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Re: [thomism] Re: John Paul II on the anthropological turn in philosophy

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  • alex.vallet@laposte.net
    Dear Anthony, James and other members of the list, Being a layman in philosophy, I just would like to add a point: it seems to me that the philosophy of
    Message 1 of 36 , Feb 1, 2008
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      Dear Anthony, James and other members of the list,


      Being a layman in philosophy, I just would like to add a point: it seems to me that the philosophy of Descartes is considered as the "root" or responsible for the anthropological turn not so much because of the novelty of the argument but rather because of its impact from the receiver side. As James pointed out, Descartes and not Augustine is referred to when dealing with the subject of the foundation of modern philosophy. Augustine's argument was simply not received by his fellow philosophers. But Descartes' one, even very similar, produced a much stronger reaction in the philosophical society and is thereafter considered as the "trigger".


      Best regards, Alexandre 

      > Message du 31/01/08 16:20
      > De : "Anthony Crifasi"
      > A : thomism@yahoogroups.com
      > Copie à :
      > Objet : Re: [thomism] Re: John Paul II on the anthropological turn in philosophy

      > jamesmiguez wrote:
      > > > "I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In
      > > > respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the
      > > > Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I
      > > > am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this
      > > > same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in
      > > > believing that I am? for it is certain that I am if I am deceived.
      > > > Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were
      > > > deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am."
      > > > (City of God XI.26)
      > > >
      > > > and this:
      > > >
      > > > "...I know most certainly that I exist and know and love.
      > >
      > > Dear Anthony,
      > >
      > > Notice that Augustine does not keep to a rigid "I think, therefore I am"
      > > starting point. He includes the certainty that he knows that he exists,
      > > knows, and loves. He is no abstract dualistic substance centered upon
      > > thought, but a real, alive person who exists, knows and loves.
      > Descartes is very clear that when he says "I think," he means ANY
      > conscious experience whatsoever:
      > "But what, then, am I? A thinking thing, it has been said. But what is a
      > thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, conceives,
      > affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives."
      > (Meditation II)
      > So Descartes and Augustine do not differ in that regard.
      > > > So I disagree with the former pope in his philosophical assessment of
      > > > Descartes. If it were Descartes' cogito that was the basis for the
      > > > anthropological turn, then that turn should have occurred 1000 years
      > > > earlier. But it didn't.
      > >
      > > Well, John Paul II is not a former pope, but a late pope, who is a
      > > servant of God.
      > Great men and great servants of God are not necessarily great philosophers.
      > > I would not think your argument moreover is valid, for
      > > we are dealing here with historical realities, contingencies. Augustine
      > > certainly gave a deep personalist touch to his work, but he lived in an
      > > age which did not exactly understand the full dignity of the human
      > > person. After him, the barbarians. This is true even in the medieval
      > > age which lacked not only modern science but also a really
      > > correct appreciation of human dignity and rights.
      > >
      > > What the late, great pope is talking about is the modern context. Thus
      > >
      > > "We find ourselves on the threshold of _modern immanentism and
      > > subjectivism_. Descartes marks the beginning of the development of the
      > > exact and natural sciences as well as of the humanistic sciences in
      > > their new expression. He turns his back on metaphysics and concentrates
      > > on the philosophy of knowledge. Kant is the most notable representative
      > > of this movement."
      > >
      > > The anthropological turn does not necessarily owe everything to
      > > Descartes, but it is indisputable that he gave it direction and set the
      > > philosophical and the scientific paradigm for all subsequent
      > > discussion. Modern philosophers certainly didn't talk about Augustine
      > > or Aquinas! Modern science owes it statement of method moreover to
      > > Descartes, and you know the success modern science has achieved in
      > > influence upon culture.
      > I completely agree that Descartes' modern science, in particular, was
      > largely responsible for the anthropological turn. But I disagree that
      > his *philosophy* (in particular, the cogito and mind/body dualism) was
      > responsible for the anthropological turn - otherwise, the identical
      > philosophical argument would have produced that turn 1000 years earlier
      > with Augustine. Even Descartes' "all powerful deceiver" argument
      > occurred 1500 years earlier, as Cicero documents in his Academica.

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    • Anthony Crifasi
      ... I think you d be interested in a similar analysis by Stephen Gaukroger (from a more modern philosophy-of-science point of view) in his book Descartes: An
      Message 36 of 36 , Feb 21, 2008
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        rglencoughlin wrote:

        > Hi Anthony:
        > I tend to agree with some of your analysis of the historical origins
        > of the shift; I only intended to indicate that the sycretic tendency
        > to place Augustine and Descartes together is based upon a misreading
        > of Augustine, which may itself be based upon too quickly identifying
        > an argument for what is thought to be obvious with an argument
        > intended to be used as a first principle. I don't know enough about
        > Descartes to say his scientific enterprise was the real motivation for
        > his philosophy or was not, but I wouldn't be surprised. I am also very
        > skeptical of his claims to prove God exists and so on; I find it
        > unlikely he believed those arguments himself. SO I am predisposed,
        > perhaps, to think his motivations are deliberately masked.

        I think you'd be interested in a similar analysis by Stephen Gaukroger
        (from a more modern philosophy-of-science point of view) in his book
        "Descartes: An Intellectual Biography" (1995, I think). Gaukroger's
        thesis is that Descartes introduced his arguments for God's existence,
        as well as his whole radical skepticism/Cogito procedure in the First
        and Second Meditations, not because he thought they were philosophically
        or scientifically necessary at all, but for a purely pragmatic reason -
        to provide metaphysical cover for his modern science after Galileo was
        condemned. Gaukroger compiles impressive evidence for this thesis - he
        notes that in Descartes' writings before Galileo was condemned, he never
        raises the kind of extreme skepticism that would appear in his First
        Meditation, or the Cogito as an alternative foundation, or proofs for
        God's existence. Then when Galileo was condemned, he withheld his book,
        The World, from publication and wrote in a personal correspondence that
        he feared he was vulnerable to a similar fate, because his own physics
        depended on the same principles as that of Galileo. His next major
        publications were then accompanied by the Discourse, in which his
        argument from extreme sensory doubt and the Cogito occurs for the first
        time. His next major work was the Meditations, where he adds his proof
        for God's existence, and incorporates all sorts of scholastic
        terminology (e.g., soul:body::form:matter) that never appeared in his
        earlier works. So the timeline certainly supports Gaukroger's thesis
        that all this was simply to provide cover for his science after
        Galileo's condemnation, not because he actually thought it was
        philosophically necessary at all.

        If Gaukroger is correct about this, then had Galileo not been condemned,
        Descartes would have just stuck to his purely empirical-scientific work
        and never written the Discourse or Meditations, and therefore have never
        become the father of modern philosophy.
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