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Brother Francis Maluf, M.I.C.M.

Philosophia Perennis
Volume 1: An Introduction
to Philosophy as Wisdom

To Mary Most Holy, the Immaculate Mother of


the Incarnate Word who thereby merited the title:
Seat of Wisdom
this little volume is lovingly dedicated.

Sedes Sapientiæ,
Ora Pro Nobis.
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Contents
Preface
1. Introducing Wisdom- Page 4
2. Logic- Page 9
3. Cosmology- Page 17
4. Psychology- Page 29
5. Ethics- Page 40
6. History I: Greek to Medieval- Page 53
7. History II: Medieval to Modern- Page 65
8. Epistemology- Page 76
9. Ontology- Page 85
Appendix A: Wisdom and Salvation- Page 91
Appendix B: The Cosmology of Faith and Revelation-Page 98
Glossary- Page 105
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Preface
The present volume is an introduction to Philosophia Perennis,* which is both the
name of the series of books it introduces, and the name of the philosophy*
contained in those books. Philosophia Perennis is also known as Greek philosophy
in its earlier period and as scholastic philosophy in its medieval development.
Philosophia is Latin for Philosophy and Perennis is Latin for "through the ages." It
is the natural wisdom* of the ages that came down to us from the pagan Greeks
and was refined by the supernatural wisdom of Revelation. A more complete
history will be detailed in a later volume.

The individual chapters each serve as an introduction to the respective


philosophical disciplines they treat. Each of these disciplines is to be studied at
length in a separate volume to be published later. In all, there will be nine books:
the present Introduction to the whole course, Logic*, Cosmology*, Psychology,
Ethics*, History of Greek Philosophy, History of Modern Philosophy ( subtitled
"Polemics"), Epistemology*, and Ontology.*

The values in education that Catholics held for centuries — those which were
attacked by the Protestant Revolt, the "Enlightenment," the French Revolution, the
Marxist uprising, and the skepticism of the present age — are sorely needed if the
Faith and those who profess it are to claim their rightful place in education. These
values are needed to improve man as man in the natural* order, as well as to
understand man as a child of God in the supernatural order.

What the author makes every effort to present in these books is the "Catholic
Patrimony" which Pope Pius XII spoke of in the Encyclical Humani Generis, an
encyclical that condemned modern errors, including those in philosophy. It is this
patrimony — inherited from St. Justin, St. Albertus Magnus, St Thomas Aquinas,
St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Bonaventure, and all the Fathers and Doctors — which
will crush the folly of false philosophical systems. Just as the Apostles labored to
bring the Faith to the ends of the earth, and just as the martyrs died for it, so the
Fathers and Doctors studied and wrote of it, that those who believe might better
understand its mysteries. Their work should not have been in vain. The ideas that
made Catholic civilization great — those which made Europe the leader in all of the
intellectual disciplines from the plastic and performing arts to the technical sciences
to politics — must be held up as the height of human achievement if we are ever to
overcome the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the present godless age.

This book and those which follow are offered as a complete course to form the
student in the Catholic tradition of philosophy and to prepare him to study Catholic
theology if he so desires. It is written in the simplest way possible to make complex
ideas easily understood by those who have never studied them, and to refine the
knowledge of those who already have. Where possible, the complicated
vocabulary and syntax, which too often make many philosophy texts unreadable,
are avoided in favor of a lighter, easier style. This should make the text readable to
anyone with a high school education who sincerely wants to learn.
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These volumes all have their origin in lectures given by Brother Francis at Saint
Benedict Center. They were transcribed and edited by some of his students under
his supervision. They are intended (if such is God’s will) to serve as a philosophical
text for a Catholic Renaissance in learning, but at the very least they will educate
some in the art* and science* of right reason.* If only a few read it, then the
publishers hope that those few become edified by it.

* Note: In order to help the reader, the first time a glossary term appears in
the text, it is marked by an asterisk.

I
Introducing Wisdom
We are starting a course on wisdom. And when it is a question of wisdom, nobody
but a fool could claim to be a teacher. Among the Greeks, those who call
themselves wise are the Sophists. The true disciples, the genuine philosophers,
call themselves lovers or seekers of wisdom. And that is what we must ever try to
be, seekers after wisdom.

Wisdom is twofold to us men. There is a supernatural wisdom which can only


come from God, and a natural wisdom, one that could be achieved by the good
use of our minds. We should all try to acquire these two types of wisdom.

Supernatural wisdom is contained in Holy Scripture and in the traditional teachings


of the Church. All of Holy Scripture may be considered as a book about wisdom,
because all of its seventy-two books talk more about wisdom than any other
subject. Moses pointed to the Scriptures and said to the people of Israel: "This is
your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations" (Deut. 4:6). So the
people of Israel received a wisdom that can only come from God, and can only be
received through a supernatural act* of Faith. This is supernatural wisdom; and
while our present course is primarily about philosophy or natural wisdom, we must
first give the honour of place to the wisdom revealed by God.

There are seven books in the Old Testament; namely, Job, Psalms, Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, and Ecclesiasticus, called in a very
special way books of Wisdom in order to distinguish them from other books that
specialize in Sacred History or in Prophecy. And in the New Testament, there are
twenty-one books called doctrinal or Wisdom books. They are the fourteen epistles
of St. Paul and the seven epistles by other Apostles. It would, then, be true to say
that while the seventy-two books of the Bible are about wisdom, there are twenty-
eight of them that major in it.

We will examine a few lines from one of these doctrinal books, namely, the Epistle
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of St. James. In his capacity as first Bishop of Jerusalem and Apostle to the Jews,
St. James addressed his famous epistle to the Jews in the Diaspora (i.e. those
Jews who left Palestine and spread throughout the world). In this inspired Epistle
we get a good taste of Divine Wisdom. This is how the Epistle of James begins:

James the servant of God, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which
are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy, when you shall fall into
divers temptations, knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience. And
patience hath a perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing.
But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men
abundantly. (James 1:1-5.)

St. James was writing to the Jews in the Diaspora, but the Holy Ghost, Who is the
principal author of the Epistle, was teaching, through this message to the Jews, all
generations everywhere. So let us pretend to be the Jews of the Diaspora and
appropriate the Epistle as if it were addressed to us.

It is not easy to rejoice when you get trials. But St. James, or rather, the Holy
Ghost, is telling us that if we are truly Christians and truly have the Faith, we
should be happy when God sends us trials. And trials seem to be a necessary*
adjunct of having the Faith. This is especially true in times when one has to fight
for the Faith. One should count it all joy because, whether we like it or not, that is
part of true wisdom.

St. James also recommends patience. "To fight for the Faith in our time, you need
the patience of Job," was the favorite saying of a wise man of this century. If we
receive our trials with joy, we will have patience, and patience hath a perfect work
(James 1:4). Patience is the virtue* of perfection. Every good artist knows that to
be true. It is supremely true in that greatest of all arts: the art of becoming a Saint.

The inspired author of the Epistle goes on to say: But if any of you want wisdom,
let him ask of God (James 1:5). Evidently St. James did not believe that too many
people want wisdom. Yet all who read this volume presumably want wisdom,
otherwise (we think), it would go unread. So let the reader pay good attention to
the Scripture, and seek wisdom prayerfully of God. This book cannot give anyone
wisdom; however, if the reader prays enough, our volume could be God’s tool in
showing where and how to seek for it. God is generous: He giveth to all
abundantly, and upbraideth not (James 1:5). All He asks is that we ask for it — and
seek earnestly.

Wisdom is the most perfect knowledge* of the most important truths in the right
order* of emphasis, accompanied by a total, permanent disposition* to live
accordingly.

By stating this definition of wisdom, we have already started the course on logic,
because the first technique of logic consists in the defining of concepts like
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"wisdom." The first logical step is to place the concept* to be defined under a more
generic notion. For example, "wisdom" in the above given definition is first placed
under the more universal* concept of "knowledge." Wisdom is knowledge. The
wise are those who know. But although wisdom is knowledge, not all knowledge is
wisdom. Here is a secret that is a key to understanding the distinction: Some of the
greatest fools on this earth have a great deal of knowledge. Knowledge by itself
does not guarantee wisdom. Wisdom is a perfect knowledge. This fact tells us
immediately that in knowledge there are degrees of perfection. When we have the
Faith, and we thank God if we do, we know some tremendous truths — e.g. the
truths we proclaim in the Apostles Creed which we recite daily to start the Rosary.
We know these truths with absolute certainty, and yet the knowledge of Faith is not
as perfect as the beatific knowledge of the blessed in heaven. It is said of St.
Teresa of Avila, to take one example, that she almost had the Beatific Vision, that
in her mystical life there remained just one thin veil keeping her knowledge of Faith
from becoming the full and perfect knowledge of vision.

Wisdom is the most perfect knowledge of the most important truths. This lets us
know that there is a hierarchy in the order of the sciences and the whole realm of
knowledge. Our Church is hierarchical, and as Catholics we know that our universe
is also hierarchical, and that there is a hierarchy of value in all things. All
knowledge is good and desirable, but there is a knowledge of trivialities and a
knowledge of very important matters.

There are very important truths revealed by God that we must accept on the
authority of God revealing and the Church teaching in His name. Such truths
include the reality of three Divine Persons in the One*, eternal nature* of God; that
the Second Person* of the Trinity became man; that our Lord is truly present in the
Eucharist; that Jesus Christ truly rose from the dead and that all men will also rise
from the dead. All these truths and many others, especially those pertaining to the
Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Immaculate Conception, Her Assumption into Heaven,
etc. could never be known by men if God had not revealed them.

But there are also very important truths that men can arrive at by the use of the
powers that God gave us. One of these truths is the immortality of the human
soul.* This tremendously important truth will be discussed and proved in the course
on philosophic psychology. All we need to say now is that while experimental
psychology (what is most often meant by psychology today) studies mental
phenomena, rational psychology studies life* and the hierarchy of living things. The
Greek word Psyche means soul, and the soul is the principle* of life in all material
living things. Even plants have souls, though not immortal ones. The same is true
of animals lacking reason. Only the souls of men, being rational and spiritual, are
immortal.

All these matters and concepts will be discussed at length in our course on
psychology. At the present, we are taking the immortality of the soul as one
example of a very important truth* that can be known by natural reason. We say in
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our definition of wisdom — and philosophy is natural wisdom — that it is about


important truths. To illustrate this clearly, let us consider the difference between a
man who knows that he is going to live forever and another man who does not.
The man who knows that he is going to live forever knows also that every other
person he deals with, all his brothers and sisters in humanity, are also going to live
forever. This will make a profound difference in his relations to all other men, what
he thinks about them and how he acts toward them. In addition, without this
knowledge it is impossible to have a system of ethics, psychology, cosmology, or
ontology. Therefore, the immortality of the soul is an important truth which will bring
one closer to achieving true wisdom.

Sometimes even trivial truths can have a momentary importance. When one is
kept from entering his house because of a locked door, he needs to know where to
find a key. For a moment even that trivial fact — the location of a key — becomes
very important for a practical reason. But once the door is opened he forgets about
the key. He does not want to contemplate its hiding place for the rest of his life. But
there are truths endowed with more than transitory importance, truths whose very
contemplation makes us happy. These truths make us happy because they
anticipate the ultimate purpose of our existence*: the contemplation of Truth
Himself, God. There are many names for this ultimate purpose: Salvation, Eternal
Beatitude, Heaven, the Beatific Vision.

In the Scholastic tradition, philosophy (natural wisdom) is called ancilla theologiae


or the handmaid of theology (supernatural wisdom). The philosophy we learn in
this course, philosophia perennis, grew in the shadow of the Catholic Faith, and
has as its standard of importance the issue of salvation.

The series which this volume introduces consists of eight philosophic courses. The
truths we arrive at in these several courses we ascertain by using our intellect* and
our will* as God intended us to use them. What we learn in logic, cosmology,
psychology, ethics, epistemology and ontology, is no more supernatural and
meritorious than what we learn in mathematics.* However, error in these
philosophic sciences is always a hindrance to God’s revelations while truth is
always a help. This is the import of the famous adage "grace builds on nature."

Sound philosophy proves (1) the existence of God, (2) the immortality of the
human soul, (3) the freedom of the will. Error in these important matters can close
the mind to all revelation from God.

The First Vatican Council defined: "If anyone should have said that the One, True
God, our Creator and our Lord, cannot be known with certitude by those things
which have been made, by the natural light of reason, let him be anathema" (Denz.
1806).

This means that since Vatican I, it is a formal heresy to hold that the human mind is
not able to know the existence of God. This heresy is tantamount to saying that
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God creates an intelligent being* incapable of discovering Him. Now this


knowledge of God is not sufficient for salvation. Though it is necessary, it alone is
not sufficient. (To say otherwise would make one a Pelagian.) This ability to know
carries with it a responsibility on the part of man: an obligation to use this faculty.*
Those who have reached the age of reason are culpable if they do not know that
there is a God, and even more culpable if they deny the existence of God.

A missionary going to a pagan land where the Gospel has never been preached
cannot blame a pagan when meeting him for the first time for not knowing about
the Incarnation, about the sacraments, or about the fact that the Holy Scriptures
were inspired by God. All these are truths of the supernatural order. We know them
because God revealed them and the Church teaches them in His name. But the
missionary is entitled to blame pagans — even berate them — if he finds that they
do not even know that there is a God. They should have found that out with their
own minds before the arrival of the missionary. Like all natural virtue, the
achievement of knowing God through natural reason is praiseworthy, but not
sufficient for salvation ( it is for this purpose that the Church has missionaries).

It is supernatural wisdom that is both necessary and sufficient. It comes to us from


God, and we receive it by the docility of the will. It is presented to us by the
inspired author of the Book of Wisdom:

Wherefore I wished, and understanding was given me: and I called


upon God and the spirit* of Wisdom came upon me: And I preferred her
before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in
comparison of her. Neither did I compare unto her any precious stones:
for all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand, and silver in respect
to her shall be counted as clay. I loved her above health and beauty,*
and chose to have her instead of light: for her light cannot be put out.
Now all good things came to me together with her, and innumerable
riches through her hands. (Wisd. 7: 7 - 11)

But why philosophy?

Having shown the paramount importance of supernatural wisdom, why need we


occupy ourselves with philosophy? In a way, in the full development of the
following courses, we shall be trying to meet the challenge of this question. Since
God has bestowed on us a wisdom we receive in the light of grace, why need we
seek wisdom in the light of natural reason?

These are a few considerations in favor of the cultivation of philosophy as part of


wisdom:

First, God gave us our natural powers of intellect and will, and He is pleased to see
us use them well. Indeed it is in the possession of these powers that men are
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Second, it is natural for men to raise the questions dealt with in philosophy. When
these questions are not answered correctly through the sound method, they are
likely to be answered by error (and this is subversive of Faith and morals, as we
shall make abundantly clear). To give one example, sound philosophy proves that
the human soul, being rational, is spiritual and therefore immortal. A mind equipped
with this truth is more receptive of the truths of revelation. A mind which rejects this
truth will fall into philosophical error, heresy, and — most likely — moral corruption.

Third, sound philosophy provides clear, defined concepts and sound methods for
expressing accurately the revealed truths of the Faith. For example, the Church
uses the concepts of "substance,"* "nature," "person," etc., to express and defend
the mysteries of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Eucharist.

Fourth, God reveals the truths necessary for salvation, and man can go to Heaven
by accepting with childlike simplicity these revealed truths. But if we want to have a
culture guided by Faith and reason, the disciplines of sound philosophy become
indispensable. A Catholic culture on this earth requires just laws, a sound
philosophy of education, good family values, noble art standards, etc., and only
sound philosophy can provide such principles.

Fifth, the experimental sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy,


etc.), and the mathematical sciences are the foundations of the technological age
in which we find ourselves literally immersed. Philosophy differs from these
sciences.

While they seek proximate causes and are interested in practical results,
philosophy seeks ultimate causes from a more universal point of view. Philosophy
is more speculative (even more contemplative) and more detached. Philosophy,
therefore, can evaluate the realm of validity of each science and prevent the false
generalizations which we associate with the dangers of scientism. So, to extend
the scholastic metaphor "philosophy is the handmaid of theology," we may add that
at the same time, philosophy is the queen of the arts and sciences.

II
Logic
Logic is the science and art of correct reasoning. This is the definition from which
we will be working throughout this course. It will be explained in greater detail later.
Logic is also one of the seven Liberal Arts,* and it is under this aspect that we will
first study it. The Liberal Arts are classically categorized this way:

The Trivium:

Grammar*
Logic
Rhetoric*
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Logic
Rhetoric*

The Quadrivium:

Arithmetic
Geometry
Music*
Astronomy

The seven Liberal Arts — divided into the three disciplines of Trivium and the four
disciplines of Quadrivium — form part of the traditional wisdom which has been
handed down from the ages of Faith. These arts work in harmony with scholastic
philosophy (Philosophia Perennis) to give the man who would be wise his basic
intellectual formation. Liberal education is contrasted with specialized or
professional education, the latter being that which prepares a man for a craft or
profession whereby he may render a service to society and thus earn a living.
Without diminishing the nobility of service, from the Catholic point of view there is
implied in the attribute* "liberal" another great value: namely, the education of man*
as a free person; as a value in himself; and for his own perfection and happiness.*
A person being educated liberally is truly treated as a prince or princess.

In contrast to liberal education we may talk of servile education, which we may also
call ministerial education. Both are necessary, noble and can make us virtuous. For
this reason Christians do not despise service. Man is meant in this life to serve,
and especially to serve his fellow men. This is why we call the Order of the
priesthood ministerial. Our Lord taught us this value when he said to his disciples:

The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and they that
have power over them, are called beneficent. But you not so:
but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the
younger; and he that is the leader, as he that serveth. (Lk. 22:
25,26)

When a man seeks training to be a dentist, he does so because he is going to take


care of his fellow men's teeth and somehow make his living doing it. This is training
him for a service. When a man is trained to be a smith, this is also to do some
service — some human need for which he is going to provide. It is technical
knowledge, and it is acquiring skills that are useful to society. The kind of good*
that is aimed at in non-liberal education is the useful good, also called utililty. Utility
is truly a good, but it is not the highest good. This last statement cannot be
emphasized too much, because somehow one of the biggest fallacies that exists
today is the fallacy of utilitarianism. This fallacy can be simply defined: It is the
exaltation of utility over all else. This fallacy has reached such a critical state that
utility is the only good about which most of those we call "thinkers" actually think.
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connected Maine to Texas by wireless, but what if Maine and Texas have nothing
to say to each other? We build roads and bridges. People are rushing to the right
and to the left, rushing everywhere. And where are they going? They are not going
to, they are going from. They just want to move. This is a country of means, one of
utilities, and one of efficiency. The most pointed way to say it is this: Efficiency has
taken the place of wisdom, and utility has come to be the highest good.

When a man is educated liberally, he is being prepared to be a value in himself. He


is being prepared for the joys of knowing for the sake of knowledge, for
contemplation, for being perfect. This perfection is not moral perfection but
ontological perfection to be developed according to all the potentialities in him.

God created man in need of education. Animals don't need it; everything that an
animal* needs to be a perfect animal is built into him genetically in his instincts. A
dog cannot learn how to achieve canine perfection. No bee has to go to school to
learn how to build a hive. There is no improvement from century to century in bee-
kind. There was no Gothic style of bee hives. Man is different. Man is born with
many potentialities, all of which require perfecting (that is what a potentiality is:
something that is inherently imperfect and needs something to put it in act). That is
the sole purpose of education. Our faculties have to become our virtues and skills.
(These terms; faculties, habits, virtues and skills, are terms that will be defined
when we come to them later on in the course. We are starting to use the language
of philosophy here so that it will not be entirely new when we use it later in the
course.)

Let us for a moment consider grammar, logic and rhetoric. What do they teach us?
One teaches man to write: The word grammar comes from the Greek word
meaning to write. One teaches man to think: The word logic comes from the Greek
word for thought. The last teaches man to speak convincingly: The word rhetoric
comes from the word meaning "to speak." Immediately we should notice that these
three functions are necessary for every man no matter what he is going to end up
doing the rest of his life. No matter what specialization, no matter what the service
is for which he is going to prepare, if he is educated, man should be able to write
well, to think well, and to speak well. These are human perfections.

It would be foolish to say, "We don't need to teach him how to think; he's only going
to be a politician," or "he doesn't need to speak well to be a doctor." If someone
wants to be a doctor, he has to have the power of convincing people who seek his
services. Something of rhetoric has to be there. The politician also has to learn to
think. He has to have some ability at logic.

As for grammar, the best way to become a good writer is to become acquainted
with the most excellent writings in history. One may think that there is no great
difference between writing and speaking; that, since in both cases words proceed,
they are really the same thing. But there is a very great difference. If people had
not sat down to write excellent masterpieces we would not have grammar. People
would somehow manage to understand each other without it. Writing down a
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they are really the same thing. But there is a very great difference. If people had
not sat down to write excellent masterpieces we would not have grammar. People
would somehow manage to understand each other without it. Writing down a
sentence gives it a certain endurance that speaking it does not. The written
sentence almost demands that it be analyzed as a sentence, whereas the spoken
sentence is dealt with as part of a larger expression of thought. Somebody could
discover this book two centuries from now. He could try to build all kinds of theories
based on what is written in it, like what kind of a man the author was. There is a
responsibility here. One starts to weigh, to criticize, to structure, to introduce not
merely utility but beauty. Therefore suddenly, when language is written, the laws of
the language become manifest. The different kinds of words must be explained.
Then we discover that some words are nouns, some are verbs, some are
adjectives, some are adverbs, some are pronouns, etc. . . That is the interest in
grammar. It begins when people are writing. As we said above, the best method for
teaching grammar is to begin reading prose and poetry, masterpieces of all time.
Then the laws of the language will make sense.

With rhetoric there is included a certain amount of the study of grammar. When one
studies the masterpieces of writing, he is learning both the laws of the language
and also how to be convincing. He learns how to be attractive, how to
communicate value and conviction, and how to express truths. (We will define truth
a little later, because logic is mainly involved with truth.)

There are three transcendent values. They are truth, goodness, and beauty. These
will be discussed a great deal in this course. All culture, all civilization is found in
the true, the good, and the beautiful. They are the ideals that guide the minds of
men to excellence. For now, let us leave the other two and talk about truth.

Truth is defined as the conformity of the mind to reality. Actually, all the logical
sciences are merely to teach us how to conform our minds to reality. We say
philosophy can prove the immortality of the soul. This is a fact whether anyone
knows it or not, whether anyone admits or denies it. But when we know this reality,
we have a truth in the mind. A spiritual soul (and a rational soul must be spiritual) is
immortal. (The connection between rational and immortal is another thing that is in
the realm of good philosophy. When we prove the soul of man is rational, we are at
the same time proving it has a tremendously important ontological attribute not
found in the soul of a plant.1)

The notion of conformity that we have just introduced in our definition of truth is
very important. It would be detrimental to the student of philosophy to pass over
this term superficially.2

Conformity is a governing principle in all three disciplines of the Trivium. A writer is


seeking conformity between his mind and his expression. He wants to be able to
express himself correctly. What is written and also what is said conform to what he
thinks. The rhetorician is seeking a conformity of the mind of the person or persons
to whom he is talking with what is in his own mind. The conformity in rhetoric is
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Logic is therefore that discipline which teaches a man to think. One of the biggest
problems in the world is that everybody thinks he knows how to think. It was the
fatal assignment of Socrates to try to convince the people of Athens they really did
not know how to think, even though they thought they did. As a result, the Athenian
democracy condemned him to drink the hemlock. Socrates' fate shows how difficult
it is to bring people to realize that they need to study logic. It is true, of course, that
for ordinary affairs God gives us some kind of an instinctive bee-like ability to take
care of our problems, but knowledge and wisdom on matters of great importance
— apart from survival — are not in the realm of instinct. When it is a question of
religion, of education, of thinking correctly about the structure and nature of a state,
of the laws that should govern the state, or of establishing the sciences, human
beings just cannot think the way the fly flies, or the fish swims. This type of thought
is not instinctive. It requires the patience to start from the beginning, learning the
simplest concepts, and from there building up to the more complex. This ability is a
tremendous distinction for man. It is what sets him apart from the beasts.

There is in man an infinite ability to perfect his faculty of reason. It is, though, the
humility of man to develop his faculty of thought by this learning process. When
compared with the nine choirs of angels, whose knowledge comes intuitively, man
is lowly. He must work by the sweat of his brow even to think. The study of logic is,
therefore, a humbling thing. First, we must admit we can learn to think better than
we do. Second, we must be willing to go through a very childlike discipline: to begin
from the beginning to learn the alphabet of thought, always proceeding patiently.

The world today is being destroyed by many forces. The only way to begin to repair
the damage is to seek the ultimate cause*. Trying to solve proximate causes will
only prolong the problem unless effort is made to correct the ultimate causes. To do
this one has to know those processes by which ultimate causes are determined.
This is why we need philosophy. Philosophy never stops with the proximate causes
— it seeks the ultimate cause.

The ultimate and real cause for the subversion of our civilization is the folly of
proud thinkers, people who thought they could bypass the simple childlike
disciplines of logic and start talking about the higher subjects. They thought they
could short-circuit logic. In the end, they not only cause catastrophes to themselves
personally, but — if they are men of genius — to the whole world. Nobody can do
great harm that does not have great genius. A simple person that cannot even sell
peanuts would never cause the kind of damage that is ruining the world today. The
real culprits are the people who have been given great talents but foolishly
misused them. We must then conclude that the fact that this logical discipline has
disappeared from our colleges and from our schools is at least part of the reason
why we are educating people into atheism.

Holy Scripture teaches, The fool said in his heart, 'there is no God!' (Ps. 52:1).
According to the word of God, then, we are educating people not to wisdom but to
foolishness. With this in mind, we can introduce logic now by defining it. Logic is
the science and art of correct reasoning. This definition will be expounded upon in
14

According to the word of God, then, we are educating people not to wisdom but to
foolishness. With this in mind, we can introduce logic now by defining it. Logic is
the science and art of correct reasoning. This definition will be expounded upon in
greater detail later. For now, let us look at what is meant by the words "definition"
and "division" when used in logic.

In logic we learn what it is to define. We also learn what it is to divide. These are
two fundamental disciplines of logic. A definition is an expression expounding the
nature of a reality or the signification of a term. Definition is concerned with simpler,
more abstract, and therefore more intelligible concepts.

To divide means to classify. Division is an expression distributing a whole into its


parts. When we classify a concept, we break that concept down into smaller parts.
For example, if we wish to classify virtue, we first say how many types of virtue
there are, then we break those types into sub-types. We will distinguish natural
virtue from supernatural virtue, justice* from prudence, etc. In a written text such as
this, it is hard to spot a definition when first looking at the page, because a
definition looks like any other sentence. But division is more easy to see. In the
later volumes in this course, the reader will be able to see many diagrams that look
like upside down trees. These represent division.

Now that we know the distinction between definition and division, let us examine
more closely the definition of logic. It is the science and art of correct reasoning.
There are two values in the definition: science and art. Each of them has to have
its own definition. Science is knowledge through causes and principles. Scientific
knowledge which results from the methodical pursuit of the causes and principles
of things is more certain, more accurate, better ordered and more teachable than
the ordinary knowledge of common sense. This usage of the word science is not
the same as that which is known to most people today. The common application of
the word "science" is to what are really the empirical* sciences, biology, chemistry,
mineralogy etc. Classically, however, "science" is methodical knowledge as it
applies primarily to philosophy, theology, and to other higher disciplines.

Art, now, is a very important value in scholastic philosophy. In modern thinking, just
as science has been reduced to the empirical sciences, art has been reduced to
the plastic arts and the performing arts. But the word Ars in scholastic philosophy
applies to the doing well of a thing. The scholastics talk of things like cooking and
carpentry in terms of artistry. The making aspect is the art of the thing. Art is the
ability to perform a complex operation successfully with correctness, facility, and
speed. In other words, we not only learn some general principles, but we also learn
how to apply them and how to think well according to them. Therefore, logic is not
merely a science, but is also an art. The complex operation in logic consists in
thinking correctly about important, difficult, and deep matters.

Let us illustrate this definition of art with a concrete example: When one wishes to
learn the piano, he learns what notes on the written page correspond to what keys
on the piano. He learns what the symbols on the page mean in terms of pitch,
15

becomes second nature. This is not an instinct that spontaneously arises like the
bird building its nest. Piano-playing is an instinct that has to be developed. The
powers that God gave us can be perfected to achieve marvelous things, but the
perfection has to come through discipline.

To end our introduction to logic, we will discuss the three attributes of logic: Logic is
liberal, normative,* and reflexive. The first attribute, liberal, has already been
discussed, but it would not hurt to briefly summarize it. It is liberal because it
educates man in something that belongs to human nature as such, not because he
is going to be a doctor, not because he is going to be an architect, not because he
is going to be a policeman, but because he is man.

The second attribute of logic is normative. It is a normative science and a


normative art. Normative simply means the pursuit of how something ought to be
done, not how it is usually done. Logic teaches us how to think, it doesn't teach us
how we naturally think left to ourselves. There are other sciences that deal with
thought under different aspects, but the role of logic is to teach us how we should
think, how to think correctly. As a normative art, it teaches us how to think well.
Here an example from another normative art would help to explain the distinction:
When one studies the art of cooking — which is a normative art — he does not
study how people burn food, or how they make it bland; he studies how to cook
well.

The third attribute of logic is reflexive. Logic is a reflexive art. By reflection here is
meant the turning of something on itself. In the case of logic, it means thinking
about thought. There is a tremendous importance in the ability of the human mind
to reflect. There are only two ways by which we demonstrate the spirituality of the
soul: abstraction* and reflection.3

The fact that man is responsible morally follows upon these two faculties.
Reflection is very important because it is a spiritual activity. No animal can reflect. If
one placed a chicken in front of this book, it would look at the same black and
white letters that we humans see, but it could not abstract from the symbols and
know what is being said. Neither can the chicken reflect on its own thought. Men
can do both; we can think about the sentence we just read (abstract), and then
think about the thought itself (reflect).

Logic is the first important study we approach in philosophy. It is our first great
value. As we proceed with our study, we must remember that keeping values in
their place is one of the primary functions of the philosopher. Sapientis est
ordinare: It is the function of the wise man to impose order. The purpose of
philosophy is to give order. And order is putting first things first, putting everything
in its proper place of importance.

Thought
16

Thought
Fifteen conclusions from the study of Logic

1. All men by nature desire to know. (Aristotle)

2. Truth is conformity of our mind to reality, or of our mind to the mind of God.

3. All human activity begins with thought.

4. Only truth is constructive thought; all error is subversive or at least sterile.

5. Truth in the natural order prepares the mind for the supernatural truth.

6. All that makes man good, noble, happy, depends on his thought. We possess by
nature truth-seeking powers, but there is also in us a tendency to go after
falsehood.

7. O ye sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart? (Psalm 4:3)

8. All change, for better or for worse, must begin with a change in the way people
think. Those who say, "I do not care how a man thinks, it is what he does that
makes the difference," are guilty of a great fundamental error. Nothing makes more
ultimate difference in what a man does than how he thinks.

9. In the final analysis, a man's life is a success or a failure depending on the acts
of his mind. Two men could be equally handsome, equally pleasant, and, at least
on the outside, equally virtuous; and yet one of the two could be wise while the
other a fool. The difference: what each of them affirms or denies in his mind as the
truth about life and reality.

10. Wisdom is the perfection of knowledge about the most important truths
accompanied by an inclination of the entire human nature to live and act
accordingly. Considered absolutely, wisdom is the highest ideal for human life and
as such is incapable of full achievement on this earth. But while remaining an ideal,
it does establish a direction and a scale of values; we can usually tell when
knowledge is more or less perfect, well or ill ordered, concerned with what is truly
important or failing to put first things first.

