Thursday, August 13, 2020

Russell’s No Man’s Land

In his History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell famously characterized philosophy as follows:

Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science.  Like theology, it consists of speculations on matters as to which definite knowledge has, so far, been unascertainable; but like science, it appeals to human reason rather than to authority, whether that of tradition or that of revelation.  All definite knowledge – so I should contend – belongs to science; all dogma as to what surpasses definite knowledge belongs to theology.  But between theology and science there is a No Man’s Land, exposed to attack from both sides; and this No Man’s Land is philosophy.  Almost all the questions of most interest to speculative minds are such as science cannot answer, and the confident answers of theologians no longer seem so convincing as they did in former centuries. (p. xiii)

I would certainly take issue with various things Russell says here, and this doesn’t really work as a strict definition of philosophy (and perhaps isn’t meant to be that).  However, at least with the “No Man’s Land” business, Russell is on to something. 

As Russell himself emphasized many times, the reason science – and in particular, physics – yields results that are as certain as they are is precisely that it is has limited itself to describing only those aspects of physical reality of which such certainty is attainable – in particular, those susceptible of strict mathematical description.  Everything else it ignores.  Accordingly, physics is somewhat like a student who makes sure only to take classes that he knows he will get an A in, and then brags about his superior GPA relative to people who take the other classes.  Russell held that what physics really reveals are only very abstract structural features of the natural world, but not the intrinsic natures of the entities that have these features.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that, and Russell’s position needs to be qualified in various ways.  I refer the interested reader to my discussion of Russell’s epistemic structural realism in chapter 3 of Aristotle’s Revenge.  The point for present purposes is that scientists are often tempted to transform what is really only a useful but limited method into a complete metaphysics, and to judge that whatever cannot be captured by the method must not be real, or at least must not be worth talking about.  It is really this attitude of scientism – rather than science itself – that attacks the “No Man’s Land” of philosophy from one direction.  Scientism regards philosophy either as altogether illegitimate, or as legitimate only to the extent that it is continuous with science.  Certainly it rules out any ambitious claims to extra-scientific metaphysical knowledge of the kind made by Platonists, Aristotelians, Scholastics, rationalists, et al.

The attack from the other direction comes, not really from theology per se, but rather from an attitude that is a kind of ideologization of theology, just as scientism is an ideologization of science.  I speak of fideism.  Now, there is the crude, stereotypical kind of fideism of the uneducated bumpkin who thumps his Bible and distrusts learning; and the emotionalistic sort of fideism of the believer who insists that religion is a matter of the heart and not the head.  But those are not the sorts of things I’m talking about.  What I am talking about are theological systems which as a matter of theoretical principle (rather than out of mere ignorance or a sentimental temperament) distrust the methods and claims of philosophy, or at least of any philosophy conducted independently of theology.

For example, there is Luther’s hostility to the Aristotelian-Scholastic system of natural theology and ethics, understood as providing substantive knowledge of God and morality through purely philosophical means apart from revelation (where this system was the main target of Luther’s remarks about reason being “the devil’s whore,” etc.).  There is Barth’s hostility to the idea that purely philosophical arguments for God’s existence provide a “point of contact” by which divine revelation is mediated.  There is, in the Catholic context, the nouvelle theologie’s hostility to the idea of natura pura or “pure nature,” which includes the notion that a certain, if limited, knowledge of God is available through purely philosophical arguments independent of revelation.

Just as scientism knows nothing of grace and reduces the world to a desiccated conception of nature, fideistic theological systems like these threaten entirely to obliterate nature and absorb the world into a rarefied conception of grace.  Scientism brings us down to the level of the other animals, whereas fideism pretends we are angels.  Both thereby make God unknowable, since in fact we are neither mere animals (who cannot know God at all) nor angels (who, unlike us, need not rely on inference to know God).  Both refuse to recognize that philosophy provides a ladder to God – scientism not letting us put the ladder up in the first place, fideism insisting that it can kick the ladder away and remain aloft (when in reality it comes crashing down).

Needless to say, all of this goes beyond anything Russell himself was talking about.  But I think it captures what is true in his famous characterization.  He was wrong to insinuate that either science or theology per se are prone to hostility toward philosophy.  Rightly understood, science, theology, and philosophy are perfectly compatible and complementary both in their methods and their results.  But the distortion of science that is scientism and the distortion of theology that is fideism are certainly hostile to philosophy, and it is they which treat it as a No Man’s Land.

I’m inclined to adopt the remark famously misattributed to General Patton when asked what he would do if he found himself trapped between the Nazis and the Soviets.  What should the Scholastic philosopher do when surrounded by scientism on one side and fideism on the other?  Attack in both directions!

94 comments:

  1. Philosophy as a ladder to God ...

    Pelagius would be proud of you, Dr. Feser.

    Bob

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    1. How about you put more meat on that argument. It's hard to know what the hell you're talking about.

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    2. I think Vatican 1 would be more proud. Obviously the ladder is not meant to get you all the way there, nor does it put you in a state of grace. Please be a little mire charitable.

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    3. Pelagianism has nothing to do with a rational knowledge of God, but with the idea that man can, by his own efforts, unsupported by grace or at least unnecessarily supported by it, can attain sanctifying grace and thereby salvation.
      Per the Catholic Encyclopedia: "Pelagianism received its name from Pelagius and designates a heresy of the fifth century, which denied original sin as well as Christian grace."
      Feser is not saying this, he is simply stating the God can be known through natural unaided (by divine revelation) human reason.

      Please consider that Feser's position is simply a restatement of the infallible doctrine defined in Vatican 1: "If anyone says that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason through the things which have been made: let him be anathema" To deny this is to fall into either agnosticism or fideism.
      Also consider:
      "For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby" (Wis. 13:5) and "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable" (Rom. 1:20).

      In the sense that theology is the study of God and of things as they relate to God from the formal object of revelation, then philosophy is the ladder to theology, as it is in philosophy that one proves the existence of God and gives reason to believe that some text IS divine revelation. And that theology is a ladder to faith and belief (in a sense; obviously the supernatural virtue of Faith is infused), means that philosophy is also a ladder in that sense to wider belief in God, and therefore God in the sense that belief in Him brings one closer to Him.

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    4. But natural theology does not enable access to God and does not grant communion with Him. Nothing created can do that. So the ladder-metaphor seems to be highly misleading.

