Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Well-Known Latin Distich

Bernardus valles, montes Benedictus amabat,
oppida Franciscus, celebres Dominicus urbes

Quoted in Francesc Eiximenis: An Anthology, p.8


Michael said...

I guess I ought to be a Benedictine. . .

Or a Carthusian. Bruno loves the mountains too, only he loves the ones that are further off.

Cantor said...

Lee Faber,

Advanced apology on my interrupting the subject of your post here, but I was wondering if you'll ever get back to continuing your interesting series on Descartes.

Incidentally, I found this post by Edward Fesser that seems relevant to your previous endeavour in that regard:


The Newspeak of the moderns
by Edward Feser

In 1642, the Senate of the University of Utrecht issued a condemnation of the new Cartesian philosophy, which was intended by Descartes to replace the Aristotelianism of the Scholastics. Among the charges made against the new philosophy was that:

it turns away the young from this sound and traditional philosophy, and prevents them reaching the heights of erudition; for once they have begun to rely on the new philosophy and its supposed solutions, they are unable to understand the technical terms which are commonly used in the books of the traditional authors and in the lectures and debates of their professors. (Quoted in John Cottingham, Descartes, p. 4)

Whatever one thinks of Descartes (who was a very great genius, albeit a catastrophically mistaken one, in my view) this charge is spot on, and it applies to the moderns in general. Their re-definitions of various key philosophical terms, along with their sometimes ridiculous caricatures of the Aristotelian and Scholastic ideas they were attacking, have (however inadvertently) made it nearly impossible for modern readers correctly to grasp the arguments of medieval writers. This is no less true of educated people, and indeed even of professional philosophers (unless they have some expertise in ancient or medieval philosophy), than it is of students and general readers. Whether it is your average New Atheist hack or your average local philosophy professor teaching Aquinas’s Five Ways or natural law theory in a Philosophy 101 class, you can be certain in the first case, and nearly certain in the second, that he does not even understand the ideas he is presenting and criticizing. Key philosophical terms like “cause,” “nature,” “essence,” “substance,” “property,” “form,” “matter,” “necessary,” “contingent,” “good,” etc. simply have very different meanings in the works of Scholastic writers than they do to contemporary ears. Since they do not grasp these meanings, modern readers systematically misinterpret the Scholastic arguments in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and ethics that make use of them.


I was wondering if you had any comments of your own based on your particular experience & expertise on the matter as well as your having read Descartes and the Last Scholastics.



Lee Faber said...

I got distracted from the book, which is why the posts stopped. Unfortunately, I have never read any of the so-called 'last scholastics' and so can't speak to their faithfulness to the earlier tradition or any originality. Descartes himself seems to have carried aquinas' summa contra gentiles around for a while, but most of his knowledge came from his eduation at la fleche (20 years before he was writing), and from a few manuals he had his friends send him. By and large I would agree with your comments; one need only look at the issue of divine simplicity to see how useless modern theories of the proposition are in dealing with the issue. they all assume a barer, balder notion of univocity even than that advanced by Scotus. So no wonder they think it's incoherent and feel secure in their atheism or (dare I say it) eastern orthodox apophaticism