Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Canons, Modern Philosophy, Thomism, and Sleeping Beauty?

Though I take issue with some of the less significant (at least to his overall thesis) points in this essay, "On Canons" by Fr. Edward T. Oakes, SJ, is a good read and sheds light on some important philosophical (and educational) issues. There is much to consider in this piece, but I will just quote two passages, the first of which considers the critique from some that medieval Christians basically enslaved philosophy to the dictates of faith ... so much so that philosophy was in a slumber, awaiting its day of liberation:
[Etienne] Gilson [...] retorted that, far from poisoning philosophy with a sleeping potion, faith illuminates from above the path reason would follow in any event if it only had a map and a flashlight. Philosophy’s goal has always been the truth, but it has to grope because it can’t see that far ahead. To understand Gilson’s thesis, think of it this way: When one is first studying algebra, say, especially when using one of those teach-yourself books, the problems are given in the front to work out on one’s own, with the answers keyed at the back. Now, if one works out a problem only to discover from the answer key that one got it wrong, one knows then and there that one was wrong but not how or why. For that one needs to go back and retrace one’s steps and see how one can rationally prove both the false step and the true path.
And then the closing lines:

But as Adler says in his Aquinas Lecture: “I owe to a friend the insight that it is not possible to be a good disciple of a false doctrine; but it must be added that it is not easy to be the good disciple of a true one.”

1 comment:

Christine said...

I like that last quote. A "good disciple" of a false doctrine is really just responsible for following a lie and the damage done by his following it. You can say you were deceived, or that you didn't know better, but in the end, sooner or later you'd better know better and figure it out, because the natural world and the spiritual are full of all sorts of ugly consequences for promoting lies.

And it's true, that it's difficult to be a good disciple of the truth. "Narrow is the way, and few find it", and few manage to keep from falling off once there. There but by the grace of God go I, and that's a fact.