LECTURE #6: Pieper on Christian Philosophy

Leisure the Basis of Culture (1952)

I. Ratio vs. Intellectus

Modern philosophy: identifies the value of knowledge with its difficulty.

Ancient philosophy: the highest knowledge (intellectus) is effortless.

Ratio (power of logical thought, examination, abstraction, definition, drawing conclusions) is distinctively human. Intellectus (smple vision of truth) is superhuman. Yet, human beings can participate in intellectus by grace.

II. Liberal Knowledge vs. Useful Knowledge

John Henry Newman -- The Idea of the University.

Philosophers cannot be functionaries. Not justified by inclusion in a five-year plan.

Aquinas: "It is necessary for the perfection of human society that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation."

The Philosophical Act

I. The Definition of Animality

"Animals are perfectly adapted to their sharply defined and delimited environment --- perfectly adapted to it, but equally, imprisoned within it." The jackdaw cannot see motionless grasshoppers.

II. Definition of Spirituality

A. Spirit has no environment. "The spiritual soul is meant to fit in with all reality." A relation to all of reality.

Not merely quantitative: spirit has access to the essence of things.

B. Highest degree of "inwardness" -- the reflective self.

III. Man is not Pure Spirit, but Spiritual Animality

A. Man needs an environment -- an everyday life, defined by habit and custom.

B. Philosophizing is the emergence of spirit within this animality. Not by withdrawing from everyday life into a separate sphere, but by a calling-into-question of the everyday meanings and values of things.

C. Philosophy begins in wonder.

  1. Wonder is not the mere itch for sensation. Finding the "strangeness" of ordinary things, becoming a stranger in the midst of the familiar.
  2. Wonder doubt. Modern philosophy (Descartes, Hegel) begins with doubt. Throwing ordinary thought into confusion.
  3. Wonder does take away "penultimate certainties", but awakens a new kind of knowledge of everyday things. Wonder culminates in joy.
D. Philosophy is a form of hope.

Animals have no sense of wonder (no desire for knowing as such). Neither does God, who fully possesses all knowledge.

Philosophy remains in a state of hopefulness, unlike the special sciences, where the permanent achievement of knowledge is possible. Philosophy requires a special kind of humility. Pythagoreans rejected the title of "wise ones" (sophists) -- insisted that only God is wise, they are merely philo-sophers (seekers of wisdom).

E. Philosophy is divine wisdom. Aquinas: "The little that is won here (in metaphysics) weighs more than all that is won in all the other sciences."

IV. Philosophy and Christianity

A. Philosophy has a window open to theology, but refuses to consider itself a theology, a doctrine of salvation.

A "contrapuntal" relationship between philosophy and theology.

B. All philosophy (including atheistic existentialism) begins with a quasi-religious commitment.

C. Christian philosophy is not ready with all the answers. Christianity makes philosophy more complex, not simpler.

D. Theology puts "fruitful impediments" in the way of philosophy. Keeps philosophy from satisfaction with a static, oversimplified system. Emphasis on the "mystery" of ordinary things.

E. For the Christian, philosophy is superfluous. The Christian cannot make philosophizing the center of being. But "philosophy is as necessary and as superfluous as the natural perfection of the human being."

F. The Christian faith is a qualification of being, not merely a body of supernatural knowledge. Hence, being a Christian necessarily shapes one's philosophy.