Thought on Fideism

It might perhaps be a fatal to fideism to notice that if one really believes that God cannot be known by reason, he can build a rather impressive and extensive natural theology from that principle. For example, if we were in earnest that God is “he who the human mind cannot know” we can immediately prove he is not a body, for we certainly know what a body is. We can also immediately prove that God is not in a genus, for genera are tools by which human beings come to know (we need to know in this way because our intellect comes to know from imperfect concepts). If we know God is not in a genus, we could prove that he is one, for if there were two of his nature there would be a genus. Similar considerations wold prove his total simplicity. Further, we could prove that we must speak about God analogously: for if we spoke of him univocally, he would be in a genus; and if we spoke of him equivocally, we would know nothing of him- but we know he is what the human mind cannot know, etc.    

In other words, one could reproduce most of what St. Thomas proves in his natural theology from a fidesitic principle. Fideism might make thomism even easier, since you wouldn’t have to bother proving God’s existence (in fideism, the existence of God is simply a given). Fideism is stuck with having to defend why it, along with natural theology, concludes to a being with identical attribuites as God- and even with the same name- but somehow is still speaking of a distinct being.  

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2 Comments

  1. Peter said,

    May 28, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    > It might perhaps be fatal to fideism to notice that if one really believes that God cannot be known by reason, he can build a rather impressive and extensive natural theology from that principle.

    It seems strange to me that someone would try to do so. Aren’t some of the ‘tools’ used for reasoning about God those used to prove His existence? Or do you really think all overlap can be avoided; that they really are two sets of tools?

    I don’t know why, but this reminds me of Aristotle arguing against “those who spoke non-naturally about nature.” Whenever I read the first book of the Physics, the same thought always comes to mind: who is going to buy arguments using distinctions between substance and accident when he won’t even admit the fact that stuff changes?!

  2. a thomist said,

    May 28, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t think that the content of fideism is opposed to natural theology. I further think that St. Thomas does more to show the unknowability of God than any fideist ever could. In St. Thomas, our reason confronts the unknowability of God face to face. Fidesim has no way of really purging the idols of our mind the way negative theology does.

    If Fideism is taken as “God cannot be known by reason, but only by revelation” then taking this claim seriously would lead more in the direction of Pseudo-Dionysius. For that matter, I think that taking this claim seriously would point more in the direction of St. Thomas, except the proofs for God’s existence would be at the end (note: if one really followed the procedure I suggest by starting with fideism, his theology would not be properly natural, although all the conclusions would be the same as natural theology. I thiink it could be properly natural if we concluded to a proof for God’s existence as the unknown to reason).

    As for Aristotle, his best argument in that part of the Physics is the claim that he doesn’t need to argue! This is te first argument against Parmenides, and all the other ones are just put in for us guys who can’t grasp the power of his first argument. If you doubt the existence of motion, the Physicist has nothing to say to you, and he doesn’t need to say anything to you. For that matter, the existence of motion is no less self evident to the physicist because it can really be doubted in dialectics! This rea distinction between sciences and dialctics is always being overlooked


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