Topica, Number 1, September 2001
This is the first issue of a special series of Universitas each of which is to be dedicated to the examination of one theme of particular interest to students of Thomism today. This series of single topic issues will be separate from the regular issues of Universitas. The first topic chosen is that of Transcendental Thomism. This is the name given to a new school of thought drawing upon elements of modern thinking stemming from Kant, but claiming to remain true to the principles of St. Thomas. Its origin dates from the publication in the 1920's of Joseph Marechal's "Le Point de depart de la metaphysique".
This new philosophical approach has risen to prominence in Catholic intellectual circles in recent times and some even see it as the dominant school of Catholic thought today. Its influence is particularly notable in contemporary discussion of theological questions. Two well-known and highly influential Catholic theologians whose names are associated with it are Karl Rahner and Bernard Lonergan.
However, when Marechal's ideas were first published, Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, probably the two most famous Catholic thinkers of the last century were quick to criticise the approach taken and neither believed that it could be reconciled with a genuine Thomism. [In recent days a special study has been published of Maritain's views in this regard, in a book by Ronald McCamy entitled: "Out of a Kantian Chrysalis". (see review by John Ziegler in issue No. 9 of Universitas)].
Such criticism, however, seems not to have had any effect upon Marechal's reputation as a Thomist. Indeed, if anything, in the academic world of Catholic intellectualism, the influence of his work, going now under the name of Transcendental Thomism, has increased whilst that of Maritain and Gilson has diminished. It is perhaps significant, however, that these latter are the ones who are accorded special commendation in the recent encyclical Fides et Ratio.
As may be noted from the articles in this special issue, our position is aligned rather with theirs than with that of the trancendental thomists. This may be seen by some as out of step with present trends, as evidenced in some Catholic intellectual circles, but it is good to remember that gloria mundi is not necessarily a good test of permanent value.
Don Boland is a lecturer at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted September 2001. It was published in Topica, No. 1 (2001).
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