ENCYCLICAL LETTER FIDES ET RATIO
OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF JOHN PAUL II
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND REASON
In square brackets you will find the reference number of the text found in the Papal Enzyclic.
To an unbiased lay person (as far as theology is concerned) who is, nevertheless, familiar with the anti-scientific views and actions of the church over the course of history--one only has to think of the execution by burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno and of the forced recanting by Galilei--is, at first, surprised by the openness of the Vatikan in the way in which science and philosophy are not only "tolerated" in this Encyclic, nay, with which these disciplines are even being "invited" to cooperate. On the other hand, however, this "openness" is, of course, again relativized by the reservations of faith as well as by the expectations that are directed towards science from that side. In the German newspaper ZEIT, the former CERN-boss Herwig Schopper reported that Pope John Paul II, in his visit of the nuclear accellerator, explictly enquired about anti-matter research. "Matter and anti'matter, heaven and hell, Christ and Antichrist, Woytila was supposed to have muttered--could there perhaps be a connection?"
Critique of Reason with Respect to the Main Tenets of Faith
[8.] At the First Vatican Council, the Fathers had stressed the supernatural character of God's Revelation. On the basis of mistaken and very widespread assertions, the rationalist critique of the time attacked faith and denied the possibility of any knowledge which was not the fruit of reason's natural capacities. This obliged the Council to reaffirm emphatically that there exists a knowledge which is peculiar to faith, surpassing the knowledge proper to human reason, which nevertheless by its nature can discover the Creator. This knowledge expresses a truth based upon the very fact of God who reveals himself, a truth which is most certain, since God neither deceives nor wishes to deceive.
Right from the beginning, a wrong slitting-up of the "paths of realization" is undertaken here, the dualism of human thinking is transferred into "relaity". A "faith" which misunderstands itself, is making room for itself, and this by means of the first "path of realization" of reason, thus with the instrumentalization of reason of reason for other purposes, which will later be criticized in science.
As much as Wojtyla is right in stating that faith and reason do not have to contradict each other, as little does he live up to his argument in his statement and presents the most contradictory concepts in a dogmatic fashion as he nowhere defines what "faith" means: the setting of a goal in individual existence, be it consciously or unconsciously, and that at the end of the spectrum of (personal) reflection, which should, ideally, coincide with the phylogenetic process of reflection. Only in this way, no conflict will arise between faith and reason. Faith is not a question of reason's knowledge, and it has no own knowledge besides it, but rather, it arises out of existentiality, which, as such, has to set a goal for itself. If it fails to do so, as, for example, in relativism, or also often in scientism, where that which "ought to be" should already arise out of "that which exists", it covers up its own goal and puts itself into an unconscious respectively indirect position to it--not without reason scientists, and with it science, on the basis of a lack of a conscious decision with respect to faith, let themselves be abused--and thus, themselves, fall prey to their own metaphysic of reason: the counterpart or equivalent to religious "faith".
The Secret and its Revelation:
[12/13.] Now, in Christ, all have access to the Father, since by his Death and Resurrection Christ has bestowed the divine life which the first Adam had refused (cf. Rom 5:12-15). Through this Revelation, men and women are offered the ultimate truth about their own life and about the goal of history. As the Constitution Gaudium et Spes puts it, „only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light".(12) Seen in any other terms, the mystery of personal existence remains an insoluble riddle. Where might the human being seek the answer to dramatic questions such as pain, the suffering of the innocent and death, if not in the light streaming from the mystery of Christ's Passion, Death and Resurrection?
It should nonetheless be kept in mind that Revelation remains charged with mystery. It is true that Jesus, with his entire life, revealed the countenance of the Father, for he came to teach the secret things of God.(13) But our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently. ...
To assist reason in its effort to understand the mystery there are the signs which Revelation itself presents. These serve to lead the search for truth to new depths, enabling the mind in its autonomous exploration to penetrate within the mystery by use of reason's own methods, of which it is rightly jealous. Yet these signs also urge reason to look beyond their status as signs in order to grasp the deeper meaning which they bear. They contain a hidden truth to which the mind is drawn and which it cannot ignore without destroying the very signs which it is given. ...
"What you neither see nor grasp, faith confirms for you, leaving nature far behind; a sign it is that now appears, hiding in mystery realities sublime". He is echoed by the philosopher Pascal: „Just as Jesus Christ went unrecognized among men, so does his truth appear without external difference among common modes of thought. So too does the Eucharist remain among common bread".
Whenever faith opposes reason, which, as is known, takes "offence" in this, there obviously remains no other means than to flee and to remove that which is to be believed, in a circular fashion, into the "outerwordly realm of revelation"; in a circular fashion because of the fact that, as duality is aleady pre-supposed in this. The "signs" can only "reveal" something, since "human reason" has, beforehand assigned their particular and peculiar "reality" to them: this has to be considered as resignation of reason at the wrong point. What, at the turn of times, has thence been revealed in an existential manner on the basis of a consideration of the essence of things and on the basis of idealism, as a new way of experiencing the world by means of reason (in a transition from the 'bliss' of understanding in the here and now to the irrevocable plight of reason and the inevitably following emphasis on the 'hereafter'), what, at first, much less a "secrete" than a believed "fact"; these "facts of faith" had to turn into a secret due to the fact that the self-enlightenment of reason progressed while faith, to the contrary, stood still. In the manner in which, in this process, the "facts of faith" opposed the "natural light" of man, the more "secretive" respectively "mysterious" they became, and the more, as a necessary consequence, the difference to an, at first, unified or 'whole' reason, had to be transferred into two different "means of perception".
