Rationalism and Traditionalism
Rationalism and Traditionalism
Nothing is more certain, than that there is, and has been for the last two hundred years, in Catholic as in non-Catholic schools, no philosophy properly so called. True, there is something taught in our colleges and universities under the name of philosophy, but it is for the most part, as an eminent American prelate remarked to us one day in conversation, simply “some fragments of Catholic theology badly proved.” Our catholic professors generally profess to follow St. Thomas, whom some of them may have really read, at least in part, but there are hardly any two of them who agree in giving the same interpretation to his language. Padre Ventura makes him a decided Traditionalist; M. Bonnetty insists that he was an out-and-out Rationalist; Pere Gratry finds that he was an Inductivist; the Abbe Maret suspects that he was a Sensist; one holds that he was a Conceptualist, another that he was a Nominalist, and still another that he was virtually a Realist; this commentator makes him an Ontologist, and that, with equal reason at least, makes him a Psychologist. In fact, we are very much in the position as to the philosophical teachings of St. Thomas that Protestants are as to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, each one finds in him the doctrine which he learns elsewhere and brings to him.
The principle cause of the present deplorable state of philosophy, is in the lack of free, independent thinkers,--in the fact that we philosophize not for the sake of truth, but for the sake of some philosophical theory, ancient or modern, and always more or less under the weight of authority. No man who philosophizes with a sole view to truth, will neglect the profound and assiduous study of St. Thomas, but at the same time, no one who has any just appreciation of the rights and prerogatives of the reason common to all men, will ever consent to accept him or any one else as authority, from whose opinion it is forbidden to dissent. In matters of faith or Christian doctrine, we are governed by the authority of the Church, or rather, we believe because God says it, and we believe that he says it, on the testimony of the Church, the divinely-constituted witness in the case. But in philosophy, we hold ourselves bound by the opinions of no man, and can accept as authority from which there lies no appeal, neither Plato nor Aristotle, St. Augustine no St. Thomas, Descates nor Malebranche, Locke nor Leibnitz, Rosmini nor Gioberti, Rothenflue nor Liberatori. So long as we run athwart no article, dogma, or propostiton of faith, we are free to follow our own judgment and convictions. So long, no man, however he may disagree with us, has the right to cite, as authority, against us the opinions of any philosopher, ancient or modern, Catholic or non-Catholic; for in philosophy, reason, which is the same in all men, and in each man, is the only authority recognizable. The philosophical opinions and theories of the illustrious men in different ages, whom the civilized world has agreed to honor for their rare philosophical genius and attainments, are certainly never to be lightly treated,--are always worthy of the most serious and respectful consideration, and never to be rejected but for grave and cogent reasons; but all theories and opinions on philosophy, as on all other subjects, must be judged on their merits.
It is fatal to the progress of philosophy, to attempt to introduce into its study the principle of authority which we recognize in faith and theology. The principle of external authority is as much out of place in philosophy, as the principle of rationalism is out of place in faith. No Catholic denies this when the point is distinctly made, but the habit of deciding all theological questions by authority, if we are not on our guard, leads us, without our adverting to the fact, to appeal also to authority in the solution of purely philosophical questions. The human mind naturally seeks unity, and seeks when it accepts the principle of authority, to carry authority into all things, and when it accepts the principle of reason, to carry it into faith, and to recognize in no department of life any authority but reason as developed in each individual man. Hence a perpetual tendency in the people either to substitute faith for reason, or reason for faith. It is hard to keep always present to the mind that we live under two orders, the one natural, the other supernatural, and that the authority in the former is reason, and in the latter, the Church, as the keeper and witness of revelation. The Protestant by his doctrine of private interpretation is invariably led to transport natural reason as authority into the supernatural order, and hence all Protestantism tends to pure rationalism, sometimes avowed, and sometimes unavowed. The Catholic, if only superficially instructed, or not keeping vigilant watch, has a tendency, on the contrary, to transport the principle of authority into the natural order, and to favor a system of exclusive supernaturalism, which denies to reason its legitimate functions, even in its own order. The human mind, left to itself, seeks always to follow one and the same rule in all things. It shrinks from the labor of distinguishing between different orders, and feels a natural repugnance to follow one rule in one order, and a different rule in another.
We lose sight, also, of the true end for which men should cultivate philosophy. Men, in our days, philosophize for the sake of theories, which have been transmitted from their predecessors, or concocted by themselves, not for the sake of the truth, which is anterior to all theories, and independent of them. If we suffer ourselves to contemplate truth at all, it is usually through the distorting medium of some theory, seldom with open vision as it lies before us in the world of reality. We are always studying to confirm, to defend, to refute, or to form some theory, and hence never allow our minds fair play. We seek to confirm, refute, or reconcile Plato and Aristotle, St. Augustine and St. Thomas, ontologists and psychologists, realists and nominalists, traditionalists and rationalists, not to ascertain and set forth the truth about which these speculate or theorize, and some aspects of which they no doubt really seize and truly represent. We neglect to bear in mind that theories are not the truth, and are at best only the views which their authors take of truth; or to remember that the truth is as near and as open to us as the most famous system mongers in the world. We, in this age and country, have all the means of arriving at the knowledge of philosophical truth that Plato or Aristotle, St. Augustine or St. Thomas had, and if we fail to attain to it, it is because we fail to make a wise and free use of the means in our reach, because we suffer our intellectual life to be crushed out by the authority of antiquity, or the superincumbent weight of scholastic systems.