11. Wisdom implies a mind in conformity with reality as it truly is, not merely as it
appears. Therefore a basic attribute of wisdom is profundity, and most people miss
it by way of being superficial.

12. There is a superficial outlook on reality which reduces it to what appears to the
senses, to a mere process in space and time*, which therefore denies or ignores
the invisible realities (substance, God, the soul, etc.), denies immortality, denies
17

holding explicitly its principles, still conduct their lives as if they do.

13. "A supernatural soul does not deal with secondary causes." (Bl. Elizabeth of
the Trinity)

14. "Felicity is the activity of man's most perfect power."* (Aristotle)

15. You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)

Footnotes:

1. Speaking about the soul of a plant may be a bit premature here. But by way of
introduction let us say that plants have souls. They do not have immortal souls. We
shall see this more clearly when we come to that part of our course called
psychology, which is the study of life (and everything that has life must have a
principle of life: a soul). To state it simply: The soul of a plant is not an immortal
soul because it is not a rational soul. The same truth holds for animals.

2. Philosophy studies things that the superficial consider unimportant. This is one
of the benefits of philosophical training; it is meant to prevent us from being
superficial. This is one distinction between a person who has had philosophy and
one who has not.

3. Abstraction will be treated in detail much later in the course.

III
Cosmology
Our next course in philosophy is cosmology. Cosmology, as Greek scholars know,
means the study of the cosmos. Logy, a word which comes at the end of many
names of the disciplines of science, means the rational pattern or the total
knowledge of what was mentioned in the first part of the name. In this case, it is the
total knowledge of the cosmos, which in turn means the universe. The
philosophers of the 5th and 6th centuries would call this topic "physics"* because
the ancient Greek philosophers used this name. This is not the way the word is
usually used today. Physics comes from the Greek word, Physis, which means
nature. Therefore it is correct to say that we are talking about the philosophy of
nature. The exact definition of nature will be expounded upon in greater detail in
the full course on cosmology. For now, we will avoid close detail and simply work
from a cursory explanation. Everything that is has a nature. And when we speak of
nature, we can use the word in two senses. We can speak of the nature of water,
of a bird or a lion, of a little grain of sand; but we can also talk about the nature of
all these things when they make the complete, total universe in which we live.
18

of a bird or a lion, of a little grain of sand; but we can also talk about the nature of
all these things when they make the complete, total universe in which we live.

One of the great prayers of the Church is the "Hail, Holy Queen." Our Lady is the
Queen of the universe. The kind of universe that we are going to be defending both
philosophically and theologically is the kind of universe into which Our Lady fits as
Queen. It is the universe in which the Resurrection and the Assumption can take
place. It is a universe that started as a perfect creation, suffered under the fall of
Adam, and was redeemed. It is also a universe that will be with us in a state of
glory.

Like logic in our last chapter, physics, as it is used in philosophy, belongs to a trinity
of ideas (every Greek philosopher had to have three parts to his philosophy). The
Greek names for the members of this trinity are logic, physics, and ethics, three
quite wonderful Greek words. Saint Bonaventure would say (and we must agree)
that every fundamental trinity like this one is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity. This
trinity reflects the three most basic verbs in English, or in any other language: to
be, to know, and to love. To know is the proper area of logic. Logic is involved with
knowing. When we learn logic, we learn how to think correctly so that we will know
the truth. Ethics is involved with the direction of a human activity towards the good.
It is involved with the realm of the will: a choice of, and means to, any end.*
Another term for ethics is moral philosophy. The Greeks, though, call it ethics. The
third verb — and the most important of the three — is the verb to be. Therefore,
the study of the nature of things that are is the realm of physics (in the philosophic
sense) or cosmology.

Because of the fact that philosophic physics, or cosmology, studies the natures of
things that are, one might think that everything which is (including the divine or the
angelic natures) can be studied by cosmology. But this is not the case. Cosmology
only leads towards the subject of the immaterial. It forces us to recognize the
realm, but it does not proceed to study it as its proper object. Another definition of
cosmology is found in Gredt, a standard philosophy textbook which is probably one
of the greatest ever written.1 Gredt would tell us that cosmology is the study of the
ens mobille* (Ens = being; mobile = changing): the being that changes.

The being that changes is synonymous with the material being. For now, though,
we will not say that the study of cosmology is the study of the material universe,
because that is something that cosmology proves: the existence of the universe,
and the nature or essence* of those things in it. Cosmology leads up to these
things as its end, by starting with the observable phenomenon of being in motion.*
But we have not yet proven anything, so we will concentrate now on the ens
mobile and progress from there.

This is how cosmology begins: While one turns his attention to being, he cannot
help noticing that all the objects surrounding him are in a condition of motion.
(Used in this sense, motion has a specific definition in philosophy; it means
change.) Once he notices this, he will subject the ens mobile to the science and art
19

The beginning, then, is motion. In many ways, the mystery of motion (or change) is
one of the deepest mysteries of philosophy. There are four kinds of change. The
first kind is change in place (what we would normally call motion, such as walking
from one side of a room to another). The second is change in quality* (such as the
trees changing colors in the fall). The third is change in quantity* (such as a tree
growing, or a person gaining or losing weight). The fourth kind is change in
substance (such as a piece of paper burning in a fire and turning to ash).
Substantial change is the most radical of these four types of change. This course in
philosophy, cosmology, is principally concerned with those things that change
substantially.

When something is subject to substantial change, it can be started and it can be


destroyed. Every material entity, including people (since human bodies are made
of matter*) has a beginning and an end. This is the realm of cosmology. In it we
study the natures singly of all things that are, but we also study how they all form
that order of all the natures, the order which we call nature. The universe is one.
The word universe means "turned into one." The universe, then, is a composite of
all of those things that are in it, in a unity of order and of purpose.

There are many sciences that study the things included in the realm of cosmology.
Some things we study in cosmology are the subject of more than one science. A
bird, for example, as a living thing is studied in biology. As a flying thing it can be
studied in physics. Some of the processes of its digestive system can be studied
by chemistry. These sciences are not limited to just small things like birds. Some of
the truths that are known from them apply to the material universe as a whole. For
example, everything in the material order is subject to the laws of gravity and the
law of conservation of matter and energy. In short, all of creation — from sand to
men to comets — is a subject of at least one empirical science, and can be known
according to that science.

Why, then, do we need the philosophic discipline of cosmology? This question can
be answered in three statements: First, philosophy, unlike science, begins with the
common experience of men. Second, it is needed because it retains the unity and
wholeness of the universe, as opposed to science which divides it into parts. The
third reason is that philosophy seeks the ultimate causes, whereas science cannot
go beyond proximate causes. We see, then, that philosophy differs from the
empirical sciences in that it begins with more important questions, ends with
deeper answers, all the while using as its only tool the rational intellect informed by
the senses.

here are fallacies one can fall into when he thinks that the empirical sciences are
all that are necessary to study the universe. These errors are all part of a general
larger problem called scientism. Scientism gives us a distorted philosophy full of
imperfections, full of errors, and in many ways undermining the cosmology that
God revealed (Holy Scripture does reveal to us a wisdom or a philosophy of
nature). One of the things that happens when man does not use his mind the way it
was meant to be used is that respect is lost for the order of values that an
20

God revealed (Holy Scripture does reveal to us a wisdom or a philosophy of


nature). One of the things that happens when man does not use his mind the way it
was meant to be used is that respect is lost for the order of values that an
intelligent man must respect to be acting wisely. When this happens we end up
with a distorted strictly mechanistic universe into which our Faith cannot fit. This is
why so many educated men today fall into the most preposterous errors, and why
so many of the respected thinkers don't believe in God.

As we mentioned above, the first difference between philosophy and the empirical
sciences is method. To state it in very general terms, we can say that philosophy
begins with experience, whereas sciences begin with experiment. There is a great
difference between experiments and experience. The approach of philosophy is
more contemplative. It aims at a higher category of the good, the good in itself,
which has a higher finality. The sciences, on the other hand, only justify their
existence by aiming at utility. In other words it goes back to the same distinction we
made in the last chapter between the liberal and non-liberal arts. This is why the
philosophic disciplines have also to be defended in the present age, which on the
whole disregards the higher values like the goodness of man in himself. Man is a
value in himself, and this value flows from his contemplative nature. If there are
good practical consequences of liberal education and of the philosophic disciplines,
and there are many, they follow almost on their own.

The most important reason there is for man to learn is this: It is good for man to
know. The first sentence of the Metaphysics of Aristotle is, "All men, by nature,
desire to know." Man is never satisfied until the highest faculty in him has been
perfected by its proper object. Man must know, and he must go beyond the facts to
the reason why. By contrast, the experimental sciences describe and tell what
things follow what other things, but there is no explanation. They never touch the
explanatory first principles. As an example, we know that apples fall down (nobody
ever saw one fall up). That is the way it always happens. Based on this fact, the
law of gravity was formulated, but nobody understands why. Not even the scientists
know what makes that apple know where the center of the earth is, always moving
in the right direction.

Let us look at the second of the important differences between cosmology and the
empirical sciences: Cosmology retains the unity and wholeness of the universe.
Each of the empirical sciences studies the universe under a particular aspect. This
is natural to the sciences, and it is also right that they do so. The problem enters
when the scientist attempts to explain everything in the universe according to his
particular discipline.

There were once scientists who conducted an experiment to prove whether or not
the soul existed. They weighed a man at the point of death to see if there was a
change in weight from the living to the dead body. The conclusion was that since
there was no difference in weight, there is no soul. To a mind thoroughly exercised
in science but with no philosophic training, there is no way to demonstrate the
absurdity of this position.3 We should note that in this case, as with many others, it
21

false conclusion. In this case, the scientists failed to grasp one of the most
important concepts in the universe, the soul — the very principal of life itself — in
its proper perspective.

Here is a graphic illustration of the correct approach that the philosopher takes:
Suppose we were watching the great artists of the thirteenth century engaged in
building some cathedral like Notre Dame in Paris. Each artist would be working on
some little detail. All he could see while he was working was what was before him.
But every once in a while, every one of them would stop what he was doing and go
out at a distance to look at the whole thing. They knew that their respective jobs
only worked if the whole picture was right. In the world of today, far more
dominated by the method and approach of the sciences than by those of
philosophy, people are lost in minute details and they do not see the complete
picture.

The third of the differences between cosmology and science is cause: Science
ends in proximate causes, whereas philosophy ends in ultimate, or final, causes.
The final cause is the most important of the four causes of Aristotle. It is completely
missing in the experimental sciences. The people who study experimental
sciences, and never stop to contemplate, miss out on the most important
explanation of things, that which introduces purpose. Cause is a complex concept
which will be explained in greater detail later in this series, but for now we can
illustrate the difference between proximate and ultimate cause in this manner: A
biologist and a philosopher are walking in the forest and happen upon a deer which
has just been shot dead by a hunter. A third person arrives on the scene and asks
the two scholars why the deer is dead. The biologist would say "it was killed by a
gunshot," the philosopher would say "a hunter wanted it dead." The philosopher, of
course, recognizes that the bullet killed the deer, but he sees it as the end in a
chain of causes that can be traced ultimately to the will of the hunter to kill the deer.

Another example can be taken from the history of the Crusade of Saint Benedict
Center: When the members of the Center were being annoyed by little troubles,
and thinking that the problems arose from people around Boston who were
immediately involved in the persecution, we were dealing with proximate causes. It
was only when Father Feeney perceived the ultimate cause, the fact that on the
highest level in the Church there were forces trying to bury a fundamental dogma,
that we were pulled up as if from one plane to a higher plane. We began to see the
total picture. We see, then, that it is a very great temptation, especially in this age
in which science has far more prestige and influence than philosophy, to occupy
oneself with the proximate cause and never rise up to see the ultimate cause. This
is a very obvious characteristic of the age in which we live today.

The three differences between cosmology and science having been explained, we
will now discuss the problems that arise from the disregard of philosophy. There
are many fallacies and errors that arise out of the study of the material universe
only through the scientific method. The first and most obvious one is materialism.*
If one studies the world only through the laboratory, through the test tube, by
22

are many fallacies and errors that arise out of the study of the material universe
only through the scientific method. The first and most obvious one is materialism.*
If one studies the world only through the laboratory, through the test tube, by
weighing and measuring, etc., he achieves a state of mind in which all reality has
to be according to those conditions. All one need do is to acquaint himself with one
of these modern scientific heroes to realize that, unless balanced and corrected by
liberal education and by the philosophic discipline, the scientific process in itself
produces intellectual blindness for the spiritual values.

One case which illustrates this point is that of Professor P.W. Bridgman (1882 -
1961), who was the world's greatest authority on high pressure physics in his day.
High pressure physics is an area on which many important scientific theories and
methods depend. Professor Bridgman was so good in his field that he won the
Nobel Prize for physics in 1946. He was a characteristically unhappy man but of a
friendly disposition, and did not mind being admonished by colleagues younger
and less prominent than himself. Once one of them told him, "No human mind was
made by God to know nothing but high pressure physics. God gave us a mind
meant for something much greater. . . no human mind is happy to stay in that
narrow little hole. Eventually you are going to raise your head out of that little hole;
but you will think that the whole of reality is nothing but that little hole greatly
magnified. You start talking about anything under the sun, from the possibility of
miracles to the angels to the nature of government — you talk about marriage —
about democracy — and all the principles you have in your head arise out of the
one special field." Some tried, with little success, to get him interested in the Faith
or even in a broader philosophic outlook, but he was not interested. He had a very
sad end in 1961. He is a type of the culture where science dominated, and wisdom,
both natural and supernatural, is nowhere in evidence.

Now, let us go back to the Greeks and their threefold division of philosophy: logic,
physics (cosmology), and ethics. Every Greek philosopher had to have a stand on
every one of these three: the nature of knowledge, the reality of what is, and the
nature of the good to be sought after. The most fundamental of these questions is
the third one, "What is the nature of reality — of what is?" It is the question on
which the other two questions depend. Let us consider a man who is a materialist
in his physics. There are different varieties of materialism but it amounts to the
same thing: he holds that nothing is real unless it is material. How is he going to
handle the problem of knowledge? What kind of knowledge can man have if there
is nothing real but the material? Sense experience? Sensations? Immediately
ideas are denied because ideas can only be if there is a spiritual principle above
matter. Therefore "sensism" is his philosophy.

A great deal of Anglo-Saxon Philosophy has been sensist or empiricist in the sense
that it reduces concepts or ideas into sense impressions. The dangers of these
false schools are readily seen in the application of their principles to ethics. A
materialist is doomed to be a hedonist, (i.e., the only good to be sought after is
pleasure). A major cause of our modern illness is that people, whether they know it
or not, and whether they express it philosophically or not, actually think as
23

senses. If everyone thought that way, it would mark the end of morality and the end
of religion.

Some reacted against the materialism of science and became idealists. Some
would say, "Oh, this is wonderful. We need more idealistic people in the world."
Actually, though, to deny the reality of matter (idealism*) is just as false as to deny
the reality of everything that is not material. In this brief introduction, it is not
possible to elaborate the consequences of the different forms of false philosophies
regarding the reality of the universe. For now, let it suffice to say that the answer is
not found in big ideas, more ideologies, and blind obedience in systems standing
for absolutes. We have seen in our own century the cosmic disasters caused by
such regimes. It is only the truth that makes man free, and the truth about matter
and the material universe is the cosmology that one learns as part of Philosophia
Perennis.

There was one in the ancient world who saw through both materialism and
idealism, Aristotle. He is essential to this course in philosophy. He is, in fact, so
essential to the study of philosophy, that the Scholastic theologians and
philosophers called him The Philosopher, a name no other ever merited. Aristotle
was the third in a golden chain of geniuses of thought: Socrates, Plato, and
Aristotle. This is a chain that is absolutely unique and unrepeatable.

Socrates was the teacher of Plato, who was the teacher of Aristotle. All we know
about Socrates' philosophy comes to us through the writings of Plato. Plato was a
very inspiring thinker who almost serves as a kind of Christopher Columbus for the
realm of ideas. He lifted the human mind to that realm. Unfortunately, he is also the
father of all philosophic fallacies and errors. One can take almost every modern
philosophy that is wrong — from Nazism to Communism — and trace it back to
Plato. Aristotle sat as his disciple for twelve years, being very excited about the
things he said and the way he said them. But he always had a mind that was
dedicated to saying the truth and saying it even if it were to offend or contradict
others, even his teacher. Eventually, Aristotle separated himself from the school of
Plato.

Now we will use Aristotle to answer a fundamental question. What are some of the
characteristics of what we call Philosophia Perennis when it comes to the study of
the universe philosophically? Aristotle began not with ideas, but with concrete
reality. The first principle of Philosophia Perennis is the tremendous importance of
the individual substance. Instead of beginning with big ideas, he began with this
stone, this cat, this fish, this tree, this mountain — concrete things right before him.
This is at the basis of all his philosophy, and, surprisingly, at the time, it was new.
One of the philosophers before him (Heraclitus) said, "Change is the only reality ."
Parmenides answered him by going to the other extreme - "Change cannot be real.
What is cannot become anything else."

Aristotle set out to very carefully analyze the nature of change and came out with
the very deep concepts of matter and form.* These words, matter and form, have a
24

Aristotle set out to very carefully analyze the nature of change and came out with
the very deep concepts of matter and form.* These words, matter and form, have a
very specific usage in philosophy. Matter is that of which all material things are
made. The matter that makes up a car, and the matter that makes up a tree are the
same matter, just arranged according to a different form. As for form, one should
not think of it as meaning "shape." The principle of form that Aristotle found in
everything is what makes a thing to be what it is, thus conferring upon matter a
specific nature. The form in water, in fire, or in a stone is what gives it the nature to
be what it is. When we discuss living things, the form is what we call the soul. And
when that living thing is rational, as in the case of man, then we call it an immortal
soul. These are all distinctions that require a clear mind, a clear perception of
order. One must be careful not to deny one tremendous section of reality and throw
it out completely, ending up with some kind of monism,4 as some philosophers do,
saying either "everything that is real is matter" or "everything that is real is idea*."

These concepts of form and matter are at the root of what we call Philosophia
Perennis. They are important not only to the study of good philosophy, but also to
the Faith.5 There is a name for the idea that every material thing is made up of
form and matter: Hylomorphism.* It is a Greek word composed of two other Greek
words: Houle, meaning matter, and morphe meaning form. Hylomorphism is that
philosophy of nature without which it is impossible to understand nature correctly.
Nature is the thing that is in change, the Ens Mobile, and we cannot think about it
correctly until we perceive with clarity these two fundamental principles — matter
and form. Since hylomorphism is probably the most fundamental principle of the
physics of Aristotle or the cosmology of the scholastics, we should explain why it is
so important.

The most ancient philosophers, beginning with the first, Thales (about six hundred
years before Our Lord), were all looking for the first principle of nature. Why did
they think that there should be a first principle of nature? They sensed that behind
the variety of things around us there is something which unites them. This truth
came to them, not by experiments — because once we are dealing with an
experiment we already narrow the subject; we have just taken some slice of reality
and artificially done something to it — but by the common experience of all men.
That is why Philosophia Perennis is the only philosophy that is continuous with the
general common sense of all men. The great giants of Philosophia Perennis had a
tremendous respect for the intelligence of their fellow men. Not one of them
thought that truth is going to begin with "me." That is a mark of modern
philosophers, and for this reason all modern philosophy goes by labels. Some
philosophers are Kantians, some are Hegelians, while still others are Cartesians.
Underlying these systems is a notion that the mass of humanity is stupid, while the
inventor of the particular system is qualified to think in philosophical matters. All
their fathers and mothers and ancestors have known nothing. They are going to be
the first ones to tell the world what it is all about.

Now, it is true that a good philosopher like Aristotle is deeper, more consistent, and
can reach some very important truths that most people only sense at a distance,
25

"me" is sheer pride. It is the conceit of the modern philosophers, and it does not
match the spirit of the philosophers of the caliber of St. Thomas Aquinas or St.
Bonaventure. Even among the pagan Greeks like Aristotle, this would be
considered prideful.

Here is how we learn from the common experience of men: Suppose that as we
look at the world around us, we see a little seed planted in a garden, knowing that
it came from a pine tree. After a period of time, we see a little plant rise and start to
grow. Eventually we get the same tree from which the seed came. In the beginning
was something weighing a couple of grams and now there are tons. Where did all
this pine material come from? Well, it came from the soil around it, whatever kind
of fertilizer was used, the water, the air, even the heat coming from the sun. That
tree came from everything around it — the whole universe was cooperating to
make it increase. Why did it grow up to be a pine and not an apple tree? Why did it
not grow up to be a cow? The principle was in that little seed. That is sheer
common-sense intelligence. The seed somehow contained the form, and the
matter was supplied by everything else. What happened to the material things that
were assimilated into that tree? They lost their substantial form and were
assimilated by another. But something continued. That something was immediately
perceived by the mind of man. It must be there. We see the truth of form and
matter not by one experiment carried out in some laboratory, but by observing the
world all around us.

Let us return to an idea we introduced above, the Ens Mobile. Now, Heraclitus was
right to a point. Motion is the most pervasive thing in the whole world around us. It
does not have to be proven in the case of humans. We know that at every instant
something in us is changing. Everybody knows that each minute we are getting a
little older. We are all approaching that moment of substantial change which in the
case of man means death. Besides change in ourselves, we can see change all
around us: the trees are changing, the wind is blowing, the water is flowing. These
are all rapid changes that we can see as they happen. But even the mountain,
which appears to be still and immutable is like us in this respect: Every single thing
in that mountain is subject to continual change. Change is the most pervasive
thing. We referred earlier to the "Hail, Holy Queen." There is a great truth in that
prayer that is very relevant to our course in cosmology: "to thee do we send up our
sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears." Why is it a vale of tears?
Because it is a world of change. Since the fall all this change has something
pathetic about it. It is not always happy change, like growth or further experience.
Every material substance is approaching its death. That is why it is the vale of
tears.

There is much we can learn about change. The first place to look is Aristotle. One
of Aristotle's great contributions to philosophy was his ten categories. If a thing is
real it has to fit into one of these ten categories. It must be either a substance, a
quantity, a quality, a relation, an action, a passion*, a time, a place, a disposition, or
a habit.* Aristotle named the categories and saw that change occurs significantly in
four of them: place, quantity, quality and substance. First is change of place.
26

a habit.* Aristotle named the categories and saw that change occurs significantly in
four of them: place, quantity, quality and substance. First is change of place.
Without changing anything else, something can be moved from one place to
another. This is called locomotion. Second is change in quantity. This is the type of
change that the little seed went through to become the big pine tree. The third is
change of quality. The woods in the New England fall are an example of this; they
change colors. The fourth, and most important kind of change is substantial
change. It is more radical than the others. If one were to take this book and throw it
into a fire, it would undergo a substantial change — the paper nature would
disappear. Its substance would completely vanish, leaving another substance (or
substances) in its place, the ashes and the smoke. In nature, there is no
annihilation. The matter that was united to the form of paper becomes united to
another form. All of this is something that Aristotle recognized to be so. He did not
invent it. It is a concrete reality which forms part of the common experience of all
men. He drew the right conclusions from that fact. He saw that something has
continued while something has vanished. What is it that vanished? The substance
of paper. It turned into all kinds of things. Smoke, ashes and so on. What's the
thing that must have continued? Matter, which came to be united with the form of
ash and the form of smoke to be a new substance.

If a man sees a tree that was green one day and it is red the next day, he knows
that the tree is the one that underwent the change. When it was a little seedling
and became a big tree, no one questioned that it was the tree that went through
change. As long as the substance is there it is the subject of the change. The mind
cannot conceive change as a reality by itself. Change must happen to something.
The rejection of this fact is one of the biggest fallacies of so many modern
philosophers. Whitehead (1861 - 1947) wrote a book called Process and Reality. In
it he almost invented a whole language just to fight against the very concept of
substance. Most of the philosophers today attack the simple, innocent concept of
substance. This concept is one of the things we defend in Philosophia Perennis.
Without it, so many of the important, fundamental Christian dogmas could not be
expressed. Consubstantialem Patri (consubstantial with the Father) is the way
substance is used in the Creed to express the relation of the Son to the Father in
the Blessed Trinity. What about transubstantiation? It means, very simply, that the
substance of the bread is changed into the substance of Our Lord. Modernists and
liberals do not like the word transubstantiation. Some of them speak of
transignification, or some other made-up word. As soon as they use that language,
we know they reject the Real Presence (and probably the concept of substance,
too).

The philosophy of Aristotle has become the philosophy of Catholics: Scholastic


Philosophy, or Philosophia Perennis. It is the philosophy of Catholics because
Catholics accept the truth wherever they find it, and they know that all truth makes
a harmonious whole. Catholic philosophy must be defended against the errors of
modern philosophy. To do this, it is necessary to defend its most basic principles.
The first of these would be the reality of the individual substance. The second
would be the important concept of hylomorphism. We should say here that true
27

prove the reality of miracles, but, while understanding the true ontological status of
the laws of nature, it leaves a place for the Providence of God — and God runs the
universe.

On the supernatural level, from revelation we know that God created the universe,
and we even know how He created it. To be a worthy work of God it has to have a
sublime purpose. The Christian revelation tells us what that sublime purpose is.
Revelation gives man the important position, because man is the greatest being,
not in all reality — that would be blasphemous — but in the material world. God
created man to His image and likeness, and made him lord over the whole material
creation. The modern sciences have de-emphasized the importance of man,
because "now we know that the earth is just one of the minor planets in some
corner of the Milky Way which is itself only one of the millions of galaxies." They
think that there are other rational beings somewhere else in the universe. Then
they prove their folly not only by words, but by their deeds. Some scientists have
been broadcasting to empty space the number 6.624 times ten to the minus
twenty-seven, what mathematicians call Planck's constant. If there are intelligent
beings on some of the other planets, it seems, someday they will write back and
say, "Well, how did you discover Planck's constant? Isn't that wonderful! You know
it, too." Needless to say, they still have not received any answer. But they still
broadcast into empty space.

Man is the center of the universe. It does not matter if he is not the exact
geometrical center, or if the whole world does not move around him like a sphere
turning on its center. Man is the most important object in the cosmos. He is
obviously not as big as a galaxy. He certainly does not weigh as much as an
elephant. But he is a being that is created to live forever, knowing and loving and
praising God. There is nothing in the world that can compare to what man is in
himself.

Another of the fallacies of modern science is its dethroning of man in the universe.
Not only is it one of the fallacies of modern philosophy, it is also its greatest irony.
Man becomes very proud looking up towards God and becomes suddenly humble
when he looks to the apes. It should be the other way around.

We will end this introduction to the discipline of cosmology with some supernatural
wisdom from the Psalms:

O Lord, Our Lord, how admirable is Thy Name in the whole


earth!

For Thy magnificence is elevated above the heavens.

Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings Thou hast


perfected praise because of Thy enemies, that Thou mayest
destroy the enemy and the avenger.
28

perfected praise because of Thy enemies, that Thou mayest


destroy the enemy and the avenger.

For I will behold Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers: the
moon and the stars which Thou hast founded.

What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man
that Thou visitest him?

Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast
crowned him with glory and honour: and hast set him over
the works of Thy hands.

Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, all sheep and
oxen: moreover the beasts also of the fields.

The birds of the air and the fishes of the sea, that pass
through the paths of the sea.

O Lord, Our Lord, how admirable is Thy Name in all the


earth!

Nature
Fifteen conclusions from the study of cosmology
1. Nature is the essence of a thing considered as the principle of its actions and
passions — i.e., of what it can do or suffer.

2. All our knowledge begins with the sensible universe — i.e., the reality manifest
to our senses. In this world given to us through the senses, our mind (intellect)
perceives the objective* and valid concepts of substance and cause.

3. This sensible universe is characterized by change, and thus our first problem
consists in an examination of the nature of a changing object (ens mobile). The
study of a changing object is the philosophic science of cosmology.

4. Ens mobile (a being subject to change) is the philosophic name we give the
visible universe and everything in it. And so the earth is a changing object, so is a
star, a tree, a dog, or a grain of sand, as well as the entire universe taken as one
thing.

5. Many experimental sciences deal with the world of change — notably: physics,
chemistry, astronomy, biology, geology, etc. These sciences begin, on the whole,
with concrete facts universally admitted and open to verification by all. Also on the
whole these sciences reach conclusions that are verifiable and sometimes useful.
29

philosophic science of cosmology. In cosmology the visible universe reveals to the


mind its attributes (i.e., the attributes of a changing object), its purpose, and its
order. It also leads to the knowledge that a world of change could not be the only
primary reality.

6. A changing object manifests a duality of act and potency* somehow united in


one being. The aspect of act is that by which the changing object is something
actually now, the aspect of potency is that by which the same being could become
something else. An acorn is an acorn in act but a tree in potency, and a grain of
dust is in potency part of a living thing like a tree. Every changing object is a
composite of act and potency. In the case of a changing object that is also visible,
act can be called form, and potency can be called matter. The objects of the visible
universe are composites of form and matter. The visible universe is a material
thing. A material thing cannot be the only reality, nor the primary reality.

7. Every material object has a nature which determines that object to act (or suffer
the action of other things) in a determinate and purposive way. It is because of that
nature that the object is knowable and recognizable. All the so-called laws of
nature that are studied in physics, chemistry, and biology, are reducible to the
innate purposive tendencies of such concrete individual natures. What justifies the
concept of nature (in the universal singular sense) is the fact that the millions of
individual little natures function within the scheme of one, universal, purposive
harmony.

8. Every material object is either one natural substance or is made up of many


natural substances. Every material substance is a composite of prime matter and
substantial form, and is subject to substantial change.

9. The sensible universe teaches all men clearly that there must be an immaterial
world of realities on which the material world depends.

10. The material universe manifests order and purpose, and therefore argues for
an Intelligence creative of these values.

11. The two concepts of "creation" and "omnipotence" come from revelation, but a
philosophically trained mind can draw all the conclusions they imply.

12. The material universe is not one substance but a plurality of substances, yet it
manifests a certain unity of purpose and concerted action.

13. The material universe manifests the reality of life and the difference between
living and non-living things.

14. Natura non deficit in necessariis. (Nature does not fail in what is necessary.)
30

14. Natura non deficit in necessariis. (Nature does not fail in what is necessary.)

15. Natura est ratio artis divinae, inditae rebus; qua moventur ad suos fines.
(Nature is the effect of divine art, implanted in things by which they are moved to
their end. — Saint Thomas Aquinas)

Footnotes:

1 Gredt was a German Benedictine philosopher who spent many years as a


professor at the college of Saint Anselm in Rome. The Latin name of his great work
is Elementa Philosophiæ Aristotelico-Thomisticæ.

2 It is for this reason that logic precedes the other disciplines of philosophy. Correct
reasoning is the foundation of Philosophia Perennis.

3 It will become evident when we study in philosophic psychology the kind of being
the soul is.

4 A monism is a system of thought which reduces all reality to one single principle,
with only apparent or accidental variations. Pantheism,* the belief that God is
everything and everything is God, is a monism.

5 This course seeks to teach natural philosophy, but it also seeks to go beyond it.
We wish to introduce the reader to wisdom, both natural and supernatural, so we
will be giving the principles of Philosophia Perennis, always distinguishing between
what can be known by natural reason and what can only be known because God
revealed it. Now, the founder of Philosophia Perennis is Aristotle, but the one who
clarified it and purified it from some of its pagan adjuncts thus making it a structure
of Catholic thought, was St. Thomas Aquinas. The concepts of form and matter,
explained here very briefly, appear all throughout the works of St. Thomas. They
are also part of the Church's official vocabulary. Every sacrament has form and
matter; heresy is divided into material and formal, and so is schism. The reader
should do his best to grasp these notions as they are explained later in the series.

