Latest post
A Supernatural Voyage

    Divine Providence, which "orders all things sweetly" (Wis. 8, 1), seems at times to use mysterious coincidences to show that "where sin abounded, grace did more abound" (Rom. 5, 20).   To explain in depth and in clarity the supernatural order God choose an island boy born in Corsica in 1833, hardly a decade following the death of another Corsican who had thrown the temporal order into so much chaos.   Islanders know well their independent identity cut off from the mass of populations.  Life on the coastlines is accustomed to eager waiting for returning boats and painful vigils in their absence.  The feeling of being totally surrounded by open sea can inspire both contemplation as well as isolation.  The expansive panorama of the ocean at times tranquil and re-assuring and at times convulsive and threatening was the environment for maturing the native talents of Francesco Zigliara of the seaport town of Bonifacio.   Leaving his home at 18, Francesco would enter religious life taking the name of Thomas Maria.  Zigliara's book on the Supernatural is well worth looking at closely and we hope to translate from Latin at least the high points of this work.

      Islands apart have often been used as places of banishment or punishment.  Corsica was no different.  There until 49 A.D. Seneca, the Roman stoic philosopher and contemporary of Our Blessed Lord, spent 8 years of exile.  The arrival of the faith on the island has sometimes been traced to Christian exiles banished there by Roman authorities.  Though many may consider islands isolated from the great cities of the world as places of punishment, to the soul attracted to reading, study, and the things of the spirit in general, being far from the hubs of politics, commerce and society has never been looked upon as a disadvantage and, when not chosen by providence to be there by birth, have often been deliberately sought out.  Francesco was certainly such a soul drawn to the spiritual.  

    Francesco was born in Bonifacio, a relatively poor fishing village on the southern tip of Corsica, which looks across a straight of 12 kilometers, to northern Sardinia.  The town goes back to the ninth century when Pope Boniface II had a fortress built there in 828 to help defend the island from the Moors who had made incursions there from the early part of the eighth century.

    The small village  nevertheless boasted of a Jesuit school and Francesco was guided in classical studies by a Jesuit teacher, Father Aloysius Piras.  Many like himself have been blessed by good religious and scholastic teachers and yet some because of their own personal aptitude and particular disposition have been able to fructify that opportunity.   Already before leaving his native island, the young Zigliara was recognized as a student of uncommon intelligence.  Too much interest and involvement in the agitated questions of the day or the moment does not favor the slow, careful investigation of the great philosophical and theological themes to which, it seems, almost by nature Francesco was drawn.   When the Dominican Fray was, at last, to set his pen to subject of the Supernatural, he was aware of undertaking a work that had never been previously attempted, or at least not attempted from the point of view from which he desired to treat it.

    Zigliara sees the supernatural order as the prime object of Christian preparatory studies, and while the subject itself of the supernatural had been treated by many others before himself, he felt  that the form and method that he would employ would be new.

    Almost instinctively spiritual writers had addressed new rationalists' attacks against the faith in any number of apologetical and polemical  and technical theological works especially geared for young men about to enter into sacred studies.  Zigliara, on the other hand, embarks upon a long voyage to navigate over the sea to the supernatural.

    With Zigliara as our navigator, we shall sail through the sea of thought concerning the supernatural, although we can not always promise smooth sailing.  The timid should not embark on this ocean venture that will most certainly take us into rough seas.  This issue of the natural and the supernatural dividing, at its most basic junction, Christian from secular thought, crosses through the deepest waters of Philosophy and Theology, not to mention sacred Scripture.  The length of this ocean journey makes inevitable the coming of storms requiring passage through turbulent surfs of subtle errors and dangerous breakers of human pride, always bring the possibility of torn sails and broken masts, not to mention shipwreck on the rocky shoals of defeat.  We can, nevertheless, take hope and confidence in the Star of the Sea which will be a sure guide and comfort in the long sea voyage.

    To be sure, much has been written on the supernatural, by no means all of it of equal value, but the distinct merit of Zigliara's treatment of the subject lies in his orderly step by step logical progression along the philosophical path toward a sure and indestructible foundation.

    Eschewing for the most part the often distractive controversies of the moment, Zigliara comes to his subject with a life time of dedication to the theoretical (well circulated a century ago was his three volume "Summa Philosophica").  Thus by natural disposition and scholastic preparation he is unusually qualified to navigate through the deep ocean of the supernatural.

    Without the use of constant quotation marks nor even presenting necessarily always a literal translation, the material and development of Zigliara's thought will follow with especial attention to the tight logical structure and progression of his reasoning, and passing over only digressionary material.

     The existence of the supernatural order is not one of those truths which are held to by faith alone (as are the mysteries of faith which can not be demonstrated, either before being revealed or after being revealed, by demonstration properly so called, namely, from natural principles), but its existence is able to be shown and, indeed, is shown through the light of reason by philosophical demonstration.  Hence the christian philosopher should not overlook a work on the supernatural order, by which, as on a most solid foundation, the divine edifice of our Theology is built upon.

