Thursday, July 26, 2007

A dose of common sense

[I'm at the end of my philosophical studies for the summer. This is the first time I've ever formally studied philosophy, though I've read haphazardly before. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It somehow seems fitting, as I submit my last paper tomorrow, to end this stage of philosophical inquiry (there will be more. Holy Mother Church asks a lot of philosophical credits hours of those sons of her who wish to become priests) with this brilliant quote from that apostle of common sense, Gilbert Keith Chesterton.
[B]ut the abstract philosophies of the modern world have had this queer twist. Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody’s system of reality has corresponded to everybody’s sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense. Each started with a paradox, a peculiar point of view demanding the sacrifice of what they would call a sane point of view. That is the one thing common to Hobbes and Hegel, to Kant and Bergson, to Berkeley and William James. A man had to believe something that no normal man would believe, if it were suddenly propounded to his simplicity; as that law is above right, or right is outside reason, or things are only as we think them, or everything is relative to a reality that is not there. The modern philosopher claims, like a sort of confidence man, that if once we will grant him this, the rest will be easy; he will straighten out the world, if once he is allowed to give this one twist of the mind. … Against all this the philosophy of St. Thomas stands founded on the universal common conviction that eggs are eggs. The Hegelian may say that an egg is really a hen, because it is part of an endless process of Becoming; the Berkeleian may hold that poached eggs only exist as a dream exists; since it is quite as easy to call the dream the cause of the egg as the eggs the cause of the dream; the Pragmatist may believe that we get the best out of scrambled egg by forgetting that they ever were eggs, and only remembering the scramble. But no pupil of St. Thomas needs to addle his brains in order to adequately addle his eggs; to put his head at any peculiar angle in looking at eggs, or squinting at eggs, or winking the other eye in order to see a new simplification of eggs. The Thomist stands in the broad daylight of the brotherhood of men, in their common consciousness that eggs are not hens or dreams or mere practical assumptions; but things attested by the Authority of the Senses, which is from God.
(Taken from "Saint Thomas Aquinas: 'The Dumb Ox." Text available online.)

2 comments:

angelmeg said...

I'm glad one of us is enjoying philosophy. It sure isn't me.

I do like your quote, and of the philosophers we have studied I prefer Thomas Aquinas, because to him, outside of God there was no need for philosophy.

It seems for the Moderns they were all trying to extricate the need for God in the world and be able to explain everything through philosophy. Hence memories of eggs and processes of becomming. AARGH!

So, to the thought of more philosophical studies: better you than me my friend.

Gashwin said...

LOL. I think you're spot on about the Moderns!