I want to highlight St. John Paul II's comment on metaphysics, which is the core point of this series.
My comments are in normal type. After this post, I shall move on to Caritas in Veritatis.
To be consonant with the word of God, philosophy needs first of all to recover its sapiential dimension as a search for the ultimate and overarching meaning of life. This first requirement is in fact most helpful in stimulating philosophy to conform to its proper nature. In doing so, it will be not only the decisive critical factor which determines the foundations and limits of the different fields of scientific learning, but will also take its place as the ultimate framework of the unity of human knowledge and action, leading them to converge towards a final goal and meaning. This sapiential dimension is all the more necessary today, because the immense expansion of humanity's technical capability demands a renewed and sharpened sense of ultimate values. If this technology is not ordered to something greater than a merely utilitarian end, then it could soon prove inhuman and even become potential destroyer of the human race.98
To state this more simply, one needs to think in terms of nature first, and wisdom begins with reality, which God created. But, the end of this philosophical order is not utilitarianism, but the wisdom of the Church.
The word of God reveals the final destiny of men and women and provides a unifying explanation of all that they do in the world. This is why it invites philosophy to engage in the search for the natural foundation of this meaning, which corresponds to the religious impulse innate in every person. A philosophy denying the possibility of an ultimate and overarching meaning would be not only ill-adapted to its task, but false.
Again the goal of men and women is heaven, not this world. Any valuable philosophy would consider man's origins and his end, a life beginning in and with God and going towards God.
82. Yet this sapiential function could not be performed by a philosophy which was not itself a true and authentic knowledge, addressed, that is, not only to particular and subordinate aspects of reality—functional, formal or utilitarian—but to its total and definitive truth, to the very being of the object which is known. This prompts a second requirement: that philosophy verify the human capacity to know the truth, to come to a knowledge which can reach objective truth by means of that adaequatio rei et intellectus to which the Scholastic Doctors referred.99 This requirement, proper to faith, was explicitly reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council: “Intelligence is not confined to observable data alone. It can with genuine certitude attain to reality itself as knowable, though in consequence of sin that certitude is partially obscured and weakened”. 100
The total truth is Christ Himself, Whose Mind is revealed in the teaching of the Catholic Church. God is knowable through reason and so is natural law. Philosophy helps order these basic truths. I get weary of hearing that people "are deceived" as we all have free will and reason to cooperate with grace.
A radically phenomenalist or relativist philosophy would be ill-adapted to help in the deeper exploration of the riches found in the word of God. Sacred Scripture always assumes that the individual, even if guilty of duplicity and mendacity, can know and grasp the clear and simple truth. The Bible, and the New Testament in particular, contains texts and statements which have a genuinely ontological content.
This means that Christ tells us who man is--what it means to be a human being.
The inspired authors intended to formulate true statements, capable, that is, of expressing objective reality. It cannot be said that the Catholic tradition erred when it took certain texts of Saint John and Saint Paul to be statements about the very being of Christ. In seeking to understand and explain these statements, theology needs therefore the contribution of a philosophy which does not disavow the possibility of a knowledge which is objectively true, even if not perfect. This applies equally to the judgements of moral conscience, which Sacred Scripture considers capable of being objectively true. 101
Many Catholics deny the possibility of knowledge of Who Christ Is. Objectivity, the mark of a spiritual person, has been undermined both by Protestantism. One of the weakenesses of the glitz of "Catholicism" is the lack of a cohesive philosophy behind the presenter's comments. Actually, he lacks an real understanding of Catholic Christology.
Sapiential knowledge is wisdom from the work of philosophy. Analytical knowledge is the ability of all men to reason.