    The supernatural, being the central element in the various branches of sacred studies, it often receives a certain consideration in all of them.  It would, therefore, seem opportune, so reasons Zigliara, to treat directly of this basic element of all Theology in a specific work dedicated especially to focusing on this universal underpinning of the supernatural.

    A thorough treatment of the subject is necessary to help protect the foundations of both religion and civil society from the negation of the supernatural order by philosophical "naturalism", which holds that only what is in the natural order can be known, or outright that only the natural world exists.

    A specific treatise on this subject is necessary finally in order that the existence of the supernatural order might be clearly demonstrated by philosophical principles.

    Philosophy examines its considerations in the light of natural reason and indeed according to the supreme objective principles that intrinsic evidence itself manifests to our intellect.  These principles  certainly are evidently such, not only as may be true in themselves, but also as may be seen to be true by us.  The contrary is so in Theology.  It surely in some sense listens to natural reason, but it is not founded upon it, rather it rests upon the light of supernatural faith.  Theology supposes, therefore, the objective principles of philosophy in themselves known, but does not resolve them into its conclusions as the philosopher, but into the supernaturally accepted divine truths divinely revealed.  Accordingly, from these truths, not from principles in themselves naturally known, proceeds its scientific synthesis, namely, its own conclusions inferred through reasoning.  Hence it is shown that all of sacred Theology has the supernatural order for its object.

    But, does the supernatural order exist?  This question, as anyone can see for himself, is of the greatest importance.  Indeed the very existence of sacred Wisdom is intimately connected to it, since the supernatural order is precisely the object of sacred Theology, and no science can be formed without its proper object.  Nevertheless, it does not, properly speaking, pertain to sacred theology to prove the existence of the supernatural order, since no science, according to the scholastic adage, proves the existence itself of its own subject, but supposes it known, either according to the senses, or according to the intellect, or to be otherwise demonstrated.   The task of a science is (its own subject assumed already investigated), to determine that subject's nature and properties.   Mathematics, for example, supposes quantities, and, for the proving of its theorems, utilizes principles which are the objects of metaphysics, and are demonstrated in metaphysics.  And this method must be completely observed so that each science may be contained within the limits of its own proper object, and lest what pertains to other sciences may not be usurped.

    Knowledge is rightly divided into two parts, namely, natural knowledge, which is generally called philosophy, and supernatural knowledge, which we commonly call Theology. Since then it is true that the supernatural order is properly not demonstrated by Theology itself, it follows that the existence of the supernatural order (since also not philosophically demonstrated), must be either completely assumed, or else examined by a specific treatment which will lie between philosophy and Theology, like the joining of opposite shores by a bridge by which one may conveniently pass from one side to the other.

    It was the true gift of Saint Thomas Aquinas to demonstrate the necessity of having, besides the philosophical disciplines, another science drawn out of the fonts of divine Revelation.  This St. Thomas did in order to show that, concerning God, there were two types of truths:  those things concerning God, whose truth could be known through man's own natural powers by human reason, and those things concerning God whose truth exceeded every human faculty.

    This position, namely, of the twofold knowledge of God is the purpose of this work and is diametrically opposed to the position of "naturalism", and the establishment of naturalism as the single principle of reality and knowability, according to which are reasoned all things concerning metaphysics, history, ethics, politics and religion.

    There exists in us a certain notion of the supernatural order.  As Cicero maintains, everything which is taken up by reason to be examined must start out with a definition in order that we might know what it is that we are discussing.  Our discussion is concerning the supernatural order upon which all of Catholic Theology rests and which, moreover, the mouths of our faith adore.  By the notion of this order therefore our discussion must begin.  In order that we may do that, we suppose there to exist in us some notion of the supernatural order, since all Christians affirm the existence of that order;  adversaries deny it.  Concerning things of which one has no notion whatsoever, nothing can be affirmed and nothing can be denied.  Therefore it is a fact of consciousness that there exists in men some notion of the supernatural order.

    Men are accustomed to manifest internal notions of the soul through words whose meaning, if there is to be communication, must be accepted according to the acceptance of these same men.  The notion of which we have spoken is expressed by the word "supernatural", which by the sense of the common man sounds almost the same, namely, it is that which is placed above nature.  According therefore to this common meaning, supernatural is distinguished from preternatural or merely what is outside of nature.

    The first, therefore, is said above nature because it is understood as placed above the forces or powers  of nature; but preternatural, as the word indicates, is that which happens, becomes or is done by the forces of nature, but outside of or against the normal course or perfection of nature.  Hence we say the birth of a monster to be, not above nature, but outside or against the natural.  We even say the human soul, separated from the body, to be, not in a supernatural state nor a violent or unnatural state, but, a preternatural state.

    As a corollary, therefore, supernatural means something which is more perfect than that which is of the natural order; preternatural, however, can be more imperfect than the natural order.

