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Reality : a synthesis of Thomistic thought

by Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange; Patrick Cummins

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Thorough & Concise   (2012-06-24)

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by Geremia10

Available online here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm

This is an absolutely incredible, concise yet thorough work by the contemplative Dominican philosopher-theologian Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, the greatest 20th century Catholic theologian and also Bl. Pope John Paul II's thesis adviser.

Here is a summary of some passages I found particularly noteworthy, along with my assessments of them:

Chapter 4 highlights that Thomistic realism is founded on "The first idea which the intellect conceives, its most evident idea into which it resolves all other ideas[...][:] the idea of being." From this follows the principle of non-contradiction and the principle of sufficient reason: "To this principle of contradiction or of identity is subordinated the principle of sufficient reason, which in its generality may be formulated thus: 'Everything that is has its raison d'etre, in itself, if of itself it exists, in something else, if of itself it does not exist.' [...] [T]he principle of sufficient reason had been formulated long before Leibnitz."

Chapter 5 contains an excellent exposition of the real distinction between matter and form (cf. 1st of the 24 Thomistic Theses) and the analogy of being (cf. 4th of the 24 Thomistic Theses). Garrigou-Lagrange's 50+ years of teaching Aristotle at the Angelicum really show through here.

E.g., he excellently summarizes Parmenides's argument that change is an illusion in the section "Article One: Potency Really Distinct From Act":

"Parmenides has two arguments. The first runs thus:* If a thing arrives at existence it comes either from being or from nothing. Now it cannot come from being (statue from existing statue). Still less can it come from nothing. Therefore all becoming is impossible. This argument is based on the principle of contradiction or identity, which Parmenides thus formulates: Being is, non-being is not; you will never get beyond this thought.

[*Ex ente non fit ens, quia jam est ens, et ex nihilo nihil fit, ergo ipsum fieri est impossibile]

"Multiplicity of beings, he argues again from the same principle, is likewise impossible. Being, he says, cannot be limited, diversified, and multiplied by its own homogeneous self, but only by something else. Now that which is other than being is non-being, and non-being is not, is nothing. Being remains eternally what it is, absolutely one, identical with itself, immutable. Limited, finite beings are simply an illusion. Thus Parmenides ends in a monism absolutely static which absorbs the world in God."

His description of Aristotle and St. Thomas's solution to the problem is equally concise and clear.

In the next section of Chapter 5, "Article Two: Act Limited By Potency," he excellently summarizes the view of Suarez, which is contrary to

"the first of the twenty-four Thomistic theses: Potency and act divide being in such fashion that everything which exists is either pure act, or then is necessarily composed of potency and act, as of two primary and intrinsic principles.

"For Suarez, on the contrary, everything that is, even prime matter, is of itself in act though it may be in potency to something else. Since he does not conceive potency as the simple capacity of perfection, he denies the universality of the principle: act is limited only by potency. Here are his words: 'Act is perhaps limited by itself, or by the agent which produces the act.'"

Culminating Chapter 5 is St. Thomas's innovative doctrine on the analogy of being. In this climactic moment, Garrigou-Lagrange writes, again comparing St. Thomas's views to the divergent views of Scotus and Suarez:

"Being, for St. Thomas, is a notion, not univocal but analogous, since otherwise it could not be divided and diversified. A univocal idea (e. g.: genus) is diversified by differences extrinsic to genus (animality, e. g.: by specific animal differences). Now, nothing is extrinsic to being (ens). Here Parmenides enters. Being, he says, cannot be something other than being, and the only other thing than being is nothing, is non-being, and non-being is not. St. Thomas replies: 'Parmenides and his followers were deceived in this: They used the word being (ens) as if it were univocal, one in idea and nature, as if it were a genus. This is an impossible position. Being (ens) is not a genus, since it is found in things generically diversified.' [In Metaph.: Bk. 1, chap. 5, lect. 9. See the fourth of the twenty-four Thomistic theses].