St. Thomas certainly had a philosophical genius of the highest order but he was never a free and independent philosopher; nor does he appear that he ever philosophized for the sake of philosophy. He was brought up, as to philosophy, in the school of Aristotle, and finding the peripatetic philosophy in vogue, he studied to master it, and to press it into the service of theology, and to forge from it an effective weapon against the enemies of religion in this time, who generally professed to be peripatetics. He himself, from first to last, is the Catholic theologian, and in no instance does he show that his study was to found a philosophy. His aim was to use what he found accepted as philosophy in the service of theology. Hence he never deviates from Aristotle, except when compelled by Christian dogma. In pure philosophy, when the dogma is not in question, he is a pure peripatetic. In his commentary on Aristotle he simply studies to explain his author, and in every question of pure philosophy, Aristotle is for him Philosophus, the Philosopher, whose words are verba magistri. The talk we hear of the Thomist Philosophy is all nonsense. There is no Thomist Philosophy. There may be a Thomist Theology, a Thomist use and application of philosophy in theology; but there is no Thomist philosophy, properly so called. In pure philosophy St. Thomas simply reproduces the philosophy of Aristotle, and our judgment of his pagan master. To differ from him in philosophy it is lawful to differ from Aristotle, it cannot be unlawful to differ from St. Thomas.
We talk also, of the scholastic method; but, strictly speaking, there is and was no such thing as a scholastic method. The method of the medieval schoolmen was the peripatetic method, adopted before the advent of our Lord, and their Logic was the Organon of Aristotle. We have never, in the little study we have devoted to them, been able to discover any thing new or peculiar in their method, or to lay our finger on a single purely philosophical problem of which they, as philosophers, have offered a new or original solution. As theologians, they were, as a matter of course, since they had the Christian revelation, infinitely in advance of the Gentile philosophers; but as philosophers, they added nothing to what had been transmitted them from their Gentile ancestors. They rendered the western world an important service, both in theology and philosophy, by moulding the Latin tongue, which, as used by the old Romans, was very unphilosophical, into a really philosophical language, almost equal to Greek, that mother tongue of philosophy, and the only language we know in which the philosopher can express himself with perfect naturalness and ease, and with idiomatic grace and propriety. The merit of the Scholastics beyond this service, under the head of philosophy, is simply in the use and application they made of the philosophy inherited from the Gentiles in the exposition and defence of Catholic doctrine.
Much, furthermore, is said about Christian philosophy, as was a few years ago about Christian architecture, and is still about Christian art. M. Bonnetty calls his periodical the Annuals of Christian Philosophy. All this has a pious and orthodox sound, as would have Christian coats and pantaloons, Christian hats and shoes. There is a Christian use of philosophy, but, correctly speaking, there is and can be no Christian philosophy. The Christian order, we take it, is the supernatural order, and in all that is peculiar to it included in the new creation, whose principle is grace; but philosophy belongs to the natural order and is restricted to natural reason, essential to and inseparable from human nature itself, whether in Christians or non-Christians, and incapable without the aid of divine revelation, of attaining even to a conception of the supernatural. Christian philosophy, if it could mean any thing, would mean Christian theology, or the sacred science, of which St. Thomas speaks, a science constructed not by the reason from its own data, but by the use of reason from data furnished by faith or revelation. Nor indeed have we a Christian philosophy even in the sense of a philosophy that throughout accords with Christian faith, the great truths which faith presupposes.
It is all very well to go on repeating from age to age, in all possible variations of tone, that there is no discrepancy between faith and reason, a commonplace which nobody can dispute, when faith and reason are taken each in its true sense and meaning; but nothing is more false than to pretend that there is no discrepancy between faith as revealed in the word of God, and reason as developed in our more approved systems of philosophy. The terrible struggle in our age perhaps in all ages, in the souls of the great body of earnest thinkers, is the struggle between philosophy and theology, and the great problem of our age is, how to reconcile faith and reason. A large portion of Catholics are indeed hardly aware of this struggle, for they rest in faith, and seldom inquire whether reason harmonizes with it or not. Judging from their practice, we may conclude that there are Catholics who feel no inconvenience in following in secular life, principles in direct contradiction to those they hold themselves bound to follow as Christian believers. Yet we apprehend that few Catholics who are compelled by the objections of non-Catholics to consider the problem, and to account to themselves for their faith, do not, at times, find their faith and the philosophy they have learned at odds, and who, though they cling fast to the Rock of Peter, do not do so by the force of will, aided by grace, rather than from clear intellectual perception of the harmony between faith and their reason. They believe faith and reason harmonize, because they have been told so, not because the intellectually see that it is so. In this fact many even place the merit of their faith. Reason, as it exists in man’s intellectual nature, as the origin, light, and object of his intelligence, certainly must and does harmonize or accord with Christian faith, as the lower may harmonize or accord with the higher; but as developed and set forth in our philosophical systems, it is, for the most part, directly or indirectly, repugnant to it, as is evinced by the fact that most people brought up believers experience difficulties, if not doubt, the moment they begin to philosophize, - a fact which we must attribute, not, as is too often done, to perversity of will, but rather to the perversion of the intellect by false systems of philosophy generally adopted and officially taught in the schools.
