Sunday, December 2, 2007

Heidegger and Scholasticism

I've been leafing through a book for my historiography paper, and came across the following quotes. It's from McGrath, The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy. The author is basically a thomist with Heideggarian sympathies. His section on Scotus is horribly inaccurate, but then, in post-modernism, accuracy isn't valued. I'll post on that another time. This is fairly self-explanatory.

"Heidegger's twenty-year polemic with Scholasticism can be summed up in the following three theses: (1) Scholasticism makes certainty (apodictic judgment/scientia) the proper mode of access to beings. This epistemological relation is theologically established in the Scholastic interpretation of divine creation as an act of judgment; (2) Scholasticism sets up world as product and delivers to modernity the conceptual paradigm it needs to get technology off the ground. That each of these accusations applies to most forms of philosophical theism should not be overlooked. Heidgger's polemic with Scholasticism is rooted in a more basic opposition to the notion of divine creation."

4 comments:

Michael said...

It may be true that Scholasticism "delivers to conceptual paradigm it needs to get technology off the ground", since it was Scholasticism rather than Greek philosophy or spontaneous modern ingenuity which gave birth to modern science, despite what the moderns themselves thought they were doing. But the notion of the "world as product", as being an artifact, while being distinctively medieval, is also very consonant with the Old Testament, e.g. in Job or the Psalms. Doesn't this suggest that scholasticism in fact preserves a biblical world-view, at least here, and that Heiddegger's objections are not so much, or fundamentally, philosophical as religious?

Lee Faber said...

Or would Heidegger accept the use of "technology" within the limits of natural law, which the scholastics would probably demand, were they alive to the fruits of their labor. As far as I know, he was pretty much on board with the nazis and their various genetic plans...so who really is the bad guy here?

Wade McKenzie said...

"Doesn't this suggest that scholasticism in fact preserves a biblical world-view, at least here, and that Heidegger’s objections are not so much, or fundamentally, philosophical as religious?"

Divine creation is prospectively a philosophic doctrine, as well as a religious one. "Heidegger's polemic with Scholasticism is rooted in a more basic opposition to the notion of divine creation."

"... he was pretty much on board with the Nazis and their various genetic plans...so who really is the bad guy here?"

Heidegger certainly did join the Nazi party in 1933, which isn't exactly the same thing as being "on board, etc." You'd be extremely hard pressed to find quotes from Heidegger's writings that would support your contention above. The problem that scholars have with Heidegger in this regard is almost entirely extra-textual, i.e. it derives from the simple fact that he did indeed join the Nazi party.

On the other hand...

Now I must admit that I don't know very much about scholasticism (or Heidegger either). I do however own a book on Thomas' political philosophy where the editor is at pains to caution the reader about the many awful things (vis a vis modern liberalism vs. medieval illiberalism) that the reader is liable to come across when reading Thomas' political philosophical texts.

If I'm not mistaken, commentators tend to explain this sort of thing away using a kind of historicist argument--i.e. the medievals were beholden to the prejudices of their time.

Wade McKenzie said...

Upon reviewing my comment above, I fear it may have been a bit too tepid for my point to become clear.

When we think of the Nazi party in 2014, we invariably have the Holocaust in view. But the Holocaust wasn't in view in 1933, in spite of the explicitly illiberal character of the Nazis. The Nazi party in 1933 was a much bigger tent than simply a seedbed for the Holocaust, and that's just a fact. If one didn't know that Heidegger joined the party in 1933 and simply had his writings to go by, it would be difficult perhaps to charge him with illiberalism, let alone exterminationism.

On the other hand...

When one reads the political philosophical writings of Thomas, one better have a strong stomach if one is beholden to the precepts of contemporary political liberalism (or so I'm told). One can't help but wonder if medieval scholasticism generally isn't implicated in these views which are held in opprobrium today.