"Duns Scotus returns in a manner to the position of Parmenides, that being is a univocal notion. Suarez, seeking a middle way between Aquinas and Scotus, maintains that the objective concept of being (ens) is simply one (simpliciter unus): and that consequently everything that is in any manner (e. g.: matter and essence) is being in act (ens in actu). This viewpoint granted, we can no longer conceive pure potency. It would be extra ens, hence, simply nothing. The Aristotelian notion of real potency (medium between actuality and nothing) disappears, and the argument of Parmenides is insoluble.

"We understand now why, shortly after the Council of Trent, a Thomist, Reginaldus, O. P.: formulated as follows the three principles of St. Thomas:

"Ens (being) is a notion transcendent and analogous, not univocal.
God is pure act, God alone is His own existence.
Things absolute have species from themselves; things relative from something else."

Interestingly, comparing again St. Thomas to Suarez, Garrigou-Lagrange writes:
"A last important consequence, again in the supernatural order, of the real distinction between potency and act, between essence and existence, runs as follows: In Christ there is, for both natures, the divine and the human, one sole existence, the existence, namely, of the Word who has assumed human nature. Suarez, on the contrary, who denies real distinction between created essence and its existence, has to admit two existences in Christ. This position reduces notably the intimacy of the hypostatic union."

Chapter 6 is a concise version of his commentary on the Question 1 of St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae. He discusses "theological conclusions properly so called, namely, conclusions obtained by a genuinely illative process, from one premise of faith and one premise of reason" and how Thomists hold that "the Church can condemn the contradictory of such a conclusion, but if she does, she condemns it, not as heretical, that is, as contrary to the faith, but as erroneous, that is, contrary to an accepted theological conclusion."

He discusses how God, not faith, is the proper object of theology; and "Article Two: Steps In Theological Procedure" outlines all the procedures St. Thomas employs in his works:

"1. The positive procedure.
"2. The analytic procedure.
"3. The apologetic procedure.
"4. The manifestative procedur
"5. The explicative procedure.
"6. The illative procedure.
"    a) of truths explicitly revealed.
"    b) of truths not explicitly revealed.
"    c) of truths virtually revealed."

Garrigou-Lagrange frequently reiterates staments similar to this: "Were it otherwise, the more would come from the less, the more perfect from the less perfect, contrary to the principle of causality. St. Thomas speaks universally: 'However perfect you conceive any created nature, corporeal or spiritual, it cannot proceed to its act unless it is moved thereto by God.'"

In Chapter 7, where Garrigou-Lagrange discusses the proofs of God's existence from the laws of causality, he shows that "If denial or doubt of the principle of causality leads to doubt or denial of the principle of contradiction, then the five classic proofs, truly understood, of God's existence cannot be rejected without finding absurdity at the root of all reality."

Chapter 8 covers the difference between a beatific knowledge of God and "an anological knowledge we must be content with here below."

Chapter 11 on predestination beautifully resolves the question by noting two important principles many heretics deny:

"Against all deviations in this matter [of predestination], toward predestinationism, Protestantism, and Jansenism, on the one hand, and, on the other, toward Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, we must hold fast these two truths, central and mutually complementary: first, 'God never commands the impossible,' and second, 'No one would be better than another were he not loved more by God.' Guided by these truths we can begin to see where the mystery lies. Infinite justice, infinite mercy, sovereign liberty are all united, are even identified, in the Deity's transcendent pre-eminence, which remains hidden from us as long as we do not have the beatific vision."

Chapter 12: Omnipotence:
"a) God created the universe ex nihilo.
"b) God created the universe freely.
"c) God did not create the universe ab aeterno."

The Third Part, The Blessed Trinity, begins at Chapter 13.

Chapter 17, The Notional Acts, resolves an interesting objection:
"[R]elation called paternity is founded on active generation, hence cannot precede generation. But the personality of the Father must be conceived as preceding active generation, which is its operation. Hence the personality of the Father which precedes generation, cannot be constituted by the subsisting relation of paternity which follows generation.

"In other words, we have here a vicious circle."