      Bob

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    5. Bob,

      But no one said it granted communion with him. We just said that it grants real, true (if only limited) knowledge of him. The metaphor is only misleading if you read your own assumptions into it

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    6. Well, Dr. Feser holds that one can identify God's love for the world via natural theology. I don't think this is possible. Natural theology can only get to the deus absconditus.

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    7. If you understand love as willing the good and subscribe to the convertibility of the transcendentals, it follows that God, in willing us to be, must love us.

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    8. Which is not to say that He wills is to be necessarily. But if He does in fact will us, then such a will must be loving.

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    9. >Well, Dr. Feser holds that one can identify God's love for the world via natural theology. I don't think this is possible. Natural theology can only get to the deus absconditus.

      This is confused both on the natural theological point and on the theological point.

      It's clear that we can identify with reason that God loves the world in the sense relevant to natural theology. That we may be able to identify with reason that God loves the world doesn't did imply that reason has given us the means of itself to come into communion with that love. the near identification by reason of God's love of the world does not for instance substitute for the sacraments etc and nobody says it does.

      In fact that's really rather intuitive. Just because I can identify that my father loves me does not mean that therefore I am capable on my own of coming into communion with him by way of the means of identification.

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    10. I think natural theology can lead us to so much more than "deus absconditus"; I think we can conclude that God truly loves us; that He intends for us to live forever; even that we may argue for universalistic theses (at least quasi-universalism, which I hold) and much more.

      All that you need is firm confidence in the first principles of ethics, including the intrinsic value of rational creatures/human beings, and intelligence/wisdom in God. Read Samuel Clarke's proof of God, for instance; he argues not only for general ontological goodness but moral goodness, and it's quite simple in my view. If God is truly rational and wise, he cannot fail to attain knowledge of what is fitting, including what is fitting for human beings, rationality, and so on. In other words, if God is intelligent, He has access to propositional truths including those of ethics. And he cannot fail to recognize the truths of ethics unless He is ignorant or weak (neither of which would make sense for the first cause).

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    11. I fear that this view underestimates that we can only have access to God through faith in Christ.

      Btw: The content of revelation (Trinity, Incarnation) explains how it is possible to understand it as revelation, i.e. as God's word, given God's transcendence and absoluteness.

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    12. "I fear that this view underestimates that we can only have access to God through faith in Christ"

      I don't think that should matter at all, as long as the arguments are good. If a theological view says X but I can tell with my reason that X is false, so much the worse for that theological view. We can know sufficiently about ethics and wisdom through reason to know that God could not possibly be indifferent towards us; like the Good he is supposed to be, he must truly love human beings.

      I also think this kind of reasoning is what can rationally ground and support faith in Christ. The reason I believe in Christ is that he makes sense of God; there is a convergence between reason and the faith. You can get the Christian story and be like "that's the kind of thing we might expect from the perfect God; becoming one of us to share in our pains and life and elevate creaturehood to theosis".

      It's curious, I find that the position of quasi-agnosticism about God's nature apart from revelation would actually shoot down all credence for Christiaity. If we really cannot know about God's love and goodness apart from revelation, then we cannot judge the Christian claims about God as being sensible and plausible. Very problematic.

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    13. I would say: We can know (analogically) God's existence and nature by natural reason. But we can't know our communion with this God by natural reason.

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    14. Well, "our communion" is a slippery term. I certainly agree that we come to know far, far more about God and His love and relationship with creation through Christ. Faith expands the horizons, and Revelation helps us know things that are beyond our natural reason. So I'm in agreement with that. I just think that natural reason allows us to know much more than just "deus absconditus"; we can know that God is wise, loves us, and so on. But of course revelation in Christ expands upon this a lot more and transcends natural reason.

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  2. Reason as 'the devil's whore' lol that's so ridiculous I may use that as a joke

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    1. Callum,

      Luther was trained and immersed in the school of the Via Moderna—a Nominalist and quasi Pelagian school of thought in the Middle Ages. Tragically, the direction of his life was in some ways a revolt against the errors of this school of thought, but in other ways he perpetuated those errors. We can now say that what much of the Via Moderna taught was erroneous because we have the advantage of the precise formulations of the Council of Trent, but Luther did not have that luxury.

      Luther was an admirable figure in some sense: he knew something was wrong with what he understood to be the thinking of the institutional church. But he was a tragic figure in that he could not see beyond his bubble. When Cajetan cornered him in contradictions, Luther simply didn’t care (thus the attribution you cite). He didn’t really think he was rejecting reason so much as he thought he was defending the sovereignty of God.

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  3. Humans crave certainty. Just about everything we do is a relentless quest for it: our scientific endeavors; the attempts of the various forms of Modern Philosophy to reduce everything to absolutely certain principles; the unified theory in physics; the perhaps somewhat overzealous proclamations about the death of philosophy. All are attempts to know; to eat at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But for those not so inclined to look for certainty in these methods, there is the scepter of Divine revelation (which, in the wrong hands, may be also used as a club).

    Russell’s “No Man’s Land” need not be an unfortunate but necessary compromise of extremes, but rather a gold mine where we find truth in humility. We’re always better off acknowledging our insufficiency. Here’s an example: we have seen very granular projections for the number of Covid deaths (sometimes to single digits). This pretense of precision is silly. What is much more useful is probable trends, not feigned accuracy. Whether it’s pandemics or the stock market, probabilistic thinking—and more importantly, the humility that comes with it—makes us all the better for it.

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    1. I'm afraid I don't understand what you're talking about. Are you suggesting that it's somehow impious to have confidence in God? The truths of the Faith are certainly not held probabilistically.

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    2. Cantus,

      Sorry, what I'm trying to say is difficult to convey concisely. The truths of the faith are certain, but not the type of certainty desired by the modern project (beginning with cogito ergo suum). The demand for this type of certainty is often misguided.

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    3. How are truths of faith certain? They're not epistemically certain, neither in the Cartesian sense (2+2=4) nor in the ordinary sense (I am certain that I had eggs for breakfast this morning). They are held probabilistically. They may follow logically (that is, certainly) once you grant authority to the source of their revelation, but this is a conditional certainty that is dependent on your belief in the trustworthiness of the authority in question. Does anyone here know with 100% certainty that Jesus is God?

      I'm not certain of Christianity at all. I just find it very probable.

