Part 2 provides Miss Paula Haigh's arguments related to Fr. Jaki's revisionism, which knowingly or unknowingly, has been resurrected by the SSPX, Australia's theology department.The recent publication by the SSPX of the book The Realist Guide to Religion and Science, authored by SSPX priest Fr. Paul Robinson, has engendered a reaction across the broad spectrum of Tradition. Creationists have expressed deep concerns about the modernist and scientist leanings of the author, whilst other traditionalists have commented on the very concerning problems with the Foreword of the book.
Prof. Fr. Paul Robinson's science
"walkabout" from SSPX, AustraliaSetting aside the gaping problem presented by SSPX-novus ordo collusion, now grown long in the tooth, we sharpen our focus in order to examine the even more grievous substantive problem. Who is Fr. Stanley Jaki? and why would an SSPX seminary professor take such an avid interest in resurrecting his memory and his work?Thankfully the eminent Catholic writer, Miss Paula Haigh (RIP), in her seminal works on the subject of evolution, devoted a series of articles to exposing Fr. Jaki, who, as she termed it, was a sophist, a revisionist, a surrealist, and an evolutionist.If, then, Fr. Jaki is being raised from the dead, in order to spread his poison throughout the SSPX, why not raise Paula Haigh from the dead, in order that Jaki may be once again exposed - in order that this next generation of traditionalists, entirely deprived of solid formation and primed to embrace all novelties, may have the other side? The four articles by Miss Haigh will be posted on this forum, beginning with "Jaki-Sophist." They will be followed by "Jaki-Revisionist," "Jaki-Evolutionist," and finally "Jaki-Surrealist."
FATHER STANLEY L. JAKI: REVISIONISTPaula Haigh
Webster's New Collegiate (l975) defines revisionism as: 1) advocacy of revision [as of a doctrine or policy or in historical analysis] 2) a movement in revolutionary Marxian socialism favoring an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary spirit.
Fr. Jaki's history and philosophy of science are revisionist in the sense that he advocates revision of "historical analysis" in science and favors "an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary spirit" in the progress of science.
In his Catholic Essays(1) Chapter I is entitled "Science for Catholics" and contains some subsections that deal with the history of science.
We will examine these one by one.
In "The stillbirths of science" Fr. Jaki speaks of considerations that relate to the "surprising youth of science, that is, to its relatively late rise in history about four hundred years ago." This is the first and foundational revision of Fr. Jaki's over-all revisionism, for by it he cancels out, consigns to oblivion, every intellectual discipline rightly termed physical science by every historian since Aristotle (38l-322 B.C.) outlined the positions of his predecessors in his book, Physics. Michael Denton says that "Aristotle's opposition to the evolutionism of the pre-Socratics was based on his acute observation of nature and his appreciation of the facts of biology."(2) And other competent authorities could be quoted to this same effect, as for example, Goudge.(3) And so it is clear that Fr. Jaki is very much mistaken in placing the origin of physical science in the 17th century of our era.
The trouble is that Fr. Jaki never defines for his readers precisely what he means by science. One gathers, after submitting one's mind to the bedazzlement of his sophistries in book after book of his, that what he probably means by science or what he seems to mean by science, is technology, and begins around the 14th century A.D., with William of Ockham, who radically undermined the entire notion of causality. But Fr, Jaki likes to pin-point the origin in Buridan's statement of impetus which concerned the physical notion of movement. From this point, in Jaki's mind, science grows with time, as discovery follows discovery and inventions and experiments accumulate, until we arrive at our own century wherein we can more clearly see that by science Fr. Jaki must mean, on the one hand, a technology of instruments from the microchip to the space station, and on the other hand, a fantastical cosmology based on ever-varying and shifting interpretations of the data revealed telescopically and by spectroscopy. Thus, Fr. Jaki's "progress of science" resembles not a little the creation of all things from a Big-Bang explosion of an original densely packed atom.
"It is only from the early 17th century on that science appears to be a self-propelling enterprise" says Fr. Jaki on page 6.
This is a very significant statement and confirms our original suspicions. Hawking (4) singles out the motivating force behind Galileo's importance as "his belief in the independence of science." Nothing can become self-propelling unless and until it is independent, autonomous. Fr. Jaki's origin of modern science is precisely at that point in time when it had broken away sufficiently from its ties with the medieval world view as to he able to propel itself on its own devious ways.
Before the 17th century, the physical sciences were subordinate parts of a grand summa of knowledge, a hierarchy of intellectual endeavour, ruled over by Theology, the highest and noblest of all the sciences. In those days, science was defined as the knowledge of things through their causes. And however lowly the science in the hierarchy, the person practicing that science or art, never lost sight of the First and highest Cause of all things, God. This was in the Age of Faith until, that is, William of Ockham, OFM (ca. 1284-1350) who never understood the existential or concrete-particular realization of the universal natures of things. This epistemological failure led him to think that we know only singular things. He held, therefore, that sequences of events are simply sequences of individual facts with no intrinsic relation. Events are connected, according to him, only by association.
