Faith And Reason At A Catholic Academic Institution

This is an excerpt from a talk I delivered a couple of years ago to the faculty at the Catholic High School where I currently teach.

Ladies and gentlemen, skinny and stout,
I’ll tell you a tale I know nothing about;
The Admission is free, so pay at the door,
Now pull up a chair and sit on the floor.

One fine day in the middle of the night,
Two dead boys got up to fight;
Back to back they faced each other,
Drew their swords and shot each other.

A blind man came to watch fair play,
A mute man came to shout “Horray!”
A deaf policeman heard the noise and
Came and killed those two dead boys.

He lived on the corner in the middle of the block,
In a two-story house on a vacant lot;
A man with no legs came walking by,
and kicked the lawman in his thigh.

He crashed through a wall without making a sound,
into a dry creek bed and suddenly drowned;
The long black hearse came to cart him away,
But he ran for his life and is still gone today.

I watched from the corner of the big round table,
The only eyewitness to facts of my fable;
But if you doubt my lies are true,
Just ask the blind man, he saw it too.

Presently, there is a lot of talk that faith is opposed to reason, relegated to the realm of private opinion or feelings; in fact, some will even claim that faith seems to destroy reason insofar as it requires the suspension of a sort of logical thinking process.  As far as this opinion is concerned, a person who is both reasonable and faithful is like the poem I just read: comical, contradictory, and absurd!

On the other hand, there are those who are very suspicious of reason.  In fact, some seem to think that reason can do nothing for the truth seeker; instead, it is only faith that can find truth, and it can do it without the help of reason.  For these truth seekers, reason cannot possibly know what is, but only what is not.

Blaise Pascal once said that there are two great errors:  To admit all things except reason, and to admit only reason.  The Catholic position is not one of either or; rather, it is one of both and.  That therefore, for the Catholic, it is both grace and nature which is combined for the graced nature; not reason or faith, but reason illumined by faith; neither is the law and the Gospel separate but that the Gospel inspires the law.

In his 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and reason), the Blessed John Paul II called attention to the importance of understanding the relationship between faith and reason in humanity’s quest for the Truth of God.  From the onset, the late pontiff illustrates faith and reason as “the two wings upon which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”  In this relationship, reason helps prepare the mind for faith by showing that the content of Christian faith is wholly compatible with good, clear thinking; and then, once one embraces the gift of faith, reason serves faith yet again by allowing faith to ask good questions, and develop good answers, about anything and everything in life – from the existence of God to the problem of evil to the belief in the resurrection of the body.  As the late Avery Cardinal Dulles puts it, “just as faith seeks understanding, so, conversely, understanding seeks faith.”

John Paul II stresses the importance of reason when he quotes from Sacred Scripture, from Sirach 14:20-27.  The Scriptural quote praises one who pursues wisdom just as a hunter pursues his prey; that he shall do all he can to reach her.  Such an image enlivens the importance and value of reason.  However, one must be careful not to over-value reason at the cost and demise of faith, for it is only with faith that reason would find the truth it seeks.  Faith, when it intervenes with reason, does not diminish it at all; rather, it fulfills what reason lacks so the truth seeker can have a better gaze upon the Living God.  Not only are both faith and reason necessary to one another, but they exist in harmony since the lack of one would mean the incompleteness of the other.  Faith needs reason to be able to understand its object of knowledge and reason knows that it could not do without what faith has gives it.  As such, faith does not hide from reason out of fear; rather, it seeks and places its trust upon it.  Accordingly, reason’s autonomy is not abolished by faith’s intervention, but only so that the truth seeker knows that it is the God of Israel, the Ever Living God, that acts.

Faith, therefore, while distinct from reason, is not opposed to it—faith not only builds upon reason, but purifies and perfects it.  Accordingly, faith’s relationship with reason is not simply accidental or arbitrarily argued by those who affirm it; rather, this relationship arises from an inner unity and connectedness between the two.  In other words, faith and reason are two sides of the same coin, and each needs the other, and is incomplete when the other is not present.  This is especially evident, as John Paul II argues, inasmuch as faith not only relies on reason, but also humbles reason.  God’s revelation, found in the Bible and the Church’s Tradition, clarifies truths that sinful human reason has great difficulty coming to (like the truth that all human beings possess equal, God-given dignity); or God’s revelation makes known truths we could never have known (like the truth of God’s nature as Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  Conversely, reason helps faith to both better comprehend and express its tenets.

