University of Notre Dame
Jacques Maritain Center   

University of Notre Dame

Committee on Self-Study

College of Arts and Letters

Notre Dame, Indiana

The following comments were made by a consultant [Jacques Maritain] to the committee on self-study, in response to questions by members of the policy committee:

. . . The first heading is the relationship of philosophy and theology to each other. The first point is that the teaching during the college years has to do with what I would like to call natural intelligence and not yet with the intellectual virtues, with intelligence in the state of science. I think that this distinction is very important. I think that the real acquisition of intellectual virtues, which requires a great deal of specialization, is the full control of graduate studies. It seems to me that during the previous years, four years of college, which has to do with the development of natural intelligence, [study] enables us to get a universal knowledge but not in the state of science, [rather] in the state of a natural grasping which can be very serious (which doesn't mean a superficial knowledge) but which has not the perfect equipment and habit of science. We have still to do with the mind in its natural state, not in the state of intellectual virtues, and under this condition one has, I think, to insist on the basic insights.

The end is not to make a philosopher, nor to make a theologian, nor to make a composer, nor to make an historian. The end is to cause the student to understand, to grasp the meaning and the basic truths of theology and philosophy. I would say that this intellectual grasping is what is most important as a preparation for the development of intellectual virtues. The student understands, but he will not be able to make his point against his adversary. He is equipped to know, to understand, to grasp, not perhaps to defend his views and to triumph in a discussion. I think it is quite important to distinguish this aspect of triumphing in a discussion, perhaps for superficial reasons. And the other aspect is to grasp clearly in a more intuitive than rational manner the meaning and the essential insights of theology and philosophy. The consequence is that the teaching of philosophy and theology should be given in the light of Thomas Aquinas in putting aside the controversies between theological schools and philosophical schools because the end is not to be a teacher, but to be a student and to get the essential truths in the philosophical and theological domain. For that we have a guide, who is Thomas Aquinas.

Now the second point is that during the first year, if it is possible, it would be appropriate to give a course in what I would like to call Christian Wisdom, philosophy and theology together, another kind of introduction, accompanying the courses in philosophy and theology proper. The distinction between philosophy and theology is of course necessary for the virtues themselves, the habitus. When it is a question of beginning and awakening the mind to philosophy, I think that it is a pedagogical advantage to follow the phases of Christian thought in history. There was first a kind of undifferentiated status in which philosophy and theology were studied together, elaborated together, and progressively a differentiation came about. It seems to me that in this way we would have an introduction because, especially in a Catholic college, the student has a real experience of his own religious faith. He has no experience in science or philosophy. Therefore, it is quite difficult to initiate him in philosophical methods. But if he is called upon to give intelligible meaning of the data of faith, he will have philosophical and theological problems together. And at the same time, on the one hand he will take a vital interest in these problems, and he will contemplate the progressive differentiation, the necessity of distinguishing philosophy from theology. When I was in Paris. I gave for some years in the Catholic Institute there a course in Christian Wisdom in which the two disciplines were intentionally fused in order to disengage from the reflection on Christian faith the philosophical problems involved -- the notion of faith, the notion of reason emerge from the reflection on the hypostatic union.

Now the third point is that the two disciplines should not suppress the other subjects. When it comes to the connection between theology, and all the other disciplines, the basic attitude should not be for theology to condemn the others. The basic attitude, on the contrary, should be to understand the others to get a deeper insight in all these methods, thanks to the light of theology. The student will not ask theology to give knowledge of what is good or what is evil in art or in science, but to understand better the works of science or art, etc.

The fourth point is that, given the fact that the teaching in philosophy and theology would be given in the light of Thomas Aquinas, it would be necessary to complement this course, these courses in philosophy and theology together. It would be quite interesting to have a course not only in the history of philosophy but a course in the history of philosophy and theology together. And in this course, the other schools of thought would be made known. Therefore, we would have a quite revelant complement to the courses in philosophy and theology. The condensation of the other schools, Cartesian, St. Thomas, etc., would not take place in the course of theology in order to make things more or less confusing. It would take place in this course of history.

Now as to the second problem of the relation of philosophy and theology together to the remainder of the program activities, I would like to make some general remarks. First, the teaching of theology proper should be offered in the Summa Thoologica. It should be good to follow the order and structure of the Summa Thoologica. The teaching of theology should be complemented by further treatises, explanations regarding some problems which are not discussed in the Summa. For instance, I think some emphasis should be laid on the theology of the Church. Secondly, what Msgr. Journet calls "the history of salvation," "the theology of history," both the history of the Church and the history of the world. Third, a set of problems would deal with a part of religion which is especially important for laymen. Another series of explanations can be given on the divine inspiration. Finally some teaching about the theology of the spiritual life, and the relationship between Saint Thomas and Saint John of the Cross. All of these points belong to theology but should be presented as making the teaching of theology more complete.

