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Charles Coulombe wrote something some time ago that I deeply wish every Catholic would read. It's in my mind because on Thursday, I had the great happiness of meeting one of "my priests" -- one of the relatively large number of men who've gone to seminary, are in seminary, are planning on entering the seminary, etc., because of how the Holy Ghost used FishEaters to inspire them. This "priestling," as I call "my priests" who haven't been ordained yet (LOL), is very much a natural philosopher type, and we got to talking about Plato vs. Aristotle. This page by Coulombe explains very well why siding with Plato was the way of the early Church Fathers, and how so many theologians re-aligning themselves with Aristotle via Thomism has caused harm.

I hope everyone will read this and spread it around!  It's hosted at Tumblar House. Mr. Coulombe's author page is here:  http://www.tumblarhouse.com/authors/char...ulombe.php,  and the page I most hope you all read, his Ultra-Realism FAQ, is here:  http://www.tumblarhouse.com/ultra-realism.php

Ultra-Realism, the Platonic view of things, was "the Church philosophy" for over a thousand years. It's how our Fathers thought, and it's what fueled the medieval imagination, making for a view of the world that's suffused with "magic" (as it were) and the sacred. I truly believe that the human element of the Church must re-embrace her Platonic past and be finished with the materialist, Aristotelian approach to understanding the world.

If you read it, tell me what you think!  (I think Former Buddhist will especially like this page!)

BTW, if the "priestling" I refer to above is reading this, know that meeting you was a true joy and a LOTTA fun! I pray that's not the last time I get to meet you!
 
I read his views on the matter in his book, Desire and Deception. It was pursuasive until I realized he was using it to defend Feeneyism, which denies the dogma of baptism of desire. The Council of Trent firmly establishes this as de fide, and I won't go against that council for Charles Coulombe.
(06-13-2016, 05:14 AM)charlesh Wrote: [ -> ]I read his views on the matter in his book, Desire and Deception. It was pursuasive until I realized he was using it to defend Feeneyism, which denies the dogma of baptism of desire. The Council of Trent firmly establishes this as de fide, and I won't go against that council for Charles Coulombe.

You don't have to disbelieve in Baptism of Desire in order to agree with Ultra-Realism. Not at all. I accept Baptism of Desire -- but also consider myself an Ultra-Realist. What you're doing is saying that someone's valid and sound argument for X is wrong if he then goes on to say, incorrectly, that Because X, then Y.  X is either so or not so, no matter whether Y is so or not so, ya know?

I'm definitely on his side regarding Plato. He's right, many of the Father's were more Platonic than Aristotelian.
If I am not mistaken, It is Scholasticism that is supposed to be the system of theology in the Church. To be Thomistic or Neo-Platonic is up to the whim of the individual.


For me, I consider myself as Ultra-Realistic in some matters, while Moderate-Realistic in others.


I just could not for the life of me abandon some principles of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
(06-13-2016, 09:53 AM)Neopelagianus Wrote: [ -> ]If I am not mistaken, It is Scholasticism that is supposed to be the system of theology in the Church. To be Thomistic or Neo-Platonic is up to the whim of the individual.

Coulombe's article includes this:

Charles Coulombes Ultra-Realism FAQ Wrote:7. But isn't Thomism the official philosophy of the Catholic Church?

Er, no. It does have a special status of sorts, thanks to Leo XIII's endorsement of it in his encyclical Aeterni Patris. But that same encyclical gave equal status (though it did not treat it in any detail) to the work of St. Bonaventure.

It is important to remember that, prior to St. Thomas, there were twelve centuries of Church life without Thomism. The Church’s doctrinal definitions, her liturgies, all her official acts up to that point were originated without Thomist or Aristotelian influence. When such influence arose in the 13th century, its adherents were called "Moderns," as opposed to the Ultra-realist "Ancients." Several of St. Thomas’ philosophical teachings were condemned in the 1270s by the Archbishops of Paris and Canterbury, and by the Universities of Paris and Oxford. Although the condemnations were lifted after St. Thomas’ canonisation in 1313, the Franciscans and Augustinians did not accept Thomism, preferring in the case of the former St. Bonaventure and Bl. Duns Scotus, and in that of the latter amplifications of St. Augustine. In any case, the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary --- rejected by St. Thomas --- shows that Thomism cannot be considered the sole authentic Catholic philosophy.