These words sound great in theory, but can it be carried out in practice?  How do we, as a Catholic institution, and in our various disciplines reflect this proper understanding of the relationship between faith and reason?  Is it only within the scientific community, properly speaking, that the word “reason” is here applied to or is it to other disciplines as well?  In other words, how can I teach Mathematics, Literature, History, Art and so forth with this understanding of the relationship between faith and reason?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I can give you a few ideas that I’ve thought about when reflecting on them.

First, we have to understand that reason generally is understood as referring to the principles for a methodological inquiry, whether intellectual, moral, aesthetic, or religious.  Thus, every academic discipline is a work of reason simply because every academic discipline has its own method which seeks a certain kind of truth.  For instance, the scientific discipline seeks the truths of reality in its various sub-disciplines by various methods (like carbon dating for archaeology, or DNA sampling in forensic science), while the discipline of the arts also seek truth with its own methods in its own various sub-disciplines (like historical research for art history, or critical reflection for a philosophy of beauty).

Given that reason is not simply restricted to the sciences, but also applies to all other disciplines, it is crucial to realize therefore that all academic disciplines, insofar as they seek truth, work in concert with faith, and not against it.  What this simply means is that faith in a Catholic school is not only not opposed to other academic disciplines, but influences the way we reason, the way we see the world; and even gives us a window into the God that designed the very subject of every discipline!  It is like what C.S. Lewis once wrote:  “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”  Lewis’ assertion echoes another saying by 11th Century Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Anselm: “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”  In other words, we, as Christian instructors, work with a very fundamental first principle:  God exists, and has created physical and moral laws that govern the universe and human life.  Theology’s job is to seek greater understanding of the intent of the Designer who created all things, while all other disciplines quest for a greater understanding of the design, so as to live in harmony with God’s will.

Often, though, it is our inclination to be like Rene Descartes; to first doubt everything in order to try to discover the truth.  Especially as instructors, we try to teach our students that they need to find knowledge through the process of critical evaluation.  I know that all of us here who teach believe that there is much in our discipline which is more than opinion, that we would say is an established truth in our field; even though we would always add that all knowledge can always deepen and grow.  Scientists would not admit that geocentrism is still a viable option for enplaning planetary motion – we present to our students established truths as, well, true.  In a Catholic school, we also believe, as Catholics, that there are established truths of our faith that Catholics do not say are open for debate.  They are absolutely open for rational inquiry, discussion and exploration, which is what apologetics is all about, but as established truths they are not open to doubt and denial from a faith perspective.  Students are free to doubt them, but as representatives of the Catholic worldview, teachers present established truths of faith as truth.

The joint operations of faith and reason, however, are not “self-directed” or “self-assembling.”  Only by means of an intentional, personal, and corporate communication of the results of their mutual inquiries will their respective truth claims ultimately cohere, rather than clash.  In other words, any Christian instructor must work with a sense of wonder of the goodness of creation, a theme Dr. Neal touched earlier on in the year, so that the pupils recognize the coherence and intelligibility within creation.  For instance, mathematics’ quest for intelligibility within the created order is made complete by its prior recognition of an orderly design to the universe.  As Stephen Hawkins once said, “if there is a God, his language is math.

We inhabit this place because we, the purveyors of knowledge, have found wisdom, and hopefully still hunger and thirst for more.  We want the information we acquire to be transformed into wisdom, to be in the service of the truth of our school’s Catholic faith.

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Atheism And Freethought

This past Saturday, our family went to the downtown farmers market for a stroll and some good food.  I stumbled upon a stand set up with a big banner that reads: Don’t believe in God?  You’re not alone!  Of course, being the curious person that I am, I went to the stand to retrieve some literature that was there for the taking.

I found three common things present within all of these pamphlets: 1. The word “religion” is used interchangeably with Christianity; 2. There is a promotion of freethought; and 3. Atheism is about being anti-religion (anti-Christianity).

I’m not going to generalize the host of atheists as holding these three positions, but in my own experience this seems to be the case and this group’s pamphlets solidify that judgment.  While I do not agree with 1 and 3, I still understand them since they’re straightforward.  With 2, however, I don’t really know what freethought really means.  Does it mean that the freedom to think ultimately leads one to atheism since one is freed of the enslavement of the hierarchical Church?  If such is the case, I can name plenty of people who are free in thought and yet are faithful Christians (cf. Francis Collins, Stephen Barr, Peter Kreeft, etc.)  Perhaps freethought here means thought that is more scientifically inclined, free of theologically biased convictions.  If that is the case, Robert Jastrow‘s quote comes to mind:

For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Happy Tuesday!