For example, he said that the presence of fire and the painful sensation of being burned by it are found together, but it cannot be demonstrated that there is any causal connection between the two. This view of things obviously cuts off also any necessary and intrinsic relation between secondary causes and the First Primary Cause which is God as Creator and Preserver. Therefore, we can see clearly that the psychological separation of Faith and philosophy, of Faith and reason, of Religion and Science is complete in William of Ockham. And his influence was tremendous. It is here, too, that we find Fr. Jaki's "self-propelling" i.e., autonomous scientific enterprise in its first cause -- an enterprise that eventually attributes primary and unique causality to secondary causes, as we see in the Big Bang theory of origins and in Darwinian natural selection.(5)
Once "liberated" from their necessary and intrinsic dependence upon the Creator, secondary causes in the hands of "liberated" scientists easily become primary causes and thus Science usurps the place of metaphysics and Theology.
The sciences divide themselves naturally into speculative (a more accurate term for us today would he contemplative) and practical -- an analogy is seen with the contemplative and active religious orders.
1.Sacra Doctrina or the science of Sacred Scripture (Divine Revelation); this science also has a practical part in moral theology.2.Metaphysics; this is the highest of the natural sciences, and its object is being, as such, being and all the principles of being.
The contemplative sciences are:
Theology has as its formality the consideration of things as divinely revealed and these are objects of Faith, i.e., de fide. The objects of Theology are, therefore, the supernatural truths of Faith and all that these truths touch in the lives of men.
All the other sciences have a natural formality, that is, their objects are accessible to the natural light of reason and do not require the supernatural light of Faith in order to be known and held with certitude. These sciences have as their objects not only certain facts or existing: things but some reasoned and focused aspect of those things. Thus astronomy studies objects of the heavens; astrophysics studies their composition; while cosmology studies the total structure and nature of their arrangement. The natural sciences reach the ideal of their endeavour not simply when they record observable singularities and connections in nature but also when they bring to light the intelligibility of things, revealing their proximate causes and interrelations with other things.
Metaphysics reaches its goal when it explains the contingent universe with reference to its ultimate causes, First and Final, as known to natural reason. A rather striking example of a truly natural metaphysical grasp of reality is found in the following paragraphs:(6)Although the argument for design has been unfashionable in biology for the past century, the feeling that chance is an insufficient means of achieving complex adaptations has continually been expressed by a dissenting minority, and this dissent is undiminished today. ... the dissidents have not only been drawn from the ranks of fundamentalists, Lamarckists and vitalists... but also from very respectable members of the scientific establishment.It is the sheer universality of perfection, the fact that everywhere we look, to whatever depth we look, we find an elegance and ingenuity of an absolutely transcending quality, which so mitigates against the idea of chance.
There is, of course, no developed metaphysics here or anywhere in Denton's excellent book, nor should there be, for he is a biologist. But the first principle of being -- intelligibility from an absolutely transcendent source -- is here intuited. The same happened recently in the delightful comic strip Calvin and Hobbs (21 Jun 92) wherein Calvin complains: Isn't it weird how scientists can imagine all the matter of the universe exploding out of a dot smaller than the head of a pin, but they can't come up with a more evocative name for it than "the Big Bang"? That's the whole problem with science. You've got a bunch of empiricists trying to describe things of unimaginable wonder. In spite of the egregious error of the Big Bang, Calvin has glimpsed some ray of that same "absolutely transcending quality" that Denton speaks of. It is a glimpse on the part of natural reason of the First-Cause-Creator of this unimaginably wonderful universe. And it's why we find Calvin and Hobbs so frequently in the woods and soaring through the air in their wagon. They revel in the magnificent yet not overwhelming "perfection", "elegance" and "ingenuity" that comes to us from nature, and ultimately, from God.
For a developed metaphysics of the purely natural order, we must go back to Aristotle who knew God by the force of his wonderful, God-given intellect without benefit of Divine Revelation: "We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous belong to God; for this is God."(7) Aristotle was acknowledging what he could see by the light of natural reason: that God is and that He is life.
After Metaphysics (which is the science of being, as such, and in its ultimate causes) there is the science of Mathematics whose formal object is quantity as abstracted from external physical reality. This science of the second degree of abstraction, as it is called, presents particular dangers to those who cultivate it. As almost all the great mathematicians prove, from Pythagoras and Plato to Einstein, there is a tendency to construct mathematical worlds that lose contact with the really real outside us. One of the most striking examples of this is Plato's Timeus wherein the entire physical realm of being is reduced to geometric figures. Symbolic, yes. But how truly real? Same can be said of Einstein's world of relativities. Newton's "clock-work" universe is as unreal also, even in his own age of fascination with the mechanical as is Einstein's a-centrism in our age of universal chaotic loss of direction.
Last of all come the physical sciences which Aristotle must truly be said to have founded and developed to a very high degree in his books: Physics, On the Heavens, On the History of Animals, On the Parts of Animals, and On the Generation of Animals.