    We seek whether or not the supernatural order really exists, or, what is the same, whether or not there really exists such a Being, which both as to his knowability or intelligibility (and as to his efficiency), infinitely exceeds the means and the powers of all nature, created or creatable.  And advisedly we speak of real existence, since an ideal existence is not doubted.  The proposed question actually has two parts, namely, concerning the real existence of the supernatural order taken objectively, and this same real existence known subjectively.

    The sixteenth century had seen a proliferation of new philosophical systems, many conceived without any desire of seeking transcendent truths, some with a prejudice against these truths and even some with a prior assumption against the very possibility of such truths.  Gone were the days when the philosophy of Saint Thomas would be taught almost as the default position.  On the one hand Catholic universities and seminaries desired to keep abreast of current thinking and, on the other hand, the quickly spreading "plague of perverse opinions" as well as the distinct differences dividing English and Continental philosophical viewpoints often resulted in a certain disorientation in Catholic thinking.  Clearly Pope Leo XIII, no stranger to serious study, desired to guide the Catholic academic world toward more intellectual stability and back to the sure acquisitions of Catholic Philosophy.  To this purpose he issued, in 1879, an Encyclical Letter, "Aeterni Patris", extolling the strengths and benefits of scholastic philosophy.  Zigliara is credited with having assisted the Holy Father in the composition of this encyclical.

    Many partisan commentators of this document have tried to interpret it as an establishment or a  re-establishment of Thomism as the official philosophy of the Church.  Certainly the repeated and lavish praise of Saint Thomas contributed no small roll in the vigorous revival of interest in Thomistic studies and in their prescribed place in the curriculum of seminaries and Catholic institutions of higher learning; but that is by no means the force of the encyclical.  A carefully balanced and nuance document, it attempts, on the one hand, to anchor Catholic thinking in the solid philosophical acquisitions of the past and guide it toward scholastic philosophy as, at least, a starting point or point of reference,  while, on the other hand, not fail to recognize the continual need of philosophical progress: "We have no intention of discountenancing the learned and able men who bring their industry and erudition, and, what is more, the wealth of new discoveries, to the service of philosophy; for, of course, We understand that this tends to the development of learning".

    In his own personal works, the dominican Zigliara maintains a stricter adherence to Aquinas, but nonetheless an intelligent adherence that benefits from the insights and adjustments to Saint Thomas' thinking by later commentators of the "Summa".  

    For the human race, I add as a fact, there is a manner of faith in the real existence of some supernatural order.  Therefore the cause  of this universal, constant fact during the course of the continued vicissitudes of centuries must be examined by the philosopher, nor must it be attributed to anything except what may be rational, universal, in short, proportionate to the fact itself; just as an effect does not happen without a cause, thus neither can an effect be better than its cause.  In the cause to be assigned to this fact, a dissension begins between believers and rationalists.  I call rationalists all who affect to cast off the yoke of believing under the pretext of following the laws and dictums of reason.  They embellish themselves with this term.

    The philosophizer by the end of the 18th century began to say that the faith of man in the real existence of the supernatural order, had arisen and to have flourished out of the ignorance of the people, and the cunning of those in power, especially the priests, who, by inspiring fear of the divinity, and the introduction of the dogmas of mysteries, were able hold captive and exercise dominion over these same people.

    Ignorance and cunning, in fact, are completely contingent,  particular and changeable causes, which thus are improportionate to the explanation of that constant and universal fact of faith in the supernatural order.
    The systems denying the reality of the supernatural order can be reduced to three types: sensism or materialism, psychologism or subjectivism, ontologism or transcendentalism.  The reason for this division, in short, is: the principle indeed of all reality or of all knowability is placed, according to the first type, within us, that is, within the limits of the material and of the senses; or, according to the second type, in us and by us; or, according to the third type, above us.  Whence it is completely necessary that whoever attacks the supernatural order, proceeds from the first, the second or the third of these heading.

    Concerning the preternatural, we shall have nothing to say.  From the above mentioned notions, it is clear that the supernatural is something relative in so far as, namely, it is said relatively to the powers of nature above which it is constituted.  But nature, according as it is now accepted by us, can mean distinctly two things, namely, either any particular nature (for example, of a stone, a man, an angel), or all nature, namely, the whole or the collection and order of all things, both of creatures and of the creatable.  Therefore, supernatural is said either because it is above the powers of any particular nature or because it is above the powers of all nature.  The first we call the relative or subjective supernatural; the other we call the absolute or ontological supernatural.  Concerning the first, it is understood when it is said, for example, that life by respect to a stone, or intelligence by respect to brute animals, may be something supernatural; but rising, for example, from the dead, certain and infallible knowledge of future choices are rightly counted among the absolute supernatural things.

    The notions thus far propounded both concerning the supernatural order, and its divisions, are accepted in the common sense of men; nor is any controversy treated concerning them.  The axis of the question is: whether the supernatural order may be something existing only nominally or ideally in our mind, as the rationalists contend; or, on the other hand, as we affirm, it exists really outside of us, opposite to nature.

    For the correct solution, however, to this question, principles and criteria must be determined, upon which the solution itself depends.  First of all, therefore, we seek these criteria, which indeed may be such that, on the one hand, the adversaries themselves, either willingly or unwillingly, concede them, and, on the other hand, at least they assume them as necessary in their own arguments against us.