IV
Psychology
Our third course is psychology. The first thing that we will explain is what the word
itself means. To the modern mind, it means the study of human behavior. When
most people hear the word, they think of Freud or Jung. For philosophers, the word
means something completely different. Psychology is a composite of two Greek
words: psyche and logos. Logos has occurred before in this text. Generally, any
organized body of knowledge contains logos in its name. Psyche means soul. One
of the things we will be learning in this course is what kind of reality, what kind of
31

One thing that must be repeated again is that there are souls other than the human
soul. Animals and plants have souls too. Their souls are mortal souls. The human
soul is more than just a soul of this type. It is a spiritual soul. Now we are already
using the terms that in this course we will make more clear. It is our technique to
introduce them gradually at the start, to whet the intellectual appetite, then as the
course progresses to make the terms more definite, more thoroughly established,
and more apt to be used by the student in his own thinking.

One of the things we will learn in psychology is how to prove by reason the
immortality of the human soul. Another is how to prove by reason the freedom of
the will. These are not common, secondary truths. One can pick up any newspaper
and find many truths written there. We can learn about all kinds of events that
happen. There is a great deal of factual information in them. But the truths they
contain are contingent* truths. They came from a series of historical events that
made them so, and there is something about them that is unimportant when
compared to the truths we study in philosophy. The truths about man studied in
psychology are not contingent on a chain of events that extend through history.
Things like the immortality of the soul and the freedom of the will are perennial
truths that are an immediate result of man’s being created with the nature he has.
These two truths in particular — the immortality of the soul and the freedom of the
will — are the foundation of all civilization. They are also the foundation of all
morality and prerequisites for religion.

The scholastic theologians came up with many short maxims pregnant with
meaning. One of them is "Grace builds on nature." An aspect of this is that grace
presupposes some natural goodness and some natural love of truth. When we use
our minds correctly, we arrive at truths that are the foundation of good civilization
and good culture. All of the basis for sound economic life, good government, good
laws, etc., proceed from thought about fundamental things in the correct way. This
natural love of wisdom is called in Latin a preparatio Fidei, a preparation for the
Faith. (This is what the Roman world had in the days of the early Church, a
foundation of good thought which was part of the Greco-Roman culture.) When
man’s nature is filled with malice and hostile to the truth, then grace does not build
on it. If universities teach people in such a way as to turn them into materialists or
determinists, 1 there is no way that they are going to stay (or become) Catholic.
Every single thing in these false philosophies fights against the Faith.

We mentioned something in the last chapter about the dangers of scientism. One
of the dangers of scientism is that people lose all sense of liberty. Many people
think that they still have liberty because they can go after their pleasures, acting on
the impulse of the moment. But this is not true liberty. It is animal determinism.*
True liberty is a spiritual thing. It presupposes knowledge of man’s true happiness
and the wise inclination to seek it. When no true sense of liberty exists, moral
responsibility is almost completely lost. A person who must do whatever an impulse
of the moment dictates is neither truly free nor morally responsible. All one need do
is to look around, see the corruption in the world, then ask the true philosophers
and they will give the reason why. That people are in this condition is exactly and
32

is to look around, see the corruption in the world, then ask the true philosophers
and they will give the reason why. That people are in this condition is exactly and
predictably the result of the way they were educated. We see, then, that these
errors in the field of psychology are very costly to the human person in the natural
as well as the supernatural order.

One of the things that is most basic to any course on psychology is the distinction
between soul and spirit. The words are often used interchangeably, but they are
different in meaning. A spirit is a completely immaterial substance. God is a spirit.
Angels are spirits. A spirit never has any dependence on matter in any way. This is
why we cannot, in strict philosophical language, call the human soul a spirit. It is
called "spiritual" because it shares some things in common with spirits: immortality,
intellectuality, and a certain independence of matter; but it is not called a "spirit."

The soul is the principle of life in any living thing. Plants, trees, monkeys and men
all have souls. The difference is that the human soul is a spiritual soul. Again: The
existence of a vegetable or animal soul is dependent, by its very nature, on matter.
The soul of a pine tree no longer exists when the tree dies. Neither does the soul of
a dog. Once separated from the body, the soul of the plant or animal dies. But the
human soul goes on living. Though it is meant to animate the body, and some of its
faculties depend on the body, the human soul is not by its very nature dependent
on matter. So we say in technical language that the animal soul is intrinsically
dependent on matter, whereas the human soul is only extrinsically dependent on
matter.

Now, the distinction that we have just mentioned between the animal soul and the
human soul is important to the way psychology is studied. Psychology is divided
into minor psychology, which studies life and living things that are either plants or
animals; and major psychology, which studies life in man. Our book on psychology
will roughly correspond to one of the important treatises in the Summa Theologica
of St. Thomas Aquinas, De Homine (Of Man). In this treatise, one can find
reference to plants and animals. It is important that we know why St. Thomas
discusses plants and animals in a treatise on man. He studies them because man
is not simply another layer of being. In man all of the perfections of the lower
beings co-exist, and to them are added those perfections that are unique to man.
That is why man is sometimes called "the microcosm" by the philosophers. He is a
little miniature of the complete universe. There is something in man that is mineral,
something vegetable, and something animal.

In logic we talk about ideas and abstract principles. Signs are a good example of
this. But in cosmology and psychology we talk about the concrete much more. For
a moment, let us imagine ourselves on a beach looking down at billions of grains of
sand. If we reached down to pick up a single grain and held it in our hands, we
could say, "Philosophy is about this little thing." How is this so? As has been
mentioned several times already, each discipline of philosophy builds on the one
preceding it. In the case of the grain of sand, it is certainly in the realm of
cosmology. Yet, it is relevant to the realm of psychology. The grain of sand is an
33

roof of a high building, it would fall down. The same would happen to a stalk of
celery, or a turtle, or a man. All of these beings are subject to the laws of gravity.
Since in psychology we are building on what we learned in cosmology, we can
study man as an ens mobile.

We also learned in cosmology that reality ultimately must reside in individual


substances. That is very important. Plato was fascinated by ideas. To him the idea
of a bird was tremendous. Plato taught us that by philosophy one can know that
birds live and die, while some universal bird continues to go on. He made this the
prime interest in his philosophy. On this point Aristotle disagreed with him
completely. The only reality is that little sparrow, and when it dies there could be
another sparrow, but the reality of the universal sparrow exists only in individual
substances. On that issue we Catholics thoroughly agree with Aristotle. We are not
Platonists. There is a place and a tremendous importance for ideas, but we leave
them where they belong. The kind of reality that belongs to ideas, their status as
beings, is very important in scholastic philosophy, but must wait to be discussed in
the course on epistemology.

In psychology, as in cosmology, we talk about what exists as individual substance.


The scholastics talk about the individual substance as the prime substance, the
unum per se. It is the thing that has natural unity. That immediately establishes the
parameters of our discussion. When it thinks of natures, the mind looks for the
unum per se. Since we know that in man we are going to find all these principles,
we could be discussing them now and would seem to be reviewing previous things,
but this is still psychology. We are still talking about man.

When we think about fire, we think about it as a physical reality. Water, too, is a
physical reality. One of the first concepts we learned in philosophy was the concept
of nature. And nature is the same as the essence of the thing looked at from one
point of view. Essence is the answer to the question "What is this?" These
questions seek the essence of a thing: What is water? What is electricity? What is
time? What is life? So if essence is the "whatness" of the thing we are talking
about, nature is the essence of the thing conceived as the principle of what the
thing does, or what can be done to it. All of these principles apply to man just as
they apply to the lower creatures.

With most physical realities, we cannot give an exhaustive definition of the


essence, but by watching the performance of a thing we get partial knowledge of
its nature and essence. One of the things philosophers talk about and seek to
come to an intelligent understanding of is the nature of the kind of reality that time
is. A large section of St. Augustine’s Confessions, for example, is a meditation on
the nature of time. We come across a difficult problem in time: The past is no
longer, so it is not; the future is not yet, so it is not; and the present — the now —
is. But what is the now? By the time one says the word, it is no longer now. Many
fallacies arose out of the theory of relativity due to a lack of philosophic analysis of
the nature of time or the kind of reality that time has. When science has taken over
completely and genuine philosophic thinking has disappeared, the strangest,
34

the nature of time or the kind of reality that time has. When science has taken over
completely and genuine philosophic thinking has disappeared, the strangest,
wildest thoughts and theories abound. But the full discussion of this matter is for
another time — for a later book in this series.

Let us look at something far simpler than time: water. Does it have a nature? Do
we know anything about the whatness of water? Anything that we can say in
general about a physical reality subject to change will be applicable to this
question. Though our understanding of the essences of things like water or gold or
iron or air is never exhaustive, there are things about the essence that we can
certainly know. Now, since nature is the essence of the thing as the principle of
what it does, we can know what the nature of water is more easily than we can
know the essence. We know first that water does have a nature. We can just think
of the tremendous wonder that water is, the marvelous cycle that it goes through. It
falls from the clouds, waters our plants, the fish swim in it, the animals drink it, and
somehow the process all starts all over again. But suppose water stopped falling.
Suppose it went on a strike. "I refuse to evaporate. I just don’t want to be up in the
sky — I get dizzy." No more clouds, no more rain. Next, no more plants, then no
more animals, and finally, no more men. We would all be dead. But we know that
water cannot do this. The very fact that any reader of ordinary intelligence finds this
set of circumstances an absurdity shows that we can know the nature of water. It is
not part of the nature of water to decide not to evaporate.

Let us return to the little grain of sand that we discussed above. It is quite a
dependable little thing. If it gets into a person’s eye, we know exactly what will
happen. If someone steps on a big mound of it, it will react in a certain way. That
little grain of sand could kill a tyrant if it gets into the right spot in his brain or his
heart. We know what it does when it is put on the roads during snow season. In
fact, not only do we know what it does, many of us depend on its tenacity for our
well being. We take these things for granted. One of the great effects of the study
of philosophy is an appreciation of the things that superficial people take for
granted.

Most people take it for granted that the grain of sand is dependable. If sand
suddenly ceased to be dependable, if its nature would randomly change into
something else — or if it acted as if it did not really have a nature at all, but was
some kind of a formless, uncertain blob that could be solid at one moment, liquid at
another, and gaseous at still another — the word "sand" would cease to mean
anything to us. Suppose this little grain of sand unpredictably were to turn into a
drop of water. Now we just appreciated water and we are very grateful for its
existence. Our very existence depends on water. But if every grain of sand could
also become water, what would happen? For one thing, it would be difficult to read
this book. The whole solid part of the earth would collapse; the ocean would
overwhelm everything; and all human life would be immediately terminated. Our
very ability to sit down and read a book about philosophy, to think and to pray, our
attempt to educate ourselves about the higher things, all depend on those little
grains of sand staying just the way they are — keeping their sand nature.
35

certainly cannot thank a grain of sand, but we can begin to appreciate the Power
that put it in existence. It is that Power that gave it a nature that is so dependable
and made it part of that thing called "nature," which is no more nor less than the
order of all the different natures that exist.

We shall return to water for a moment now. Water has been an interest of many
philosophers. It poses many problems to the philosophical mind: Where does that
nature of water reside? If one were to take a small body of water as in a glass, then
divide it by pouring half in another glass, he would have two glasses with water
nature in them. But if he were to keep doing this, would he ever reach a point when
there is no more water nature? What is the smallest thing we can call water?
Where is the littlest expression of water nature? Here, science has given us a
name: the molecule. But this is only accidental to philosophy, because by
philosophy, we can know that there is an unum per se. There must be some point
at which the water breaks down into one unit which, if divided, will no longer be
water. The process cannot go on ad infinitum. Science has confirmed this by telling
us that when we take one molecule of water and split it, it becomes two gases,
hydrogen and oxygen. These are not water because they have not the form of
water, the essence of water, or the nature of water.

To put it simply, if we were to keep dividing the water in half, we would come to a
point at which we have the smallest thing we call water. Once we divide that thing
we get something else. That thing, in turn, has its own form, essence and nature.
As for the unum per se, that small molecule of water, it will take billions of them
together to form a lake, a stream, or even to make it possible for someone to wash
his face or take a shower. But it is still water, just as the Atlantic is water.

When we come to the substantial form in that unum per se, cosmology teaches us
something that will be helpful to psychology, because in some sense the study of
living things is also part of the study of cosmology. In other words, psychology is a
continuation of the study of nature. It is just another level of nature that should be
studied, but because life is so much more important than non-life, it deserves to be
studied all on its own.

The unit of every chemical substance is the molecule, and every molecule is a
composite of two principles. In the study of cosmology, we will learn to call them
matter and form — prime matter and substantial form. Now, about these terms,
matter and form: Sometimes in philosophy we introduce terms that are so entirely
technical that few people use them in everyday speech. These simply have to be
learned. But some terms are tricky and even dangerous because we use them
every day. The word "form" is a prime example of this. Most people hear the word
and say, "Well, I know exactly what form means." They think of the form of a book
or the form of a tree. They think that it means "shape." In philosophy, though, the
word means something deeper. The student has to understand what it means
technically.

Now, in a very brief manner, we will illustrate some of the concepts that are most
36

Now, in a very brief manner, we will illustrate some of the concepts that are most
basic to philosophy: form, matter, substance, nature, and substantial change. We
will illustrate them in terms of the water that we have been talking about: The
explosion of that natural unit which we call the molecule of water involves
substantial change, since the very substance of the thing (and therefore, its nature
2 ) have been destroyed. In other words, the substantial form of water — the thing
that makes the matter water — continues to exist only while the water molecule is
still water. But the matter itself has to continue and become something else,
because matter cannot be destroyed. This is a truth that both science and theology
affirm. After the creation of the world from nothing, no new matter is created. From
there on, all those things we perceive as destruction and creation are merely
substantial change. Something changes but something else has to come out of it.

What does all this have to do with psychology? As we said before and will keep on
saying, psychology builds on cosmology. Humans have form and matter too. We
are substances. We have substantial form. It is this substantial form in living things
that we call the soul, and in humans it is a rational soul. The form that humans
have determines human nature. It is what makes us people and not baseball bats
or fish. Most people today do not even have the ability to grasp these concepts.
They do not understand substantial form, therefore they talk and act as if there
were no such thing as a soul.

When one studies philosophy, he joins the company of the best minds that ever
existed. It is only by restoring that excellence of mind that we can begin to effect an
improvement in our civilization today. Everything must begin with thought. All the
wickedness and evil in the world today is due to bad thought. If we were to ask a
person, "Is there anything bothering you or troubling you or afflicting you?" very few
people would say, "Oh, no. Nothing at all. Absolutely nothing." A person who would
answer like this is almost a candidate for the insane asylum. Most people will say,
"Yes. I have lots of problems. Lots of worries. Lots of things bothering me." Now,
we say, "You sit down and write me a list." And he might begin by saying, "Oh, I
wish I had more money. . . I wish I had a better job. . . I wish I had more friends. . . I
wish I were living in a better society. . . I wish I were a little slimmer." How many
people would say, "I wish I had a little more logic in my head"? Few; but that should
have been the very first concern. If we ask, "Why don’t you learn how to think?"
most people would find it ridiculous. It would be just like saying, "Why don’t you go
to school to learn how to walk?"

Is not thinking something that we do spontaneously? To some extent, it is. There is


no man living that is not doing some thinking. But few they are who can do
excellent thinking. The whole course of psychology is also going to be a
preparation for the course in ethics. ethics is, in turn, the foundation of all sound
politics, all sound economics, and all sound education. Why is this so? Because it
is only when we know what man is that we know what man should be. Like logic,
ethics is a normative science, while psychology is a factual or practical science. 3

But in the case of man, ethics is closely related to psychology. In other words, good
37

psychology). Here is what we mean: If we see a cat torturing a mouse, we do not


say to it, "Why don’t you be a cat?" If we see a tiger prowling after a little deer, we
do not say, "Why don’t you be a tiger?" But if we see a man making a fool of
himself, we say, "Why don’t you be a man!" Once the nature of man is understood,
then a norm of behavior is almost immediately established. The whole natural law
has its meaning in the fact that man is rational. Every time man does something
wrong, especially when it is morally sinful, he is acting against his own reason. So
the subject of psychology is not only the foundation but is also the beginning of
sound morality.

By now, the reader should have some idea of the kind of reality that the soul is. We
should now be able to use some of the vocabulary of philosophy, that is, at least
enough to comprehend that every physical substance has a nature, and that nature
is determined by the substantial form.

Let us go further. Some natures are endowed with a wonderful attribute we call life,
and some natures lack that attribute. How is it that we can distinguish between
living and non-living things? Or in simpler terms, what is life? How is it defined?
The answer is so simple that upon first hearing it, some may be disappointed.
Some may even despise it. Yet it is one of the greatest things that the human
intelligence has ever achieved: Life is the natural capacity for immanent activity. A
living thing has a nature that is capable of immanent action,* while every non-living
thing is capable only of transient* action. Immanent means "remaining in" or
"operating within." The nature of a living thing is to operate itself. The vital actions
remain within the living thing and have a purpose in and for it. Transient means
"imparted to another" or "going from one being to another." The transient actions of
a non-living thing pass over to other things and must find their purpose in other
things. The principle of operation in transient things is something outside that thing.
As a consequence, in reality there is an order of importance between living and
non-living things. Non-life is at the service of life. This may at first seem too
abstract, but by the end of this chapter, and certainly by the end of the book on
psychology, we will make this very important philosophic truth more easily
understood.

Let us suppose we had a universe of non-living things with only one living thing in
it, a blade of grass. Except for the blade of grass, all that exists are the dead
galaxies, the sun, the moon and the stars; and on this earth all that lacks life — the
mountains, the seas, the wind blowing, the water flowing, the soil, and so on.
Everything is acting according to its nature. That one blade of grass — the one
living thing in this universe — is the only being with a purpose of its own. It has vital
activity (growth, assimilation, reproduction); it is capable of immanent actions. If
that blade of grass dies, then nothing in the universe has a purpose of its own.

Immanent action and transient action are concepts we will have to grasp
thoroughly if we are to understand life. They can be seen in everyday things, like a
watch. A watch goes on ticking twenty-four hours a day. Is there life there? Not a
hint of it. There is talk now in the computer world of "artificial intelligence," of a
38

hint of it. There is talk now in the computer world of "artificial intelligence," of a
thinking machine. Is there any immanent action in any computer? Not even a
glimmer. Every single activity they are capable of is transient activity. Transient
activity is some substance nudging another substance. The whole world is made
up of balls hitting other balls, like a billiard table. One thing moves another by some
mechanical, magnetic or electric process, and that object in turn moves others. Is it
all arbitrary, or does it have a purpose? It has a purpose. Some may say, "Why
does every motion have to have a purpose?" That is one of the truths that our book
in cosmology will explain.

We will isolate one transient action: the blowing of the wind. As far as physics is
concerned, (and here we are talking about physics in the modern sense), purpose
is not a matter of consideration. But it does have a purpose. Everything has a
purpose. But for whose benefit does the wind blow? Is it for the substance — i.e.
the air — itself? No, that substance has absolutely no purpose of itself. A transient
action by a substance is certainly not for its benefit. What does it benefit?
Something outside itself. One cannot find the purpose of that inanimate activity in
the substance that is doing it. It is for living things that air has such a dynamic
mobility. Without it neither man nor animal, nor even fish nor plant could survive.
The little grain that produced that little blade of grass does not even look like a
living thing. But with the help of water, soil, sunshine, etc., that apparently dead
thing begins to sprout. This sprouting is an immanent action (which was assisted
by many transient actions).

One philosopher called vegetative life the last echo of life in all existence, the last
and lowest; while on the other end of the scale is life eternal, life as it is in God. In
this life, immanence — the essence of life, and its very definition — is realized to
the maximum. Our Lord, talking as God, identifies Himself with life saying, "Ego
sum via, veritas et vita": "I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6)." The
angels are living spirits. They are more alive than any kind of life found in matter.
Below them there is human life, then animal life, and finally vegetative life. When
we write our whole volume on psychology, we shall find that the different levels of
life involve different grades of immanence in their proper activities. Obviously the
lowest grade is what we find in plant life.

Let us return to the grain that sprouted to produce a blade of grass, taking it as
representing all plant life. We will examine all the manifestations of life found on
that plane of existence. The blade of grass can grow. It can assimilate (that is, take
substances different from itself and turn them into the substance of grass). All the
physical laws serve its purpose. The natures of inanimate things are ordered to
help it achieve its end. The properties of soil, water, air, even the properties of light,
seem to conspire to accommodate it in achieving its purpose. All are at the service
of the principle of life in that little seed. We watch it develop from a tiny little object
to one several times the size. A seed no bigger than the grass seed can produce a
bush or plant thousands of times its size. How did it increase? Did it create matter?
No. No matter was created. Whether it was the air, the water, the soil, or the
sunlight that it took, it overcame their substantial forms and imposed its own. It has
39

perfection, was right there in the seed. The seed is doing something in itself, for
itself. Or, as the philosophers say, it is "self-perfecting." In other words, in that
whole universe we invented above, with all the constellations — with the sun, the
moon and the stars, all the sky, the wide fields and the lakes, the only entity which
is putting the natures of the inanimate things to use for a purpose that is in itself
and for its own is that little seed.

What are the three vital activities that are found in every living thing (including
plants)? Growth, assimilation, and reproduction. It comes to a point where it
produces another little seed with the same nature, the same purpose, and the
same design. When it is put into the field it will start another life. We cannot deny
this fact of nature, namely, that there are beings which possess these three
wonderful activities of assimilation, growth, and reproduction. It provides a decisive
criterion to distinguish every living from every non-living entity. Every materially
living being possesses those powers; every non-living being lacks them. The
evolutionists and materialists in general tend to blur over this neat distinction —
they talk of thinking machines. They speak of computers as having "memory." But
there is not, nor can there be a glimmer of thought or real memory in a mechanical
device. Thought and memory can only be in a living being. A man could be stupidly
watching a computer perform brilliantly, but the man’s stupidity is immanent, while
the machine’s brilliance is not.

We have already dwelt somewhat at length on the order that exists between living
and non-living things, an order of purpose and of dependence. Let us apply this
principle of order to the other end of the scale, to the relation between man and all
the lower levels of existence both living and non-living. The blade of grass seems
to be on top of the world until a hungry cow appears on the scene. Then a farmer
comes along and dethrones the cow. Man is the top of the material world, and
everything in it, both living and non-living, can be shown to have its purpose to
make the existence of man possible.

We return once again to water as an example. What if God had not created water?
(One may object, "You are introducing God too early into the argument!" But we
are going to take for granted in this introductory volume truths that will be
demonstrated methodically in the future volumes.) Now, suppose God had decided
not to create water, or anything like water, with a fluid nature. Had God made such
a decision, it would be the end of every one of us. If the nature of water had not
been in existence, God could not have made a human being. We depend on that
water for our very existence. If God had decided not to make anything like that
grain of sand, or the properties that belong to that kind of being (solidity, definite
shape, etc.), then what would happen? Suppose He had made the whole world
nothing but sheer water. Could He have made a man in that kind of universe? No.
Without backbone or skin, it would be impossible. So it was not by accident that
God was creating those natures.

We take these things too much for granted. We assume that the world should have
had water and sand. Nothing is to be taken for granted. If we are to be
40

had water and sand. Nothing is to be taken for granted. If we are to be


philosophers, we cannot take anything for granted. If the natures in the material
world exist as they do, it is because the Mind Who created the whole order of
things has put them in existence. And God was putting those realities in existence
not only to serve the purpose of human life — which is the highest reality He has
placed in this material universe — but also because they are substantially
necessary for making one human being. If air did not exist, there could not be man.
Could there be a circulation of blood without fluidity? No. All these natures work
together.

We began with that little blade of grass and we saw that if it were the only living
thing in the universe, the whole universe would be at its service. Why? It had a
purpose, an immanent purpose in its very substance. But as soon as a cow
appears on the scene, a hungry cow, we see that there exists a higher order of
reality. The blade of grass was an end, making use of non-living things as its
means. With the arrival of the cow, the blade of grass is a means to a higher end. It
is not the greatest order of nature in existence because it is obviously serving the
purpose of something of a higher nature. Now, is it by accident that where there is
hunger in a cow there is also grass in the fields? In the volume on psychology, we
shall realize the tremendous implications of the observations we have been
making, and which are really part of the experience of all men.

Life
Fifteen conclusions from the study of psychology
1. Life is the power of immanent action. The very definition of life implies purpose
and order. A being capable of immanent action is a being that works for itself. A
being capable merely of transient action is as such servile, working for the good of
another.

2. From the faintest echo of life in a blade of grass to the fullness of life in the
Godhead, there is a graduated scale of perfection and a hierarchy of beings and of
values.

3. One living thing, one blade of grass in a world of inanimate natures is a queen
served by everything else.

4. The different grades of life — vegetative, animal, human, angelic, divine —


represent different intensities of immanent activity.

5. The greatest nature in the visible universe is human nature. All other natures,
and the universe as a whole, are for man.

6. The whole universe and all history revolve around one central event: the
Incarnation.
41

7. In all the visible universe nothing is personal and immortal except man.

8. In man, the material and the spiritual meet in one nature.

9. Among material things, the only substantial form that can exist completely, while
independent of matter, is the human soul.

10. "He that liveth forever created all things together (Ecclus. 18:1)."

God created the whole universe all at once as one project. But He continues to
create human souls at their conception, cooperating with the natural process of
generation.

11. Only by believing in the omnipotence of God can we believe truly in creation, in
the singular providence of God, in the moral order, and in the resurrection of the
body and life everlasting.

12. Every object in the universe, by an implanted tendency, works towards an end
of its own, and thus it plays its part in the large concert of the universe.

13. Man alone in the visible universe plays his part freely and with knowledge of
the end. So while all material substances must obey the will of God by necessity,
man alone can disobey.

14. The end for man who obeys and who cooperates with grace is the attainment
of the highest perfection of life — life eternal.

I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

15. "If liberty consisted in the power of giving oneself to good or evil, man would be
freer than God." (Father Grou)

Life is God’s gift, and it must seek truth, beauty and goodness.

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (Ego sum via et veritas et vita. John 14:6)

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).

Footnotes:

1 Determinism is the opinion that every effect occurs necessarily and nothing is the
result of free causes. It is a denial of the free will.

2 The relation of substance to nature will be explained in more detail in the books
42

to come.

3 The reader should recall from the introduction to logic that a normative science is
one which studies how something is to be done, if it is to be done well. It is a
science leading to the discovery of rules. Therefore, ethics is the study of human
acts as they conform to the good. A factual, or practical science is one concerned
with action or practice. Zoology is this type of science. A zoologist studies how
animals do behave, not how they should behave.

V
Ethics
Having introduced logic, cosmology, and psychology, we will now introduce the
fourth discipline in our program of Philosophia Perennis: ethics. We have already
said (but it would not hurt to review) that with the Greeks there were three parts to
philosophy, three divisions of philosophic thought. They are logic, physics ( or
cosmology) and ethics. They are all derived from Greek words meaning
respectively, thought, nature, and behavior. Our present course is the last of these
three, ethics. It is the study of human behavior. The corresponding Latin name is
philosophia moralis (moral philosophy). These three Greek divisions correspond to
three very fundamental verbs in any language: To know, to be, and to do. Logic
deals with the processes of knowledge. Physics studies what is; and since
everything that is must have a nature, we call physics the philosophy of nature.
Lastly, ethics deals with what man does or ought to do. Since the conclusions in
ethics presuppose and depend upon conclusions from the previous courses, it is
fitting that we give a brief review of what we have discussed previously. This review
will show how all of the other disciplines lead to ethics.

We saw that the word "nature" can be used in two ways. Every physical entity —
from a little grain of gold to a molecule of water, to a tree, to a fish — every one of
these is a physical entity, what the philosophers call an unum per se. All these form
part of what is real — reality. Physics is the study of reality, and that which is real
has a nature. When we put all the natures of all the real things together, we have
the order of nature. It is important to know that when we put them together they do
form an order (the universe), and that is the reason why physics is also called
cosmology (the study of the cosmos, or universe). The reality of order in the
universe is one of the things that a philosophic study of nature teaches us. We then
speak of nature in a larger sense, in the more common understanding of "the study
of nature," the understanding of all things put together, of the whole universe with
all the realities that are in it.

So in physics (or cosmology) we study the different types of substance. We learn


that every material substance is a composite of matter and form. The true
philosophy of material reality, which philosophers call hylomorphism, gives us, if we
43

properly understand it, the concepts of order and of purpose. If we see order and
purpose in reality, it leads us in the direction of the ultimate cause. The climax of
the course in cosmology, then, is to prepare the mind for the knowledge of God.

We find that every material thing is contingent. That is a term that one of the great
philosophers of our century Etienne Gilson (1884 - 1978) used to emphasize in his
philosophy. He spoke of the radical contingency of every thing in the material
universe. A contingent being is a being that in its very existence depends on one
thing or on another. We are all examples of contingent beings. Correct philosophic
thought will lead us to know that if there is one contingent being there must be one
being that is not contingent. We should try to grasp the truth of this very deep
philosophic judgment,* since so much depends on it. Out of the contingency of
what we are and what our world is we get a concept of a Being that is beyond
contingency, a being that is not dependent on any other. This, of course, is God. A
philosopher thinking correctly, using the powers that were given to him the way
they should be used, has to reach a knowledge of God. This has always been true
philosophically; now it is even a dogma of the Faith. Vatican I defined it as a
dogma, with anathema attached to one who denies it. Here is the infallible
pronouncement:

"If anyone shall have said that the one


true God, our Creator and our Lord,
cannot be known with certitude by those
things which have been made, by the
natural light of human reason: let him be
anathema. (Denz. 1806)

On this account Holy Scripture says, "The fool said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’
(Psalm 13:1)" If we consider the world today, seeing that most of the powers
running it are atheists, we can conclude that we are being run by fools. Holy
Scripture also says, "The number of fools is infinite (Eccles. 1:15)." So, if one tries
to become a wise man (and that is our goal), then he is going to be in the minority,
the minority that counts.

We then learned that in the study of nature we are led to that tremendously
important phenomenon called life. It is so important that it is its own study; the
philosophers call it psychology. Psychology in the philosophic sense is the study of
the psyche, which means the soul. And everything living must have a soul, the soul
being defined as the principle of life in a material being.

In other words, in the course of psychology we graduate from the study of a


material entity that could be alive or not alive, into the study of one that is alive.
And in psychology we learn concepts like "soul" and "spirit." As we said before,
most people think that the two words mean the same thing. And to many people
today neither of them means anything. But the words do mean very much, and
they are very distinct concepts. A good way to see the distinction is to put it like
this: Not only men have souls, but even trees have souls. Anything alive must have
44

a cause, a principle of its vital activities. An angel* is not a soul. An angel is indeed
something living . It is living and existing, but by a life not dependent on matter. An
angel is an immaterial living being. Birds, fishes and trees have souls, but these
souls are not spirits. The angels are spirits, but they are not souls. In man those
two realities meet. In man there is a soul but that soul is spiritual. That is one of the
great truths that psychology teaches, and here we mean true psychology, that
which is part of philosophia perennis, and part of eternal wisdom.

Were we to tell most people that plants have souls, they would think we were
implying that when it dies a tree will go to heaven or hell. This is not what we are
saying. What happens to the souls of trees — and for that matter, of animals —
when they die? The philosophers say that they return to the potency of matter. The
non-spiritual souls, even though they are substantial forms, behave in this regard
like accidental forms. Let us take for example a snowball — what happens to its
roundness, its spherical shape, when the snow melts? It returns to the potency of
matter. Why? Because shape is dependent on matter; it has no existence apart
from matter. In the same way, souls that are not spiritual have absolutely no
independence, no superiority over matter. Therefore, when the material body is
unfit for that kind of a nature, the substantial form in it (the soul) ceases to be
except as potency in matter. Every soul is a substantial form. But not every
substantial form is a soul. The substantial form of a living man is what makes the
matter a human body. It is the cause of why the body digests its food, of why it
breathes, of why it feels, and of why it thinks. The same principle in a man that is
capable of saying a prayer is also the thing that keeps his blood flowing as long as
he is alive.