Here, the use and the abuse of ancient Greek metaphysic offered itself: the "fleeting appearance of unsteady separate entities" of the sensual perception of understanding and the "eternal existence of the essences" of reason, which Plato perceived as steps to the realization of truth, is turned into a contrast between the perception of faith and the perception of reason. It is interesting to look at Buddhism here, which has no need for this "secret", since it sticks to salvation in the nirvana in the ethical and religious uniqueness of the invididual itself and to the various steps in the "wheel of recurrence" instead of falling prey to the Christian dualism.
Limitations of Reason:
[18-21.] On the basis of this deeper form of knowledge, the Chosen People understood that, if reason were to be fully true to itself, then it must respect certain basic rules. The first of these is that reason must realize that human knowledge is a journey which allows no rest; the second stems from the awareness that such a path is not for the proud who think that everything is the fruit of personal conquest; a third rule is grounded in the „fear of God" whose transcendent sovereignty and provident love in the governance of the world reason must recognize.
Here, the "A priori" of Revelation: reason misunderstands itself: while humanity was allowed to, in the stage of reception of reason and in the de-velopment of its own concept of "Sanctity" or the "Numinous", interpret this new "self awareness" and its connectedness in a metaphysical context (for Western civilization in a line from Sokrates, Plato, Aristotle, including the "daimonion", the divine nature of the "good" and the "forms"), and, in this process, to also form the higher world religions (of reason) which emanted from the basis of the essence of man, "human light" now knows that it can and must attribute this form of interpretation of the world to itself. While humanity "surprised" itself in the past with these relatizations of reason which, at first, appeared "strange" to humans and which, for this reason, were transposed, "in humility and reverence", "beyond themselves", today, an insistence on remaining bound to this misinterpretation that has been made redundant by reason's own self-reflection, represents a contravention against the above-mentioned "basic rule number one": thus, stagnation has set in.
For the ancients, the study of the natural sciences coincided in large part with philosophical learning. Having affirmed that with their intelligence human beings can „know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements... the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars, the natures of animals and the tempers of wild beasts" (Wis 7:17, 19-20) - in a word, that he can philosophize - the sacred text takes a significant step forward. Making his own the thought of Greek philosophy, to which he seems to refer in the context, the author affirms that, in reasoning about nature, the human being can rise to God: „From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator" (Wis 13:5). This is to recognize as a first stage of divine Revelation the marvellous „book of nature", which, when read with the proper tools of human reason, can lead to knowledge of the Creator. If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.
What is also shown here in addition to the so-called "clockmaker proof" are the torture instruments with which it is intended to force man into submission and into this stagnation: he who believes to be allowed to move on from this point in revelation allegedly "contravenes" divine providence--"free will" and even more so "original sin" are the means of chastisement with which the claim to power by a certain and retrogressive stage in the development of reason is intended to be enforced.
Pondering this as his situation, biblical man discovered that he could understand himself only as „being in relation" - with himself, with people, with the world and with God. This opening to the mystery, which came to him through Revelation, was for him, in the end, the source of true knowledge. It was this which allowed his reason to enter the realm of the infinite where an understanding for which until then he had not dared to hope became a possibility. ...
[23.] Of itself, philosophy is able to recognize the human being's ceaselessly self-transcendent orientation towards the truth; and, with the assistance of faith, it is capable of accepting the „foolishness" of the Cross as the authentic critique of those who delude themselves that they possess the truth, when in fact they run it aground on the shoals of a system of their own devising. The preaching of Christ crucified and risen is the reef upon which the link between faith and philosophy can break up, but it is also the reef beyond which the two can set forth upon the boundless ocean of truth. Here we see not only the border between reason and faith, but also the space where the two may meet.
The territorial claim: man's self-transcending which he has experienced in the development of reason is refusing it own reflection, and that due to very immanent reaons. Has not, on the foundation of this erroneous selb-interpretation, been build an entire veritable "church" with very real claims to power. the observation of natural and cultural evolutions (which can actually also be seen or considered as 'transcendence') is being abused for the purpose of a continuing exercise of power over man, out of the reflection of which one derives one's own claim and to which one reserves one's exclusive rights of contact with good reason ('dogma of Papal infallibility').
"Reason and Faith":
[75.] First, there is a philosophy completely independent of the Gospel's Revelation: this is the stance adopted by philosophy as it took shape in history before the birth of the Redeemer and later in regions as yet untouched by the Gospel. We see here philosophy's valid aspiration to be an autonomous enterprise, obeying its own rules and employing the powers of reason alone. Although seriously handicapped by the inherent weakness of human reason, this aspiration should be supported and strengthened. As a search for truth within the natural order, the enterprise of philosophy is always open - at least implicitly - to the supernatural.
