An Elementary Christian Metaphysics
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Joseph Owens presents an introduction to metaphysics designed to develop in the reader a habitus of thinking. Using original Thomistic texts and Etienne Gilson's interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas, Owens examines the application of metaphysical principles to the issues that arise in a specifically Christian environment. From a starting point of external, sensible, non-human beings, An Elementary Christian Metaphysics focuses in the questions of existence and the nature of revealed truths. Following his historical introduction to metaphysics, Owens provides a general investigation of the first principles and causes of being, and a study of knowledge and of the divine nature and attributes in light of natural reason.



Publié par
Date de parution 31 octobre 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268160296
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 21 Mo

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An Elementary
METAPHYSICS . . . being that is in creted things cnnot b
understood except as derived from divine being,
just as a proper efect cannot be understood
except as derived from its proper cause.
- St Tomas Aquinas, De Pot., III, 5, ad lm.AN ELEMENTARY CHRISTIAN
Pontifcal Institute of Mediaeval Studie, Toront
University of St. Thomas
Houston, Texas 77006 I
Center fr Thomistic Studies edition 1985 Copyright © 1963 by
the Bruce Publishing Company Reprinted with Permission
Al Rights Reserved
Reprinted in 1986, 1988, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2003,
George T. O'Reilly, C.Ss.R.
Provincial Superior
Armand A. Maurer, C.S.B.
Censor librorum
Francis V Allen
Auxiliary Bishop i Toronto
June 15, 1962
This ebook has been made possible in part by a major grant from
the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the
human endeavor. Any views, findings, conclusions, or
recommendations expressed in this book do not necessarily
represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Library i Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Owens, Joseph.
An elementary Christian metaphysics.
Reprint. Ori inally published: Milwaukee: Bruce Pub. g
Co.© 1963. (Christian culture and philosophy series)
Biblio raphy : p. g
Includes index.
ISBN 13: 978-0-268-00916-8 (pbk.)
ISBN 10: 0-268-00916-3 (pbk.)
1. Metaphysics. I. Title.
BD125.086 1985 110 84-23888
o This book is printed on acid-ee paper Foreword
Te following text is called an elementary metaphysics. Its aim is
conf ned to arousing and developing in rudimentary form a habit of
mind that will equip the undergraduate student to approach metaphysical
subjects. The treatment accordingly is general in scope. It leaves further
investigation for specialized study, listing regularly bibliographical data
sufcient to open the feld of source material for term papers and seminar
work. In the same spirit it avoids in the text detailed discussions of the
traditional controversies, mentioning them rather in footnotes along with
the bibliographical items required for their study. In so relegating them
to a secondary position, it does not at all impugn the value of the con­
troversies for awakening interest and sharpening intellectual penetration.
Rather, it considers out of place in an elementary coverage the complicated
and exact historical knowledge without which even a preliminary or prac­
tical understanding of the disputed topics is impossible. Likewise it
consigns to the footnotes the pseudo problems that clog the history of
metaphysics, limiting the text itself to themes of genuinely constructive
The work is also called a Christian metaphysics. Te coupling of the
notion "Christian" with any branch of philosophy is still highly contro­
versial 1 , and has been understood in surprisingly various senses. In the
present context the title indicates merely the application of metaphysical
principles to issues that arise in a specifcally Christian environment. It
implies a metaphysical investigation of the integral world in which a
Christian lives.
Can this be done without stepping over into the paths of sacred
1 For a discussion of the controversy during the past few decades on the notion of
a "Christian philosophy," see Maurice Nedoncelle, Is There a Christian Philosophy?
t. Illtyd Trethowan (New York, 1960), pp. 85-II4. In the present context, "Chris­
tian metaphysics" is not understood in any of the senses discussed by Fr. Nedoncelle.
It denotes rather a metaphysical treatment of the actual world, a unifed world that is
known basically through the senses but in a further way through Christian faith. See
Etienne Gilson, The Philosopher and Theolog (New York, 1962 ), pp. 175-199,
v to apply their principles to themes occasioned by transubstantiation, grace,
vision, person nature the or Incaration?
physics, of cours , cannot undertake to show that there are no contradic­e
