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Examining the underlying errors of modern(ist) philosophy August 20, 2014

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, Christendom, disaster, error, General Catholic, reading, scandals, secularism, sickness, Society, Tradition.

I’ve been reading a very good book on philosophy by Edward Feser called The Last Superstition.  This book is a defense of Aristotle, Aquinas, and the gloriously whole and valid philosophy/theology known as Scholasticism, against the rank errors of modern philosophy (“modern,” in this sense, being anything since about 1500).  Like Christopher Ferrara’s Liberty: The God That Failed, Feser’s book demonstrates not only the massive errors of modernist, and especially endarkenment, philosophy, he also shows that modern philosophy and all its various antecedents; conceptualism, nominalism, rationalism, etc., were all devised with one primary intent in mind: to free man from the “tyranny” of being a creation of the living God, and to  put religion in its right place – that is, somewhere between an annoying hobby and a impolitic set of beliefs  forbidden in “polite” society.  The excerpt is long, I may have to break it into two parts, but here goes, from Chapter 5, Descent of the Modernists, from The Last Superstition:

But it is not only contemporary secularist progressives who regard this traditional [Catholic] worldview with horror; many early modern thinkers did too.  Consider that by the time Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes., et. al., were writing, Luther had already greatly extended Ockham’s individualist tendencies in religion and politics, replacing not only ecclesiastical authority  but also  (what he regarded as) the stifling and unbibilical system of Aristotelian Scholasticism with the primacy of individual conscience.  In his defense of divorce, he had (together with Henry VIII) inaugurated a revolution in social mores, undermining one of the traditional bulwarks of the stability of the family. [And we see, by the same inexorable illogic Luther and Henry VIII used, the continuing unraveling of marriage and advance of horrific immorality all around us today. It is a straight line from Luther’s politically convenient (and motivated) embrace of divorce, and today’s neo-Sodom]  John Calvin’s brand of protestantism had replaced the traditional emphasis on the spiritual dangers of wealth and benefits of poverty with a new affirmation of industry, thrift, and acquisition as Christian “virtues.”  Intentionally of not, the Reformation thus ushered in a new worldliness the practical results of which – increased wealth and an new sense of individual freedom – led to a desire for more of the same.  At the same time, its fragmentation of Christianity into hostile camps and the bloody conflicts that resulted made religion come to be seen as a dangerous source of social unrest; and its pitting of faith and the Bible against reason and philosophy increasingly made religion come to seem rationally unfounded as well.  So, while the ancients pursued wisdom and virtue for their own sakes, and the medievals applied ancient learning to shoring u p the claims of religion and directing man towards his destiny in the hereafter, the moderns, naturally enough given the new cultural climate that shaped their values and perceptions, sought to reorient intellectual endeavor to improving man’s lot in this life, and to defusing post-Reformation religious tensions by sowing a general skepticism about the possibility of attaining much in the way of religious knowledge, so that there’d be little left to fight over.  Hence Bacon’s conception of a new science that would give us mastery over nature, the promise of new technologies, and hope for making this world a fitting habitation for man.  Hence Locke’s aim of drawing definite limits to what was strictly knowable where religion was concerned, so as to put all conflicting creedal claims on an equally low epistemic footing and thereby to lay the predicate for his doctrine of religious toleration. [Which was really nothing but the promotion of indifference, and with his idea of the secular (or officially agnostic) state, the use of state force to help curtail deep religious belief, especially as acted in the public sphere.  From Locke’s original and deliberate knee-capping of religion, we have advanced today, inexorably, to mass atheism and the rise of neo-paganism, as surely, and as predictably, as the rising of the sun.  And yet Locke is the paramour for the modern republican secular state, including our very own United States]

