Monday, November 15, 2010

The Feast of St. Albert the Great, patron of Science

But in the same book Gilson also had to voice a conviction of his which could serve as a prime guideline in his program of keeping alive Thomism by constantly immersing it in the latest development of science. "Science is revolutionary," Gilson quoted Claude Bernard, and then in the same breath he added: "I am profoundly convinced that philosophy is not." Such a conviction must imply the recognition of two important consequences. One has to recognize that no study of science, not even of its very latest developments, can have for its fruit revolutionary implications for the perennial philosophy. The latter can gather from such study only new illustrations, however startling, of very old truths. And since each age, or rather generation, has its own preferred variations of phraseology, those new illustrations should seem of utmost pedagogical value. This is to be still learned by many Thomists who often speak as if they were brought up in the waning of the Middle Ages.

While this can be expected to change for the better, realism forces one to recognize a rather dispiriting feature of human behavior: Human nature is itching for novelties. Gilson himself once dejectedly registered the unwillingness even of Thomists to hold on to this or that well-established truth, even historical truth. Consequently, somewhat illusory should seem Gilson's dream of what he called "a religious order of scientists." He had in mind a close collaboration among a handful of theologians well trained in the sciences.
Collaboration of this kind may be a pleasing subject for conversation, but it would be a most difficult thing to bring about. Even the collaboration between Aquinas and Albertus Magnus was not what Gilson had in mind. Yet they were geniuses, and saints for good measure. Still, as Gilson the teacher demonstrated, it is possible to produce like-minded pupils who, even if their influence suffers a temporary eclipse, will serve as guideposts for a post-eclipse generation searching for beacons better than the ones who presented the twilight of eclipse as the dawn of a new day.
[SLJ "Gilson and Science" in Patterns or Principles and other Essays]

Postscript: We must here note another great project for the Duhem Society to pursue: Gilson's dream of "a religious order of scientists". Far from being illusory, it is surely a topic for us to consider and ponder - and someday propose.


Geremia said...
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Geremia said...

You do know about the Albertus Magnus Guild (AMG) and River Forest Thomism, right? Something like the AMG needs resurrection.

I would like to learn more about Gilson, though. According to Fr. Benedict Ashley's article here on the River Forest Thomism, "the philosophy of Aquinas, as distinct from his theology, is best gathered not from the Summa theologiæ (supplemented by the Commentary on the Sentences and the Summa contra gentiles, etc.), as Gilson for example chose to do..."

Geremia said...

Also, for more articles in the vein of those to which I linked in my previous comment, click here.

Stratford Caldecott said...

Also, though it is not a 'religious order of scientists', there is a group run by Fr Spitzer that you should know about - find them at