Of course, a lot of snide commentary by Thomist writer in the philosophical textbooks of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s led to the use of such phrases as "Exaggerated Realism" for Ultra-Realism. A friend of mine, Stephen Frankini, was so annoyed by this that he took to calling Moderate Realism "Inadequate Realism." In any case, the very existence of such books gave Thomism an "official" feel to it not at all justified in reality. 

For me, there are many, many reasons to prefer the Platonic approach to things, but one of the most important is this, from Coulombe:

Charles Coulombes Ultra-Realism FAQ Wrote: c. Divine Illumination

Here we see the Christian acceptance that beyond a certain point, reason cannot go. Man can, by virtue of his reason, figure out that there is a Creator, that He ought to be worshipped, etc. But anything more complex requires direct illumination from God; indeed, without such illumination we can be sure of nothing of importance. Aristotle and St. Thomas denied this, holding that human reason unaided can go quite far, indeed.

While the Faith needs apologists and needs to be defended, and while it can be defended by reason, the natural sciences, the social sciences, psychology, etc., I think it's absolutely true that it's grace, not intellectual achievement, that is the source of faith in the Holy Religion. And believing this is also helpful when dealing with those who are not -- or at least not yet -- Catholic. Belief in the divinity of Christ, the miracles He performed, the Resurrection, His conception by the Holy Ghost -- I don't think these things can be "known by" reason (though they're obviously not "unreasonable" and can be defended by reason). When dealing with bad-willed atheists, it's less frustrating to just give reasons for your belief and finish off with a, "Well, you haven't been illuminated, so of course you wouldn't understand" rather than bang your head against their walls. Plus, it sounds a lot more intriguing -- "What? Really? But - but I want to be 'illuminated,' too! How do I get 'illuminated'?!" -- and leads to their possibly actually praying rather than relying on their own malformed intellects.


I've only read the first few questions, so these are initial comments and thoughts.

He's certainly a clear writer. But there are so many caricatures of both Platonism generally conceived and Aristotelianism here that one really doesn't know where to begin. He does an amazing job at setting up Aristotle as some kind of materialist villain though who, like a Sith lord, has turned against his master. The scoundrel!

To take just one example, his discussion of universals at the beginning is so simplified (and perhaps it must be for a basic FAQ page) that it doesn't do justice to the complexity of the medieval debates on this topic. There was a whole spectrum of realism, different forms of "ultra-realism" and "moderate realism" etc. There were reductionistic and non-reductionistic realisms. There were anti-realisms, both moderate and radical, also reductionistic and non-reductionistic. And even within these camps of reductionism vs. non-reductionism, there were divisions. Here is a very simplified breakdown of the major points of discussion from the point of view of the accident of relation:

Some basic propositions which most medievals either accepted or rejected:

(1) Relations are that in virtue of which things are related.
(2) That in virtue of which things are related are properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects.
(3) There are no properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects in extramental reality.
(4) Things are related independently of any activity of the mind.

Here's how some of the above propositions may have been combined to form broad viewpoints:

Moderate Realism

(1) Relations are that in virtue of which things are related.
(3) There are no properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects in extramental reality.
(4) Things are related independently of any activity of the mind.

Radical (Ultra) Realism
(1) Relations are that in virtue of which things are related.
(2) That in virtue of which things are related are properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects.
(4) Things are related independently of any activity of the mind.

Radical Anti-Realism
(1) Relations are that in virtue of which things are related.
(2) That in virtue of which things are related are properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects.
(3) There are no properties or accidents shared by multiple subjects in extramental reality.

You can see that the acceptance or rejection of single premises can lead to wildly different conclusions.

Further points of discussion:

1) Relations correspond to relative terms, that is, terms that refer to properties as if these properties were shared by multiple subjects.
2) Relations are that which relate things.
3) Relations exist independent of the mind.
4) Relations are irreducible to non-relational accidents.
5) Relations are accidents that can be shared by multiple subjects.

