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Charles Coulombe, Neoplatonism, etc.

Started by Kephapaulos, October 14, 2016, 10:00:13 AM

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What do we make of all this? There was an interesting change on Fisheaters about the issue.

The source of the topic:

I find the issue upsetting I must admit. It is as if St. Thomas Aquinas is being blamed for our problems today. I think there was just simply a misapplication of Aristotle later on. Also, the Crusades began to be unsuccessful after the First Crusade and well before the 13th century. I think there is a misunderstanding of Thomism in the argument of Charles Coulombe. He is a great historian, but I take some of his history and his theological and philosophy with a grain of salt. It seems to me there is some kind of falsly perceived opposition between Plato and Aristotle.


I haven't read the whole piece, but these things jumped out at me:
QuoteThe minute you begin to apply the Faith to living --- presto! You are a philosopher!
That's a serious confounding of sacra doctrina with philosophy.
QuoteAristotelianism is materialistic
That's patently false. Aristotle believed in immaterial beings (the immortal intellect, angels, etc.).
QuoteBut isn't Thomism the official philosophy of the Catholic Church?
 Er, no. It does have a special status of sorts, thanks to Leo XIII's endorsement of it in his encyclical Aeterni Patris. But that same encyclical gave equal status (though it did not treat it in any detail) to the work of St. Bonaventure.
This is also false. From Pope St. Pius X's encyclical Pascendi:
QuoteSince We have said (in the Motu Proprio 'Sacrorum Antistitum') that Aquinas' philosophy was chiefly to be followed, and We did not say solely, some thought to comply with, or at least not to oppose Our will in taking the philosophy of any of the Scholastic Doctors indiscriminately, even when such a philosophy was in repugnance to the principles of St. Thomas. But these their mind has greatly deceived. It is quite evident that when We set St. Thomas up as the leader of scholastic philosophy, We have wished this to be understood especially of his principles, upon which such a philosophy is established. Because as we must reject that old opinion which held as irrelevant for the faith what anyone thinks about creatures, if he thinks rightly about God—since an error on the nature of creatures originates false knowledge of God—so we must keep reverently and inviolately St. Thomas' principles on philosophy, from which flows such a doctrine on creatures as is in harmony with faith; by which all errors of all ages are refuted; by which we are made aware of those attributes which must be given to God and to nothing else but Himself; and by which both the diversity and the analogy between God and creatures is skillfully illustrated... Neither sane reason will neglect, nor religion will allow that such a wonderful richness of science—which he received from his predecessors and with his almost angelic genius he himself ameliorated, increased and used to prepare, illustrate and defend the sacred doctrine for human minds—suffer any loss. Particularly, for if the Catholic truth be destitute of this valuable help, in vain would anyone seek help from that philosophy whose principles are common with, or not opposed to Materialism, Monism, Pantheism, Socialism and Modernism... Consequently We have already instructed all teachers of philosophy and sacred theology that to deviate a single step from St. Thomas, especially in metaphysical questions, would not be without great detriment. Now furthermore We say that those who have perversely interpreted or absolutely despised the principles and chief propositions of St. Thomas' philosophy, those not only do not follow St. Thomas, but wander also widely from him.
Also, see Maritain's paper:
  • Jacques Maritain, "Sign and Symbol," trans. Mary Morris, Journal of the Warburg Institute 1, no. 1 (1937): 1–11, doi:10.2307/750065. {originally: Revue Thomiste 44 (2):299-330 (1938)}
(Deely cites this on p. xxxii of his "Foreword to the Corrected 2nd ed.")


Also, I PM'ed this to "Baldrick" on another forum; it might be of interest to those here wishing to learn more about "semiotic Thomism" (Thomism from the perspective of signs and relations):
Quote from: Geremia on October 04, 2016, 07:58:12 AM
Quote from: Baldrick on October 04, 2016, 05:45:07 AMI've been ranging a bit further in my reading lately; flipping through Benedict Ashley's Way toward Wisdom, I kept coming across references to John Deely.
John N. Deely (see some of his e-books) is an excellent Thomist and leading semiotician (cf. his widely-published and -translated Basics of Semiotics). He studied philosophy with the Dominicans at River Forest, IL. I first heard about Deely and C. S. Peirce via Fr. Ashley's Way toward Wisdom. Deely is heavily influenced both by Descartes's contemporary, the great Portuguese Thomistic commentator and first modern semiotician John of St. Thomas, a.k.a. João (John) Poinsot, O.P. (cf. Deely's translation of Poinsot's Tractatus de Signis, a viable alternative to Descartes's nominalism) and by C. S. Peirce (the greatest American philosopher-scientist, IMHO; an ex-Kantian who converted to realism in part because of the work of Bl. Duns Scotus). John of St. Thomas even had a planetary theory rivaling those of Tycho, Galileo, Kepler, Ptolemy, et al., but it was supposedly lost in a fire. John of St. Thomas's treatment of the logic of scientific reasoning is unparalleled (cf. his material and formal logic works here).

Before Fr. Ashley passed away, he recommended to me Deely's Four Ages of Understanding, a history of philosophy from a semiotic perspective—from the pre-Socratics, to St. Augustine's treatment of sign in De Doctrina Christiana, to St. Thomas, Poinsot, et al., ending with C. S. Peirce. Deely's "Green Book" and "Red Book" are two chapters from Four Ages.

Deely and Fr. Benny coauthored How Science Enriches Theology (2012). I think this was the last book Fr. Benny wrote, although he had others published posthumously (like his 3-part autobiography).

Regarding abstraction, the key work is: Division and methods of the sciences, St. Thomas's commentary on Boethius's De Trinitate questions V and VI. He describes the three degrees of abstraction. Translator Maurer's introduction in his edition of it also introduces/explains abstraction.