At first glance, this sounds quite nice, denies, however, in insisting on the duality of the process of realization--in which only Christians have access to "God's Revelation"--the capability of the ancient Greeks to lively inner transcendence, inspite of one's having been, on the other hand, forced to draw, for the purpose one's own re-establishment of the "Revelation (of God)" on their framework of their philosophical thinking. Everything that is not Christian or related to Christianity can, at the utmost, only have reached a stage of "closeness" and of "openness" towards the "secret". The "open" character of evolution is turned into a "supernatural" one, the quite natural inability of reason to see into this "openness" as that which is only about to become, is defined as "weakness"--these are all "magic tricks" of the yearningl of reason for itself in a deificated projection of its own idealism.
[77.]. It was not by accident that the Fathers of the Church and the Medieval theologians adopted non-Christian philosophies.
Quite right! Without ancient Greek metaphysic there would be no Christianity, for both are the children of one mother who belong together; without the inclusion of the results of the (development of) human reason, Christianity would have remained a mythological episode.
[22.] This is to concede [as done by St. Paul] to human reason a capacity which seems almost to surpass its natural limitations. Not only is it not restricted to sensory knowledge, from the moment that it can reflect critically upon the data of the senses, but, by discoursing on the data provided by the senses, reason can reach the cause which lies at the origin of all perceptible reality. In philosophical terms, we could say that this important Pauline text affirms the human capacity for metaphysical enquiry.
According to the Apostle, it was part of the original plan of the creation that reason should without difficulty reach beyond the sensory data to the origin of all things: the Creator. But because of the disobedience by which man and woman chose to set themselves in full and absolute autonomy in relation to the One who had created them, this ready access to God the Creator diminished.
Adam, o Adam! On the one hand, the transition from sensual understanding to reason's capability of developing abstract concepts and its own metaphysic is correctly seen as a historical as well as an individual process, on the other hand, htis is being turned against man; the openness that continued to exist, ye also continued to be inaccessible inspite of reason and its metaphysic is seen as an abberration or as a fall from "pure spirit"--a necessary consequence of the circumstance that reason appears to have to explain the vents of world history on the basis of a pre-stabilizing concept of a "divine plan of action".
[26.] It is not insignificant that the death of Socrates gave philosophy one of its decisive orientations, no less decisive now than it was more than two thousand years ago. It is not by chance, then, that faced with the fact of death philosophers have again and again posed this question, together with the question of the meaning of life and immortality.
The rooster for Asklepios...already Nietzsche was upset about this 'deathly' Christian outlook on life.
[30.]It may help, then, to turn briefly to the different modes of truth. Most of them depend upon immediate evidence or are confirmed by experimentation. This is the mode of truth proper to everyday life and to scientific research. At another level we find philosophical truth, attained by means of the speculative powers of the human intellect. Finally, there are religious truths which are to some degree grounded in philosophy, and which we find in the answers which the different religious traditions offer to the ultimate questions. ...
[32.]It should be stressed that the truths sought in this interpersonal relationship are not primarily empirical or philosophical. Rather, what is sought is the truth of the person - what the person is and what the person reveals from deep within. Human perfection, then, consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of the truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others. It is in this faithful self-giving that a person finds a fullness of certainty and security. At the same time, however, knowledge through belief, grounded as it is on trust between persons, is linked to truth: in the act of believing, men and women entrust themselves to the truth which the other declares to them . ...
[33.] It must not be forgotten that reason too needs to be sustained in all its searching by trusting dialogue and sincere friendship. A climate of suspicion and distrust, which can beset speculative research, ignores the teaching of the ancient philosophers who proposed friendship as one of the most appropriate contexts for sound philosophical enquiry.
Rightfully, here, at first, reference is made to the lively communication of the "I" and the "You" (see, for example, Buber's book by a similar title), out of which the "I" can only receive itself: the existential sphere or realm which science will never be able to absorb. and the value of friendship has already been praised by Nietzsche--the often very quarrelsome interaction between "scientific seekers of truth" respectively of "owners of truth", with respect to diverging viewpoints, sheds a "telling light" on this.
On the other hand, these conditions of human existence are certainly accessible to scientific observation in the framework of anthropology which consideres man, above all, as a social being. Also, human existentiality is not a "separate medium", but rather that lively component on which human actions and with it human cultural "development" are based.
[36.] Since in pagan religion this natural knowledge had lapsed [!] into idolatry (cf. Rom 1:21-32), the Apostle judged it wiser in his speech to make the link with the thinking of the philosophers, who had always set in opposition to the myths and mystery cults notions more respectful of divine transcendence..
One of the major concerns of classical philosophy was to purify human notions of God of mythological elements. We know that Greek religion, like most cosmic religions, was polytheistic, even to the point of divinizing natural things and phenomena. Human attempts to understand the origin of the gods and hence the origin of the universe find their earliest expression in poetry; and the theogonies remain the first evidence of this human search. But it was the task of the fathers of philosophy to bring to light the link between reason and religion. As they broadened their view to include universal principles, they no longer rested content with the ancient myths, but wanted to provide a rational foundation for their belief in the divinity. This opened a path which took its rise from ancient traditions but allowed a development satisfying the demands of universal reason. This development sought to acquire a critical awareness of what they believed in, and the concept of divinity was the prime beneficiary of this. Superstitions were recognized for what they were and religion was, at least in part, purified by rational analysis. It was on this basis that the Fathers of the Church entered into fruitful dialogue with ancient philosophy, which offered new ways of proclaiming and understanding the God of Jesus Christ.