Certainly we do not pretend that in order to be true believers, all men must be profound philosophers; but we do maintain that in an age and country like ours, where education, however superficial, is generally diffused, and all men read, and to some extent speculate; there must be a true and sound philosophy pervading our schools, our text books, our light as our graver literature, and our whole social and domestic life, or it will be impossible to prevent doubt from rising in bold and inquiring minds, or to preserve generally in the community a living active faith, as the present state of Catholic countries where thought is at all permitted but too lamentably proves. Our bishops and clergy see the evil and seek to prevent or counteract it by the establishment and support of Catholic schools, in which children shall be taught the catechism, and an early bias given to the mind in favor of religion; but we should not forget that we can best only partially counteract the evil by creating an early bias towards faith, that is, a prejudice for religion, unless in the training to which we subject our children and youth, and the instruction we give them, we really harmonize the natural with the supernatural, faith with reason, - not possible by means of any philosophical exposition of the natural officially accepted either in school or society.
As long as the natural is not harmonized in our philosophy with the supernatural, or science, with revelation, there will be in the minds of pupils, whether trained in Catholic or non-Catholics school, a discrepancy between their faith and reason, and faith will be maintained, so far as natural causes affect it, only by their accepting it blindly, and forbearing to think on its relations with reason. A school in which is taught Locke’s philosophy, which is little else than the peripatetic philosophy, expressed in popular language, will do little for Catholicity, though the catechism be taught in it at the same time, and the school itself be placed under the charge of the Christian Brothers. It is impossible to reconcile that philosophy with Christian theology, and false to say, so long as it held to be the exponent of reason, there is no discrepancy between reason and faith. We may say the same with regard to Cartesianism, or any other system officially accepted in the schools. There is no use in reticence or circumlocution on the subject. We yield to no Catholic bishop, presbyter, or simple layman, in our zeal for Catholic education and Catholic instruction, but we cannot persuade ourselves the we secure either in schools where, in what relates to the natural, we contradict what we teach in relation to the supernatural, where the religious instruction is Catholic, and the philosophical is anti-Catholic.
Not only is reason either cramped or developed in a false direction, by our systems of philosophy, but our men of routine, and they, being regarded as safe men, are usually placed at the head of affairs, forbid or discourage all efforts to amend these systems, and still persist that our sons shall be trained up in a philosophy under which half the world has lapsed into infidelity. Living men in our colleges, who see the evil and could and would do something to remedy it, are either compelled to teach systems they have exploded or do not believe, or removed from their chairs and forbidden to profess philosophy, and set perhaps to teaching little boys their Latin or French Accidence. The best metaphysical mind in France was obliged to suppress the best part of his Praelectiones Philosophicae, and publish only a mutilated edition of his thought, because, forsooth, it was not in harmony with the prejudices of the superior of the Sulpician Congregation to which he belonged. The man who deviates in philosophy from the schools, is looked upon very much as a man who deviates from the faith, is denounced as an innovator, abused, insulted, ridiculed, and set down as eccentric, in fact, as a troublesome fellow, whom it is desirable to get rid of as soon as possible. If he is really a man of philosophical genius, and of too much solid merit and strength to be cried down by our pious lackeys or eunuchs, he is praised indeed, but pronounced too profound for the people, declared to be in advance of his age, and it is to be regretted that he has no influence, and that he can be read and appreciated only after his death. Why can he not write what is popular? If that will not do, a cry will be got up against philosophy itself, and men quite innocent of all knowledge of the subject will upbraid him because he is not satisfied with common sense, when, perhaps to bring people back to common sense is the very end for which he labors and suffers reproach. There are wise people who govern public opinion with regard to men and things, and profound thinkers and consistent reasoners are its oracles! Alas, how few men ever rise above routine!
What we want, as we have often told our readers, is not to substitute for the prevailing systems of philosophy a new system of our own, or any new system at all. What we demand is, complete emancipation from all man-made systems, and room for the free and independent exercise of reason according to its own nature and laws. We want no official philosophy, no school system taught by authority, like theology, which our sons must get rote, and which is never after to cramp or encumber their intellect. We demand free intellectual development and culture. We insist that our sons shall be trained to a sound and vigorous use of reason, but we do not want them indoctrinated into a ready cut and dried ontological or psychological theory, into which they must compress their whole intellectual life on pain of renouncing reason itself unreasonable. All of philosophy we want taught in our schools, may be included under the head of logic; logic, both as an art and as a science; and all our articles on the subject, have for their end simply emending the Aristotelian logic now taught, and settling the principles of logic as a real and not a mere sham science. We maintain that the Aristotelian logic, regarder not as an art, but as a science, is essentially defective, and that, too, whether we take it from Aristotle himself, or from the medieval or modern scholastics. It is essentially defective, because it omits the creative act, and we may say even false, for it takes its premises from the abstract, not the concrete, and deals with conceptions instead of intuitions and therefore things existing a parte rei. A false view of reason is given in the outset, which renders all real science inexplicable, if not impossible. We place a great gulf between themundus logicus and the mundus physicus, or real world, which no art, or skill, or labor, can bridge over. All our ideas, and therefore all our science, are representative, vicarious, not real. The idea is neither the reality itself nor is it the direct and immediate intuiton of reality, but is simply a representation, an image, or in some sense, a personation of it. In it you have the actor playing the king, but not the king himself. Your science is merely the science of conceptions, a science of abstraction, and whether it correspond or not to things as they really exist, independent of our conceptions, or our subjective ideas, we, with the logic of the schools never demonstrate or prove.
