An article series based on Dr E. Michael Jones’ keynote address in the UNIV local chapter 2021. The recording may be accessed here.
Before we proceed it is a good idea, I think, to specify what I will mean by logos in this article. Logos here will mean, the knowledge of the ultimate order of the universe, the very meaning of all reality. The “logic” of reality.
In the previous article, we left the Benedictines cultivating the thick Germanic heads, by their beautiful ora et labore.
The founding of the University
The Benedictine help was immensely successful, here is the proof. In the 13th century, realising how far advanced logos(knowledge) had become, the Church decided to dedicate an institution to preserve and further it. This was the university.
One such was Université de Paris(University of Paris), where such great minds as St Thomas Aquinas studied logos. Aquinas, a rather studious and portly fellow, perfected Aristotle’s philosophy. Aristotle is one of the great Greek philosophers, his name may be written beside that of Socrates and Plato. Aquinas brought Aristotle’s philosophy into harmony with his Christian faith. He understood that faith(divine revelation) was superior to reason, but far from rejecting of reason, he let faith perfect reason: he left faith lead reason.
In sharp contrast, you had one Averroes(Latinised name for Ibn Rushd), a Muslim philosopher deeply Aristotelian in his method. Aristotle taught him that the world was eternal, the Quran on the other hand said that the world was created by God in time. It was a contradiction, and he solved it by adopting both positions as true, a doctrine that came to be called Averroism, or the doctrine of two truths. Of course Aristotle was wrong about the world being eternal.
Averroism found its way into the University of Paris, and it was Aquinas’s glory to expose its error. Averroes and his disciples were mistaken. That mistake marked the end of logos, and as a result also caused the stillbirth of science, in the Islamic world.
Well, how then was science born?
Philosophy and Theology were the major disciplines in the university. Theology, the study of Divine Revelation, was rightly understood as the greatest of them all, Regina Scientiarum: queen of the sciences. Theology was the centre to which all knowledge gravitated. As you would have realised, Theology no longer occupies its rightful place. In fact, Theology is no longer taught in many secular universities.
Science, as we know it, came much later. Those trying to put science and religion at loggerheads have always taken care to avoid mentioning the origin of science. Science has very Christian roots!
Fr. Stanley L. Jaki – Benedictine priest, physicist, theologian and historian of science – has written, very eloquently, on the origin of science. Science was born of Christianity. The Hungarian-born priest posits that Science was born in the year 1277 when the bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier condemned Averroism.
It would be wrong to imagine that science just popped up in an instant. Before that science could be seen developing from philosophy, with such great minds as St. Albert the Great, Aquinas’ mentor, dedicating time to studying natural sciences. You will never hear of this stuff in school.
At this time, science was rightly understood as a subset of logos. Later, however, science was understood as a substitute for logos, courtesy of modern philosophers beginning with their granddaddy René Descartes.
Today things are worse, Dr Michael Jones says. Science has become the antithesis of logos. That is to say, that science is being used to deny the right order of things. Scientists nowadays think they can explain all reality, even those realities that are outside the limits of science. Realities that are physically demonstrable and measurable science can study, but those which are not material, or tangible so to speak, are beyond it. Realities such as God and the human soul, are to be left to Theology and Philosophy.
But how did we get here?
Dr Jones, thinks the rain started beating when some people rejected right reason. The Reformation, which was a rejection of the authority of the Catholic Church, led to the truncated logos of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was the glorification of reason and science and the undermining of religion to put it simply. From there came a flood of revolutions beginning with the mother of them all, the French revolution, down to the vilest yet, the Russian revolutions, that begot the world communism.
In between, you had the little known 1848 Revolutions in Europe. These were an enormous wave through Europe. Here the Church realised it had lost its influence in the university. Pope Pius IX reacted by writing an encyclical against the errors of Enlightenment thought. He also founded the magazine La Civilta Cattolica whose aim was to refute all form of contemporary revolutionary thought by returning to the teaching of the angelic Aquinas, the Thomistic school of thought, otherwise referred to as Thomism.
Pope Leo XIII – had been one of La Civilta Cattolica’s editors – took the same vein. In 1879, he published the encyclical Aeterni Patris, which made Thomism the official philosophy of the Catholic Church.
Two French Catholic philosophers, Jacques Maritain and Étienne Gilson took to the new Thomism as ducks do to water. Both of them ended up in the USA. They had an enormous influence on the University of Notre Dame, which is in the United States. In 1953, Notre Dame made Thomism its official philosophy. “It thus became the cutting edge of logos of the New World.”
Less than 20 years later logos in Notre Dame was strangled in its cradle. Some people made it their purpose to strip Notre Dame of its newly-found Thomism.
Dr Jones makes the claim that no single university in the world now possesses the fulness of logos. While this may be true, I would take that with a pinch of salt. Pontifical universities, those owned by the Church, do have logos, I think.
Nonetheless, Dr Jones is right in saying that the university is no longer the vehicle of logos. He says that he, together with us who have listened to him, are the vehicle of logos. He says Africa is the future of logos, for Africa, has retained sense.