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Monday, November 9, 2009

Philosophy of Actus Essendi - One Universally Valid Philosophy Recommended by Fides et Ratio (V)

Entry 0095: The Philosophy of the Actus Essendi: The One Universally Valid Philosophy Recommended by Fides et Ratio (V)

John F. X. Knasas remarks:

I will consider briefly the 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio in which John Paul II asserts “The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others” (no. 49.)

It would be singularly tragic if Fides et Ratio is remembered as an assertion of philosophical pluralism.

Whatever the previously quoted line means, it does not mean that.

A wider reading shows John Paul II reiterating the Church’s commitment to the view that the human intellect can fashion “certain basic concepts [that] retain their universal epistemological value and thus retain the truth of the propositions in which they are expressed” (no. 96.)

Secondly, though John Paul reiterates the standard ecclesiastical recommendation of Aquinas as a model of how to synthesize faith and reason, the Pope is clear (no. 79) that he intends to go beyond this recommendation to something more substantial.

For the well-being of systematic and moral theology, the Pope recommends (no. 97) a metaphysics, a philosophy of being (philosophia essendi), that is based upon the act of being (quod actu ipso “essendi” sustentatur.)

If this sounds Thomistic, it does so because it is.

Affixed footnote 115 directs the reader to the Pope’s 1979 Angelicum address on the centenary of Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris. This address leaves no doubt that Fides et Ratio is referring to Aquinas’s central metaphysical notion of actus essendi.

The Pope says that through this actus essendi understanding of what is meant by the existence of a thing, Aquinas’s philosophy is so open to all of reality that the human intellect comes to know God (“The Angelicum Address,” no. 6.)

John Paul certainly appears to be presenting Aquinas’s metaphysics of actus essendi as an unsurpassable human achievement.

Everything else that is true will find a place within this metaphysics.

Nothing in the encyclical warrants saying that the Church teaches that no one true philosophy exists or that the Church has made the pluralist turn.

John F. X. Knasas, “Does the Catholic Church Teach That There Is No One True Philosophy?” in Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, vol. 77, 2003, pp 83-99.