This description corresponds--at least analogously--quite well with the presentation in "C and E" as to the path of the development of religions from the religions prevailent at the stage of the human brain development of understanding to the development of religions at the stage of the development of the human brain of its capacity of reception of reason, from polytheism to monotheism, as a necessary transition in the light of abstraction = reception of reason, Wojtyla, however, merely provides a description of this process rather than that he would have known how to present the inner reasons for this trasnition of the human brain capabilities.
It is nonsense, however, to describe pagan religions as "having lapsed" to idolatry: were this really the case, these would have had to have a higher level (of development) "prior" to that; it is reason, by elevating itself above it, devalues the faith of understanding instead of being able to grasp the necessity of this next step in the development; particularly Christianity has re-incorporated all those superstitions of understanding so that it could also reach humans with that "frame of mind". And was it not, in particular, out of the cults of the mysterious that the "secret" of the "resurrection of the flesh" was distilled?
[38/39.] That seems still more evident today, if we think of Christianity's contribution to the affirmation of the right of everyone to have access to the truth. In dismantling barriers of race, social status and gender, Christianity proclaimed from the first the equality of all men and women before God. One prime implication of this touched the theme of truth. The elitism which had characterized the ancients' search for truth was clearly abandoned. Since access to the truth enables access to God, it must be denied to none.
Quite right! For this to come about, however, Luther had to rise first and to open the path for the individual's right to access to this! Behind the term "equality before God" is shyly or slyly hidden the fact that Catholicism, for the longest of time, help human beings in the here and now in a state of inequality, so that the church was able to reserve for itself the lucrative role as mediator of the "divine"!
For Clement, Greek philosophy is not meant in the first place to bolster and complete Christian truth. Its task is rather the defence of the faith: „The teaching of the Saviour is perfect in itself and has no need of support, because it is the strength and the wisdom of God. Greek philosophy, with its contribution, does not strengthen truth; but, in rendering the attack of sophistry impotent and in disarming those who betray truth and wage war upon it, Greek philosophy is rightly called the hedge and the protective wall around the vineyard".
It is clear from history, then, that Christian thinkers were critical in adopting philosophical thought. Among the early examples of this, Origen is certainly outstanding. In countering the attacks launched by the philosopher Celsus, Origen adopts Platonic philosophy to shape his argument and mount his reply. Assuming many elements of Platonic thought, he begins to construct an early form of Christian theology. The name „theology" itself, together with the idea of theology as rational discourse about God, had to this point been tied to its Greek origins. In Aristotelian philosophy, for example, the name signified the noblest part and the true summit of philosophical discourse. But in the light of Christian Revelation what had signified a generic doctrine about the gods assumed a wholly new meaning, signifying now the reflection undertaken by the believer in order to express the true doctrine about God. As it developed, this new Christian thought made use of philosophy, but at the same time tended to distinguish itself clearly from philosophy. History shows how Platonic thought, once adopted by theology, underwent profound changes, especially with regard to concepts such as the immortality of the soul, the divinization of man and the origin of evil.
Clement felt the danger that went out from the connection with ancient Greek philosophy and thus he tries to limit its contribution to apology alone. Gnosis had shown where an identification of Christianity with Greek philosophy would have lead: Jesus would have sunk to the level of a teacher of wisdom right next to Plato and Aristotle, and his "uniqueness" would habe been foregone--and due to this, "profound changes" had to be implemented which were then declared a "secret". Therefore, particularly in referring back to the ancient Greek thinkers and in the re-establishment of their original concepts without these "changes", the basis for enlightenment could be prepared in the age of Renaissance.
[40/41.] In this work of christianizing Platonic and Neo-Platonic thought, the Cappadocian Fathers, Dionysius called the Areopagite and especially Saint Augustine were important. The great Doctor of the West had come into contact with different philosophical schools, but all of them left him disappointed.
The Bishop of Hippo succeeded in producing the first great synthesis of philosophy and theology, embracing currents of thought both Greek and Latin. In him too the great unity of knowledge, grounded in the thought of the Bible, was both confirmed and sustained by a depth of speculative thinking. The synthesis devised by Saint Augustine remained for centuries the most exalted form of philosophical and theological speculation known to the West. [The theory of two states - civitas dei und civitas terrena, which are dynamically related to each other] ...
. In fact they succeeded in disclosing completely all that remained implicit and preliminary in the thinking of the great philosophers of antiquity. As I have noted, theirs was the task of showing how reason, freed from external constraints, could find its way out of the blind alley of myth and open itself to the transcendent in a more appropriate way. Purified and rightly tuned, therefore, reason could rise to the higher planes of thought, providing a solid foundation for the perception of being, of the transcendent and of the absolute.
One can certainly agree to this, particularly, if one understands this functionally as the active emergence of reason at the end of its phase of reception and in connection with the transition of the brain transfer capacity from understanding to reason, and that is precisely why, with Christianity, the so-called "turn of our times" occurred. In whatever way one may feel inclined to judge Augustine, one can hardly overestimate his importance for the development of "Western" thinking.
[43.]A quite special place in this long development belongs to Saint Thomas, not only because of what he taught but also because of the dialogue which he undertook with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time. In an age when Christian thinkers were rediscovering the treasures of ancient philosophy, and more particularly of Aristotle, Thomas had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason. Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God, he argued; hence there can be no contradiction between them.
