November 1, 2011 7 Comments
For Aristotle, the starting point of Wisdom, or philosophy, was metaphysics. Modernity has more or less rejected metaphysics in its quest for self-destruction. But metaphysics will never go away, because metaphysics is reality itself – the study of the totality of what is. Metaphysics is the starting point in terms of actual foundations of knowledge and presupposition, yet comes at the end of the process of pedagogy, as it is the highest science. Nowadays, aside from some continental philosophers who follow in the train of genius writers like Husserl, theoria and metaphysics have been jettisoned for pragmatism, post-modernism and other forms of nonsense that Ayn Rand aptly describes as the self-destruction of philosophy. There is a long train of contributors to this gradual decline.
Unfortunately, certain basic flaws in Aristotle’s own position led to the decline, particularly his adoption of empiricism. Aristotle cut the world off from the possibility of any other world or reality or dimension, and while it took a millennia or two, this ultimately resulted in materialism, positivism and then, the tossing out of all meaning and purpose. In fact, that last notion was crucial for early moderns like Bacon who did have legitimate scruples with Aristotle. Aristotle had adopted several ideas about the natural world from tradition, such as that the heavens are perfectly unchanged, static realities, or that rocks have an essential quality of “going downward.” Bacon rightly laughed at this, but Bacon didn’t foresee that tossing out Aristotle’s final cause, or telos, would result in the total collapse of philosophy.
The place of Thomas Aquinas can also not be forgotten in this chain. Aquinas followed suit with an Aristotelian-Platonic synthesis (so he thought), which placed human reasoning on an independent basis that never touched the divine, since the absolutely simple divine essence, within which the divine archetypes upon which even “natural” reasoning was based, were never accessed by the mind of man in this life. He held this because of his idea of simplicity, which was such that the divinity, which is also the ground of human knowledge, never interacts with or connects to the abstracted phantasms in man’s mind, since the exemplars themselves are “in the divine essence” is a “First Cause” that is always only able to “reveal” itself by created effects in this life. Bacon departed from these ideas, and turned to a more consistent (so he thought) empiricism. Read more of this post