Monday, August 25, 2008

Thomistic Misinterpretations

“However it may be with Cajetan, and Gilson has not turned up anything he regards as incriminating, it is Gilson’s understanding of Thomas’s teaching on the soul that surprises. Speaking of death and the ‘passing away’ of the body, Gilson writes,

‘Yes, indeed, the ‘body’ passes away, but the very matter of that
body does not pass away, because, as a first principle, matter is both simple
and incorruptible. And for the very same reason, the soul of the body does not
pass away, because inasmuch as it is a spiritual substance, it also is both
simple and incorruptible. This is the very reason why, in Thomas Aquinas’
philosophy, the immortality of the human soul is an immediate evidence. It
stands in no need of being proven.’

A more completely false statement about what Thomas Aquinas teaches can scarcely be imagined, but it is most revealing as an indication of what Gilsonian existentialism leads him into. What would have to be proven, he proclaims, is that the human soul is not immortal. Why does he say this? Because the human soul is a subsisting form and is in its own right. But that of course is the conclusion of the proof for the soul’s immortality. It is cause for wonderment that someone who attributes such extraordinary and manifestly false doctrines to Thomas Aquinas should have sat in such severe judgment on Cardinal Cajetan. All Cajetan is guilty of is saying and explaining what Thomas Aquinas actually thought, whereas it is Gilson who fails to get the meaning of the text and ends by fabricating a Thomism that cannot be found in Thomas Aquinas.”

-Ralph McInerny in Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosphers.

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