Monday, February 8, 2010

Scholasticism as Modern Philosophy

Scholasticism ended with Descartes and Co. and was only revived, briefly, with Pope Leo XIII’s Aeterni Patris. Right? Wrong. Here is a useful reminder of the historical facts, from Ite ad Thomam.


  1. “It is due time for someone to write a history of philosophy that portrays things the way they really are:”

    Well maybe so, but it won’t be done by Don Paco. How can someone leave out the Pragmatists in a sweep of important philosophic history.

    Also, I think Paco makes no distinction among Catholic clergy, Catholic theologians, and philosophers. And to suggest that only university teachers do philosophy is…sophomoric.

    OK, so now maybe my ‘off-topic’ questions from two blog posts back when the topic of Catholic perspectives arose might be addressed.

    Like this one, “Since Vatican II, who are the prominent Christian theologians, and what are they saying?”

    And perhaps this one, “What new insights from modern neuroscience discoveries are theologians making w/r to the medieval notion of spirit mentioned in the last comment?”

    And please, this time, if you do not have an answer, or if the answer that comes to mind is not congruent with your preferred way of looking at things, do not take it out on me. I am only asking probing questions – doing philosophy.

  2. "I am only asking probing questions – doing philosophy."

    No you're not.
    You're being intentionally difficult. You bring no serious issues to the table.
    You difficult in the sense of being cocky.... and yes, you're comments are off topic because you appear to be more interested in scoring points (in your own mind).

    When pressed by others on this forum you just become more irrelevant in your commenting. You want others to address your issues (read: monsters in your mind) but you never actually engage back thoughtfully.

    What you do, if pressed hard enough, is act hurt.

  3. Dan,

    Since Don Paco was explicitly trying to characterize the common curriculum, and pragmatists are even now underrepresented in most history of philosophy curricula, it's hardly surprising that they don't get a mention. Nor does he say anything to "suggest that only university teachers do philosophy"; he more than once refers to what was done outside the university as philosophy, and simply points out that it was amateur rather than professional, which is correct -- for the most part it was explicitly a reaction against the profession of philosophy as found in academia, and was seen as such by the academics. It's not as if this is very difficult to figure out from the text.

    For someone who likes to pretend to be asking "probing questions" you certainly put very little serious effort into them. What in the world does your second question even mean:

    What new insights from modern neuroscience discoveries are theologians making w/r to the medieval notion of spirit mentioned in the last comment?

    This makes no coherent sense as it stands: in the core of the question are theologians making the neuroscientific (even though we don't usually talking about 'making' insights) or are they making neuroscientific discoveries (even though no one expects them to be doing neuroscience); or are they drawing insights, not themselves neuroscientific, from neuroscientific discoveries? Do you mean to ask what new ideas from neuroscience theologians are coopting, or do you mean to ask what discussions of new discoveries about the brain they have had, or do you mean what philosophical work has been done on medieval notions of spirit comparing it to modern neurocognitive studies (since that would indeed more typically be done in a philosophy department than a theology department these days), or do you mean what psychological work has been done as incorporated into theological reflection (which would include things like prayer studies, and would today more typically be done in psychology departments than in theology departments)?

    Likewise with your first question: Vatican II didn't mark a sharp break in Catholic theology because it didn't involve killing off the theologians who had been teaching before, and so the prominent theologians after the Council were mostly the same theologians who had been prominent before the Council -- people like de Lubac and Ratzinger, and, of course, some of their students. Thus it is simply unclear why Vatican II is being used as a starting point here. Likewise, "what are they saying" is an extraordinarily vague question; what are they saying about what? I find it extraordinarily implausible that you are incapable of recognizing that among the Catholic theologians since Vatican II are the Popes, Wojyla and Ratzinger, and that you are incapable of, say, picking up any number of books by either of them, or even googling them, in order to learn what, say, is involved in The Theology of the Body. So, since you are obviously not interested in just any Catholic theologians, since you don't just go to some of the obvious examples at the source to see what they say, and you obviously are not interested in just any theological topics, since again you seem to ignore sources on most of the obvious topics that would make massively more sense than trying to find things out from a random comment thread on a blog, then you should specify what you actually mean. An essential part of asking probing questions is taking the trouble to make sure your questions are precise and accurate enough as to admit of serious response; otherwise there is manifestly no 'probing' involved.

