Monday, February 01, 2010

Scholasticism as Modern Philosophy


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Of course, history is one continuous flow of time.  With the sole exception of the BC-AD division, there is little room to speak of absolute divisions in history.  But historians rightly make rough divisions in history, using critical, revolutionary events and persons as dividing points, and thus make it more convenient to speak of history in terms of periods: the "classical" period, the "middle ages", the "renaissance," "modern" times, etc.

It is no different in the case of the history of western philosophy.  The history of philosophy is typically divided into two major eras: ancient/medieval and modern.  Descartes is considered the "Father of Modern Philosophy" because he caused a revolution in philosophical thinking in Europe.  For this reason, he is typically taken as the dividing point in the history of philosophy.

Now, these two eras are also typically sub-divided into two or three periods each (this, of course, depends on whether or not you consider Medieval and Renaissance philosophy as one unit, and Early Modern and Later Modern Philosophy as one unit):


  • Ancient Philosophy (c. 600 BC to c. AD 400), spanning from Thales, the first Greek pre-Socratic philosophers, to Damascius and Proclus, the last of the pagan neo-Platonists.  It also includes Philo and some Patristic writers, such as Justin Martyr and Origen.
  • Medieval Philosophy (c. AD 400 to 1450), from St. Augustine to William of Ockham.  It normally includes the whole range of medieval scholastics, from the precursor like Boethius and St. Anselm, to the scholastics proper, such as Alexander of Hales, St. Albert, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas, Bl. Duns Scotus, etc.  It also includes medieval Islamic and Jewish philosophers, such as Avicenna, Averroes, and Maimonides.
  • Renaissance Philosophy (c. AD 1450 to 1600), from Nicholas of Cusa to Giordano Bruno.  Some historians also include in this period some of the later scholastics, such as Báñez, Molina, Suárez, John of St. Thomas (pictured above and to the right), etc.
  • Early Modern Philosophy (c. AD 1600 to 1800), from Descartes to Hume.  This period typically includes the Rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibnitz) and the Empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume).  A few other thinkers are usually included, such as Pascal and Hobbes.
  • Later Modern Philosophy (c. AD 1800 to 1900), from Kant to Nietzsche.  This normally includes the German idealists, the Existentialists, and a few other major figures like Marx, Mill, and their ilk.
  • Contemporary Philosophy (c. AD 1900 to the present), from Husserl and Frege to Quine and Derrida.  The major figures in this period are the Continental Philosophers (Existentialists, Phenomenologists, etc.) and the Analytic Philosophers (Russell, Wittgenstein, Frege, etc.).  Depending on the author, the movement pejoratively known as "neo-Scholasticism" or "neo-Thomism" is acknowledged as worth mentioning.

In general outline, this division of the history of philosophy is convenient insofar as it accurately represents six general trends in doing philosophy.  For example, the way in which the 'ancients' did philosophy is quite distinct from that of the medievals, and medieval philosophy is quite different from the philosophy of Descartes, Locke, and Kant.

But this division also has its problems, particularly in its understanding of the relationship between Scholasticism and Modern Philosophy.  It gives the impression that Scholasticism lasted only from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.  It excludes Scholasticism altogether from Modern Philosophy... as if Scholasticism were an obsolete medieval thing that was only revived by some right-wing papists of the Twentieth Century.  It makes you believe that the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites and Jesuits were happily doing their scholastic disputations until they ran out of gas, and then came Descartes and ended the whole thing with his cogito... as if Modern Philosophy got started and Scholasticism completely disappeared.  Hence, Modern Philosophy is portrayed as essentially non-scholastic (or anti-scholastic).

This conception of Modern Philosophy is utterly flawed.  This is a case where history is completely written by the victors.  The philosophy that was taught during this period in the universities was Scholasticism.  Hence the name: 'scholas-tic', the philosophy of the schools (of the scholas).   Descartes did not end Scholasticism.  At no point during his life did Descartes change or even affect the way philosophy was done in the universities.  In fact, none of the Empiricists and almost none of the Rationalists (with the sole exception of Wolff, who was himself a Scholastic Leibnitzian) ever taught at a university.  They were literally amateurs.  What we are being taught today as mainstream Early Modern Philosophy (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, etc.) is really an afterthought of the Early Modern Period, a movement completely peripheral to what the professional scholars of the time were doing.  No one at that time saw the thought of these men as being part of the mainstream academic philosophical thinking.

