The Revival of Scholastic Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century

Chapter XI: The Neo-Scholastic Revival in Germany, Austria and Switzerland

The philosophical systems of Kant and Hegel exercised a powerful influence upon Catholic philosophy in Germany. Georg Hermes (1775-1831) and Anton Günther (1783-1863) defended the omnipotence of human reason, and, following Hegel, rejected the distinction between natural and supernatural truths -- one of the fundamental tenets of the Catholic Church. Rome condemned their doctrines and placed their writings on the Index, so that their efforts, from a Catholic point of view, were a failure.

A movement of return towards Thomistic philosophy then took place among German Catholic thinkers; so that, when Leo XIII published his encyclical, Catholic Germany eagerly espoused the views of the Pontiff.

Among the men who prepared this return to Scholasticism must be mentioned:

Friedrich Schlegel, who, in his History of Ancient and Modern Literature, showed the real merit of Mediaeval philosophy.

Möhler and his disciple Staudenmaier, who condemned all forms of rationalism.

Clemens, whose aim was the refutation of Günther.

Rothenflue, who, in spite of some ontologistic and Rosminian ideas, agreed in the main with the philosophy of the School.

But the two philosophers who most actively contributed to the revival of Scholasticism in Germany were Kleutgen and Stöckl.

Joseph Kleutgen, S.J. (1811-1883), published in 1860 his Philosophie der Vorzeit, which has become one of the classical works of neo-Scholastic literature. The Philosophie der Vorzeit is not, like Sanseverino's Philosophia Christiana or Urraburu's Institutiones, a detailed course of Scholastic philosophy. It is rather a work of defense. Kleutgen is not the peaceful statesman who organizes his country; he is the general on the battlefield. His chief purpose is to purge German Catholic philosophy of all traces of Hegelianism. He vigorously attacks Hermes and Günther. He defends the Scholastic conceptions against the erroneous interpretations of Frohschammer, Malebranche and others.

He also expounds the fundamental principles of Thomism, and shows that they are the only principles capable of giving entire satisfaction to human reason.

Among Kleutgen's contributions to the body of Scholastic doctrines, let us mention his famous principles of knowledge, which have been generally accepted by subsequent neo-Thomists:

1. Knowledge results of the fact that an image of the known object is produced in the knower by the concourse of the known object and of the knower.

2. The known object is in the knower according to the mode of the knower.

3. Knowledge becomes more perfect in proportion as the knower is more remote, by the nature of his being, from material conditions.[1]

Not long after the publication of the Philosophie der Vorzeit, Albert Stöckl (1823-1895) wrote his two most important works: Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelatters (1864-66), and Lehrbuch der Philosophie. The latter is a clear and valuable exposition of the Thomistic philosophy; the former, one of the works which initiated those historical investigations about Scholasticism, of which the nineteenth century is so legitimately proud.

The most important contribution of Germany to Scholastic philosophy since the days of Kleutgen and Stöckl is the series published under the name of Philosophia Lacensis by the Jesuits of Maria-Laach. This series comprises the following works:

Institutiones logicales (3 vol.); Institutiones philosophiae naturae; and Institutiones psychologicae, by Tilmann Pesch; Institutiones theodicoeae sive theologiae naturalis, by J. Hontheim; Institutiones juris naturalis, by Th. Meyer; eleven volumes in all, forming a complete course of Scholastic philosophy.

The Philosophia Lacensis is more decidedly Scholastic in its method than any other work neo-Thomism has produced. Fr. Pesch follows in his exposition the same plan St. Thomas followed. Like St. Thomas, he begins with an exposition of adverse doctrines, passes to the thesis containing his own views, ends with an answer to the objections given in the first part.

Such a method must not, however, lead us to believe that the eminent authors of the Philosophia Lacensis are servile followers of the Middle Ages and ignore modern ideas. Their acquaintances with the current of modern philosophy is remarkable. Fr. Pesch discusses all recent scientific hypotheses in his Institutiones Philosophiae Naturalis, and tries to establish upon these hypotheses the foundation of Thomistic cosmology. A like knowledge of modern psychology appears in the lnstitutiones Psychologicae.

Fathers Meyer and Hontheim follow the same method and display the same erudition. The latter has recently applied mathematics to logic in his work: Der logische Algoritmus (1895).

Besides Meyer, neo-Scholastic Germany possesses two moralists of a great merit, Costa-Rosetti (1841-1900) and Cathrein.

Victor Cathrein, S.J. (died 1899), published his Moralphilosophie in 1890, and gave it a new in a more concise form a few years afterwards, as one of the volumes of the series Cursus philosophicus, of which more in the sequel. One of the most important studies contained in Cathrein's work is the chapter dealing with Socialism. Published separately in German, and honored by five editions in less than two years, it has been translated into English, French, Italian, Polish and Flemish. Although the author's conclusions are opposed to the socialistic theories, Socialists themselves have been compelled to admit that he had grasped the essential principles of their system more adequately than some of their own followers.

One of the greatest German neo-Scholastics of the present time is Mr. Constantin Gutherlet, professor in Fulda Seminary. As may be seenin our Bibliography, Mr. Gutherlet has studied the thought ofthe Angelic Doctor under all its aspects. Besides numerous shorter treatises, he published, between the years 1878 and 1884, the volumes of his Lehrbuch der Philosophie. This important work, in which the author generally follows Suarez, has been the first great successful attempt to harmonize modern science with Thomistic principles. Gutherlet's greatest service to the cause he defends has perhaps been the foundation of the review Philosophisches Jahrbuch, which, since 1888, has been read with avidity by all who are interested in the Scholastic revival. According to Mr. Picavet, the Philosophisches Jahrbuch is the most eclectic and the best informed of all neo-Scholastic periodical publications.

