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Reconsidering Scholasticism Howard P

Reconsidering Scholasticism Howard P

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Philosophy Faculty Research and Publications , Department of

9-24-1999 Reconsidering Scholasticism Howard P. Kainz Marquette University, [email protected]

Published version. National Reporter, Vol. 35, No. 41 (September 24, 1999): 19-21. Publisher link. © 1999 National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company. Used with permission. Reconsidering scholasticism Kainz, Howard National Catholic Reporter; Sep 24, 1999; 35, 41; ProQuest Central pg. 19

.J.' Colleges and September 24, 1999 National Catholic Reporter 19

cism, he preferred the speculative Catholic approach to over the Protestant approach. Or - a less pleasant thought - Rec the ecclesiastical authorities just didn't understand what Hegel was up to. This was the era of major change in the ·;;@it'··• church and the heady enthusiasm of the .J· .... Vatican. Many ecclesiastical and theologi­ cal reforms were agreed upon at the and began to be imple­ Though rigid, Catholic philosophy before the council wasn't all bad mented in dioceses around the world; but also, around the same time, for some rea­ By HOWARD KAINZ son, changes began to be made in philoso­ phy departments. No directive from Vati­ 'Aphilosophy major in a Catholic can II ever said, "Wean the Catholic phi­ college during the '50s would losophy departments away from Scholasti­ very likely be able to identify cism." But gradually and almost impercep­ with my . My 36 tibly something like a weaning did take hours of the courses required place. for the major consisted largely of the vari­ Away from ous branches of Scholastic philosophy - 1bomism formal and material , , Possibly the Papal , Humanae , , rational psychology, Vitae, with its controversial invocation of general and special and a special Thomistic against artificial con­ course entitled "Thomistic synthesis." traception, turned many away from These courses were highly systematic and as the official Catholic philoso­ basically concerned with presenting - for phy/theology and helped to instill doubts want of a better - "the ." Every about papal authority. Possibly the rising once in a while, the teacher would stop to in the ecumenical movement - engage in in-house disputes with other another result of Vatican II- and the felt Scholastics - criticizing the Scotists for necessity of avoiding theological ghettoism their , or Suarezians for their led to the desire to investigate all and cavalier attitude toward the sundry philosophical of thought. between and , and so on In any case, there was a definite movement -but these debates were more or less ami­ away from the predominately Scholastic cable. Less amicable were the timely refu­ curriculum. tations of the skepticisms of Rene Descartes At the present time, only a few Catholic and , or the rebuttals of the universities or colleges have a curriculum of empiricists and their mistakes about induc­ that type. There are, of course, offerings of tion, or the discrediting of the of logic, ethics, , and so on, in Bishop George Berkeley, and so forth. above a 3.0, even with the 'C.' He replied, and eventually started work on a master's Catholic colleges; but the content of these At graduation I felt I was fairly up-to-date "Oh, was I the only bastard?"- Apparent­ thesis on Thomistic angelology. To make courses often bears little resemblance to the on the important developments in the ly he hadn-J even looked at my other ends meet, I took a part-time teaching job Scholastic prototypes. philosophical world and decided to apply grades but just presumed that because of at Maryville College in the vicinity of St. If we examine larger patterns regarding for graduate study at the University of Cal­ my Thomistic background I wouldn't be Louis, and after choosing the books to be the evolution of philosophy departments ifornia, Los Angeles. As I was signing up for able to "cut the mustard." assigned for the semester was told by the in Catholic colleges, the main movement, courses, the chairman of the UCLA philos­ This incident made me aware of the prej­ dean that I had to get the bishop's permis­ starting in the '60s and continuing through ophy department, who had looked at my udice that then prevailed about what "goes sion to use some of these texts. I had the '70s, seems to have been toward "the transcripts, took me aside and warned me on" in a philosophy department in a assigned some texts frqm Immanuel Kant, history of philosophy." There are some that, as a "Thomist," I was going to have Catholic university. Remnants of this prej­ and many of the writings of Immanuel exceptions: Notre Dame gravitated toward difficulty in their graduate program. But I udice still remain. The stereotype of a Kant were on the Index Librorum Prohibito­ "mainstream" , was optimistic and even signed up for his Catholic philosophy department was, and rum. A letter of permission from the bishop Duquesne University toward contemporary course on the Theory of , which often still is, the image-of a veritable ratio­ was required, and the permission could , and a few had to do largely with "raw feels" and how nal armory at the service of religious dogma then be extended to all of one's students. Catholic colleges and universities like we know the real exist~nce of pieces of and the papal chain of command. At any In recent years, out of curiosity I bor­ Aquinas College and the University of Dal­ chalk and other things in- the real world. rate, I wasn't sure that I was all that inter­ rowed the now-defunct Index from our las remained and still remain Thomistical­ At the end of the semester, he<:alled me ested in continuing in philosophy at that library; and discovered that Kant was ly oriented. into his office, told me that I had a 'C' for time and decided to travel to Africa and roundly disapproved of by the ecclesiasti­ But I have some problems understanding the course in spite of what I thought was an other countries. for a couple years to see cal authorities. I was delighted to note, the resort to history. What is the cash-value excellent paper on "Retrocognition," and what the world outside California was real­ however, that one of my favorite philoso­ for a Catholic college in "specializing" in that I would have to leave the program or ly like. phers, Hegel, was completely absent from the history of philosophy? Is this, for all be put on probation. I did some quick cal­ When I returned from my travels, I the Index ofForbidden Books. Possibly some­ practical purposes, just a variation of cur­ culations and then asked him whether my · entered the graduate program at St. Louis one at the curia in the 19th century knew ricula in the "history of ideas"? Are all grade point average wouldn't still be well University, which was largely Thomistic, that, although Hegel was critical of Catholi- Continued on page 20