So who were the mainstream, professional scholars--the Scholastics--during the Early Modern Period? There were thousands, but the best known are:  Báñez, Molina, John of St. Thomas, Suárez, Contenson, Gonet, De Lugo, the Salmanticenses and Complutenses, etc., etc.  Although some of authors place these figures within the Renaissance period, nonetheless John of St. Thomas and Suárez were contemporaries of Descartes; and, in fact, De Lugo, Contenson, Gonet, the Salmanticenses (and the Salamanca school of economics) together with the Complutenses came a generation later.  These men rightly belong to Descartes' period but they are typically either completely ignored by historians or dismissed as medieval remnants that do not deserve to be considered 'modern'.



And even much later, after the new philosophy of the Rationalists, Empiricists and Idealists made its way into secular and Protestant academia (Kant was the first to bring this amateur philosophy into the universities), Scholasticism was still being practiced and taught in Catholic universities.  Billuart, De Rubeis, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, San Severino, Cornoldi, Kleutgen, etc. were all within a generation of Kant and thus rightly belong to the Later Modern Period.


And Scholasticism kept being taught in Catholic universities throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries.  So how do anti-scholastic histories of philosophy deal with this point?  They have interpreted the so-called Neo-Scholastic / Neo-Thomist movement as bearing a discontinuity with what they disparagingly call 'Barroque Thomism' (or Second Thomism).  They portray it as a resurrection of Thomism, passing strictly from a completely defunct state to a vibrant Catholic trend in the late 19th Century thanks to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris, long after Descartes has put the last nail on the coffin of 'Barroque Scholasticism'.  But in fact, 'Neo-Scholasticism' (which is really a misnomer because it was not really discontinuous with traditional scholasticism) was a 'revival' in the sense of giving Scholasticism more life, not in the sense of giving life to something that was dead.  Pope Leo XIII's Aeterni Patris does not call for a resurrection of something that had been long defunct, but rather, for greater efforts to keep it going.  "Neo-Scholasticism," then, is nothing other than Scholasticism as it regained vigor in the 19th-20th centuries.  But it is given that name to make us think that it is something new.  As the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on Thomas Zigliara states, "in some universities and seminaries, the teaching of St. Thomas had never been interrupted...."  Even today, Scholasticism is not entirely dead, although we must fight to revive it once again.


It is due time for someone to write a history of philosophy that portrays things the way they really are: Scholasticism as a continuous whole that throughout modern times represented the mainstream mode of Catholic thought and that lasted from the time of St. Anselm up until today. 


The following is a continuous list of selected Scholastics (mainly Thomists) from the 13th to the 19th Centuries, taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia's articles on Thomism and Neo-Scholasticism. (Death dates in parenthesis; asterisk denotes a non-Thomist.) 

Thirteenth century

Thomas de Cantimpré (1270); Hugh of St. Cher (1263); Vincent of Bauvais (1264); St. Raymond de Pennafort (1275); Peter of Tarentaise(Pope Innocent V — 1276); Giles de Lassines (1278); Reginald de Piperno (1279); William de Moerbeka (1286); Raymond Marti (1286);Bernard de Trilia (1292); Bernard of Hotun, Bishop of Dublin (1298); Theodoric of Apoldia (1299); Thomas Sutton (1300).

Fourteenth century

Peter of Auvergne (1301); Nicholas Boccasini, Benedict XI (1304); Godfrey of Fontaines (1304); Walter of Winterburn (1305); ÆgidiusColonna (Aigidius Romanus), O.S.A (1243-1316); William of Paris (1314); Gerard of Bologna, Carmelite (1317); four biographers, viz PeterCalo (1310); William de Tocco (1324); Bartolommeo of Lucca (1327); Bernard Guidonis* (1331); Dante (1321); Natalis Hervieus (1323);Petrus de Palude (Paludanusi — 1342); Thomas Bradwardin, Archbishop of Canterbury (1349); Robert Holkott (1349); John Tauler (1361);Bl. Henry Suso (1365); Thomas of Strasburg, O.S.A. (1357); Jacobus Passavante (1357); Nicholas Roselli (1362); Durandus of Aurillac (1382), sometimes called Durandulus, because he wrote against Durandus a S. Portiano*, who was first a Thomist, afterwards an independent writer, attacking many of St. Thomas's doctrines; John Bromyard (1390); Nicholas Eymeric (1399).

Fifteenth century

Manuel Calecas (1410); St. Vincent Ferrer (1415); Bl. John Dominici (1419); John Gerson*, chancellor of the University of Paris (1429);Luis of Valladolid (1436); Raymond Sabunde (1437); John Nieder (1437); Capreolus (1444), called the "Prince of Thomists"; John deMontenegro (1445); Fra Angelico (1455); St. Antoninus (1459); Nicholas of Cusa*, of the Brothers of the Common Life (1464); John ofTorquemada (de Turrecrematai, 1468); BessarionBasilian (1472); Alanus de Rupe (1475); John Faber (1477); Petrus Niger (1471); Peter of Bergamo (1482); Jerome Savonarola (1498).

