Thursday, May 29, 2014

"The antiphilosophical scientists"

“But the case of pragmatism is only one particular case of a larger problem. In the last analysis, we have to consider the way in which philosophy has been challenged, not by science but by a masked metaphysics of science. Julian Huxley is convinced that philosophical and religious assertions are nonsense or useless hypotheses. And so they are for him, it is true. Philosophers can understand the biological contributions of Julian Huxley, and recognize the truth of biology as well as the truth of philosophy and religion, but I dare say Julian Huxley does not understand our books and so feels firmly justified in denying philosophy all admittance to the field of knowledge. But philosophy is able to return the challenge. It indicts the very method of the antiphilosophical scientists as inconsistent with their own scientific method, and indeed rather na├»ve. For they criticize philosophy and religion in the name of science, which by their own confession has no knowledge or criteria regarding such matters, and which might pass judgment on them only on condition that it become philosophy. These men are in the same position as an automobile driver who would insist that planes are worthless, because he knows how to drive and because to fly is not to drive. 

“To live in a state of doubt is a highly civilized attitude as regards the infinite potentialities and future constructions of science in its deciphering of phenomena. But to live in a state of doubt as regards, not phenomena, but the ultimate realities the knowledge of which is a natural possibility, privilege, and duty for human intelligence, is to live more miserably than animals, which at least tend with instinctive and buoyant certitude toward the ends of their ephemeral life.

“It is a great misfortune that both a civilization and education suffer from a cleavage between the ideal that constitutes their reason for living and acting, and that implies things in which they do not believe, and the reality according to which they live and act but which denies the ideal that justifies them. All modern democracies have suffered from such a cleavage. The task and mission of youth is to solve the problem at their own risk, to reunite real and ideal and make thought and action as one.”

~Jacques Maritain: Education at the Crossroads.

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"Divine worship"

"WE pay God honor and reverence, not for His sake (because He is of Himself full of glory to which no creature can add anything), but for our own sake, because by the very fact that we revere and honor God, our mind is subjected to Him; wherein its perfection consists, since a thing is perfected by being subjected to its superior, for instance the body is perfected by being quickened by the soul, and the air by being enlightened by the sun. Now the human mind, in order to be united to God, needs to be guided by the sensible world, since "invisible things . . . are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made," as the Apostle says (Rom 1:20). Wherefore in the Divine worship it is necessary to make use of corporeal things, that man's mind may be aroused thereby, as by signs, to the spiritual acts by means of which he is united to God. Therefore the internal acts of religion take precedence of the others and belong to religion essentially, while its external acts are secondary, and subordinate to the internal acts."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 81, a. 7.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Aquinas Catechism

Recommended reading:  The Aquinas Catechism: A Simple Explanation of the Catholic Faith by the Church's Greatest Theologian

The essentials of the Catholic Faith—
clearly & beautifully explained by one of the Church’s greatest thinkers!

Although St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the Church’s most intellectually powerful theologians, few know that he also wrote a great deal that’s well within the reach of ordinary believers.

In fact, as you’ll find in The Aquinas Catechism, St. Thomas had a remarkable ability to communicate the Faith — including both its most complex and its simplest elements — in plain language. Here you’ll find his deeply insightful, straightforward, and clear explanations of the Apostles’ Creed, the Commandments, and the Sacraments — as well as of the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

In other words, this book will give you a basic course in the Catholic Faith, taught by the Church’s greatest theologian.

~Excerpt from a review by Sophia Institute Press


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Truth and friendship

“However, it seems indeed better, and in fact especially obligatory on philosophers, to sacrifice even the rights of friendship for the sake of truth. While it is commendable to have love for both, we ought to honor truth as sacred above friends.” (Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics, 106a14-17.)

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76) ...."The reason that it seems to be better, meaning more honorable and in agreement with good morals, and indeed obligatory, that a man should not hesitate to oppose his friends for the sake of truth. It is so necessary for good morals that without it virtue cannot be preserved. Unless a man prefer truth to his friends, it follows that he will make false judgment and bear false witness in their defense. This is contrary to virtue. While reason prescribes that all men should prefer truth to their friends, this holds in a special way for the philosophers whose calling is to study wisdom, which is knowledge of the truth.

