Dooyeweerd and Thomism, some notes

This is from the first 28 pages of New Critique of Theoretical Thought vol 3.

Critique of Thomist metaphysics

Substance: possessing a permanence unaffected by change (Dooyeweerd 4).

  • Our experience of the identity of a thing is always temporal.

Dooyeweerd claims that the traditional view of a thing standing behind a thing contradicts the Christian conception “of human selfhood as a spiritual center,” whose nature is a self-surrender to God (6).

Traditional views of substance see it as a “kernel” under the accidents

To what, primary substance?  It cannot be a pre-theoretically conceived thing, for that is always bound “to the subject object relation” (10).

So what is ousia? Dooyeweerd: “It cannot be a mere relation between form and matter since in Aristotelian metaphysics and logic the concept of substance functions as the independent point of reference” (11).  The category of relation is thinner and accidental.

Nor can it be composite or synthetic, since there must be a unity prior to this.

The Greeks could never latch onto the Creational idea of substance as a structure of individuality (16). [JBA–what is an individuality structure and how is that different from a substance?]

If matter is the principium individuationis, then there can’t be a real idea “of the structure of individuality” (17; since this idea isn’t encased in matter).

Prima Facie reservations on Thomism

Reasons why I won’t commit to Thomism.  And why a “Reformed Thomism” is an uneasy alliance.

  1. Does Thomas hold to Aristotle’s view that two contrary principles can’t coexist?  Would this rule out the Incarnation?
  2. Thomas’s view of habitus is incompatible with the Reformed view of imputation.
  3. Thomas’s view of punishment and mortal sin demands Purgatory.
  4. If the soul is the form of the human body and a subsistent thing (aliquid subsistens), then Aquinas is hard-pressed to maintain the immortality of the soul.  (I know that sounds “Greek,” but all Christian positions must affirm that the soul survives the death of the body).
    1. I know Aquinas says a “subsistent thing” exists in its own right (ST I, q. 75, a.2).
    2. But if this is his argument, then what precisely has he advanced that the Augustinian-Platonic tradition had not yet advanced?
  5. I’m uneasy with his take on individuation.  Initially, matter is the principle of individuation.  But this is problematic for angels, since they are immaterial.  So he says each angel is its own species. So we have a tension.  Angels can’t be form + matter, yet the nature of divine simplicity seems to suggest that an angel can’t be identical with its existence.  So an angel is rather an admixture of act and potency.  What is immaterial potency?
  6. Much better to stay with the Augustinian-Platonic tradition on this one.  Or even the Greek fathers for that matter.
  7. Does Thomism demand transubstantiation?  How do Reformed guys square with that?

A Franciscan Counter to Thomism

This is not a rebuttal or refutation of Thomism.  It is a medieval alternative. I will offer my problems with Thomism in another post.

From the O’Donovan’s From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Chritian Political Thought.

Notes on Bonaventura.  This follows a lot of my reading on the Thomists.  Basically, I have the same feeling about Thomism as I do about a loose tooth.  I don’t know exactly what’s wrong, but I am scared to bite down really hard.

I suspect that a Thomist ontology is in tension with an Augustinian ontology.  I am following closely the O’Donovans’ reading on this point. (which is basically what I do on everything).

  1. Franciscan poverty was redefined from purely practical to legal terms.
    “The friars renounced, individually and in common, all ownership of property, so that they had mere use, not legal possesion, of temporal goods” (O’Donovans 309).
  2. “The Way of Evangelical Perfection.”  There is an intimate relationship between covetousness and pride in disordered human love: “That the soul’s excessive love of other beings and things, its consuming passion to possess them, is always for the sake of aggrandizing its own powers” (310).

Bonaventure and the Four Rights (311)

  1. The natural right of using necessary things universally available in creation, the community of earthly goods indispensable to sustenance.
  2. The divine right by which all things belong to the just, the community of righteous possession of the whole earth and of the Lord who made it
  3. the Civil Right, the community of private ownership of temporal things.
  4. The Right of Ecclesiastical Donation, the community of holding goods dedicated to God and conferred upon the churches.

For Bonaventure, the Franciscans had nonproprietary or simple use of goods owned and conceded by others per the first two rights.  But this isn’t simply a return to Adam.  As O’Donovan reads it, it is “a restoration mediated by participation in the cross of Christ” (311).

But I’m not a Thomist

I’ll try to make clear where I stand on Aquinas and Thomism.  I consider myself in “general conversation” with the Thomist tradition.  I find Thomas remarkably clear on the doctrine of God, quite profound on Christology, and very tantalizing in epistemology.

I commit myself to none of his positions, though.

And it is entertaining to watch Neo-Thomists tell you which Thomisms are the good guys and bad guys.  I lean closer to Kerr and De Lubac.

I am hesitant to commit to Thomas’s view on the soul.  I remain too much of a Augustinian/Platonist/Bonaventurian/Bernadian to commit myself on that point.