Sixteenth century

Felix Faber (1502); Vincent Bandelli (1506); John Tetzel (1519); Diego de Deza (1523); Sylvester Mazzolini (1523); Francesco Silvestro diFerrara (1528); Thomas de Vio Cajetan (1534) (commentaries by these two are published in the Leonine edition of the works of St. Thomas); Conrad Koellin (1536); Chrysostom Javelli (1538); Santes Pagnino (1541); Francisco de Vitoria (1546); Franc. Romseus (1552); Ambrosius Catherinus* (Lancelot Politi, 1553); St. Ignatius of Loyola (1556) enjoined devotion to St. Thomas; Matthew Ory (1557); Dominic Soto (1560); Melchior Cano (1560); Ambrose Pelargus (1561); Peter Soto (1563); Sixtus of Siena (1569); John Faber (1570); St. Pius V (1572); Bartholomew Medina (1581); Vincent Justiniani (1582); Maldonatus* (Juan Maldonado, 1583); St. Charles Borromeo* (1584); Salmerón* (1585); Ven. Louis of Granada (1588); Bartholomew of Braga (1590); Toletus* (1596); Bl. Peter Canisius* (1597);Thomas Stapleton*, Doctor of Louvain (1598); Fonseca (1599); Molina* (1600).

Seventeenth century

Valentia* (1603); Domingo Baflez (1604); Vásquez* (1604); Bart. Ledesma (1604); Sánchez* (1610); Baronius * (1607); Capponi a Porrecta (1614); Aur. Menochio * (1615); Petr. Ledesma (1616); Francisco Suárez* (1617); Du Perron, a converted Calvinistcardinal(1618); Bellarmine* (1621); St. Francis de Sales* (1622); Hieronymus Medices (1622); Lessius* (1623); Becanus* (1624); Malvenda(1628); Thomas de Lemos (1629); Alvarez; Laymann* (1635); Joann. Wiggers*, doctor of Louvain (1639); Gravina (1643); John of St. Thomas (1644); Serra (1647); Ripalda*, S.J.* (1648); Sylvius (Du Bois), doctor of Douai (1649); Petavius* (1652); Goar (1625); Steph. Menochio, S.J.* (1655); Franc. Pignatelli* (1656); De Lugo* (1660); Bollandus* (1665); Jammy (1665); Vallgornera (1665); Labbe* (1667); Pallavicini* (1667); Busenbaum* (1668); Nicolni* (1673); Contenson (1674); Jac. Pignatelli* (1675); Passerini* (1677); Gonet (1681); Bancel (1685); Thomassin* (1695); Goudin (1695); Sfrondati* (1696); Quetif (1698); Rocaberti (1699); Casanate (1700). To this period belong the Carmelite Salmanticenses, authors of the "Cursus theologicus" (1631-72) and the Complutenses.

Eighteenth century

Guerinois (1703); BossuetBishop of Meaux; Norisins, O.S.A. (1704); Diana (1705); Thyrsus González* (1705); Massoulié (1706); Duhamel* (1706); Wigandt (1708); Piny (1709); Lacroix* (1714); Carrières* (1717); Natalis Alexander (1724); Echard (1724); Tourney*,doctor of the Sorbonne (1729); Livarius de Meyer* (1730); Benedict XIII* (1730); Graveson (1733); Th. du Jardin (1733); HyacinthaSerry (1738); Duplessis d'Argentré* (1740); Gotti (1742); Drouin* (1742); Antoine* (1743); Lallemant* (1748); Milante* (1749); Preingue (1752); Concina (1759); Billuart (1757); Benedict XIV* (1758); Cuiliati (1759); Orsi (1761); Charlevoix* (1761); Reuter* (1762); Baumgartner* (1764); Berti* (1766); Patuzzi (1769); De Rubeis (1775); Touron (1775); Thomas de Burgo (1776); Gener* (1781); Roselli(1783); St. Alphonsus Liguori (1787); Mamachi (1792); Richard (1794).

Nineteenth century

Sanseverino (1811-65), Cornoldi (1822-92), Kleutgen (1811-83), Stöckl (1823-95), de San (1832-1904), Dupont, Lepidi, Farges, Dormet de Vorges (1910), Zigliara (1833-93), Satolli (1839-1909), Liberatore (1810-92), Barberis (1847-96), Schiffini (1841-1906), de Maria, Talamo, Lorenzelli, Ballerini, Matussi, Pesch, Hontheim, Cathrein, Gutberlet, Commer, Willmann, Kaufmann, Glossner, Grabmann, Schneid, Hugon, etc.


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