    The proposed question involves two parts.  Now, the supernatural order (whose subject is God) is able to be considered in the realm of knowability, and in the realm of efficacy or efficiency.  Taken in the first way, one seeks whether there really exists an order of thought which may be above the powers of human reason and even of any created or creatable intellect.  By the second accepted sense, by supernatural order, is sought whether there may exist an order of causality which exceeds in efficacy the powers, taken either separately or collectively, of any created or creatable cause.

    In advance we shall speak concerning the supernatural order, as to knowability.  But the question of the existence of the supernatural order as to knowability on the part of the human intellect, or of any created or creatable intellect, is not able to be solved, except there be defined the principles from which are constituted the essence itself of cognition.  These principles, indeed, are the knowing subject, that is, the intellective faculty, and knowable, that is the object into which a cognition, as to its end, is determined.  Therefore, before seeking whether and what in the capacity of knowability may be supernatural to human reason, it is necessary that the nature of the object co-natural to reason itself be examined:  from which object depends the extension of cognition.  From there the nature of human reason itself must be examined: since, by this constituted nature, a certain judgment is able to be brought forth concerning the intension of cognition.

    Therefore the introductory question follows under a more generic question which must first be solved: whence, of course, the perfection, both intensive and extensive, of any cognition may be looked at again.  A most grave question, as shall be evident from what is to be said.

    Before taking up Zigliara's treatment of ontologism, we quote some passages from Luigi Pelloux's article on the subject published in the Italian Catholic Encyclopedia:

    "Malebranche, affirming that one knows in God the things changeable and corruptible, recognizes that Saint Augustine speaks only of unchangeable and incorruptible realities.  Malebranche, however, maintains that the Augustinian principle of illumination is valid for every reality.  The Malebranchian interpretation was already rejected by Saint Thomas, who referred the Augustinian knowledge of "eternal reasons" to the certainty and immutability of the first principles, reflected in the human mind by the eternal reason of God.  Moreover, Saint Augustine himself excluded every ontologistic interpretation of his doctrine, denying a vision of the divine essence, conceded only exceptionally to very few men.  The Augustinian texts which speak of a contemplation of God, referable to wise men are understood of the common manner of knowing God, by means of creatures, even if by means of the ideas that proceed as truth from subsistent Truth.

    Gioberti affirms that he finds a point of support for his theory of the intuition of real Being in [Saint Bonaventure's] Journey of the mind to God.  In reality the Bonaventurian expressions do not speak of a proper vision of the essence of God, but rather of a "light" present in the human soul, which does not come from the senses, nor from the soul, but from God in so far as the soul is the image of Him.  The vision of the mind by means of this "light" is not a vision of God, but rather of the eternal reasons seen only as "moving" the human intelligence: which could be able to understand these only elevated to the beatific vision (in the plenitude and splendor of His charity).

    In the true ontologists of the 19th century the perspective is radically changed.  While in the attitude of the Platonizing or Augustinian currents one treats rather of the fixing the limits of the relation which God has with human knowledge, this assumes a far different meaning in ontologism which makes of God not the means of knowledge, but the first known [object]."

    Basically in placing the intelligibility in God Himself, it passes from God as the means of this knowing realty, which in some sense Augustine held, to God as the object of this epistemological reality, which Augustine did not.  At most Augustine's teaching on divine illumination involved the perception of the eternal and unchangeable element in knowledge and not the knowledge in God Himself of changing and corruptible reality, as Malebranche held by making God the immediate cause of our sensations, besides the place of our ideas, in similarity to other ontologists.  Nevertheless Malebranche did not hold that this immediate divine basis for human knowledge meant an intuitive cognition of God Himself.

    The force of ontologism is not so much in the identification of general ideas with God as in the human intellect's immediate intuition or perception of absolute or outright infinite Being, and by means of this intuition,  the knowledge of universal ideas, that is to say, metaphysical essences.

   It is to Malebranche and Gioberti which one must refer as the principal font for the study of ontologism.  The ontologism of Malebranche, according to the various interpreters, falls into a dilemma: On the one hand, it affirms that one knows God when one apprehends eternal truths; on the other hand, it declares (as Malebranche here): "I believe to have well proved that one sees all things in God right from this life; but that  does not mean seeing God nor enjoying Him".

    In reality, as H. Gouhier observes, Malebranche was ignorant of the term and the reality which one wants to indicate speaking of ontologism.  For Malebranche "to see God" and "to be united to Him, in such a way that nothing can be known except through participation in His light, is one and the same".

    Starting from the Augustinian illumination in order to extend its significance, Malebranche would not, however, assign a meaning such as to arrive at the affirmation of an intuitive knowledge of God.