We have been noticing what great truths philosophic psychology leads us to, and
what necessary foundations for a philosophy of ethics these truths are. We can
prove by reason the spirituality and immortality of the human soul, and will do that
in due time. We can prove that the human soul can subsist even apart from the
body, but always with a kind of proclivity to return, to be united with it. But we
cannot prove from natural philosophy that there will be a resurrection of the body.
That is a purely supernatural truth that we take only on Faith. We would never
know it, were it not for the revelation that comes to us from God. All that we can
know by reason is that, when we die our souls will continue to exist. They will be
everlasting. They will continue forever. What we would not know is that those souls
will return to animate the body. For that we need God’s revelation, which clearly
affirms the truth of the resurrection of the body.

Only when we realize the Omnipotence of God can we make the resurrection of
the body something that compliments the natural ethics and makes it moral
theology. It is only that infinite Power which can put a thing in existence out of
sheer nothing that guarantees the resurrection of its body. That is why our Lord,
when He was berating the Sadducees who denied the immortality of the soul and
the resurrection of the body, said to them, "You err, not knowing the scripture, nor
the power of God (Matt. 22:29)." The concept of omnipotence at work can only be
the result of our Faith. It is only when we accept the Faith truly that we can believe
45

in the creation and also in the "resurrection of the body and life everlasting." We
should notice that these truths are the beginning and end of the Credo by which we
profess our Faith: I believe in God, the Father Almighty. . . the resurrection of the
body and life everlasting. Amen. The omnipotence of God is the most important
concept in our whole Faith, and a most necessary foundation for ethics.

It is important to know the difference between a spiritual soul and a non-spiritual


soul, to know the difference between a being that will live forever and a being that
will go on temporarily and then vanish. Let us imagine that one were to stand up on
a nice, beautiful day and have a good, clear view of things, being able to see the
sun, the moon, mountains, rocks, birds flying, animals running around, children
playing, and a man walking by. Every single thing he sees, every part of that reality
that is visible, is temporal. It had a beginning and it is going to have an end. Even
the mountain, which might go on for thousands of years seemingly unchanged, is
still being changed all the time and eventually is going to be destroyed. But every
human being that he sees is going to be and to live forever. This type of realization
is one that some people may know, but somehow manage to keep out of focus. It
is the purpose of our book on ethics to bring them back into focus.

Ethics, therefore, presupposes the true philosophy of what is. In other words, moral
philosophy rests upon the philosophy of nature. The foundation of all morality is the
knowledge of what reality is. That is why we speak of a foundation of morality as
the natural law. Natural law in this context is to be distinguished from the laws of
nature, such as the law of gravity. But still, the fact that we call the foundation of
morality the natural law suggests that the principles of correct behavior are rooted
in the nature of things. Consequently, when we truly know the reality of the things
we are dealing with, we know what are our responsibilities and duties in relation to
them.

Here is an example that will illustrate this last point: If a mother were to give a
basket to a child, she could give him commandments with regard to it by saying,
"Handle it very carefully. Don’t upset it. Don’t turn it over. Don’t hit it against
something hard." These are commandments, because they are given in the
imperative mood ("do" and "don’t"). If that child were intelligent, his mother could
give him these instructions in another modality. She could say, "This basket
contains eggs." His intelligence would then know how to deal with it. He does not
have to remember, "Did she say, ‘hit it’ or ‘don’t hit it.’ ‘Turn it over’ or ‘don’t turn it
over.’" To know that every one of our brothers and sisters in humanity, that every
human being is a person that is going to live forever, is the beginning of all sound
morality. What a tremendous realization that is! Now, philosophy does not consist
in many things, but in a few profound truths deeply realized.

Everything that has been said so far has been a preparation for the subject of
ethics. We have not yet actually gone into ethics. We will use Aristotle as our
foundation, for he was the first one to ask the pertinent questions about ethics. But
before we do that, it would be good to say a few words about Greek philosophers
and philosophy in general regarding truth and error in ethics. Among the Greek
46

philosophers, every conceivable type of ethical error was given classical


expression. This will be the subject of future courses when we study the history of
thought. The reason there exists a history of thought at all is simple: There are
errors into which humanity has fallen. Truth has no history; it is eternal. There is no
history for "two and two make four." Whenever you say it, it is true. It is so, and it is
eternally so. But because men have made false judgments, and because such
judgments inevitably yielded their consequences, we have today a history of
philosophy. Therefore, to study the history of philosophy is identical with the study
of polemics.1

Anyone who uses well the faculties that were given to him will have to reach the
wisdom of Philosophia Perennis. True, there will be slight areas for opinion, but the
fundamentals will always be there. No philosopher of wisdom would ever say,
"Everything is matter." That judgment made by any person is a judgment of sheer
folly, and every further thought that is based on it is going to be nothing but sheer
folly. The name for this folly is materialism. On the other hand, no true philosopher
will tell you everything is idea: "It’s all in my mind." The man that says this (like
Kant) is a solipsist, not a philosopher.2

What is the first question the philosophy of ethics asks? It is this: "What is the
highest object that man must desire?" Here we will give a little sample of the way
the philosophers think. The greatest thinker in the natural order and the founder of
Philosophia Perennis is Aristotle. And here is Aristotle raising the question, trying to
find the object of the philosophy of morals. What does every one of our acts aim
at? Aristotle says, "At some good, either real or apparent." When a man is doing
anything deliberately, he has made a judgment that something is good. Then he is
willing to act in relation to that good. Now, the good is not something that exists
outside, such as a tree or a mountain. It is an aspect of something already existing.
It is something added to reality. Where does it come from? For what is it good?
Aristotle identifies the good with the desired. The good is simply the object of
desire. Things first exist, then if they are objects of love, they become good. The
fundamental goodness of things is that their Creator loves them, and that is why
He posited them in existence. Because He first loved them, He had a desire to
create them. And it is when we discover an aspect of goodness in things that we
have attributed to them a new kind of reality. So the science of ethics, which seeks
the objective to which all human activity must be directed, begins with discovering
the highest good.

When we start to think about the good, we discover that there is a hierarchy of
good things. Now let us have The Philosopher talk to us, and tell us what the good
is: "The good appears to be one thing in one pursuit, and quite a different thing in
another pursuit. It is different in medicine from what it is in strategy." Aristotle liked
to take examples like these: What is the good that all the medical profession and
all its appendages pursue? What is the good achieved in medicine? Health. If men
became indifferent to health, if they did not care about illness, then all the hospitals
in the world would cease to exist. Nobody would write books on medicine. Nobody
would try to discover medicines, or new medical technologies. To say "the good in
47

medicine is health" immediately sets the mind onto something very concrete. We
can use it as an example for other things. The one other example Aristotle gives is
strategy, the art of war. If there is a just war, almost the whole nation takes on a
whole new aspect. Everything is relevant to the attainment of some good. What do
we call that good? Victory. Now we should see the point; the good is that for which
all other things are working. This is a famous sentence from Aristotle: The good is,
"that for the sake of which all other things are done." In the case of medicine,
health. In the case of strategy, victory.

Now, let us make our own example: the building of a house. Building is a project
which uses many machines and requires much activity. There are many people
doing different tasks — ground clearing, laying a foundation, framing, plumbing,
electrical work, etc. But what is all that aiming at? What is the good to be
produced? A house. If nobody thought that a house is a good thing, all building
would stop. The same is true in every other art. Now, every pursuit or undertaking
has its specific end, but if there be something which is the end of all the things
done by human action, this will be the supreme good. This will be the moral good.
If there be several such ends, the sum of these will be the supreme good.

We must attempt, however, to render this still more precise. There do appear to be
several ends to which our actions aim. But as we choose some of them (for
instance, wealth or power) as means to something else, it is clear that not all of
them are final ends; whereas the supreme good seems to be something final.
Consequently, if there be some one thing which alone is a final end, or — if there
be several final ends — the one among them which is the most final, this will be the
good which we are seeking. In speaking of degrees of finality, we mean that a thing
pursued as an end in itself is more final than one pursued as a means to
something else. A thing that is never chosen as a means to something else is more
final than things chosen both as ends in themselves and as means to that thing.
Accordingly, a thing that is always chosen as an end and never as a means, is
necessarily the ultimate or the supreme good. This is true only of happiness. That
is why we call it absolutely final. What is it that all men are seeking? It is
happiness.

Happiness, above all else, appears to be absolutely final in this sense, since we
always choose it for its own sake and never as a means to something else. Honor,
pleasure, intelligence and excellence, in their various forms, we choose for their
own sakes. We would be glad to have each of them even though no extraneous
advantage resulted from it. But we also choose them for the sake of happiness in
the belief that they will be a means to our securing it. No one chooses happiness
for the sake of honor, intelligence or excellence, nor as a means to anything else
other than itself. So what is the conclusion? We can make one statement
descriptive of the actions of human beings. All the millions of beings that live this
day, today, from morning till night, in every one of their actions are seeking
happiness. Even when they were doing something wrong, they thought it was
going to make them happy.
48

What are the things that people think will make them happy? One is money. This
one is very easy to dispose of if one is a philosopher, and very difficult to convince
anyone of who is not. It is always a means, never an end. Nobody ever gets money
for its own sake. Some may like what it looks like, but when they want to enjoy it,
they exchange it for something else. Another thing that people think will make them
happy is power. A great part of ethics and of moral theology is to convince us that
happiness is not found in power. Why are people deceived by the allure of power?
It makes them god-like; they want to be like God, and God is powerful. But there
are very good reasons why power is not the essence of happiness, and the
universal experience of men clearly shows that people who have power are not the
happiest people in the world. Honor, influence, and popularity are other things that
people think will make them happy. But another thing we learn from experience is
that the supreme good for a person cannot be something outside of that person. It
cannot consist in what people think or say about him. It has to be something in him
if it is truly what makes him happy.

Now we have come to a very delicate point, the kind of point with which philosophy
constantly occupies itself. As we said before and will keep saying, when we deal
with philosophy, we are dealing with very fundamental matters. Just a small
deviation, no matter how small, can lead to catastrophic consequences. We can
truly say that all men are seeking their own happiness. We can also say that
happiness is the pursuit of ethics. If this is true we must ask ourselves an obvious
but important question: If everybody is pursuing his happiness, then is everybody
morally correct — no matter what life he is living? No. To explain this answer, we
must make some distinctions.

When we discuss animals and animal behavior, we cannot introduce any notion of
morality. Animals have to act by their instinct. Whatever instinct dictates, they have
to do. There is no other alternative, no decision-making process. A fish must swim,
a bird must fly, and a lioness must defend her cubs. But with man, morality implies
duty. The goodness or badness of an act is based on duties or obligations.

When we discuss man’s pursuit of the good — his happiness — we must ask
ourselves whether this pursuit is a duty or a right. The answer to this question
makes all the difference. If it is a supreme right, then the man is free to achieve it in
any way possible; but if it is a supreme duty, then man is bound to something
higher, to some objective rule. To determine whether it is a right or a duty, we must
refer to what we have already studied in psychology and cosmology. All the things
in the moral order presuppose something in the ontological order (the order of
reality). Is man a being independent, absolutely independent, who gave himself his
own existence? Or is man a contingent being who owes his existence to another?
If the first is so, he begins with rights; if the second is so, then he begins with a
duty. The answer is that, since man is a contingent being, his pursuit of the good is
a duty. The very first relation we have is a relation of duty towards our Maker. He
made us human beings. He gave us a rational, spiritual, and immortal nature.
Therefore, we have a duty to seek the end for which He made us. That is the most
fundamental duty, from which all other rights and all other duties proceed.
49

Once we realize this concept, we can return to an earlier principle and build on it.
Here is that concept: "All men seek happiness, but not all men seek their true
happiness." What was merely a descriptive statement can be made, by slight
alteration, the supreme ethical principle: "All men ought to seek their true
happiness." In what does their true happiness consist? Our Maker could have been
a tyrant and could have created us as an instrument of some other interest of His
own. But our Maker is a loving God, and the supreme obligation He imposed on us,
in addition to obliging us, at the same time treats us as a value in ourselves. The
supreme obligation He imposed on us happens to be the object of our true
blessedness: our supreme happiness. All our rights flow from our duty to save our
souls. From these considerations, it follows that no form of government may
interfere with that duty. No law in the whole world is to be obeyed, if it makes the
salvation of our souls impossible. A human being seeking his own immortal
salvation is a being endowed with all the rights necessary to achieve that end. And
from all those rights arise his obligations. The whole question is ultimately
balanced on the fact that, since man was made by the Creator with the object of
seeking his supreme happiness, no temporal lawmaker has the right to make laws
contrary to that end. This is the supreme moral law from which all other just laws
proceed.

Now that we have come to realize what the object is that all men ought to seek to
achieve their true happiness, we will observe that the mode of attaining his final
end is different in man than in other material creatures. While other creatures on
this earth automatically and without any effort act according to the nature that God
put in them, in the case of man, fulfilling the purpose for which he is made also
depends on his free will. When God made eagles, he made them to fly — an eagle
must fly. A fish was created to swim, and it cannot help doing so. With the unique
exception of man, every single creature has a nature that spontaneously fulfills its
part to make the world as God intended it to be. Man’s behavior is not dictated
either by his instincts or by any other law of necessity. It is something he has to
choose freely. That is why once one discovers that he was made for true happiness
(which is salvation, or becoming truly divine and living forever as a child of God),
he has to go and study all the powers that are in his nature and redefine them in
terms of that end. And that is where the cultivation of the virtues comes in.

The powers that God put in us are all indeterminate as far as good or evil is
concerned. The more intelligent a man is, the more power he has. But power by its
very definition is like dynamite. It can do great good, but it can also do great evil. All
the powers that are in us have to be redefined by discipline in terms of the good for
which we were made. It depends not entirely — though in some sense, entirely —
on God, Who made us. But even though He made it depend on Himself, He left a
place for our free will and for our free cooperation with His work in us. That is why
the next thing we do in ethics is to study why the powers that are in man need to
become virtues. This study of virtue forms the basis for all moral education.

What is the difference between a power and a virtue? A power is neutral to good or
evil; whereas a virtue is directed to the good.3 As we have said, a power is like a
50

piece of dynamite. It could do good work if disciplined and controlled, or great evil if
not. A good example would be the power of oratory. We have seen how orators
have destroyed the world, causing great wars, great suffering, and great
wickedness. On the other hand, that same power is capable of producing an
immeasurable amount of good when directed with the grace of God illuminating
reason.

What, then, is the definition of a virtuous man (and the purpose of ethics is to
produce the virtuous man)? A virtuous man is a man who is guided by his reason,
not by his passions. He does not act like an animal, spontaneously satiating his
appetites. He is guided by his reason — his reason illuminated by grace. This is
the definition of a virtuous man which we will keep as one of our conclusions in
ethics.

Let us review our major conclusions. What is the supreme descriptive, sociological
principle of all human behavior? Man seeking his happiness. The reader should
notice how tremendously philosophical, how certain, how strong, and how
universal that judgment is. Every little boy or girl in America, or China, or anywhere
at the very hour this text is being read, whether they were doing good or bad
things, virtuous or vicious or sinful things, were all seeking their happiness (either
real or apparent). What was happening when they were doing something wrong?
They were seeking the appearance of happiness, but not real happiness. The true
and real happiness of man is not necessarily what he thinks it is, but is that for
which his Maker made him. We have many names for it in our Catholic Faith. We
call it eternal life, the life of grace, salvation, Heaven, becoming children of God.
That is the supreme moral principle from which all our rights and all our obligations
come. And once we realize that, we try to become virtuous men. That means we
become disciplined. It means our powers are not to turn into dynamite ready to
cause destruction. Instead, our powers are like energy that is efficiently harnessed
and controlled and well directed to its purpose. Again, what is a virtuous man? He
is a man whose life is ruled by his reason, and his reason is illumined by grace.

Philosophia Moralis
Sixty conclusions from the study of ethics,
subdivided into four subheadings
I. Happiness
1. All men in all they do seek after happiness. All men in all they do should seek
after their true happiness, i.e., the end for which they were created.

2. Perfect happiness cannot be attained in this life. But virtue, which is the way to
happiness, can be thus attained.

3. There is an inchoate happiness in the attainment of a virtuous life.


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4. Only those who possess the truth and who cooperate with God’s purpose for
them can be as happy as is possible in this life.

5. Ultimate happiness consists in the secure possession of all truth and the love of
all goodness. It is becoming, to the greatest degree possible, one with the Divine
Nature.

6. All the means to the ultimate end have an aspect of finality by which they reflect
the truth, beauty, and goodness of the final end. There are no pure means in
existence.

7. Ethics is a department of practical philosophy which treats of human acts in


relation to their ends and ultimately to the one final end.

8. A human act is an act which proceeds from the deliberate free will of man,
guided by knowledge. Examples: My writing these notes or saying the Rosary.

9. The final end is that which gives perfect happiness and leaves no place for
further desires.

10. "Felicity is the activity of man’s most perfect power." (Aristotle)

But the activity of man’s highest power (the intellect) presupposes the wholesome
and proper functioning of all his powers.

11. The contemplative experience consists in the enthusiastic, loving, and ecstatic
appreciation of the goodness of God in Himself, and as reflected in nature, or as
represented in art.

12. The contemplative experience is our best clue to happiness in time (imperfect
happiness), and in eternity (perfect happiness, beatitude, life eternal).

13. "Contemplation is promised to us as the goal of all activity." (Saint Augustine)

"All human occupations are brought into the service of those who contemplate the
truth." (Saint Thomas Aquinas)

14. Eternity is the simultaneously whole and perfect possession of interminable life.
Life eternal is Our Lord’s name for salvation (the supreme good, the ultimate end).

15. Order is the proper disposition of means to the end. Peace is the tranquility of
order.

II. Personal Ethics

1. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; the knowledge and love of God is
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the end (Ps. 110:10; Prov. 1:7; Prov. 9:10; Ecclus. 1:16).

2. Time is short, eternity long; we shall live forever.

3. We have one life to live, one purpose for our existence. Every act we perform
casts a long shadow, even to eternity.

4. Every moment of life is an opportunity which can pass and be lost forever.

5. Every human act is a step towards, or a step away from , salvation. The first
step towards salvation is an act of Faith — the first act of supernatural life — which
is also, therefore, contained in every other meritorious act.

6. My highest duty is identical with my deepest desire and with my most precious
right — the duty to save my soul.

7. We can actually enter the very life of God if we cooperate with grace! Even this
cooperation is itself a grace, and we must pray for it and for perseverance in it.

8. Happy are we if we find in our hearts holy desires, if we have appreciation for
the things of God. We should thank God if we do, and pray for more of the same.

9. Haec est voluntas Dei, sanctificatio vestra (I Thess. 4:3). ("For this is the will of
God, your sanctification.")

10. Only those who are trying to be saints conform to the will of God. It is the
universal vocation, and therefore must apply to every state of life.

11. It is part of wisdom and of virtue (especially humility) to know that we inherited
a rebellious nature that must be restrained and disciplined. Hence the need for
great vigilance.

12. Virtue must be hedged and guarded. Qui dissipat sepem mordebit eum coluber
(Eccles. 10:8). ("He that breaketh a hedge, a serpent shall bite him.")

Among the hedges of virtue are modesty, prayer, and holy companionship.

13. The singular providence of God. God has a general providence for the
universe as a whole. To realize that is the summit of philosophy. But apart from His
providence for all men, for nations, and for families, He has a singular providence
for me alone, regardless of all others. To realize that is the beginning of devotion.

14. Devotion is the chief act of the virtue of religion (and therefore also of justice)
by which we give ourselves readily to the things that pertain to the service of God.

15. And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to
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such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints (Romans 8:28).

III. Familial Ethics

1. Society is a stable moral union of a plurality of persons for the purpose of


achieving common ends by the use of common means.

2. The human family is the most natural and the most necessary of all societies.

3. Every human achievement has an aspect of knowledge (scientia), an aspect of


art (ars), and an aspect of morality (moralitas). The family, being a human
achievement, involves a science, an art, and a set of moral principles.

4. The moral principles, or ethical rules, governing the family are contained in the
eternal law, and are also embodied in the very nature of man.

5. All authority is from God. So is the authority of the parents with respect to the
children, of the old with respect to the young, and of the father with respect to the
whole family.

6. The purpose of the family is the communication of life, the protection of life, and
the cultivation of perfection. It requires the loving cooperation of all involved.

7. The basis of the family, the bond of its unity, is love, natural and supernatural,
between man and woman, between parents and children, and between brothers
and sisters.

8. The common good for the familial society is most intimately connected with the
individual good of each member of the family. The happiness of one is the
happiness of all. As family, the members share all things in common.

9. The family is the little church, the little school, the little government. All these and
other institutions, human and divine, are to serve and supplement the function of
the family, but not to replace it or to usurp its rights and duties.

10. What can be done in and by the family should rest with it. The principle of
subsidiarity applies here: What the proximate authority can do should not be
relinquished to the remote one.

11. Economy is the art of making the best use of all available means for a
community of happiness.

12. In the Catholic Church we know two kinds of family: One majors in the
propagation of natural life (the secular family); and the other majors in the
propagation of supernatural life (the religious family). Both involve that peculiar
quality of appreciation and adventure we call romance. God gave us one exemplar
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for both — The Holy Family.

13. Like everything of great value, the home should be protected with hedges.
Satan, the hater of life, constantly assaults homes with the poisons of infidelity,
impurity, and insubordination.

14. The family, the home, provides a constant opportunity for practicing the works
of mercy, corporal as well as spiritual. It is the nursery of all the virtues, especially
Faith, Hope, and Charity.

15. The proper virtues of familial society are fidelity, charity, obedience, mutual help
and mutual respect.

IV. Political Ethics

1. Just as man by nature must belong to a family, so he must also belong to a


political society, namely, the state. We have no choice about it; we actually find
ourselves belonging simultaneously to a political as well as a familial society.

2. While the family is essentially a community of love whose members have all
things in common, the state is an order of justice whose members do not and
should not have all things in common. With fellow citizens we share some common
interests and should have some common loyalties, but above all, we need to have
respect for each others’ rights.

3. God intended the world to consist of different nations governed by rulers (kings,
emperors, chiefs, presidents, etc.). Traditions, customs or constitutions determine
the process by which these rulers are designated to care for the common good.
But once so designated, God bestows upon them the authority to govern. Thou
shouldst not have any power against me, unless it were given thee from above
(John 19:11).

4. As a society, the state has the privilege to back its laws with coercion. This
monopoly of the use of force is essential to the political order, and is also its
danger. It is the door to tyranny.

5. All the laws of the state must seek the common good in the temporal order, the
state being a natural and a temporal entity. The state itself has no immortal soul
and no eternal destiny.

6. The common good aimed at by the state involves providing conditions and
opportunities for prosperity (peace and order, security, national defense,
protection against crime, construction of roads and bridges, administration of
justice, etc.)

7. The principle of Subsidiarity: Functions that can be performed by the local


55

and closer community (the town, the parish, the family) should not be taken over
by the state.

8. All laws that are contrary to the eternal counsels of God have no authority.

9. Every power must do homage to the moral order. (Bishop Prohazska)

10. The state being in its essence an order of justice, when it becomes unjust "the
very glue of the ship of state becomes unstuck."

"The very glue of our ship of state seems to have become unstuck." (Justice Harry
Blackmun — the one who wrote the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion!)

11. "It is the obligation and inherent right of the Church, independent of any human
authority, to preach the Gospel to all peoples." (Canon 747 #1)

12. "The Church has the right always and everywhere to proclaim moral
principles." (Canon 747 #2)

13. The highest cause for prosperity, even in the temporal order, is God’s blessing.

14. States are blessed in proportion to their cooperation with God’s one project in
this world, the project of the salvation of souls (Psalm 126:1).

15. Lex suprema, salus animarum. God’s supreme law in the whole universe is
the salvation of souls. (The last Canon #1752)

Footnotes:

1 In our program of nine volumes, we shall wait until we have gone through the
three types of philosophic thought before we introduce polemics. Once we have
gone through the courses in logic, cosmology, psychology, and ethics, we will have
a couple of hundred principles: not too many. There are many more than that in
one book of chemistry, let us say. But these are deep philosophic, foundational
principles which must be defended. Then we can study different ways that people
deviated from them.

2 Solipsism comes from the Latin word solus, meaning alone. The solipsist says
"The only thing I know that exists, and I’m sure of, is myself, and only my inner
experiences, and of this present moment." It was a very popular philosophy at one
time. A philosopher once stood up to defend it for three hours and at the end he
said "it’s so convincing I’m surprised that so few people see it!" Those present had
to wonder what people he was talking about, since he only believed in his own
existence.
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3 Virtue is the opposite of vice. Both are properly called "habits" in rational
psychology and ethics. The technical explanation for these terms will have to wait
for the later volumes.

VI
Introduction To History:
Greek To Medieval
We should explain before we start on our next subject — the fifth, in which we shall
present in a very general way the history of Greek philosophy — why it is that we
do it at this point in the course. Some people spend their whole life studying the
history of philosophy. As a result, in the end philosophy becomes nothing but the
history of thought, a history of different schools of thought or points of view. This
makes the whole of philosophy dissolve into confusion. It can lead to skepticism,
syncretism, relativism, or many other evil "isms." Still, we should not and cannot
ignore the history of philosophy. To us the history of philosophy is the polemics of
philosophy. It is philosophy as a war, as a crusade, and it makes it very exciting to
study about the men who were seeking wisdom. The difficulties they encountered,
their successes and failures all make the study of philosophy an adventure. But a
person should not enter into the field of the history of philosophy until he has
become somewhat of a philosopher himself. This is one of the strongest governing
principles of our approach to philosophy. (We should dread the thought of being
people whose ideas are all something that somebody else thought, without
understanding the logic behind those ideas.)

It is only when some spark has taken place right in a person’s own mind and he
has something he can really defend, that being exposed to the different schools
becomes an exciting experience and a challenge to defend the ground on which he
stands. A person needs a course in logic to study the laws of inference and the
methods of sound thinking. He needs a course in cosmology which will lead him to
some tremendous certitudes in the correct thinking about the material universe
around him. He needs to know this important truth: The material universe, when
considered correctly, cannot be the only reality. In other words, he must be led by
the study of the ens mobile to the conviction that matter cannot be the only reality.
When he discovers that the universe has purpose and order, and he
philosophically contemplates its contingency, then he has that sense of how
everything in the universe leads to a realization of the reality of God. He
progresses after cosmology to psychology and ethics, ever increasing his
appreciation for the ens mobile, particularly that ens mobile that is man, both man
as a real being and man as a moral being. Of course, at this juncture he can put
his conclusions together and observe man in relation to the universe, as well as in
relation to the Creator of that universe. Then he has a certitude to defend.

Anybody using his mind in such a way as to evade these inferences, has to be
using it in a way that is not philosophic but sophistical (i.e., like a sophist*).
57

In our last chapter, we ended with some very strong conclusions. We found that,
while descriptively we can say that every man seeks his happiness, we can change
the expression to become a principle of moral duty by adding one word. It then
becomes, "Every man ought to seek his happiness," and by this we mean true
happiness. Then duty becomes a factor. The difference between that which people
do and that which people should do can be illustrated by this short question: Are
they working to achieve their true happiness? The difference between some
immediate, passing gratification, which people might call happiness, and true
happiness is an infinite one. That is a tremendous conclusion.

We also reached the conclusion that the truly virtuous man is one whose life is
guided by reason and whose reason is enlightened by grace. The pagans would
stop with the first half of the sentence, but we Christians add the second half.
These are just a few typical certitudes of true wisdom. Of all those that there are to
choose from in philosophy we have expounded on just a few of the most basic
ones so far in this study, but they are valuable because they are basic. They form
our base, our foundation. And because they are so foundational, we know that an
attack on any one of these certitudes is the deepest kind of subversion. Only truth
is constructive. All error is subversive. Error is a subversion of the foundations of
faith, a subversion of all morality, and a subversion of all order in every field.
Whether in art, education, banking, politics, math or any other field, error is the
enemy of good order.

With something that we have in mind which we want to defend ( a "platform of


principles"), we then watch what people are saying, and we try to defend our
certitudes against those who seem to be disagreeing with us. We have taken this
direction, and we hope that it will lead us to the end for which God created us.
Seeing a person diverting himself away from this platform even at a very small
angle should alarm us because we know that, no matter how small that angle is at
the start, it is not going to lead him to that same end.

It is only when we are philosophers on our own, when we have had these
realizations truly ingrained into our very being, that it becomes profitable to
confront philosophies of error. The battle is fought not merely over speculative or
abstract ideas, but things that we absolutely believe, touching concrete reality. Only
when we can defend these principal truths as philosophers can we face a world
that is in confusion, error, and evolution of doctrine. This, then, is the reason why
we delay the study of the history of philosophy to the fifth in the series. As we have
already said, and as can be witnessed by almost every good book on philosophy,
there are three distinct types of philosophy: logical, ontological and ethical; or as
the Greeks call them: logic, physics, and ethics.

Now, with platform in hand, we come to the Greek people, the civilization that gave
us the tradition of philosophy. It is conceivable that humanity could have run its
course through the thousands of years, right to our twentieth century without
philosophy as we know it. If the Greek culture had not existed, it would not have
made the world a void. But the different preoccupations that get people interested
58

in economics and politics, etc., or the way in which people plan and argue about
such matters as we see in everyday life, do not produce philosophy. It is a very
peculiar quality that somehow fitted the Greek genius which resulted in this
tradition. And it has become part and parcel of all civilization. We speak of the Age
of Pericles, about the year 450 before Our Lord, as a great classical age. It is the
flowering of all the ideals of civilization. And the ideals of civilization arise from a
tremendous appreciation of the transcendent values: truth, goodness, beauty.
Every person has some taste of these values. Every nation, every civilization has
an acquaintance with them, but the dedication in terms of excellence in every one
of these fields that arose among the Greek people was peculiar to them. The
genius that was poured on these disciplines because of this dedication (dedication
to every civilized discipline: architecture, sculpture, painting, poetry, drama, math,
astronomy, geometry, music, etc.) was so far beyond the achievement of any other
nation, that every other classical age since that time has merely tried to imitate this
first classical age, the Greek age. It was in that same age that philosophy flowered.

The Greek civilization did not begin with philosophy. It began with a corrupt part of
religious inheritance that the whole human race received from our common father,
Adam, and even from our common father, Noah. (Every man living today is also a
descendant of Noah.) This was first expressed in poetry. The first teacher of the
Greek people is Homer (9th century B.C.); the second is Hesiod (8th century B.C.).
They lived centuries before the philosophers. Philosophy begins about the year
600 B.C., a very important date for us who know sacred history — this is about the
time of the major prophets. Roughly speaking, it is where we date Isaias, Jeremias,
Ezechiel and Daniel. It is the time when the Holy Ghost revealed to men through
these great prophets the exact time and circumstances of the coming of the
Saviour Who is the center, the crown, the Heart of all human history. After that,
there was to be a long period in which prophecy as such was put to silence in
expectation of the final appearance on the stage of history of the Son of God.

So at the time that the Jewish people were giving us the greatest that was given to
men by way of revealed wisdom, the Greeks were producing their counterpart on
the natural plane. Inspired by the ideal of wisdom, those Greek sages, who called
themselves lovers of wisdom, started what came to be the great tradition of
philosophy. (Wisdom, we recall, is the most perfect knowledge of the most
important truths in the right order of emphasis, accompanied by a total, permanent
disposition to live accordingly.)

About the year 600 B.C., the whole Greek world was fascinated by this idea. And
among the great leaders of the Greek people, seven persons stood out prominently
as men of wisdom. They have come down the ages as a valuable part of
philosophical tradition: the Seven Sages of Greece. The names of these Seven
Sages were Solon, Chilo, Thales, Piticus, Periander, Cleobulus and Bias. We will
focus only on two, and the reader is advised to remember these names: Solon and
Thales.