Nor should we forget those natural sciences that deal with the nature of man: psychology and ethics. Aristotle is the founder of these, also, in his De Anima and Nichomachean Ethics.
The early medieval scholars made little distinction between the many philosophies of nature, as the sciences were then called. They inherited from Roman civilization a great deal of Plato but only the logical works of Aristotle. Early on, the sciences were schematized as the preparatory trivium of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric and the advanced quadrivium of Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy and Music. The natural sciences have flourished from the beginning, i.e., with Adam, but never as being in the primary place, as today. And this is precisely the point at which Fr. Jaki would revise the history of science.
Hugh of Saint Victor (1096-1141), a great mystic and theologian, hierarchically arranged all the sciences this way:(I. Theoretical (contemplative) the sciences which seek to discover truth:1. Theology2. Mathematics (which includes Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy);3. PhysicsII. The Practical Sciences which ponder the discipline of morals:1. Logic (which includes Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectics);2. Ethics: a)Individual, b) Domestic, and c) Political3. Mechanics: the science which directs our practical (physical) activities, includes: weaving, making of arms, navigation, agriculture, hunting, medicine, and theater.
How interesting to notice that those practical arts and sciences which dominate our lives today are almost incidental in this medieval scheme, namely, Politics (here a part of Ethics) and all the mechanical arts. Clearly there is in our time an inversion of good order.
In both the spheres of the contemplative and the practical, Fr. Jaki's sciences of physics and mechanics are in the lowest place. This is as it should be, for this hierarchical arrangement corresponds to the created order of nature and of grace. The knowledge, love and service of God come before all other things and activities. Intellectual pursuits were also rightly valued before practical activities, because the mind of man and its cultivation are nobler in themselves than bodily and practical activities. All the practical sciences and arts submit to a higher discipline that is moral and ultimately theological in essence.
For this reason, too, there was need for a minimal number of laws, and civil laws almost reduced to the Ten Commandments and the laws of the Church. Crimes were truly the exceptions to the rule. All this is as it should be. When Our Lord Jesus Christ is acknowledged as King not only spiritually, as of our souls, but also physically, of our bodies, for He redeemed and ransomed us body and soul, in our entire being, then society willingly falls under His reign and a maximum of order is guaranteed.
But when Fr. Jaki speaks of science -- essentially mathematical physics and mechanical dynamics as exemplified in Galileo -- as a "self-propelling enterprise", he is actually celebrating here and in all his books, the breaking away from and rebellion against this medieval hierarchy of sciences -- a rebellion that has led to all the principle disorders of our times.
It is Fr. Jaki's contention that "science came to an aborted birth in seven great cultures: Chinese, Hindu, Maya, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, and Arabic."(9) One must always keep in mind that by science Fr. Jaki means a mathematical physics describing a finite cosmos and capable of being applied to develop a high technology. He admits that the ancient Hindus invented the decimal system and the mathematical concept of zero; that "China was the birth place of magnets, gunpowder, and block printing" and that in ancient Egypt the pyramids could be built without the aid of steel instruments and pulleys. Besides these engineering feats, they developed phonetic writing.(10) All of these, except the mathematical inventions of' the Hindus, were very practical inventions requiring applied science. However, these achievements ended, according to Fr. Jaki, in "monumental stagnation". "Not even Greece" he says, " succeeded in giving birth to a viable science,"
It tells us much about Fr. Jaki's science that he gives not a word to the most magnificent achievement of ancient Greece -- the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. The works of these men remain the fountain-head of those sciences highest in the natural order.
But what reason does Fr. Jaki give us for the failure to advance scientifically, according to his idea of science, when all the necessary natural ingredients -- time and talent -- were present? Fr. Paul Haffner sums it up as 1) the absence of belief in a transcendent Creator, and 2) the ancient belief in recurrence, especially this latter. Fr. Haffner says:
As Jaki shows through many quotations from ancient Greek philosophical writings, the cyclic motion of cosmic existence is… the very foundation of the three main cosmologies developed by the Greeks, the Aristotelian, the Stoic and the Epicurean (atomistic). In that cyclic and markedly pantheistic cosmic view, matter and its processes are eternal. This encouraged the view of man as a mere "bubble on the inexorable sea of events where ebb and flow followed one another with fateful regularity." Despondency was one of the natural reactions to this state of affairs. The other was smugness, or the belief that one's times were corresponding to riding the crest of cultural history. The latter illusion was held by Aristotle. Some of his little remembered but revealing statements to that effect, as quoted by Jaki, counter the Marxist claim that the failure of science in ancient Greece was mainly due to socio-economic factors.(11)
This last statement is most interesting -- and distressing: some non-existent statements of Aristotle are supposed to counter the "Marxist claim that the failure of science in ancient Greece was mainly due to socio-economic factors."
First, we must show the non-existence of those alleged statements of Aristotle.