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clarity for his own position. The formalistic Scholasticism I Problems in the resort to history Videtur quods and sed contras and respondeo dicendum quods of medieval Scholasticism CONnNUED FROM PAGE 19 ty. So why should we think seriously about from mine, but I would include on my list are no longer in style, but there are other , and all ideas, to be consid­ metaphysical issues any more, except per­ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, Friedrich Wil­ ways to unite history with systematic anal­ ered? And how does one avoid eclecticism haps to refute their possibility or to castigate helm Schelling, Hegel, Seren Kierkegaard, ysis of issues. In modem philosophy, Hegel, in the choices of historical concentrations? dogmatic positions on these.issues? (Possibly and . But for the who maintained that there was one system Certainly there are some downsides to -analysis, like an island in the majority, the "handwriting on the wall" of philosophy unfolding in and through the this approach. For one thing, there is the stormy sea, presents itself to us as a safer seems to be to combine history with system­ history of philosophy, offers us the best danger of a mere historian. Also, approach; at least Kant didn't say we couldn't atic criticism. 19th century example of the unification of if there is a graduate department, it is con­ know anything about our own language.) Does one who presents Kant's criticisms system and history. In recent decades, ceivable that we could end up training the tip of the of the arguments for the exis- Richard Rorty's Philosophy and graduate students to become historians, Kant iceberg tence of God really want to the Mirror of and Alas­ rather than "doing" philosophy. In other But Kant is just "the tip of the iceberg." leave it at that, schedule a dair Macintyre's After words, a graduate student, depending on What about Nietzsche? Should we just try quiz and then go on to the Does one who also give us some excellent the choice of courses and the makeup of to take him with the proverbial"grain of next item on the syllabus? presents Kant's examples of the way that deep his/her dissertation committee, could quite salt"? But if we discerned his true , Does one who analyzes jean examination of philosophical conceivably·receive a Ph.D. for knowing shouldn't we be suspicious of Paul Sartre's claim that the criticisms of the issues can be combined with what so-and-so said about such-and-such, itself, as a perpetuator, along with judaism, of God is an impos­ arguments for the broad-ranging historical anal­ and possibly also what the critics or sup­ of a "slave" ? And shouldn't we be sible synthesis of the en-soi ysis. porters of so-and-so said, without this grad just a bit apologetic for having foisted this and pour-soi really want to In ethics, perhaps it is time student ever thinking out his or her own suspect morality on the ? present that as the last word? really want to to stop trying to figure out position and presenting it to be defended. There is also the possibility that individual Or is the specialist in Kant or how the Categorical Impera­ But a subtler and more important danger, professors can become compartmentalized Sartre continually conversant leave it at that? tive can really be applied to it seems to me, could be the encroachment in an unhealthy fashion. One can conceiv­ with literature not only our personal maxims, or try­ of a general diffidence about attaining the ably spend years becoming a specialist in explaining these positions ing to estimate with some pre­ truth. I think of the anthologies in ethics Hume or Kant or Nietzsche or Sartre or Rus­ but also presenting cogent cision the quantity or quality that are often used as textbooks, with rep­ sell, and wake up one morning to find that counter-arguments? And even then, at of the consequences of our acts or our rules, resentative samplings of , their personal beliefs and ethics run in one some point, in many courses like these, the and reexamine natural-law theory. Numer­ deontology, situation-ethics, natural-law direction, while their research and teaching professor has to go beyond the incessant ous lawyers and judges, as well as philoso­ theories, communitarian ethics, pragma­ go in quite another direction: pros and cons and give "equal time" to phers and political scientists, have taken an tism, and so on. And with regard to theo­ But of course we all have our specializa­ his/her own considered position regarding interest in the new analytic approach to nat­ retical philosophy, I think of the frequent tions, and we want to avoid "throwing out what is true, and/or what is right. ural-law theory of Germain Grisez and john discrediting of long-standing Catholic tra­ the baby with the bathwater." A minority of It is also possible, even with modem Finnis, which has elicited spirited disputa­ ditions, as we roll through the writings of Catholic philosophers may be fortunate philosophers, to unite the historical and sys­ tions with proponents of a more traditional the major philosophers. enough to align themselves with philoso­ tematic approaches. Aquinas is a good Thomist approach, like Ralph Mcinerny, After reading Kant's First Critique, presum­ phers basically in accord with Christian tra­ example of this, raising issues prevailing in Vernon Bourke and Henry Veatch. ably we should conclude that we can't know ditions, even in modem and contemporary the then-current philosophies, discus~ing The "handwriting on the wall" may also anything about God, freedom or immortali- philosophy. Your list no doubt differ opposing positions, then arguing with great include some strategic alliances with the