He gives many "illustrations in the created order":

"First, in human generation. At that one and indivisible instant when the human soul is created and infused into its body, the ultimate disposition of that body to receive that soul—does it precede or does it follow the creation of the soul? It both precedes and follows. In the order of material causality, it precedes. In all other orders of causality, formal, efficient, and final, it follows. For it is the soul which, in the indivisible moment of its creation, gives to the human body its very last disposition to receive that soul. Hence, from this point of view, that disposition is in the human body as a characteristic deriving from the soul.

"Secondly, in human understanding. The sense image precedes the intellectual idea. Yet that same image, completely suited to express the new idea, follows that idea. At that indivisible instant when the thinker seizes an original idea, he simultaneously finds an appropriate image to express that idea in the sense order.

"Again, in human emotion. The sense emotion both precedes and follows intellectual love, is both antecedent and consequent.

"Again, still more strikingly, in human deliberation. At the terminus of deliberation, in one and the same indivisible instant, the last practical judgment precedes the voluntary choice, and still this voluntary choice, by accepting this practical judgment, makes that judgment to be the last.

"Again, look at the marriage contract. The man's word of acceptance is not definitively valid before it is accepted by the woman. The man's consent thus precedes the woman's consent, and hence is not yet actually related to her consent, which has not yet been given. Only by her consent does his consent have actual matrimonial relation to his wife.

"Lastly, look again at the triangle. In an equilateral triangle, the first angle drawn, though it is as yet alone, constitutes, nevertheless, the geometric figure, but does not as yet have actual relation to the two angles still undrawn."

Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange continues to use variants on the "triangle analogy" hereafter because, as he says in Chapter 18, that triangle "illustrations, however deficient, are useful to the human intellect, which does not act unless imagination cooperates."

"An illustration: recall again the three angles in a triangle. How fertile is that fundamental principle that in God everything is identically one and the same except where we find opposition by relation!"

"Chapter 19: The Trinity Naturally Unknowable

"The Trinity is a mystery essentially supernatural. St. Thomas expounds the reason for this truth much more clearly than his predecessors did. By natural reason, he says, we know God only as Creator. Now God creates by His omnipotence, which is common to all three persons, as is the divine nature of which omnipotence is an attribute. Hence natural reason cannot know the distinction of persons in God, but only His one nature. In this argument we have one of the most explicit expressions of the distinction between the natural order and the supernatural order."

The Fourth Part is on angels and man. He contrasts St. Thomas's doctrine with that of Scotus and Suarez, the latter of whom tried to find a middle-ground between Scotus and St. Thomas. Only St. Thomas's doctrine on the angels preserves the "specific difference between angelic intelligence and human intelligence."

"2. Angelic Knowledge
"There are three orders of knowledge: human, angelic, divine."

"This position granted, let us see its consequences. The human idea, by which man knows, is an abstract and universal idea, drawn forth, by the intellect agent, from particular sense objects. But the angelic idea, not being drawn from external sense objects, is a natural endowment of the angelic intellect, infused into it by God at the moment of creation. Hence the angelic idea is at once universal and concrete. The angel's infused idea of the lion, say, represents not only the nature of the lion, but all individual lions that either actually exist or have in the past been objects of the angel's intellect. Angelic ideas are thus participations in God's own creative ideas. Infused ideas, then, which Plato and Descartes falsely ascribed to men, are, on the contrary, an angelic characteristic."

Chapter 26: The Treatise on Man
"1. The nature of the human soul.
"2. The union of soul with body.
"3. The faculties of the soul.
"4. The acts of intelligence.
"5. The production and state of the first man."

Chapter 27, on The Nature of the Soul, discusses the three degree of abstraction: physical, mathematical, and metaphysical.

Chapter 29 discusses the relationship between intellect and will. Scotus believed the will was primary, whereas St. Thomas believed the intellect and will are "mutually subordinated."

Chapter 30: The Separated Soul
"1. Subsistence of the separated soul.
"2. Knowledge of the separated soul.
"3. The will of the separated soul."

Chapter 31 explains, inter alia, how original sin is transmitted even though the human soul is not dependent on matter; God creates it out of nothing.