Out of Aristotelian thinking, Thomas created a symthesis under the primateship of faith (reason assists faith; the opposite point of this spectrum is Hegel's dialectic of history which, under the primateship of reason, after reason had emancipated itself from faith throug Descartes and Enlightenment (faith assists reason. Wojtyla, too, has recognized this, including the transformation of such an erroneous idealsim into ideology (communism, fascism).
[46.]Some representatives of idealism sought in various ways to transform faith and its contents, even the mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, into dialectical structures which could be grasped by reason. Opposed to this kind of thinking were various forms of atheistic humanism, expressed in philosophical terms, which regarded faith as alienating and damaging to the development of a full rationality. They did not hesitate to present themselves as new religions serving as a basis for projects which, on the political and social plane, gave rise to totalitarian systems which have been disastrous for humanity. ...
[44.] „The wisdom named among the gifts of the Holy Spirit is distinct from the wisdom found among the intellectual virtues. This second wisdom is acquired through study, but the first 'comes from on high', as Saint James puts it. This also distinguishes it from faith, since faith accepts divine truth as it is. But the gift of wisdom enables judgement according to divine truth".
It is right to differenctiate between "the wisdom found among the intellectual virtues" (intelligence or cleverness) and wisdom (per se) as Aquinas did; it is wrong, however, to do so in a dualistic fashion. INtelligence or cleverness is the instrumental application of reason as a means, which, as a functional capability (always provided that an invididual's capabilities allow for it) is basically open to all members of the human species; wisdom, on the other hand, is to incorporate the results that arise out of the fuctional application of human reason into one's own existence in shaping the purpose of that existence ("hominus paucorum"). What instrumental use of reason that only rests on itself is capable of, is rightfuly criticized:
[47/48.]It should also be borne in mind that the role of philosophy itself has changed in modern culture. From universal wisdom and learning, it has been gradually reduced to one of the many fields of human knowing; indeed in some ways it has been consigned to a wholly marginal role. Other forms of rationality have acquired an ever higher profile, making philosophical learning appear all the more peripheral. These forms of rationality are directed not towards the contemplation of truth and the search for the ultimate goal and meaning of life; but instead, as „instrumental reason", they are directed - actually or potentially - towards the promotion of utilitarian ends, towards enjoyment or power. ...
Deprived of reason, faith has stressed feeling and experience, and so run the risk of no longer being a universal proposition. It is an illusion to think that faith, tied to weak reasoning, might be more penetrating; on the contrary, faith then runs the grave risk of withering into myth or superstition. By the same token, reason which is unrelated to an adult faith is not prompted to turn its gaze to the newness and radicality of being.
Likewise one will only be able to agree with this if one replaces Wojtyla's Christian faith with the general concept of existentail striging towards transcendence above and beoyond the invididual perspective and above and beyond a general everyday perspective towards the concept of the cultural evolution of mankind. This papal criticism is (rightfully) directed at the last remaining and most "naked" ideology, capitalsim, which, on a functional level of reason, represents the opposite to idealism. In it, the self-centeredness of the individual who is refusing transcendence is idolised--the indvidual who, therefore, considers himself to be allowed to do everything (as in relativism), or who believes that everything that is and will be can already now be determined from the persepctive of his present state of kknoweldge (as in scientism); even Anglo-Saxon "pragmatism" still derives its views from this self-centeredness: it refuses every from of transcendence in retrating to the (allegedly) ultimately right values of reason which are derived from the idea of the equality of human beings (and even of animals, be it in "consciousness" or in "emotion)), and, resignedly, adheres to a hidden form of idealism. As in scientism, this leads, in spite of an existing prohibition, to extract from "that which exists", "that which ought to exist". It is not paramount, however, to demand the same form of "ideal state of existence" for all different froms of understanding and reason, but rather to "bundle" or to "concentrate" the "strivings for their own ideal state of existence" of individuals in manner which points beyond their individual existences. Wojtyla points this out rightfully, albeit, in his own fashion.
[79.] By virtue of the splendour emanating from subsistent Being itself, revealed truth offers the fullness of light and will therefore illumine the path of philosophical enquiry. In short, Christian Revelation becomes the true point of encounter and engagement between philosophical and theological thinking in their reciprocal relationship.
This is certainly one of the central statements of the entire encyclical letter. While the correlation of reason and faith is accepted, the primateship of faith is being cemented.
[53.] Against all forms of rationalism, then, there was a need to affirm the distinction between the mysteries of faith and the findings of philosophy, and the transcendence and precedence of the mysteries of faith over the findings of philosophy. Against the temptations of fideism, however, it was necessary to stress the unity of truth and thus the positive contribution which rational knowledge can and must make to faith's knowledge: „Even if faith is superior to reason there can never be a true divergence between faith and reason, since the same God who reveals the mysteries and bestows the gift of faith has also placed in the human spirit the light of reason. This God could not deny himself, nor could the truth ever contradict the truth".
