Archives for posts with tag: Naturalism

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 »

Naturalism and the 666

I recently had to search and add some instruction to the little I knew about the book of Revelation, thanks to a Protestant who was trying to convert me. I thanked him by trying to convert him in my turn. When the subject of Apocalypse arose, I shared my personal theory about the 666. Unfortunately, I checked it only after our conversation, and it proved a complete anachronism. I feel fairly ridiculous about this, now that I have learned a much better, and real Catholic, interpretation.

My enlightenment came from Naji Mouawad, a Maronite (Lebanese rite) Catholic, interviewed by Father Mitch Pacwa on EWTN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osODD9qeRLo). Both the guest and the host are remarkable scholars and theologians, and I learned many things in this brief overview.

Mr Mouawad’s biblical lectures, developed over 15 years, are available for purchase on his website, named “Qorbono” (https://www.qorbono.com/). He advises to respect the specific order and begin at the beginning of his 200 talks. The first group of talks, titled “Catholic Foundation” are a pre-requisite to the study of the book of Revelation.

My failed attempt at the interpretation of the 666 symbolism is proof that it is fruitless to examine a detail of the puzzle without referring again and again to the big picture – the “Catholic foundation” – to discover where and how the little piece fits. In the case, I did it the Protestant way, following my own dim light.

Naji Mouawad uses the well-known allusion to the number 666 as the numerical value of letters in the name of Caesar Neron (the count is 666 with the final “n”, without the “n” it equals 616). However, the key to the symbol is to combine the allusion to Nero with a clear biblical passage about another king, Salomon, who collected taxes in disobedience, and raised 666 talents of gold in the year.

Nero is clearly the extreme – though not exactly rare – example of the wicked ungodly ruler, while Salomon’s whole story is a serious warning that the best can fall from grace when they stop listening to God, and oppose their will to the Lord’s commandments. Both followed what the New Testament calls the spirit of the world, and what philosophy and theology call naturalism, to its logical consequences.

Read the rest of this entry »