Freewill And God’s Co-Causation Part III

Having established that God is the cause that holds the rational agent in existence, it is now necessary to see to it that God’s causing and co-causation insofar as He is the Prime Creator of the will does not necessitate His determination of the will.  The will is moved by an intrinsic principle belonging to the agent, viz. the intellect.[1]  This movement of the intellect towards truth and goodness directs the will because the will aims at goodness.  But the will cannot be said of as being moved by the agent if it is moved by God.  Therefore it is necessary to conclude that the will is moved by the agent and not by God:

As Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv) “it belongs to Divine providence, not to destroy but to preserve the nature of things.” Wherefore it moves all things in accordance with their conditions; so that from necessary causes through the Divine motion, effects follow of necessity; but from contingent causes, effects follow contingently. Since, therefore, the will is an active principle, not determinate to one thing, but having an indifferent relation to many things, God so moves it, that He does not determine it of necessity to one thing, but its movement remains contingent and not necessary, except in those things to which it is moved naturally.[2]

The human will is free insofar as every act that the human person wills is a voluntary act—even acts that are under coercion.  Aquinas argues that there are two types of acts: the voluntary and the involuntary.[3]  Acts which are involuntary are intrinsic to the thing itself but are not willed by the agent since there is a lack of recognition of the good as object of the will (be this rational or irrational).[4]  On the other hand, the willing of an act is voluntary since the agent recognizes the good as known.[5]  In the human agent, the good as known directs the action voluntarily.  But voluntary does not entail freedom, for, as Aquinas notes, freedom is the object of the will and can only be understood in light of reason.

It is necessary here to consider an objection to the nature of the will as I have proposed here.  If, as argued above, the will is free and necessitated by a natural telos (end) to the Good as the intellect apprehends it, then it would mean that the will is not free to act insofar as it must act towards the ultimate Good in the face of the ultimate Good.  In this way the will, while arguably freed from the coercion of God’s will, is still necessitated by its natural inclination.  And if such a position is true then we must consider that in God’s creation of the will and its telos as such entails that God acts in the will immediately, thus negating its freedom.

The objection seems reasonable at first glance, but is invalidated at closer considerations of the objective and subjective dimensions of the will.  Aquinas writes in his reply to the seventh objection in question six in De Malo:

An active principle moves necessarily only when it overcomes the power of the passive principle.  But since the will is in potency to the good universally, no good overcomes the power of the will as necessarily moving it, except that which is good according to every consideration, and this is the perfect or complete good alone, i.e., happiness, which the will cannot will, that is, in such a way that it will the opposite; nevertheless the will can actually not will happiness because the will can turn away, i.e., avoid thinking about happiness inasmuch as the will moves the intellect to its act, and to this extent neither does the will necessarily will happiness itself, just as a person would not necessarily become warm if he could repel heat from himself when he willed.[6]

The distinction made here, and what Aquinas points to, is the particularity of the goods of the soul.  Where the objective aspect of voluntary act is the reality of the good toward which the desire of the will is inclined, the subjective dimension is the possession of such reality.  As Aquinas writes, the will is directed towards a universal good, but such goods are participations and consequently are particular.  As such, the reflective power of the intellect on the good [as particular] allows for the will to reconsider even the perfect good.

Another consideration of the freedom of the will as being caused by God only in the manner that he is the immediate cause of the agent’s being arises from the argument of evil actions.  According to Aquinas, the will is the faculty of love and desire which acts directly at the apprehension of the intellect.  The intellect, however, may at times mistake a non-good as a good.[7]  The apprehension which belongs internally to the agent is itself auto-causing, thus it is not God which is the source of this mistake.  Further, God cannot be said of as sinning for “someone is the cause of sin in two ways: in one way because he himself sins, in another way because he causes another to sin.  Neither of which can belong to God.”[8]  In the first way, God cannot be said as sinning because of the attribution of His nature free from the defect which sin requires for its existence.[9]  In the second way God cannot cause other to sin since sin is essentially the turning away from the calling to the ultimate end which is all-good.  Yet, God is the very End towards which the will is called.  Therefore, it violates the law of noncontradiction that one is both the cause of goodness and sin at the same time.