Now the second point is that the teaching of theology should not be adapted to the other disciplines, but theology should be given for its own sake, because the question is to make the student aware of the supreme wisdom in its integrity. Therefore, we have to keep its own structure, and not to adapt or dismember it according to the conveniences of other disciplines. But I think that other courses should be added, not courses in theology proper, but courses dealing with the relationship of theology and other domains. For instance, a course dealing with the theological problem posed by modern science in all its fields -- physics, anthropology, the question of the origin of man, psychology, etc. I think it would be good to discuss these things as a special question connected with theology, but in which special emphasis should be put on the problem of modern science, a discussion of the modern problems in biology, including the question of evolution, in political science, in social sciences. Also a special course in some problems which concern in modern times, the practical life of the layman, either in the field of morality, or in terms of Christian marriage, or in the field of spiritual life, or in the field of social action.

A third point would relate not with the teaching of theology or connected courses, but with what might be considered a theological enlightenment in the very field of liberal arts. Here I think the question concerns the professor who is in charge of liberal arts -- literature, poetry, arts, etc. I think it would be important to stress the significance of the stand taken about God and man by great writers and poets.

The fourth point is that I think we have the same point to make with respect to the teaching of philosophy in relation to the other matters of the program, so that the connection of philosophy with these matters should be elucidated not separately but simultaneously with the connection with theology and with the other subjects. For instance, I spoke a moment ago of theology of history. At the same time the question of the philosophy of history should be tied together with theology of history. Similarly [in] the additional courses which I spoke about, dealing with the problems of modern science, political science, or the practical life of the layman, both theological and philosophical issues should be raised. Therefore, theology and philosophy should be considered at the same time.

Father Mullahy's curriculum provides us with [the] basic structure of an integrated program. I wonder, given the considerations I just submitted, whether it would be possible to make some additions to the curriculum. This would be a course in Christian Wisdom, taken in the first year. The second point to be discussed deals with the teaching of theology. It would be advisable to teach theology and philosophy during the four years if the student is to become a theologian. But if it is not a question of making a theologian, but only to make an understanding of what is philosophy and what is theology, the two things might be done at the same time during the same year. This fusion between the teaching of theology and philosophy would have its advantages and would leave more space to the teaching of theology; and the teaching of the courses in theology and the teaching of the courses in philosophy would illuminate one another and enhance one another. For instance, the main matters contained in the first part of the Summa would be taught during the first year; the second parts, consisting of grace and nature, would be taught during the sophomore year; during the junior year we would have the the part dealing with Christ and the other parts, the kingdom of God, the history of salvation; and in the last year you would have the special questions, the material and the spiritual life, the relation of the political and the social sciences, and the particular problems of the laymen. That is what I would like to submit for theology.

Now another point, which deals no longer with philosophy and theology, rather with the entire field of the liberal arts. The real notion of the liberal arts should be extended, and a certain place should be made for disciplines which were not contained in the list of liberal arts, the old list of liberal arts. The teaching of physics might be considered a part of liberal arts if it is given in a philosophical way. For such a program concerned with students destined to be laymen, it would be revelant to add some new courses to the curriculmn. First this course in history of philosophy and theology together which should complement the course in philosophy and theology. Secondly it would be extremely useful to have a course in the history of the sciences. It is by means of the history of the sciences that it is possible to disengage the humanistic meaning of a science, to make clear the relationship between the science and the liberal arts. In such a history we would contemplate the invention of new scientific ideas. At the same time the status of science [would] be made much more impressive to the student because he would be aware of the succession of various scientific theories and he would not consider science as a kind of revelation descended from heaven. Also it would be relevant to have a history of the arts, and especially for the layman, courses in anthropology -- all the problems dealing with customs and civilization because these problems are destined to become more and more important in the life of man. It will be quite important to give sensible notions about that during this program.

A graduate would have inchoately a habit of the main theological truths, perhaps stronger than a professor in theology who is too busy with conferences. But on the other hand, he will not be a theologian. He will be unable to teach theology. He will not have the conceptual, the historical, rational possession of science. It is in this sense that I said it is not the state of intellectual virtues. You are perfectly right about the habitus. I think the germ is much more important because you cannot have a tree without a germ. Therefore, the development of the germ would have great practical importance. The criticism that I would like to make is that in modern times we act as a whole as if the student should become a scientist, or a theologian, or an artist. We try to give to him a reduction of a science in a state of science. That is the great modern mistake in the universities. The reason for this is that it was not realized that a man or a priest can have an excellent theological training without being a theologian, without being able to teach theology.