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    4. Atno,
      "I'm not certain of Christianity at all. I just find it very probable."
      OK, fair enough.

      Christianity seems highly improbable to me. The bible is cover to cover mythology by any rational analysis I am aware of.

      People died following Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Jim Jones, David Koresh.

      The followers of the god men of India swear they have witnessed many of the miracles of these god men.

      The stories in the bible are either demonstrably false or at the level of checkout stand tabloid bigfoot and space alien stories.

      What shred of believability is there in Christianity?

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    5. Atno,
      I would say that our faith is certain insofar as it affirms God's supernatural revelation which cannot be false.

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    6. Sure but that is a conditional certainty; it's not like you're epistemically certain that the faith is true.

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    7. Faith is certain because it is grace and God's work in us. You cannot establish it's certainty by reason, "from outside". This would be rationalism. The biblical case for this certainty of faith is, btw, very clear.

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    8. To be clearer, then, I am asking you: do you have epistemic certainty that Christianity is true?

      I am in agreement that whatever God reveals is certainly true, because it comes from God. So if God reveals the Trinity, for instance, it is certainly true. However, this certainty is conditional on the fact that God is the source of this revelation. Your credence or belief in the Trinity, in this case, cannot be stronger than your credence in the idea that "God has revealed this".

      So for instance, you may hold that IF Christianity is true, then the Trinity is 100% true. But in concrete terms, as a human person, you don't know Christianity is true with 100% certainty, so you cannot have 100% certainty in any of its revealed truths either. It's a practical matter.

      Are you 100% sure that Christianity is true? Do you know this the same way you know that the principle of non-contradiction is true, or that 2 plus 2 equals 4? Or, to use a more ordinary sense of certainty, are you as certain of it as you are of the existence of other minds? Of the fact that you have two hands?

      I don't have 100% certainty in Christianity. That's what I'm talking about. I find it strange for anyone yo claim otherwise. Do you never even experience doubts? Not necessarily strong doubts, but just wondering if it could be false, and so on. How could you know things such as "Jesus really was raised from the dead" with 100% complete absolute certainty? Seems like nonsense to me, unless you have some very powerful mystical experiences.

      I do consider myself to be a rationalist, in any case.

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    9. Of course I experience doubts sometimes. But this does not mean that God's word is not trustworthy. And there are no sound arguments against the truth of faith (properly understood).

      The certainty of faith seems to me at a complete different level than all "certainties" of reason. You can rely on God's word no matter what precisely because it is not subject to fallible human reason. But this does not involve fideism because one can rationally demonstrate that all arguments against faith are unsound, or so it seems to me.

      I would also say that the fact of revelation is already object of faith (not only its content). You cannot reason from the natural realm to the supernatural. This would be like grounding a rock with toothpicks.

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    10. Atno, I suggest you read Josef Pieper's essay on Faith. He is very clear in it, and what he says is very much the same as what the Christian Church teaches about faith. The critical point (here) is that in the act of faith, the believer embraces the truth presented with a certitude beyond that of high probability, he embraces it without reservation. At the same time, it is belief and not knowledge, and so he does not have adequate grounds to embrace with certainty AS KNOWN BY ITS ADEQUATE GROUNDS. He believes in it, rather, based on the testimony of one in whom he believes - so that believing in a proposition is always, at the same time, believing IN A PERSON. Now, it is by no means "belief" (i.e. embraced with unreserved certitude) if he only holds the person whose testimony he is relying on to be "probably" trustworthy. That, as you point out, can only get you a "probable" adherence to the proposition being asserted. No, the believer also adheres to the trusted person as belief, i.e. without reservation, i.e. with certitude also. So the Christian properly speaking (a) believes (without reservation) IN God, and (b) believes (without reservation) the things God has said. And (c) admits that his certitude is not supported by premises that would constitute adequate grounds for certainty as knowledge: he believes and does not know.

      The typical modern rationalist excessive reaction to this claim is to say that belief, as so defined, is inhumane, it is an act unworthy of the intellect and contrary to human nature ordered to truth. The Christian response is, at least in part, that SOME truth (namely those in revelation) cannot be attained in this life by reason operating without belief, and yet the mind is by its nature attuned to receiving such truths, because the mind qua mind is satisfied by ALL truth. Hence it can (in this life) participate in such truth only by receiving it other than as knowledge, (i.e. receiving it in the way of gift from an authority Who knows) and it is for this reason that the human mind is even capable of an act of belief. One point of evidence in favor of this (act of belief) being natural to man is that even in the realm of the sciences, one single man cannot claim to know (by adequate proof) ALL of the sciences, and he must, if he is to find access to the truths of sciences outside his field, rely on the authority of the trustworthy experts in those other fields: he must believe in them, or never HAVE those other truths. Science is one of the great collaborative human enterprises, because the act of belief is proper to man.

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    11. Another point of evidence in favor of the connaturality of the act of belief so defined is the right, proper, due and human response of a man to his spouse if question arises "do you believe me"? An answer of "well, yes, I ascribe an extremely high probability to your claim, in excess of 99.99%" is not just inadequate, it is wrong, for the truly critical issues: a man and woman when they vow to love each other at the altar are NOT saying "I promise to love you as long as you really are promising to love me, which I accept with very high probability". Their vows are taken in the belief in the other, with the UNRESERVED certitude that the other is, also, committing fully and wholly to love. This quality of the confidence being unreserved, unconstrained by qualifiers, is proper to such a situation, and therefore belief is an act proper to man's nature and not a violence to his intellect.

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    12. Tony, but what you are describing seems more like an attitude than a particular epistemic belief. If I were to ask you to sincerely tell me how sure you are about the truth of Christianity, I take it that you wouldn't tell me it's 100%. If it turned out that Christianity was false, you'd be surprised, but surely you wouldn't be as surprised as you'd be if you learned that you never really had two hands, that you've always been a brain in a vat.

      Of course when someone trustworthy asks me if I believe them, I believe unreservedly in the sense that I take an attitude compatible with pretty much ignoring the chance that I'm wrong or being lied to. But epistemically speaking, I really do trust them only to a certain (very high) degree of probability.

      What you are describing as faith seems more like an attitude of complete trust than any real epistemic certitude. The way I see it, we're just taking a belief with a very high probability and pretty much ignoring the probability that we are wrong, either because we find it to be way too small, or because of some specific emotion or pragmatic/moral attitude of unreserved belief. But still, if we were to classify beliefs, it would be a probabilistic one.