Conclusively, it seems that while human actions have as their authors both God and the human subject, the human subject acts freely.  From what has been said in the past three posts, God is said as the cause of human acts only insofar as He is the reason for the human author’s existence at any given time—contrary to Durandus’ objection.  As the cause and the One to keep the human agent’s being in existence, God is attributed with the human act, but this does not mean that he himself is the actor.  For one can speak of co-causality in two ways.  In the first, co-causation can be said of as two actors causing a certain effect in which without either one of the actors the effect cannot take place.  For example, let us consider two men who are carrying a casket.  The two are co-causes in the effect of the casket being moved, and without either one, the casket cannot move in the same way as it is moving when the two are carrying it.  In the second way, co-causation can happen in the sense that one’s being is dependent upon the other directly and simultaneously that any act one does is attributed to the other as well.  Consider for example an imperfect analogy of a human agent and a machine that is necessary to keep him living.  We can attribute the human agent’s actions to the machine only insofar as without the machine the person would cease to live and therefore no actions are possible.  Yet the human person’s actions are not dictated by the machine, but by the person himself.  It is in this latter sense that God is said as an immediate cause in human actions for it is He whom the human person is dependent on for his existence at any given time.


[1] Summa Theologiae, II, 1, 9, a1, Corpus

[2] Summa Theologiae, II, 1, 10, a4, Corpus

[3] Summa Theologiae, II, 2, 6, a1, Corpus

[4] Ibid. if a thing has no knowledge of the end, even though it have an intrinsic principle of action or movement, nevertheless the principle of acting or being moved for an end is not in that thing, but in something else, by which the principle of its action towards an end is not in that thing, but in something else, by which the principle of its action towards an end is imprinted on it.

[5] Ibid. But those things which have a knowledge of the end are said to move themselves because there is in them a principle by which they not only act but also act for an end. And consequently, since both are from an intrinsic principle, to wit, that they act and that they act for an end, the movements of such things are said to be voluntary: for the word “voluntary” implies that their movements and acts are from their own inclination.

[6] De Malo, 244

[7] This is evident in Aquinas noting that evil does not have a per se cause since no one aims at committing evil.

[8] De Malo, 104

[9] The existence of sin is not ontological per se but is only in contrast to the lack of goodness in the action itself or is an accidental effect of the action.

Freewill And God’s Co-Causation Part II

In the last post, I opened up a reflection regarding an agent’s freewill and the question of whether or not an agent’s action is fully and completely free given that God exists in the agent most intimately and therefore ought to be said as being a co-actor in any given action.  In this post, I would like to briefly examine what it means to say freedom and what is the nature of the will.

In my opinion, St. Augustine’s definition of freedom which is presented by Thomas Williams in Williams’ translation of On Free Choice of the Will is sufficient for the current reflection.  As regards to the will, I will present Aquinas’ position since I also think that his understanding of the will is excellent and quite sufficient.

Augustine argues that freedom can be understood in many different senses.  The three categories in which he places these different senses of freedom are physical, metaphysical, and autonomous.[1]  Physical freedom “involves the absent of restraints.”[2]  In other words, physical freedom is the freedom which allows the subject to act with nothing to hinder his actions.  On the other hand, metaphysical freedom is “the freedom to choose in a way that is not determined by anything outside my control.”[3]  The third type of freedom is autonomy.  Williams point out that for Augustine freedom of autonomy is the freedom that the subject has over himself without someone directing him to act as such; it is the freedom perceived as “I am my own boss.”  These three understandings of freedom together make up the synthesized understanding of freedom when we approach the will.  It should also be noted that this is the understanding and definition of freedom which is considered when freedom is mentioned in the rest of this reflection and its series.

With regards to the will, Aquinas defines it as a rational appetite and therefore requires reason for its operation.[4]  Aquinas notes that the will is moved by both the rational agent and also God.  Natural things have natural tendencies which are moved without judgment, e.g. a rock always moves downward.  Yet there are also things which act with judgment but also necessitated by a natural tendency, e.g., a deer will run as soon as it sees a tiger.  There is a third type of action which is free of natural necessities and uses judgment of the intellect; this is what Aquinas calls the will.  He argues that the will, because it is a power belonging to the rational appetite caused by God, is caused therefore by Him.[5]  Concomitantly, the will can also be argued as being caused by God because of its teleological tendency towards the Good as instilled by God.[6]

[1] Augustine (Williams) XI

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Summa Theologiae, II, 2, 6, a2, rep. obj. 1

[5] Summa Theologiae, II, 1, 9, a6, Corpus; note, however, that the will is caused by God does not mean that He is its immediate mover.