Fr. Jaki says that when Our Lord spoke His words about rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,…Greek science had already for two or three centuries been coasting on a relatively high but barren plateau. A coasting it was also in the sense of being replete with a great deal of complacency. The source of the latter is best expressed in a little read work of Aristotle where he endorses in a matter-of-fact way the idea of eternal cycles with reference to cultural history. He explicitly states that inventions familiar to his contemporaries had been invented innumerable times before. Then he adds that the comfort, provided by the technical brand of those inventions available in his time represented the highest level they are capable of providing.(12)
Confident of finding the reference to that place in Aristotle's works where these sentiments are expressed as alleged, I consulted the note to the above. This is what it says:That this view of Aristotle (Metaphysics 982b) was echoed by his successor, Theophrastus, who is quoted to that effect in Athenseus, The Deipnosophists (London: W. Heinemann, l955, vol. 5, p. 299) is a strong indication of the complacency prevailing among Greek intellectuals in the second half of the fourth century B.C.(13)
Perhaps I have missed something, but I have searched in vain for words of Aristotle that correspond to what Jaki ascribes to him. The closest I can come in Metaphysics 982 b, which is given as the source, is the following:... since they philosophized in order to escape from ignorance, evidently they were pursuing science in order to know, and not for any utilitarian end. And this is confirmed by the facts; for it was when almost all the necessities of life and the things that make for comfort and recreation had been secured, that such knowledge began to be sought. Evidently then we do not seek it for the sake of any other advantage; but as the man is free, we say, who exists for his own sake and not for another's, so we pursue this as the only free science, for it alone exists for its own sake.
Aristotle is talking here about Wisdom as the highest science, and it is evident that he had a proper understanding of and appreciation for the contemplative sciences which reap no material benefits for those who pursue them. He fully recognized, too, that the necessities of life must be provided first, and this was done in his time by the farmers, whom he does not disdain. See his Politics.
With an example like this before me, all I can say is that such a gross misrepresentation of Aristotle's words and thoughts is proof positive that Fr. Jaki is not a reliable scholar and that his history of science is not to be trusted.
Perhaps Fr. Jaki is talking mainly about Theophrastus, but in any case, one is hard put to explain this animus of his against Aristotle. Such an attitude is very far removed, indeed, from the spirit of St. Thomas.
Since Aristotle did not say the things Fr. Jaki asserts or at least, it has not been shown that he did, how then is the Marxist claim about the failure of science to develop in ancient Greece to be countered? As far as I can see, it cannot, for Jaki's philosophy of history is remarkably similar to that of Auguste Comte (l798-1857):
Like all powerful ideas the idea of progress drew from a number of different streams of thought ---- the belief that there was a necessary connection between advances in knowledge and social betterment emanating from the Enlightenment, the philosophical theories of development in their Hegelian and Marxist form, the extension of the theory of organic evolution to the sphere of mind and society.
Historians seem to be agreed that the references made occasionally by ancient writers to advances in knowledge of nature and the probability of future additions to it hardly amount to an anticipation of a theory of progress. This view goes back to Auguste Comte's discussion of the origins of the idea in the Cours de philosophie positive (Vol. IV). The Greeks, he thought, were not in possession of sufficient historical or observational data and they were dominated by the idea that "humanity was doomed to an arbitrary succession of identical phases, without ever experiencing a new transformation directed towards an end determined by the whole constitution of human nature" (Comte, 1857, p.45)
No coherent theory of such a transformation could arise before its direction had been indicated by the experience of the French Revolution direction and before the emergence of the positive sciences in the seventeenth century.(14)
From this it seems quite clear that Jaki's idea of progress is the same as that of Comte. He tries to make it appear Catholic by placing the anticipatory origin of science in the 14th century. However, something must be said here about the cyclic view of time.
Even if we were to grant that Aristotle exhibited insufferable smugness and had fits of depression in the face of the eternally returning wheel of Fate, nothing can obliterate the superb achievement matched by no one else in history except for St. Thomas Aquinas who recognized a good thing when he encountered it in Aristotle's work. No one with a true sense of what is valuable would exchange Aristotle's Organon, or his Physics his Metaphysics, his Poetics or Rhetoric for Newton's Principia or Einstein's theories of relativity (I can find no title to ascribe to Einstein, and it may be that since he was dyslexic, he published his theories only in the form of equations with a minimum of literary expression).
It is also true that the ancient cosmologies were pantheistic, especially those coming from Plato and the East, and this shows us more clearly the truth of St. Thomas' insistence that Divine Revelation is necessary for mankind. The wonder is that the ancients achieved so much without it. This latter fact also attests to the Thomistic esteem for natural reason.
But as to the cyclic view of history, there is so much of truth in it, that surely one should hesitate to make of it a totally blameworthy perception.
King Solomon, gifted by God with supernatural wisdom and the inspired author of several Old Testament Wisdom books, celebrates this very cyclic recurrence as a result of contemplating natural processes:
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh:
but the earth standeth forever.
The sun riseth, and goeth down, and returneth to his place; and there rising again,
Maketh his round by the south, and turneth again to the north:
the spirit goeth foward surveying all places round about, and returneth to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea doth not overflow:
unto the place from whence the rivers come, they return to flow again.
All things are hard: man cannot explain them by word.