    In Gioberti, instead, ontologism assumes a systematic and particular character which clearly differentiates the position.  The "intuition" is the original act of knowledge.  In the intuition the human spirit is completely passive, formed by the "Idea" which is not a concept, nor anything else or created property, but is absolute and eternal truth, beyond the human mind: in the intuition is realized the union of the mind with  truth in itself, and therefore skepticism and subjectivism overcome.  For this, the idea of possible being as the first object of knowing (Rosmini), is not sufficient.  For Malebranche the intuition must refer itself to real and absolute being.  It is therefore impossible to have the primitive intuition without knowing that Being is.  Such reality of Being appears to man as necessary and absolute, even though from the beginning in an undetermined and confused knowledge because of the finiteness of the spirit.  By means, not only of psychological, but ontological reflection, the object of the intuition is determined.  Through the intuition and the reflection, the spirit contemplates Being, not in its abstractness, but how it really is, namely, knowing, producing existence and exteriorizing in His works precisely infinite existence in a finite manner ("Being which creates the existent).

    The ontologism of Gioberti goes well beyond that which is called the ontologism of Malebranche.  The need of Malebranche is above all psychological, or better gnoseological [epistemological]; that of Gioberti is directly metaphysical.

    Among the presuppositions of ontologism is placed the Cartesian derivation of the real infinite from the idea of the infinite.  Such a derivation is taken up and treated by Malebranche.  In Gioberti the idea of being is the first and necessary of ideas, and implies existence: the intuition therefore of being is that of necessary Being.  But it is not difficult to reveal the inconsistency of these affirmations.  The idea of the infinite is not first, but derived from the reality of the finite given in experience; it is, moreover, a concept formed by means of the negation of every limit in  perfection, and which refers to a possible essence.

    As to the idea of being, it does not possess actual, real infinity, but purely conceptual infinity, and therefore is tied to its lack of determination.  Ontologism pretends to make count as a "given", that which, instead, is the fruit of a demonstration which is held to be superfluous or too subject to contention, given the critical premises relative to the value of human knowledge.  In other words, ontologism presents itself as an off-the-path attempt to overcome the inherent difficulties of Cartesian epistemology and the objections of Kantian criticism.

    Ontologism can also be seen to presuppose idealism, for which the coinciding of the logical and ontological orders is essential.

    Some representatives of modern thought, in so far as they speak of an experience of the divine (Schleiermacher), or of moral values (Max Scheler), have recourse to a type of "moral or experiential intuition" of the divine.  In this case, the use of the term "ontologism" is, however, extraneous to its more precise meaning which carries with it a connection with the knowledge of God, but arrives, by way of the intellect, through the mediation of the idea of Being.

    The positive background on which ontologism moves, can be specified in the meaning and value, as the  epistemologic-metaphysical requirement, that the knowledge of truth has of the Absolute.

    The negative evaluation of ontologism from the point of view of theodicy becomes evident, since not only the immediate knowledge of God is contrary to the teaching of the Church (Council of Vienne and the IV Lateran Council), but because ontologism with difficulty escapes a rationalization of the mystery of the nature of God.  

    By placing the intelligibility of things, not in themselves, but in God, it opens, moreover, the way to pantheism by which God is no longer gnoseologically and metaphysically distinct, but belongs to the knowledge of the soul, forming of it, the cause and the object.  Ontologism in the end prejudices the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders, in so far as it introduces a direct knowledge of God, which is not possible except in the Beatific Vision."

    One of the unfortunate notes in the battle against ontologism is the extent to which it was waged against basically religious thinkers attempting to counter the difficulties of sensism or empiricism with its tendency to slip into a materialistic denial of intellectual truth, metaphysical knowledge and, ultimately, God Himself.

    True it is, as well, that these theistic thinkers (indeed, for the most part, priests: Malebranche, Gerdil, Gioberti, Rosmini and numerous lesser known figures), invariably traced their ideas back to Saint Augustine of Hippo's doctrine of "divine illumination" and to Saint Bonaventure and the whole Franciscan philosophical tradition, not to mention its more remote roots in Plato and neo-platonism, in the sense of a foundation of intelligible ideas prior to experience.

    In his effort to pin-point the precise problems with ontologism, perhaps Zigliara only partially appreciated its motivation.  None-the-less, expose faulty philosophical assumptions he must.

    By the name of ontologism in general is understood that system whose principle is: "the first ontological is also the first logical".  And because God is first in the order of entities, God Himself is also the first object which falls naturally into the apprehension of our intellect, not indeed directly or immediately by any manner, but by a mediation which consists in this that God unites Himself immediately to the created intellect in order that through or by Him things are intelligible.  In our century Vincenzo Gioberti designated by this word ontologism that same old system.

    Let us distinguish three types of ontologism according to the three ways by which God is able to be understood in so far as He is considered the immediate object of ontological intuition.

    In the first way, God can be received in His essence, by which He in Himself is and is Himself intuited by a comprehensive intuition and is even seen by the Blessed, though not understood by them.  In the fourth century, Eunomius, a secretary and disciple of Aetius, or as Sozomen calls him the "Atheist", establishes God, understood in this manner, as the immediate object of our intellect in this life.

