The Rise and Fall of Neo-Thomism – part III

22 04 2010

Personal Neoplatonism and when tradition really isn’t tradition

We left off yesterday with the dissolution of Thomism as the “official” philosophy of the Church. In McCool’s telling of the story, Thomism collapsed under its own scholarly weight. Either people were too concerned with dialoguing with modern philosophers (Marechal and Rousselot) or they wanted to make Thomism into a bulwark of liberal modernity (Maritain), or they were too concerned with finding “real Thomism” (Gilson), for all of this to last as a monolithic system. Even though Thomas is still respected, he is far from the sole source of Catholic philosophy and theology.

I suppose the personal lesson that I took away from McCool’s book is that there is really no such thing as “Thomism”. Even in the time of Aquinas, philosophy was too fluid for one approach to be defined as “the” correct approach. Of course, this type of realization has come to me at many points in my life. As a Marxist, once I began to dig more in depth into revolutionary theory, I found that what was at its heart was vulgar authoritarianism. Once you begin to peal the Thomist onion, you will find a hodge-podge of Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, and Patristic concerns. Simply put, Thomas did not know that he was a Thomist; he was not obsessed with the epistemological and theological concerns that plague Catholics in the context of postmodernity.
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