Chapter 32 begins the fifth part: Redemptive Incarnation.
Regarding the "felix culpa" ("Oh happy guilt, which merited so great and so beautiful a Redeemer!") of Adam's sin, Fr. G.-L. addresses Scotus's objection that God would have become incarnate, albeit in a non-passible form, even had Adam not sinned:

"Scotus brings another difficulty. A wise man, he says, wills first the end, then the means in proportion to their nearness to that end. Thus he transfers the subordination in question from the order of different acts of the divine will to the order of different objects of those acts. Then he continues: Now Christ, being more perfect, is nearer the last end of the universe than is Adam. Hence God, to reveal His goodness, chose first the incarnation of the Word, before Adam was willed, and hence before his sin had been committed.

"In answer to this objection, many Thomists, following Cajetan, distinguish the final cause from the material cause. To illustrate. In the order of final causality God wills, first the soul, secondly the body for the sake of the soul. But in the order of material causality He wills first the body, as being the material cause to be perfected by the soul, and the soul is created only when the embryo is sufficiently disposed to receive the soul.

"Applying this distinction to the Incarnation, God wills, under final causality, the redemptive Incarnation before He wills to permit Adam's sin, conceived as possible. But in the order of material causality, He permits first the sin of Adam, as something to be turned into a higher good. Similarly, in the order of beatitude, beatitude itself is the final cause and man is the material cause, the subject, which receives beatitude.

"This distinction is not idle, verbal, or fictitious. It is founded on the nature of things. Causes have mutual priority, each in its own order: form before matter, matter before form. If Adam had not sinned, if the human race were not there to be redeemed, the Word would not have become incarnate. That is the order of material causality. But in the order of finality, God permitted original sin in view of some higher good, which good we, after the Incarnation, know to be an incarnation universally redemptive."

Chapter 35: Christ "could not [sin] for three reasons:
"    a) by reason of His divine personality, which necessarily excludes sin:
"    b) by reason of His beatific vision of God's goodness, from which no blessed soul can ever turn aside:
"    c) by reason of His plentitude of grace, received inamissibly as consequence of the grace of union."

Chapter 36:
"1. How is Christ's passion in harmony with His beatific vision?
"2. How did His passion cause our salvation?
"3. Why did He suffer so much, seeing that His least suffering would suffice to save us?"

Concluding "These two treatises, that on God and that on the Incarnation, [which] are the foundations of the theological edifice," Fr. G.-L. "shows that Thomism is not a mere sum of haphazard theses, but a mental attitude of research, a method of expounding truth in the order of nature and of grace, a unified grasping, a living synthesis, of the natural order of truth in its essential subordination to the supernatural order of truth. Such a synthesis radiates from one mother-idea. In the treatise on God that parent-idea is this: God is subsistent being, in whom alone essence is identified with existence. In the treatise on the Incarnation, the parent idea is the divine personality of our Savior. This unity of person in two natures implies first, unity of existence, secondly, substantial sanctity, thirdly, a priesthood supremely perfect, fourthly, a royal dominion over all creatures. Lastly, since person is the substantial principle of all acts, the theandric acts of Christ have a value intrinsically infinite in the order of merit and satisfaction."

"Chapter 37: Mariology"
"1. Mary's predestination.
"2. Her dignity as Mother of God.
"3. Her sanctity.
"4. Her universal mediation."

This chapter contains Fr. G.-L.'s description of "St. Thomas and the Immaculate Conception". St. Thomas is thought by some to have denied the immaculate conception, but Fr. G.-L. clarifies:

"At what exact moment, then, was Mary sanctified in her mother's womb? To this question he gives no precise answer, except perhaps at the end of his life, when he seems to return to his original view, to a positive affirmation of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Before this last period, he declares [862] that we do not know the precise moment, but that it was soon after animation. Hence he does not pronounce on the question whether the Virgin Mary was sanctified at the very moment of her animation. St. Bonaventure had posed that question and like many others had answered in the negative. St. Thomas preferred to leave the question open and did not answer it."