      I also trust the testimony of scientists and so on; I'm okay with calling that faith. And I may do so unreservedly, to the point where the small probabilities of it all being wrong are ignored. But it's still, at the end of the day, a probable epistemic belief.

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    13. Atno,

      I agree. This is what I said above (though I must be doing an incredibly bad job of it).

      I also agree with Tony's points about the necessity and nature of faith as a form of "knowledge" (which was a decent working summary of Fides et Ratio). But Tony's points, true as they are, don't have any force against the points we are making: Moral and abosolute certainty are different things.

      I would say, however, that one could claim "cetainty" via arguments of a pragmatic nature, or a historical nature, or what have you. But, again, this "certainty" is not epistemic certainty.

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  4. Prof. Feser wrote: "There is, in the Catholic context, the nouvelle theologie’s hostility to the idea of natura pura or “pure nature,” which includes the notion that a certain, if limited, knowledge of God is available through purely philosophical arguments independent of revelation."

    I'd love a sketch of the genealogy of this idea. And how does it amount to a form of 'angelism' (to use the rather hackneyed pop-TOB slur)? I take it that Gilson is important, but that he just thinks that Christian philosophy is somehow essentially different from pre-/non-Christian philosophy. He doesn't think that Christian philosophers/theologians can forego inferential thinking.

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  5. By the way, if anyone has not bought and read Aristotle’s Revenge, it is worth it even if it only had chapter three on Epistemic Structural Realism.

    I wonder how many workers have been laid off because their bosses relied too heavily on statistical (efficiency) data and implicitly denied Epistemic Structural Realism. You get the vibe that some managers in manufacturing are ontological structural realists, but the good supervisors always know that there are problems with the data.

    Just saying, there might be real world consequences to seemingly abstract philosophical world views.

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    1. I would love for you to elaborate on these points. What is Epistemic Structural Realism? And in what way is it being denied by employers?

      I can't justify buying Aristotle's Revenge, at the moment anyways. I just bought 10 books and have about 40 haha.

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    2. 40 on my shelf to read.*

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  6. Dr. Feser,
    “Barth’s hostility to the idea that purely philosophical arguments for God’s existence provide a “point of contact” by which divine revelation is mediated.”
    There are no sound philosophical arguments for god’s existence in general publication. Aquinas obviously failed in multiple aspects including false premises and invalid logic. Updated versions are just tinkering with a broken device that remains broken after the tinkering.

    “Scientism brings us down to the level of the other animals”
    We are animals, obviously. We are apes. It is not simply that we are related to the primates, we are primates.

    “Rightly understood, science, theology, and philosophy are perfectly compatible and complementary both in their methods and their results.”
    No, science is antithetical to theology. Individuals can be both scientific and theological, but only by having a sort of split personality. We all have multiple personalities in some sense, each of us being in a very real way in conflict with ourselves. That is because the human brain is highly segmented, sometimes somewhat sardonically thought of as the monkey brain on top the rat brain on top the lizard brain, and each having various subnetworks of processes.

    “What should the Scholastic philosopher do when surrounded by scientism on one side and fideism on the other? Attack in both directions!”
    No, theology is fully worthy of attack. In principle, all aspects of the universe are reducible to a scientific description even though human beings may forever lack that capability due to practical limitations. To think otherwise is to believe in poof, that stuff just happens for no reason, by no mechanism, is self contradictory, or both real and unreal simultaneously, in other words magical thinking, religious thinking.

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    1. Sounds like someone drank the scientism Kool-Aid

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    2. Stardusty has long been known to be a wordy windbag in these parts. All his bluster here amounts to little more than an assertion that scientism is true.

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    3. Cantus,
      "All his bluster here amounts to little more than an assertion that scientism is true"
      So, what aspect of reality do you suppose is not subject, in principle, to scientific description?

      God did not create himself, therefore god's structure, god's material, godstuff, must have properties that are not under the control of god, but which progress with some sort of regularities.

      If that is not the case then god is absolutely nothing at all, and therefore does not exist.

      Therefore god is, in principle, a subject of scientific description.

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    4. "God's material"

      I'll take, "missing the point" for 500, Alex.

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    5. Unknown,
      If god is not material then god is absolutely nothing at all, not understanding that is indeed missing the point.

      The term "exists immaterially" is incoherent, as are many terms in Thomism. When a Thomist gets stuck because some sort of regression analysis has led back to an unsolvable riddle the Thomist simply makes up an incoherent term to "solve" the problem.

      Other incoherent terms employed by Thomists inclue "pure act", "existence itself", "exists outside of time", exists outside of space", "perfectly simple (has no parts or differences)".

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    6. @StardustyPsyche

      You keep talking about things being "material". What that is and what proof do you have that "matter" exists?

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    7. Talmid,
      "Material" in the general sense is not restricted to matter, as opposed to energy or spacetime.

      One idea is that at base everything is composed of fields, but that naturally calls for the question of what a field is.

      The truth is that nobody knows the complete nature of the underlying reality, and that's OK, to say nobody knows exactly.

      There are unsolved riddles regarding our existence. I prefer to honestly state that fact and work on gaining ever better approximations of whatever that true underlying reality is.

      Thomists take a different approach. When faced with a riddle of our existence the Thomist simply invents an incoherent term and declares that the riddle has thus been solved.

      God is asserted to have vast and perfect knowledge, a free will, infinite powers, to act in our space and through our time. Yet god is is also said to be perfectly simple, outside of time, outside of space, and both isn't composed of any sort of material yet is somehow a real existent entity.

      That collection of self contradictory assertions is incoherent.

      As for proof, well, perhaps life is but a dream, but even if that is the case, who or what is doing the dreaming? Something must exist, therefore, at least something capable of my self awareness, which cannot be absolutely nothing at all, therefore some sort of material must really exist, at least enough material for me to be aware of myself.

      The basic reliability of the human senses is a provisional postulate, not a proof. If you choose not to accept that postulate that is up to you.

      By accepting, at least provisionally, that my senses provide some fair representation of a true extramental reality we can then build the great body of knowledge we have of what we sense as the real world.

      If you choose to reject the basic reliability of the human senses you can still prove to yourself that you exist is some form, so there must be some sort of real material existence with sufficient organization to support the many details of your own experience, even if, in that case, I am merely a figment of your divine imagination, still, that divinity would need to be some sort of highly complex material and could not possibly be absolutely nothing at all.