[6] Ibid.

 

Freewill And God’s Co-Causation Part I

A question came up the other day in class about the nature of morality, consequences, and responsibility.  A student asserted that we are guided by divine providence and in that sense seem to be predetermined to certain actions.  Our conversation led to an interesting observation: if God is in all of us, then is He not also the cause of our actions?  In these next blog posts, I want to see if I could come to an answer for this question.

First I think it is helpful to note that in order for an act to be subjected to moral scrutiny and judgment, it must necessarily be free.  In other words, actions of a moral kind cannot be condemned or commended if they are performed under coercion or out of ignorance.  The drunken man’s murdering action is of a less degree of seriousness—less because drunkenness does not alleviate the ignorance and the decision to get drunk in the first place—than that of a man who murdered purposefully and with premeditated contemplation.  Yet, what our original question seems to indicate is that all human actions have as its author two causes: the human subject and God.  From what I know, several positions exist in coming to answer this question..  Among these different positions are the theological determinists/compatibilists and their counterpart, the theological incompatibilists.  I find the theological incompatibilists’ position quite attractive.

I think it is worthwhile to note that the problem we’re trying to work through seems to suggest that God is the immediate cause of all actions of creatures because it has been said that God is in the creature most intimately.  Aquinas holds that God is in all things most intimately since He is their Cause of existence.  Aquinas does make the careful distinction that God is not in creatures and things as part of their substance or accidents; rather, God is in creatures as the agent which holds them in existence and therefore is in them most intimately.[1]

If Aquinas is indeed correct in his argument that God is in every creature intimately and is therefore the cause of their actions, then would this not take away from the freedom of rational creatures who thinks they are acting freely?  This would also mean that if God is the cause of all the of the creature’s movements then the creature is passive in the action itself and thus to speak of morality is absurd.   The question and criticism must not go unnoticed since it also denies free will on the part of the rational agent in that all actions are cause by God.  If the criticism is indeed correct then any discussion at all about the merits and morality of the rational creature’s actions is superfluous and meaningless.

This problem is considered by Durandus de Saint Pourcain.  Durandus argues that God is the immediate cause of every action of the creature but that this does not take away from the freedom of the creature at all.  Durandus first considers the argument that God is the immediate cause for an action because he is the cause of being.  Durandus lays out the objection as such: if God is the cause of being of a creature and the actions which flow from the creature flows from its very being, then it logically follows that God is the immediate cause of such actions.[2]  However, as Durandus is quick to point out, this conclusion is false in that it concludes on a faulty assumption.  To say that God is the cause of the being does not entail necessarily that actions by that being are caused by God.  Yet, as we shall see, Durandus’ conclusion based on this objection is also problematic.

Was Jesus Merely A Good Man?

I’m teaching several World Religions sections at the moment, and it is always interesting to me that students have a tendency to agree with other religious traditions when they assert that Jesus was merely a good man (perhaps an avatar, cf. Hinduism) or a prophet (cf. Islam), but he was not truly a divine person Himself.  I often have to explain why these positions are problematic given what we know about Christ and what is recorded of his words.

I fall back to C.S. Lewis’ argument on the trilemma of Christ as presented by Stephen Davis.    This is the question of the trilemma: Was Jesus a morally corrupted human being, an insane person, or God?  David proposes a logical form the argument:

(1) Jesus claimed, either explicitly or implicitly, to be divine.
(2) Jesus was either right or wrong in claiming to be divine.
(3) If Jesus was wrong in claiming to be divine, Jesus was either mad or bad.
(4) Jesus was not bad.
(5) Jesus was not mad.
(6) Therefore, Jesus was not wrong in claiming to be divine.
(7) Therefore Jesus was right in claiming to be divine.
(8) Therefore, Jesus was divine.

As laid out by Davis, the seven premises the argument lead to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed divine—given that one affirms premises (3), (4) and (5) of his argument.  Davis realizes this, but argues that these premises should be accepted (and are commonly accepted) since a plausible case can be made for their truth.  Davis then proceeds to defend premise (1) which he believes is the one most vulnerable to criticism.  I think Davis is right here and I think he did a brilliant job of defending the premise, but his failure to dive deeper into premises (3), (4), and (5) is a bit disappointing (though I do not know the limit and scope of his project).