Now, we contend that it is wrong done to our youth, a wrong done to the human mind, and a wrong done indirectly, in not directly, to a religion itself, to go on age after age teaching the defective logic which vitiates all our science. This is not a matter which concerns the guardians of faith alone; it concerns in even a higher degree parents and the laity at large. The Church has plenary authority in the religious instruction and education of our children, but in their logical and scientific education and instruction we have ourselves a voice, and the right to intervene, for the Church does not claim authority in the natural order, save in its relations with the supernatural. We do not know that in question of pure reason, the clergy have, by virtue of their orders or their mission, any more authority than the laity, and this much is certain, that the philosophy still taught in our schools and colleges has been drawn from Gentile sources. St. Thomas, on the philosophical aspect of the questions he discusses, cites sometime even Mahometans, Averrhoes, and Avicenna, as well as pagan Aristotle. No class, caste, or order of men have a monopoly of reason, for reason is the common inheritance of all men, though some cultivate it more and more successfully than others. If, in a question of philosophy, we show as much reason, we are entitled, in that question, to as much consideration as though we wore a mitre, and neither our bishops, nor our clergy of the second order, ever think of maintaining to the contrary. Nobody ever thinks of maintaining the contrary, but now and then a philosopherling, who, unable to meet our reasons, seeks to silence us by authority, or by resort to the argumentum ad verecundiam. We do our clergy a great disservice, and show a profound want of respect for our prelates, when we involve their authority in disputes in which they claim no authority but that of reason, common to them and us, and in which the Church never intervenes, unless to save faith and morals.
As the systems of philosophy which we combat are not given by divine revelation, as they are not, properly speaking Christian systems, are not included in the Deposit of faith, but are really derived from Gentile sources, we hold that we have a right to combat them, when and where we can show good and solid reasons for so doing, although they may have been taught for centuries in schools under the charge of ecclesiastics, secular or regular. For centuries, Catholic professors taught in their schools the geocentric theory, but that does not prevent them from now teaching the heliocentric, even though, in some instances, the language of the Holy Scripture apparently opposes it. In faith, or Catholic doctrine, Catholics change not, are not permitted to change; but in science they change, and may as well change in their expositions of reason as in their exposition of phenomena of the material world. Nothing human is perfect; no human science ever is or can be complete, and to refuse full liberty, within the limits of faith, to change or modify them, were as absurd as to insist that the full grown man shall never wear the bib and tucker which he wore as an infant in the nursery. The routinists will, no doubt, resist all such changes and modifications, and endeavor to bring in the church to settle the dispute, as they resisted the introduction of the heliocentric theory in the time of Galileo, and invoked the aid of authority to help them; but we must never confound these old fogies with the Church, or mistake their clamors or solemn grimaces for her authoritative decisions. The most the Church will do in the case, is to exhort to mutual charity, and where she exercises the temporal as well as the spiritual power, to interfere, if the dispute waxes too hot, to preserve the peace.
We find here one of our chief reasons for opposing traditionalism, of which M. Bonnetty’s Annales de Philosophie Chretienne is a leading organ, if not indeed the only organ. This traditionalism, if it means any thing, denies philosophy to hold from reason as its principle, and seeks to place it on the same line with supernatural theology, as a discipline to be received on authority. This, if accepted, would put an end to all free and independent development of reason, and after the mental activity provoked by the struggle to introduce it subsided, would superinduce a mental lethargy, fatal to all intellectual vigor or manly thought, spread a dead and deadening uniformity over the human race, and leave no room and no motive for the slightest mental exertion. Men, so far as left to the operation of natural causes and effects, would be active and energetic only in the material order, as we see is now the case in a large part of the non-Catholic world, where reason and faith are despaired of. None of our faculties are developed and strengthened save by exercise, and even our faith grows strong and vigorous only in the battle with heresy and error. God in giving us revelation, has neither superseded nor reversed the laws of the human mind; and Christians and non-Catholics are alike subjected to them. Heresy is often made by Providence the occasion of saving orthodoxy, and rightly used, the temptations of Satan, as all the masters of spiritual life tell us, serve to accelerate rather than to hinder our growth in sanctity or progress towards perfection. Our lord intended that the Christian life should be a struggle, a warfare, and he requires us to be brave and disciplined soldiers, always ready to battle.