That is why at the beginning I would like to emphasize positive truth. I remember in some French seminaries that the professor explained that theology is like a parliamentary assembly. You have a right; you have a left, You have a number of various positions. Now you can choose your seat. It's a question of free choice. It's an interesting thing to know the relation between one school and the other. In this way, any possibility of either doctrine or certitude or insight was lost. The interesting thing is that the students complained about that. In private conversations they told me that they were absolutely discouraged. Therefore the demand came from them, but they were not in stride with the teaching. Or in the Catholic Institute in Paris, the faculty of theology complained because the teaching was almost uniquely historical -- big lists of Fathers of the Church, but no intelligible penetration. The fact is that the students were disappointed. Therefore, they expected something better.

Philosophy and theology, following their own orders, would not help each other as to the particular problems which are discussed in philosophy or theology. You would have a kind of mutual stimulation, even with different problems. Take for instance the question of the Trinity. . . . You have to use a number of metaphysical notions. Now I think it is much better to explain the philosophical theory of relation in the theological course because separated from its application to the Trinity, students have no interest in it. But when it is explained in relation with the Trinity, it takes on all of its meaning. Therefore, I would say that in the freshman year there would be a number of philosophical and metaphysical notions which would be given to the students by the professor of theology. And it is all the better because they would receive at that moment some beginnings of philosophy, which would be valuable later. But what I mean is that the necessity of keeping each discipline in its absolute purity doesn't seem quite cogent to me. If the student received some philosophical enlightenment from his professor in theology, and if he receives at the occasion of another problem some quite interesting theological stimulation from his professor in philosophy, it is very good.

. . . But you have a much different lack of unity because in the mind of the student, all of these notions will be put in communication, walking communication. I think the unity in the students would be much better. But if the two disciplines were taught separately, as in the Dominican Houses of Study, first philosophy for the first two or three years, and after that theology -- I think that is revelant for the future teachers who are destined to become masters. But for beginners I think it is quite bad because it divides them innerly instead of unifying them.

The question is particularly difficult because you have the educational problem, but before it you have the epistemological problem. The first point would be to make clear the nature of this science. . . . I think it is a condition. In my opinion, first with regard to the curriculum, it would be advisable to distinguish between the course in moral philosophy and these courses in human sciences, sociology, economics, etc. Many problems have materials dealing with the social sciences which might be re-examined and completed in the course in moral philosophy. But I think it would be quite difficult to unify, in one simple course, two matters. As concerned the course in social sciences, these sciences are branches or subordinated to moral philosophy. But they are autonomous branches because in general, in moral philosophy, you have a great deal of theological considerations, because the mode is speculative. Therefore, in subordinate parts or branches like economics or sociology the speculative or theoretical mode appears in a stronger manner. Social science is concerned properly with description. I think the science itself can be uniquely descriptive. But human interest, human emphasis, is description. How things happen and not why. But when it comes to the explanation, not only to the description of phenomena but to the explanation, the scientist himself will have to recur to psychology, into the nature of man, in order to find some reason for the material it has examined. We considered that with anthropologists. They use a great deal of psychology. Because they believe they are positive sciences, they use experimental psychology, collective psychology, etc. But they shun, they distrust philosophical psychology. And that is a great disadvantage for the sciences because they remain at an incomplete explanation. There are beginnings of explanation, but if the explanation was to be definitely completed, I think the scientist would have to use not only psychology which is speculative, but some definite principles of moral philosophy itself as concerns values, judgments of values.

It is in this science that I said a moment ago was both empirical and subordinated to moral philosophy. Now if these analyses are true, we are confronted with sciences which we cultivated in an imperfect state. They are not exactly what they should be. And it makes the teaching of them particularly difficult. From the educational point of view, we must have these sciences taught at their own level, that is as distinct from moral philosophy. But at the same time and place, there should be an attempt to make them more complete. That is to oppose an interpretation both psychologically and morally. For instance, I don't think that it is possible to have a complete view of sociology and anthropology without the basic judgments of value which depend on moral philosophy. Therefore,, as for the curriculum, I think we should have, on the one hand, moral philosophy embracing from a superior point of view these different problem, on the other hand, the teaching of these social sciences at their own level with the main interest in description and in an empirical view of things. But if it were possible, these sciences at their own and proper level should be taught either by a sociologist or anthropologist who was philosopher in a sense, or by a philosopher who would be especially trained in these sciences.