The eye is not filled with seeing, neither is the ear filled with hearing.
What is it that hath been? the same thing that shall be.
What is it that hath been done? The same that shall be done.
Nothing under the sun is new,
neither is any man able to say:
Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before,
in the ages that were before us.
There is no remembrance of former things: nor indeed of those things
which hereafter are to come, shall there be any remembrance
with them that shall be in the latter end.
Other intimations of recurring cycles occur in Isaias 46:9-l0 as similar themes of foreshadowing types and their fulfillment, which men tend to forget but God does not, nor can His Will ever be obstructed:
Remember the former age, for I am God, and there is no God besides,
neither is there any like to Me:
Who shew from the beginning the things that shall be at last,
and from ancient times the things that as yet are not done, saying:
My counsel shall stand, and all my will shall be done.
Such divinely inspired sentiments are much closer to the ancient view of history that Fr. Jaki despises and rejects than are his own ideas of scientific and human progress. For there is the dependable regularity of nature's assigned business and there is the typology and prophecy of the Old Testament foreshadowing the New.
The Church, furthermore, has given her infallible mark of approval to the cyclic experience in her Liturgy wherein we celebrate annually the same great mysteries of our Redemption over and over again with untiring regularity. And Our Lady parallels the liturgical year with Her daily liturgy of the Rosary, also intensely cyclic and repetitious but supernaturally efficacious and always filled with new Graces to refresh the tired spirit.
Maybe there is something about this cyclic return that is necessary for the human soul, perhaps to slow us down lest we become too immersed in the headlong rush of the horizontal movement of events.
In any case, I believe Fr. Jaki is too anxious to impose his dogma of the linear progress of science. It seems not only possible but highly probable that the men of ancient Greece, India, China, Egypt, etc., did not develop high technology for the simple reason that they were quite content with things the way they were. They preferred the higher activities of contemplation. And since it is true that men have only so much psychic energy for living, that energies are limited, they chose to employ their energies in the ways that they did. Call it despondency and smugness or complacence with Fr. Jaki if you wish, but the fact remains that there is no inheritance in the natural order equal to that bequeathed to the West by Greek philosophy and Roman jurisprudence.
Add to that the fact that Christianity had almost 1600 years to develop high technology, had Christian men desired to channel their energies in those directions rather than in the building up of a Theological treasure that we, their descendants, will never he able to exhaust.
It is also evident that a great deal of that inheritance had to be depreciated before modern science, with its inordinate bent toward the merely useful, could rise and flourish. In other words, the rise of modern science could not have happened without a shift in world view, a shift that turned men's desires away from God and His service to the things of this world, and such a shift as we can see quite clearly in that man of the Renaissance, par excellence -- Galileo.
There is one final reason for the delay of the rise of modern science until the 17th century of our era and it is this: the memory of the Flood of Noah's time. If we look back to the world before the Flood, we find two great civilizations, the one descended from Cain and the other descended from Seth. That of Cain was urban and highly developed technologically. That of Seth was rural and undeveloped technologically. But it was on account of the violence and evil emanating from the Cainites that God destroyed the world by water. A lively belief in this catastrophic event and the reasons for it may well have delayed the recurrence of high technological development until our times.
To what, then, does Fr. Jaki attribute the viable birth of science? He attributes it to the discovery by John Buridan in the 14th century of certain laws of motion later formulated by Descartes and Newton. Buridan, most significantly, arrived at his discovery, as Fr. Jaki tells us, "on the basis of a strictly theological consideration":
The problem he had to face was the proper interpretation of a crucial tenet of the cosmology of Aristotle, for whom the universe and its motions were eternal. As a good Catholic, Buridan remembered the Twelfth Ecumenical Council, or Lateran IV, where in l215 the Church solemnly enshrined as a dogma the age-old Catholic belief that the past history of the universe was finite. This and nothing else is the meaning of the expression "creation in time" as witnessed by the theological tradition long antedating Lateran IV.
Aware of that dogma, Buridan declared without any hesitation that Aristotle was mistaken in holding the universe to be without a beginning.(15)
Saint Thomas like all Christian theologians before him had upheld the same revealed truth about creation in time against Aristotle's eternal world. But contrary to what Fr. Jaki intimates that "creation in time" meant only and nothing else but that the universe was finite, this dogma never inhibited Catholic theologians, both before and after Lateran IV, from exegeting the Six Days of Creation by bringing to bear all the science they knew upon the text of Genesis 1-3, as witness the numerous hexamera from that of Saint Basil the Great in the 4th century to the Premiere Semaine of Guillaume DuBartas in the 16th .
Nor should it be forgotten that Aristotle was not a heretic or an apostate from Christianity or Judaism: he was a pagan without benefit of Divine Revelation. Fr. Jaki goes on:
But if the universe, which is the totality of material entities in motion, had a beginning, the question about the specific manner in which its motion began, could easily arise. In facing up to that question, a theologian could only say that since motion is a reality, it is also a gift which only the Creator could provide. Such an answer is ontological, the kind of answer which is to be given by a theologian who knows that a part of his tools are provided by philosophy.
