JMC : On Universals / by Matteo Liberatore, S.J.



In the summary with which he concludes his book, Monsignor F*** points to the true origin of the Rosminian system. He calls to our remembrance the German rationalists and pantheists, and says that they, for the purpose of seeking Supreme Unity,{1} and trusting to their own Perspicacity alone, despising Catholic Tradition, succeeded in confusing the world with God and the ideal with the real.{2} They despised Catholics as incapable of rising so high. "The rationalists and pantheists of modern times thence took occasion to boast, as if they were the sole Possessors of knowledge."{3} Rosmini therefore determined that he would himself rise to that same speculation of theirs, and on their ruin erect a new system. "It was, however" says Monsignor F***, "a necessity, religious, moral, scientific, that there should arise a mind of extraordinary erudition and penetration, which, raising itself to the same grade of speculation that impious men had reached, and higher still, should, on the same ground of universal identity and of the absolute, attack them with equal weapons, rout them, and on their fall erect a new glorious trophy to Catholic wisdom. Such was he who arose as a giant, the philosopher of Rovereto."{4}

Here Monsignqr F***, without intending it, lets us know that the Rosminian philosophy is nothing more than an imitation of German speculation. When I said this formerly it brought a great outcry against me. Now it is openly confessed by the most illustrious follower of the Rosminian system. There is no doubt about it. The Rosminian system is German Transcendentalism in an Italian dress.

A little while ago it so happened that I read to a learned German, who came to see me, a passage from the Teosofia, in which one of the main points of Rosminian doctrine was expounded.

"Oh!" he exclaimed. "This is precisely what our philosophers in Germany say."

28. ROSMINI'S MISTAKE. I willingly admit that Rosmini entered into this cloud-land with the best intentions. But the blunder was, that in order to fight his adversaries with equal weapons, he accepted their method and their principles. Like them, he began a priori from pure contemplation of Being. Like them he sought among ideal Essences the One, the Absolute, that would remain the same in the multiplicity of things. Like them he wanted to derive the world from God in virtue of a necessary Ratio. Like them he identified the logical order with the ontological. Naturally he also fell into the same errors, though he tried hard to free himself from them by sophistical distinctions, by ambiguous conceptions, and sometimes by the help of mere phrases.

I say "by the help of mere phrases," because I know not any system so ingenious in parrying strokes by verbal artifice. If you say to a Rosminian, "Given the Unity of Being, the creature is identified with God," he will answer:

"No: for God is not Being only. He is Being with the three primordial Forms."

"Anyhow," you say, "creatures are identified, if not with the whole of God, at least with a part of God."

"No," says he; "because the Essence of creatures consists in limits, and therefore is negative, not positive."

"Then creatures," you say, "are pure negations."

"No," he replies; "for though they are not Being, they are nevertheless a particular term of Being, which thereby entifies them, makes them beings."

"But then," you say, "if it makes them beings, it belongs to their physical constitution; and therefore creatures must participate in its attributes of divine, of necessary, and the rest."

"No," says he; "for that Being is dialectic, and therefore abstract, ideal."

"But if it is ideal," you say, "it is extrinsic to creatures; and therefore you have no right to say that it is conjoined with them, that it makes them Beings."

"Not so," says he; "for although dialectic, it is nevertheless the ontological common subject of things, which, because it is common, is called the ante-subject, as the earth, for instance, is the ante-subject of all the buildings that are raised on it."

I must own that arguing with them is enough to drive a man out of his senses. Just when you think you have caught them, they make some little quibble of words and slip between your fingers like an eel. But one thing that shows itself clearly, through all their subtle cavillings, is pantheism.

Indeed, to say the truth, the name of pantheism seems to me to belong more properly to the Rosminian system than to the German Transcendentalists. The Absolute, the First Ens of the German Transcendentalists is an indeterminate thing that certainly is not God; and therefore their doctrine is atheism rather than pantheism. But the Absolute from which Rosmini begins -- the First Ens -- is the true God, One and Trinal, Whose Being (since Rosminian Being is one) does, as limited by finite terms, constitute creatures. This is pantheism, in the full meaning of the word; for, in fact, it takes as the foundation of its doctrine the One, the Divine Being, that determines itself in the Many. It is the One-Many.

29. THE WRITER'S PROTEST. I shall end this by renewing the protest that I have already made. I do not say that Rosmini professed pantheism, and still less do I say that pantheism is professed by Monsignor F***, one of the most venerable Bishops that now flourish in the Church. Far be it from me to make so foolishly rash an assertion! What I do say is that the principles, laid down in good faith by the former, and in good faith accepted by the latter, are pantheistic, and therefore that the whole system is pantheistic.

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