77) “That truth should be preferred to friends he proves in this way. He is the greater friend for whom we ought to have the greater consideration. Although we should have friendship for both truth and our fellow man, we ought rather to love truth because we should love our fellow man especially on account of truth and virtue, as will be shown in the eighth book. Now truth is a most excellent friend of the sort to whom the homage of honor is due. Besides, truth is a divine thing, for it is found first and chiefly in God. He concludes, therefore that it is virtuous to honor truth above friends.

78) “Andronicus, the peripatetic, says that piety makes men faithful to and observant of the things of God. Along the same line is the judgment of Plato who, in rejecting the opinion of his teacher Socrates, says a man ought to care more for the truth than anything else. Somewhere else too he affirms that while Socrates is certainly his friend, truth is still more so. In yet another place he says that we should have some care for the views of Socrates but more for the truth.”

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Commentary on Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. I, Lect. VI.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Relation of the Word to the Father

“WHAT is conceived in the intellect is a likeness of the thing understood and represents its species; and so it seems to be a sort of offspring of the intellect. Therefore, when the intellect understands something other than itself, the thing understood is, so to speak, the father of the word conceived in the intellect, and the intellect itself resembles rather a mother, whose function is such that conception takes place in her. But when the intellect understands itself, the word conceived is related to the understanding person as offspring to father. Consequently, since we are using the term word in the latter sense (that is according as God understands Himself), the word itself must be related to God, from whom the word proceeds, as Son to Father.

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Compendium of Theology, 39


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The existence of God

“REGARDING the unity if the divine essence, we must first believe that God exists. This is a truth clearly known by reason. We observe that all things that move are moved by other things, the lower by the higher. The elements are moved by heavenly bodies; and among the elements themselves, the stronger moves the weaker; and even among the heavenly bodies, the lower are set in motion by the higher. This process cannot be traced back into infinity. For everything that is moved by another is a sort of instrument of the first mover. Therefore, if a first mover is lacking, all things that move will be instruments. But if the series of movers and things moved is infinite, there can be no first mover. In such a case, these infinitely many movers and things moved will all be instruments. But even the unlearned perceive how ridiculous it is to suppose that instruments are moved, unless they are set in motion by some principal agent. This would be like fancying that, when a chest or a bed is being built, the saw or the hatchet performs its functions without a carpenter. Accordingly, there must be a first mover that is above all the rest; and this being we call God.”

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Compendium of Theology, 1.


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Monday, May 12, 2014

“Nobody can do without theology”

“THE intellectual and political history of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Reformation and the Counter Reformation, the internal state of British society after the Revolution in England, the achievements of the Pilgrim Fathers, the Rights of Man, and the further events in world history have their starting point in the great disputes on nature and grace of our classical age. Neither Dante nor Cervantes nor Rabelais nor Shakespeare nor John Donne nor William Blake, nor even Oscar Wilde or D.H. Lawrence, nor Giotto, nor Michelangelo nor El Greco nor Zurbaran, nor Pascal nor Rousseau, nor Madison nor Jefferson nor Edgar Allan Poe nor Baudelaire, nor Goethe nor Nietzsche nor even Karl Marx, nor Tolstoy nor Dostoevski is actually understandable without a serious theological background. Modern philosophy itself, from Descartes to Hegel, remains enigmatic without that, for in actual fact philosophy has burdened itself all through modern times with problems and anxieties taken over from theology, so that the cultural advent of a philosophy purely philosophical is still to be waited for.

“In the cultural life of the Middle Ages philosophy was subservient to theology or rather wrapped up in it; in that of modern times it was but secularized theology. Thus the considerations I have laid down regarding philosophy are still truer of theology. Nobody can do without theology, at least a concealed and unconscious theology, and the best way of avoiding the inconveniences of an insinuated theology is to deal with theology that is consciously aware of itself. And liberal education cannot complete its task without the knowledge of the specific realm and the concerns of theological wisdom.”

~Jacques Maritain: Education at the Crossroads.

Theology (ceiling tondo), by Raffaelo Sanzio.
Fresco, 1509-11; Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.

"The gift of understanding"

"UNDERSTANDING implies an intimate knowledge, for "intelligere" [to understand] is the same as "intus legere" [to read inwardly]. This is clear to anyone who considers the difference between intellect and sense, because sensitive knowledge is concerned with external sensible qualities, whereas intellective knowledge penetrates into the very essence of a thing, because the object of the intellect is "what a thing is," as stated in De Anima iii, 6.

