Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Dr. David B. Hart
Dr. David Bentley Hart, Editor and feature writer for the journal - FIRST THINGS, is a man whose brain has been thoroughly scrambled, but whose basically uncorrupted mind is enabling him to make repeatedly valiant efforts to attain some clarity on the natural level. This may be for him, as it was, I suggest, for a man such as William Paley in the early 1800's - a prerequisite disposition for receiving the supernatural gift of divine Catholic faith. Please note well that I speak as the merest amateur.....amateur really means lover - though by temperament and my A.B.D. degree, as an academic. And I offer my remarks as the opinions of a reader who feels compelled to write - even though with the old...very old Parmenides, I firmly hold that there is but one Truth. All the rest is opinion. And so, I speak, however feebly and unauthoritatively, out of a tradition that holds onto truths of Faith and of Reason that are absolute, because objective and ultimately transcendent - making all else to be the merest opinions that can and do change with every changing fad of the culture.
As St. Thomas says in the very first question of his Summa, (ST., I, q.1, a6, ad 1 & 2) - theology is the highest of all the sciences. Science is knowledge and as such it belongs to theology - the highest science - to order all the other sciences, and to judge as to the truth and falsity of their conclusions. This judgment pertains, as well, to the natural sciences as to those of the supernatural Order of Divine Grace, where sin is concerned. The remaining articles of Question One concern methodology. I will only single out one point that I consider most relevant today. It is this: Authority
It is futile to argue in order to demonstrate with any person who will not accept at least one of the givens on which both the natural and the supernatural order are based. In the natural order, at least one, say the principle of contradiction - must be accepted before one can proceed to argue or to dialogue. In the supernatural order of Faith and Divine Grace, a person must accept at least one of the givens or First Principles. These givens are not susceptible of, or capable of, being demonstrated or proven in the sense of verification by empirical evidences. And St. Thomas adds that while the argument from authority is the weakest in the natural sciences, it is actually the strongest in the truths of faith. And this is the primary given that must be accepted before one can proceed to answer the apparent difficulties one may have. This given is that the truths of faith rest upon, and flow from the authoritative Word of God revealing, that is, Divine Revelation, as we say in the Act of Faith, "I believe all the truths that the Holy Catholic Church believes and teaches - because Thou hast revealed them Who canst neither deceive nor be deceived."
Note that this Act of Faith encapsulates the trio of Holy Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium.
In article 8 of Question One, St. Thomas cements, as it were, all the elements of his great Synthesis, by affirming that just as Grace does not destroy nature but builds upon, and is ordered towards, its perfection, so in the same way the natural sciences should support and minister to the Truths propounded by theology in all of its branches. Today we suffer from the fact that this great and wonderful synthesis of all the sciences, from the highest truths of mystical theology to the lowest level of particle physics, has come apart, not just at the seams, but in all the details of fabric, "solidarity," i.e., strength. I venture to point out that the shocking redundancy of the contradictory terms, "same sex marriage" is matched on the higher levels of intellectual science by the equally shocking oxymoronic term coined by Dr. David Hart, "metaphysical nihilism”.
The term nihilism is clear enough. It means nothingness. Specifically, the nothingness of everything. It is the ultimate denial of Creation. Creation affirms the ultimate and particular, concrete being of all things deriving their ultimately infinite value as existence participating, by created Grace, in the infinite life of God Himself. Even in the natural order, this existence of every individual being, by reason of its being created by the infinitely Good and Gracious Trinitarian God, possesses a value, a worth beyond human calculation. And the term metaphysical, referring to the science of Metaphysics, as the highest of the natural sciences, and their guiding light, refers primarily to natural existence, - to existing beings and so can, in no way, be used to qualify the word nihilism, which is the philosophy that negates all philosophy and creation itself. I trust no one will misconstrue my remarks to the detriment of Dr. Hart’s moral sense. Clearly Dr. Hart sees the nihilism that has overtaken the natural order, which includes the moral realm, in our society worldwide.
But I suggest that what perhaps, he fails to see is that because reality is hierarchically structured by Creation, (this is the importance of the Six Days) – what happens at the top in theology and metaphysics, and in physics and cosmology, especially trickles down – even rushes down into all the realms below. Thus, we see that all things begin to fall apart (as the poet John Donne observed and bemoaned), when Copernicus’ “hypothesis”, was taken seriously by Galileo, his popularize, and, despite the condemnation by the Church, via the Congregation for the – I forget which – the novelty took over, and now, some 500 years later, it has been morphed into a dogma, - a fact of “science”!
Well, it could not have happened if the Church had stood Her Ground on the facts of Divine Revelation, as she did in the Galileo case. (See Sungenis, op.cit.) (and the internet work of Redmond O’Hanlon.) But, She did not, and we see now, and suffer from the dissolution of all order, due to the loss of metaphysics as the natural support of theology. And it is in this field of metaphysics that Dr. Hart has lots of homework to do. Not to mention that of the Catholic physicists, especially the cosmologists, who must first of all look to the first principles of metaphysics and the categories of Aristotle, to find the formal objects of their respective sciences. But especially must they discover the substantial form – that is the Body of the Universe and the substance in which all the particle-atomic-accidental forms inhere.
It was Dr. Hart’s use of this term, Substantial Form – in the first paragraph of his article, “NO ENDURING CITY”, that alerted me to his lack of clarity regarding the Aristotelian-Thomistic science of metaphysics. Primarily, too, he must become aware of the Great Betrayal of the Neo-Scholastics who all, to a man, I believe, agreed to see the atoms of the periodic table as substantial forms, that undergo substantial changes in the chemical processes all high-school students perform every day. This was and apparently continues to be a colossal ERROR accepted as truth by Catholic scientists.
To be continued….
at 1:04 PM