    Eunomius asserted that a God of simplicity cannot be a God of mystery at all, for even man is as competent as God to comprehend simplicity.  Eunomius proclaims the absolute intelligibility of the Divine Essence.  The words of Eunomius, as the church historian Socrates transcribes them, are as follows: "God knows no more of His own substance, than we do; nor is this more known to Him, and less to us: but whatever we know about the Divine substance, that precisely is known to God; on the other hand, whatever He knows, the same also you will find without any difference in us".   Eunomius places his knowledge together with divine cognition.

    Aetius and Eunomius were following in the mistakes of Arius, struggling to outdo him in order to attack the divinity of Christ and take away from us, therefore, the supernatural order, either reducing God to the nature and perfections of man, or elevating the nature of man to divine perfection.

    At the beginning of the thirteenth century the Beguines and the Beghards tried to renew the error of the Eunomians, as their doctrines developed into a kind of mystical pantheism: they were teaching human nature to be in itself blessed, because it, naturally and without the elevating light of glory, sees immediately God in His essence.

    In the year 1311, at Vienne in Gaul, under Pope Clement V, was held the 15th ecumenical Council, and in this Council , St. Antoninus reports, eight errors of the Beguines and Beghards, who had risen up in Germany, were condemned.   The fifth error condemned was that any intellectual nature is in itself naturally blessed and that the soul has no need of the light of glory elevating it in order to see God and beatifically enjoy Him.
    As to the Scriptural reason why the Church considers the Eunomians and the Beghards to be in error, St. John's Gospel say: "Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (Jn. 17, 3).  Surely eternal life consists in the vision of the Divine essence;  eternal life, however,  is attributed by St. Paul, not to the powers of nature but, to the power of grace: "but the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm. 6, 23).  Hence, naturally speaking, "God (in His essence) no man hath ever seen." (Jn. 1, 18); only supernaturally therefore "we shall see Him as He is" (1 Jn. 3, 2).

    It is heretical and moreover irrational to say that God's essence, as it is in itself, can be seen by the  created intellect.  Nevertheless ontologists who profess themselves Catholics, affirm God to be the object which is seen first and immediately by the human mind.

    In order, however, to escape the condemnation of the Eunomeans and Beguards, they say that, although in God there may be one simple essence, theologians, nevertheless, distinguish this essence virtually from attributes.  Some attributes referring to creatures, are proper to God in so far as He is the principle of created things.  What therefore is placed by ontologists as the first and immediate cognition by us, are the eternal reasons of things existing in the Divine mind.  This is another type of ontologism.   The author of this system is Nicolas Malebranche.  

    Regarding his defense of the most fundamental distinction in Christian philosophy between the natural and the supernatural, Zigliara does not hesitate to take a quick swipe even at an eighteenth century Cardinal, Hyacinthe-Sigismond Gerdil, and writes him off in a line or two, with the insinuation that he was a Malebranchian.

   Zigliara obviously felt the need at least to allude to some unsafe philosophical assumptions of this rather eclectic Platonist.  In justice to Gerdil, however, we should say that he was more interested in defending, against the sensistic empiricism of Locke and others after him, the great truths of religion, like the immortality of the soul, than in defending the Aristotelian-Thomism as such.   Much of Gerdil's work involved more applied philosophy in the areas of law, morality and pedagogy, and consequently was less focused on the, albeit capital but, finer metaphysical points.

    Suggested by Pope Benedict XIV, Gerdil was appointed the preceptor of the Prince of Piedmont, later King Charles Emmanuel IV.  Indeed, Gerdil's ideas on educational theory may be his most lasting and interesting contribution:  In sports, our strength and prowess grows in proportion to strenuous physical exertion and the  overcoming of difficulties.  We can not settle for less in a young man's intellectual efforts.

    Rousseau had influenced educational thought by his 1762 philosophical romance, Emile,  whose opening line and initial premise: "Everything is good when it springs from the hands of the Creator" is certainly true, but then, in rejecting original sin, he is led to the conclusion that , a boy, being born naturally good, can only be corrupted by society, and therefore should not be formed morally, religiously, or even intellectually, but rather left alone in his native instincts and inclinations.  

    In his 1763 "Anti-Emile", as it was later to be titled, Gerdil presents a confutation of the ideas of "Emile".  Rousseau himself, recognizing the cogency of the Cardinal's observations, said that it was the only work that he had the patience to read all the way to the end, lamenting only that Gerdil had not understood his own work.  

   One of the most widely-read men of the 18th century, attuned to the currents of thought of his age, he was deeply conversant, not only in philosophy and theology, but also in history and the natural sciences, filling twenty volumes of writings in Latin, French and Italian.   Only the veto of Cardinal Hertzan in the name of the Austrian Emperor of  prevented him from becoming Pope in the Venetian conclave of 1800, which might not have mattered a whole lot since he died two years later.