All seven of these sages except Thales were not only wise men, but were also
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rulers of city-states. Their wisdom was expressed not by propositions of truths that
can be called true or false, but by little commands, counsels, or injunctions. If one
were to visit a sage, he should expect to hear something from the wise man which
would strike like a little spiritual bullet: very compact and precise. If he were a
superficial person, then he would just dismiss what he heard, and forget all about
it. But if he were a deep person, he would spend the rest of his life trying to fathom
all the depth that the sages words contain. We will present here some of these
counsels. The reader will notice that they are pithy statements and they are all in
the imperative. The general tone is: "If you come to me for counsel, well, take this
as a counsel. You build your life on this principle. Don’t ask me why. Don’t ask me
how I arrived at it. I am reputed for being a wise man because I have done a lot of
genuine thinking. And if you want my advice, this is it."

Here is a maxim of Solon of Athens: Arce prwton maqwn arcesqai (Arche proton
mathon archesthai). It means, "before you rule, learn to be ruled."

This maxim is in the imperative mood. It is not a proposition. We should remember


that a proposition is something that can be true or false. We cannot say whether
"before you rule, learn to be ruled" is true or false. The sage just presents it as
advice: "If you take me seriously and do it, you will find that you will achieve
perfection. You will become a virtuous person." In the Greek language it is
expressed briefly, concisely, and effectively in only four words.

Another saying of Solon: Ta spoudaia meleta (Ta spoudaia meleta).

Now this word, meleta, is very important to the sages. All the sages talk about it.
What does it mean? Like all great Greek maxims it is very hard to translate. It
means diligence, application, real concern, interest. Enthusiasm might also be
included in it. But it is not any one of these things alone; rather, it is all of them put
together. Solon says, "Pursue worthy aims." This is the closest translation there is
to capturing the full meaning of the maxim, but it is still not complete. When we
start reading these statements, we want to know a little bit more of the Greek
language. Greek is a spirit, it is not just a way of expressing simple propositions. If
one were to tell the story of what is happening in Boston today, it would be just as
good in English as in classical Greek or Latin. But to express these deep wisdoms
there is something that can never be reproduced in the vernacular, because they
reflect the spirit of that people that gave us philosophy, gave us science, gave us
the greatest ideas of beauty and art, and gave us a philosophy of law and
government.

Our debt to the Greeks is something that we will learn to appreciate when we come
to the golden chain of philosophers: Socrates, who taught Plato; Plato, who taught
Aristotle. And whom did Aristotle teach? Alexander the Great.1

Another principle that Solon gave: Νουν ηγεµονα ποιου (nun hegemona poiou). What
does it say? "Make reason your guide," which is the same as the first part of the
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conclusion we came to in the last chapter on ethics. Catholics did not discover this
principle, but we have adopted it. It is a value of such importance that everybody
who has ever made a contribution to civilization has thought in terms of it, and
anyone who wants to achieve virtue practices it. What is a virtuous man? A man
who is guided by reason. And to that we Christians add, "and his reason is
illuminated by grace." With this addition one becomes more than a virtuous man,
he becomes a true Christian and a saint.

Another maxim of Solon is Mh kakois omilei (Me kakois homilei), which means,
"don’t have conversation with the wicked." Homilei means have "conversation
with." The word "conversation," even as Holy Scripture uses it, does not simply
mean talk or discussion, but it means any kind of contact with a person. The sense
of the maxim, then is, "Don’t deal with in any way, don’t be part of, the culture of
the society of the wicked." This little statement of Solon is more needed today than
it was in his own time. We could scarcely imagine how many people are being
ruined because they ignore this principle. They have conversation with the wicked;
and today this conversation is easier than ever. People can sit down and watch
television or listen to the radio and have immoral people attracting them into sin.
Before they know it, they have the same culture as the people whom they watch
and hear. If one wants to be great, if he wants to be pure, if he wants to be heroic,
noble, and virtuous, then he must seek the companionship of those who share the
same ideals. How simple a principle this is, expressed in three simple Greek
words. Yet a whole culture, a whole civilization is resident in them.

Another counsel of Solon: Filous mh tacu ktw; ous d’an kthsh mh apodokimaze
(Philous me tachu kto; hous d’an ktese me apodokimaze) It means, "don’t make friends
quickly, but once you make one, hold on to him." Now, someone who understands the
ethics of Philosophia Perennis will see the insight in this statement. It was obviously made
by a person who really has a sense of the preciousness of the human person. Most often
when we speak to a person, we treat him superficially (and that is all we are as creatures of
sense — superficial); we do not realize that we are missing an eternal value. When we
begin to consider the suffering, worries, concerns, fears, and aspirations that could be
hiding under that countenance which can seem happy or even indifferent, we treat that
person differently. What a tremendous difference there would be in the way men treat men
if they had a genuine realization of the reality of what a human being is. That is the kind of
wisdom in action that can be found in the saints.2

When we move from the study of what man is to the study of what God is, then
there is genuine adoration — adoration in spirit and truth. That is the function of
philosophy, to make us grow into the realization of truth and to have morality follow
from that realization. There are many of these maxims of the sages from which we
can choose examples, but in this introduction, there is only time to offer a tiny
sample to make the student aware of the type of wisdom that the sages can give
us. Most of the sages use the same manner of utterance as Solon: the command.
But while they are all giving commands or counsels, not one of them is affirming a
truth. The above statement by Solon is related to ethics, but it is not yet ethics. The
reader should recall that philosophic ethics is the science of the reality of the
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human being as a moral entity; and the real philosopher behaves not by command,
but by appreciation of what is real.

Now we find the wisdom of the sages and true philosophy meeting in Thales of
Miletus (c. 585 B.C.). Thales was the only one among the Seven Sages who was
not a ruler. But he is also the only one who is considered to be not only a sage, but
also a philosopher. And indeed, every history of philosophy begins with Thales of
Miletus. Thus, the first philosopher is also one of the Seven Sages. We will notice
that his manner of talking is propositional. What does that mean? It is not a
command, but an affirmation of a truth. On that difference is the step from being a
sage to being a philosopher. The philosophers are also sages, but in a manner
which is seeking after the truth first, not after goodness by way of counsel.

Thales affirmed that: Ai yucai aqanatoi (Hai psuchai athanatoi): "the [human] soul is
immortal."

That is a tremendous realization. We know it from revelation, but we can also know
it from sound thinking, as we will prove in the book on psychology. Here is a sage
who has come to that tremendous realization. There is an enormous gulf between
a man who knows this fact and one who does not. If we did not believe in
immortality, we would all start living like pagans. Every single thing we do as
Christians, from day to day, from morning to night, presupposes that we do believe
we are going to live forever.

Thales, the only one among the sages who is recognized as being a philosopher,
was the founder of what is called the physical school. Let us recall the terminology
with which we started. How many types of philosophy did the Greeks have?
Physical, logical and ethical. So, the first school of Greek philosophy was the one
that began to ask questions about the nature of things — therefore, we call it
physical.

In answer to the question, "What is the nature of things?" Thales says Arch twn
pantwn udwr (Arche ton panton hudor): "The principle of all things is water." We do
not quite know why he said that. In all the early erroneous philosophies we see
error, but we also see some truth that was beginning to dawn on their proponents
without yet being fully captured. Although we do not really know why he said it, we
can see that the statement shows some perception of a unity in all matter. Matter
seems to move from one form to another. Thales thought that the principle of all
that movement is in the nature of water. He could have said this with the meaning
that water is the principle of life: i.e., without water all life ceases. More likely,
though, he said it because he saw water take the form of solid, the form of gas,
and the form of liquid. We say this because he was not only a sage and a
philosopher, but also a scientist. He observed the eclipses and could foresee and
forecast the next one. He visited Egypt to learn its wisdom. When the Egyptians
said that they wanted to know how high a certain pyramid was, he measured the
shadow of a stick, then measured the shadow of the pyramid and he told them how
high the pyramid was. All those Egyptians had been living around that pyramid
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wondering at its tremendous height, and it took Thales to find the simple principle
of how to measure it. He was a mathematician, an astronomer, and a scientist; but
he was also a man who thought profoundly, and he saw water as the principle of
behavior in all material things.

After Thales there came other philosophers who gave different answers to the
question, "What is the nature of things?" One said, "No. It is not water, it is air"
(Anaximenes). They all contradicted each other, yet we can see that the whole
time, the principle of matter — the very notion that is going to become truly
scientific philosophy with Aristotle — was slowly dawning on them all. They were
perceiving some common principle in all material things. They were all trying to
explain change in some way. We all observe that when we put a seed in a garden,
it begins to grow into a small plant, then in a few years it has grown into a huge
tree. Where did the body of that tree come from? It came from the sand, the air, the
water, the sun, etc. But all these things had to submit their natures into the new
substance that is the tree. Something continued. It is obviously not a question of
something coming out of nothing. What was left behind were the forms of the
previous substances. But that which continued from one to the other is the matter.
Now, that concept — that very philosophic concept — was already beginning to
dawn in the thinking of all those physicists. But not one of them completely grasped
it.

Finally, in that school arose a great genius, Heraclitus, who did many things
besides trying to answer the fundamental question of natural philosophy. (He did
answer that too; and his answer was "fire.") His is one of the more important
names for us to remember in this history. There is no name that occurs more often
in the early tradition of philosophy than the name of Heraclitus. Why did he fix on
fire? Because in Heraclitus’ view of things, change is the fundamental reality.
According to him all is flux, all is change, and there is nothing permanent. Fire was
the best way to express this constant change. He expressed it very effectively by
two words that have never been forgotten: Panta rhei (All things flow).

Actually, taken from the viewpoint of modern physics, Heraclitus came pretty close
to the concept of energy. Fire is energy, and today we say in the final analysis that
all things can be reduced into energy. In a limited sense, then, Heraclitus was right
about the nature of matter. In other words, Heraclitus discovered the great mystery
of change in the material universe. Ever since, this mystery has been a
consideration for anybody who has seriously thought about the reality of the
material universe. Some of the modern philosophers are speaking and writing
exactly the way Heraciltus did. One example would be Whitehead. His whole
philosophy gives us in modern terms the philosophy of Heraclitus: The only reality
is process (change); and what is changing is not considered real. That is, nothing
is changing; everything is just change.

This position challenges the very foundations of intelligence and thought.


Unfortunately, it is one of the standard, recurrent sophistries that the human mind
has never been able to completely throw away. It was out of the school of
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Heraclitus that some disciples came to the conclusion that if all changes, then
there is no such thing as truth, because truth presupposes some permanent value.
The correct position is that there is truth, and it is based on what is real. Change
would not happen without a reality capable of changing. To illustrate this point, the
waters over the Niagara are in process (change), but the law of gravity which
keeps them going is something permanent.

There can be no science until the mind discovers what is permanent in the midst of
flux. The activity of every being is a process, but what makes the being something
intelligible, (something that the mind can grasp) is that something permanent can
be perceived in the midst of the flux.

Historians speak of schools of philosophy that occurred in history. We say that


every one is a school by virtue of being somewhat in error. That is why philosophy
as such has no history. History, in the study of philosophy, is the story of error. But,
in the early errors, there is something very fascinating, because there is some truth
dawning in every one of them. These errors were efforts by the human mind to
arrive at truth. In every school, there is the Enfant Terrible (Terrible Child):
somebody who becomes so logical as to carry the thing to its obvious absurdity.
Heraclitus said, "No one can jump into the same river twice," because before he
jumps the second time he is a different entity and the river is a different entity. Well,
one of his disciples said, "No one can jump into the same river once!" He went
from "Change is the only reality" to "There is no reality." Now, if there is nothing that
can be made that can stand as truth (if there is no reality), then there is no such
thing as truth.

As an interesting side note, there is one thing about the Greeks that differs a little
bit from modern professors of philosophy. A professor of philosophy today could be
lecturing at Harvard, surrounded by luxury and opulence, while telling the students
how terrible civilization is and how wonderful it is to be living the simple, natural life.
But a Greek philosopher who had reached that conclusion would not be found
lecturing at Harvard. He would be in a barrel out in the woods, as one of them
actually was: Diogenes. The difference is that the Greeks were totally consumed by
their philosophy. It was their religion, their ethics, and their vocation all in one. It
puts them — even the ones with ridiculous errors — slightly above the sophists of
today. Today’s philosophers will talk about how great Communism is, but they live
in the United States so they can make a fortune selling their books on the free
market. The Greeks were wrong and sincere about it; our sophists are wrong and
hypocrites. When Alexander the Great came to visit Diogenes, being fascinated by
the latter’s reputation, he announced, "I am Alexander, the King." The philosopher
replied, "And I am Diogenes, the cynic." Alexander said, "What can I do for you?"
To which Diogenes replied, "Get out of my sun!" Such episodes were common in
the lives of these men who acted on their philosophy.

One day, someone finally asked Diogenes, "Well, if there is no truth, what should
the philosopher do?" He did not bother answering, because if he answered, he
would be affirming that something was true, thus he would be contradicting himself.
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So all he did was wiggle his finger. In other words, "Just join the flux; become part
of the flow."

Returning to the physicists and summing them up, if everything is fire, then
everything flows and everything is in movement. Change is everything. That marks
the end of the school of the physicists.

Concurrent with this physical school (known as the Ionian, from its location on the
shores of Asia Minor), there existed in the West another school whose leader was
Parmenides. Parmenides was from a town called Elea, which lies in a section of
Italy then considered to have been part of greater Greece. His name is just as
much a part of the history of philosophy as that of Heraclitus. He reasoned that
truth can be known, and that our knowledge is of what is permanent. Therefore,
what is permanent is the only thing that is real. Change is nothing but illusion. What
is real has to be one, indivisible, permanent, changeless. This could sound to us as
though he was talking about God, but he was talking about the material universe.
He ended up being a Pantheist — everything is god and god is everything. He
stands in contrast to Heraclitus: one school exaggerated change; the other denied
change completely.

The Enfant Terrible of the school of Elea was a man by the name of Zeno.3 Zeno
said, "Change is not real." And he formulated many good arguments to prove his
thesis. (We do not have the time to go into them here. That would be a tremendous
distraction for this brief introduction.)

So, here we have two schools of error awaiting the brilliant mind of Aristotle to tell
us the truth, to give us a true philosophy of matter, a true definition of change; to
give us the elements of a material substance, and to lay the foundation for sound
cosmology.

So far in our study one school was affirming one thing, the other was completely
denying it, and each of them produced what seemed to be excellent arguments.
Any sophist could sway someone who had not done thinking in that field. So, if one
gives the sophists his mind without previous foundation in sound thought, without
the capability to discover fallacy or to uncover sophistry, it is very easy to be
deceived. These were not stupid people. They had tremendous intelligence, and
they could fool one who is not prepared. The confusion that resulted from these
clashes of different views led to one thing: Skepticism, the school of thought which
claimed that nobody can find out the truth about nature. According to the skeptics,
what we can do is teach people how to be great, or how to be successful: "We can
teach you how to be a politician. We can teach you how to win cases in the law.
We can make you successful." They charged money for their services, while the
philosophers were very generous with their wisdom. The philosophers thought that
wisdom was too precious to be sold for money; while the skeptics practiced
something equivalent to our conception of simony. That is why Socrates was angry
with these Sophists who charged for teaching what they pretended to be wisdom.
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What were the effects of the Sophists in the development of philosophy? Some of
them were good. As they moved their interest from material things to the study of
logic, they developed a correct science of inference (almost as an accident of their
sophistry). But apart from this positive contribution, sophistry, as condemned by
Socrates, has left its imprint on all succeeding ages. One of the famous Sophists is
Protagoras (c. 500 B.C.). It was said of him that he was the first to say there are
two sides to every question. Anyone strictly holding to this must come to a state of
mind such that he cannot have any convictions, or any foundation for noble, heroic
activity. Everything is perceived to be vague and indefinite. This is relativism.
Protagoras is also famous for having said that man is the measure of all things.
And by that he meant that every man is entitled to his own philosophy, to his own
morality, to his own religion. Of course, this is with us in the world today.

Sophistry led to the school of the Skeptics, the people who say that we cannot be
sure of anything: we cannot even trust our senses. A modern skeptic could be
teaching skepticism in the lecture hall and still behave fairly normally on the street.
But that is not good philosophy to a Greek. If we were to have a real Greek Skeptic
in our midst, we would have to watch him so that he would not get killed by the
cars in the street. Somebody would always have to be with him, pushing him out of
harm’s way. He just could not trust his own senses or his own judgment.

The Enfant Terrible in that school is a man by the name of Gorgias (c.480 B.C.). It
has been said of the Greeks that even when they were wrong they could be
interestingly so. They phrased error in such a fascinating way that it became
unforgettable. This was certainly true of Gorgias. He wrote three books. Those
three books express the three great denials that are found in all sophistry. The first
book was written to prove that there is no truth. The second was to prove that even
if there were truth, no one could know it. And then the third book was to prove that,
even if there were truth and somebody knew it, he could never tell it to anyone
else. When one has uttered these three denials, there need be no fourth. These
denials are a counterpart — a negative — of the three major realities: there is truth,
it is knowable, and it is communicable. The whole life and thought of Socrates was
a contradiction of the three denials of Gorgias: He affirmed that there is truth, that it
can be known, and when it is known, it can be communicated. (The fact that the
student is reading this book proves that he agrees with Socrates and not with
Gorgias.)

Going back to the seven wise men, by agreement they met together once. All
seven of them went to the famous temple of Wisdom at Delphi. (That temple
honored the god of wisdom, Apollo.) Each of them had suggestions for wise
inscriptions over the entrance of the temple. When everyone had presented his list,
then the seven of them agreed on two inscriptions. These two were inscribed at the
entrance of the Temple of Wisdom: Gnwqi seauton (Gnothi seauton): "know
thyself;" and Mhden agan (Meden agan) "nothing too much."

Now, while the Sophists were still spreading their errors, there came a great
genius, the founder of philosophy as we know it today, Socrates. He went around
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proving to people that they were not observing those two great maxims of the
seven sages. Their first offense was that they did not know themselves. A great
part of knowing oneself is to know how much one does not know. (And it is only
when we know how much we do not know, that we realize the need for God to give
us true knowledge.)

Socrates was acting purely on the natural plane, but as we will say over and over
again, everything good on the natural plane is a sound foundation for grace. So
Socrates went to tell people, in short, that they did not know what they were talking
about. He started asking them, "What do you mean by justice?" "What do you
mean by virtue?" And so forth. And every time they made a statement, he led them
by further questions to a contradiction of their first reply. He made them see that
they were contradicting themselves. That is the whole point of the dialogues of
Plato in which Socrates is generally the protagonist and the hero. Among the things
that Socrates said was, "The crown of all philosophy, of all wisdom, is a philosophy
of morals." After Socrates — and that would be from 400 B.C. almost down to the
rest of ancient Greek history — there are the schools of philosophy which
emphasize ethics. That is the third phase.

What are the principal schools of ethics? The two that flourished right up to the
time of Our Lord and are mentioned in the Epistles of St. Paul are the Stoics and
the Epicureans. The Stoics hold up virtue for virtue’s sake. Duty is the supreme
principle of morality. To the Stoics, even joy or innocent pleasure must be shunned
as being opposed to reason and to moral duty. One Stoic said, "I would rather go
mad than taste of pleasure." Now a critique of the ethics of duty would be a very
important thing, because it is the ethics of duty that has given us all the totalitarian
systems of our time. On the opposite side is a system of ethics that says the aim of
moral action is the satisfaction of all desire: Epicureanism. Socrates, hearing an
Epicurean claim a man is happy when he satisfies his desires, said to him,
"Therefore, the happiest man is one who has an eternal itch and is eternally
scratching it."

Another one of these ethical schools is that of the Skeptics, who say that the only
thing that bothers us — what is truly harmful — is becoming dogmatic; thinking we
have something of certainty. If we were skeptical — if we would doubt everything
— then nothing would bother us.

Well, all these post-Socratic ethical schools which lasted throughout the centuries
until the coming of Christianity certainly gave us something to think about. All of
them agreed on three ideals of ethical wisdom. They agreed that a philosopher
should attain Ataraxia, Autarkeia, and Euteleia, but they did not agree on how he
could attain these qualities. These are three important values, but all we can do
here is mention them. (One fascinating study would be to relate them to the three
counsels of perfection of religious life: Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. But we
cannot even begin to touch upon that here.)

The first quality is Ataraxia. It means that a philosopher should not allow anything
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to perturb him. Now when people today say, "He took it philosophically," that is
what they mean. It is the suppression of all our emotions and our passions,
becoming almost like a rock: "Nothing can bother me."

The next quality is Autarkeia. It means independence. In a way, this is a pagan


practice of trying to compete with God. The philosopher does not depend on
anybody or anything.

The third is Euteleia. It corresponds a little bit to the virtue of poverty. Euteles in
Greek means "cheap." When the world today, which is not at all philosophical,
brags about having the most expensive things — the nicest, plush Cadillac, etc. —
the philosopher responds with a smile of pity. That is why they say that Socrates
went window shopping to enjoy all the things he could live without, while most
people went window shopping — as people still do today — to see how many
things they desire to have.

There is a story about a philosopher who lived in the woods. He thought that he
had achieved the three ideals of wisdom. He reduced all his needs to one bowl,
which he could use for many purposes, but especially to draw water. When he saw
a little boy getting the water up in his hands, he said, "This boy taught me a greater
Euteleia," and he hurled his bowl as far as it would go.

Footnotes:

1 Alexander is a unique conqueror in history. The world has known many, many
conquerors: from Sennacherib to Genghis Khan. But there was something peculiar
about Alexander. He went forth with great enthusiasm for wisdom, for beauty, for
the ideals of Greek civilization. He spread the Greek culture in the whole world.
That is what we call the Hellenistic civilization. Hellenism is not the Greek speaking
Greek. It is everybody speaking Greek just to be cultured, to be educated. (Like
Saint Paul, who was a Hellenistic Jew)

2 Read the marvelous story of St. Peter Claver. Who could read that story and not
realize that that kind of ethics is super-ethics? Read how the Saint used to receive
the poor, sick slaves in Cartageña, whom he instructed and baptized by the
thousands. He not only nursed them and waited upon them, but kissed their sores!
That kind of behavior cannot arise from sociological theories or ethical commands.
It has to arise from the penetration, contemplation, and appreciation of something
real.

3 To be distinguished from the founder of the school of the Stoics, whose name
was also Zeno.
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VII
Introduction To History:
Medieval To Modern
Holy Scripture tells us that charity rejoiceth in the truth. This is one of those very
short statements which, despite its brevity, is pregnant with wisdom. Not too many
people rejoice in the truth. If we look into our own natures, we will find that there is
a certain resistance to truth which is due to our fallen nature. Yet, when we
cooperate with the grace of God, we can overcome that resistance. Then we will
rejoice in the truth. Besides indicating intellectual advancement, rejoicing in the
truth is also a very good sign of spiritual progress. Among the most brilliant minds
that have been fascinated by this great value— truth — are the philosophers. It is
the superficial person who says, "Well, how many people read them anyway?" then
dismisses all that the philosophers had to say, and disregards how influential they
are. But they are influential, sometimes for good, oftentimes for evil. That could be
a whole study in itself — how influential the philosophers are in all the things we
enjoy or suffer. When a man has a great mind and a kind of a preoccupation with
the higher truths, his errors are disastrous. Put another way, when a genius goes
wrong the results are catastrophic. Most of the problems in the world today are due
to bad thinkers. Similarly, much of what is good we owe to the good and wise
philosophers.

In the previous chapter, we presented the philosophy of the Greeks. In the present
chapter, we will briefly present philosophy as it is in the Christian centuries.
Obviously, such a short chapter could in no way be comprehensive. We are
attempting to take a bird’s eye view, looking at the panorama of this period of
philosophy without entering into too much detail. We divide the history of
philosophy in the Christian centuries into two phases: the Middle Ages (the ages of
Faith) and modern times. What we will attempt to do is present some impressions
that apply in general to the whole of each phase.

Before we proceed with the historical study, we will expound upon a little truism* in
order to encourage the reader. Every one of us is a philosopher. We all have had
philosophic experiences even when we did not know it. When we were very young,
we started asking questions like, "What is space? How far does it go? Does it have
limits or is it unlimited? What is time? When did it start? Will it end? What is life?
How is it that I know things?" Little children are haunted by these questions. In fact,
a child is a little more philosophic than an adult. When we become engrossed in
the practical problems of adult life, we tend to stop raising these fascinating
questions. If we stop raising them, we are shunning a native talent and an
attraction to truth.

What one studies or reads is only of value when it is encouraging a little flame right
in his own soul. We have achieved something spiritually if we have sought the truth
with good will (and good will is another name for Charity). If we can recognize a
falsehood when we see one coming, and when we feel the impulse to fight against
69

it, then we are growing in wisdom. Then we are ready to expose ourselves to
different schools of thought, some of which may have particles of truth in them, but
which contain much that is wrong. The right attitude in philosophy for every one of
us is to be personal, real, and genuine in our minds. There is nothing more phony
than people whose problems are vicarious. They have the doubts that somebody
else had because they read about them in books. Only when one has raised the
question himself, sensing its mystery and beginning to see some light in it, is he
capable of defending the truth. Then he can confidently see what other people are
doing.

If we ignore their errors and focus on their triumphs, we can say that the Greek
philosophers were, in a general way, like precursors of Divine Revelation. Divine
Revelation in its fullness came to us when the Word was made Flesh and dwelt
amongst us — when Jesus Christ, the only One Who could have told us the
mysteries of eternity, dwelt in our midst. When He preached the Sermon on the
Mount and gave His discourse at the Last Supper, every single thing He said was
full of light, wisdom, and truth. When His Apostles went into the whole world to give
the message of the Gospel, for some reason their message took root where the
soil had already been prepared by philosophy. It was only in the world that was
civilized by the Greek and Roman thought that the Gospel produced the most
permanent fruits. All of the thirty-two doctors of the Church came from that Greco-
Roman world, what we call the Western World. When the Faith is given to the
areas beyond that, sometimes we get tremendous responses, but it is also when
they have the benefit of the kind of thinking that was started in Greece. This is all a
matter of history. Its illustration is as simple as looking at a map to see where the
Doctors of the Church lived and where Christianity has had a lasting influence. We
must conclude that the preparation for the Gospel in these places was the Greek
genius for philosophic thought. Almost like Saint John the Baptist (though in a
natural way, not a supernatural way) Greek philosophy precursed the coming of
Divine Wisdom.

When we say that Greek thought served as precursor to Divine Wisdom, we mean
that, in the first phase of the period we are studying, the work of philosophy was,
as the scholastic philosophers called it, the Ancilla Theologiae — the handmaid of
theology. In other words, in the writings of our great Christian philosophers and
theologians, the work of philosophy was to be at the service of the Faith. And
indeed, it is a service that is completely indispensable. Without sound principles of
thought, we cannot even attempt to express the mysteries of our Faith. That is why
tampering with concepts like nature and substance (and even something more
basic, like truth) can undermine our whole Faith.

If Greek philosophy was a precursor of the revealed wisdom and a preparation for
it and Medieval philosophy was its servant, then modern philosophy is a rebellious
competitor. Every modern philosophy is trying to replace the wisdom of the Faith;
trying to become some kind of fake religion and fake morality. This is true of
modern philosophy in general.
70

Now, when we talk about modern philosophy, we must subdivide it into continental
(the philosophy of France, Germany, Italy, etc.) and British or Anglo-Saxon
philosophy. Most specifically, English philosophy is a rebellious philosophy. Here is
the testimony of an English philosopher, writing in the English language: "We may
even claim in general, that England, though rich in thinkers of the highest order,
has never had but a single school of philosophy, or rather it has never had any, for
its philosophy is a perpetual protest against scholasticism."* There is an English-
speaking atmosphere for thought. A typical English-speaking philosopher is a rebel
of the highest degree.

Continental intellectualism is a rebellion against the supernatural. Sometimes it


even rebels against the natural. English philosophy despises the intellectual. Every
term presupposing intellectualism has a negative sense in the English-speaking
world. The word "abstract" is a good example. The first time most of us will hear
"abstract" used in a positive sense will be when we study good philosophy. Usually
people say, "It’s abstract," meaning no good or useless. We do it even with the
word "intellect." "Faith is in the intellect" is, to many, some kind of elitist view of
religion. They would say something like, "No, Faith is in the heart." Even when we
say someone is an intellectual, it is usually done tongue in cheek.

Now, let us begin our study of this period with the notion of "abstract." Without
abstract ideas there is no such thing as thinking or reasoning. In logic, we learn
that there can be no inference without universal propositions. Usually, we state it
this way: "From two particular propositions, nothing follows." We cannot expound
upon this in detail in this chapter, but if we make two propositions and neither of
them is universal, we cannot yet reason, we can only talk about individuals. It is
impossible to form a universal proposition without universal ideas. And without
abstractions, it is impossible to have universal ideas. No abstraction, no universals;
no universals, no universal propositions; no universal propositions, no inference;
no inference, no philosophy.

One of the great problems of philosophy, and the first one the scholastic
philosophers had to grapple with, was the reality of the universals. What do we
mean by universals? In the phrase, "the dog, Fido," Fido is an individual and dog is
a universal. "This watch" is an individual, but "watch" is a universal. The word
"courage" is a universal. The word "sand" is a universal. Let us pause for a
moment now, at this first dawn of spiritual activity in man; because, when we speak
of the soul of man being spiritual, (thus immortal) this is precisely what we mean.
The first indication of the spiritual in us is the fact that we can abstract ideas. This
faculty, abstraction, can be easily illustrated in the following way:

How many grains of sand exist on this earth? Nobody knows the number, but there
is a number. Every grain of sand is numbered. God numbers everything. While it is
not the most interesting occupation of the Divine Mind, there is a definite number of
all existing realities, and He knows it. There are certainly billions upon billions of
grains of sand on all of the beaches all over the world. Now let us suppose that we
could not abstract, because there were no universals. If sand were the only thing
71

we had to know, we would have quite a job. Every individual particle of sand would
have to be somehow in our mind. We could not apply what we know about one
grain to another. We could not begin to speculate about a grain of sand that "might
be." We would be strictly limited to empirical evidence. If someone asked us, "What
happens when you drop sand from the top of a roof?" we would have to test every
grain of sand in existence to answer the question.

As it is, though, all these billions of little entities are in our minds by way of one
concept. For his spiritual integrity, man can talk about sand recalling only an idea in
his mind — something only a rational creature can do. From the moment we give it
a name we are referring to a nature, and we can speak of it with other people. The
book of Genesis, the most ancient book there is, furnishes us with a good example.
In it we read about Abraham walking by the seashore and God saying to him, "I will
multiply thy seed as the sand by the seashore" (Gen. 22:17). Right away, there is a
community of mind between each one of us and Abraham. We know very well that
what sand meant to him is exactly what it means to us. By use of this faculty, we
can cross over all the centuries that separate us. It could be that every grain of
sand that existed in the time of Abraham has since dissolved and turned into
something else, but with the reality of universals and the human capacity to
abstract, that does not matter. Nobody ever reads that story and finds it unfamiliar.
Immediately there is a rapport.

The problem of ideas — of universals — is the first scandal of the thinkers. Three
schools of error arose around it. We can do little more than name them in this
present chapter.1

All philosophy is always haunted by the personalities of Plato and Aristotle. It was
Plato who discovered the importance of ideas. (When we say "ideas" we mean
"universals".) The fact that there are ideas in the mind presupposes that spiritual
activity we call abstraction. Plato exaggerated the reality of ideas. He said, in
essense, "the idea of sand is much more important than these little grains here and
there, because these can be destroyed and will disappear, but that idea is always
there." He thought the same thing about man. Frank and Joe are just individuals,
but man — the universal, man — is the most important thing. In the Summa
Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas names one of his treatises De Homine — "About
Man." Who is that man? Is it Frank? Is it Joe? The answer is yes. Though Frank
and Joe may not have even been alive when he was writing, St. Thomas included
them. He was talking about a nature: anybody who ever had that nature, or will
ever have it.