While certain forms of superstition are being refuted ("temptations of fideism"), there remains the dilemma of reason in the service of faith: reason knows already that the truth of faith and of reason may not contradict each other--and thus all that remains for ("obedient") reason, in the face of those "supernatural facts of faith" in the Old and New Testament (which have already become a dilemma to functional reason) that it has to, in light of the primateship of reason, flee into an exalted "Revelation" and its "Secrets" and to insist on the duality of "two levels of realization". Only in such a dualistic approach can there exist a primateship of faith over reason, where, in readlity, there is only a question of "form" and "content", and of a functional ability and of the existential results of that functional ability.
Very cleverly, Wojtyla then tries to lead the argument with respect to the problems that arise out of the reflection of reason twoards his own purposes:
[55.] An example of this is the deep-seated distrust of reason which has surfaced in the most recent developments of much of philosophical research, to the point where there is talk at times of „the end of metaphysics". Philosophy is expected to rest content with more modest tasks such as the simple interpretation of facts or an enquiry into restricted fields of human knowing or its structures.
In theology too the temptations of other times have reappeared. In some contemporary theologies, for instance, a certain rationalism is gaining ground, especially when opinions thought to be philosophically well founded are taken as normative for theological research. This happens particularly when theologians, through lack of philosophical competence, allow themselves to be swayed uncritically by assertions.
There are also signs of a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God. One currently widespread symptom of this fideistic tendency is a „biblicism" which tends to make the reading and exegesis of Sacred Scripture the sole criterion of truth.
Here, he is killing two birds with one stone: he bemoans (in a certain sense not without reason) the impoverishment of contemporary philosophy which, by losing its dimentsion of transcendence, lends itself to becoming the handmaiden of science--and he keeps up the primateship of the "office of teaching" for the interpretation of the bible, which, by means of individualization and pluralization, has gone into various directions. It is almost amazing to see to what degree Wojtyla is asking for the philsophical training of theological teachers--behind this, however, ultimately also hides the primateship of faith: Only on such a basis can Catholicism train its own fighters who will stave off attacks by science and by radical reason and who will defend the primateship of faith. This primateship of faith is also in force in relationship to theology: Not the indvidiual theologian, bur rather the "office of theological teaching" alone is in charge of the "auditus fidei" (the critic of realization and the interpretation of theological teachings) and the "intellectus fideu" (the interpretation of scriptures and of statements of faith). Behind this hides nothing else but the papal claim of infallibility.
[67.] Similarly, fundamental theology should demonstrate the profound compatibility that exists between faith and its need to find expression by way of human reason fully free to give its assent. Faith will thus be able „to show fully the path to reason in a sincere search for the truth. Although faith, a gift of God, is not based on reason, it can certainly not dispense with it. At the same time, it becomes apparent that reason needs to be reinforced by faith, in order to discover horizons it cannot reach on its own".
While faith stagnated in insisting and in resting on itself, it has failed to recognize that reason can very well acquire an understanding of such "exclusive" topics of faith as "god" and his "revealed secrets" by itself in a rational manner. Rather, this old form of faith puts itself in the path of reason today and thus covers up those horizons towards which a real transcendence could actually be gained. In doing so, faith keeps relativism and scientism company.
The Hidden Claim to Universality under the Cover of Religious Tolerance:
[71.] Cultures are fed by the communication of values, and they survive and flourish insofar as they remain open to assimilating new experiences. How are we to explain these dynamics? All people are part of a culture, depend upon it and shape it. Human beings are both child and parent of the culture in which they are immersed. To everything they do, they bring something which sets them apart from the rest of creation: their unfailing openness to mystery and their boundless desire for knowledge. Lying deep in every culture, there appears this impulse towards a fulfilment. We may say, then, that culture itself has an intrinsic capacity to receive divine Revelation.
Inspite of the teleology that is contained in this statement and inspite of the mentioned "secret", all of this is formulated quite nicely and can be harmonized with an immanent viewpoint.
the proclamation of the Gospel in different cultures allows people to preserve their own cultural identity. This in no way creates division, because the community of the baptized is marked by a universality which can embrace every culture and help to foster whatever is implicit in them to the point where it will be fully explicit in the light of truth.
This means that no one culture can ever become the criterion of judgment, much less the ultimate criterion of truth with regard to God's Revelation. The Gospel is not opposed to any culture, as if in engaging a culture the Gospel would seek to strip it of its native riches and force it to adopt forms which are alien to it. On the contrary, the message which believers bring to the world and to cultures is a genuine liberation from all the disorders caused by sin and is, at the same time, a call to the fullness of truth. Cultures are not only not diminished by this encounter; rather, they are prompted to open themselves to the newness of the Gospel's truth and to be stirred by this truth to develop in new ways.