Chapter 38 begins the sixth part on the sacraments of the Church:
"1. The sacraments in general.
"2. Transubstantiation.
"3. The Sacrifice of the Mass.
"4. Attrition and contrition.
"5. The reviviscence of merits.
"6. The treatise on the Church."

"St. Thomas applies to the sacraments analogically the theory of matter and form [...] We see, in fact, an analogy, in the order of signification, between sacramental words and form."

"Chapter 39: Transubstantiation"
This is probably the most fruitful application of "the theory of matter and form" "to the sacraments," mentioned in the preceding chapter.

He also argues in this chapter agaisnt the Scotist idea of "adduction," which basically denies Christ's immutability by claiming He moves from heaven to the where the substance of the bread was at the instance of consecration.

Chapter 40 discusses the Sacrifice of the Mass. Fr. G.-L. mentions that St. Thomas anticipated the Protestant objection that the Mass is not a sacrifice.

"Seventh Part: Moral Theology and Spirituality
"The Prima secundae is a general treatise on morality, under the following headings:
"1. Man's ultimate purpose and goal,
"2. Human voluntary acts,
"3. Passions and habits,
"4. Virtues, gifts, and vices,
"5. Law, by which God guides us,
"6. Grace, by which God aids us."

"Chapter 45: Man's Ultimate Purpose And Goal" shows that man's ultimate happiness "can be found, not in creatures, since they, all and singly, are but limited participations in good, but only in God." He offers an alternative proof of God's existence based on this fact:

"[...] a natural desire, founded, not on imagination nor on error, but on the universal amplitude of man's will, cannot be vain or chimerical. Now while each man has this natural desire of complete happiness, both reason and experience show that this desire cannot be satisfied by any limited and finite good, because, since our intelligence knows good as universal and unlimited, the natural amplitude, the embracing capacity of our will, illumined by our intelligence, is itself universal and unlimited."

Article 2 of ch. 46 covers probabalism in moral theology, pioneered by the great doctor of moral theology St. Alphonsus di Liguori.

Chapter 49 treats grace. Against De Lubac, e.g., Fr. G.-L. writes that while "fallen man can, without grace, by God's natural concurrence, know and admit the supernatural truths materially, by an imperfect consent given for a human motive," "faith, founded formally on the veracity of God, the author of supernatural life, is impossible without grace."

"Such is the Thomistic doctrine: Grace is necessary for knowing supernatural truth, for doing good, for avoiding sin, for disposing man unto justification, for performing each meritorious act, for persevering unto the end."

"Article Two: The Essence Of Grace" shows how the conception of grace of the Nominalists— "who admit in grace only a moral right to eternal life, a right which may be compared to paper money, which, though it is only paper, gives us a right to this or that sum of silver or gold"—"prepared the way for that of Luther, which makes grace a mere extrinsic imputation to us of Christ's merits." This helped me understand, in a new light, how Luther's theory of justification is heretical; he denies sanctifying grace's transformative, infusive, remissive efficacy.

"Chapter 50: The Theological Virtues"

"Article One: Faith"

In Summa Theologiae Iª q. 32 a. 1 ad 2, St. Thomas Aquinas quotes St. Augustine, who says that "per fidem venitur ad cognitionem, et non e converso [by faith we arrive at knowledge, and not conversely]." St. Thomas says that "faith is more certain than science and the other intellectual virtues" (Summa Theologiae IIª-IIae q. 4 a. 8). Since, as Aristotle says in his Posterior Analytics (bk. 1 ch. 3), "demonstration must be based on premisses prior to and better known than the conclusion" and St. Thomas's commentary on this (Expositio Posteriorum lib. 1 l. 7) says that "if someone were to ask how the science of immediate principles is possessed, the answer would be that not only are they known in a scientific manner, but knowledge of them is the source of a science," does this mean that the "science of principles is possessed" by faith? Since an "entire science is virtually contained in its principles (in principiis scientiae virtualiter tota scientia continetur)" (Summa Theologica Iª-IIae q. 3 a. 6 co.) and the principles of theology are the articles of faith (Summa Theologica Iª q. 1 a. 7 co.), is all science ultimately grounded on faith? Is St. Thomas a fideist? It seems he "affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith" (Sauvage, G. in the Catholic Encyclopedia).