Any discussion of universals must include Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle’s point of
disagreement with Plato is the dividing line for separating good philosophy from
bad philosophy. To Plato, the only real things are the permanent, eternal ideas.
Plato was like the Christopher Columbus of the realm of ideas. The whole world
after him has a realization of the power of ideas it would never have had if that man
had not lived.
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Aristotle, his student, kept seeing the holes in his system and finally separated
from Plato. He then set out to start right from the beginning and establish some
foundations for truth. There is a pathetic passage from Aristotle’s writings in which
he says, paraphrased: "It’s very painful for me to be contradicting a man whom I so
much love and admire. But our dedication to the truth should transcend our loyalty
to any human person." He then proceeded to criticize his master. And the first thing
he said was, "The things that really are, are the individual substances." The
important thing is not man in general, but this man and that man; not the idea of
sparrows, but the sparrow that I see flying over there. Ideas are real, but their
reality comes from the individual substances. After Aristotle affirmed that truth, no
seeker of wisdom (no man who rejoices in the truth) will ever deny it. It was the first
maxim, the first principle for the great thinkers of the ages of Faith. Every one of
them accepted it. Aristotle comes much closer than any other pagan to our
wisdom, which is incarnational, which looks to the concrete and does not fly too
quickly to the ideas.

But what about the reality of ideas or universals? There was one school of thinkers
which said that the universals are nothing but words. They exist only in language.
These we call nominalists. The most distinguished person who expressed that type
of thought was a person contemporary with St. Anselm (d. 1109). His name is
Roscelin. He had a disciple a little later by the name of William of Ockham. These
two scholastics taught an error, because to say there is no reality to the universal
except in words is the most subversive thing you can say about the validity of
thought. If one were a genuine nominalist, then no science and no philosophy
could have any value. Nominalism* is the end of philosophy, the end of science,
and the end of morality. Our ethical principles have to be in terms of universals, or
there is simply no ethics. If we reject universals, in the end we reject all principles
of morality. We end up with the situation ethics that is very much with us today.

Then came another school which knew that nominalism could not be defended, so
they held that universals are ideas, mere concepts in the mind. We call them the
conceptualists. The most prominent name in this school is a man by the name of
Abelard. Of course, conceptualism was also subversive. If all our science is about
ideas, and if ideas are only in the mind, well, then they are not about reality. We
can see an influence of conceptualism in a great deal of modern philosophy.

Then arose a school that we call exaggerated realism.* Now, the word "realism,"
when we use it in this context, is not the same as the word "realism" as we use it
today. Whereas realism as used today, denotes, practicality, the Medieval realist
was someone who accepted the reality of ideas over individual substances.
Realism is a throwback to Plato at the expense of Aristotle. We do not say that
there is no truth in realism as it existed in Plato or in the Middle Ages. There is truth
there, but it needs to be extracted from error and put in a proper context. It took the
genius of St. Thomas to do this. He gave us the distinctions we need to safely
navigate ourselves between nominalism on one hand and idealism on the other,
giving us what is called "moderate realism."* The very first step towards
Philosophia Perennis is to discover the precise degree of truth that is found in the
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universal ideas. Ideas have a place, but their reality comes from their
correspondence to real, individual, subsisting things. The correct solution of the
problem of universals became a common foundation for the different branches of
philosophy. There remained points of difference between different schools within
the scholastic tradition, but these differences remained within the area of a
common method and many accepted principles. Within this tradition, a harmony
prevailed between the truths that could be known by reason and the truths that
have come to us by revelation — between philosophy and theology. Natural truth
and supernatural truths were distinguished but not separated, as we find in the
Summa of St. Thomas. That synthesis could have become a common heritage for
humanity, at least in the Christian world. It was cultivated and protected by the
Church as part of its commission to bring to men that wisdom which leads them to
salvation.

But then there was the great rebellion against the Church and the apostasy from
the Faith. The rebellion and the apostasy produced their predictable effect in the
development of philosophic thought. As a result, there is a great variety of schools
in modern philosophy, all sharing some basic errors. What could be said, in
general, about modern philosophers is the following:

1. Almost all of them ignored the patient and humble work of the logicians ( as in
their solving the technical problem of universals) and preferred to start
philosophizing at the peaks.

2. They were not seekers after wisdom, and from all available evidence, their
philosophic efforts did not lead them or their disciples to the way of salvation.

3. Wittingly or unwittingly, they returned to the different sophistries of pagan


antiquity.

4. All community of effort disappeared. Philosophy became egocentric. Truth on the


whole became subjective.*

These things hold true for the majority of modern philosophers. This is not to say
that there is no grain of truth in the modern systems of thought. Some of the
insights of the different schools are valuable in themselves; but the good is far
outweighed by the bad. In fact, these true elements in modern philosophy serve as
bait for the seeker of wisdom, bait which can lure him into the trap of sophistry.

Superficial people despise the power of thought, therefore they minimize the
influence of philosophy. We must never fall into this trap. Its influence is
overwhelming: for good and for evil. The modern philosophers are the makers of
the modern mind. How this influence is exercised is a worthy study, but for a later
volume. In the present volume, we can merely mention six of the leading names.

We think of modern philosophy on the Continent as beginning with René Descartes


74

(d. 1650). Those who followed him were Spinoza (d. 1677), Leibnitz (d. 1716),
Locke (d. 1704), Voltaire (d. 1778), Berkeley (d. 1753), and David Hume (d.
1776).2 This is not to be taken as an invitation to start reading these people now.
They should not be read until we know the true philosophy which they contradict.
Otherwise, there is just sheer confusion. Before we start hearing ideas that could
be in opposition to the truth of Philosophia Perennis, we should have a grasp on
what we are to defend.

The most predominant of all of the attributes of modern philosophy is subjectivism.


Modern philosophy on the whole becomes subjective. What does that mean? A
toothache is by necessity something subjective. When one has a toothache, he
can tell other people about it, but nobody else can share it. It is an individual,
concrete privilege, something in one’s own subjective experience. But the sun or
the moon are objects. Anyone who can see can experience them. When we know
these objects, they become, through phantasms and ideas, part of our subjectivity.

It is a fact that we have powers to know the objective reality. This fact cannot be
denied nor strictly proved. Modern philosophers either deny, ignore, or try to prove
this fact, and so get themselves helplessly tangled with the subjective aspect. They
lose the objective aspect in which knowledge consists. Then they try to reduce
knowledge to other types of experience. Here they fall into another tremendous
error, because knowledge is a unique kind of experience — it is an experience sui
generis. There is no other way of saying what knowledge is. One either has it or he
does not. A being capable of knowledge is a being that can comprehend an object
without making it entirely subjective. We cannot prove that; we cannot reduce it to
any other experience, but the moment we deny it we are in trouble. The very
famous sentence of Descartes is a good example. The very first beginning of his
philosophy is this: Cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am). He wanted to start by
what he called methodical doubt. He started doubting this and that until he finally
came to the depth of the well. He doubted the existence of all but one thing. The
one thing he could not doubt was that he was thinking. He then inferred from the
fact that he was thinking that he is (he exists).

He doubted everything that he knew from his senses. All he conceded to exist, at
first, was his own thinking. Since he knew that he was thinking, he had to exist. If
he were consistent, he would have said, "I think, therefore I think that I am,"
because the act of thinking does not prove his existence any more than seeing a
tree proves his existence. We may ask him, "If you don’t trust your eyes, why do
you trust your mind?" And this question would not be overly simplistic, because that
is exactly what he did. "That tree that I see, I don’t know that it exists. But my
thinking about that tree, I know that that exists." It all reduces into a word game in
which the given premise is arbitrary. It does not take too long before I is a mere
thought; and if I just think that I am, then we are back to skepticism. We are
denying knowledge.

Let us look at the experience of a child. Does a child begin by saying, "Here I have
a mind, and in this mind I have an idea of the moon. But how can I get out of that
75

idea? Is there anything there other than my idea?" No child ever said that. No good
philosopher ever started that way either. Nobody started in the mind. A child looks
and says, "the moon. . . flowers. . . Oh, beautiful flowers. . . the sky. . . the grass!"
The child begins with objects, and so must we. There simply is no other way to
begin. Only on reflection or as second thought does some sophist say, "The moon
is there, but how do I know it? I know. There must be an idea in my mind, but if
there is an idea in my mind, then what is the relation between the mind and
reality?" Nobody ever looked at reality this way except the skeptic. In Philosophia
Perennis, we say that truth is the conformity of the mind to reality. This means that
reality is something that exists independent of our minds, which we must conform
ourselves to if we want to be truthful.

There can be no such thing as the very value we call truth if we in any way deny,
confuse, or ignore the two acts which make truth possible: to be, and to know.3
These two acts are identified, in their fullest, with the Holy Trinity. The Father is He
who says, "I am Who Am." And the Son proceeds from the Father as the Father’s
own Self knowledge. This is why Our Lord is called "Eternal Wisdom." It is also why
we attribute Truth to God the Son (I am the Way, the Truth and the Life), Who is in
conformity to the Father. (The Father is Reality, the son is Truth. As Truth conforms
to reality, the Son conforms to the Father.) To be (i.e. to exist), the thing can be on
its own. Two are not necessary to be, but two are necessary to know. And it is only
when we know, that there can be truth. The old maxim, "He knows an awful lot that
ain’t," presupposes a profound truth. If we know what is not, then it is not
knowledge. The very notion of knowledge requires truth.

Let us go from Descartes to Leibnitz. He was a disciple of Descartes, having been


completely fascinated by his thinking. He wrote a book called the Monadology. It is
astounding to what depth the Monadology anticipated much of the scientific truths
we now know which were not known in his time. Certainly, there is a very deep
aspect of truth to it. Though the monad is not an atom, it approaches the same
concept. The monad is indivisible, simple, and impermeable to outside influence.
Atomism is one of the ways materialism expresses itself, reducing everything into
atoms. But monadism crosses the barrier between the physical and the
metaphysical. The monad is somehow a summary of the entire universe in one
little focal point. The biggest monad would be a human soul. But this concept has it
that even God is a monad — the super monad.

According to Leibnitz, the real world is wholly inaccessible to us. We human


monads are pre-programmed to know what we know. Everything comes from
inside us without any external influence. "I see a tree, not necessarily because the
tree is there, but because I am a monad which was programmed to see that tree."
It is a new rendering of the sophistry of Gorgias. Leibniz does talk about "the real
world," so he did not fall into the first pit — the rejection of all reality. Instead, he
waited for the second pit, saying that reality is not knowable. He is not saying there
is nothing, because he still thinks there is something; but it does not take too long
before some other German will come after him and be more "logical." It was not
such a large jump from Leibniz to saying, "Why do we need the real world?"
76

The monad is just a little thing, and it contains a little universe, a little dream-world
that is unique to it. We ask, "Well, how is it that we do have something in common
in our dreams. How can we exchange ideas? How do two of us, who are two
independant monads, completely unaffected by the real world, see the same tree?"
To this Leibniz answers that there is a pre-established harmony. (Incredible!) This
is the genius of the Germans; nothing can stop their train of logic. They can be so
consistent in their error. A pre-established harmony is like two people watching two
independent movies that have nothing to do with each other, yet somehow are
exactly the same movie. So when the Apostles saw Our Lord ascend into Heaven,
it was just twelve monads having twelve different dreams, all of which coincided;
but which have no necessary connection with reality. By this pre-established
harmony, we live in the best of all possible worlds according to Leibnitz. This last
position is a denial of the Fall. Now, it is amazing how all these errors parody
something true. "We know that to them that love God," says St. Paul, "all things
work together unto good." (Rom. 8:28) If we love God, then we do live in the best
possible world. Nothing can defeat us. Even sufferings, adversities, death, all work
for our good. But Leibnitz was not talking about that; he was talking about
cosmology. One of his statements is, "The monad has no windows." This means
that each monad is a little divinity closed on itself and it has no way of knowing if
there is anything outside of itself.

Now we come to Spinoza, the father of modern pantheism.

Modern thought, as resolving itself into a theological position, has had two
alternatives: Deism* and Pantheism. How do we explain this duality very quickly?
Believe it or not, these matters can be explained in very simple terms. Deism puts
God very far away. Pantheism puts Him too close. The deist has a god, but he is
only the first cause. He is the one who somehow starts things going in the whole
world, but after that he will never interfere. He is the "great architect" who never
enters into history by way of revelation or miracles. He could not care less about
what we feel or do. The pantheist, instead of keeping God as far away as possible,
identifies Him with nature. The pantheists say that we are all part of God — we are
all divine. In the Faith, of course, God is very far, as far as His attributes are far
from us. But he is also very near, since in Him we move and live and are. And in
the supernatural order, there is that greater intimacy with God that comes from
becoming the Mystical Body, from receiving Christ and being one with Him. But this
is not Pantheism. A Catholic knows that while God is everywhere, God is not
everything. All these things are very great Christian values, and good philosophy
prepares at least the vocabulary for expressing them.

Among the philosophers or prophets of Masonry (and Masonry is the spirit of the
world ever since the seventeenth century) are Voltaire, a deist, and Rousseau, a
pantheist. Both equally deny and reject the supernatural order (revelation,
miracles, the sacraments, etc.) And while they seem to be complete opposites,
they somehow move easily from one to the other, and both agree in making God
impersonal. Yet, despite their common opposition to the supernatural, they still
present entirely different approaches. Those who have studied Masonry very
77

thoroughly tell us that in the first grades it is deistic; but the deeper philosophy of
Masonry is pantheistic. And, of course, the devil is not an atheist; he is a pantheist.
He did not say there is no God. He said, "I am going to be like God." The devil felt
the divine spark in his very nature. Now, no creature by nature is divine. But the
two, namely, the nature of God and the nature of a creature met as one Person in
the unique case of the Hypostatic Union — the Incarnation. There are two ways of
bypassing the Incarnation. One way is to deny that a Divine Person became man
(the deistic denial). Another way is to say that every human being is somehow an
incarnation (the pantheistic denial). One denies the very fact, the other
universalizes it. In many of the false religions can be found the doctrine of multiple
incarnations of god. The Catholic Faith says that there is only one Son of God by
nature. The only way to become children of God is to be united to Him by grace.
That is the Catholic Faith, and it is neither Pantheism nor Deism.

Spinoza was a Jew who was thrown out of his synagogue for being a pantheist. He
said that god, nature, and substance are all the same thing, expressing it this way:
Deus sive substantia sive natura: "god or substance or nature." He followed much
of the thinking of Descartes in the realm of ontology. Like Descartes, he was a
mathematicist who worked out philosophical thought as if it were a series of math
problems. But his main problem was his pantheism. We should recall the definition
of substance as the compound of form and matter. Without this hylomorphism,
there is no Philosophia Perennis. To illustrate Spinoza’s error, let us quote him: "By
substance I understand that which exists in itself and is conceived through itself;
that is, that thing the concept of which does not have need for the concept of any
other thing, by which it must be formed." Now, to summarize this briefly, we can
say, "Substance is limited to that which is completely non-contingent." As we
learned in cosmology, the only thing that is non-contingent (the " prime mover"
behind the ens mobile) is God. Well, that is what Spinoza concluded using this
incorrect definition of substance: Substance is god. So what are we? Modes.
Human beings are just different modes of substance that are determined to do
what we do. From this conclusion, Spinoza attempts to produce an ethics. We can
just imagine what happens to ethics in a system where man is just a mode or an
attribute of all of nature. Man is like some cog in a big machine. Spinoza said, "Man
cannot be considered as an empire within another empire." In other words, since
man is just a part of god (or nature), he has no independent will. Good and evil
become ridiculous concepts, and the only hope for attaining freedom is through
knowledge of ones bondage to the universe.

Let us now very quickly continue to present some of the leading men we consider
as the founders of what we call the "modern mind." We have already discussed the
continental philosophers: Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz. The English
philosophers, Locke, Berkeley, and David Hume ought also to be considered. But
since they are more familiar to us, and will be discussed at greater length when the
seventh volume in our series is published, we shall only briefly mention here their
influence on future thought. Berkeley had a great influence on idealism, both on the
continent and in the English-speaking world. David Hume, the skeptic, had great
influence on Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804). And the importance of Kant, as far as
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the structure of the modern mind is concerned, is almost immeasurable. It has


been said that Immanuel Kant is to the modern world what St. Thomas was to the
ages of Faith.

Kant began with the problem of knowledge. He tried to examine how we can know
anything. If we know, the knowledge, of course, is in us. How do we know there is
anything outside? We cannot know anything except according to our perceptibility.
So nothing can be known by us, except according to the universal laws of our
receptivity for them. He ends up — and it will take much more than a few
sentences to show how he gets to this conclusion — with space and time all in his
mind. The whole world is right in his mind, and God alone knows if there is
anything else. It is yet more subjectivism.

Now let us quickly review some of the attributes of the modern mind as we have
observed them so far in this chapter. The modern mind is very individualistic. We
speak today of Thomistic philosophy, but St. Thomas would be the first one to
object to that term. To give his name to Philosophia Perennis would be too much
for his humility. He would find that absolutely repulsive. But while St. Thomas would
never have thought of attributing a philosophy to his own invention, every modern
philosopher assumes that nobody has ever thought before he did. (If the author
ever thought truth were something that never occurred in the world until he was
born, he would despair and quit attempting to be a philosopher.) So a respect for
tradition was part and parcel of the spirit of people like St. Thomas, St.
Bonaventure, and all the great Scholastics. It is the very opposite today. Everyone
has to begin as if he were the very first beginning — the first one to find the truth,
and will therefore give his name to a whole school of thought. So one is a
Leibnizian, a Kantian, a Hegelian, a Marxist, etc.

Another aspect of modern thought is the tendency towards monisms. (We have
already discussed what a monism is.) Modern philosophers like to reduce things to
some single principle, while the tradition of sound philosophy, beginning with
Aristotle, has a place for every type of reality. One of the monisms that has had a
particularly strong influence on modern philosophy is a kind of mathematical
monism. Philosophers have always been fascinated with mathematics, beginning
with Pythagoras, who thought the ultimate reality is mathematical. The fascination
for the certitude we can get in mathematics and the clarity which can preside in it,
has led many mathematicians to assume that the greatest wisdom is something
mathematical. One of the people who committed this fault to the limit was Spinoza,
who defined philosophy as the generalization of mathematics. Though among the
Greeks it was Pythagoras who was particularly guilty of mathematicism (or
mathematical empiricism), even Plato was tinged with this tendency. These
thinkers exaggerated the ontological status of mathematics. It was Aristotle who
characteristically and very clearly defined the ontological realm of mathematics as
"the science of the accident of quantity." As soon as we realize mathematics is
concerned with accidents, we know that it can never touch the realm of substance.
Its ontological status is very clearly determined. It can be exact and accurate in its
realm, but it never penetrates substance, essence, or being.
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Another error of modern philosophy, the last one we will discuss, is its
preoccupation with theories of knowledge. In Greek philosophy, there was no such
thing as epistemology. In modern philosophy it is almost all they talk about. And
what is epistemology? The theory of knowledge. Their preoccupation with
knowledge has led modern thinkers into so many of their errors. It is the kind of
thing the Greeks took for granted: If we cannot know, why even raise the question?
The Greeks and the Medievals just begin with the fact that we do know, and then
they proceed to see how to clarify our knowledge. This is the subject for our next
chapter and the seventh book in the series, epistemology.

Footnotes:

1 Let us recall something we said in the previous chapter: the three negations of
Gorgias, the Sophist, presented in three great volumes. The first volume was to
prove that there is nothing. The second volume was to say, even if there were
anything, we could not know it. And the third volume was to say, even if anybody
knew it, he could never tell it to anybody else. These are three arch-negations. The
genuine tradition of philosophy, Philosophia Perennis, is the affirmation of the
complete contrary of each one of them. There is definite reality, it can be known,
and once known it can be communicated. It is precisely this concept of the
existence of universals and man’s ability to abstract that is in jeopardy in the
erroneous schools of the Middle Ages and of the present.

2 Though this is in no way a complete list of modern philosophers, it is a selection


of the most influential among them. All of the trends in modern thought are present
in these men.

3 Of course, if we deny the fact that there is such a thing as truth, then we have
destroyed one of the greatest values of all culture, and the hallmark of any real
civilization.

VIII
Epistemology
When philosophy was still taught in our colleges, there was always one course on
epistemology. It is of great value in our pursuit of wisdom to study epistemology at
this juncture in our course. And the most logical way to begin this study is to define
the word:

In Greek, the word Episteme means knowledge. Two of the books we refer to in
the preparation of this course are Epistemology, by Father A.C. Cotter (who was
the teacher of Father Leonard Feeney), and Criteriology, by Monsignor Paul J.
Glenn, whose books we have found to be of great value. The two books are named
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for the subject they treat, but they treat the same subject: epistemology and
criteriology are the same thing. Criteriology, as it is used here, means the study of
the criteria for truth. Another name for the study is major logic. The very first
subject in our series, and the second chapter in this book, is logic; and by this we
mean minor logic. In some curricula, epistemology is the second subject after
minor logic (so that in those curricula, major logic comes immediately after minor
logic.) But we have reasons why we do not present it immediately after minor logic.

We should explain our ordering of the subjects as we present them in this series.
One reason is that epistemology begins with the proposition, "Universal skepticism
is theoretically absurd and practically impossible." After going through the course of
minor logic, which teaches the correct method of reasoning, it turns out that this
thesis is the first sentence the student in philosophy is given. It is a proposition
which cannot really be strictly proved. All too many times, the teacher fails to
convince the student of the point of this proposition, and the student loses grasp of
it, lapsing into skepticism. (The students of our time do not mind being theoretically
absurd and practically impossible.)

And so, we place the study of epistemology immediately before ontology, (which
can also be called general metaphysics,* or the science of the immaterial). In this
series, we use epistemology as a kind of apologetics for metaphysics1 (just as we
study apologetics before studying theology). When we attempt to move into the
order of the sheer immaterial — to consider God and the attributes of God as a
pure spirit — and consider those attributes of all reality which, even though they
apply also to material reality, are really in themselves immaterial (attributes like
beauty, truth, goodness, and oneness), we must encourage the mind to be
confident and realize the abilities that God has put into it. It is then that
epistemology is needed.

What should come after minor logic? In what field of philosophy do the processes
of reason cooperate with man's experience in objective and concrete reality?
Cosmology is the obvious answer. In cosmology, we study the material world in
which we live, and we draw some very important conclusions about it. (One
conclusion, for example, is that it manifests order. The order of the universe is both
a conclusion of reason and a vivid fact of observation.) But when we leave the
whole material order behind to study values that are purely immaterial, the mind
has to be more confident. It has to have a certain appreciation of its own abilities.
In our system, that is where the science of epistemology belongs.

Since we have just contrasted minor logic with major logic, we should explain how
they differ. We know by now that there are three types of philosophy: physical,
logical and ethical. Every philosopher who ever existed eventually had to move into
these three territories and take a stand. Different philosophies — as a matter of
fact, different epochs in philosophy — place greater emphasis on one or the other,
but eventually, all three have to be treated.2

What does minor logic do? It merely studies the laws of consistency. All logic is
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interested in knowledge, and all knowledge is about truth. (That is the irony in the
observation noted in the last chapter, "He knows a lot that ain't.") To know is to
know things as they are. Minor logic only treats how we go from one truth to
another; it never raises the question of how we can start with truth in the first place.
One of the things minor logic studies is the syllogism.* A syllogism consists of two
truths already known that will lead to a third truth not previously known. But
somewhere we have to make a start. In minor logic, we do not probe so deeply as
to question that there is truth; we simply work on the assumption that there is.
Minor logic can be called, then, the science of consistency. One characteristic of
modern philosophical thought is to strive for consistency without any regard for the
truth. A man can stay scrupulously consistent with a thought progression, never
contradicting himself; but if he starts with a lie, his whole thinking is wrong. Many
gifted thinkers have done great harm in the world (and nobody does great harm
unless he really has great gifts) by being terribly wrong, but very consistent.
Because of this, the philosophers of modern times are, on the whole, sophists
rather than truly wise men. They begin with some tremendous falsehood, then go
on working day in and day out to keep it a consistent system.

In epistemology (or major logic), we are still interested in consistency, but we add
to that an interest in truth and certitude. What is taken for granted in minor logic, is
an integral part of the subject of major logic.

Now we will come back to our trinities: Every fundamental reality somehow reflects
the majesty of the Holy Trinity. Let us remember the three denials of Gorgias:
There is nothing; even if there is something, nobody can know it; and even if
somebody knew it, he could never tell it to anybody else. These three denials also
correspond to the three branches of thought that we are discussing here. These
three concepts are found even in our literature. They are the three fundamental
problems that all literature revolves around: the problem of being, the problem of
knowledge, and the problem of good and evil (or simply, the problem of evil).

What about the problem of being? Our very existence is a problem. One could
make himself insane trying to understand this one problem: Here I am. I cannot
deny that this is a fact. I exist. But suppose my father had missed the party where
he met my mother and fell in love with her. What if he had married another girl?
And not just my father and my mother; centuries of such meetings had to take
place so I could be here. How many coincidences had to happen just right, before I
could come into existence?

Philosophically, the answers to these baffling questions are not to be found in the
study of statistics or any empirical science. We must consider the contingency of
being. The fundamental problem of being is the fact that a contingent being (like
man) could not exist without an infinite being (God) who is not contingent. The
order and hierarchy that we see in nature indicates this, and it forms the basis of
one of St. Thomas' proofs for the existence of God. Once we realize that there
exist these categories of contingent and non-contingent being, we achieve a great
deal of wisdom. However, it also makes us ask more questions. The moment we
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realize the reality of the infinite it is very hard to see how the finite can have any
real existence. This problem is at the basis of many other problems, not only in
speculative philosophy, but also in ethics. For example, there is the question of
how to reconcile the freedom of the will with the omnipotence of God. There have
been enormous controversies over this in the history of the Church; and each one
of us has probably raised this question from our youth. The problem of being is
proper to the study of ontology; thus it will be addressed in that chapter.

The problem of good and evil is one with which we all occupy ourselves. For
instance, one of the biggest problems in apologetics is the problem of evil. Why
does evil exist? It is one of the objections to the existence of God that St. Thomas
addresses in the Summa Theologica. It is usually stated, "If there is a good God
who is all-powerful, then why is there so much suffering in the world?"

From the dawn of pagan philosophy, good and evil occupied the minds of thinkers.
Even before that, men thought about good and evil, because every single human
who ever existed after Adam and Eve was a descendant of those first humans.
Because of this, every religion contains some notion of the fall of man and the
consequent need of redemption, which we find in the Genesis account. The first
book ever written, the book of Genesis, contains an explanation of good and evil.
Pagan philosophers, with nothing more than the natural law written on their hearts
and a faint glimmer of the primitive revelation to Adam and Eve, wrote volumes on
ethics and had concrete notions of good and evil.

And finally we come to the third problem. What is at the basis of the problem of
knowledge? By knowledge the whole universe is in one's mind. One grasps the
whole universe by knowledge; and the act of knowing is entirely in his mind. Does
that mean that the whole universe is just in my mind, as if it were all a dream? As
we will see, the answer to this is "no," but it is a little beyond the scope of this
introduction to go into detail on this question.

These problems have been with us since the days of Adam. But in modern times,
they have dominated the thoughts of men more than ever. So much so, that in the
modern world epistemology is not just a branch of philosophy, it has almost
usurped the whole field by itself. It is safe to say that from the days of Descartes
until our time, almost all the philosophers are more epistemologians than anything
else. Their one concern above all else is the problem of knowledge: "I think,
therefore I am." So much can be said about that short sentence to explain why it is
revolutionary. For now, let us simply say that Descartes failed to distinguish
between substance (that which exists per se) and accident* (that which exists in
alio). Descartes inferred his own existence (something substantial) from his own
thought (something accidental). One question immediately comes to mind: If he
doubts the existence of a substance (himself), how can he be so sure of an
accident (his thought), which is contingent on the very substance he doubts? This
failure to distinguish substance and accident is a mark of all modern philosophy. In
fact, one of the main tendencies of all modern thought is the outright denial of the
concept of substance. They want a dance without a dancer, a thought without a
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thinker, a change without anything changing; and they force their language into a
pattern which destroys the first metaphysical realization. If the concept of
substance is lost, there is hardly anything in our Faith that can be expressed. The
word substance is an important part of the Church's theological vocabulary. The
whole heresy of Arianism was crushed by the concept "consubstantial with the
Father."

Let us reflect further on this matter of knowledge. Obviously, the focus of our study
of knowledge is human knowledge. But to put this knowledge in its perspective, we
should go up the chain of being. Knowledge does not occur on the mineral plane.
Two grains of sand can be sitting next to each other for thousands of years without
ever knowing each other. A rock can fall in a thousand avalanches without ever
learning the laws of gravity, or even what up or down is. The same holds true for all
mineral creatures: there is no knowledge. Even at the level of vegetable life, where
life begins and where some order can be manifest, there is no knowledge. What is
one rose to another rose? Everything in a plant is a matter of physical and
chemical reaction. When a potted plant moves itself so that its leaves face the sun,
it is all a matter of chemistry.

Knowledge first begins on the animal level. A rabbit must know when to run away
from danger. God gave it the powers necessary for its survival. One of these
powers is a tremendous emotion of fear. If rabbits were to lose that emotion, there
would be no more rabbits. But this fear has to be guided by knowledge. There has
to be something which makes the rabbit suspicious: some noise, sight or smell.
Then for its own protection it runs. Every animal, from the smallest little bug to the
biggest elephant, has powers for knowledge. Man has these same powers. The
difference is that animal knowledge never goes above sense knowledge. Man has,
in addition to these powers, the powers of abstraction, which only a creature
endowed with reason can have. This is another thing that we will study in
epistemology: the distinction between the sense life and the intellectual life, and
why the two have to be absolutely and clearly distinguished.

One of the fallacies of modern philosophy (especially in the Anglo-Saxon world) is


sensism. This philosophical error reduces all know-ledge to sense knowledge, and
in effect denies the spiritual faculty: the intellect. In man there is indeed sense
knowledge, which we have in common with all animals, but man also has spiritual
knowledge above and beyond the senses. Sense knowledge requires material
organs (eyes, ears, nose, etc., for the external senses and the brain for the internal
senses), and it also requires a material object. In other words, sense knowledge
occurs in the material order. But the intellect is a supra-material or spiritual power,
and can know immaterial reality. These distinctions will be explained more fully in
two volumes that will be a part of this series: psychology and epistemology. For
now, it is enough to say that sensism is tantamount to denying the whole spiritual
order, and inevitably leads to materialism and to hedonism.

We stated above that our senses require a material object. We should dwell on this
truth a little longer. We have five external senses and four internal ones. Sight,
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hearing, smell, taste, and touch are all external senses. The four internal senses
are common sense, the estimative sense, the memory and the imagination (These
will be thoroughly explained in the volume on psychology). None of our senses can
perceive anything that is not material. The object perceived must produce a
material impression on the sense organ. This means that a merely sentient being is
utterly incapable of knowing God or even an abstract reality, like courage or justice.
It is only when we understand and appreciate this truth that we will be able to
realize the human soul is spiritual and possesses, in addition to the nine senses,
another knowledge power, or faculty, we call the intellect.

One major aim of our philosophy program is to defend the spiritual plane in human
nature by which man is absolutely and essentially different from the animals. This
difference is ignored or minimized in education today due to many influences, not
the least of which is the theory of evolution. The defense of man's spirituality
begins in the distinction between an idea and a phantasm,* a technical matter to be
discussed fully in due time. For the purposes of this introduction, it will suffice to
say that a phantasm is a technical term for a sense image of a concrete material
object, to which all the senses (external and internal) contribute, that is impressed
on the brain. It is a medium of knowledge on the plane of sense, as the idea is for
the intellect.

