29 Aug

The truth sent from above

Category: Sound Thinking
By: Ken Myers
Published: 08/29/16

Josef Pieper on why philosophy needs theology

“[T]he philosopher who also has faith — who regards the world as a creation which issued from the divine Logos and which, although it is fundamentally luminous, lucid, clear and bright, at the same time reflects a design which by its very nature is inaccessible to human understanding — only a philosopher like this is in a position to divine how the knowability of the world and its incomprehensibility (both of which attributes are more or less demonstrable by empirical methods) could derive from the same root. This insight, which is clearly philosophical in nature in that it derives from the encounter with empirical reality, can nevertheless be imparted only to a person who is prepared to learn from theology something which he could never come to know on his own. Of course, the greatest enrichment which the philosopher can derive from the collaboration with theology lies in the fact that it can prevent him from falling prey to those dangers inherent in philosophy itself, the chief among which is the natural desire to create a clear, transparent and unified image of the world. For example, the idea of the Incarnation of God, in which the ultimate work of the creation was linked with the origin of that creation to form a circle, might appeal to a ‘Gnostic’ philosopher who saw in it the unlocked-for confirmation of a world view based on a single all-embracing principle. But the facts that, within the framework, mankind hated and killed the God-made-man ‘without a cause’ (Jn 15:25) and that yet the same death effected the salvation of man, who had committed the murder: these theological truths explode any tidy formula which anyone might conceive about the world. . . . Thus the person who engages in the philosophical act appears to derive a certain handicap from his collaboration with theology, but simultaneously he derives an enrichment which can be summed up in the term: higher truth. For the essential thing in philosophy is neither the avoidance of knotty problems nor the bewitchment of the intellect with plausible or conclusive proofs. Instead the essential thing is that not one single element of reality be suppressed or concealed — not one element of that unfathomable reality the vision of which is synonymous with the concept of ‘truth.’”

— from Josef Pieper, “The Possible Future of Philosophy,” in Josef Pieper: An Anthology (Ignatius Press, 1981)

(Click here to read another excerpt from this anthology, in which Pieper discusses how the refusal to regognize the spiritual center of human existence leads to a “roaming restlessness of the spirit”)

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