Yet, Fr. G.-L. quotes a passage of St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae that I neglected to study. It clarified my misinterpreting St. Thomas as a fideist by making an important distinction:
"In faith we must distinguish the formal element, i. e.: the first truth [God], far surpassing all the natural knowledge of any creature; and second, the material element, i. e.: the particular truth, to which we adhere only because we adhere to the first truth. [IIª-IIae: q. 5, a. 1.]" ("[T]hat which is known materially […] is the material object […] and […] that whereby it is known […] is the formal aspect of the object." [Ibid.: q. 1, a. 1])
So, basically, with faith we know things in reference to God. Without faith we know them by natural light; fideists deny this latter means.
Then, with this distinction a statement like the following cannot be fideist:
"The formal object of faith is the first truth, adherence to which is man's reason for assenting to any particular truth. [Ibid.: q. 2, a. 2.]"
{As an aside, this reminds me of this passage from the Summa Contra Gentiles lib. 3 cap. 97 n. 17 ("How the disposition of Providence has a rational plan."): "Accordingly if we be asked the wherefore of a particular natural effect, we can assign the reason to some proximate cause: provided, however, that we refer all things to the divine will as their first cause."}

Fr. G.-L. also says that faith is supernatural because its object is supernatural.

I learned something about the Pelagians, who appear to deny the necessity of faith and its supernaturality:
"If acquired faith, which even demons have, were sufficient, then infused faith would not be absolutely necessary, but would be, as the Pelagians said, a means for believing more easily. Against the Pelagians the Second Council of Orange defined the statement that grace is necessary even for the beginning of faith, for the pious willingness to believe."

E.g., St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas's master, thought contrariwise, that "the same truth" can "be simultaneously both known and believed":
"St. Thomas teaches that one and the same truth cannot be simultaneously both known and believed. But, by the miracles which confirm revelation, we know the fact of revelation. Hence we cannot simultaneously believe them supernaturally. In answer, Thomists point out that revelation is indeed known naturally as miraculous intervention of the God of nature, and hence is supernatural in the mode of its production, like the miracle which confirms it. But revelation, since it is supernatural in its essence, and not merely in the mode of its production, can never be naturally known, but must be accepted by supernatural faith. By one and the same act, to repeat St. Thomas, we believe the God who reveals and the truth which He reveals."

Then Fr. G.-L. discusses St. Thomas's four kinds of certitude and the fifth kind that the virtue of hope affords:
"St. Thomas has already noted four kinds of certitude: (a) the certitude of science, founded on evidence; (b) the certitude of faith, founded on revelation; (c) the certitude of the gift of wisdom, founded on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; (d) the certitude of prudence in the practical order. It remains to show precisely in what the certitude of hope consists. Hope resides, not in the intellect, but in the will, under the infallible guidance of faith. Hope, then, has a participated certitude. It has, to speak formally and precisely, a certitude of tendency to our last end, notwithstanding the uncertainty of salvation. Thus, to illustrate, the swallow, following animal instinct under the guidance of providence, tends unerringly to the region which is its goal. Just as moral virtues, under the guidance of prudence, tend to their goal, viz.: to the right medium of their respective fields, so does hope tend with certainty to the last end."

"Chapter 51: The Moral Virtues"

"St. Thomas, following Aristotle, says that prudence is right reason as directing human acts."

"The principal act of fortitude is endurance, and its secondary act is aggression. Endurance, says St. Thomas, is more difficult than aggression and more meritorious. Greater moral strength is shown in daily and long-continued self-control than in the momentary enthusiasm which attacks a deadly adversary. Three reflections show this truth:
"    a) He who endures is already in continual warfare against a self-confident adversary.
"    b) He is accustomed to suffering, whereas he who waits for the far-off struggle does not in the meantime exercise himself in suffering and even hopes to escape it.
"    c) Endurance presupposes long training in fortitude, whereas attack depends on a moment of temperamental enthusiasm."