German neo-Scholastic literature possesses another review of great value, the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und speculative Theologie. This review was founded in Paderborn in 1887 by Ernst Commer, professor in the University of Vienna. As its title indicates, it does not confine itself to philosophical questions. It often contains interesting theological discussions, and especially comparative studies of Catholic and Protestant theology.

Besides the Jahrbuch, Mr. Commer has published some important works, viz., System der Philosophie, Logik, Die immerwahrende Philosophie, etc., which have given him the first rank among neo-Scholasties in Austria.

A third review, the Saint-Thomasblätter, published for some years in Regensburg by Mr. C. M. Schneider, was more strictly Thomistic than the two other publications we have mentioned. Thomism, according to Mr. Schneider, must be accepted in its entirety or not be accepted at all. This principle inspired the Saint-Thomasblätter, and recurs in all the works Mr. Schneider has published.

Germany has distinguished itself, more than any other nation, by important works concerning the history of philosophy in the Middle Ages. We have already spoken of Albert Stöckl. Not long afterwards, Carl Werner published important monographs dealing with the doctrine of all the great Mediaeval thinkers. Alcuin, Albert the Great, William of Auvergne, Roger Bacon, St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Suarez, were studied with untiring zeal and incredible erudition.

Some years later, Ehrle and Henry Denifle, O.P. (died 1905), published the Archiv für Literatur und Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters, which made known many an unknown text, and enriched neo-Scholastic literature with numerous learned studies. Denifle also wrote a History of the Universities in the Middle Ages, which is the most precious work we possess on the subject. This History gave its author such a fame that the French Academy invited him to write a Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, which he completed (1891) with the cooperation of A. Chatelain.

More directly concerned with philosophy than Denifle's contributions are the important works of Clemens Baeumker and Baron G. V. von Hertling, published, since 1891, under the title of Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie des Mittelalters. The collection consists of works heretofore unpublished, critical editions of works already known, monographs, etc. Among the works it already contains let us mention: the De Unitate of Dominicus Gonzalez, falsely attributed to Boethius, the Fons Vitae of the Jewish philosopher Ibn Gebirol, the Theory of Knowledge of William of Auvergne, the Impossibilia of Siger de Brabant, Mr. Grabman's learned study on Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta, etc.[2]

Besides this most important contribution to neo-Scholastic literature, Mr. Baeumker has published: Das Problem der Materie in der griechischen Philosophie (1890).

In German Switzerland, the most important center of neo- Thomism is the Catholic University of Friburg, in which the classes of philosophy and theology have been confided to the Dominican Fathers. Among the eminent men who have taught in the university may be mentioned Coconnier, Berthier and Mandonnet.

The most distinguished neo-Scholastic in Switzerland is not, however, connected with Friburg University. It is the Rev. Nicolas Kaufmann, president of the Academy of St. Thomas of Lucern. Mr. Kaufmann has contributed numerous articles to the Revue Neo-Scolastique, the Philosophisches Jahrbuch, and several Swiss periodicals, and has published many valuable works dealing with particular aspects of the philosophy of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas (cf. Bibliography). One of the best known is his study on Final Cause, which has been translated into French. In articles published in the Schweizerische Kirchenzeitung, especially in the article entitled: Dos Pontificat Leos XIII und der Neutkomismus, Kaufmann has shown that his view of the neo-Thomistic movement is identical with the view of Leo XIII, and may be expressed by the famous formula: vetera novis augere.

A complete history of neo-Scholasticism in German-speaking countries would be very extensive. Our rapid survey, incomplete though it be, must not omit the names of the following distinguished men:

Mathias Schneid (1840-1895) who, besides a work on the influence of Aristotle upon the Scholastics, Aristoteles in der Scholastik, published in 1875, and inspired by Talamo's work on the same subject, has written valuable studies on the cosmological theories of Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus.

Ludwig Schütz (1838-1901), whose most important contribution to neo-Scholastic literature is a vocabulary known as Thomas-Lexicon, in which all scientific terms contained in the Summa Theologica and the Summa contra Gentiles are thorougly explained.

Francis Xavier Pfeifer (1829-1902), who has tried to harmonize the Thomistic philosophy with the recent scientific hypotheses in his work Harmonische Beziehung zwischen Scholastik und moderner Naturwissenschaft.

Otto Willmann, professor in the University of Prague, and author of a remarkable History of Idealism.

Joseph Jungmann, S.J., the author of one of the best works dealing with esthetics (AEsthetik, Freiburg, 1884), in which he finds in Scholastic psychology the foundation of the notion of the beautiful.

Francis Schaub, the author of a comparative study of the Thomistic and socialistic theories.

Eugene Rolfes, who has compared the theistic conceptions of St. Thomas and Aristotle, and has tried to discover in the Greek philosopher some traces of the Christian dogmas.

Gundisalv. Feldner, who has published a study about St. Thomas's teaching concerning free will.

Michael Glossner, canon of Munich, one of the best known contributors to the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und speculative Theologie.

Martin Grabmann, who, besides the learned study on Matthew of Aquasparta we have already mentioned, has published an excellent treatise on the idea of God in St. Thomas's philosophy.

<< ======= >>