Here is one of those rather rare passages in Fr. Jaki's works with which I can agree totally and wholeheartedly. And since Buridan was not a theologian but a Master of Arts, including philosophy, I suppose Fr. Jaki could here be alluding to a theologian like St. Thomas who, when he came to prove the existence of God from natural reason alone, using the tool of metaphysics, the highest philosophy, saw the First Way of proving God's existence as that of physical motion. This whole question of proving God's existence from physical motion came to a thorny impasse between Pierre Duhem, Fr. Jaki's hero, and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, the great Dominican Thomist of the earlier part of this century. But this is matter for another paper. Fr. Jaki continues:
… to return to Buridan whose chair at the Sorbonne was not theology but natural philosophy.
Theology, philosophy, and physics were not confused when Buridan offered his epoch-making substitution to Aristotle's claims about the eternity of the universe in general and of physical motion in particular:
When God created the world, He moved each of the celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses, which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; ... these impetuses, which He impressed in the celestial bodies, were not decreased nor corrupted afterward because there was no resistance which would be corruptive or repressive of that impetus.(16)
Here Buridan gives a beautiful explanation of motion in terms of secondary causes which always presuppose the original and concurrent action of the First Cause which is God the Creator. In this particular, Buridan was an excellent Thomist, even though St. Thomas himself belonged to that school of theologians who believed that the Angels governed the movements of the heavenly bodies.(17) There is also in this passage from Buridan a hint that he still believed in the Aristotelian notion of the incorruptibility of the heavenly bodies.
Fr. Jaki quotes again from Buridan:
Nor was there resistance which could be corruptive or repressive of that impetus. But this I do not say assertively, but rather tentatively so that I might seek from the theological masters what they might teach me in these matters as to how these things take place.(18)
This last statement is very significant, but Fr. Jaki makes no comment upon it. However, it is much to the credit of John Buridan that he said this -- assuming it was not a mere formality -- because it shows that he still recognized the primacy of theology even in the physical sciences. Would that Galileo 250 years later had possessed the same truly Catholic spirit and world view. But by his time, especially because of the influence of Ockham's Nominalism, the coherence of the Catholic world view no longer held.
Fr. Jaki claims that these words of Buridan are "substantially equivalent to Newton's First Law."(19) Formerly he had claimed that Buridan's statements "may rightly be seen as the birth-register of Newtonian and modern science. The explanation is that all those in question [he means Copernicus, Descartes, Kepler, and Galileo] believed in a saving Birth that once took place in a manger."(20)
That's a lovely sentiment, but it is impossible for anyone, including Fr. Jaki, to know the depth and breadth and sincerity of any person's belief in the Incarnation. However, it is possible and even necessary for those concerned to examine the words of men and the historical consequences of their influence.
Now I raise this question and appeal for objectivity: Does it give us a true perspective on the history of modern science to see its entire beginning in Buridan's profession of Faith in a Creative act of God? Contrary to the impression that Fr. Jaki gives us, the idea of the original impetus was not original with Buridan. But most of all, with such an origin, what in the world are we to make of the "progress" of this science that has issued in a godless technology usurping the place of Theology and Metaphysics and dominating our lives in a manner unimaginable to Buridan in his wildest dreams?
I suggest that Buridan's words signal an end rather than a beginning.
The real beginnings of modern science are to be found in William of Ockham's Nominalism:
…the doctrine of Ockham marked a turning point in the history of philosophy as well as of theology. In theology his doctrine was paving the way to the "positive theology" of the moderns. In philosophy, it was paving the way to modern empiricism. In both cases it really was a via moderna: a modern way.(21)
Etienne Gilson, in his History just quoted, has quite a bit to say about John Buridan, his predecessors, his successors, and their influence. We will give just enough here to fill out and correct Fr. Jaki's far too selective emphasis.
John Buridan was a lay professor of philosophy at the University of Paris in the 14th century. He flourished in the l350's and he is exactly contemporary with William of Ockham. The nominalist or terminist movement seems to have been dominated by John Buridan "whose long career and personal merits sufficiently explain his influence in France and abroad. Rector of the University of Paris in 1328, he received that dignity again in 1340; we find him still active in l358, perhaps even in 1366, after which he disappears from history to go over into legend."(22)
According to recent research, he was a master of arts who lent himself to Ockham's influence, hut not without discernment. Besides, he was one of a group of masters who, December 29, 1340, signed a decree forbidding the teaching of several of Ockham's theses and, in fact, he had his personal answers to many of these questions.(23)
For example, Buridan believed it was possible to demonstrate an intrinsic relation between things. He held to the Thomistic view of causality. He held a proper esteem for Aristotle, noting that it was from physical causality that Aristotle demonstrated the existence of the Primary Cause.(24)
Ockham's radically deviant principles had taken him (Ockham) farther into natural philosophy, i.e., science, than the traditional philosophy had taken anyone else. For example, Ockham's principle of always taking the simpler way (reminds one of Copernicus 200 years later) had led him to attribute the same matter to celestial and terrestrial bodies, whereas Aristotle and the scholastics, including St. Thomas, had held that the matter of the two realms was not the same (cf. I Cor. l5:40).
