists is only bodies and their properties.
2. Anti-mechanicism: it is false that the explanations available to a materialist are adequate for explaining reality. Material and efficient causes are insufficient to explain reality; we need final and formal causality as well.
3. Anti-nominalism: it is false that the only things that exist are individuals, each uniquely situated in space and time. Things have natures, forms, or participate in a form.
4. Anti-relativism, of which there are two different kinds: a) Epistemological relativism: it is false that the true is what appears as such to me or my group, or a group. b) Ethical or moral relativism: it is false that the good is what appears as such to me or my group, or a group.
5. Anti-skepticism: it is false that knowledge is impossible. There are different kinds and degrees of skepticism, up to a general skepticism of truth altogether. A degree of skepticism is not so much a danger in science and math, but outside of those it really is a danger, especially in morality.

These five positions were known in the ancient world. There is an inside and outside of the big tent that Plato called the “friends of the forms” and the “earthbound giants”. Earthbound giants think matter explains everything, while the friends of the forms realize that this doesn’t work and that it is possible to know the Forms, which brings us a profound satisfaction, so that we are drawn to become a good person, and can be shaped into someone beautiful, precisely by the contemplation of the forms, the natures of things. That is the original inspiration of philosophy, which is compelling and captivating. But when one studies philosophy in a contemporary context, one is rather introduced to the thinking of earthbound giants. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, John C. Wright posted a quote of Bruce Charlton expressing that a return to Antiquity pagan morals and philosophy would be more likely to lessen the divide between our modern pagans and Christianity than direct Christian preaching. Dr Charlton was calling (half-seriously, of course) for pagan missionaries. Here is my take on the subject (in three different posts, slightly edited):

1. Interesting, but we have no need of pagan missionaries. We already have them anyway and they only wreak havoc: from the 18th and 19th centuries we had the Enlightenment prophets and the Progress worshippers. We still have many of those, but for half a century it has been much worse with the New Age missionaries. Absolutely nothing good can come from this church of the velvet-gloved Satan. And they are almost all impossible to convert without much fast and prayer and exorcisms.

Belloc made the following comparison between the modern pagans and the old while explaining why the “Modern Attack”, as he calls the new paganism, is so very dangerous to the Faith: “A man going uphill may be at the same level as another man going down hill; but they are facing different ways and have different destinies. Our world, passing out of the old Paganism of Greece and Rome towards the consummation of Christendom and a Catholic civilization from which we all derive, is the very negation of the same world leaving the light of its ancestral religion and sliding back into the dark.” (Hilaire Belloc, The Great Heresies, 1938)
Read the rest of this entry »