Even in society, occasional wars are less destructive to the virtue and happiness of a people than a perpetual or uninterrupted peace. The corruption of morals, physical deterioration, and premature deaths, caused by our general prosperity and luxurious habits, to which the general peace we have enjoyed has given rise in this country, far outweigh those that would be occasioned by a thirty years’ war. It was a long piece for a half century prior to the French Revolution that ruined the Italian States, and corrupted the people; and Italy rises from her degradation only in proportion as she is obliged to cultivate and exercise her military genius. A sharp war, requiring us to put forth all our strength for years to maintain our national rank and independence, would do much to purify our moral atmosphere, reinvigorate our exhausted virtues, and restore us to our manhood. The modern commercial system is more fatal both to the moral and physical health of a nation than the old military system, and other things being equal, we would much rather have a soldier than a merchant or a lawyer for our chief magistrate in state or nation. The camp is, any day, a better school than the counting-house or the courtroom. Scarcely will you find in all history a great and wise ruler of chief magistrate who has been only a civilian. Even that great statesman, Cardinal Ximenez, priest and archbishop as he was, proved himself at need a true soldier, as was seen in his African expedition. Spain grew up, one may say, in the camp; became great, noble, chivalric, the most Catholic kingdom in Europe, under her military kings and statesmen, and invariably deteriorated, and finally almost ceased to exist under mere civilian leadership.
We may talk as we ill, vent as much as we please, but the only element in which man grows, is developed, becomes really a man, becomes robust and vigorous, is that of war, that of struggle of some sort. It is only the peace which immediately succeeds war, giving full scope to the activity generated by the struggle, that is favorable to the greatness of individuals or nations. All history, all experience proves it. Why it is so, we stop not to explain; we only say that it is so, and all the cant in the world cannot make it not so. Even in spiritual order in this world, experience proves that the most bitter persecution is not so fatal as a long, uninterrupted peace and apparent prosperity. Catholicity in France is infinitely more vigorous and thrifty to-day than it was under Louis XIV., when that precious monarch dragooned the Huguenots into orthodoxy, and never was more vigorous or thriving than under the late Republic. We have no doubt that the present persecutions of bishops and priests in Italy will operate in making the Italians far better Catholics than they have been since the Medicean epoch. A little persecution of us in this country would do us no harm. Without it we are in danger of falling into the condition of the effete Catholic populations of the Old World.
Precisely what we object to, is the attempt to fasten upon us a philosophy by authority, and thus subject us in the natural order as in the supernatural, to dogmatic teaching. Traditional philosophy is a misnomer. What rests on any other authority than reason is not philosophy. It may be faith, it may be history, it may be theology, and very true; but it is not philosophy in our modern use of the term, for philosophy is a purely rational science, and only what rests on natural reason as it principle, or is cognizable by natural reason, can be included within it. Philosophy is the science of principles in the natural order, cognizable by natural reason, or the reason common to all men. What pertains to the supernatural order, or can be known only through supernatural revelation, may throw light on the natural, and aid us in rightly explaining and settling it forth, but it is itself above philosophy, and no part of parcel of it. The Traditionalists begun by asserting the importance of reason to know by her own light first principles or necessary truths, without which there is and can be no science. They told us man knows and can know first principles or necessary truths only by being taught them, and he can be taught them only by God himself, or by means of supernatural revelation. Hence they founded faith on scepticism, and science on faith. They denied all rational science, and thus placed man out of the condition even to receive supernatural instruction, since the supernatural necessarily supposes the natural. By reducing all science to faith, they rendered faith itself impossible, and destroyed the very thing they were most anxious to retain and exalt.
They founded their theory on the alleged impotence of reason, and on the fact, that in every age and nation, God has himself been the instructor of mankind, by means of his supernatural communications immediately made to individuals, or transmitted from generation to generation by tradition. But it is time that this question as to the impotence of reason should be settled. In relation to what is reason impotent? In relation to the natural order, or in relation to our natural destiny, supposing us to have a natural destiny? We cannot pretend it. We know not from reason, but aliunde, that we are not appointed to a natural destiny, and are, as a matter of fact, placed under a supernatural Providence, and appointed to a supernatural destiny. But this fact, that we are under a supernatural Providence, does not destroy or modify the adequateness of our natural faculties to what would have been our natural destiny, if we had been left under a purely natural Providence. There must be such adequateness, for the very conception of a natural end of a creature is that to which his natural powers and faculties are adequate, or to which he has the natural ability to attain. The natural destiny remains possible, for God could, had he chosen, have created and left us in what theologians call the state of pure nature,- status nature pure,- and the natural destiny, as a matter of fact, is assumed, so to speak, in the supernatural; the natural faculties adapted to it are no more destroyed than the human nature of our Lord was annihilated by its assumption by the Word. Our Lord was perfect man as well as perfect God, and in human nature under the supernatural Providence remains as complete and as entire in itself as it would have been under a purely natural Providence. As the whole natural order is presupposed by the supernatural, and remains under it as complete and as entire as it would have been if there had been no supernatural order, reason must have in relation to the purely natural, all the power necessary to know and attain to a natural destiny, or to the natural beatitude of a creature of the rank and character of man in pure nature. The fact of the supernatural, then, does not in the least affect the natural power of any of our natural faculties in relation to the natural order.
