Archives for posts with tag: Relativism

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 it 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 »

Transcendental Food

Transcendental Truth, Goodness and Beauty are the food of our main faculties, or ‘powers’, as St. Teresa de Jesus called them: intellect, will and imagination. In a previous post, I pointed out that truth is the food of the intellect. It must be added that the will feeds on goodness and imagination mainly on beauty. All three powers are naturally motivated by love to turn towards their natural food.

As transcendentals are nothing else than the being itself seen from different aspects, they are convertible. Everything is true, good or beautiful in the same measure that it is. Thus anything true is also good and beautiful in the same measure that it is true; anything good is necessarily true and beautiful; and nothing is beautiful that is not also true and good.

Beauty is a particular case though, and this reasoning applies properly only to metaphysical and moral beauty. Indeed, aesthetic beauty and imagination are linked to psycho-physical life, and neither the senses nor the sensitive faculties will exist in eternal life, while intellect and will, wherein reside our personality and likeness to God, are forever.
Read the rest of this entry »