"Now there are many kinds of things that are hidden within, to find which human knowledge has to penetrate within so to speak. Thus, under the accidents lies hidden the nature of the substantial reality, under words lies hidden their meaning; under likenesses and figures the truth they denote lies hidden (because the intelligible world is enclosed within as compared with the sensible world, which is perceived externally), and effects lie hidden in their causes, and vice versa. Hence we may speak of understanding with regard to all these things.

"Since, however, human knowledge begins with the outside of things as it were, it is evident that the stronger the light of the understanding, the further can it penetrate into the heart of things. Now the natural light of our understanding is of finite power; wherefore it can reach to a certain fixed point. Consequently man needs a supernatural light in order to penetrate further still so as to know what it cannot know by its natural light: and this supernatural light which is bestowed on man is called the gift of understanding."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: ST, II-II, q. 8, a. 1.


St. Thomas Aquinas, by Fra Angelico.
Tempera on wood, 1340-45; Collezione Vittorio Cini, Venice.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

"Mary bears the price of our redemption"

“MARY bears the price of our redemption. The water which gushed out of the rock to refresh the people of Israel is her symbol (Nm 20:8). Hers is the integrity of maidenhood, the fruitfulness of wedlock, the purity of chastity. Let us bless her often, and sing her praises: ‘for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call be blessed’ (Lk 1:48).”

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, 47.

Madonna of the Roses,
by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1903.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Maritain: Education at the Crossroads

Highly recommended reading: Education at the Crossroads, by Jacques Maritain.

Though presently ignored, this work is destined to become a classic. Maritain presents the insights and analysis of modern education (especially in America), which we need now more than ever!

Like the philosophers Mortimer J. Adler and Hannah Arendt and the historian Christopher Dawson, Maritain clearly identifies the critical cultural crisis in modern education. Modern education is illiberal, and the only real solution to this fiasco is the return to a system of liberal education, properly understood.

“ANOTHER form of intellectualism, a modern one, gives up universal values and insists upon the working and the experiential functions of intelligence. It seeks the supreme achievements of education in scientific and technical specialization. Now specialization is more and more needed by the technical organization of modern life, yet it should be compensated for by a more vigorous general training, especially during youth. If we remember that the animal is a specialist, and a perfect one, all of its knowing-power being a fixed upon a single task to be done, we ought to conclude that an educational program which would aim at forming specialists ever more perfect in ever more specialized fields, and unable to pass judgment on any matter that goes beyond their specialized competence, would lead to a progressive animalization of the human mind and life.”

~Jacques Maritain: Education at the Crossroads.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Sin

“THERE are two sides to every sin, the turning to transient satisfaction and the turning away from everlasting value. As regards the first, the principle of all sins can be called lust—lust in its most general sense, namely, the unbridled desire for one’s pleasure.  As regards the second, the principle is pride, pride in its general sense, the lack of submission to God.” (Disputations concerning Evil, 8, 1.)

“PRIDE strives for perverse excellence, a very special sin when God is despised, but also present whenever our neighbor is despised.”  (Disputations concerning Evil, 8, 2.)

~St. Thomas Aquinas

See also, "The cause of sin, in respect of one sin being the cause of another": ST, I-II, q. 84.


The Seven Deadly Sins and The Four Last Things, by Hieronymus Bosch.
Oil on panel, c. 1480; Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Friday, May 2, 2014

"Truth resides primarily in the intellect"

"TRUTH resides primarily in the intellect; and secondarily in things, according as they are related to the divine intellect. If therefore we speak of truth, as it exists in the intellect, according to its proper nature, then are there many truths in many created intellects; and even in one and the same intellect, according to the number of things known. Whence a gloss on Psalm 11:2, "Truths are decayed from among the children of men," says: "As from one man's face many likenesses are reflected in a mirror, so many truths are reflected from the one divine truth." But if we speak of truth as it is in things, then all things are true by one primary truth; to which each one is assimilated according to its own entity. And thus, although the essences or forms of things are many, yet the truth of the divine intellect is one, in conformity to which all things are said to be true."

~St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologiae, I, q. 16, art. 6.

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