Ockham proposed that a body in movement, as the celestial bodies, continue to move precisely because they are in movement. His point was that we observe moving objects and that is the extent of our science. He hesitated to prove the existence of God from motion because he had a physical reason for holding that a body can move itself: movement is given -- and he seems to have held it is eternal also -- hence there is no need to invoke a mover. Gilson says that Ockham here foreshadows the law of inertia.(25)
In contrast to these tenets of Ockham, Buridan retained a proper idea of causality and its intrinsic relation to the First Cause, God. Furthermore, influenced by a Greek commentator on Aristotle, John Philoponus (d. ca 580), Buridan explains the continuation of a body in movement by a sort of impulse or impetus that the mover imparts to the body moved.(26) I gather from Gilson's exposition that Buridan propounded a natural explanation of motion for terrestrial objects. The motion of the celestial bodies can only be explained by the original creative impetus of God. But secondary causes as agents initiating movement, imitate the Creator in imparting an analogous impulse or impetus to the objects which they move. "It is this impetus which maintains the movement in the mobile until the resistance of the air and the weight, which oppose the movement, finally prevail. The impulse imparted to the mobile, therefore, continually diminishes, the movement of the stone continually slows down, and finally it yields to gravity which makes it fall back to its natural place."(27)
I'm no physicist, but I don't see how Newton's laws or any other modern explanation is an improvement upon this of Buridan for terrestrial motion.
However, Buridan's explanation of the movement of the heavenly bodies, still going solely under the impetus of the original impulse imparted to and imprinted in them by the creative act of God, had eliminated the need for angelic movers which St. Thomas had held on to.(28)
Nor was Buridan the only university master to be interested in the physics of motion. It was an interest which Aristotle's works in the physical sciences, available in Latin from the mid to late 12th century on, had aroused in all the students and scholars of Europe. One of the principal factors contributing to a continual examination of Aristotle's science was the condemnation in 1270 by the Bishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier, of thirteen philosophical propositions which belong more to Aristotle's Arabic commentators than to Aristotle himself, most especially to Averroes(29) (1126-1198).
However, they had to be condemned because they conflicted with truths of Faith. None of them had been accepted by St. Thomas. By 1277 the number of condemned propositions had reached 219:
The 219 condemned propositions were not all Averroist. A few, essentially ethical, related to the treatise on courtly love ... by Andrew Capellanus; some attacked Saint Thomas's philosophy; several of them strongly resembled the theses upheld by the dialecticians of the twelfth century; ... in short, it seems that this condemnation included Averroism in a sort of polymorphic naturalism stressing the rights of pagan nature against Christian nature, of philosophy against theology, of reason against faith. …(30)
All this is but to show that the intellectual climate of the universities in the late 13th century and from thence onwards was anything but placid. It is also to show that Fr. Jaki's account of the origin of modern science in one passage from one man is a vast over-simplification, to say the least.
Of Ockham again, Gilson says: "The dissolving influence exercised by his doctrine in the history of medieval scholasticism is due to the fact that, professing as he did a radical empiricism in philosophy, he had to reduce the understanding of faith to a bare minimum. An Ockhamist intellect is as badly equipped as possible for metaphysical cognition, and since where there is no metaphysical knowledge, theology can expect little help from philosophy, the consequence of Ockhamism was to substitute for the positive collaboration of faith and reason which obtained in the golden age of scholasticism, a new and much looser regime in which the absolute and self-sufficient certitude of faith was only backed by mere philosophical probabilities.(31) Apropos of this we may note, too, how easy it is for Ockhamite thinking to fall into the Averroist doctrine of the "double truth" -- one for Faith, another for Reason. In fact, Pierre Duhem's science deliberately separate as it is from Faith and from metaphysics, seems to tend this way. Gilson says:
Before listing the condemned propositions (in 1277), Etienne Tempier had warned Siger (of Brabant) and Boethius (of Sweden) that the usual excuse, which consisted in maintaining that one and the same proposition could be considered simultaneously as false from the point of view of reason and true from the point of view of faith, would not be accepted. This was the condemnation of the thesis which has ever since been called the doctrine of the "double truth."(32)
This "excuse" reminds me of modernist exegetes who tell us that Genesis tells us the truth but does not mean what it says, since the truth is really something else.
About the views of Pierre Duhem, Jaki's hero (and I will contend that the words can apply equally well to Jaki himself) Gilson says:
P.Duhem's original and intelligent pioneering work perhaps runs the risk of causing us to imagine the University of Paris in the fourteenth century as peopled by physicists completely absorbed in statics, kinetics and astronomy. As a matter of fact Buridan, Albert of Saxony and Oresme continued at Paris the work of the masters of arts of the thirteenth century, without giving up logic in the slightest degree; only they went more and more deeply and originally into the problems raised by the scientific works of Aristotle. It was in their pedagogical framework, as immutable for the philosophers as the Commentary on the Sentences was for the theologians, that they introduced new ideas, which were sometimes only the revival of very old intuitions that had long been in desuetude. …(33)
It was, in fact, these same masters of arts working within their pedagogical framework, who were called the "Aristotelians" of Galileo's time, along with the theologians in the tradition of St. Thomas.
