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Re: MI, RP's, and the Problem of Scholastic Scientia
by Luke Rondinaro
25 June 2002 20:24 UTC
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 I certainly agree on some of what you’re saying.  But not on all.  Strange thing is, the Aristotle revival may have been a starting point, (but though Aristotelianism may have started the ball rolling and was a preliminary condition for later developments), even Aristotelianism itself couldn’t have been the ongoing, contemporaneous efficient causal dynamic which brought about the full Classical intellectual revival of the Renaissance and then the rise of Science as Science (as opposed to Scientia and scientiaefic reasoning).  What concerns me here ultimately on this topic is not Aristotelianism or even Scholasticism per se, but (indeed) the dynamic which seems to have ‘arose out of it’ [at least in part] and that eventually gave rise to the Renaissance and then the Scientific Revolution.

And, here’s the funny thing about Scholasticism.  The intellectual work of Aristotle may constitute a remote (not proximate) “condition” for this Classical intellectual rebirth (even regarding the birth and development of rationalist Scholastic thought) but even so it couldn’t even constitute the characteristic entirety of this particular movement either. The strain of Scholasticism that dev’p’d under Duns Scotus may have taken the rationalism of Aristotle as a starting point; but it typified its own scholarship not through Aristotle but Plato.  So its ideas & methods were thoroughly Neoplatonist, but its point of departure was Aristotelian rationalist (which was then dressed-over with a rationalist-scholastic-and thoroughly Neoplatonic gloss).  {At least that’s what I had learned through my own schooling on the matter. Also, depending on the kind of source you go to, I’ve also heard this one -> Ockham and his school were also born out of the Scholastic movement and that it is through Ockham in fact that we can note a connecting thread with the later development of Science as Science ... }  I’m not sure if I’d agree really with either of these assessments; first, what’s the difference, therefore, between Original Neoplatonism and Scholastic Neoplatonism?  That’s never been clarified to my mind very well by the Scotistic Scholastic scholarship. And, after that, what really is the immediate connection between the work of Ockham and the intellectual work of his Scholastic contempories?  That, too, has never been answered to my satisfaction.

I half expect the proximate, ongoing (& efficient) cause of the Renaissance and Science-as-Science (itself a dynamic process) arose out of World Systematic developments [i.e., in terms of WST without the hyphen].  Perhaps such developments had their roots in the Asian based, Chinese-based world economy of the Medieval Era, and the communicative-intellectual-‘cultural’ trigger of such a world systemic process (itself an economic phenomenon) was the paper trade, starting from late Antiquity to late Medieval times; and the growing sphere of that trade drifted from China to then encompass the rest of Asia, North Africa, and finally Europe.  That, at the very least, is what I surmise from the following source about the history of paper and the paper trade, which I’ve tried to interpret to the best of my ability in the light of WS analysis and communicative-intellectual theory.  (http://www.silk-road.com/toc/index.html )

In any case, onto the matter of “faith.”  While there’ve been many debates about ‘faith’ versus ‘reason’ (since well into even the Middle Ages) (and possibily before then ...) I would say they are not really opposite to each other as much as they are like two complementary sides of a coin, or better said like the shoes on a person’s feet.  They inquire into roughly the same mysterious reality we live in, but they go at it in two roughly different ways, two different angles if you will.  Yet, if there’s no “checking on that” in terms of faith and religion, then how possibly can Scripture advise New Testament Christians to “test the spirits?”  How – and why - should Jacob have metaphorically “wrestled” with an angel in the Old Testament, if to do so meant unquestioning, untesting, absolutely-unverifiable assent to whatever spiritual thing came in front of him?  If faith implies unquestioning assent and “not checking on that”, then where stands the preceding cases/examples/evidence from Judeo-Christian tradition that I just described for you?  If faith means “X” then why does this evidence I presented to you here seem to indicate “Y?”  It seems “testing the spirits” is given a awfully high priority in the Jewish and Christian “faith” traditions ... How can this be if “faith” means an unquestioning, unquestionable attitude towards spiritual matters? ... Also, in light of what you’re saying here in this latest reply, how do you interpret the classic operative definition of theology itself (as) being “faith” [which] “seek[s] understanding?” ... 

If “faith” and “reason” are opposite of one another, then how possibly could the theological, intellectual Hellenistic works of Tertulian and Origen even have held up as coherent works of both in-depth philosophical inquiry as well as good theology? By rights, it seems to me, works such as these shouldn’t be able to stand up in-and-of-themselves either logically, philosophically, theologically, or in a literary sense (because any synthesis between the faith enterprise and intellectual inquiry – reason – is untenable).  Yet, such works and many more are considered masterworks in both the Patristic theological scholarship and in philosophic scholarship? ... How could this be (in light of your points)? By rights, it seems such works should have fallen apart, fallen by the intellectual wayside, in a literary and historical way, and not stood the test of time ... But it seems they have ... How? (if the very syncretism at the heart of them was not a viable synthesis between Greco-Roman (Hellenistic) reason and Judeo-Christian faith)

And, what’s your perspective, incidentally, regarding the Carolingian Renaissance, and the manuscript copyists of European monasteries as centers of Classical learning and preservers of Hellenistic/Greco-Roman works? ...

[[ As per what I’ve been saying in this email, I would recommend taking a look at Deal Hudson’s editorial in the July/August issue of “Crisis” magazine; its paper edition is just now out in print.  It touches on some of what we’re discussing here; his point is a very good one.  To see it please check out the printed version or the online Website for “Crisis”: at (www.crisismagazine. com/). I should tell you though, their website has last issue’s material still on it, so it will probably still be a week or two more until they get the updated issue content. For more info. on the very interesting “Christianity from the Outside” Symposium, where they interviewed Christopher Hitchens among others on the topic of how non-Christian secular thinkers perceive of Christianity, please check the archived issues for June and May. ]]

All the best!

Luke R.

  francesco ranci <francescoranci@yahoo.com> wrote:

You are not totally convincing in saying that
Scholasticism, by way of chosing Aristotle against
Plato opened the way to the European Renaissance.
Galileo was a Platonist, for example, and so were many
others in Tuscany during the Renaissance. They were
actually neo-platonists, opposing scholasticism. At
any rate the crucial factor of the Renaissance was the
re-discovery of Ellenistic authors and works through
the Arabs (by Leonardo da Vinci and of course others).

"Fauth" and "Reason/Science" have been matter of great
debates. They are opposite to each other in that if I
believe something I am not going to check on that,
while if I want to be reasonable or rational, I'll do
the check. If I say: "I believe Mary loves me", as
opposed to "I know she loves me", I refuse to
positively check on that (or at least try, for example
by asking or observing her more carefully).

That's why I think tha any speculation about God is a
matter of faith, and not of science - or even reason.
Because in the end you can never be sure of anything
in that area.

Francesco Ranci

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