The ideal solution would be to have first a good teaching in moral philosophy, for instance, in the first semester, and in the second semester, these social sciences, but with the teaching in moral philosophy continuing. Therefore, we would have moral philosophy during the two semesters, and social science during the second. Therefore, there would be a preparation, a philosophical preparation, which seems to me indispensible with such matters. And after that the training in these social sciences. . . . And at the same time the relationship with moral philosophy would be kept because the course in moral philosophy would continue in the second semester.

. . . Perhaps we might distinguish two aspects in cooperation among teachers of the same section. The first aspect would be strictly educational -- that is, they could exchange their views about the matters to be taught in reference to the student. This already would be a good cooperation. They would be obliged to take into account the different requirements of the others. But I wonder whether a second aspect would not be possible. That is to constitute them into a kind of study group.

The question would be not to add too much to the burden of the professors, but if it was possible to have some regular meetings in which a question would be examined from various points of view without requiring any preparation. It would not be a question to read a paper or discuss a book, but take the problem of transformism and evolution. Each professor would express quite freely and informally his own point of view as a philosopher, a biologist, etc. And there would be a kind of conversation. But I think it would be advantageous to have it on a given subject each time. Otherwise there would be a risk of diffusion.

If the teaching is to be effective, the philosophical inspiration should be a single inspiration. Thomistic inspiration should be accepted from the very start, not imposed. But the question is to choose professors who are Thomists. You cannot take a college professor and make him into a Thomist.

I would like to tell you an example. I remember the conferences organized in France by the Carmelites. Now they have regular conferences about psychological and mystical questions. In these conferences they bring together medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, theologians, philosophers, criminologists, etc. At the first meeting it was quite difficult. Each one was suspicions of the other. And they didn't understand the language of each other. But after some days of conversation, a kind of mutual respect occurred. The medical doctor and the psychologist began to respect the theologian, and conversely. And now after some years of experiences, things are going their way. But each one speaks his mind and there is no domineering spirit.

. . . But nevertheless the need to know something, to have a real knowledge of logic, not scientific knowledge of the logician, that's the difficulty of this particular level of natural intelligence. They must be really trained in the matter in question. It is a question of perspective point of view. They should have all the vital beginnings of logic, and be able to apply them, but not to know all the controversies and particular details of logic.

. . . I think it would be desired as far as possible to stick to the experience of the boy, but on the other hand I don't believe that teaching should be adapted to the needs of the boy because the main thing in teaching is to communicate the meaning of the disciplines in question. It is not possible, I think, if we don't keep the organic structure either of philosophy or of theology. It seems to me that is most important. . . . Therefore, for instance, the distinction between logic, the philosophy of nature, and metaphysics is a basic distinction. The boy must understand that. And, therefore, in my opinion, I think it is necessary to keep the essential distinction of fields.

. . . It seems to me it would be particularly good for the student to be confronted from the very start with the distinction or even opposition between the order of philosophical thinking and the order of theological thinking. Therefore, by the very fact, you would realize the nature and meaning of these two disciplines. That is why I think we should keep the normal order of philosophy. For instance, logic, philosophy of nature, metaphysics, ethics and the normal order of theology beginning with God because theology sees everything in the light of God and refers anything to the knowledge of God. Therefore, the boy would be confronted with two definitely distinct methods of approaching reality. And, therefore, I think the adaptation, the accommodation to the boy, should be accomplished as regards ways and the means of the teaching, but not as regards the inner structure of the disciplines.

I think students should have mathematics, The end is not to make them mathematicians. Perhaps it would be good not to insist so much on the knowledge of elementary mathematics supposedly mastered, but to give a general idea of the development of mathematics, and even of superior mathematics. It seems to me it would square much better with the notion of liberal arts.

. . . It seems to me that the question of the structure of philosophy or theology, and the question of the number of questions are different. In my opinion the structure should be kept, the architecture, but, for, instance, in the teaching of the prima pars it is not a question to teach the entire prima pars, but to choose two or three great problems, to consider only these problems. I think you are absolutely right in this way because the most significant problems are enough.

. . . It is a personal question, but it seems to me that theology is much more illumination, and I wonder if it is here I confess my ignorance as concerns education. To what extent is the teaching of apologetics very important for the student? My personal tendency would be to diminish the importance of this teaching because they are Catholic students: they have the faith; they don't need to be converted. And the questions of apologetics are of a nature to make, raise doubts in the mind. I am pessimistic, you see.