  4. Quit the psychology already. I am asking 2 questions, that is all.

  5. It's interesting to note that the continental heroes of the scientific revolution were educated in scholastic philosophy, insofar as they received philosophical educations, and not in "early modern philosophy", which had had no time to be influential. So early modern philosophy could not have contributed to the scientific revolution, except insofar as Descartes' own philosophy affected his work in mathematics, and similarly for Leibniz. I'm not sure that, say, Descartes was influenced by his own philosophy when he discovered Analytic Geometry, nor Leibniz with the calculus, so perhaps even those internal influences didn't exist either. And also for the empiricists, who seem not to have had any influence on their own times' science and technology.

    Which means, perhaps, that modern philosophy can't claim any credit at all for the scientific, technological and industrial revolutions.

    This point, obvious perhaps to others but a revelation to me, certainly seems to be a consequence of the point underlying the article: that philosophies take time to spread, and so cannot be held responsible for inspiring, constraining, or enabling any scientific or technological innovation of their own times.

    I must confess it makes me go "hmmm" when I think that modern philosophy deserves ZERO credit for modern science. Alters my view of things a bit.

  6. Dan, your questions have been answered both in this thread and others. That the responses may be difficult for you to grasp (or worse, not be the responses you were hoping for) doesn't matter that much.

    Nattering on pointlessly then acting as if you're "doing philosophy" is not really doing philosophy.

    (Well, maybe it's postmodernism.)

  7. Brandon you are right, a rephrase is in order for #2

    What, if any, changes in modern theology have been, or are in the process of being, brought about thru discoveries in modern neuroscience as regards the traditional A-T nature of soul?

    I think #1 is still good. I know John Paul II was a Personal Thomist which seems very existential and with a different focus from Scholastic theology. Surely there are rising stars in the seminaries today since Vatican II.

    I am looking into ‘The Theology of the Body’ next, as it sounds very relevant to #2.

  8. Occasional CommentatorFebruary 9, 2010 at 10:43 AM


    This will be my final response to you--a fact that I'm quite sure you'll lose no sleep over. Your re-worded question about "neuroscience" simply adds more verbiage, not clarity. As I stated in the other thread, theologian does not equal thomist. No Aristotlean or Thomist worth his salt is going to drop his principles and go running into the hills at the knowledge that some mental states have causal relation to some physical states. If the A/T theory of causation is correct, no finding of "neuroscience" (the actual science, that is, not the conclusions some scientists in their philosophic moments have drawn from it) can in principle undermine it. Another metaphysical theory, yes; but not any findings from the natural sciences. You would know this if you took the time to read any works expounding upon either.

    Before posting my first comment here I read three of Dr. Feser's books (two of them twice), a wonderful book called "The Science Before Science" by MIT physicist Anothony Rizzi, and several of Mortimor Adler's works. I did this because I knew it would be rude to post questions without at least a basic understanding of what I was asking. And really, regarding Thomism, that's all I have--a basic understanding. You have obviously not done even this small courtesy and are merely cluttering up the combox.

    So please, do me and everybody else here a favor and take a couple months' break from posting. Read some actual books (not merely "blogs and articles", as you stated in the other thread) so you can gain some working knowledge of A/T metaphysics.

    Good day.

  9. OC

    You can read the titles on my bookshelf?

  10. Doubtful. Comics rarely have titles on the spine.

  11. "Depending on the author, the movement pejoratively known as "neo-Scholasticism" or "neo-Thomism" is acknowledged as worth mentioning."

    Pope John Paul 2 was neo-Thomist. Worth mentioning...yes.

  12. How did any of you read the article? I found the lack of contrast between the print and the background too much for my middle aged eyes.

  13. Anonymous @ 4:05,

    There seems to be a glitch in the webpage just now -- it didn't look like that when I linked to it. Check back later and I'm sure he'll have fixed it.

  14. Or just highlight the text and make your own contrast.