         In a way Cardinal Gerdil is typical of the upside and the downside, the opportunities and the pitfalls, of a more open pursuit of Catholic Philosophy.  An effective opponent of the materialistic philosophies of his day, a defender of a spiritualistic philosophy, the existence of God, and the value of religious education, and yet Gerdil, must be taken to task by Zigliara for failing to see a harmful hidden consequence of his theory of knowledge:

    Cardinal Gerdil defended Malebranche against Locke in a work which is appropriately enough inscribed: Defense of the view of père Malebranche.  It was again defended by Vincenzo Gioberti.  With these views, Antonio Rosmini, although not in so many words, shares, nevertheless, the reality.

    Although, however, all these men differ among themselves in assigning the formal object which our mind intuits concerning God and even in God, all, nevertheless, unanimously affirm that God is immediately seen by us under some relative attribute.  Whence it suffices to examine this system under this one common and fundamental concept.

    The Scholastics ask the question whether God is able to be naturally known by us by an essential cognition or quidditative cognition (from the Latin word quid meaning what, therefore having the sense of "the whatness of a thing").  Some affirmed it, namely the Scotists; others denied it, especially the Thomists.  But Cajetan pointed out the disagreement in this to have been in an equivocal use of the word essential and essence (quidditative and quiddity).   Whence in order to take away this equivocation, he makes this distinction: one thing is to know the essence, that is, a knowledge of quiddity; and another thing is an essential cognition (or to know quidditatively or essentially).  Someone knows the essence of a lion (or the quiddity of a lion), when he knows any essential predicates of it.  One, however, does not know it essentially (or quidditatively) unless he knows all the essential predicates even to the last difference.  This usage, Suarez and other scholastics with St. Thomas constantly accepts, although they handed it down by other terms (all, and totally, perfectly and imperfectly).

    It is most certain with all Catholics that God is not able naturally to be known by us essentially (or quidditatively).  We can nevertheless know and do in fact know naturally the essence (or quiddity) of God, in so far as there are predicated by us concerning God many attributes, which are proper to God alone, and they distinguish Him from the rest of things and they establish Him above all things; as when we say that only God is a being to Himself, etc.

    Similarly to know something "immediately" or directly is able to be understood in two ways.  By one way, in so far as it signifies the same thing, though in a different manner, by which sense we may say that we know Peter, but we are really thinking, for example, of a statue representing Peter: namely, the object is "immediately" known in this sense, however, often it is known somewhat differently by means of the the representation.  

    By the other way, "immediately" is understood, as one says  when a thing is known by means of itself, and not by means of something else such as by means of an image, or a picture.   

    We see him "immediately" or directly if we see him presently in himself and by means of himself with no other medium placed between.  He is known "immediately" in this other or later sense where the medium or objective of the cognition is itself the object known.

    We are not seeking at present whether God is able to be known by us directly or immediately in the first way of understanding "immediate".  We do not deny that the human intellect, after it ascends to God by the objective means of creatures, can think of God immediately (or without mediation), that is, by separating or distinguishing; thus of course, as not to need at the same time to think formally about the means themselves, that is, the pre-known creatures.  And the scholastics understand this every time (granted the different meanings of the word "immediate"), they concede God to be known immediately by us.

    This is not, however, what the ontologists understand when they say that our intellect directly or  immediately intuits God;  but they take "immediate" in the second way, according as, namely, an immediate intuition involves the exclusion of pre-known means, from which (by reasoning from effects to cause) the existence of God or divine attributes is inferred.  Hence immediately, according to the ontologists, we intuit either divine predicated, or the ideas, that is, the eternal reasons, or some other such thing of God.  As to the intellect, with no other middle object placed between, it is affected by predicates, or eternal reasons, etc. through itself and not through another;  thus indeed as, in the scholastic way of speaking, God is at once the means by which and the object of the intuition of the ontologists.

    Our conclusion is that ontologism is against the objective and per se absolute foundation of the supernatural order.  I explicitly say "objective" because at present this study is concerning only the objective supernatural.   I do not see how the opinion of this ontologism is able to differ from the opinion of the Beguards.  The eternal reasons of things, say the ontologists, are seen, and by no medium in between, but immediately in the sense we explained.  And so, as St. Thomas explains, "it is not possible to see the types of creatures in the very essence of God without seeing the essence of God Itself, because the Divine essence is Itself the type of all things that are made - the ideal type adding nothing to the Divine essence save only a relationship to the creature"

    The ideal reason, or archetype in God of all things which are made, while it may really be in the Divine Essence Itself, does not act upon the Divine Essence, except in respect to creatures.  But continues St. Thomas, "knowledge of a thing in itself - and such is the knowledge of God as the object of heavenly bliss - precedes knowledge of that thing in its relation to something else - and such is the knowledge of God as containing the types of things."  Not only is it impossible therefore to see the divine ideas immediately without a vision of the Divine Essence, but the vision of the Divine Essence precedes and is the reason of seeing ideas, that is to say, eternal reasons.

    Whence the absolute objective foundation for establishing the supernatural order is the objective medium of our natural knowledge.  Which medium indeed, while by no means may be made equal to God,  leaves, by necessity, God, in Himself exceeding the natural powers of human cognition.  But ontologism assumes our objective means of knowing naturally equaling perfectly the Divine Essence.  Therefore ontologism destroys the objective and per se absolute foundation of the supernatural order.

