New National Journal – Neoscholasticism and Neotomism

by Vito Sibilio

The great historical parable of Scholastica was the medieval one, in the colorful expression of its tendencies of thought and its succession of theoretical addresses, of which we have already spoken a lot. The influence it exerted on the Christian world for centuries was so great that, in the time of the Counter-Reformation, when there was a need to rebuild a Catholic philosophical and theological thought, it was linked to its methodological and substantive tradition. . , which favors the Thomistic lesson, although adequately reinterpreted. Having, as we have seen, exhausted the life-blood of this Second Scholastica, with less vitality, but so much consistency in the preservation of method, the Christianity of the 18th century even founded a third, which was also a played an important role in the religious culture of his time, in an effort to contrast – not very successfully – with rationalist philosophy. Now, in the late 19th century, faced with a truly impressive secularizing current, the scholastic tradition is reborn again, with a movement in which the spontaneity of certain intellectuals and the impulse of the papacy converge. In this New Scholastic or Neo-Scholastic, which entered the 20th century has passed, of which it was an important philosophical current and certainly the greatest of the Christian ones, we identify above all, but not exclusively, a combative and fierce neo-Thomism – in which even those who write by education belong in culture – that was the reference address of the great Catholic thinkers of the last century and which more than anyone else before could rediscover the true meaning of Aquinas’s thought.

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Empire had abolished the support structures of the Third Scholastica, that is the great ecclesiastical schools, further after the royal jurisdiction, which first dealt a heavy blow to that school of thought by Pope’s oppression has. great cultivator, i.e. the Society of Jesus. The material crisis of 18th century scholasticism had become a formal crisis and for most the scholastic spirit seemed to be outdated due to its objectivism and lack of historical sense. This was especially the case in Germany, where the influence of idealistic subjectivism and historicism was most striking. Some, however, never lost the awareness that scholasticism was not only a historical form of Christian thought, but a vital and therefore ever-present manifestation of the tradition and it was they who took it up and revitalized it. It was mainly Italian and Jesuit thinkers who spoke out against the philosophical errors of the time, as well as to support theology with it. For them, Christian philosophy can only be revived by returning to the tradition of Catholic thought expressed in the thirteenth century. In addition, these authors always consider philosophy as a secondary function for theology, emphasize it to the Magisterium and therefore identify it with a perennial form, which in the end will emerge especially the Thomist. In addition, the neo-scholastic thinkers want to bypass the modern thinking, son of Protestantism and therefore useless and harmful for the church itself, through their new discovery. Finally, they considered human nature only in the light of the salvation offered by grace and therefore they needed a system of thought conceived in this way. For all these reasons, the Italian thinkers we mentioned could and wanted to give birth to Neoscolastica. It is radically anti-modern and exquisitely 19th century, as in the 19th century it expresses, with thinkers absolutely different from Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the rejection and criticism of the pillars of modernity, which in the end will help to overturn . It had the great historical merit to conceptually separate philosophy and theology as faith and reason; it claimed the exclusive competence of both, while subordinating the second to the first; he knew how to maintain a mature balance between the temptations of rationalism and fideism, of the Enlightenment and traditionalism, of positivism and agnosticism; but above all it provided fundamental support to the papal magisterium, allowing it to express itself in a way appropriate to the time in which it was to take place, through the use of consolidated, valid and efficient categories of thought, from Vatican I until Vatican II.


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