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    8. It’s only incoherent if you are a reductionistic materialist, which Thomists are not. Rather, we are hylemorphists. God is pure form.

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    9. Now you may not know what that means. That is all the more reason for you to engage seriously with the other side by reading what they have to say. Feser has addressed this in several works such as Scholastic Metaphysics and Aristotle’s Revenge. To borrow a phrase, read a book.

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    10. Anyways, given your trollish behavior in the past, don’t expect me to reply again. I don’t expect that you will actually take my advice and will instead opt at attacking mere caricatures. The fact that you even mention some divine structure attests to the fact you don’t understand Classical Theism seeing that Divine Simplicity is one of our major tenets. If I am right, it will be ironic seeing that we are often the ones accused of bigotry and dogmatism.

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    11. The Florentine Exile
      "It’s only incoherent if you are a reductionistic materialist,"
      No, incoherence stands on its own.

      "God is pure form."
      That is an incoherent statement.
      What is it that has form in pure form?
      Absolutely nothing at all? Then there can be no form at all.

      Something? Then the form is not pure, rather, of that something.

      The term "pure form" is self contradictory in the manner "I always lie" is self contradictory.

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    12. The Florentine Exile
      "Feser has addressed this in several works"
      Not coherently, only by repeating a number of incoherent terms.

      "To borrow a phrase, read a book."
      It seems you did not learn from the latest round of posts with Dr. Hart.

      When will you be telling me "mea maxima culpa"?

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    13. The Florentine Exile
      "Anyways, given your trollish behavior in the past, don’t expect me to reply again."
      Translation: you are incapable of engaging on the merits of the arguments.

      "The fact that you even mention some divine structure attests to the fact you don’t understand Classical Theism"
      I understand classical theism better than you or the owner of this site because I understand its obvious errors.

      "Divine Simplicity is one of our major tenets."
      Indeed, thus a major defect in your reasoning since the assertion of divine simplicity in combination with the many other traits attributed to your god is incoherent.

      "we are often the ones accused of bigotry and dogmatism."
      Those are not my specific charges, although I would not rule them out in your case.

      I prefer to consider the arguments, which in the case of Thomism are demonstrably variously unsound, logically invalid, and incoherent.

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    14. @SDP

      You start like that:

      "One idea is that at base everything is composed of fields, but that naturally calls for the question of what a field is.

      The truth is that nobody knows the complete nature of the underlying reality, and that's OK, to say nobody knows exactly."

      That agnosticism is sure okay. But them...

      "As for proof, well, perhaps life is but a dream, but even if that is the case, who or what is doing the dreaming? Something must exist, therefore, at least something capable of my self awareness, which cannot be absolutely nothing at all, therefore some sort of material must really exist, at least enough material for me to be aware of myself."

      What is "material" here? Do you have a definition of it or you just means "whatever is behind my experience"?


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    15. Talmid,
      Since nobody knows the true nature of the underlying reality it stands to reason that nobody can answer definitively what material is.

      Perhaps "whatever is behind my experience" could be used as a reasonable placeholder.

      Material in a more traditional sense is that which is composed of matter. Then people figured out that the apparent solidity of ordinary objects is an illusion, and since then ever improving models of the aggregate progressions of the underlying material reality have been formulated, but clearly, we have not gotten to the bottom yet.

      Yet, it seems reasonable that there is some real existent stuff, as opposed to absolutely nothing at all. There might well be some sort of real existent stuff we have not yet discovered, and given that we don't know what dark matter or dark energy are, and we can't fully reconcile the competing theories we have, it seems there must be a great deal more to discover about material.

      But what good does the term "immaterial" do? It is meaningless and self contradictory to assert that any real entity is somehow not a material of some sort.

      Form must be of something. Existence must be of something. Actuality must be of something. How could absolutely nothing at all have form, existence, or actuality?

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    16. SdP

      "Since nobody knows the true nature of the underlying reality it stands to reason that nobody can answer definitively what material is."

      So, you don't believe that you can give a definition of "material", right?

      I ask because on the rest of the post you contrast "material" with "absolutely nothing at all". If you don't really know what "material" is, them this contrast is pretty much meaningless, you are saying:

      something = everything
      and
      not-something = nothing

      I can't see much here, seems trivial.

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    17. Talmid,
      Yes, it seems trivial at that most basic relational statement. So is stating that X=X, but such basic statements are necessary foundations to clear reasoning.

      Indeed, everything real is something, some thing, some substance, some stuff, some material.

      Else, if no material, then nothing, not anything, absolutely nothing at all.

      Hence, for example, the term "existence itself" is incoherent, that is, it contradicts itself in the manner that the statement "I always lie" is self contradictory. Such statements have the superficial form of being grammatically valid, but analysis of the words quickly leads to a self contradiction.

      What is existing in "existence itself"?
      Nothing? Then how can absolutely nothing at all be coherently said to exist in any sense?
      Something? Then the existence is not of itself, rather, of that something.

      Thus, by stating what seems to be a trivial relationship between something and nothing we quickly show that common terms found in Thomism are in fact incoherent.

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    18. @SdP

      But what exactly is "something", "material", "substance", etc? Your problem with the term "existence itself" presuposes that you know what being a thing is and all that. If you don't know, them your problem is but gramatical, no?

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    19. No,
      Whatever something is, exactly, it is not nothing.

      Therefore, "existence itself" is an incoherent term.

      If that which is existing in "existence itself" is nothing, then the term is incoherently asserting that nothing has an existence.

      If that which is existing in "existence itself" is something, then irrespective of what that something is exactly, the existence is not of itself, rather, of that something, again making "existence itself" and incoherent term.

      Either way, nothing or something, irrespective of the exact definition of that something, "existence itself" is an incoherent term.

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  7. I also wonder: Isn't the nouvelle theologie rejection of pura natura and properly philosophical preambles to faith just a form of, or at least rooted in, an emotionalistic heart-not-head approach to religion/theology/philosophy? -- which in effect amounts to refuting a rational approach to religion by wearing earplugs to your lectures on scholastic theology.

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    1. David McPike,

      Is the Nouvelle Theologie just sentimentalism in theological trappings? I don’t think so. Certainly there is nothing wrong in principle with going “back to the sources”—if one wants to argue that isn’t what is really happening, so be it, but that’s a technical point.