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empirical . The problem of the ing traditional philosophical issues; and a A Jewish physicist has written a book, tion of the Eucharist by , "two cultures" described by C. P. Snow collaboration between philosophy and sci­ Genesis and the Big Bang, arguing for the Charles Peirce and others certainly deserve some years ago - the rift between the ence may be an important catalyst for compatibility of the "seven days" of Gene­ some serious philosophical critiques. humanities and the sdences - is still with in both of the two "cultures." sis with contemporary . Possibly a In summary, the spirit of Scholasticism, us. The philosophical version of this con­ Christian philosopher could make further which emphasized a systematic approach to sists in the position that philosophy is com­ CJristian philosophyP contributions to the explanation of Genesis. problems and issues, did tend to get rigidi­ pletely independent of the sciences. But a One final hurdle for philosophy in a And there are many other philosophical fied and dogmatic, in spite of the efforts of lot of "water" has come over the "dam" Catholic setting is: What about Christian issues that need to be explored, with refer­ Etienne Gilson and and since Aristotelian , which was the philosophy? Some of us may recall, or have ence to theological beliefs. others, and no doubt needed something like background for Thomistic philosophy. had experiences of, the disdain that Recently I was looking in the Philosopher's an aggiomamento to be nudged out of its In our time, physicists, cosmologists and Thomists were once held in, by "main­ Index for an article or book explaining the wonted grooves. But there was much worth astronomers seem to be more intent on stream" philosophers. The complaint was discrepancies in the resurrection story of preserving in the scholastic approach. The developing proofs for the existence of God that they were adulterating philosophy jesus, who on the one hand walks through various adaptations and coordinations sug­ than philosophers; quantum physicists dis­ with theology. Certainly this criticism does walls, but on the other hand eats fish and gested above are undoubtedly complex, but cuss the applications of quantum indeter­ not apply to the philosophy of , tells the Thomas the Apostle .to put his they may be worth the effort. ::::J minacy to human freedom, and stray into which is now considered "mainstream," hand in his resurrected body. But I couldn't the sort of speculations about the existence thanks to the efforts of , J. S. find anything on this subject. I have been Howatd Kainz teaches philosophy at and immortality of the that used to be Mill and others. But the philosophy of reli­ similarly unsuccessful in finding materials Marquette University and is the author of the province of metaphysicians; and neu- gion is not . And one on the strictly episterrwlogical issues con­ Papal Democracy in the Kingdom of God . rophysiologists seem to be searching for the must distinguish the strictly Christian phi­ nected with : For example, (Marq~tette University Press) and Politically connection between mind and body that losophy of Kierkegaard or Marcel from a when the doctrine of papal infallibility was Incorrect Dialogues (Editions Rodopi). Descartes mistakenly traced to the pineal professional interest in problems associ at­ first announced, was this an infallible doc­ gland. Certainly many sdentists are explor- ed with Christian or Catholic doctrines. trine? And the critiques of transubstantia-

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