Aquinas even puts forth deductive arguments against Platonic realism, showing that there are seemingly insurmountable contradictions that arise if one takes ultra/radical/extreme/hard realism seriously.

Coulombe's summary of ultra-realism's take on Original Sin ala Odo of Tournai is just as readily acceptable to moderate realists like Garrigou-Lagrange:

"The human race is of one specific substance. At first, this substance was found in only two persons. They sinned, and being the whole human substance, this entire substance was vitiated by their sin. Hence Original Sin is transmitted by natural necessity to all human individuals. New births are not productions of new substances, but are merely new properties of the already existing human substance. Individual men differ only accidentally."

I can't find the Copleston quotation, and since there is no context for it, why should we ascribe it to the issue of Original Sin and realisms?

These sorts of discussions that pit Plato vs. Aristotle, Aquinas vs. Augustine/Bonaventure, I find to be very misleading. They firstly require vast simplifications of very sophisticated viewpoints and complex history. They secondly imply a notion that the Church made huge mistakes in the medieval era, accretions of materialism, that threatened the foundations of her culture. This is a huge point that requires a lot of backing up. Can it be argued? What are the parameters of proof?

It evokes a similar argument from the liturgical reformers who suggested that medieval changes to the liturgy were corruptions of the earlier tradition. Why not see Aquinas and the Thomistic line of Scholasticism as an organic development of a philosophical tradition that runs back to the beginning? It has been argued both ways, and to suggest differently requires the burden of proof, a huge burden at that.

Anyway, just some points. It's a huge FAQ page that I'm slowly getting through...
Unfortunately, the author demonstrates either a very poor understanding of Aristotelianism classically (and in contemporary circles) conceived and/or a poor understanding of the problem of universals and its relation to the difference between Neoplatonism and Realism.

There is not a strict divide between Neoplatonism/Ultra-realism and Aristotelianism/Moderate realism. Hardly at all. It should be repeated: there is not a strict divide, hardly at all. To call the pre-Scholastic Neoplatonic philosophers ultra-realists is to make a sweeping claim because it hasn't even been specified *what* kind of ultra-realism we're talking about, nor what kind of Neoplatonism for that matter.

How convenient it is that all the stellar Saints of our tradition are not only Neoplatonists but also ultra-realists. What a coincidence! Even St. Thomas apparently! Or as I said, this is a gross anachronism that requires extensive proof.

I'm not saying that one needs to know these issues inside and out to have a valid opinion on the issue, but one should at least admit from the outset that the discussion is far more nuanced than popular discussion would have you believe.

Calling Aristotelianism materialistic is misleading at best.

The discussion about the will or intellect preceding the other is very off...

Saying that for Aristotelianism, universals are derived from the "sum total of their physical manifestations" is close to unintelligible.

To say that Aeterni Patris places St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure on equal footing is also misleading to say the least.

The Paris Condemnations as well as Bl. Duns Scotus's defense of the Immaculate Conception are red herrings. Scotus made a number of erroneous claims in this regard also, but these are usually omitted from the discussions.

His summary of various points of dispute in question 10 further demonstrate a caricature of the issues discussed. The last detail about angels misses the point of its discussion in metaphysical tracts altogether.

Each question is not so much a refutation of Aristotelianism as much as it is a simple dismissal of it based on straw men. If that's what Aristotelian-Thomism really was, who in their right mind would hold to it? Alas, it is not so obviously false.

I wouldn't at all share this page with others because of its gross errors and simplifications, or rather, if I were to share it, it would be as a textbook example in many fallacies but with good rhetorical writing to cleverly hide those fallacies!
Vox,

There are loads of 'intro to Aquinas' books out there - I have one myself, from Professor Edward Feser.

Are there 'intro to Christian Neo-Platonism' type books, or 'intro to St Bonaventure' books that you know of?
This is sad. A writer and critic with a degree merely in political science equates to a philosopher? Really?

What earnest Catholic is going to sit at the feet of Charles Coulombe to interpret and teach them philosophy, especially Aristotle and St. Thomas?





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