The reader can read Davis’ own paper for his full argument, but here I want to note that given what is argued, it is unreasonable to insist that Jesus was a wonderful moral teacher but was not God.  If we are to accept the words of Christ as profoundly true and wise beyond human understanding, then we must come to admit that Jesus is God.

Overall, however, I think the trilemma argument is quite effective to demonstrate the rationality of belief in the incarnation of Jesus.  Not only so, but it forces reflection for people who admits “I don’t believe Jesus is God, but I think he’s a great moral teacher.”  As the argument suggests, Jesus was either crazy, lying, or divine; one cannot affirm a function of the person whilst ignoring the belief the person holds of himself and the very person from which the functions proceed.  While the argument is seemingly at best probable, it nevertheless is something to ponder since, like the ontological argument by St. Anselm, there is much more to it than meets the eye.

Beyond Science

I insist that in general there are two categories of truth: subjective or objective.  Subjective truth is not necessarily true universally such as when someone insists that for them it is true that God exists: “I believe that God exists.”  On the other hand, objective truth is something that is universally true regardless of personal belief, e.g. “God exists.”  There are different methods to validate the veracity of these truths, but modernity has seemingly eliminated all other methods as hokum, opting instead for a purely scientific methodological approach.  The scientific method to validating truth is useful but cannot be said as the sole method.  In other words, to insist that things are only true if they are scientifically verifiable is absurd.

There are two reasons that make the demand for all truths to be subjected to scientific investigations absurd.  The first arises from the competence of the discipline of science and its object of study.  Scientific data are those which are observable in the physical universe (observational access may require some use of technological apparatus) in some controlled environment.  However, there are things that science cannot study, viz. things that are immaterial.  Consider for one moment the concept of God.  According to our understanding, God, by definition, is perfect, immutable, and therefore must be immaterial since to be material is to be subjected to potency—to potentially to become more or less perfect—and therefore God cannot exist in a physical form.  Because God does not exist in a physical form, it cannot be demanded that He subjects Himself to empirical verification since the demand for a non-empirical entity to subject itself to empirical verification is a self-contradictory demand.  The belief that something exists outside a system cannot be disproved by observing the behavior of that system.  Just as a fish would not be able to disprove its human owner’s existence by observing the waves and lighting of the tank, humans cannot disprove of God’s existence simply because we cannot observe him with even our most powerful and complex apparatus.

The second reason arises from a logical inconsistency in the demand itself.  The demand that all truths be verified by scientific investigations holds in itself an implied truth, namely that the only truths that can be said to be true are those which science has verified as such.  In other words, the demand holds that any truth must be scientifically verifiable.  Yet, the truth of the demand—that all things are true if they are scientifically provable—is not scientifically provable.  This is to say that the physical sciences cannot prove that the only acceptable truths are those that have undergone scientific investigations.  Such a truth, if it exists at all, is a priori and is presupposed.  Yet, such an a priori truth belongs mainly and essentially to the philosophical discipline and not the scientific discipline.

Since truth is beyond empirical verification, it is therefore abstract and categorical in being.  Truth is categorical in this sense insofar as it can be labeled as ontological or logical, i.e. that which exists extramentally or only in the mind.[1]  Yet, these truths are nevertheless alike in some sense because they have some sort of “being.”  Being-as-such is being considered in its totality and in general—it is being qua being.  When the mind grasps a thing or concept—either that which has actual existence or that which has existence only in the mind—being is grasped as both limited and unlimited.  It is grasped as limited in the thing or concept which the mind conceives and apprehends, but being is grasped also as unlimited as the horizon against which the limited being is placed in contrast (this is a Rahnerian concept understood by his supernatural existential).  Such apprehension of the truth of being can only be approached with a science which moves beyond mere empirical considerations and mere rational considerations.  Therefore, this apprehension must come from a science which considers that very first act of a thing, i.e. its existence, in order to place it in context of the totality of the real.  Such a science is called the science of metaphysics, and, if we are to have a clear understanding of the unlimited horizon of being against which limited being is in contrast, we need to know what being is and the modes in which being is known.  We need, therefore, to turn to metaphysics for help in apprehending the nature and intelligibility of being.

In short, our Catholic faith does not reject the invaluable aid that the sciences provide in coming to know truths, but it does realize that the sciences is one among the many methods of doing so.


[1] Ontological truths encompass empirical truths including those which the scientific discipline provides, but it does not limit itself to simply that since ontological truths move beyond the empirical to the immaterial, e.g. the human soul, angels, and God.