Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner


Philosophy is more closely allied to theology and to literature than is any of the other sciences. If, therefore, the manifold relations of philosophy to literature entitle us to speak of German, French, and English philosophy, surely the intimate alliance of philosophy with the doctrinal system of the Church justifies the appellation Catholic philosophy.

Few of the names of those who represented Scholastic philosophy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have risen into prominence in the history of philosophy. The following, however, rendered considerable service to Scholastic philosophy by their interpretations and expositions of the schoolmen: Cosmo Alemanni (1559-1634), Sylvester Maurus (1619-1687), both of whom were Jesuits and taught at the Roman College,{1} the Dominican Antoine Goudin (1639-1695), the authors of the Cursus Philosophiae Complutensis (Alcalá),{2} and the Franciscan Claudius Frassen (1620-1711), whose Scotus Academicus is being republished by the Franciscans of the College of Sant' Antonio (Rome, 1900 ff.). These belong to the seventeenth century. To the seventeenth century belong also Caramuel (1606-1682), Roselli (end of seventeenth century), whose Summa Philosophica is said to have furnished the basis for the Thomistic reconstruction of the nineteenth century, and Guerinois (1640-1703), whose Clypeus Philosophiae Thomisticae, etc., is an elaborate refutation of Cartesianism. To the eighteenth century belong Father Boscovich, S.J. (1711-1787), and Cardinal Gerdil (1718-1802). Father Boscovich was professor of philosophy and mathematics at the Roman College. He attained very great prominence by his theory of the ultimate composition of matter, which may be described as a modification of Leibniz' monadism. Matter, Boscovich taught, is composed of indivisible, unextended points, which were originally placed at a fixed distance from each other and endowed with the forces of attraction and repulsion. Cardinal Gerdil defended the philosophy of Descartes and Malebranche, and advocated a modified ontologism.

During the nineteenth century Germany, France, Spain, and Italy produced a large number of distinguished philosophers who admitted in one form or another the supremacy of Christian revelation as contained in the teachings of the Catholic Church, and are on this account to be included in the history of Catholic philosophy.

Germany. In Germany Franz Baader (1765-1841), of whom mention has already been made,{3} opposed the anti-Christian tendencies in the philosophical systems of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. In his account, however, of the origin of the universe he shows traces of the influence of the transcendentalists, and in his theory of the soul he betrays the influence of Origen and the Gnostics. Johann Frohschammer{4} (born 1821) also occupied himself with the refutation of anti-Christian theories, devoting special attention to the criticism of materialism. But, like Baader, he was led by his study of the transcendentalists to profess a form of philosophic belief incompatible with Catholic dogma. In the work, Die Phantasie als Grundprincip des Weltprocesses (1877), he proposes imagination in place of the Hegelian spirit and Schopenhauer's will, as the immanent and transcendent principle of the evolution of the world. He is careful, however, to make a formal declaration of the superiority of God with respect to this principle of evolution. There is apparent in his writings a tendency to rationalize theology to the extent of bringing the mysteries of faith within the scope of philosophical speculation, -- a tendency which became a principle openly avowed in the writings of Georg Hermes (1775-1831). Hermes makes reason the ultimate criterion of all truth, supernatural as well as natural, and attempts to establish by the aid of reason the dogmas of the Catholic faith. His doctrines were condemned by the Church,{5} and his writings placed on the Index (1835). Another movement towards the identification of theology with philosophy is represented by Anton Günther{6} (1783-1863), who maintained that if revelation is necessary it is because of the "weakness of the understanding" which results from original sin; that, of itself, human reason is capable of proving all truth; but that in man's present condition, faith is the foundation of all knowledge. These errors were condemned in 1857.{7}

The most remarkable of the German Catholic philosophers of this period was Joseph Görres (1776-1848), who, in Die Christliche Mystik and other writings, developed a fantastic system of spiritism. He maintained that, besides the visible material body, man possesses a subtle body composed of imponderable fluid which remains united to the soul after death and returns to earth with the soul whenever the latter appears as a ghost.{8}

Mention must also be made of Franz Anton Staudenmaler (1800-1856), who was associated with Gunther and Frohschammer in the refutation of anti-Christian doctrines, while he differed from them in his adherence to strict orthodoxy and his condemnation of rationalism and semi-rationalism. It was, however, the Jesuit Father Kleutgen (1811-1883), author of the Philosophie der Vorzeit (1860 ff.), and Dr. Albert Stöckl (1823-1895), author of the Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters (1864-1866), who rendered the greatest service to the cause of Scholastic philosophy in Germany, and prepared the way for the contemporary Neo-Scholastic movement in that country.