Making the distinction between sentient knowledge and intellectual knowledge


does not mean that we despise the senses. The philosopher notices the
preeminence of the senses among all the powers we have in common with animal
life in general (i.e., powers of locomotion, digestion, etc.). The sense organs are
the most precious organs in the human body. Almost the whole body is built to
protect them, to be at their service. In other words, man was obviously constructed
more for knowledge than for any other purpose, even on the bodily plane. The
organ of touch, the most fundamental of the five external senses, pervades the
whole body. We can only see with the eyes, we can never hear with the nose, but
we can feel with every part of us. Very few parts of the human body are not
sensitive to touch. If touch is the most fundamental of the senses, then sight is the
most elevated. And to contemplate the operation of sight, we discover a cosmic
interest in knowledge — even sentient knowledge. Sight cannot be without light,
and light is the most cosmic material nature. It is basic to all of the rest of the
material universe. Our eyes could be in perfect condition, but if the lights went out
where we are reading this book, we would not know what the book says. We may
have a whole library in front of us, but without light, we will learn nothing. Light is a
necessary medium for knowledge. It is probably the most mysterious, exciting, and
exquisite material reality. (It is material, but by the way we use the word "light"
when talking on the spiritual plane, we intimate that there must be light even
beyond matter.)

The whole world is flooded with light. Almost all matter is ready to explode into
light. (This is an indication of the cosmic interest in knowledge.) There is no
purpose for light except to make knowledge a possibility. Let us consider the
objects perceived in the light: trees, flowers, rosebushes. Every single second of
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their existence, they are broadcasting to the whole world what they are by way of
color, size, proportion, motion, etc., all through the medium of light. Knowledge is
one of the most fundamental tendencies of all nature. (In the end, when we come
to study knowledge at its highest levels, it is going to lead us to the contemplation
of the processions in the Holy Trinity.)

Now let us consider one of the theses that will be defended in the course on
epistemology. It is thesis number three: we have many cognitive faculties,3 and
they are, per se, infallible. What are the faculties? We have mentioned nine of
them above, the internal and external senses, but to enumerate all of the faculties
of man would be much too much detail for now. Let us consider the sense of sight
again, since it served us well above: There is a rose. Joseph is looking at that rose.
He sees that it is red. Now, the scientists say that Joseph does not see the rose,
that what he really sees is an impression on his retina. They are wrong; Joseph
sees the rose. The image on the retina, which the scientist sees, is the means to
an end. The ultimate experience of knowledge is not my seeing the phantasms in
my head, but the object outside. Once this foundational truth of the study of
knowledge is destroyed, it can never be restored. We have to begin with it as the
fact. A child looks at a rose and says, "Oh, look! A beautiful red rose." Right away
the cynical scientist comes to him and says, "The red is not there. It's just in your
eyes, in your head. And what's there outside is electromagnetic waves. So the eye
does not perceive the red, it creates it. If there were no eye looking, there would be
no red there."

These are the fundamental doubts which every young man and woman has been
exposed to in college today. As philosophers, we reject that completely. The rose is
red. God gave us eyes to see things as they are, not to make them. The cognitive
powers are not creative, they are merely receptive. They are pure and clear and
waiting for the object to convey what it is. A whole world of difference begins once
some cynic, under the pretense of scientific discovery, denies that fact.

They will tell you, "One person might see it red, another might see it yellow."
Relativism has entered the picture. Now, if a man has jaundice, we can examine
him and find out that he has a prejudice in his illness to add yellow to everything he
sees. That could be explained. One of the marks of the age in which we live, (an
age which is, philosophically, a sick age) is preoccupation with abnormality. Before
they study the marvel of sight, the modern sophists like to get distracted by the
accident — the defect — of color blindness. Right away they say, "Well, people can
be color blind; therefore, since what I see is red, and what he sees is grey, and
what the person with a different kind of color-blindness sees is blue, then it is all
relative to the individual's perception."

Is it meaningful to say that the object is red? Yes, it is meaningful. God intended
the rose to appear exactly as it normally does, and He gave us the powers to see it
that way. That is why all normal people see it red, and why there must be an
accidental cause for the abnormality. (It is also why people label color-blindness an
abnormality.) Otherwise, all objectivity is gone. If the colors are really in my mind,
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they are merely a subjective experience — like a dream or a headache. How is it


that we all see red? Because the thing is that color. How do you know that we all
see the same red? Well, we seem to be able to talk about red. We say the same
things about it. We share experiences among ourselves. How in the world could
that be going on if there were no such thing as red which exists outside us?4

Here is the point at issue: Is knowledge a purely subjective and therefore a relative
thing, or is it an objective thing? Did God give us knowledge powers to make our
own reality, each in his own mind, or to know things that really exist as they are?
The reader will probably know by now that the answer of the student of
Philosophia Perennis is the latter for both questions. Knowledge is objective
because we have the faculty to know what really exists outside us. God gave us
that power. The first answer to each of the above questions (the wrong answer) is
at the basis of so much of modern philosophy. It is this subjectivism that is the real
achievement of modern philosophy. These thinkers have so polluted our
atmosphere with error that today even a common man, who may never read a
philosophy book all his life, can be heard to say, "Well, maybe that's true for you,
but it's not true for me."

Immanuel Kant used to sit at his desk at eight o'clock and philosophize until four
o'clock. When he took his walk at four o'clock, people set their watches. His life
and his thought were both very methodical. Kant began by almost deliberately
denying the simple fact of knowledge as we have been considering it. He ended up
by saying that we do not perceive or know what the universe is. Instead, we make
our own universe. The universe one knows is in his head. Time and space are the
modes of perceptibility of man. Man being what he is, that is the kind of universe
he makes. All objectivity is gone. Everything is swallowed in the person himself. It
has been said that Kant is a much greater influence in the world than St. Thomas
Aquinas ever was. This is true to a very great extent. Out of this subjectivism we
have subjective religions: "We don't care what you believe. Truth and falsehood
don't mean a thing. Every man makes his own religion. As long as he is sincere,
everything is fine." It is the end of all doctrine, the end of all truth, the end of all
morality.

Now that we have seen what the subject of epistemology is, showing its
importance and where it fits in our philosophical scheme (and even treating some
of the controversies created by our philosophical enemies), we will begin where the
formal study of epistemology must begin: universals. This is the problem that we
begin with because all philosophic principles are in terms of universals. One can
write a biography of one individual man, but when he writes a science, it has to be
about man. The Summa Theologica contains the treatise, De Homine, about man.
Every one of us is in that treatise. St. Thomas Aquinas did not know the author of
An Introduction to Philosophy as Wisdom, or any of its readers, but we are all there
by way of one abstract notion: man.

As we have already seen, there have been three false schools about universals:
nominalism, conceptualism and exaggerated realism. There is a way to steer clear
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of all three of these errors. When we are seriously interested in truth, we will
discover there are three distinct orders that have to be adjusted correctly in relation
to each other before we can communicate with each other meaningfully. What are
the three different orders? Thought, language, and reality. Now, the possibilities of
confusing these three orders are infinite. That is why only a person with good will,
only a person who truly loves the truth and seeks after wisdom with a purity of
heart, can become a true philosopher. Wisdom will elude a person who is just
trying to be clever or trying to justify his wicked life, or attempting any other vain,
self-serving achievement. One has to have purity of heart. This is why St. Paul
could say, "Charity rejoiceth in the truth."

We have been considering man in this chapter. Let us look at the proposition, "Man
is a responsible creature." That is one sentence we would have to justify. We would
have to prove it. But for now, let us accept it as a given. Suppose we make another
sentence: "Man is a monosyllable." Is that correct? Is man a monosyllable? Yes.
Now let us notice what can happen when we destroy the harmony that should exist
between the three orders of reality, thought, and language. This illustration will
reveal the function of language in relation to thought. It will also tell us the relation
of thought to reality. Now, we say, "Man is a responsible being, but Socrates is a
man, therefore Socrates is a responsible being." Fine, this is logical; but then we
say, "Man is a monosyllable, but Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is a
monosyllable." Is that true? Of course not. It is what happens when language is
abused and does not represent the same reality consistently in a syllogism. (The
two problems we have just studied are syllogisms.)

Here is another one: Frank says to Joe, "Man is a universal." Joe then asks, "What
do you mean by a universal?" "Well," says Frank, "Fido, the name of a particular
dog, is a singular, not a universal. It refers to one definite entity. But, if I say 'man',
or if I say 'dog,' these are universals." "Fine," Joe says, and they have reached an
agreement. "Man is a universal" Frank says. "Fine," Joe replies. "But, Socrates is a
man; therefore, Socrates is a universal." Frank has just deceived or confused Joe
by the destruction of the order that should exist among reality, thought and
language. The errors sophists make are not always as simple and evident as these
examples, but no matter how subtle it is, the fallacy can be reduced to a bad
syllogism. It is quite easy to play those orders against each other.

Language is only language when it is the expression of thought. A word can stand
for an idea, but a word is not an idea. There are properties of a word that are not in
the idea. We now start talking about a medium. The word is a medium. All
language is a medium of communication. The idea is a medium too, but a major
part of epistemology is to explain the difference between one kind of medium and
another. The idea is that by which we know the thing. It is not that which we know.
Otherwise, ideas would be blinders, not eyeglasses. They would be the only thing
we know. We can say it this way, "The ideas are not the things we know; but by
ideas we know things." Most of the modern psychologists talk as if all that we know
is our ideas. They confuse the kind of medium that an idea is with the kind of
medium a word is.
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The last thing that we will cover in this chapter is the thesis in epistemology which
defines universals. Here it is: "That which we conceive by the direct universal
concept is real, though not in the manner in which we conceive it. The reflex
universal concepts, however, are figments of the mind, though they, too, are based
on reality." This is one paragraph of epistemology; and to understand every single
word in it is the very first thing a philosopher must do patiently before he ventures
into any field of philosophy. We will have to wait until the book on epistemology
before we explain this thesis in detail.

Man reasons, while the angels intuitively see. The pride of man is exhibited when
he pretends to be an angel and rushes into the areas which require very patient
and careful preparation before starting to formulate truths. We are not angels; we
are human beings. And while the power of reason God gave us makes us infinitely
higher than the animals, it is still the lowest level of intelligence. So it is both the
dignity of man that he reasons, and the humility of man that he must know by
patient reasoning: by humbly defining his terms, making distinctions, clarifying the
issues, and going from one step to another. If the angels needed to study
geometry, they would see all the theorems in the axioms, but man cannot do that.
How quickly do we see the axioms or the postulates? "A straight line is the shortest
distance between two points. If equals are added to equals the sums are equal."
We began with simple truths like that, and then patiently we come to truths like,
"The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the squares of the two
shorter sides." Nobody ever said, "I knew that right away. The moment I heard it I
knew that to be true." It is by going patiently, step by step, defining every term, that
we finally come to truth. Truth is something so precious that it deserves the most
careful attention and the most painstaking approach.

One of the marks of the modern thinkers (we have discussed several of them
already) is to act as if they are not human beings, but angelic minds. They think
that without any study of logic, without any careful discipline, they can proceed to
tell us all about anything under the sun (or over the sun). They start talking about
God and about whether there are angels or no angels; about whether the soul is a
spirit or not a spirit. They talk about immortality. They talk about all the problems of
ethics with absolutely no foundations. The job of the good philosopher is to
establish the firm foundation for the truth.

Footnotes:

1 Metaphysics is simply another name for ontology.

2 This fundamental trinity fascinates good theologians. It is one of the natural


stepping stones to contemplation of the supreme Trinity which all reality reflects.
The three acts of to be, to know, and to love correspond to the three Persons of the
Blessed Trinity.
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3 The word "faculty" simply means power.

4 To recall something from our last chapter, Leibnitz would answer this problem by
saying, "It's all by some kind of pre-established harmony." We say, "No. The object
is red, and every person who looks at it in normal conditions, normal illumination,
will see what it is."

IX
Ontology
Our last book in the series will be ontology. As we have done with all the other
philosophical disciplines, we will start by explaining the name. Like the other
names we have mentioned, ontology comes from two Greek words. We are
familiar with the suffix -logy, which denotes a science, or a rational, organized body
of fundamental knowledge. The prefix On is the Greek word for "being" (it is the
present participle of the verb "to be"). Therefore, the name tells us that ontology is
the philosophy of being. It has many names besides ontology. Sometimes it is
called general metaphysics. Sometimes it is called the summit of all philosophy. It
is also called the science of the immaterial. All of these names will be explained in
time.

Who is the founder of this study? Who gave us the basic insights we need to study
being? Aristotle. If Aristotle had not lived, it is conceivable that the whole world
would have run its course without such a thing as the philosophy of being. We owe
it to his genius that we have this discipline. To him, it was the climax of what he
called metaphysics. The word metaphysics deserves some attention. We should
know by now what Aristotle meant by the word physics, as opposed to what most
people today mean by physics. To Aristotle, physics is a philosophy, the philosophy
of nature ( physis in Greek means nature, corresponding to the Latin word, natura).
To this is added the prefix meta, meaning "after" or "beyond."

Nature is a very important word for us. So much of our Faith, and so much of our
natural wisdom, depends on an understanding of the word nature. It is one of the
terms that we deal with in every field of philosophy, but which we really study and
strive to master in ontology. The first nature that comes to our understanding is the
nature of a material being. Since we are men and not angels, the object must be
proportionate to what we are. The natures we begin to study are things like water,
fire, trees, rocks, air, etc. All of these familiar things have natures. When we put
them all together, we get nature in the sense in which it is most commonly used —
the natural order. The natural order is nothing more than the order that results from
all the different natures of all the material beings functioning together to make our
cosmos. That is why cosmology is the other name for the study of nature. We may
immediately anticipate the fact (to be proved in due course) that this order of
nature reflects to us the power and goodness and wisdom of God. Once we
discover that there is a very definite unity and purpose in the order of nature, it
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becomes a very important philosophic value. (Even in the field of morals we speak
of the "natural law," a manifestation of the truth that God intended our behavior to
be such as to fulfill the purpose for which He created us and the universe.)

Aristotle began with the material reality, the ens mobile (the changing being). But in
drawing conclusions about the material reality, every once in a while he came to a
conclusion of wider and higher application; he conceived a principle of being not as
changing (mobile), but as being (being as being). He realized that these principles
belonged to a philosophic science above and beyond physics, which he (or his
disciples) named metaphysics.

We must explain why ontology comes at this point in our series, as the last course
of our philosophic program. The first explanation is that, when we have gotten to
this point, we have actually been studying ontology all along. Ontology cannot be
ignored or left behind even in the first stages of the study of philosophy. We have
been using the language of ontology and its concepts since the very beginning,
because there is nothing we can know except being. But there are real reasons
why the philosophy of being, as such, should be kept to the end. It is the most
profound and the most difficult branch, and we need the other subjects to prepare
us for it. It is also the noblest, most elevated, and most contemplative part of
philosophy, so we reach it by steps as we reach the pinnacle of a mountain. And
finally, a very good reason why we reserve ontology to the end is that it borders the
higher wisdom, the wisdom revealed by God. The height of ontology is theodicy, or
natural theology. Theodicy studies the divine nature and attributes only as they are
known in the light of human reason.

And while ontology is not exactly the most interesting or most exciting matter of
study, when one disciplines his mind to its elevated language, he can ascend to
great spiritual and intellectual joys. The sound principles of ontology give life and
health to all the higher cultural activities. It will be some time before we publish the
volume on ontology, and there will be many books leading to its study. For the
purposes of this introduction, we can whet the student’s appetite by introducing
three ontological pillars: the categories, the transcendental* ideas, and the analogy
of being.

Aristotle affirmed that there are ten categories of reality: one category of substance
and nine of accidents. These ten categories are ten meanings of the verb "to be."
All of them can be expressed by some form of that verb, like "is." (In our list, each
category is followed by an example.) The ten categories are:

1. Substance:
2. Quantity:
3. Quality:
4. Relation:
5. Action:
6. Passion:
7. Time:
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8. Place:
9. Disposition:
10. Habitus:

It would be very helpful to learn the ten categories by memory now. They will be
discussed more fully in the book on ontology, but with this very sketchy
presentation we can refer to them occasionally in the books that precede it without
causing much confusion.

In God there are no accidents, so only the category of substance may be applied to
God. Thus we can talk about His nature and essence, but not about his age or
location. In the natural order, all ten categories adequately divide all material
reality. There are other concepts which apply to spiritual realities (even God) as
well as to material reality. These are called the transcendental ideas, or
transcendentals. We will mention four of them now: Being, One, True, Good.

So the concept "being," the subject of the philosophic science of ontology, is itself a
transcendental concept. But no concept can be applied to God and to a creature
univocally (in the same sense). It must be applied analogously. This is the basis for
the famous analogy of being, a very important chapter in ontology. Much depends
on its proper understanding.

Here is Aristotle introducing the subject of ontology: "There is a science which


studies being qua being [qua is Latin for "as." What it means is that we do not
study the cow as a cow, we study the cow as a being. The latter is more interesting
if we are contemplative] and the properties inherent in it, [i.e., in being]. The
science is not the same as any of the so called particular sciences. They (the
particular sciences) divide some portion and study it by itself. But it is for the first
principles and the most ultimate causes that we are searching. Clearly they must
belong to something in virtue of their very being. Hence, if these principles were
investigated by those also investigating the elements of existing things, the
elements must be elements of being, not incidentally, but, qua being. Therefore, it
is of being qua being that we, too, must grasp the first causes."

To speak in terms more understandable than the highly abstract language of the
philosopher, if we seek the causes of the cow qua cow, it will lead us to another
cow. But if we seek the cause of a cow qua being, it will lead us to the first Being —
to God. Once we have taken the step from the finite to the infinite (from the
creature to the Creator), then we need to know the transcendental concepts and to
understand the analogy of being.

The difficulty we meet at this point is that in order to introduce ontology, it is not
enough that one has been introduced to the other subjects; he has to have studied
them. Many of the terms are extremely simple and common, but we want to know
how the philosophers throughout the centuries have used them. Philosophic terms
become candles to the mind once defined; otherwise they are not lights but
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darkness. (Many people get very enthusiastic about philosophy in the beginning.
They want to read the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas, but every time they meet
a term like the ones we have been introducing, they get discouraged. It is a very
rewarding achievement to become a wise man, but it demands humility,
perseverance and patience. We cannot do it in a hurry, nor can we afford to get
discouraged.)

We shall see when we come to the volume on ontology, that it is the philosophy of
contemplation; and contemplation is what makes man happy. Every being
considered as being leads us to the First Being, to the Supreme Being.

Let us begin at the beginning and study being as a concept and as a reality. There
is a philosopher who had many problems in his system of thought, but who
sometimes stated things quite well and succinctly. We are referring to Jacques
Maritain (1882 - 1973). (Although we have many reservations about Maritain, his
teaching on the foundational levels of Scholastic philosophy is sound, and
sometimes brilliant.) He gives, under the topic of ontology, three useful theses
which serve as conclusions. Here is the first: "The essence of a thing is what that
thing is necessarily and primarily, the first principle of its intelligibility." "Essence"
comes from the Latin word for "to be." The problem of essence and existence is a
major study in the field of ontology. The essence of a thing is its "whatness." The
technical term for this is quiddity, which comes from the Latin word quid, meaning
"what." In other words, when we answer the question, "What is this?" we are
talking about essence.

Now, based on what we might call the "predilection for knowing and for being
known" manifest throughout the cosmos, all being is intelligible. By intelligible, we
mean knowable. "Intelligible" is not a word too often used these days. We hear the
words "audible," "visible," and "tangible" quite often. They mean, respectively, able
to be heard, able to be seen, and able to be touched. They are all part of our sense
faculties — specifically, our external senses. They are all powers by which we
know. They are powers we share with the animals. To understand what intelligible
is, we must graduate to the spiritual order, where man, of all material creation, is
alone. All being is intelligible. In his thesis about essence, Maritain refutes the third
denial of Gorgias: "Even if there is such a thing as reality, and even if it is
knowable, it could never be communicated."

Another way to affirm that there is reality (and thus to refute the first denial of
Gorgias), is to say there are things that truly are (are is from the verb "to be"). God
gave us a power to comprehend the "beingness" of a thing, and that "beingness" is
essence. The intellect is capable of knowing the essence of all things. When we
call it "essence" to distinguish it from "existence," it is the thing as it is ready to be
conveyed to the intellect, or the thing as ready to be known. There is a philosophy
called "existentialism,"* which is, in effect, a denial of the intelligibility of things. In
Platonism, there is an exaggeration of essence as against existence. But, in
Philosophia Perennis, there is a wonderful balance between the two.
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The other two conclusions of Maritain are, "Our intellect is capable of knowing the
essences of things," and, "The essences of things are universal in the mind; and
considered in themselves, [they are] neither universal nor individual. Existence in
the material universe is of individual substances." The senses can only perceive
the individual. Someone can touch this piece of wood, but nobody can touch the
universal idea of wood. Were he to write a treatise about wood, it does not make
any difference whether the wood he uses is in Australia, in Africa, or in any other
continent. If it is wood, it is that nature, and what one says about wood will apply to
any individual piece of wood anywhere. With the mind we receive the universal
essences of things. With the senses we receive the individual. All reality consists of
individual substances.

Let us look for a second at humanity. What is humanity? It is John, Mary,


Joseph. . . this man and that man. . . this child and that woman. In every order,
what exists is the individual substance, the concrete individual substance. Every
individual substance has a nature. And that is where the essence is. When we ask,
"What is it?" the answer is the essence.

These three conclusions of Maritain (which would be acceptable to any thinker


within the tradition of Philosophia Perennis), in summary, are:

1. Reality is intelligible.

2. Our intellect is capable of knowing the essences of things.

3. Existence is individual, yet our mind can capture the universal essence or nature
of things.

This is the optimism of Philosophia Perennis in opposition to the pessimism of the


modern skeptics, and in opposition to the classical denials of Gorgias and the
sophists.

Working these conclusions into a logical system results in the famous Scholastic
solution of the problem of universals. One cannot begin to be a philosopher until he
has answered that problem correctly. So much of modern philosophy which has
tried to get to the top of the ladder without taking this first step has ended in
absolute insanity, totally confused, and completely wrong. The modern mind does
not have the patience or the humility to grow as God intended man to grow in
wisdom, by going step by step.

Rationality is the lowest level of intelligence. There are two higher levels, one of
which is infinitely higher. The intelligence of the angels is far above ours, but the
intelligence of God is infinitely so. We must remember it is our dignity that we are
rational beings when we look down on the snakes and the chickens and the cows
and the dogs. But when we look up towards the angels and the intelligence of God,
we must be humbled. Rationality is intelligence functioning within the difficulties
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and hindrances of matter. And if we want to be true philosophers, we have to do it


patiently, humbly, and grow as man should grow. We cannot take the jump from the
ground to the top of the ladder. Everybody who has tried to do it has ended up in
catastrophe. In philosophy we climb the ladder from the material to the immaterial,
from the contingent beings to the necessary Being — to Him Who introduced
Himself as I Am Who Am. We see that all the beauty and order we find in the
universe must reflect a greater beauty in the Origin and Source of all being.

The saints could fall into ecstasy contemplating a blade of grass. We can find
something like that in the story of every one of the saints. And it is not just that they
perceive the wonderfulness of a universe in which there are hungry cows together
with grass that is ready to be grazed. It is that they see in the blade of grass, as a
being, reflections of the transcendent attributes of the Supreme Being — that is, of
the goodness, the wisdom, and the love of God, Who is the source and principle of
all being. In other words, when we study the transcendentals, we study the
attributes of the Supreme Being as they are reflected in the universe that He made.
We will finish this chapter with an observation by Eric Gill (1882 - 1940), a convert
to the Catholic Faith.

Gill was an artist and a philosopher in England. Like most English philosophers, he
had his idiosyncrasies, but he was an interesting man who had some very
profound things to say. Here is one of them: "What places man as lord of creation
is not his cleverness or his ingenuity, not his power of ratiocination, not even his
perseverance or his courage. His claim to superiority is based solely on his power
of contemplation. He alone of all terrestrial creatures is able to recognize being."
Man is the only being on this earth — as a matter of fact, the only being in the
material universe — that can abstract from materiality and conceive the principle
and foundation of all contemplation. And that is wisdom. Holy Scripture says of
wisdom, "Receive my instruction and not money. Choose knowledge rather than
gold. For wisdom is better than all the most precious things. And whatsoever may
be desired cannot be compared to it" (Prov. 8: 10-11). That is what we are all
supposed to do.

Let us suppose we were to tell people watching a game between the Red Sox and
the Yankees that someone is giving a lecture on being. Would they leave the
stadium and run to hear the speaker? Not likely. None of us can be wise without
knowing something about being. Yet, very few people really believe that "wisdom is
better than the most precious things." Count Edmond Czernin, a Hapsburg loyalist,
once passed Braves Field in Boston, where he heard a maddening noise coming
from the stadium. When he was told there were twenty thousand people watching
a baseball game, he said, "If only we could take their attention away from that ball
and direct it toward Our Lady!" Our Lady is the Sedes Sapientiae, the Seat of
Wisdom.

Appendix A: Wisdom and Salvation


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I. Wisdom is the Art and Science of Salvation

1. That we may know thy way upon earth: thy salvation in all nations. (Psalm 66:3)

2. Moses refers to the law of salvation revealed in Holy Scripture and says to the
people:

"This is your wisdom, and understanding in the sight of nations." (Deuteronomy


4:6)

3. In all ways remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin. (Ecclesiasticus
7:40)

4. The sons of wisdom are the church of the just: and their generation, obedience
and love. (Ecclesiasticus 3:1)

5. ...Jesus Christ in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
(Colossians 2:3)

6. The wise shall possess glory. (Proverbs 3:35)

7. ...but the wise took oil in their vessels.... (Matthew 26:4)

8. For the wisdom of doctrine is according to her name, and she is not manifest
unto many, but with them to whom she is known, she continueth even to the sight
of God. (Ecclesiasticus 6:23)

9. He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, that he may turn the
hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the
just. (Luke 1:17)

10. Os justi meditabitur sapientiam (The mouth of the just shall meditate
wisdom). (Psalm 36:30)

II. Appreciation of Wisdom

1. The perverse are hard to be corrected, and the number of fools is infinite.
(Ecclesiastes 1:15)

2. Better is wisdom than weapons of war. (Ecclesiastes 9:18)

3. She is more precious than all riches, and all the things that are desired are not
to be compared with her. (Proverbs 3:15)

4. Blessed is the man that findeth wisdom. (Proverbs 3:13)


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5. With me (wisdom) are riches and glory. (Proverbs 8:18)

6. Every man of understanding knoweth wisdom and will give praise to him that
findeth her. (Ecclesiastes 18:28)

7. Wisdom is better than strength. (Wisdom 6:1)

8. Now all good things came to me together with her (wisdom). (Wisdom 7:11)

9. I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in
comparison of her. Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone. (Wisdom
7:8-9)

10. For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom. (Wisdom 7:28)

11. For wisdom is more active than all active things. (Wisdom 7:24)

12. The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls. Who when
he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and
bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

13. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:34)

III. True Wisdom is from God

1. All wisdom is from the Lord God, and hath been always with Him, and is before
all time. (Ecclesiasticus 1:1)

2. Because the Lord giveth wisdom. (Proverbs 2:6)

3. And I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me. (Wisdom 7:7)

4. But if any of you want wisdom, let him ask of God. (James 1:5)

5. But who shall know thy thoughts, except thou give wisdom. (Wisdom 9:17)

6. I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid
these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones.
(Matthew 11:25)

7. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be
able to resist and gainsay. (Luke 21:15)

8. And God was with him (Joseph) . . . and gave him wisdom in the sight of
Pharaoh. (Acts 7:10)
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9. Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (I Corinthians 1:20)

10. To thee, O God of our fathers, I give thanks, and I praise thee: because thou
hast given me wisdom and strength. (Daniel 2:23)

11. When I was yet young, before I wandered about, I sought for wisdom openly in
my prayer. (Ecclesiasticus 51:18)

12. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and of
understanding, the spirit of counsel and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and of
godliness, and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord. (Isaias 11:2)

IV. The Way of Wisdom

1. For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sin.
For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful. (Wisdom 1:4, 5)

2. The children of Agar also, that search after the wisdom that is of the earth, ...but
the way of wisdom they have not known. (Baruch 3:23)

3. If the iron be blunt ...with much labour it shall be sharpened: and after industry
shall follow wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

4. To give subtlety to little ones. (Proverbs 1:4)

5. I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid
these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones.
(Matthew 11:25)

6. The sons of wisdom are the church of the just: and their generation obedience
and love. (Ecclesiasticus 3:1)

7. Tradition — How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers have
told us. (Psalm 77:3)

8. Inquire of the former generation, and search diligently into the memory of the
fathers. (Job 8:8)

9. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Psalm 110:10; Proverbs 9:10)

10. I wisdom dwell in counsel. (Proverbs 8:12)

11. The testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones. (Psalm 18:8)

12. But where is wisdom to be found...? Man knoweth not the price thereof, neither
is it found in the land of them that live in delights. (Job 28:12, 13)
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is it found in the land of them that live in delights. (Job 28:12, 13)

13. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and
unto the Gentiles foolishness. (I Corinthians 1:23)

V. Wisdom: Imbedded in the Universe

1. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden from the foundation of
the world. (Matthew 13:35; Psalm 77:2)

2. ...and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the
mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things.
(Ephesians 3:9)

3. The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed. (Matthew 13:31)

4. ...and let them be for signs and for seasons. (Genesis 1:14)

5. He that maketh the earth by his power, that prepareth the world by his wisdom.
(Jeremias 10:12; 51:15)

6. Thou hast ordered all things in measure and number and weight. (Wisdom
11:21)

7. For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain and hidden things of thy wisdom
thou hast made manifest to me. (Psalm 50:8)

8. ...but where is wisdom to be found? (Job 12:12)

9. I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy, and will leave it to them that seek
wisdom. (Ecclesiasticus 24:46)

10. She (wisdom) reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things
sweetly. (Wisdom 8:1)

11. But that the works of thy wisdom might not be idle: therefore men also trust
their lives even to a little wood, and passing over the sea by ship are saved.
(Wisdom 14:5)

12. The Wisdom of Solomon — For he hath given me the true knowledge of the
things that are . . . for wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me.
(Wisdom 7:17, 21)

VI. Folly: The Inclination of Our Fallen Nature


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2. The wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God. (Romans 8:7)

3. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. (I Corinthians 3:19)

4. False Wisdoms — For this is not wisdom, descending from above: but earthly,
sensual, devilish. (James 3:15)

5. For the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of
light. (Luke 16:9)

6. Fools hate them that flee from evil things... a friend of fools shall become like to
them. (Proverbs 13: 19, 20)

7. It is better to meet a bear robbed of her whelps, than a fool trusting in his own
folly. (Proverbs 17:12)

8. Am I then become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? (Galatians 4:16)

9. Thou shalt not follow the multitude to do evil. (Exodus 23:2)

10. Are you so foolish, that, whereas you began in the Spirit, you would now be
made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)

11. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the
concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of
the world. And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that
doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (I John 2:16-17)

12. And I will say to my soul: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years,
take rest; eat, drink, make good cheer. But God said to him: Thou fool, this night do
they require thy soul of thee: and whose shall those things be which thou hast
provided? (Luke 12:19, 20)

VII. Attributes of True Wisdom

1. Deep — O, Lord, how great are thy works! Thy thoughts are exceeding deep.
(Psalm 91:6)

The spirit searcheth . . . the deep things of God. (I Corinthians 2:10)

2. Noble — She glorifieth her nobility by being conversant with God. (Wisdom 8:3)

The love of God is honorable wisdom. (Ecclesiasticus 1:14)

3. Beautiful — I became a lover of her beauty. (Wisdom 8:2)


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3. Beautiful — I became a lover of her beauty. (Wisdom 8:2)

She is more beautiful than the sun. (Wisdom 7:29)

The wisdom of a man shineth in his countenance. (Ecclesiastes 8:1)

4. Holy — For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body
subject to sins. (Wisdom 1:4)

Os justi. The mouth of the just shall meditate wisdom. (Psalm 36:30)

5. Salutary — He that gaineth souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)

6. Sweet — My spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and
the honeycomb. (Ecclesiasticus 24:27)

7. Dwells in Counsel — I wisdom dwell in counsel. (Proverbs 8:12)

8. Incompatible with Deceit — For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the
deceitful. (Wisdom 1:5)

9. Concerned with the Last Things — In all thy works remember thy last end, and
thou shalt never sin. (Ecclesiasticus 7:40)

10. Traditional — How great things have we heard and known, and our fathers
have told us. (Psalm 77:3)

11. Stable — A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways. (James 1:8)

12. Chaste — But the wisdom, that is from above, first indeed is chaste, then
peaceable, modest, easy to be persuaded, consenting to the good, full of mercy
and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation. (James 3:17; Wisdom 7:22-
24)

VIII. Wisdom Must Radiate

1. Better is the man that hideth his folly, than the man that hideth his wisdom.
(Ecclesiasticus 41:18)

2. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

3. The wisdom of a man shineth in his face. (Ecclesiastes 8:1)

4. For she is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God’s
majesty, and the image of his goodness. (Wisdom 7:26)
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being compared with the light, she is found before it. For after this cometh night,
but no evil can overcome wisdom. (Wisdom 7:29, 30)

6. He that walketh with the wise shall be wise. (Proverbs 13:20)

7. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither
do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may
shine to all that are in the house. (Matthew 14, 15)

8. As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruits
of honour and riches... I, wisdom, have poured out rivers. (Ecclesiasticus 24:23,
40)

9. And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the
mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things.
(Ephesians 3:9)

10. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the
world. (John 1:9)

11. And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
(John 1:5)

IX. Wisdom is a Person

1. I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall
find me. (Proverbs 8:17)

2. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. (John 1:1, 14)

4. That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen
with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the
word of life: for the life was manifested; and we have seen and do bear witness,
and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath
appeared to us. (I John 1:1, 2)

5. And he said to me: It is done. I am Alpha and Omega; the beginning and the
end. To him that thirsteth, I will give of the fountain of the water of life, freely.
(Apocalypse 21:6)

6. Doth not wisdom cry aloud, and prudence put forth her voice? Standing in the
top of the highest places by the way, in the midst of the paths, beside the gates of
the city, in the very doors she speaketh saying: O ye men, to you I call, and my
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the city, in the very doors she speaketh saying: O ye men, to you I call, and my
voice is to the sons of men. (Proverbs 8:1-4)

7. Wisdom hath built herself a house. (Proverbs 9:1)

8. Give me wisdom, that sitteth by thy throne, and cast me not off from among thy
children. (Wisdom 9:4)

9. ...Jesus Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
(Colossians 2:2, 3)

10. The Queen of the south shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall
condemn it: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of
Solomon, and behold one greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:42)

Appendix B:
The Cosmology of Faith and Revelation
I. Creation

No pagan philosopher ever conceived that the universe was created from nothing.
It is a truth revealed by God, and the foundation of a cosmology of Faith. This
article of Faith implies many great truths:

a. The omnipotence of God.

b. The contingency of everything in the visible universe.

c. The necessity of a Divine purpose worthy of a Divine

Creator, etc.

1. Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium


omnium et invisibilium. (The Nicene Creed) I believe in one God, the Father
almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

2. In the beginning God created heaven and earth. (Genesis 1:1)

3. He that liveth for ever created all things together. (Ecclesiasticus 18:1)

4. Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth? (Job 38:4)

5. For he spoke and they were made. (Psalm 32:9)


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material, have been produced in their entire substance by God out of nothing, let
him be anathema. (Vatican I)

II. The Counsels of Eternal Wisdom

1. The world was created freely: Whatsoever the Lord pleased he hath done.
(Psalm 134:6)

2. But it was through the counsels of an Eternal Wisdom, and therefore, for an end
worthy of a divine maker:

The Lord made all things for himself. (Proverbs 16:4)

3. And God saw all things which he had made and they were very good. (Genesis
1:31)

4. As he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:4)

5. She (wisdom) reacheth from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly.
(Wisdom 8:1)

6. And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the
mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things...
According to the eternal purpose, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Ephesians 3:9)

III. Wisdom is Hidden in the Universe

1. And He poured her (wisdom) out upon all his works, and upon all flesh.
(Ecclesiasticus 1:10)

2. I will open my mouth in parables: I will utter things hidden from the foundation of
the world. (Psalm 77:2)

Our Lord applied this text to His parables. (Matthew 13:35)

3. Solomon, having prayed for wisdom, and having obtained it from God, said of
himself through the Holy Ghost:

For he hath given me true knowledge of things that are: to know the disposition of
the whole world, and the virtues of the elements. (Wisdom 7:17)

4. Solomon also said: I will speak of great things. (Proverbs 8:6)

5. Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labour not, neither do they
spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of
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spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of
these. (Matthew 6:28, 29)

6. All things were known to the Lord God, before they were created. (Ecclesiasticus
23:29)

IV. The Universe is Conserved in Existence by God

1. Upholding all things by the word of his power. (Hebrews 1:3)

2. For Him, and by Him, and in Him are all things. (Romans 11:36)

3. For in Him we live and move and are. (Acts 17:28)

V. The World was Created Originally in a Paradisal State

1. And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning;
wherein He placed man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8)

2. For God created man incorruptible but by the envy of the devil, death came into
the world. (Wisdom 2:23, 24)

3. The works of God are perfect. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

VI. The Fall

It is impossible to understand our universe, unless we know that it is in a fallen


state.

The Fall of Angels

1. Our Lord, speaking as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, said: I saw Satan
like lightning falling from heaven. (Luke 10:18)

2. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning ... And
thou saidst in thy heart... I will be like the most High. (Isaias 14:12, 14)

The Fall of Man

3. Cursed is the earth in thy works; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the
days of thy life. (Genesis 3:17)

4. Holy Scripture calls the world in its fallen state, "the vale of tears." (Psalm 83:7)
Also, "the valley of the shadow of death." (Isaias 9:2, Psalm 22:4)
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1. The whole story of creation is in Genesis: Chapters 1, 2, 3; especially, "Fill the


earth and subdue it." (Genesis 1:28)

2. And He gave man power over all things that are upon the earth. (Ecclesiasticus
17:3)

3. Thou hast set him over the works of thy hands. (Psalm 8:7)

4. My delights were to be with the children of men. (Proverbs 8:31)

5. Why dost thou set thy heart upon him. (Job 7:17)

6. The seasons ordered to man’s purposes: (Genesis 8:22, Ecclesiasticus 33:9)

7. Even the heavenly bodies were created for man (Genesis 1:14); ...the sun, the
moon, and the stars of heaven... which the Lord thy God created for the service of
all nations, that are under heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

8. The whole world groaneth with man (i.e., reflects an echo of man’s anxiety and
man’s restlessness. Romans 8:22)

9. Even the angels — "for are they not ministering spirits, sent to minister for them
who shall receive the inheritance of salvation." (Hebrews 1:14)

10. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. (Nicene Creed)

11. And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth
the will of God, abideth for ever. (I John 2:17)

VIII. The Incarnation is the Central Event of History

1. But when the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman.
(Galatians 4:4)

2. In these days He hath spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of
all things. (Hebrews 1:2)

3. For in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
(Colossians 1:16)

4. The beginning of the creation of God. (Principium creaturae Dei. Apocalypse


3:14)

5. The Alpha and the Omega. (Apocalypse 22:13)

6. And he hath subjected all things under His feet. (Ephesians 1:22)
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6. And he hath subjected all things under His feet. (Ephesians 1:22)

7. The mystery which was kept secret from eternity. (Romans 16:25)

IX. God’s Providence and His Government of the Universe

1. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

2. Chance is a reality to man (Ecclesiastes 9:11); but there is no chance before


God, for "Lots are cast into the lap, but they are disposed of by the Lord."
(Proverbs 16:33)

3. Say not before the angel: there is no providence; lest God be angry at thy
words. (Ecclesiastes 5:5)

4. Lord, Lord, Almighty King, for all things are in thy power, and there is none that
can resist thy will, if thou determine to save Israel. (Esther 13:9)

5. Who hath numbered the sand of the sea? (Ecclesiasticus 1:2)

6. God condemns the philosophy of deism. (Job 22:14)

X. Order and Purpose

1. And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the
mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things...
according to the eternal purpose, which He made in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Ephesians 3:9-11)

2. Thou hast ordered all things in measure, and number, and weight. (Wisdom
11:12)

3. And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto the good,
to such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints. (Romans 8:28)

4. That He might make known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His
good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Him, in the dispensation of the fullness
of times, to re-establish all things in Christ, that are in heaven and on earth, in Him.
(Ephesians 1:9-10)

XI. The Universe: One and Finite

1. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with
the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us. For the expectation of the creature
waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18, 19)
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3. She (wisdom) reacheth from end to end mightily and ordereth all things sweetly.
(Wisdom 8:1)

XII. Miracles and the Economy of Salvation

1. Who is he that he commandeth both the winds and the sea, and they obey him?
(Luke 8:25)

2. Who alone doth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 135:4)

3. Renew thy signs, and work new miracles. (Ecclus. 36:6)

That they may know thee, as we also have known thee, that there is no God
beside thee, O Lord. (Ecclus 36:5)

4. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his
glory, and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11)

XIII. Time and Eternity

1. We have not here an abiding city. (Hebrews 13:14)

2. For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday which is past. (Psalms 89:4)

3. For things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are
eternal. (II Corinthians 4:18)

4. There are many things hidden from us that are greater than these: for we have
seen but a few of his works. (Ecclesiasticus 43:36)

5. Alas! Alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city: for in one hour is thy
judgment come. (Apocalypse 18:10)

6. Time is short. (I Corinthians 7:29)

7. The fashion of this world passeth away. (I Corinthians 7:31)

8. Till the day break and the shadows retire. (Canticle of Canticles 2:17)

XIV. Immortality, Resurrection, Glory

1. Now that the dead rise again, Moses also showed at the bush, when he called
the Lord: the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; for he is
not the God of the dead but of the living: for all live to him. (Luke 20:37, 38)

2. And the dust return to its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God,
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not the God of the dead but of the living: for all live to him. (Luke 20:37, 38)

2. And the dust return to its earth, from whence it was, and the spirit return to God,
who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

3. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. (Apocalypse 21:1)

4. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the
earth. (Job 19:25)

5. I have learned that all the works which God hath made continue for ever.
(Ecclesiastes 3:14)

6. Behold I make all things new. (Apocalypse 21:5)

7. In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundest the earth: and the heavens are the
works of thy hands. They shall perish but thou remainest: and all of them shall
grow old like a garment: and as a vesture, thou shalt change them, and they shall
be changed. But thou art always the selfsame, and thy years shall not fail. The
children of thy servants shall continue: and their seed shall be directed for ever.
(Psalm 101:26-29)

8. The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds.
(Wisdom 3:7)

9. And then shall the just shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew
13:43)

10. ...concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question
(Acts 23:6). Faith in the omnipotence of God spells the difference between the
hope of the resurrection and the despair of nihilism.

XV. Our Lady the Crown of Creation

1. All generations shall call me blessed (Luke 1:48). All the generations of the
faithful greet her as the Second Eve — the Mother of all those born to the life of
grace, as Eve is of all those born to the life of nature (Genesis 3:20).

2. I shall put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed:
She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel (Genesis 3:15). She
is the prophesied issue of all history.

3. Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28). The angel brought her the greeting from heaven.

4. It is not hard to guess the enigmatic hint in Heb. 1:5; for who of the angels could
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a. "The Queen stood on thy right hand." (Psalm 44:10, and the rest of Psalm 44),

b. "The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways." (Proverbs 8:1, and the
rest of Proverbs 8),

c. "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee." (Canticle of
Canticles 4:7, and many other references in the Canticle of Canticles),

d. "I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope."
(Ecclesiasticus 24:24)

6. They found the child with Mary his mother. (Matthew 2:11)

7. See ye that I have not laboured for myself only, but for all that seek out the truth.
(Ecclesiasticus 24:47)

Glossary
Abstraction: An act of the mind by which the intellect grasps the essence, or
whatness, of a thing, prescinding from the object’s accidental or individual
characteristics.

Accident: Any of the nine modes by which a substance is determined in its being.
It is a mode of being that exists in, and only in, a finite substance. It cannot exist of
itself, but must inexist. Once you name a substance and define it, anything else
you predicate of it, using the verb "to be," is an accident.

Act: "To do" or "to make;" to move toward the achievement of an end; to engage a
potency; to bring into being. It is the movement or work of an efficient cause.

Agnosticism: A philosophy that denies the possibility of certitudes.

Angel: A finite and immaterial creature; an incorporeal substance having the


powers of knowledge and desire, wholly personal unto itself, unique as to its own
individual identity or person, and contingent upon God its Creator.

Animal: A creature of a sentient nature.

Art: The skillful application of correct knowledge in the order of making. It is a habit
residing in the soul of the artist which is ordered toward making rather than mere
doing.

Attribute: A perfection or quality inherent in the very nature of a thing.

Beauty: That quality which gives pleasure upon being seen by the eye of the body
or the intellect. Metaphysically speaking, beauty consists in a unity among
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Attribute: A perfection or quality inherent in the very nature of a thing.

Beauty: That quality which gives pleasure upon being seen by the eye of the body
or the intellect. Metaphysically speaking, beauty consists in a unity among
diversity. In God there exists Infinite Beauty in the Oneness of the Three Eternal
Persons. This Beauty is the Object of the Beatific Vision.

Being: The term cannot be defined because it is common to all existing realities.
What we understand by the concept is that which has existence. Ontology studies
"being" in all modes of existence. Metaphysics studies "being" as transcendental,
that is, abstracted from individual existences, being as being.

Cause: The principle from which the existence of a thing proceeds and upon which
it depends; a principle that directly instigates a change in something. As with the
term "being," there are varied categories of causality. The primary sense, here
given, is that of an efficient or active cause; the agent.

Cognition: The act of knowing, acquiring knowledge, whether through the intellect
via intuition (angels), or through the intellect via the inner and outer senses (man),
or, in its lowest form, purely sensual apprehension (animals).

Concept: Or Idea: It is the expression by the mind or in the mind through which we
understand or conceive a thing.

Contingent: That type of being which either can be or not be; a being that can
change; a dependent being.

Cosmology: The study of final causes, reasons (design), and ends in the material
universe. Or, the study of the essential natures of contingent material beings,
individually and concordantly, as an ordered reality.

Deism: Belief in God that is derived solely by reason. It admits of a Supreme Being
that posited order in a pre-existing chaos, but denies that He concerns Himself
providentially in man’s affairs. As a clock is made and set to operate by the
craftsman, so did God, in this view, fashion the universe to run mechanically and,
relative to His presence, at a distance.

Determinism: Denies freedom of the will in causality. According to this fateful


school of thought, all effects are necessary, and not contingent. It is a cosmological
application of Deism.

Disposition: The quality or state of a substance to receive a form easily and


naturally. St. Thomas speaks of matter’s disposition to receive a form. As a quality
of the spiritual faculties the term can only be used in its less philosophical sense of
inclination. In distinction to habit, however, disposition is a quality in inanimate as
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End: The real or apparent good for the sake of which an action is undertaken;
purpose; goal.

Ens Mobile: A being capable of change; after God, Who is immutable in His very
Essence, all beings and substances are ens mobile.

Epistemology: The study of human knowledge as derived from the senses. It is


also called Major Logic. In distinction to Minor Logic, whose object is the art of
correct reasoning, epistemology is the study of reason itself and abstraction.

Essence: That by which a thing is that which it is, or that by which it is constituted
in a species; the whatness of a thing. Essence answers the question: What is it?

Ethics: The study of human acts, either what man does or what he ought to do.
Ethics seeks to know the proper end of human acts, the true good, as it can be
known by reason. It is also called Moral Philosophy.

Existence: Like the concept being, existence is incapable of a real definition


because there is nothing in the understanding of the term that can be categorized
by some composition. We can say that existence is a perfection, indeed the
ultimate perfection of an essence. In all created things existence is the act of
essence; whatever a thing is, if it is in act, actual, it exists and therefore has being.

Existentialism: A modern view of reality that denies the existence of essences.


Things that exist are what they appear to be only. The being and the appearance
of a thing are identical. There are no essences, only existing things. Each thing is
what it proclaims itself to be. Man is whatever he makes of himself.

Faculty: A power of the soul enabling a living substance to operate according to its
nature by doing or making. It is a vital capacity belonging to a living substance.
Ultimately, it is the immediate and proximate principle of vital operation.

Form (Substantial): The principle or cause of a thing’s intelligibility. It is not to be


confused with its common sense of shape. Nor ought one to think of form as
something pre-existing, but rather, as a concept that is the determining cause or
principle which confers the essence or whatness upon a substance. It determines
matter to be this and not that. In man the form is the soul. In spiritual creatures it
can exist outside of matter.

Genus: It is the highest category. Genus comprises all the common constituent
notes of the individual notes that characterize the members of the more exclusive
classes of reality known as species. The genus animal includes the species man
as well as brutes. Brutes is a species of a genus, but it is also a genus to other
species that all share its common individual notes. Man, however, is not a genus,
for there are no other beings that share his constituent notes.
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classes of reality known as species. The genus animal includes the species man
as well as brutes. Brutes is a species of a genus, but it is also a genus to other
species that all share its common individual notes. Man, however, is not a genus,
for there are no other beings that share his constituent notes.

Good: That which is desirable. The object of the will. The will, by nature, desires
the good. Even if the will chooses evil, it must desire it as a good. It must impose
this deception upon the object in order for that object to be desirable. Also,
ontologically, that which perfects a nature is a true good.

Grammar: The science or art of correct writing. As an art this habit resides in the
intellect. Its end is the conformity of one mind with other minds through the medium
of the written word. Grammar should be at the service of logic.

Habit: A permanent quality of the soul through which a person, by repetition, has
acquired the easy ability to perform an act. In itself, a habit or disposition is neutral.
It can be ordered by the will toward what is morally good or bad.

Happiness: Contentment in the possession of the good.

Hylomorphism: The Aristotelian explanation of material reality. All matter has a


double composition of prime matter and substantial form, the former being related
to the latter by way of potency to act. Neither exists on its own. What exists is the
composite, i.e., informed matter. Matter, having been actualized and determined by
a substantial form to be this thing, now exists really in the composite. Informed
matter is called secondary matter.

Idea (Concept): That expression by the mind and in the mind by which the
intellectual soul, through the medium of the senses, understands or conceives
something. Also, a plan, an exemplary or formal cause of an act. The will moves
the mind to adopt a pattern (idea) which is the cause (formal) of purposive action.
(See Concept.)

Idealism: In its Platonic sense, it is the positing of real existence to universals, as


subsisting essences, outside of the individual substances themselves. In its
modern usage, idealism denies the intelligibility of objective things existing outside
the mind (Descartes, Berkeley, et. al.). The absolute idealist denies even the
existence of objective reality. Being immaterial, the mind, so they erroneously
allege, cannot have any real knowledge of material things. Hence, their fallacious
axiom, "to be is to be perceived" (esse est percipi).

Immanent Action: Change or movement of any kind beginning and ending within
the substance itself. A vital activity.

Intellect: A spiritual faculty through which, by the power of cognition, a mind


grasps the essences of things as absolutes rather than as relative things. Through
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Judgment: The act of the intellect by which it composes or divides by affirming or


denying. In constructing propositions or sentences, this act is performed whenever
the intellect perceives the befittingness or the discrepancy of two concepts with
each other.

Justice: A habit of the soul by which someone with a constant and abiding will
renders to another his just due. One of the four cardinal virtues. As the other
cardinal virtues consider the good itself of the one in which they operate, justice
considers the good of another, either that which is owed to another or ordained to
his utility as due to him, i.e., as that which should be his. In the highest sense, it is
rendering to God His due, that is, by conforming ourselves to His Will. This is done
through grace. The state of grace is called justice in the Scriptures.

Knowledge: The fruit of the union of mind and reality. The informing of the mind
with intelligibles, or forms, or essences of things. Cognition. Possession by the
mind of any of the forms of data from historical to empirical, from universals to the
finite comprehension of the unveiled God to the blessed in heaven.

Liberal Arts: Those sciences which do not have matter, per se, for their objective
content. They are the sciences which man, as man, ought to be versed in, as
opposed to those sciences which constitute specialization.

Life: The immanent active power of an animate material creature, of a human soul
in the separated state, or of a pure spirit. The power of self-movement; intrinsic
motion — that is, the power of a thing, within itself, to initiate a change or
movement, and end it, independent of any other created cause.

Logic: The science and art of correct reasoning. An art that directs the act itself of
reason, through which the possessor proceeds in reasoning with order, facility and
without error.

Man: An intelligent creature of God composed of matter and informed by a rational


and immortal soul as its principle of life.

Materialism: Denial of immaterial and all spiritual reality; a deduction of atheism.

Matter: That ultimate substantial reality which is known by its accidents of quantity
(weight), quality, extension (shape), visibility (color), and utility. Matter is whatever
its substantial form determines it to be, i.e., a grain of sand or a human body.

Mathematics: A science that utilizes quantity in the abstract, through number and
measurement, for the purpose of establishing equational relations in that specific
field. Abstracting from the things that are numbered, measured or equated,
Mathematics studies quantity in its threefold relations: 1) As discreet or
enumerable, the subject of Arithmetic 2) As equational, the subject of Algebra 3) As
continuous, the subject of Geometry.
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Mathematics: A science that utilizes quantity in the abstract, through number and
measurement, for the purpose of establishing equational relations in that specific
field. Abstracting from the things that are numbered, measured or equated,
Mathematics studies quantity in its threefold relations: 1) As discreet or
enumerable, the subject of Arithmetic 2) As equational, the subject of Algebra 3) As
continuous, the subject of Geometry.

Metaphysics: The science of the transcendentals, which are the ultimate attributes
of all that exists or has being. It studies being as one, true, good, and beautiful.
General Metaphysics is also called Ontology. (See Ontology) Special Metaphysics
includes the study of all immaterial reality as we examine it in Psychology,
Cosmology and Natural Theology, or Theodicy.

Moderate Realism: An Aristotelian explanation of the nature of universals, or


ideas, in opposition to both the exaggerated idealism of Plato and the denial of
universals by nominalists. Saint Thomas championed the balanced middle view of
Aristotle which posited the real existence of universal ideas, not subsisting on their
own, but in the individual concrete substances which have real subsistence.

Motion: In scholastic usage motion extends to any form of change, any passage
from potency to act, e.g., ignorance to knowledge. Obviously, there is also the
common sense: a change of place, locomotion.

Music: A fine art. It is a concordant or harmonious, and simultaneous arrangement


of sounds. Sound is the object of hearing. Music uses the brushes of instruments
to compose beauty on a canvas for the ear.

Natural Order: The divine plan as executed in creation. The economy of God in
His physical laws and in the moral law implanted in the mind of every man.

Naturalism: Denies the supernatural in the order of the universe. Consequently,


man is freed of any other moral obligation than that which imposes itself for the
harmonious interaction between members of human society. Denies original sin.

Nature: The essence of a thing considered as the principle of what it can do, or
what can be done to it. (See Essence.) Nature is the operative manifestation of
essence.

Necessary: That which must be, or cannot not be, as opposed to contingent.

Nominalism: Rejection of universals as anything more than figments of each


person’s imagination; man knows things commonly only because of the accident of
accepted language; universals are nothing more than words.

Normative: That which establishes rules and laws by comparison of facts.


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What can we say about it?

Order: The correct arrangement of means to end.

Pantheism: Any systematic view of reality that removes the infinite distinction
between God and creation. Pantheists equate God with all being univocally, that is,
in such a way that everything that shares in being is a greater or lesser divine
emanation.

Passion: An accident by which a subject is established in act by receiving the


effect of an agent or cause. Potency to be moved in any way, that is, to be acted
upon. (See Act)

Person: The owner of the spiritual faculties; the ultimate responsible agent;
possessor of the power to reflect, to self-recognize, to be responsible. All spiritual
beings are persons. Simplifying the scholastic definition, we can say that person is
the complete individual and incommunicable substance possessing a rational or
intellectual nature.

Phantasm: The mental picture or image of a material thing. This is not the same
as idea or universal. The idea is the mind’s understanding of, or abstraction of, the
form of a substance; the phantasm is the sensual reproduction. Phantasm is to the
sensual nature what idea is to the intellectual mind.

Philosophia Perennis: The wisdom that has endured the centuries because of the
correctness of its content; true philosophy, perennial; that natural wisdom of
principles that has reflected some of the rays of divine light or truth, and withstood
the errors that produce darkness.

Philosophy: The love of wisdom. In application, it is the study of the first principles
and the ultimate causes of all knowable reality.

Physics: The study of material reality as ens mobile, beings of change. Whereas
the experimental science of Physics studies conclusions drawn from the particular
data observed in material things, the philosophic study of Physics, in its
consideration of ens mobile —the material world as it appears to the senses —
abstracts from this singular material thing or this individual condition to examine
the mutability of the material world in general.

Potency: This concept can only have meaning in relation to act. It essentially and
necessarily is identified with an act because it is the capacity in a thing to be
actual. Any unachieved but achievable perfection of any kind in any kind of being.

Power: Potency to perform particular acts, to do or to make; potency considered in


its active sense. A faculty in the nature of a being that is permanent and ordered to
a specific function.
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Potency: This concept can only have meaning in relation to act. It essentially and
necessarily is identified with an act because it is the capacity in a thing to be
actual. Any unachieved but achievable perfection of any kind in any kind of being.

Power: Potency to perform particular acts, to do or to make; potency considered in


its active sense. A faculty in the nature of a being that is permanent and ordered to
a specific function.

Principle: That from which anything, in any way or manner, proceeds. The starting
point of any operation; not always the cause, though oftentimes it is. A dot is the
principle of a line, but not the cause. Principle is a more universal concept than
cause.

Property: An attribute of a thing that necessarily results from its essence, but is not
so fundamental to it as to belong to its very definition; that which is unique to, but
not essential to. The ability to laugh is proper to man, but not essential for man to
be man.

Quality: An intrinsic accident that modifies or determines a substance in itself. It


completes or perfects a substance in its being or operation. It answers the
question: "What kind of a substance is this?" Or, "How is this substance in itself?"

Quantity: The accident of a material substance by which it is extended into space.


This accident does not determine a substance in itself absolutely, but extrinsically,
i.e., in relation to a boundary or to something adjacent to it. Quantity can be
measured, or weighed, counted or circumscribed. It answers the questions: "How
much? or How many?"

Reason: Considered as a power, as the mode of intellectualization in this mortal


life; it is the mental process of equating two or more judgments in order to form a
conclusion. It is a deliberate power that is engaged whenever we formulate a
conclusion or opinion by moving from particular judgments to general ones
(induction) or from general judgments to particular ones (deduction).

Realism (Exaggerated): (See Moderate Realism.) Unmodified, realism simply


affirms the existence of universal essences. Having posited this as a certainty, the
advocates of exaggerated realism part company from the moderate realism of the
scholastics by maintaining the actual existence of essences or universals outside
of the individual substance. In their view, all trees are an imperfect reflection of the
essential and exemplary universal tree that has actual real, though, of course,
immaterial existence. What exists really, for Plato, is the universal tree. Plato posits
the existence of this ideal tree in the mind of the Logos, the word of God. Saint
Augustine gave this same philosophy a Christian interpretation.

Rhetoric: The science and art of correct speaking. Its object is the conformity of
two or more minds with the mind of the speaking artist.
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short, scholasticism is that educational system that utilizes all the natural wisdom
that survived antiquity, adorning it with the higher supernatural wisdom of the
Church and her doctors, in order to perfect man, not merely as man, but as docile
children of God.

Science: In its philosophical sense, it is the systematic organization of facts and


truths around what is already known about a thing in its causes. These facts and
truths, in order to be part of the science of a thing, must be proven by
demonstration and thereby have acquired a certainty about them and, generally
speaking, almost universal acceptance.

Sophist: One who engages logic — specifically the syllogistic form of argument —
for the purpose of self-promotion. A sophist is someone who, basically,
manipulates words in order to present as true what is false. He attempts this by
giving the appearance of logically ordered argument, but in reality transgresses
one or more rules of correct syllogistic reasoning.

Soul: The principle of life in a material being. The soul is not the cause of life, but it
is the principle from which vital activity proceeds in any vegetative, sentient or
rational creature. It is the substantial form of a living body.

Spirit: A living, immaterial and subsistent person who is in no way dependent on a


material nature. Subsistence is that type of existence that is proper to a complete
individual substance — that is, whole, self-sufficient in its nature, and
incommunicable.

Stoicism: The philosophy of fatalism and determinism. All causality is pre-


determined and necessary; the Stoics denied that man can act freely and
voluntarily. The original teaching of Zeno, from which this philosophy derived, was
that the entire universe was one living entity whose soul was God.

Subjective: Pertaining to a thing as it is known in the mind, prescinding from its


objective and real existence outside the mind. In theology and ethics, pure
subjectivism leads to the denial of objective truth and moral law.

Substance: That which, essentially, exists in itself. It is the subject of the being,
that in which accidents inhere. The substance is that which bears the essence or
nature. It is this thing here, this apple — not the redness thereof, not the roundness
nor the sweetness. Substance is the thing that we are attempting to identify by
describing its nature in a definition. This man is the substance man, rational animal
would describe his essence.

Syllogism: A structured form of argument wherein a conclusion is drawn from the


relation established between two premises. This is done by joining or separating in
the conclusion the subject and predicate unequated in the premises.
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describing its nature in a definition. This man is the substance man, rational animal
would describe his essence.

Syllogism: A structured form of argument wherein a conclusion is drawn from the


relation established between two premises. This is done by joining or separating in
the conclusion the subject and predicate unequated in the premises.

Time: A measurement of change in a material thing with reference to before and


after.

Transcendental: The word can signify many things: That which is beyond all
predication (God); that which is common to many predicates (motion); that which is
found in every predicate (plurality); being, and that which is said of all being, or
follows upon being, as it is a being. In its highest sense transcendental is to be
taken simply for the mode of being in its general sense, wherein the concept is
universally communicable but not univocally so. (See Universal)

Transient (Action): Proceeding from one being to another by way of effective


action. An act that does not remain immanent, but effects some other being.

Truism: A self-evident fact, p.e., a circle is round. A statement of the obvious, p.e.,
clowns are funny.

Truth: The conformity of mind with reality. Ontologically, the conformity of


everything that is to the Mind of the Creator. In this sense, all that is must be true.
Moral truth is the conformity of expression with the mind.

Universal: One in relation to others, etymologically. Unum versus alia. And,


because one thing can be related to other things in many ways, so do universals
have various modes of existence: that is, by way of signifying things (language), by
way of representing things (concepts, as we use the term in epistemology), by way
of universal cause (God) and by way of being — as one nature in relation to the
many which share it. In its applied sense: that which is common to many. The
transcendental universals are One, True, Good and Beautiful.

Virtue: A habit of the soul, not easily engaged, from which good acts become
operative. Saint Augustine calls it a quality of the mind by which one lives rightly
(according to reason) and which is never used for evil. As a supernatural habit,
virtue is a gift of the Holy Spirit, infused into the spiritual soul and empowering the
mind and the will to believe in, to hope for, and to love the true God as He wants to
be believed in, longed for, and loved.

Will: One of the two spiritual faculties of the soul. It is a power that has the good
for its object. The free desire to possess the good as known by the intellect.
Negatively, it is the power to reject or draw away from what is known by the
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