November 9, 2019


Phenomenology's Influence in the West (GRAHAM MCALEER, 10/31/19, Law & Liberty)  

Continental philosophy is housed in Europe, with a few exceptions. It is the exceptions that kick off the argument of Edward Baring's Converts to the Real: Catholicism and the Making of Continental Philosophy. Baring, who teaches history at Drew University, observes that philosophy in the British Isles, in Scandinavia, and in America's vast university system, is mostly analytic. The exceptions in the United States are Catholic universities and seminaries, where Continental philosophy is typically taught. [...]

If Cartesian subjectivism was about the projection of human reason, it had hit significant bumps along the road. The French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon left a bad taste and the Industrial Revolution spread squalor. Widespread was the belief that human willfulness brought ruination, and Romanticism potently encouraged the idea of a return to the ideals of nature, community, and craft culture last seen in the West in the Middle Ages. Thomistic metaphysics strongly affirmed a sacral universe, and the hunt was on in Catholic circles for an intellectual partner to help update Aquinas and bring his basic insights into conversation with the modern sensibility.  Husserl's method of inquiry and desire to reaffirm objectivity seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Seemed to, is an important part of the story. Catholics started to teach Husserl's phenomenology in their colleges, but there would arise a problem. One of the truly great philosophers, Husserl was productive until the end of his life. And in his later work, he backtracked, thinking Descartes was right, after all. Husserl was also inspirational, and radically influenced two Catholics, Heidegger and another German philosopher, Max Scheler (1874-1928). Together, this triad make the core of phenomenology. To this day, their thinking is the benchmark of Continental philosophy. The problem for Catholicism, as wonderfully explained by Baring, is that Heidegger and Scheler did not remain Catholic. The Church had made common cause with a method that seemed to attract Catholics and then promptly alienate them.

We avoided untold damage by sticking to faith instead of adopting Reason.

Posted by at November 9, 2019 12:00 AM