Friday, June 3, 2011

Leibniz on the History of the Faith-Reason Problem

From his Theodicy, preliminary discourse, p. 76-77 (Newhaven 1952):

The question of the conformity of faith with reason has always been a great problem. In the primitive Church the ablest Christian authors adapted themselves to the ideas of the Platonists, which were the most acceptable to them, and were at that time most generally in favor. Little by little Aristotle took the place of Plato, when the taste for systems began to prevail, and when theology itself became more systematic, owing to the decisions of the General Councils, which provided precise and positive formularies. St. Augustine, Boethius and Cassiodorus in the West, and St. John of Damascus in the East contributed most towards reducing theology to scientific form, not to mention Bede, Alcuin, St. Anselm and some other theologians versed in philosophy. Finally came the Schoolmen. The leisure of the cloisters giving full scope for speculation, which was assisted by Aristotle's philosophy translated from the Arabic, there was formed at last a compound of theology and philosophy wherein most of the questions arose from the trouble that was taken to reconcile faith with reason. But this had not met with the full success hoped for, because theology had been much corrupted by the unhappiness of the times, by ignorance and obstinacy. Moreover, philosophy, in addition to its own faults, which were very great, found itself burdened with those of theology, which in its turn was suffering from association with a philosophy that was very obscure and very imperfect. One must confess, notwithstanding, with the incomparable Grotius, that there is sometimes gold hidden under the rubbish of the monks' barbarous Latin. I have therefore oft times wished that a man of talent, whose office had necessitated his learning the language of the Schoolmen, had chosen to extract thence whatever is of worth, and that another Petau or Thomasius had done in respect of the Schoolmen what these two learned men had done in respect of the Fathers. It would be a very curious work, and very important for ecclesiastical history, and it would continue the History of Dogmas up to the time of the Revival of Letters (owing to which the aspect of things has changed) and even beyond that point. For sundry dogmas, such as those of physical predetermination, of mediate knowledge, philosophical sin, objective precisions, and many other dogmas in speculative theology and even in the practical theology of cases of conscience, came into currency even after the Council of Trent.

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