83. The two requirements already stipulated imply a third: the need for a philosophy of genuinely metaphysical range, capable, that is, of transcending empirical data in order to attain something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for truth. This requirement is implicit in sapiential and analytical knowledge alike; and in particular it is a requirement for knowing the moral good, which has its ultimate foundation in the Supreme Good, God himself. Here I do not mean to speak of metaphysics in the sense of a specific school or a particular historical current of thought. I want only to state that reality and truth do transcend the factual and the empirical, and to vindicate the human being's capacity to know this transcendent and metaphysical dimension in a way that is true and certain, albeit imperfect and analogical. In this sense, metaphysics should not be seen as an alternative to anthropology, since it is metaphysics which makes it possible to ground the concept of personal dignity in virtue of their spiritual nature.
The questions begin always, "Who is man?" "Who is God?" and so on. I hope I can share the love of knowledge, the love of the beauty of truth which I share with all those who follow this way of study and prayer.
In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.
Wherever men and women discover a call to the absolute and transcendent, the metaphysical dimension of reality opens up before them: in truth, in beauty, in moral values, in other persons, in being itself, in God. We face a great challenge at the end of this millennium to move from phenomenon to foundation, a step as necessary as it is urgent. We cannot stop short at experience alone; even if experience does reveal the human being's interiority and spirituality, speculative thinking must penetrate to the spiritual core and the ground from which it rises. Therefore, a philosophy which shuns metaphysics would be radically unsuited to the task of mediation in the understanding of Revelation.
Grace comes with study, if the person is pursuing truth.
The word of God refers constantly to things which transcend human experience and even human thought; but this “mystery” could not be revealed, nor could theology render it in some way intelligible, 102 were human knowledge limited strictly to the world of sense experience. Metaphysics thus plays an essential role of mediation in theological research. A theology without a metaphysical horizon could not move beyond an analysis of religious experience, nor would it allow the intellectus fidei to give a coherent account of the universal and transcendent value of revealed truth.
The meaning of intellectus fidei, which is "the understanding of faith", becomes the goal of metaphysics. Faith and reason bring us to God through grace.
If I insist so strongly on the metaphysical element, it is because I am convinced that it is the path to be taken in order to move beyond the crisis pervading large sectors of philosophy at the moment, and thus to correct certain mistaken modes of behaviour now widespread in our society.
Here it is. The saint states, "...I am convinced that it is the path to be taken in order to move beyond the crisis pervading large sectors of philosophy at the moment, and thus to correct certain mistaken modes of behaviour now widespread in our society."
It is as if the spirit of St. John Paul II is standing up in this phrase and addressing the synod fathers.
84. The importance of metaphysics becomes still more evident if we consider current developments in hermeneutics and the analysis of language. The results of such studies can be very helpful for the understanding of faith, since they bring to light the structure of our thought and speech and the meaning which language bears. However, some scholars working in these fields tend to stop short at the question of how reality is understood and expressed, without going further to see whether reason can discover its essence. How can we fail to see in such a frame of mind the confirmation of our present crisis of confidence in the powers of reason? When, on the basis of preconceived assumptions, these positions tend to obscure the contents of faith or to deny their universal validity, then not only do they abase reason but in so doing they also disqualify themselves.
What a powerful paragraph! Reason can discover the essence of reality, as we are made in the image and likeness of God in our intellect and our free will, and, of course, God wants to be found. He is waiting.
Only "isms", only ideologies stop inquiry. Can you think of those isms which stop real understanding of the natures of man, God, Christ, His Church? Relativism, individualism, subjectivism, and so on...
Faith clearly presupposes that human language is capable of expressing divine and transcendent reality in a universal way—analogically, it is true, but no less meaningfully for that. 103 Were this not so, the word of God, which is always a divine word in human language, would not be capable of saying anything about God. The interpretation of this word cannot merely keep referring us to one interpretation after another, without ever leading us to a statement which is simply true; otherwise there would be no Revelation of God, but only the expression of human notions about God and about what God presumably thinks of us.
Faith and reason can express the transcedent reality of Scripture, Tradition, including doctrine, dogma, prayer and so on.
Christ is the Word of God. Scripture is the word of God. Both revealed through the Father and the Holy Spirit for our salvation.
One must stop in awe and thank God for the clarity of this document.
Thanks be to Jesus Christ...
I shall move on to the second encyclical tomorrow.