Throws light on the particular renewal of the theological and philosophical tradition which Henry of Ghent brought about and elucidates various aspects of his metaphysics and epistemology ethics, and theology.
The experience of evil in all its aspects has always been a challenge for the project of philosophy as a search for meaning. From the beginning philosophers have tried to explain evil, but they could only do so by making this brutal fact somehow intelligible so that it could enter rational discourse. Out of respect for the victims of horrible evil, we may now be inclined to stop all attempts at explanation, which all end up as justifications of evil. But (...) by this refusal to discuss what concerns us humans most, philosophy shows how marginal and futile its intellectual activity is. This is the torture of philosophy: either giving up its own project of making sense or trying to understand evil without justifying it, whereby philosophical arguments always tend to become edifying and quasi-religious. For Kierkegaard this torture shows the impossibility of the philosophical project. All philosophical explanation of evil is "a glossing over of sin, an excuse of sin". Only religion seems to offer meaning for evil, though, as Nietzsche said, it makes suffering worse by bringing it within the perspective of guilt. Philosophers, he argues, should give up this desperate quest for meaning, which always ends with new versions of the ascetic ideal. There is a long tradition wherein philosophy is seen as a therapy and a consolation for those confronted with suffering. The most influential view was the Neoplatonic, which also incorporated many Stoic arguments. In the second part of this paper, some arguments on evil from that tradition are proposed, without, however, a desire for consolation. We may learn from Neoplatonism ways to discuss evil without making it an intelligible object. As Augustine said, we understand evil by not understanding it, as we may see darkness by not seeing it. Evil is not a being, a property, a function, an attribute. It is a perversion, failure, mistake, that is a non-being parasiting upon a being. In a discussion with Spinoza it is argued that it is not possible to give up altogether a normative concept of reality. The Neoplatonic concept of evil is also linked to the acceptance of contingency in the world. Only when things are not absolutely determined, is it possible to understand that something can go wrong. The notion of accidental causality makes it also possible to understand the tragic aspect of evil. However, this notion becomes problematic when applied to moral evil. It is in its explanation of moral evil that the limitations of the Neoplatonic approach to evil become clear. In particular its basic axiom that all agents act for some good, is questionable. (shrink)
The centenary of the Louvain Institute of Philosophy (which was founded to contribute to a renewal of philosophy within the Christian community „by adhering as closely as possible to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas”) is the occasion for a critical examination of the particular form of Thomism developed by Désiré Mercier, the first president of the Institute. In Mercier's view, the appeal to Thomas can not be a submission to tradition or authority. Since philosophy is always a personal, free, rational (...) investigation, the only reason for adhering to a certain doctrine, is its intrinsic philosophical value. The mean argument for preferring Thomas „in philosophicis” is the fact that he „combines observation and rational-speculation, analysis and synthesis”, whereby all empirical facts are integrated and made intelligible in a larger metaphysical frame. By so doing Thomas avoids the extremes of empiricism, which leads to materialism, and idealism, which goes hand in hand with dualistic spiritualism. One may doubt whether this is a good characteristic of the „essence of Thomism”. However, Mercier follows Thomas, not so much for any original doctrine, but because he best represents the great scholastic tradition starting from Aristotle. This tradition should not be admired as an ideal of perfection that cannot be improved upon, but should be further developed and renewed, especially by integrating the achievements of modern experimental investigations within it. (Besides the sciences, we should expect not too much from modern philosophy, except in the discussion of the „critical problem”). Mercier thus bases his philosophical option for Thomism on his judgment that it better than any other philosophy offers a metaphysical synthesis within which the investigations of the modern sciences can be integrated, while at the same time being in concordance with the Christian view on man and world. However, when one studies the Thomism as elaborated in Mercier's manuals, it turns out that his attempt at integration fails. For there is no intrinsic link between the scientific findings he considers and the philosophical theses he develops. Herein lies the inherent weakness of the neo-scholastic construction as it was advocated by Mercier. When one defends Thomism by arguing that it offers a „comprehensive synthesis of all knowledge”', and at the same time one stresses the autonomy of scientific inquiry without apologetic intentions, one can expect that as these sciences develop, there will also arise the need for new conceptual schemes and new philosophical models which better fit these new findings. At that moment Thomistic doctrine also seems to fall away as a superfluous superstructure. One can argue that Mercier too easily understood philosophy as a „natural complement” of the sciences and that for that reason he could not really succeed in renewing Thomism. Most neothomists will try to base their option for Thomas upon the originality of his metaphysics. But this search for the „essence of Thomism” is problematic. At the end of the paper it is argued that no intrinsic philosophical arguments can be given for a normative preference for Thomas. The demand to philosophize „ad mentem Thomae” only makes sense when the relation of reason to faith is considered. As É. Gilson has shown, most neothomists were reluctant to develop this argument, except in a negative way : to argue for the autonomy of their philosophical (thomistic) arguments (although they were, in fact, motivated by a religious interest). (shrink)