Man, by the Fall, lost nothing essential to his nature as pure nature, for the Church has decided that God could have created man in the beginning such as he is no born, for she has condemned the fifty-fifth proposition of Baius, - Deus non potuisset ab initio talem creare hominem, quails nunc nascitur. He lost indeed the integrity of his nature, as well as the supernatural justice in which he was constituted; but what is understood by this integrity is a certain gift or endowment, which, though it does not elevate man above the order of nature, is yet indebitum, or not due to nature as pure nature. The contradictory proposition, which affirms it to be due, the twenty-sixth of Baius, Integritas prime creationis non fuit indebita humane nature exaltation, sed naturalis ejus condition, has been condemned, and cannot be held. We were certainly wounded by the Fall, but the wound we received was in the loss of the supernatural justice, and in being despoiled of this integrity, not a wound in our nature itself as pure nature, for neither of these belonged to it as pure nature. Now, as it must be conceded, that whatever is necessary for a creature to attain its end in the order in which it is created, is due to that creature, and cannot be withheld by its creator, so God could not have created man without endowing him with a reason adequate to his end in the natural order; and as this reason must still remain substantially unchanged, we deny, and must deny the impotence, and assert the sufficiency of reason in natural order; that is, its sufficiently for all our purely natural wants. St. Thomas, in the strongest passage he has on the point, concedes this, for he lays the elite of the human race can know the natural law without the aid of revelation, and he makes revelation of the natural law necessary only in the case of the simple, or to render the knowledge of it more facile and prompt, - in principle, the doctrine held with regard to grace by Pelagius, only Pelagius committed the fatal error of applying it to supernatural order, or the regeneration, while St. Thomas confines it solely to the natural order.
The impotence of reason can be asserted only in relation to our supernatural destiny. None of the fathers or great doctors of the Church ever pretend that reason in any other respect is impotent or insufficient. Staring as we did with san uncertain traditionalism, which at the time we were inclined to adopt, we undertook in one of our earlier volumes to prove that reason is insufficient for itself, and is inadequate to the wants of reason; but we soon found ourselves stopped, and unable to proceed, without running athwart more than one definition of the Church; and on reexamination, and a fuller study of their writings, we found that the insufficiency of reason dwelt upon by the fathers and theologians was not, as we had supposed, reason in its own order, but reason in relation to the supernatural. Man, by reason, cannot find out or attain to his supernatural destiny, and if it si an inadequate guide in our present state, as we readily concede that it is, it is not because natural reason is inadequate to the wants of natural reason, but because man in his present state is not restricted in his wants to the purely natural order, in all nations, in all ages, in all men, and in all times we find traces of the primitive supernatural revelation. That revelation, however it may have been obscured, mutilated, or travestied, has never been wholly lost, and even in the most degraded savage, we find conceptions that transcend the natural, - an unimpeachable testimony to the fact that the human race received a supernatural revelation and intimations from their Maker of a supernatural destiny in the beginning. This supernatural element, which enters in some form and to some extent into the actual life of the race, since it is found to be common to all men, is often confounded with nature, and in our day theories in any number are built on it, - sometimes with a disposition favorable, sometimes with a disposition hostile to religion, - intended to make it appear that all religion and all superstitions have a common origin, and are the spontaneous production of human nature, the result of man’s spontaneous efforts to give outness to his own inness. With regard to this class of conceptions, convictions, beliefs, or reminiscences, reason is undoubtedly impotent, and by confounding them with nature, we come easily to conclude, that reason is insufficient for reason in its own order. This is the common error of Lutherans, Calvinists, and Jansenists, of Baius, Jansenius, Pascal, and even the learned Huet, Bishop of Avranches. It vitiates the reasoning of the majority of our works on Evangelical Demonstration, whether by Catholics or non-Catholics.
