Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Inspired Metaphysics"

From a review by Mark Wenzinger of Inspired Metaphysics? Gustav Siewerth's Hermaneutic Reading of the Onto-Theological Tradition by Andrzej Wiercinski.

Much of continental "post-modern" philosophy stands in great need of being disabused of its prejudiced notion that ancient and medieval philosophy is simply onto-theology that seeks only to valorize "presence" by suppressing absence and alterity, all in order to secure a foundation of mastery and control over the totality of the contexts in which human life is lived


.... Inspired Metaphysics serves as a valuable introduction not only to the thought of Siewerth in particular, but also to the hermeneutic manner of reading both the Thomistic and continental traditions in general. Not the least of the book's many merits is its exposition of the unfortunate manner in which Siewerth himself, seeking to distinguish Thomistic metaphysics from that which Heidgger took to be onto-theology, failed in hermeneutical charity by being content to demonize Scotistic metaphysics as the source of Western philosophy's alleged forgetfulness of Being. In like manner, as Wiercinski points out, much of contemporary Catholic theology likewise fails hermeneutically by uncritically accepting Heidegger's equation of metaphysics with onto-theology and an alleged valorization of "presence", a term that is in fact highly equivocal and that need not at all be understood as Heidegger himself understood it. Contemporary Catholic theology therefore needs to find its own way back to a hermeneutically sensitive appropriation of Scholastic thought, which would involve first, the effort to recognize Thomism and Scotism as mutually complementary, rather than mutually exclusive, manners of philosophical and theological thinking, and second, the effort to recognize the continuity as well as the discontinuity that obtains between the Scholastic and continental traditions.... The goal of Inspired Metaphysics is precisely to make philosopher and theologian alike better capable of engaging in the ongoing conversation that ought never to cease both within and between the Scholastic and continental traditions.


Not the least of Wiercinski's contributions to the facilitating of dialogue both between philosophy and theology and between the medieval and continental traditions is his recognition of the baneful effect of Siewerth's reductive and misleading critique of the ontology of Duns Scotus as thought that valorizes conceptually unitary "presence" at the expense of ontological difference and that therefore initiates Western philosophy's forgetfulness of Being. Wiercinski accomplishes for Scotus what Ferdinand Alquie accomplishes for Descartes: a "metaphysical rehabilitation" that shows that Scotus and Thomas can be related to one another in a complementary rather than in a reductively oppositional and antagonistic manner. Wiercinski indicates the possibilities for the renewal of ontology in a post-Heideggerian age that could arise starting with a dialogical reading of the Thomistic and Scotistic metaphysical traditions.

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