Note

The lines between theism and its many opposites tend to be drawn in such a way that the theists are tied either to the notion that God has quasi natural actions in the universe (a naive view of “tinkering with the world”) or of imputing an actuality in the world itself in the form of a determinate act in the thing itself giving rise to its teleological function. In all this, a Parmenidean Platonic/ Augustinian theism is overlooked, which takes it for granted that the universe is a flux, unknowable in itself (if “in itself” doesn’t deserve ultimately to be said of it) and knowable only by dialectical, positive, and (therefore) falsifiable methods; though it can also admit of a sapiential account that sees it in relation to an unchangeable world though this relation does not impart to it an intrinsic intelligibility or even existence. Of itself, the universe is nothing but a chaotic and changing weather of one thing blowing into another, but it is precisely in light of this that its whole “being” is a procession and arising from another, when judged from the sapiential point of view.

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3 Comments

  1. sancrucensis said,

    September 19, 2011 at 11:06 am

    Bl. Cardinal Newman seems to appeal to some such Parmenidian theism again and again when confronted with rationalistic objections. It has always been what I have found most worrisome in Newman’s apologetics. At least, I have always liked the “visible world is just the skirts of the garments of the angels” expression of it, but have always balked at things like “What do I know of substance or matter? just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is nothing at all” and especially the “denial of the existence of space except as a subjective idea of our minds”.

    • Jhf884 said,

      September 20, 2011 at 9:57 am

      You have studied Bl. Cardinal Newman more carefully than I, so I defer to your expertise here, but must Newman be read as offering an either/or approach? There needn’t, after all, of necessity be any contradiction between the five ways and a more dialectical proof of God that argued from probability.

      Such an alternate probabilistic approach is valuable, I think (and Thomists sometimes give short shrift to this) given that Thomism presupposes not only intelligence, but also careful habits of mind (some of which are acquirable typically only in youth), and additionally an amazingly broad base of knowledge in philosophy and science, such that even very intelligent men may often be unable to become true disciples of his.

      I’ve always read Newman (and to a lesser extent St. Augustine and St. Anslem) as being complimentary to the more rigorous, albeit more certain, Thomistic approach.

      • sancrucensis said,

        September 23, 2011 at 11:03 am

        Newman in fact says something like what you are saying, but it is hard to see what he meant by it. When you get him on epistemology or ethics or logic he is quite Aristotelian, but when you get him on “nature” or “natural science” or “metaphyics” you get a kind of Platonism. I should write something on this.


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