Academic Freedom and the Telos of the Catholic University by Kenneth Garcia (auth.)

By Kenneth Garcia (auth.)

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All things are related, ultimately to God, so cannot be separated in reality. The analytical reason—what Thomas called the ratio —can abstract things temporarily from their broader context and from the things they are related to. It can prescind from considering their relation to other things and study what things are in themselves, in their finite manifestations. That is what natural scientists do. The synthetic reason, on the other hand—what Thomas called the intellectus —functions differently.

On these principles, Thomas bases his view of the architectonic role of philosophy (understood as metaphysics, or divine science) among the sciences. The practical arts and sciences, he says, are valuable goals and objects worthy of our attention because they are means to something greater. ”32 The sciences, of course, have their own distinct subject matter and methods. The fact that the ultimate goal of the sciences is always knowledge of God does not mean that every act of knowing and each inquiry into a given subject matter must explicitly refer to God, to the first and final cause.

For Bonaventure, the liberal arts are more than a tool for helping us better understand and teach Scripture (as Augustine taught). When approached rightly, they are themselves a pathway to God. In De reductione artium ad theologiam, Bonaventure says that God is the source of all illumination of knowledge in the world: “The manifold Wisdom of God, which is clearly revealed in Sacred Scripture, lies hidden in all knowledge and all nature . . ”23 By sharing in God’s light, we are able to investigate and know the various aspects of reality on which the liberal arts focus.

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