Page images
PDF
EPUB

2

between the realists and nominalists, and towards the middle of the fifteenth century, it succumbs to the secular and liberal reaction inaugurated by the Renaissance. After that it ceases to be a great intellectual power,

and seeks refuge, body and soul, within the pale of the Church, of which it is, to this day, the official philosophy.

What is its ruling thought, its fundamental doctrine ? The “last of the Scholastics,” though passing over the Middle Ages with “seven-leagued boots," a formulates it most aptly in the following words: “ Philosophy and theology

: have the same contents, the same ain, and the same interests. . . . In explaining religion, philosophy simply explains itself, and in explaining itself it explains religion.”3 Indeed, this principle lies at the root of all its systems. The distinguishing characteristic of the period upon which we are now entering is, that it reconciles elements previously and subsequently in conflict with each other. An alliance is formed between philosophy and theology, faith and reason, “grace ” and “nature.” The Latin Fathers, as well as the free-thinkers by whom modern philosophy was founded, considered these two spheres as antagonistic. The Fathers took sides with “grace”; the philosophers, with “nature”; while in the judgment of the Schoolmen, at least those of the first period, there can be no contradiction between the revealed dogma and natural reason. But inasmuch as doctrines seemed to contradict each other on many points, the problem became to reconcile them, to demonstrate the truth of the dogma, and to prove that ecclesiastical Christianity is a rational religion. To render the dogma acceptable to reason, says an eminent follower of the philosopher just quoted, that is the pro gram of Scholasticism. The dogma affirms: Deus homo; Scholasticism asks : Cur Deus homo? In order to answer this question, theology forms an alliance with philosophy; faith, with science. This alliance constitutes the very essence of Scholasticism. The latter is a compromise between philosophy and faith. Indeed, Scholasticism declines as soon as the nominalistic doctors, on the one hand, and the humanists, on the other, recognize the necessity of separating the two domains.

1 The most distinguished among its post-Renaissance representatives is Francis Suarez of Granada (1518-1617), a follower of Thomas of Aquin and author of the Disputationes metaphysicæ (Paris, 1619), etc.

* Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. III., p. 99. [Engl. translation by Haldane, vol. III., p. 1.)

Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion, vol. I., p. 5; (vol XI., Complete Works.)

§ 31.

Scotus Erigena The first great Schoolman, John Scotus ERIGENA, a native of Ireland, was invited to take charge of the Palatine Academy by Charles the Bald, about the middle of the ninth century. His treatise, De divina prædestinatione,

, which he wrote against the heresy of Gottschalk, and his Latin translation of Dionysius the Areopagite, which he failed to submit to the Pope for approval, alienated from him the sympathies of the Church. He continued to enjoy, however, the protection of the Emperor. The date of his death is as uncertain as the date of his birth.

Scotus resembles Origen in breadth of mind, and is much superior to his times. He suffered the same fate: the disfavor of the Church, which failed to canonize him. His learning, however, rises far beyond the scientific level of the Carlovingian epoch. Besides Latin, he knew Greek and perhaps also Arabic. In addition to his knowledge of the Greek Fathers and Neo-Platonism, he possessed wonderful powers of speculation and boldness of judgment. He stands out like a high volcano on a perfectly level

1 K, Fischer, op. cit., vol. I., 1, ch. IV.

plane. His philosophy, as set forth in the De divisione naturæ, is not, indeed, an innovation on the Neo-Platonic doctrines. Like the Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite, it reproduces the system of emanation of the Alexandrine school in Christian form. But it was almost a miracle for any one living in the ninth century and on this side of the Pyrenees to understand Plotinus and Proclus.

The object of philosophy is, according to Scotus, identical with that of religion. Philosophy is the science of the faith, the understanding of the dogma. Speculation and religion have the same divine content and differ in form only. Religion worships and adores, while philosophy studies, discusses, and with the aid of reason explains the object which religion adores: God or uncreated and creative Nature.

In its broadest sense, the word nature comprises all beings, both uncreated and created things. Nature thus interpreted embraces four categories of existence: (1) that which is uncreated and creates; (2) that which is created and reates; (3) that which is created and does not create; (4) that which is uncreated and does not create. Existence is possible only in these four forms.