Since its origin, Greek philosophy has made an attempt to rationally determine what the 'divine', object of myth and religious practice, really is. In the present article we examine Proclus's project of a philosophical theology. First, by determining its object (theion) : the absolute One and the henads, secondly by distinguishing its method (logos) from other forms of theological discourse : symbolic-mythological, eikonic and oracular. Finally, we explain how Proclus came to understand the logical discussion in the Parmenides of Plato (...) as the perfect system of scientific dialectical theology, a philosophical 'hymn of the generation of the gods'. (shrink)
La logique spécifique des jugements de valeur est à chercher dans le discours rhétorique. Cette thèse développée par Ch. Perelman dans L'Empire rhétorique (1977) nous rappelle l'introduction à l'éthique de Jean Buridan (XIVe s.). Selon Buridan la philosophie morale ne peut se contenter d'appliquer la logique générale: elle a besoin d'une logique spéciale, une „logique morale” qui n'est rien autre que la technique persuasive qu'on étudie dans la Rhétorique. Roger Bacon (XlIIe s.) a même essayé d'intégrer cette rhétorique dans l'éthique (...) : elle est la partie pratique de la science morale. Bien que leur textes rappellent parfois les considérations de la ‘nouvelle rhétorique’, la relation entre l'éthique et la rhétorique y est envisagée d'une manière toute différente. Pour les auteurs médiévaux la rhétorique est une science auxiliaire de l'éthique : elle sert de liaison entre la théorie et la pratique. Dans la partie théorétique de l'éthique la logique ‘générale’ reste en vigeur. Ce n'est que pour mettre en pratique les règles et valeurs qui ont été ‘démontrées’ par la théorie qu'on a recours à la technique persuasive et sa logique ‘spéciale’. La rhétorique n'a donc qu'une fonction subsidaire. On retrouve la même conception au début des temps modernes chez Francis Bacon qui attribue à la rhétorique la fonction d'appliquer le dictamen rationis à l'imagination pour exciter ainsi la volonté. Une tout autre conception est défendue par l'humaniste Lorenzo Valla qui essaie de réintégrer l'argumentation morale dans le discours rhétorique où elle trouve sa place originaire. Notre propre point de vue est développé en confrontation avec Aristote, de qui nous avons hérité le projet d'une ‘science pratique’ et l'ambiguité qui en est inhérente 1° La rhétorique présuppose l'éthique. 2° L'éthique qui se veut epistème, ne relève pas de la rhétorique qui n'est qu'une technè. Elle se présente comme une science à caractère dialectique. 3° Les difficultés arrivent dès qu'on exalte la fonction pratique de cette science (cf. récemment R. Hare). Dès que l'éthique veut être efficace dans la vie concrète, elle devient une argumentation qui relève plutôt du discours épidectique (Weltanschauung). Notre société, en pleine crise morale, a certainement besoin d'un tel discours qui essaie d'intensifier l'adhésion à des valeurs morales. Mais il nous semble qu'il reste à côté d'un tel discours - en pleine expansion des nos jours - une place bien discrète pour une reflection critique qui en analyse les raisons : qui n'est pas inutile, bien que peu efficace. (shrink)
In Summa log., I, 5-8 and Quodlib., V, 10-11 Ockham formulates the semantic that lies behind the syntactical distinction between abstract and concrete names and describes the different modes of signification corresponding to them. Sometimes concrete and abstract names stand for different things. For example, 'whiteness' signifies a quality inhering in a subject, whereas 'white' signifies the subject exhibiting that quality and, obliquely, the quality itself. There is a temptation to conclude from such cases that all abstract and concrete names (...) function in the same way. This interpretation, however, seems to imply a 'Platonic' ontology by accepting the existence of universal forms in re. To avoid this conclusion, O. contends that, in the category of substance, abstract and concrete terms are synonymous and simply signify the same thing. Thus nothing is signified by the term ' man' which is not also signified by 'humanity' and vice versa. If we do not take into account that abstract terms may incorporate some syncategorematic elements not included in concrete terms, we must grant that the proposition „man is humanity” is literally true, and we have to reject propositions such as „humanity is in man” or „Socrates is man by his humanity”. For this individual cannot be understood as a bare substrate sustaining a universal essence. Nevertheless, even though this is true from a philosophical standpoint, secundum veritatem fidei it would be false to say that ' man' and ' humanity' are synonymous. As a matter of fact, in theological language these terms can stand for different things. Here a distinction is made between 'humanity' signifying human nature and 'man' which signifies the same nature but connotes also something about the sustenance of that nature. This distinction must be rejected in the case of Socrates. Here humanity coincides with man so that the proposition „Socrates is a substrate sustaining a human nature” is false. But the same proposition is true when it is said of the divine Person united with the human nature in Christ. It follows that O. accepts in theology a semantic distinction between abstract and concrete names and also the existence of an essence different from the subject, both of which he opposes from a philosophical standpoint. He schrinks from applying his original logical insights to the theological dogmas which are often formulated in terms that involve a realistic ontology of essences. But even when he limits the results of his semantic analysis to the realm of pure philosophy, it seems difficult to maintain the equivalence in signification of abstract and concrete names. (shrink)