The Traditionalists, we learn from the discussions in the recent numbers of the Annales, are more guarded in their language than they were in the outset, if indeed they have not in some respects essentially modified their doctrines. From these discussions we learn, which has little surprised us, that the Professors of the Catholic University of Louvain are treated are treated by the peripatetics as traditionalists. We think this is a mistake. As fas as we have learned the views of Louvain, they are somewhat similar to those of Fournier and Rothenflue, and belong in the main to the ontological school, - a school which we prefer to the psychological or the peripatetic, but which, however, it is known to our readers we do not accept in its exclusive form; yet even as their views are set forth by the Abbe Lupus, Honorary Canon of Liege, who combats them, we discover Cartesianism indeed, but no Traditionism. Their doctrine on the most capital point, is given in the reply to the Abbe Lupus, in the Revue de Louvain, by Abbe Lefebve, Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the University, and is worth citing at length:
“On sait que nous admettons l’idee innee de Dieu, idée qui ne peut venire des sens, maise qui est gravee dans notre nature par la main du Createur. Les theoloiens, aussi bin que les philosophes, font observer que l’idee de Dieu n’est point une connaissance actuelle, mais un vague presentiment de la divinite, que cette idée, comme l’histoire de l’idolatric le demontre,a souvent ete appliqué de la maniere la plus fausse et la plus absurde. C’est ce qui explique que tous les homes ne connaissent point Dieu bien que l’idee de Dieu soit commune a tous les hommes. Que faut-il pour que l’idee de Dieu devienne une connaissance actuelle! Il faut que raison saisisse cette idée et en fasse l’objet de sa reflexion. Mais il est evident que, pour saisir l’idee reflexe de Dieu, la raison doit etre suffisammant exercee et developpee. Or Pexperience prouve que laraison se developpe au moyen de la societe et par les secours qui se trouvent dans la societe. Cet enseignement social appartient a l’ordre de la nature etabli par la divine Providence. L’intelligence de l’homme, etant suffisamment developpee, porte ses regards sur l’idee de Dieu, idée qui sert de base a toutes les idees fondamentales de la raison. Selon la pensee del’ Apotre. Dieu peut etre contemle dans la creature. Les principes les plus certains de la raisen et tous les ertres de la creation demontrent l’existence de Dieu. Ainsi, en admettant la necessite de l’enseigement, nous nous gardons bien d’amoindrir les forces de la raison, de nier son energie et son principe interne d’ activite; car, selon nous, cette raison, mem après sa chute,conserve assez de force pour connaitre et demontrer existence de Dieu, sans un secours surnaturel et sans s’appuyer sur la revelation. Autant que personne nous maintenons la distinction entre la raison et la foi, entre l’ordre naturel et l’ordre surnaturel, distinction necesaire pour eviter les erreurs de Baius et de Calvin.”
We see little here to object to, except the assertion, that “the idea of God is innate, graven in our nature by the hand of the creator.” We do not like this use of the word idea, which ought to be used either in the sense of the mental apprehension or of the intelligible object apprehended. What the Louvain Professors mean by an innate idea of God, an idea graved in our nature, we do not know. Do they mean that God in creating the soul presents it intuitively himself as its creator, light, and object? If so, why not say so? If they mean that God has created the soul with an original or innate faculty of thinking or apprehending his being by its own act, why not say so plainly? Is the idea the object apprehended? or the act of apprehending it? If it is neither, what is it? Is it a picture of the reality painted in the soul, or an image of God carved in our nature? Is it meant that God in creating us stamps his own image or likeness on our nature? Be it so. Is that image himself, or is it his creature, created or non-created; God, or man? Pass over this; and say instead, that God affirms his own being to reason intuitively in the very act of creating it, so that God is always present to reason as the ideal, and the doctrine of the professors is sound, and avoids the errors of Traditionalism as of the peripatetics. We know intuitively that which is God, but we know and are able to say that it is God only by reflection, through the agency of language, the instrument of reflection, or if you please, social instruction and development.
From M. Bonnetty’s observation on the reply of the Louvain professors to the Abbe Lupus, and his approval of the answer of the Revue de Louvain to the Letter of Father Perrone against Traditionalism, which has made some noise in Belgium, we gather that the essence of French Traditionalism in its present phase is, that reason indeed is able to know first principles or necessary truths, or as we say the ideal, the intelligible, yet it is reason developed, exercised by intercourse with our fellow men, or reason as developed in society, not reason undeveloped, as isolated and uninstructed. When developed, when duly instructed and exercised, then it is capable not of finding or inventing first principles but of recognizing and knowing them when presented. Reason is developed in society and by the aids society furnishes. This social development of reason or social instruction pertains to the order of nature established by Divine Providence, and therefore these social succors are natural, not supernatural, consequently the sufficiency of reason in the natural order can be asserted. We understood M. Bonnetty to teach in the beginning that the man can attain to a knowledge of necessary truth, or great truths which are the basis of all science and morality, only as taught them by a supernatural revelation; now it seems he is contented with simple natural social instruction, though he still insists that he must be taught them, or else not know them.
At first sight this would seem to be a renunciation of Traditionalism, and a return to Rationalism, but upon closer examination, since he expressly rejects the notion that the idea of God is innate, we find it only an approach either towards scepticism, or towards Mennaisianism. La Mennais began by denying the competency of individual reason and asserting the authority of what he called the general or universal reason, or the reason of the race. Not contented to hold this error in the region of philosophy, he even transported it into the region of theology, and made the universal reason authority for faith; thus putting the human race in the place of the Church, if not indeed man, or the people, in the place of God. M. Bonnetty, if he calls in society to his aid, must do the same if he chooses to assert the fact of science at all, and to push his premises to their last logical results.