Here the entire concept becomes problematic due to the fact that "universality" is claimed for Christianity alone, while other higher religions are obviously only classified as "cultures" and as "paths towards the truth" which can, actually, not make the same claim to "unviersality"--the "gospel" has to stand above all other cultures. While (and righfully so), for example, East-Indian thinking is described as a dynamic "search (!) for liberation" and the Asian forms of higher religions are described as 'great metaphysical systems" (see the parallelization of the higher religions of reason in "C and E"), Catholicism--and with it also Christians within those cultures--may not separate itself from the "cultural dominance of the Greek-Latin thinking", with which, inadvertently, it is insisted on the dominance of "Western" thinking; the decisive factor, however, remains the "secret", which is supposed to be prevalent only in Christianity. With this, one has moved one step towards other cultures and religions in comparison to the previously practised customs of missionising; nevertheless, these cultures and religions are still devalued in light of the claimed right of sole representation by the Catholic Church with respect to the administration of the "true faith". Out of necessity and beying forced into this by the pressures of human reason and of the resulting recognition of the equality of all human beings, one has, as one has towards science, become more flexible. Very intricately worded but also very explicitly, the capacity of reason of philosophizing theologians, in the coming-together of cultures and of different systems of thought, if "guided" into the right direction:
[73.] It is not just a question of theological discourse using this or that concept or element of a philosophical construct; what matters most is that the believer's reason use its powers of reflection in the search for truth which moves from the word of God towards a better understanding of it. It is as if, moving between the twin poles of God's word and a better understanding of it, reason is offered guidance and is warned against paths which would lead it to stray from revealed Truth and to stray in the end from the truth pure and simple. Instead, reason is stirred to explore paths which of itself it would not even have suspected it could take. This circular relationship with the word of God leaves philosophy enriched, because reason discovers new and unsuspected horizons.
Here, the raised finger of indignation becomes clearly visible: credo, ut intellegam. A philosophy which would gnaw at faith and at its "secrets" is probibited. From a psychological point of view, this is quite an imprudent strategy, for that which is forbidden has always held a particular attraction. Moreover, the discrepancy between scientific laws and, for example, the "humane incarnation of a God" through the "birth by a birgiin" cannot be removed by a prohibition. It is impossible to ask of reason, on its very own playing field, as for example, in the clarification of the "essence of the relationships of existence" (in modern terms, "laws of nature"), to accept "secrets" instead. True transcendence is, from a phylogenetic point-of-view, always only conceivable at the very horizon of the area of competence of each capacity, but not within that capacity. (On an individual basis, this will play itself out differently each time, for only very few members of the human species will reach that very horizon and will, therefore, much sooner feel the need to "believe".)
The discrepancy between the "human" and the "divine light" of reason as well as between the individual "test of conscience" (Luther) and the dictated opinon of "Ecclesiastical Authority" which holds that it is allowed to force itself between "God and Individual", forces human beings to turn to using their own reasoning first (Kant).
[80.]The problem of moral evil - the most tragic of evil's forms - is also addressed in the Bible, which tells us that such evil stems not from any material deficiency, but is a wound inflicted by the disordered exercise of human freedom.
Here, Wojtyla is, in providing a basis for his "inalienable demands", adopting, of all sources, the thoughts of the first actual atheist, Spinoza. If we disregard the notion that the discussed "wound" is surely to be identified with the abstruse "original sin", "evil" as with Spinoza, is identified with the "disorder" of the actually "divine attributes". In his "ethics", this philosopher aimed at "re-establishing" this "right order" (without being abel to tell us where this "disorder", or evil, actually originates). The basic idea was, however, already outlined by Plato, who considered "justice" to be attainable by establishing the right correlation between desire, will and reason. He also represented this idea with this image: Where Kings are not also philosophers, justice will, necessarily, not prevail--which still holds true today. And since this is so, one should draw a conclusion that is the reverse of that of all believers and of all idealists: the concept of reason that this world is in any way directed towards "perfection" or "order", be that by means of an "incarnation of the son in the flesh", be it by means of the "right arrangement of attributes and modes", is simply wrong. Here, even Nietzsche is more right in stating that in a world of differences--and without such differences there would not be a world, in the first palce--that which is different has to necessarily collide. We cannot prevent these collisions ourselves, but rather only the modes in which these collisions occur, and precisely that is reason's task even still today. This concept also represents a contrast to Nietzsches erroneous consequence that arose from a correct basic idea: that those who are "far too many" should still be "pushed"...Jakob Burckhardt righfully commented that such an "un-ethic" is rightfully provoking.
This Encyclical Letter approaches us humans of today's period of the end of metaphysic of reason quasi from the past, from the former center of reason: its argumentation is, therefore, necessarily paradoxical: on the one hand, aderence to metahysic is described as inalienable, on the other hand it is stated that the transcencence of this individual point-of-view is wrong. It is correct that human beings have to adhere to the necessity of transcending, also in the shaping of the meaning of his own existence; it is wrong to try to undertake this my means of clinging to a redundant metaphysic; on its path to self-reflection, reason has claimed its own understanding of sanctity and of the numinous and has thus removed it from heaven, and that is good, for now what has remained for reason as its own is its ethics on the basis of essential equality, which is still prevalent in all philosophical concepts of the 20th century. What this reason has lost is its goal, by means of which it could discern for what end this "means" called ethics is actually "good". Relativism and scientism are making this (too) easy for Catholicism.
To say that human life has no meaning makes no sense.
First of all, such a contention only comes to the aid of an unsupportable and erroneous relativism, and, moreover, it contradicts the fact that the indivudal forms of life create their own meanings for themselves.
[81.] In consequence, the human spirit is often invaded by a kind of ambiguous thinking which leads it to an ever deepening introversion, locked within the confines of its own immanence without reference of any kind to the transcendent. A philosophy which no longer asks the question of the meaning of life would be in grave danger of reducing reason to merely accessory functions, with no real passion for the search for truth.