tions in revealed truths of this further type. That would be to establish
the intrinsic possibility of the truths and so would be above the powers
of human reason. But does not belief in these mysteries raise certain
metaphysical notiquestions regarding some genuinely ons that are used
Yet even in some Scholastic circles where the notion of a specifcally
Christian philosophy is rejected, does not one fnd quite often that
treatises on metaphysics and other philosophical sciences do not hesitate
beatifc and in Trinity Meta­
theology? Apriori, no reason to the contrary is apparent. Some things
known through revelation, for instance the angels, may be investigated
also in the light of principles obtained through metaphysical analysis of
sensible things. Metaphysics need not have any means of demonstrating
that angels really exist. Proof of their real existence, one can argue, may
well pertain only to the sphere of revealed faith and sacred theolog. But
even if metaphysics accepts the existence of angels as proven only in sacred
theolog, it has certain things to say about their nature. Traditionally in
Aristotelian metaphysics, and certainly in the Averroistic i!terpretation,
the existence of immaterial substances was accepted from another science,
natural philosophy. Te nature of the separate intelligences was then
made the subject of metaphysical study. Accordingly, nothing prevents
metaphysics from receiving for its own investigation things whose existence
is established by other sciences. There should consequently be no objection
to its investigating, always from the viewpoint of its own principles, some­
thing whose existence is accepted on faith or is demonstrated by sacred
theology. Without in any way using principles taken from revelation,
metaphysics may have much to demonstrate about the nature of im­
material substances. Moreover, the possibility of demonstrating the exis­
tence of one immaterial substance, God, is accorded by Christian tradition
to unaided human reason. With regard to another spiritual substance, the
human soul, may not both its existence and nature fall within the scope of
meta hysical inquiry? Does the fact that meta hysically demons trable p p
truths are frst accepted on faith render them in any way less demonstrable?
Are not atoms and electrons, for instance, frmly believed in by the student
before he commences his course in physics? Correspondingly, meta­
physically demonstrable truths are not withdrawn from the domain of
metaphysics because they happen to have been divinely revealed.
Tat, however, is but one type of revealed doctrines. Te great majority
of dogmatic truths believed in through Christian faith allow, on the other
hand, neither their nature nor their existence to be probed by metaphysics. FOREWOR vi
by a Christian philosopher? Do they not bring to the fore specifc prob­
lems concerning substance and accident, nature and person, and the like?
The Christian metaphysician is prompted by his religious belief to scruti­
nize these notions more closely from defnite angles. He is not thereby at
all trying to prove that reveal d truths of this other type contain no e
contradiction. He is not, in fact, making his inquiry bear upon either the
existence or the essence of these revealed truths in any way whatsoever.
Rather, he is dealing with bona fde metaphysical notions only. Nor does
he in any way base his demonstrations on revealed premises. On the
strength of his own principles, obtained from knowledge of sensible
things, he is examining metaphysical notions in a special way because of
certain problems in them that have been suggested by his Christian
beliefs. He is thereby directed toward a specifc set of problems somewhat
as physical and chemical research during a cold war is directed to defnite
areas by military concerns. Because of belief in this second type of re­
vealed truths a choice of problems may characterize a metaphysics as
thIn a word , e present text envisages a metaphysical study not of any
abstract order but rather of the complicated universe in which a Christian
actually and existentially lives. By the same token it might be called also
an existential metaphysics, with the reservation that the starting point of
its investigation is dominantly the existence of external, sensible, non­
human things. Though it derives its inspiration and its guidance over­
whelmingly from the reading of St Thomas Aquinas, it is nevertheless
quite hesitant in making claim to the title of a Thomistic metaphysics.
In metaphysical contexts the term "Tomistic," particularly in regard to
th all-pervasive theme of essence and existence, and consequent explana­e
tion of the divine concurrence, has come to denote a type of thinking
that has arisen in later Scholastic controversy and that is at variance with
the metaphysics developed in the present book. Te interpretations of
aSt Thomas&#

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