This classification may, however, be simplified. The first class is, in fact, the same as the fourth, for both of them contain that which is uncreated, and consequently correspond to the only being existing in the absolute sense of the word, to God. The first class embraces God in so far as he is the creative principle, the beginning or the

1 Edited by Thomas Gale, Oxford, 1681 ; Schlüter, Münster, 1838; H. J. Floss, Paris, 1853 (in vol. 122 of Migne's collection, which contains also the treatise De dirinn prædestinatione and the translation of Dionysius] ; St. René Taillandier, Scot Érigène et la philosophie scolastique, Strasburg, 1843 ; [Iluber, Johannes Scotus Erigena, etc., Munich, 1861)

? De divina prædestinatione. Proæmium (in Gilbert Mauguin, Auct. qui nono saec. de præd. et grat. scripserunt opera, Paris, 1850).

source of things; the fourth also contains God, but only in so far as lie is the end, the colisunimation, and the highest perfection of things. We also find, upon comparing the second and the third classes, that they form a single class containing all created things, or the universe, in so far as this is distinct from God. The Idea-types, which are realized in individuals, are productive created beings (the second class). Individuals are created and non-productive things; for types or species, not individuals, possess the power of reproduction. Hence, we have left two classes in place of the four original ones: God and the universe.

But these two categories or modes of existence are also identical. In fact, the world is in God, and God is in it as its essence, its soul, its life. Whatever living force, light, and intelligence the world contains, is God, who is immanent in the cosmos ; and the latter exists only in so far as it participates in the divine being. God is the sumtotal of being without division, limit, or measure; the world is divided and limited being. God is unexplicated being ; the world is explicated, revealed, manifested (Deobávela) being; God and the universe are one and the same being, two different modes or forms of the only infinite being; or rather, the world alone is a mode of being, a modification, and limitation of being, while God is being without mode diof being or any determination.3

Scotus derives the word Deós either from Dewpô, video, or from déw, curra. According to the former etymology, it means absolute vision or intelligence; according to the latter, eternal movement. But both meanings are merely figurative. For, since God is the being by the side of whom or in whom there is no other being, we cannot, strictly speaking, say that God sees or comprehends anything. And as far as divine movement is concerned, we may say that it in no wise resembles the locomotion peculiar to creatures; it proceeds from God, in God, towards God; that is, it is synonymous with absolute rest. Since God is superior to all differences and all contrasts, he cannot be designated by any term implying an opposite. We call him good, but incorrectly, since the difference between good and evil does not exist in him (únepáryabos plus quam bonus est '). We call him God, but we have just seen that the expression is inadequate. We call him Truth; but truth is opposed to error, and there is no such antithesis in the Infinite Being. We call him the Eternal One, Life, Light; but since the difference between eternity and time, life and death, light and its opposite, does not exist in God, these terms are inexact. No term, not even the term being, will do him justice, for being is opposed to non-being. Hence God is indefinable as well as incomprehensible. He is higher than goodness, higher than truth, higher than eternity; he is more than life, more than light, more than God (inépdeos), more than being itself (UTepovolos, superessentialis). None of the categories of Aristotle can comprehend him, and inasmuch as to comprehend means to bring an object under a class, God himself cannot be comprehended. He is the absolute nothing, the eternal Mystery.

1 De divisione natura, II., 2. 2 Id., III., 22.

8 De divisione nature, III., 10: God is everything, and everything is God; III., 17–18: Hence we should not consider God and the creature as a duality, but as one and the same being; cf. 22–23.

* Id., I., 14.

>

The innermost essence of the human soul is as mysterious and impenetrable as God, since this essence is God himself.3 All that we know of it is that it is movement and life, and that this movement, this life, has three degrees : sensation, intelligence, and reason: the human image of the divine Trinity. The body was created with the soul; but it has

1 De divisione naturæ, I., 14. 3 Id., I., 16; III., 19.

& ld., I., 78.

« PreviousContinue »