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Re: MI, RP's, and the Problem of Scholastic Scientia
by francesco ranci
19 June 2002 09:14 UTC
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Dear Luke Rondinaro, any "theological-scientifical"
mix is like a glass of oil and water: they don't go

Best wishes,
Francesco Ranci

--- Luke Rondinaro <larondin@yahoo.com> wrote:
>  Dear WSN.
> Before I break off the listserv discussion on
> Misleading Indicators, the “Mirror” metaphor, and
> “Real Principles” (and continue the conversation via
> private email between myself and Ranci) I wanted to
> say that anyone who’s interested in reading the
> ongoing discussion between us on this topic is
> welcome to get in touch with me at
> larondin@yahoo.com and as the discussion continues
> I’ll make sure to CC you.  Otherwise, I’ll end it on
> the WSNforum at this point.  In the meantime, please
> do consider the following caveat/question piece I
> wrote up on the issue of Scholastic
> scientia/philosophy in scholarship.  If you would,
> please respond by private email to me and not WSN
> unless you believe its a worthwhile point for
> everyone to read.  Thanks.
> **********
> In my continuation pieces regarding the Misleading
> Indicators, the “Mirror” metaphor and “Real
> Principles” I went into a short explanation of the
> matter I was discussing (i.e., the parsing of
> Shostak’s particular sentence that was cited and the
> conceptual basis of it) and I talked about it in
> terms of Thomistic-Scholastic Epistemology and
> Ontology [Metaphysics], the study of Being as Being.
> But, just so we’re clear, I want to make absolutely
> sure I make this point.  Even though I like the
> character and the methodology of Scholasticism a
> great deal, and even though I think its theoretic
> potential and technical, precision terminology is
> wonderful, it’s not a perfect conceptual system and
> it’s certainly not without its problems.
> The first obvious problem is Legalism.  Now whether
> the problem came out of the decline of Scholasticism
> from its original Aristotelian-(Thomistic-Scotistic)
> conception or whether the problem was there from the
> very beginning, its roots in this factor or that
> factor aren’t my concern.  What is my concern is
> that, whether I like it or not, all subsequent
> Scholastic thought was shaped – and indeed – sullied
> by the problem of Legalism.  
> Yet, even so, this “legalism” of sorts seemed to
> have served a purpose.  In a way that neither
> Platonic idealism - or other systems of thought
> before and after the late Medieval period – could,
> Scholasticism was able to (in a reasoned philosophic
> system) achieve a level of systematization and focus
> on fine circumstantial details that (was/is), at its
> highest aspired heights that could ever be the true
> counterpart of empirical science.  Despite its
> downfall as a refined system of thought, and despite
> its many pitfalls as a field of intellectual
> inquiry, Scholasticism is one of the few systems
> which can get at both at the sharp linguistic base
> of ideas that are tied into factual content (with
> all the shades of meaning and nuance and symbolism
> implied therein) and the actual level of analytical
> focus involve in [empirical/logical] inquiry.  [To
> your own knowledge, can you think of any other
> system of thought that can make a similar claim to
> fame or an even better one?  I’d be interested in
> hearing about such if there is . . . As far as I
> know Scholasticism still carries of air of
> distinction to itself because of these
> aforementioned qualities]
> In any event, all this is important to me because it
> challenges the conventional wisdom about knowledge,
> ideas, and communicational systems.  If the standard
> of written English of the New York Times is the
> ideal we should be striving for in our scholarship,
> then why does it seem like Aquinas’s writing and
> that of the other Scholastics is able to
> conceptually say so much more about its content and
> through its subject matter than today’s writing can?
>  Today’s popular writing is supposedly simpler and
> clearer and so much better than the writing of the
> Scholastics; why then in spite of its “airy”
> philosophy (understand at its essentials as a
> personal, subjective belief system) could the
> writing of Aquinas and his contemporaries get its
> main points across so much better (without
> misinterpretation) than the envisioned ideal of
> today’s written work as embodies in the New York
> Times or Newsweek?   Shouldn’t today’s ideal of good
> written work conceptually trump the writing of the
> Scholastics (and other philosophic systems of the
> Past & around the world – Greco Roman Classics,
> Christian Patristics, Renaissance Humanists, etc.)?
> … 