      It seems to me that it is merely the latest skirmish along the old fault line of grace vs. nature with one side wishing to emphasize the “infusion” of grace in nature, and the other emphasizing the distinction of the two. Neither side can make an unconditional repudiation of the other: the Neo-scholastic cannot deny that “grace perfects nature” thereby making grace extrinsic (the Protestants tried that and it didn’t work out well); and the ressourcement theologian cannot deny the distinction between grace and nature unless he wishes to be a pantheists (and probably Pelagian). It seems the best we can do is not positive definitions but limit ourselves to what we must not say—a feature so wisely employed by Trent.

      Less technically, I agree with George Weigel that what we are seeing in contemporary Catholic theology is the Church re-realizing her ancient mission to evangelize the world rather than maintain an institution. I’ll agree all day long about the disasters that have occurred in the name of this mission. And I’ll agree all day long about the love for the post-Tridentine period. But there is no denying in principle that the Church’s mission is to evangelize the modern world, disasters notwithstanding.

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    2. "Is the Nouvelle Theologie just sentimentalism in theological trappings?"

      Certainly not. And no one would seriously say that. That's not the issue, nor is the issue anything to do with ressourcement. The issue is about N.Th. hostility to natura pura and properly philosophical preambles to faith. It seems that this hostility is effectively a denial of the distinction between nature and grace; whereas surely Neo-scholastics don't want to deny that grace perfects nature, so why suggest otherwise?

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    3. There is in fact lots to commend in Nouvelle Theologie, including de Lubac's discussion of the natural/supernatural distinction, when properly understood. Here I quote from Franco Manni's book on Herbert McCabe:

      "Henri de Lubac maintained the fundamental idea that there are not two parallel realities, that is, the “natural” and the “supernatural”: 

      " Neither the Fathers nor the great scholastics had ever envisioned the possibility of a purely natural end for human persons attainable by their own intrinsic powers of cognition and volition, some natural beatitude of an order inferior to the intuitive vision of God. For these earlier thinkers, there was only one concrete order of history, that in which God had made humanity for himself, and in which human nature had thus been created only for a single destiny, which was supernatural." (De Lubac)

      A Christian can say that everything is natural (grace consists entirely in the external and internal events of the historical world), and she or he can say also that everything is supernatural (every temporal space element of the world is created, that is, supported in existence by God). And Nicholas Lash held that in God we can see only Jesus Christ: if not, what other “aspects” of God could we see in God? In Jesus there is nothing missing, there is nothing more to see."

      While we may in fact logically distinguish between natural ends (such as earthly happiness) and supernatural ends (such as the beatific vision) for human beings, in the concrete order of reality human beings really were made for the beatific vision; everything was directed for the infinite value and bliss in God. And all is natural insofar as everything is part of the same history, and all is supernatural insofar as everything is touched by God. 

      A lot of people tend to make too much of some ideas of NT without studying them more at first, I think.

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    4. @Atno:
      Instead of addressing I think you've just breezed past all the real issues here. TN claimed NT ("ressourcement") theologians can't deny the nature/grace distinction without becoming pantheists. But that seems to be precisely the trouble (see Feser's criticism of Hart on this point), and precisely the trouble with de Lubac's understanding is that he seems to destroy the gratuity of grace and makes it something that is owed in justice to the human creature because of his intrinsic nature. Of course there is only one concrete order of history (who denies this? -- it's just a straw man), but there is a real nature/grace distinction within that concrete order.

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    5. "but there is a real nature/grace distinction within that concrete order."

      You can make such a distinction but the point is that, at the end of the day, humans were all made for the "supernatural" end.

      "theologians can't deny the nature/grace distinction without becoming pantheists. But that seems to be precisely the trouble (see Feser's criticism of Hart on this point), and precisely the trouble with de Lubac's understanding is that he seems to destroy the gratuity of grace and makes it something that is owed in justice to the human creature because of his intrinsic nature."

      I fail to see how it would collapse into pantheism.
      One problem is that man is already by nature fit for the supernatural end. For God to make human beings fit for, and with an intrinsic and natural desire for infinite bliss and the beatific vision, only to not actually provide any such means for fulfilling such a desire might seem perverse. If grace is to be gratuitous in opposition to natural ends required by justice, then maybe God shouldn't have made human beings with an intrinsic innate desire for God and the eternal.

      If it is to be gratuitous, then perhaps it must be in the sense that everything is gratuitous as a gift from God - including our existence, without which no natural ends would be attainable either. So, again, we may transcend the natural/supernatural distinction. We might have to.

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    6. By the way, I don't ever mean to defend the idea that there should be no preambles of faith through natural reason. Quite the contrary, in my view the "preambles" are, in a way, far more important than the faith itself, it is what sustains the faith. Philosophy and philosophical theology are the guides of sacred theology, and Christians should be Christians to the extent that reason makes sense of their faith.

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    7. David McPike,

      You said that no one would seriously claim that NT is sentimentalism. I thought that is what you were doing when you said NT is a “form of . . . emotionalistic heart-not-head approach to religion/theology/philosophy?” I apologize for misunderstanding your intent.

      As to the subject at hand, I don’t really know how to proceed in a way that won’t take us out deep in the weeds. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying it’s a complicated issue that can’t be summarily dismissed with a few quips. Many Church Fathers advocate a “sacramentalized” view of creation. How are we to understand this? What do scriptures like Romans 8:19 mean by creation “groaning” for the revelation of the sons of God? What should we make of the Council of Trent’s condemnation of Luther’s (and Calvin’s) doctrine of total depravity? What about counter arguments that “pure nature” establishes a parallel realm? But the most interesting point (from Matthias Scheeben) is that Christ is fully God and fully man without the Divine consuming the human.

      I wouldn’t claim to be able to adjudicate these issues when the magisterium itself hasn’t done so.

      Incidentally, Feser’s criticism of Hart does not apply here because saying creation is sacramental does not entail Universalism. Universalism, in effect, makes grace irresistible; that is not a claim, nor is it a necessary effect of NT. (As a tangent, the Universalist might have a pretty good argument if he just scaled up individual predestination to all creation. That would insulate it from many criticisms, but its big problem is that it is explicitly denied by Our Lord and condemned by the magisterium.)