“And what is wrong with all that?” many readers will ask.  Well, there might be nothing at all wrong with it; and then again, there might be something very deeply wrong with it.  But the point for now is not to determine whether this project was good or bad, [It has been an unmitigated disaster from which Western Civilization, and possibly all of mankind, may never recover] but rather to emphasize that to a very great extent it was a desire to further the project, and not an actual refutation of Aristotle on particular merits, that moved modern thinkers away from his metaphysics.  The agenda determined the arguments rather than the other way around.  In particular, it determined an new conception of what science could and should be: not a search for the ultimate causes and meaning of things (as Aristotle and the Scholastics understood it) but rather a means of increasing “human utility and power” through the “mechanical arts” or technology (Bacon), and of making us “masters and possessors of nature” (Descartes).  Usefulness would replace wisdom, and pampering the body in this life would push aside preparing the soul for the next.  Hence modern science, far from refuting Aristotle’s metaphysics, was simply defined in such a way that nothing that smacked of Aristotelian formal and final causes and the like would be allowed to count as truly “scientific.”  There was no “discovery” here; there was only stipulation, naked assertion, and insistence on forcing every object of scientific investigation into a non-Aristotelian Procrustean bed, and – if necessary – simply denying the existence of anything that couldn’t be wedged in.  For the Aristotelian Scholastic categories led, in the view of thinkers like Locke, to a dangerous “dogmatism” in religious and philosophical matters.  (In other words, if we accept these categories, we’ll have to admit that the entire Scholastic system is more or less rationally unavoidable).  And in the Baconian view, they distract us from the one thing needful.  (In other words, if Aristotle is right, then we’ll end up spending more time contemplating first principles and the state of our souls and less time thinking up new gadgets and further ways to gorge and sex ourselves).  While the early modern philosophers and their contemporary successors quibble over this or that argument of Aristotle, Aquinas, etc., then, what they really don’t like are the conclusions.  Admit formal and final causes into the world, and at once you are stuck – rationally stuck – with God, the soul, and the natural law.  The modern, liberal, secular project becomes a non-starter.  So, “reason” must be redefined in a way that makes these conclusions impossible, or at elast severly weakened. The classical metaphysical categories, espeically Aritotelian and Thomistic ones, must be banished from science and philosophy altogether, by fiat.  The game must be rigged so that Aristotle and St. Thomas cannot even get onto the field……

You don’t have to take my word for it.  As philosopher Pierre Manent has put it, for the early modern philsophers, “in order to escape decisively from the power of the singular religious institution of the Church, one had to renounce thinking of human life in terms of its good or end” and the “pagan (classical Greek) idea that nature is naturally legislative.”  Hence it is the teaching of Aristotle, which was essentially adopted by Catholic Doctrine, that Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke will implacably destroy.”  [And even more, they deliberately set out to do so]

———–End Quote————-

I am very much out of time, but I hope the quote makes sense.  What it means, and there are numerous other quotes from contemporary philosophers and thinkers of other stripes which confirm the existence of the “project,” the project being to deliberately “escape” from the tyranny of God by rejecting the underlying philosophy – Scholasticism – which so finally and unavoidably proves His existence.  There is a reason the 12th and 13th centuries were a period of high flower for the Church and millions of souls, and that is because the people of that time accepted Scholasticism and understood that God, most certainly exists.  It must also be restated that Aristotelian Scholasticism has never, in any fundamental way, been “refuted” or shown to be false.  There are minor quibbles around the periphery, but the main arguments, the ideas of formal and final causes, have never been refuted.  They have been ignored and shoved aside in pursuit of the great, humanist project of liberalism (and note how, even 500 years ago, liberals used the same dirty rhetorical and argumentative tricks they are so fond of today).

The goal of modern philosophy and “science,” then, has been to prevent the Divine Foot from ever having a chance to enter the door of men’s minds.  And that goal has been thoroughly achieved.

Maybe more tomorrow.  The takeaway is, the entire liberal/modernist/rationalist/indifferentist project is one founded in error and in deliberate rejection of the greatest philosophical truth ever divined by man.  And that is why liberalism is generally so opposed to the good of souls.  It is also why modern man feels so profoundly lost and detached, that so many people feel their existence is random and devoid of meaning, because they have accepted too many of the claims of modernist liberalism.  It is a very straight line from Luther and the other early modern promoters of error, and the dire straights in which the culture staggers along today.  It is a very straight line, conceptually, from rejection of Scholasticism and Catholic Truth to “gay marriage” and freezing eggs to be grown in plastic decanters.


1. discipleofthedumbox - August 21, 2014

Inspired by today’s saint, are we? 🙂

Tantumblogo - August 21, 2014


2. TG - August 21, 2014

Today is St. Pius’ s feast day.

3. A Mom - August 21, 2014

Thank you so much for posting this.

4. lee faber - August 22, 2014

um, Geocentrism? Aristotelian biology? Both have been refuted. But I would agree that Aristotelian causality has not. Also, why are conservative catholics opposed to individualism? Individual human beings are saved, not ‘human nature’, after all. You need individuals to have community, family, etc. and so on.

discipleofthedumbox - August 22, 2014

Human nature has been redeemed by the human par excellence, that is Jesus Christ. This does not deny salvation to the individual soul, quite the opposite, in fact. Christ’s supernatural atonement is what makes man’s salvation possible.

Tantumblogo - August 25, 2014

And Aristotle was not a biologist, he was a philosopher, and a great one. If he made some assumptions on minor points based on the prevailing understanding of his time, it does nothing to refute his broader work and the metaphysics that flow from that work. Which philosophy has never been refuted by moderns, just ignored. Along with Aquinas, Augustine, and all the rest. Modern philosophy has never come close to refuting Aristotelian philosophy, only mocking it and pretending it doesn’t matter.

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