Praeambula Fidei

Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 325
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  • Book Info
    Praeambula Fidei
    Book Description:

    In this book, renowned philosopher Ralph McInerny sets out to review what Thomas meant by the phrase and to defend a robust understanding of Thomas's teaching on the subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1627-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PART I. The Preambles of Faith
      (pp. 3-32)

      It would be too much to say that it is only religious believers who are interested in proofs of God’s existence. But it is the rare unbeliever who holds that such proofs work, whereas most believing philosophers have argued for the soundness of a proof or proofs of God’s existence. In fairness, it should be added that other believers—until recently all of them Protestants—reject the notion that there is a way whereby sinful man can arrive at truth about God, even simply that he exists, by unaided human reason.

      One reason unbelievers reject proofs of God’s existence is...

  5. PART II. The Erosion of the Doctrine
      (pp. 35-38)

      The praeambula fidei presuppose that philosophy is distinct from theology, an autonomous discipline whose arguments do not depend on the acceptance of any revelation. Of course, it is philosophy in the classical sense that provides the praeambula fidei, a search for understanding fueled by wonder that in its quest for causes rises finally to knowledge of the first cause of all that is. For Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle was the paradigmatic instance of the philosopher and his writings conveyed what the unaided human intellect can know of the divine. Philosophical proofs of God’s existence and the establishment of some of his...

      (pp. 39-68)

      Commenting on a letter that Etienne Gilson had written in the early 1970s, Henri de Lubac remarked that the historian made him think of an elderly parishioner with eccentric ways.¹ The letters that de Lubac gathered together and then all but smothered in commentaries that carried on the cardinal’s lifelong crusade against the école thomiste certainly give us an irascible octogenarian who, as he tells us, “does not like many people.” Among the people he emphatically did not like was Thomas de Vio Cardinal Cajetan, the great sixteenth-century Dominican whose commentary is included in the Leonine edition of the Summa...

      (pp. 69-90)

      Another wholesale attack on Cardinal Cajetan was mounted by Gilson’s eventual correspondent, Henri de Lubac, S.J., in his discussion of the notion of the supernatural.

      In 1992, Henru de Lubac published a second and augmented edition of his Mémoire sur l’occasion de mes écrits. Taken together with the publication of his exchange of letters with Gilson—or more accurately of Gilson’s letters to him, amply annotated and commented on by de Lubac—one interested in what has been going on in Catholic circles with respect to the status of philosophy and the praeambula fidei has resources whose value can scarcely...

      (pp. 91-107)

      Signs to Juvisy can be seen along the motorist’s nightmare that is the drive from Orly to Paris. Doubtless when the French Société Thomiste met there on September 11, 1933, the town would have been far enough from Paris to provide an appropriate atmosphere for the second of the Journées d’études that the society had sponsored. This time the topic was Christian philosophy, identified as one of the most debated problems among theologians and philosophers in recent years. (The first meeting had been devoted to phenomenology and included Edith Stein as one of the participants.)

      The meetings were held, we...

      (pp. 108-125)

      When religious orders were expelled from France in 1904, the Benedictines and the Jesuits retreated to channel islands, while the French Dominicans moved into Belgium to a place called Le Saulchoir near Tournai. It was there that generations of French Dominicans were formed. Among the later notables of the community were Fathers Gardeil, Roland-Gosselin, and Mandonnet, one of the giants of medieval studies. In 1936, the rector of the Faculty of Theology there was the youngish Marie-Dominique Chenu who a few years earlier, at Juvisy, as president of the French Thomist Society, was a defining presence of its annual meeting...

      (pp. 126-156)

      Etienne Gilson’s claim that Cajetan, among many others, failed to understand what Thomas had to say about esse obviously implies that Gilson himself understands Thomas correctly. Having shown that his reading of Cajetan fails to make his point against the great commentator, we turn now to what it is that Gilson thinks Cajetan missed. Our interest is the impact all this has on the traditional understanding of the praeambula fidei.

      Gilson was one of the giants in the revival of medieval studies in the twentieth century.¹ When he began to teach, no courses were offered in the thought of such...