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    8. @TN:
      I was pretty clear in what I originally said. As for a 'sacramentalized' view of creation, so what? Why do you suppose this is a problem for the view in question? I'm sure Feser doesn't have a problem with it. So who does? You're again just bypassing the issues that have been raised. I get the distinct impression that those who criticize the position Feser is arguing for here really don't understand the position they are criticizing (i.e., they're criticizing a straw man).

      On universalism, it's true NT isn't committed to it. Indeed Balthasar apparently did advocate eternal hell, for none other than our Lord Jesus Christ himself!: "God's Word in Jesus Christ wishes to die with us in this God-forsakenness and descend with us into eternal banishment from God." (from Truth is Symphonic, emphasis added) So is that actually Balthasar's considered view? No, it's just the kind of 'anti-rationalistic,' emotionalistic Schwaermerei he likes to indulge in. (Or maybe there's a problem here with the translation of "eternal" from the Hebrew to the Greek to the Latin to the German to the English. Yeah right, eh!)

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    9. David McPike,

      So, I take it that “emotionalistic heart-not-head approach” cannot, in your mind, be described with the word “sentimentalism”. OK, OK, have it your way. Gee, sorry.

      “As for a 'sacramentalized' view of creation, so what?” Well, what that means is kinda an important point, that’s all.

      “. . . those who criticize the position Feser is arguing for here really don't understand the position they are criticizing”. I wasn’t aware that Feser said anything on the subject, but, again, gee sorry.

      Thanks for the “discussion”. Sorry to disturb you.

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  8. Feser, what do you think of Joe Schmid? On his website (Majesty of Reason) he says some very interesting things about classical theism. It would be very interesting if you take a look. I would like to know your opinion about (if someone who has any relevant knowledge about classical theism wants to speak their opinion I would love to)

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    1. (It really has been difficult to deal with your "Plethora of Prima Facie Problems for Classical Theism", if someone with a good heart and great intelligence can give me their opinion I would really love it)

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    2. This won't help much but I think a classical theist just had a discussion with schmid on capturing christianity

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    3. @Callum:

      Chris Tomaszewski. The link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rX6di0Au5Kg

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    4. I didnt feel confident typing his surname from memory

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    5. Gave Kerr as well.
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a633NN2cMoE

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    6. @Callum

      Hello, thanks, I'll watch the video. Cameron is a real hero. Just one more question: what did you think of the discussion?

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  9. I'm not sure if the position as put here is really one between scientism and fideism. Nor would Aquinas ever have thought philosophy a vague no man's land between theology and science.

    I looked at the reference to the Summa in the earlier post on which the following view of theology or faith was based:
    “By themselves these deliverances (what we know of God and of morality from scripture, from the creeds, councils, and tradition, Magisterium) are like flesh without a skeleton: warm and human, but also weirdly distorted and unable to stand on its own or to offer resistance”.

    It just did not seem to tally with these assertions by Aquinas in the same question:

    Article 6. “...Sacred doctrine derives its principles not from any human knowledge, but from the divine knowledge, through which, as through the highest wisdom, all our knowledge is set in order…” (which sort of conditions even our philosophical knowledge) “But the knowledge proper to this science comes through revelation and not through natural reason”.
    Article 5 “This science can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer.”
    Article 2, “Augustine says "to this science alone belongs that whereby saving faith begotten, nourished, protected and strengthened."

    The metaphor of the Faith without philosophy being a spineless blob looks very jelly-like after reading question one of the Summa.

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    1. So better to say a confused blob, than a spineless blob -- but hopefully we get the point.

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  10. The point was that the faith without philosophy was described as a spineless blob. But St. Thomas Aquinas says
    Article 5 “This science can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer.”
    His point is real clear.

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    1. That's right. St. Thomas largely avoided theological rationalism (= faith can be based on reason) unlike many conemporary self-styled Thomists.

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    2. St. Thpomas doesn't avoid "rationalism" in theology of course. The faith is not a set a metaphysical ideas, but a revelation, a history of God's dealings with mankind.

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    3. In actual fact, faith without philosophy is not described as a spineless blob in the relevant blogpost, rather, the increasingly fideist believers are.

      Here's an actual quote, rather than the out-of-context snippet provided by the anonymous:

      'By the deliverances of divine revelation I have in mind, of course, what we know of God and of morality from scripture, from the creeds, councils, and tradition more generally, and from the Magisterium of the Church. By themselves these deliverances are like flesh without a skeleton: warm and human, but also weirdly distorted and unable to stand on its own or to offer resistance. That is to say, on the one hand the theological and moral deliverances of revelation are more profound than anything natural theology and natural law can give us, and speak to us in a more personal and accessible way. But they can also seem (when wrongly understood, as they often are) to lack any objective rational foundation, and to reflect a culturally and historically parochial view of human life that cannot apply to all times and places. To be sure, these purported defects of Christian theology are also, to say the least, greatly overstated, but there is some truth to this caricature too to the extent that Christian theology is not informed by natural theology, natural law, and the methods of philosophy more generally.'

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2013/05/neither-nature-alone-nor-grace-alone.html

      Dr. Feser duly notes that the deficiency concerns potential students, not the science itself.

      Compare with the fuller quote from the Summa article brought up by the anonymous:

      Reply to Objection 2. This science can in a sense depend upon the philosophical sciences, not as though it stood in need of them, but only in order to make its teaching clearer. For it accepts its principles not from other sciences, but immediately from God, by revelation. Therefore it does not depend upon other sciences as upon the higher, but makes use of them as of the lesser, and as handmaidens: even so the master sciences make use of the sciences that supply their materials, as political of military science. That it thus uses them is not due to its own defect or insufficiency, but to the defect of our intelligence, which is more easily led by what is known through natural reason (from which proceed the other sciences) to that which is above reason, such as are the teachings of this science.

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1001.htm#article6

      To go with the example provided by the saint, it would be perfectly legitimate to say that a polis is unable to stand on her own or to offer resistance without her hoplite phalanx in the event of a war.

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  11. I like to think that philosophy and natural law morality are much like a runway - it's like clearing the area and preparing it to facilitate the takeoff of a plane, but they obviously can't be a substitute for the plane. Still, ultimately there's no point in dwelling on an airstrip.

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    1. Kamil, that's a good metaphor,and to make it even more patent that Aquinas didn't think the faith was jelly without philosophy, I would add this:

      Philosophy and natural law morality are, here and now, the emergency runway, a field full of potholes and obstacles, where takeoff is extremely risky and cannot be assumed - the equivalent of the spineless blob, in fact.