"Chapter 52: Christian Perfection"

"Which is higher in value, love of God, or knowledge of God? In this life, so runs the answer of St. Thomas, love of God stands higher than knowledge of God. Why? Because, although in general the intellect is higher than the will which it guides, our intellect, until it obtains the beatific vision, draws God down within its own limited and finite ideas, whereas when we love God we ourselves are drawn upward to God's own unlimited and infinite perfection. "

"Chapter 53: Charismatic Graces"
"Biblical inspiration, then, is a divine light which makes the judgment of the inspired writer divine, and consequently infallible. […] Thus Scripture has two authors, one divine and principal, the other human and instrumental."

"Chapter 54: Conclusion"

In "Article One: Thomism And Eclecticism," Fr. G.-L. argues that "Thomism is concerned primarily with principles and doctrinal order, wherein lie its unity and its power. Eclecticism, led by a false idea of fraternal charity, seeks to harmonize all systems of philosophy and theology."

Then he quotes Card. Lorenzelli, regarding the "praeambula fidei":

"In fact, the points of doctrine on which all Catholic philosophers, or nearly all, are in accord, are those defined by the Church as the preambles of faith [praembula fidei]. But all other points of Thomistic doctrine, viz.: real distinction of potency from act, of matter from form, of created essence from its existence, of substance from accidents, of person from nature—these, according to eclecticism, are not fundamental principles of the doctrine of St. Thomas. And they say the same of his doctrine that habits and acts are specifically proportioned to their formal objects. All these assertions, they say, are disputed among Catholic teachers, and hence are unimportant.

"These points of doctrine, which eclecticism considers unimportant, are, on the contrary, says the Cardinal, the major pronouncements of Thomism as codified in the Twenty-four Theses."

"In Thomism, which is simply a deepened form of perennial philosophy, we find again what is best in the thought of Aristotle, Plato, and Augustine. This philosophy, says Bergson, is nothing but the natural development of ordinary human intelligence. This philosophy, therefore, is open to all genuine progress in science. It is not, like Hegelianism, the huge a priori construction of one bewitching genius, but a temple that rests on a broad inductive base, centuries-old, but perpetually repaired by the most attentive study of all attainable fact, a study strikingly exemplified in the work of Albert the Great, the teacher of St. Thomas."

"1. The Generative Principle"

"Let us now see the assimilative power of this generative principle on ascending philosophical levels: in cosmology, in anthropology, in criteriology, in ethics, in natural theology. By way of general remark, let us note that Thomistic assimilation is due to the Thomistic method of research. In meeting any great problem Thomism begins by recalling extreme solutions that are mutually contradictory. Next it notes eclectic solutions which fluctuate between those extremes. Lastly, it rises to a higher synthesis which incorporates all the elements of reality found in its successive surveys of positions which remain extreme. This ultimate metaphysical synthesis it is which Thomism offers as substructure of the faith."

Regarding mechanism versus dynamism:

"1. Cosmology"
"Mechanism affirms the existence of local motion, of extension in three dimensions, often of atoms, but denies sense qualities, natural activity and finality. Hence it cannot well explain weight, resistance, heat, electricity, affinity, cohesion, and so on. Dynamism, on the contrary, affirming sense qualities, natural activity, and finality, reduces everything to mere force, denying any extension properly so called, and denying also the principle that activity presupposes being. Now the doctrine of matter and form accepts all that is positive in these two extreme conceptions. By two principles, distinct but intimately united, it explains both extension and force. Extension has its source in matter, which is common to all bodies, capable of receiving the specific form, the essential structure, of iron, say, or gold, or hydrogen, or oxygen. And the doctrine of specific form explains, far better than does Plato's idea or the monad of Leibnitz, all the natural qualities, characteristics, and specific activities of bodies, in full harmony with the principle that specific activity presupposes specific being."

"Chapter 55: The Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses"

"In point of truth, theology, if it disregarded the principles of the Thomistic synthesis, would resemble a geometry which, disregarding Euclidean principles, would not know whither it is going."

Fr. G.-L. emphasizes the necessity of the first thesis, that of act and potency, because upon it all of Thomism—especially the proofs for God's existence—rests.