... This sapiential dimension is all the more necessary today, because the immense expansion of humanity's technical capability demands a renewed and sharpened sense of ultimate values. If this technology is not ordered to something greater than a merely utilitarian end, then it could soon prove inhuman and even become potential destroyer of the human race.
That relativism is wrong (and therefore unsupportable) can be ssen in the ethos of the (essential) equality of reason, which this actually constitutes and which prefers the "good" for all human beings above the "bad", based on the need of understanding and on that which is pleasant to emotion. Every human being knows, from comparison, that he preferes certain states of being and certain things over others. The "good" is the possibility of the self-realization of all in their uniqueness within the boundaries of the uniqueness of fellow humans and, with this, includes the aims and needs of understanding and of emotion (and does not exclude them!). From this arises the "hedonistic paradox", that an indvidual's stivings for the benefit of the self-realization of others lead to an elevation of his or her own possibilities. The more unique responsible individual action is developed, the fore freedom and communication will be avalable for each individual. This "good" of reason can, therefore, not be documented individually and by its content, but rather only functionally. However, this is, in the face of the real differences of individuals and of the necessary abstractionof reason towards the general above and beyond the individual (!) a mere 'foregone conclusion".
[88.] Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless. Critical epistemology has discredited such a claim, but now we see it revived in the new guise of scientism, which dismisses values as mere products of the emotions and rejects the notion of being in order to clear the way for pure and simple facticity.
In consideration of this, scientism which claims that it can "scientifically" determine for all human beings the individual and societal conditions of mankind and with this the only appropriate courses of action, is as unreasonable as relativistic patterns of thinking. Thus scientism would also, in its fixation on reason at a deliberate point in history, which, by virtue of that, would be implicitly declared to the absolute zenith of man's capability of realization, lead to stagnation that can be compared to that of the higher religions, and with this also to metaphysic--and this would then not even be derived fromt he primateship of faith, but out of the primateship of reason in its functional role as mediator.
The two requirements already stipulated imply a third: the need for a philosophy of genuinely metaphysical range, capable, that is, of transcending empirical data in order to attain something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for truth.
The striving for the "good" of reason is an evident matter of course of its own ethic on the basis of the essential equality of humans that has become apparent to it, does, however, not yet create an meaning, for, with this, nothing has been said yet about the direction of development. Each individual has to open up for him or herself his or her own direction in this respect, and that is precisely what constitutes transcendence. This situation is also reflected in biological and in cultural evolution; while the first develops undirected and only guided by circumstances, while it "involunvarily" adapts modes of behavior and information in additively and vertically above and beyond the respective precondition, the latter is in a position, in reflection, to set a direction for itself. There is, thus, no teleology within nature, but very much so within human existence. A lively and inner expression of this striving is the connection to the niminous ("religion") in the acceptance of this openness as a will to transcendence, while a functional expression of it was, at first, a creation of meaning in myths, in the establishment of world views of various forms of religion in their caterorial transition and finally in philosophy including the de-velopment of all of these metaphysical manifestations of human thought. What is paramount here is not the search for an absolute truth, but its constant transcending as cultural evolution, quite parallel to biological evolution.
In conclusion a word to those contentions of aggressive atheism respectively agnosticism which, mostly in the name of a "human pragmatism", are mainly engaged in arumenting against religion. On the one hand, behind this "humanum" is hiding a diffuse system of ethics of values of reason which is striving for the "good" without being able to declare what it bases its striving on and which puts man (and some animal species) into the center; in this, the dimention of meaning is concluded antithetically in referring to those who are allegedly responsible for the occurrence of inhumane actions in the world. With that, the metaphysical thinging of reason is identified, particularly in the forms of the higher religions. In this manner, one does, however, not really transcend conventional metaphysic, but rather one remains dialectiaclly attached to it. One is still striving for the same, out of functional reason, only in a "different manner".
Due to the fact that one has developed beyond that kind of metaphysic, one is also denying it to others without asking, however, as to whether those have also developed to the same stage. Even in such a mode of thinking a splitting is still pevalent, and that going out from immanence, instead of incorporating the metaphysical into it< as a necessary product of that reason, which, without this "transcending" into the metaphysical, was not attainable in the first place. Not without reason one can mostly find idealists engaged in this who then display a quite considerable measure of aggression; very often, these fighters will be former theologians who now want to radically oppose their former beliefs. This kind of antithetical behavior cannot be considered as a state of having overcome one's problems, while this stage is still necessary as a preliminary stage on the way to transcendence; with this, one demonstrated that one has, in one's thinking, not grown beyond the age of enlightenment, but that one still fits the ontogenetic "bill" of this phylogenetic type which is as much "history" today as the believer.
What is needed today is something quite different, but not necessarily a "philosphari in Maria" which still even mystified a Goethe into contenting that the "eternally feminine" is supposedly leading us onward. Only out of the union of man and woman in equal love will a new child emerge, and only in the fruitful communication of thesis and antithesis in equal relatedness will, in the transcendence of reason become apparent something new in ethic and in metaphysic, in quite a similar manner as those overtook the mroals and the myths of the stage of development of undertanding.
With this Encyclical Letter, Wojtyla seems to me to have made a contribution in this direction, a contribution that goes to the boundary of that which is possible to this mode of thinking without giving itself up. Compared to this, his antithetic opponents still have quite a way ahead of themselves..
You are . visitor since 25.11.1998.