  6. PART III. Thomism and Philosophical Theology
      (pp. 159-168)

      There can be little dispute that at the outset of the Summa theologiae Thomas refers to the philosophical sciences as already known by his reader, pointedly asking if the philosophical science dubbed theology renders redundant the effort he is about to undertake. At least historically, then, the philosophical sciences are distinguished from the sacra doctrina that is studied in the Summa and the beginner for whom the Summa was written is assumed already to have studied philosophy and thus likely to have the problem addressed by the opening discussion. But there is as well general agreement among students of St....

      (pp. 169-187)

      In Book VI of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle discusses the intellectual virtues, both those of practical intellect and those of theoretical or speculative intellect. The object or aim of the latter is truth, that of the former the guidance of action in doing or making. “Let it be assumed that the states by virtue of which the soul possesses truth by way of affirmation and denial are five in number, that is, art, scientific knowledge, practical wisdom, philosophic wisdom, intuitive reason; we do not include judgment and opinion because in these we may be mistaken” (VI.3). He begins the discussion...

      (pp. 188-218)

      Reading the Metaphysics can give the impression of reading dispatches from the Lost Patrol. From the very outset of the work, wisdom is put before us as the ultimate aim of the pursuit of knowledge, one that can only be achieved after many other sciences and disciplines have been mastered. And the books of the Metaphysics represent that culminating endeavor. Yet when we read the work, we seem to be always about to do something, to be in quest of something that is problematical; indeed, we seem forever to be beginning again. But such tentative passages can be set alongside...

      (pp. 219-237)

      Thomas commented on the first twelve books of the Metaphysics but was aware of M and N as well. From first to last, his commentary insists on the orderly discussion of the work and clearly views it as a unified whole. One of the chief tasks of a commentator is to display the order of the text before him. That being so, it is possible, on the basis of overt allusions to that order—among the various books, within a given book—to give a swift overview of the Metaphysics as Thomas reads it.

      His commentary begins with his own...

      (pp. 238-244)

      It is the task of metaphysics to consider the communia entis, that is, whatever can be said of anything just insofar as it is a being, whether material or immaterial. But in what sense can something be common to any and every being? The very term ‘being’ immediately breaks into a number of meanings and is saved from equivocation only because one of those meanings is controlling of all the others. Thus it is that substance emerges as the sufficient focus for the science of being as being. In considering substance one can be said to be considering obliquely whatever...

      (pp. 245-282)

      In what follows, I first provide a continuous paraphrase of what Thomas Aquinas makes of Book XII of Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Only with this account before us can we turn to the neuralgic points of the narrative, considering, for example, those turns of interpretation that agree or disagree with what has become received opinion among Thomists on Aristotelian exegesis.¹ The assumption will be that Thomas sets out to provide a reading of the text, a task in which he may succeed or fail. I hold that no one can read his commentary and retain the notion, alas still sometimes held, that...

    • Twelve SED CONTRA
      (pp. 283-292)

      Some of my fellow Thomists have taken exception to Thomas’s reading of Aristotle’s theology in a number of ways.¹ Sometimes we are told that what Thomas says in his commentaries does not represent his own thought, but merely that of Aristotle. At other times we are told that what Thomas says in such commentaries represents his own thought, and not that of Aristotle. The second view is the more interesting, if only because it is susceptible of testing. The test consists in asking whether what Thomas makes of Aristotle’s text is actually the meaning of that text.

      It will escape...

      (pp. 293-306)

      In this chapter I do not intend to defend what has been called the “Identity Thesis,” that is, that Thomas was Aristotle, but I will continue to play the odd man out to the extent of urging that we should regain Thomas Aquinas’s own enthusiastic regard for Aristotle and take more seriously Thomas’s readings of the man he called the Philosopher.¹ When we do we will find many of the assertions made about the deep differences between Thomas and Aristotle difficult to defend. I am here chiefly concerned with the way in which such divisions of the house affect natural...

    (pp. 307-310)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 311-314)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)