The Louvain professors, in our judgment, err in calling the idea of God innate, for we recognize, no innate ideas, but they do not make the social instruction necessary to enable the individual to apprehend the ideal, or to attain to, or come into possession of necessary truth. They suppose man to have the idea in the outset, and though they do not please us in calling it ‘a vague presentiment,” and in speaking of its becoming actual knowledge, they rightly contend that in order to know that it is God, it must become the object of reflection; but M. Bonnetty, rejecting the notion that the idea of God is innate, denying also, what we hold, that we have immediate intuition of the ideal, which by reflection we demonstrate is God, and adopting the doctrine that we have only an innate faculty, predisposition, or habitus, as he says, of knowing God, can hace no object of intellect prior to reflection, and no knowledge or intuition of necessary truth prior to the development of reason by social instruction, which forces him into pure Mennaisianism, or unmitigated Traditionalism. M. Bonnetty, we fear, has never profited by the study of Kant’s Critik der reinen Vernunft, which it is necessary for every man, who would write or talk on philosophy in our days, thoroughly to master. Kant has settled, if it was not settled before him, that certain conditions a priori of all experience are indispensable, that the mind before it can act or form any judgment a posteriori, must in some way be placer in possession of certain first principles or necessary truths, which he calls judgments a priori, for in every synthetic judgment a poteriori ther is always a judgment a priori, something added, which is not derived from experience, and therefore must have preceded it. The presence of this a priori and non-empirical element in all our judgments a posteriori is unquestionable. We can never assert any particular act of causation without adding to it the conception of universal and necessary cause, expressed in the axiom, Every effect must have a cause, or, Nothing can begin to exist without a cause. Now this conception of universality and necessity is not derived analytically from the empirical fact, nor is it obtained by generalization from the particular act of causation, for the general is never deducible from the particular, or the necessary from the contingent, since without them the particular and contingent can neither exist nor be conceived. The universal and the necessary, then, must be given prior to the empirical fact, - principles before experience, before the mind has acted or can act. Now these original principles, necessary truths, judgments a priori, M. Bonnetty may call innate ideas with Descartes, an thus virtually agree with Kant, who calls them forms of the understanding, or he may call them with us the ideal element of thought, the intelligible, presented or given us in direct and immediate intuition, but he must in some way recognize them, or else never be able to assert legitimately a single fact of knowledge. He apparently refuses to do either, and therefore, as he will not allow the mind in its operations to start with them, or to possess them till taught them, or till developed in the bosom of society, he can build science only on faith, either human faith or divine, that is, he can assert no science at all.
Yet M. Bonnetty’s peripatetic friends have little right to triumph over him, for they come not nearer the truth than he. In fact, he and they set out from the same point, with the same amount of luggage, and he only seeks by taking the traditional method, to escape the termination to which he sees he must inevitably be driven if he continues to follow their peripatetic logic. They, as well as he, recognize no valid distinction between the intuitive order and the reflective, and allow nothing to be known that is not reflectively known, they deny all intuition of God, and treat the universal and the necessary, without which no syllogism could be constructed, not as real and necessary being intuitively affirming itself to the mind, but as generalizations of the particular and contingent, that is to say, pure abstractions, formed by the mind itself, and therefore, mere nullities. They tell us, indeed, that the first and immediate object of intellect is ens, being; but they define it to be vel ens existens vel ens possibile, which proves that they have yet to learn that, what is not, is not intelligible, that being only is intelligible per se, and the existences are intelligible only in and by being. A possible ens is no ens at all, is intelligible only in ens reale. It is abstraction, and abstractions are nothing in themselves, are mere mental conceptions formed by the operation of the mind on the intuition of the concrete. Ens possibile is never apprehensive per se. We say such a thing is possible, because we see that infinite power may create it; we say such a thing is possible to us, because we are conscious of being able to do it; but the perception of the possible in the former case is the perception of the divine ability, and in the latter case of our human or particular ability. The condemnation of the peripatetic logic is, that it proceeds from the principle of contradiction, and deals with possibilities only, instead of proceeding from the principle of being, or that, what is not, is not intelligible, and dealing with realties. Its universe is a universe of abstract forms, which, after having constructed, with infinite labor and pains, we must seek with still greater labor and pains, and always in vain, to prove that it corresponds to a real universe beyond. The most the peripatetic logic enables us to do is to prove that there may be such a real universe, not that there is.
We know St. Thomas asserts that the intelligible form of species is that by which the mind attains to the intelligible, not that in which it terminates; but we do not know that either he or his master, Aristotle, proves it, or proves that the intellectual attains, in any instance whatever, to any thing in the intelligible order beyoud the intelligible from or species, or in the sensible world beyond the phantasms furnished by the senses. It is one thing to assert, on the strength of theology, or the common belief of mankind, an intelligible and a sensible world existing a parte rei, and another to prove it by our logic or our philosophy. St. Thomas was a great man, a great theologian, seldom, if ever, surpassed in history, and he knew and told infinitely more truth than can be compressed into the philosophical theories of Aristotle, or any other “heathen Greek.” Nobody pretends that he did not know and assert objective reality, in both intelligible and the sensible world; but his philosophy never allows him to admit that we have immediate intuition of the intelligible reality. As a peripatetic, he holds that what in every fact of knowledge is immediately present to the mind is never the objective reality itself, but a certain image, representation, immaterial form, or intelligible species – the peripatetic interpretation of the Platonic idea. Hence, in the peripatetic philosophy, the ideal is not precisely the intellective subject, nor the intelligible object a parte rei, but a certain intermediary, distinguishable both from the mind and from the objective reality, and serving to unite them, or, as it is pretended, to bring them into mutual relation. But as what is immediately present to the mind is the image, form, or species, not the thing itself, how is the mind to know that there is any thing there, that the whole world is not merely ideal, mere form, or species? This question is unanswerable on the peripatetic philosophy, as taught by St. Thomas, or as taught in our modern schools, as the interminable disputes respecting it fully evince.