Quoth Dame Stein

St. Edith Stein, born in 1891 in Breslau to a practicing Jewish family, she lost her faith in her teens. A brilliant student, she became only the 2nd female in Germany to get a PhD in philosophy writing her thesis on empathy under the phenomenologist Huserl. In 1921 however, after her experiences as volunteer nurse in WWI and a reading of the Life of St. Teresa of Avila she converted to Christianity. In 1933 she became a Carmalite nun until she was martyred in Auschwitz in 1942. She was canonized a Saint by Pope John Paul in the 1990s. Some quotes from the introduction of Finite and Eternal Being (from the gasp library). In this book, (or at least the introduction) it begins:

A preliminary exposition of the doctrine of act and potency of St. Thomas Aquinas is to serve as a an avenue of approach. [the remainder of the paragraph elided ]

The distinction between potency (possibility, faculty, power) and act (actuality, actualization, efficacy) is related to the ultimate problems of being. And the discussion of these concepts leads immediately into the heart of Thomistic philosophy.

On the the point of my quotes here:

Much more serious is the complete separation of modern philosophy from revealed truth. It [ed: philosophy] no longer sees in revealed truth a standard of measurement with which to test its own findings. Nor is it willing to have theology assign to it certain tasks for the solution of which philosophy would then have to use its own specific ways and means. It not only considers it a duty to confine itself to the natural light of reason but it is determined never to reach out beyond the world of natural experience. It wants to be an autonomous discipline in every respect. This ambition has cause modern philosophy to become to a large extent a godless discipline. And it has led, moreover, to the division of philosophy into two separate camps in which two different languages are spoken and in which no attempt is made to arrive at a mutual understanding.

While it is true that the physical sciences have good call to reject revelation as part of their discipline, philosophy has less call for its failure to address the same.

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7 comments

  1. Jim Anderson says:

    “…philosophy has less call for its failure to address the same.”

    Why? I could easily argue that the success of methodological naturalism have warranted philosophy’s move away from theology, and toward science. (The multiplicities of “revelations” is certainly problematic.)

  2. Mark says:

    Jim,
    Yes, and that seems like a mighty fine reason for philosophy to consider it. Revelation of varying types is a common yet not universal experience. It is something of a scandal for philosophy to play the hear no, see no act on this matter.

  3. Jim Anderson says:

    I was unclear. It’s problematic in the sense that philosophy can’t take the dictates of any one “revelation” without ignoring (offending?) another.

  4. Mark says:

    Jim,
    I think that statement is wrong on two counts. First philosophy can apply it’s particular technologies (ways of thinking and organizing knowledge) to tasks assigned by any particular revelation. Offense might only be taken if, for example, those who follow a particular school of revelation feel philosophy should not venture its opinion, multiplicity has in this matter only gives more not less for philosophy to consider. And second it can consider the philosophical import of the phenomena of revelation in general and how to consider it’s validity (or not) as far as a way of knowing. I haven’t read Huserl (or Stein) yet, but if philosophy considers phenomenology and emapathy it seems that it might very well consider revelation as a worthy topic of inquiry (and in fact perhaps it has or does, but I’m ignorant of that fact but it apparently did not in the first third of the 20th century).

    It’s unclear to me how the “multiplicities of revelation” impact on either of these two programs, at least insofar as considering them as tasks which philosophy should rightly undertake or not.

  5. Jim Anderson says:

    Back to Stein’s words: “…no longer sees in revealed truth a standard of measurement,; with which to test its own findings. Nor is it willing to have theology assign to it certain tasks for the solution of which philosophy would then have to use its own specific ways and means” [emphasis added].

    Again, the multiplicity of “revealed truths” creates a criterial difficulty: which “revealed truth” is the standard? If we are to judge, we judge using reason–philosophy–and set it above theology.

    Second, “assign to it certain tasks.” All well and good, but so could astrology, psychokinesis, or any other system of thought. Lacking historic success, philosophy drifts away.

  6. Jim Anderson says:

    Please, please, please import a preview feature!

  7. Mark says:

    Jim,
    On the preview, I’ll do it this Xmas break.

    psychokinesis = “a system of thought” ?!

    All I’m asking for mostly is healthy (if not strong) cross pollenization between Philosophy departments and theology departments in Academia, it’s my impression that there is little to none.