"Chapter 56: Realism And First Principles"

Here, Fr. G.-L. discusses the problem of universals. This problem, "which certain superficial minds look on as antiquated, has reappeared, under a new form, in the discussions relative to the question of fixed species, and still more notably in the discussion on absolute evolutionism."

"Contradiction And Exaggerated Realism"

"What led Parmenides to this confusion [i.e., of not 'distinguishing potency from act']? It was the supposition, at least implicit, that the universal as such, as it exists in the mind, must likewise be formally universal in the mind's object. The conditions of thought must be likewise the conditions of reality.

"Exaggerated realism, to conclude, tends to confound being in general with the divine being. Hence it turns the principle of contradiction into a judgment, not essential but existential, or even confounds that principle with the affirmation of God's existence. 'Being exists' becomes equivalent to: 'There exists one sole Being, which cannot not exist.'"

"Realism And The Principle Of Causality"

"In limited and traditional realism, the first object of human intelligence is not God, who is its highest object, is not merely the brute fact of existence, but the intelligible being of sense objects, wherein, as in a mirror, we can discover a posteriori, by the road of causality, the existence of God."

"Chapter 57: Realism And Pragmatism"

In "III. Pragmatic Consequences" Fr. G.-L. uses an example from modern physics to prove that a realistic definition of truth opens one up to lines of reasoning inaccessible to a pragmatist definition of truth:

"In sciences, physical and physico-mathematical, those facts which exist independently of our mind are considered certain, as laws which express constant relations among phenomena. Postulates, hypotheses, are defined by their relation to the truth to be attained, not as yet accessible or certain. To illustrate. On the principle of inertia, many scientists hold that inertia in repose is certain, meaning that a body not acted upon by an exterior cause remains in repose. But others, H. Poincare, for example, or P. Duhem, see in this view a mere postulate suggested by our experience with inertia in movement, which means that 'a body already in motion, if no exterior cause acts upon it, retains indefinitely its motion, rectilinear and uniform.' Experience suggests this view, because as obstacles diminish, the more is motion prolonged, and because 'a constant force, acting on a material point entirely free, impresses on it a motion uniformly accelerated,' as is the motion of a falling body. But the second formula of inertia, as applied to a body in repose, is not certain, because, as Poincare [La science et l'hypothese, pp. 112-19.] says: 'No one has ever experimented on a body screened from the influence of every force, or, if he has, how could he know that the body was thus screened?' The influence of a force may remain imperceptible.

"Inertia in repose, then, remains a postulate, a proposition, that is, which is not self-evident, which cannot be proved either a priori or a posteriori, but which the scientist accepts in default of any other principle. The scientist, says P. Duhem, has no right to say that the principle is true, but neither has he the right to say it is false, since no phenomenon has so far constrained us to construct a physical theory which would exclude this principle. It is retained, so far, as guide in classifying phenomena. This line of argument renders homage to the objective notion of truth. We could not reason thus under truth's pragmatic definition."

He then makes a very astute observation, pertinent to theological eclecticism:
"Under the pragmatist definition of truth, on the contrary, we would have to say, and it has been recently said, that theology is at bottom merely a system of spirituality which has found rational instruments adequated to its religious experience. Thus Thomism would be the expression of Dominican spirituality, Scotism that of Franciscan spirituality, Molinism that of Ignatian spirituality. Hence, since these three systems of spirituality are approved by the Church, also the theological systems, which are their expression, would all be simultaneously true, as being each in conformity with the particular religious experience which is their respective originating principle. This position, if we recall that at times these systems contradict one another, is itself a painful illumination of the contrast between the traditional and pragmatist definitions of truth."

"Chapter 58: Ontological Personality" explains what "person" means in Thomism, "since the doctrine of personality is so closely united with that on essence and existence and hence of special importance in treating the Incarnation and the Trinity."

The last chapter, "59: Efficacious Grace," rehashes the earlier treatment on sufficient and efficacious grace and arguments against Molina's conception of grace.

I highly recommend this work.




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