Nineteenth-Century Scholasticism: The Search for a Unitary Method

By Gerald A. McCool | Go to book overview

5
ONTOLOGISM

Ontologism enjoyed great favor throughout the middle period of the nineteenth century. Italy, the home of Rosmini and Gioberti, could be called its native land, and its supporters among the Italian clergy and laity were extremely numerous. In France ontologists could be found among the theologians of the Sorbonne and in the ranks of the Sulpicians, the Benedictines, and the Jesuits. In Belgium, where Gioberti had spent ten years in exile, ontologism had a particularly strong hold. Indeed it became the official doctrine of the philosophers and theologians on the faculty of the Catholic University of Louvain. 1

Ontologism was a general orientation in philosophy and theology rather than a single coherent system. It has been questioned in fact whether Rosmini, for example, should be called an ontologist at all. 2 Ontologism was a popular response of mid-century Catholic philosophers and theologians to the threat which empiricism and Kantian idealism posed to the metaphysical foundations of revealed religion and morality. Ontologist anthropology combined the post-Kantian anthropology of Vernunft and Verstand with Augustine's metaphysics of divine illumination. Vernunft's intuitive grasp of noumenal reality could then be transformed into an Augustinian intuition of the necessary divine ideas or at least into an intuitive grasp of the Absolute Idea of Being.

Although the ontologists were fundamentally Augustinians, their approach to philosophy was shaped by the post-Kantian conception of philosophy as an ideal system of necessary knowledge. Like the post- Kantian idealists the ontologists solved the problem of objectivization by grounding the necessity of the objects affirmed by Verstand through the unconditioned noumenal reality intuited by Vernunft. And, like the post- Kantian idealists, the ontologists considered philosophy the methodical

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