France. In France the traditionalists and ontologists were succeeded by a group of distinguished conférenciers and apologists, who in their discourses and writings expounded and defended the traditional philosophy of the Schools in its application to practical issues. Chief among these were Père Lacordaire, O.P. (1802-1861), Père de Ravignan, S.J. (1795-1858), Frédéric Ozanam (1813-1853), Mgr. D'Hulst (1841-1896), and L'Abbé de Broglie (1834-1895).

Spain. In Spain{9} the succession of philosophical systems during the nineteenth century was almost identical with that which occurred in France. During the first years of the century, philosophical speculation in Spain reflected the sensism and empiricism of Condillac's school. Then came a reaction in favor of spiritualistic philosophy in the form of a modified traditionalism and ontologism.

The most distinguished name in the history of philosophic thought in modern Spain is that of Jaime Balmes (1810-1848), author of Filosofía fundamental and of El Protestantismo comparado con el Catolicismo. The basic principles of Balmes' philosophy are Thomistic; to these, however, he adds elements derived from Descartes, Leibniz, and the Scottish school. He restricts, for example, the region of rational certitude to subjective phenomena, maintaining that the certitude which we possess with reference to objective phenomena is instinctive and more akin to the certitude of faith than to scientific certitude. He departs also from the teachings of St. Thomas in rejecting the active intellect and the intelligible species. His discussion of the criteria of truth, to which he devoted a special treatise (El Criterio), is perhaps his most valuable contribution to philosophy. Exceedingly able, too, is his refutation of scepticism in the work entitled Cartas d un escéptico.

Juan Donoso Cortés (1809-1853), "the De Maistre of Spain," although not a professed philosopher of any school, contributed to the establishment of the spiritualistic philosophy by his profound philosophical reflections on the religious, political, and social topics of the day. His principal work is entitled Ensayo sobre el Catolicismo, el liberalismo y el socialismo.

England. In England the Oxford movement, which is the most striking illustration of the assertion of the principle of authority as opposed to individualism in matters of religious thought, gave to Catholic intellectual activity in that country a decidedly theological trend. Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) may be said to have formulated in his Grammar of Assent a theory of estimation of theological evidence. The Metaphysics of the Schools, by Father Thomas Harper, S.J., is an elaborate attempt at presenting Scholastic philosophy in a form accessible to English readers.

Italy. In Italy Catholic philosophy during the nineteenth century experienced a revival which, within the last twenty-five years, has spread its influence throughout the entire Church. During the reign of Pius IX, Fathers Liberatore (1810-1892), Cornoldi (1822-1892), and others contributed to the Civiltà Cattolica articles in which the principles of Rosmini's idealism were criticised and the traditional philosophy of the schools expounded and defended. To Father Cornoldi belongs the honor of having founded at Bologna, in 1874, the Philosophical Academy of St. Thomas of Aquin, which, until the year 1891, continued to publish La Scienza Italiana. Canon Sanseverino (1811-1865), author of Philosophia Christiana cum Antiqua et Nova Comparata, his pupil Canon Signoriello (1821-1889), author of a Lexicon Peripateticum Philosophico- Theologicum, and Mgr. Talamo, author of l' Aristotelismo della Scolastica, etc., are to be mentioned among those who prepared the way for the Neo-Scholastic movement inaugurated at the beginning of the reign of Leo XIII.