      The faith is the standard runway, the intended, proper runway. Without unforeseen happenings or human perversity, a successful takeoff is the ordinary course of events. This royal road has flesh, bones, everything needed. But it can always be improved and better defended, which is why we have St. Thomas and his question 1 of the Summa, and the use of lesser sciences.

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    2. Of course it's true that not all people can access a proper runway, (missionaries build more of them all the time)and might try to make use of a dangerous emergency one, but that is not the way people take off, as a rule. (art 2, question 1)

      People may also need training to use a standard runway, especially if they have strange notions on how to fly, or if they doubt whether it's worth taking off at all.

      His main point in question one is that the intended, royal runway of revealed faith is the one they should all be using, not the emergency one full of potholes and obstacles. The intended runway is not a spineless blob, regardless of whether someone thinks he can fly by levitating. The dangerous, emergency runway, is strictly ancillary. The intended runway should be fenced around to keep out the barbarian hordes of modern philosophy, but the runway works as intended, with or without a fence, per se.

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    3. Yes, it's hard to disagree. One just can't see Saint Thomas embracing the idea that revealed religion is flesh without bones, no matter what some people believe.

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    4. The trouble, of course, is that Dr. Feser is not proposing that at all.

      Vide supra, August 18, 2020 at 10:47 AM

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  12. "Philosophy, as I shall understand the word, is something intermediate between theology and science."

    I've never liked this definition - it's too vague.It says - philosophy is similar to theology and science, but not quite. I've heard much better definitions of the term.

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  13. "Accordingly, physics is somewhat like a student who makes sure only to take classes that he knows he will get an A in, and then brags about his superior GPA relative to people who take the other classes."

    Dear Dr. Feser: That is such a great analogy, I am going to use it freely, and also not give you credit. Hope that's okay.

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  14. “ For example, there is Luther’s hostility to the Aristotelian-Scholastic system of natural theology and ethics, understood as providing substantive knowledge of God and morality through purely philosophical means apart from revelation (where this system was the main target of Luther’s remarks about reason being “the devil’s whore,” etc.). There is Barth’s hostility to the idea that purely philosophical arguments for God’s existence provide a “point of contact” by which divine revelation is mediated.....”

    The position of Luther and Barth STM far more religious and, infeed, Christian, than the ise of a pagan like Aristotle to interpret Sacred Scripture: More to the point, salvation through the Cross of Christ - not through the Books of Sentences, the Summa of Aquinas, or any other human wisdom. The Greeks (and their followers) are welcome to their “wisdom” - the Wisdom of God is wiser than men, and is exemplified by the Cross. No-one who accepts that 1 Corinthians 1 is Sacred Scripture inspired by God as its Author can deny that.

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    1. Can't see Luther as particularly spiritual,though Aquinas and orthodox Christianity in general insist on the rationability of religion and the possibility of reason per se demonstrating some truths about God and morals. All this without denying the fact that the revelation stands on its own without philosophy, per se, something not recognized by everyone.

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    2. I tend to agree. In the post linked to, "In reality it comes crashing down", there seems to have been a bit of shuffling between issues, making the point a bit vague:
      “Natural theology and natural law are like a skeleton, and the moral and theological deliverances of divine revelation are like the flesh that hangs on the skeleton. Just as neither skeleton alone nor flesh alone give you a complete human being, neither do nature alone nor grace alone give you the complete story about the human condition”. But then the discussion which follows seems not to be about the human condition, but whether revelation/tradition can “stand alone” or whether it is in fact like “flesh without a skeleton”.

      At first, the answer is negative, the “deliverances” are “ warm and human, but also weirdly distorted and unable to stand on its own or to offer resistance”. A little further on a slightly different verdict is given:
      “they can also seem (when wrongly understood, as they often are) to lack any objective rational foundation… To be sure, these purported defects of Christian theology are also, to say the least, greatly overstated, but there is some truth to this caricature too to the extent that Christian theology is not informed by natural theology, natural law, and the methods of philosophy more generally”. So, the caricature is somewhat true, “to the extent” that (here the subject being discussed shifts a little again) “theology”, is not informed by etc.

      The second half of the post is a criticism of fideism. The Church rightly censured fideism’s antipathy towards philosophy. Nevertheless, this is not equivalent to saying revelation and tradition alone are flesh without a skeleton”. Not only have saints and many millions of Christians over the centuries have lived a faith known through revelation and tradition. Christ, when teaching, used arguments of tradition and revelation, apart from miracles. Aquinas says revelation can stand alone, philosophy being useful for better defending and explaining revelation. The caricature of the revelation/tradition being flesh without a skeleton seems to be inapplicable to any extent because it questions the integrity and autonomous life of revelation/tradition itself. A better caricature might have been the living body of the faith clothed in philosophical armour.

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  15. The quote from Aquinas (Q. 1, art. 8) used to introduce the earlier post seems particularly inapt. For it was linked as a demonstration that fideist error kicking away the ladder of philosophy that can lead to God and remaining aloft was impossible.

    Examining the citation from Aquinas, one finds it is in answer to an objection and deals with theology, and not specifically with philosophical ladders to God:

    "...so this doctrine does not argue in proof of its principles, which are the articles of faith, but from them it goes on to prove something else..." "This doctrine is especially based upon arguments from authority, inasmuch as its principles are obtained by revelation"... "Hence sacred doctrine makes use also of the authority of philosophers in those questions in which they were able to know the truth by natural reason... as extrinsic and probable arguments; but properly uses the authority of the canonical Scriptures as an incontrovertible".
    Q. 1 just about sums up the Summa.

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  16. Makes sense but the same question in the ST goes on: “ That it thus uses them [philosophical sciences] is not due to its own defect or insufficiency, but to the defect of our intelligence, which is more easily led by what is known through natural reason”. Thus it could be argued that Saint Thomas is suggesting moral need for philosophy.

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    1. While that sentence from the Summa is an an argument for a subjective need for philosophy, the weakness of human intelligence is just as much an argument for emotive appeals to the faith and anthropomorphic depictions of God. This is something more than countenanced by the practice of the Church down the centuries in fact, which has used every means possible to advance the Faith. It did this without prejudice to what article one of the Summa calls "non-imspired" means, like philosophy.

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