Fr. Jaki' s revisionism consists in his trying to convince us that modern science is the legitimate child and true blood-offspring of Catholic parents. Let us concede that the parents were Catholic, even as William of Ockham was still, somehow, a Catholic theologian. However, it is impossible to grant that this child has turned out well.
Fr. Jaki exhorts us that "For all the bemoaning of the possible abuses of science, science must remain a celebration; a ritual in the noblest sense from which a Catholic cannot withdraw and which a Catholic intellectual must at least reasonably comprehend." If I may presume to classify myself as a "Catholic intellectual", I must at the same time protest that the more earnestly I strive to "reasonably comprehend."(34) the basics of modern physical and biological science, the more clearly I realize how desperately it is, to use Fr. Jaki's own term, in need of a Savior.
However, it is my contention that Fr. Jaki is so fond of this child of his that he is utterly blind to its most dangerous faults, which I would list as follows:
1. Commitment to the heliocentric and/or a-centric theory of the cosmos, which theory is based in a radical unrealism, a denial of the very basis of science -- the evidence of the senses processed by the intellect;
2. An apparent approval of the radical separation of the physical sciences from a living attachment and submission to the higher sciences of metaphysics and theology; this separation results in the domination by science of all other disciplines, and this is scientism;
3. An embracing of evolutionism in all the physical sciences that translates into an espousal of Comte's "positivist" progressivist view of history and of science; such positivism and progressivism are radically opposed to the Catholic view of history which may be linear but is not perfectionist by nature and which is really more cyclic than otherwise from beginning in Creation to the End in Judgment. The kind of linear "progress" that Fr. Jaki's theory of history envisages is really only the work of Grace and not of fallen nature.
These deformities of modern science, present from the beginning in Galileo and others, make of Fr. Jaki's child a monster that he should either disown or labor to reform because, unlike a human child, this offspring of the adulterous Renaissance has freely chosen from the very beginning to follow the path that it has taken.
Fr. Jaki in turn is one of the bad fruits of Vatican II in his rejection of the tradition of Thomistic philosophical theology. This latter was not only recommended but mandated by Leo XIII in his encyclical Aeterni Patris (1879). Pierre Duhem, especially, should have taken it to heart. It seems, instead, that he fought it. The mandate to teach Thomistic theology with all of its implications for philosophy, science and history has never been abrogated, but it has been entirely neglected by Popes John XXIII through John Paul II -- to no good effects, as the current lawlessness and chaos give witness.
Fr. Jaki's science is not for Catholics. It's for dreamers of bad dreams.
St. Thomas Aquinas -- Pray for us!
1 Catholic Essays. Front Royal, VA. Christendom Press, 1990.
2 Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Michael Denton. Bethesda, MD. Adler & Adler, 1986. p.354
3 Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Thomas Goudge. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1968 (1973). Section on "Evolutionism".
4 A Brief History of Time. Stephen Hawking. Bantam, 1988. P. 180.
5 A. C. Crombie. From Augustine to Galileo, (2 vols. in 1). Cambridge, Harvard U. Press. 2nd ed.1961. Vol II, p. 47.
6 Denton, op.cit., pp. 341-342
7 Aristotle. Metaphysics. XII, 7.
8 In Etienne Gilson. History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Random House, 1959. p. 170-171.
9 Paul Haffner. Creation and Scientific Creativity: A Study in the Thought of S. L. Jaki. Front Royal, VA. Christendom Press, 1991. p. 34.
10 S. L. Jaki. Catholic Essays. p. 7.
11 Haffner, op.cit., p. 36.
12 S. L. Jaki. The Savior of Science. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1988. p. 42
13 Ibid., p. 221.
14 Dictionary of the History of Ideas, "Progress", p. 634.
15 S. L. Jaki. Catholic Essays. p. 8.
16 Ibid., pp. 9-10.
17 See Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages. pp. 357-358.
18 Jaki. The Savior of Science. p. 53.
19 Catholic Essays, pp. 10-11.
20 The Savior of Science, p. 50.
21 Gilson, op.cit., pp. 498-499.
22 Ibid., p. 511.
23 Ibid., pp. 511-512.
24 Ibid., p. 513.
25 Ibid., p. 514
26 Ibid., p. 515.
28 See Gilson, op.cit., pp. 357-358.
29 Cf. Gilson, op.cit., pp. 403-406.
30 Gilson, op.cit., p. 406.
31 Gilson, op.cit., p. 489.
32 Gilson, p. 406.
33 Ibid., p. 520.
34 Catholic Essays, p. 20
Paula P. Haigh <> Nazareth Village I #102 <> POB 1000 <> Nazareth KY 40048-1000 <> USA