Neo-Scholastic Movement. In the encyclical Inscrutabili Dei Consilio published in 1878, in the encyclical AEterni Patris (1879), in briefs relating to the foundation of the Roman Academy of St. Thomas (1879) and of the Institut Supérieur de Philosophie at the University of Louvain (1894), and in many other documents, Leo XIII has encouraged and promoted the study of the great masters of Scholasticism, and in particular the study of St. Thomas of Aquin. In all these documents Pope Leo insists on: (1) the return to the study of the texts of the Scholastic writers of the thirteenth century: "Providete ut sapientia Thomae ex ipsis ejus fontibus hauriatur"; (2) the exclusion of such problems as are more subtle than profitable, and the rejection of such doctrines of the schoolmen as have been proved to be false: "Si quid est a doctoribus Scholasticis vel nimia subtilitate quaesitum, vel parum considerate traditum, si quid cum exploratis posterioris aevi doctrinis minus cohaerens . . . id nullo pacto in animo est aetati nostrae ad imitandum proponi"; and (3) the extension and completion of the Scholastic system: "Vetera novis augere et perficere." It is, therefore, in no spirit of undiscriminating devotion to the past, but rather in the spirit of thorough and scholarly appreciation of the past, that the representatives of Neo-Scholasticism have discarded as useless those Compendia ad Mentem Divi Thomae in which Scholastic philosophy was watered down to the taste of the modern reader, and have gone back to the study of the texts of the masters.

Prominent among those who have contributed to the success of the Neo-Scholastic movement are Cardinals Pecci (1807-1890), Zigilara (1833-1893), and Satolli, Mgr. Lorenzelli,{10} the Jesuit Fathers De Maria and De Mandato, and the Dominican Father Lepidi.{11} In Germany the movement was taken up by Father Tilmann Pesch and the other Jesuit authors of the Philosophia Lacensis, while in France it has had many able representatives, among them the Sulpician, M. l'Abbé Farges.{12} The most notable English contribution to the Neo-Scholastic literature is the Stonyhurst Series of Manuals of Catholic Philosophy. Mention must also be made of the excellent publications of the Institut Supérieur de Philosophie of the University of Louvain, namely, the Cours de Philosophie by Mgr. Mercier, K. De Wulf, D. Nys, and others, and also of the periodicals Divus Thomas, La Revue Thomiste, and La Revue Néo-Scolastique.

{1} The works of these two Commentators were reedited, 1885-1891, by Father Ehrle, S.J.

{2} Collegium Complutense philosophicum, hoc est Artium Cursus, sive Disputationes in Aristotelis Dialecticam, etc. The authors were Carmelites of the convent of St. Cyril at Alcalá. The Cursus Theologicus of the Carmelites of Salamanca (commonly referred to as the Salmanticenses), which belongs also to the seventeenth century, is a theological commentary on St. Thomas' Summa. To the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century belongs the great Jesuit commentary, Commentarii Collegii Conimbricensis S.J. in Octo Libros Physicorum Arirtotelis, etc.

{3} Cf. p. 560. Also Stöckl, Lehrbuch der Gesch. der Phil. (1888), II, 333.

{4} Cf. Gonzalez, op. cit., IV, 337.

{5} Cf. Denzinger, Enchiridion (Ed. VII), p. 350.

{6} Cf. Stöckl, op. cit., II, 345.

{7} Cf. Denzinger, op. cit., pp. 361 ff.

{8} Görres' true significance as a writer appears in his Athanasius, in which, by his eloquent and vigorous vindication of the principles of religious authority and religious freedom, he rallied the forces of Catholicity in Germany for the contest which has been so successfully waged in our own day. The Görres-Gesellschaft still adorns its literary productions with the figure of St. Athanasius.

{9} Cf. González, op. cit., IV, 441 ff.

{10} Cardinal Pecci, De Ente et Essentia (1882), etc.; Cardinal Zigliara, Summa Philosophica (3 vols., 1876, eighth edition, 1891), Della luce intellettuale, etc.; Cardinal Satolli, Enchiridion Philosophiae Pars Prima Complectens Logicam Universam (1884), In Summam Theologicam Praelectiones: De Deo Uno (1884), De Operationibus Divinis (1885), De Gratia Christi (1886), De Trinitate (1887), De Incarnatione (1888), De Habitibus (1897); Lorenzelli, Philosophiae Theoreticae Institutiones (2 vols., 1896).

{11} De Maria, Philosophia Peripatetico-Scholastica (3 vols., 1892); De Mandato, Institutiones Philosophicae (1894); Lepidi, Elementa Philosophiae Chrirtianae (1875 ff.).

{12} La vie et l'évolution des espèces (1892), Matière et forme (1892), Le cerveau, l'âme, etc. (1892), Theórie fondamentale de l'acte et de la puissance (1893), L'idée du continu dans l'espace et le temps (1894), L'idée de Dieu (1894), etc.

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