> I recognize that Thomistic-Scholastic thought has
> its many problems – and many of you on this list
> could precisely detail these problems for me, but
> how would you answer my objections?  [concerning the
> writing of then and the writing of now, the
> conceptual basis of both and the talent of writers
> in the past for getting their meaning across and
> then some in terms of shading latent meanings in
> what they said, the difference between then & now
> regarding the meaning of philosophy – (scientia &
> scientific reasoning) versus the modern definition
> of philosophy given above, and the (conceptual,
> idea-logical power of today’s writing - via Ockham’s
> Razor - to give simpler sentences & paragraphs
> without altering the meaning of a text) versus the
> more complex writings of the past which seem to
> conceptually trump today’s more simplified textual
> material . . . ]
> *******
> Here’s the oddity, however; despite all of this, I
> do see (in systematic social science and especially
> in World (-)Systems theory and modern world
> historical studies) a continuation of a rigorous
> integrative, analytical tradition as such was
> developed under Greco-Roman thought and perfected
> via the Scholastics.  And, as such is the case ,
> there is it seems this connecting thread between the
> Sciences, the Social Sciences, and systematic
> Scholastic Philosophy.  But it should stand to
> reason that there wouldn’t be.  Shouldn’t it? …
> After all, Science is empirical and Scholasticism is
> legal-philosophic-theoretic.  How then can there be
> a connection? …  And if that were not enough, Social
> Science in general and World(-)Systems Analysis and
> World History in particular, have a concrete set of
> facts and (even) a practical level of content and
> issues in their analytical toolkits that
> properly-speaking (at least according to modern
> standards of what philosophical study consists of)
> Scholasticism shouldn’t have.  So why does it seem,
> then, that upon a close textual analysis of
> Scholastic works that the field does have such
> characteristics held in common with modern
> systematic social science?  … It does not make
> sense, but the textual evidence in Aquinas’s “Summa
> Theologiae”, to give a more particular example,
> seems to suggest both a specified practicality to
> the work (content-wise and issue wise) as well as a
> level of factually-oriented depth.  How can this be,
> and furthermore (if it “is), then what does this
> connection between Scholasticism, Science, and
> Social Science actually consist of?  
> I personally see World-Systems Theory and Modern
> World Historical Studies as carrying on in a great
> intellectual tradition that Scholastic philosophy
> aspired to as well from its beginning onward (i.e.,
> the idea of maintaining that all-important balance
> between macro-level, system-wide, systematic
> analysis and more detail-oriented, content-based
> studies in one’s overall methodology).  But is that
> scholarly tradition itself older than Scholastic
> philosophy, and if so, where do the roots of such a
> tradition lie?  With the Classical tradition in
> Greece and Rome or someplace else at an earlier
> period of Intellectual History?
> And, supposing legalism is the key here to my
> questions about Scholasticism versus Science, how
> would the legal-philosophic tradition of Scholastic
> study compare with and differ from the character,
> philosophy, and written presentation of the legal
> profession, itself, today?  How much of a difference
> would there be in establishment and laying out of a
> fact or facts (pick any sociological or economic
> fact you can think of, and use that as an example
> for the point I’m trying to get at here in this
> discussion) be between a legal analysis and
> presentation of such factual content and an
> empirical, scientific or social scientific
> exposition of that same content?  … [Would Shostak’s
> “Misleading Indicators” article itself be an example
> of this kind of legalized, (socio)economic approach
> to factual content?; What do you think?]  
> From a world systems perspective, how would any of
> you on this list answer these questions of mine? … 
> I look forward to your responses on this matter.  
> All the best!
> Luke Rondinaro
> p.s., it seems to me that a proper way to understand
> and analyze matters of this sort requires we combine
> the techniques and methods of a literary approach,
> linguistic analyses, as well as the more
> standardized social-scientific and technical
> epistemologies of scholastic-styled, scientiaefic
> reasoning from late Medieval to 19th century
> philosophies.  Toward that end, my own ideal has
> been to try and combine what I can learn from the
> best 
=== message truncated ===

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