From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism

From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism

From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism

From Unity to Pluralism: The Internal Evolution of Thomism


Through an in-depth study of four key figures ¿ Pierre Rousselot, Joseph Marechal, Jacques Maritain, and Etienne Gilson ¿ From Unity to Pluralism traces the evolution of Thomism in the first half of the twentieth century. Through their work, Thomisism encountered contemporary thought and rediscovered its authentic roots, and the ideal of a univocal, unitary doctrine of Scholastic truth embodied in the unambiguous teachings of Thomas Aquinas, which had inspired the Thomist revival at the end of the nineteenth century, gradually gave way. The result is the emergence of pluralism within the system itself and the independent development of the theologies of Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan.


A LITTLE OVER A CENTURY AGO, Leo XIII issued his famous encyclical Acterni Patris. This highly influential document, which became the magna charta of the Neo-Thomist revival in philosophy and theology, gave official endorsement to the nineteenth-century Neo-Scholastics' conception of the "wisdom of the Angelic Doctor." In effect, this "wisdom" was the philosophy and theology of the medieval Scholastic Doctors. All the Doctors shared this philosophy and theology. St. Thomas, however, was the greatest among them, and in his works their common system found its most perfect scientific expression. The scattered streams of the Church's Patristic tradition were unified in the clear formulas of St. Thomas" Aristotelian science of theology, and through that same science the Church's heritage of faith could be handed down securely to future generations.

Unfortunately however, in the nineteenth century, Catholic theologians had abandoned the "old" theology, the theological wisdom common to all the Scholastic Doctors. In its place they had endeavored to substitute their "new" Catholic theologies structured by post-Cartesian philosophy. The results had proved unsatisfactory. The Church's traditional theology of grace and nature had been compromised by these "new" theologies. The necessary distinction between faith and reason had become blurred.

The only way in which Catholic theology could be freed from the confusion introduced by the plurality of these modern systems was through a return to the single system of philosophy and theology shared by all the Scholastic Doctors and given its perfect form by the greatest one among them, Thomas Aquinas.

For that reason Leo XIII urged the Neo-Scholastics to restore St. Thomas' philosophy and theology to their pristine purity through prolonged and intense research. At the same time a purified and reinvigorated Thomism should develop its capacity to integrate human knowledge through its dialogue with contemporary philosophy, and culture.

In the twentieth century a remarkable group of Thomists devoted . . .

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