    Ontologism assumes our means of knowing naturally to be the eternal reasons of things existing in the divine mind.  And those eternal reasons are perfectly made equal to the divine essence:  they are, indeed, really the divine essence itself.  Therefore ontologism supposes our objective means of co-naturally knowing, to be perfectly equal to the divine essence.

    Ontologism, in order to escape the force of our argumentation has recourse to the virtual distinction between the predicates: eternal reasons and divine essence in order that one is not forced to admit the intuition in this life of the divine essence, and at the same time assert the intuition of the eternal reasons.  But actually, it does not by this escape elude our conclusion, rather it is more declared and confirmed.

    This response of the ontologists especially rests in part upon the opinion of Scotus, who when he  affirmed divine predicates (or attributes) in turn to be distinguished from the divne essence, not only by a virutal distinction, or, that is to say, a logical distinction of reason, but even by an actual-formal distinction arising out of the nature of the thing, taught consequently, to be possible, absolutely speaking, that one predicate or attribute of God may be seen, while other attributes of God or the divine essence, may not be seen.

    The opinion of Scotus, however, is commonly rejected by most theologians, and, as Petavius says, by many is believed to differ little from the realism of Gilbert Porrectan (that the Council of Rhiems condemned in 1148), who taught "the Divine nature (which is called Divinity) is not God, but the form by which God is; in the same way that humanity is not man, but the form by which man is.

    In truth, an "actual-formal" (real) distinction arising from the nature of the thing (according to what is commonly accepted as being opposed to a "virtual distinction" - a logical distinction in the mind) must be based upon an actual opposition in the nature of the thing itself, in so far as the parts distinguished or separated by this distinction must not be identical, but actually distinct in the nature of the actual thing.  This, however, cannot be said concerning divine attributes and the divine essence.  For although those attributes considered in themselves allow the above mentioned opposition between themselves, they are nevertheless not opposed as are added-on divine attributes: One can not say that the divine essence is opposed to the eternal divine causes either to the truth or to the goodness of God.   The provincial fathers, in the symbol signed by them at the Council of Rheims, said "We believe and confess the simple nature of divinity to be God nor can it, by any other catholic sense, be denied that the Divinity is God and God is the Divinity.

    Nor is this opposed to what Cajetan adds: urging this reason, which seems to follow from it: that in God  there are not many perfections, but only one, namely, Deity; it is most true indeed that God Himself is not other than one unlimited perfection, completely pre-possessing in Himself, multiplied and multipliable into all other perfections.

    I say that ontologism rests only in part on the opinion of Scotus.  Given the above mentioned distinction (between really and virtually distinguishable attributes), Scotus, nevertheless, does not hold that one attribute is able to be seen without the other or without the essence.  Ontologism, on the contrary, holds the intuition of eternal reasons to be naturally had by us, such that it constitutes a necessary element of all our thinking. Actually Scotus holds that the eternal reasons (or causes) for things, that is to say, the divine ideas, are not properly speaking, divine attributes, but they are, in themselves, the divine essence, not indeed as essence, but as intellect, namely, according as it is conceived as referring to creatures.  Here Zigliare refers again to the words of Saint Thomas: "It is not possible to see the types of creatures in the very essence of God without seeing the essence of God Itself, because the Divine essence is Itself the type of all things that are made - the ideal type adding nothing to the Divine essence save only a relationship to the creature".  Scotus does not teach that the eternal reasons can be seen without seeing the divine essence, as the ontologists contend.  

    Zigliara confesses not to know, in fact, how to conceive by what means the divine essence is able to be seen as an idea is, but that the essence itself is seen as an essence is.  On the contrary, it is not able to be seen as an idea, unless it is supposed seen as an essence and, he refers again to his former observation: "The ideal reason, or archetype in God of all things which are made, while it may really be in the Divine Essence Itself, does not act upon the Divine Essence, except in respect to creatures.  But continues St. Thomas, 'knowledge of a thing in itself - and such is the knowledge of God as the object of heavenly bliss - precedes knowledge of that thing in its relation to something else - and such is the knowledge of God as containing the types of things.'  Not only is it impossible therefore to see the divine ideas immediately without a vision of the Divine Essence, but the vision of the Divine Essence precedes and is the reason of seeing ideas, that is to say, eternal reasons."

    But, in fact, we suppose that ontologism wants it to be, of course, that our intellect knows naturally the eternal causes of things and the intellect knows everything else in these causes.  Having made this supposition, we inquire from ontologism whether these eternal reasons are seen in themselves by us, and without an objective medium distinct from these eternal causes, or by means of another, that is by means of  an objective medium, which is not itself an eternal cause (possibly by means of certain similitudes, as, for example, in a prophetic vision).   If the later be the case (as we say), we have the proof: namely, our cognition of the eternal reasons is mediated; and that the objective medium in which the eternal reasons are known naturally, is created and finite (such indeed it must be through what itself is reckoned not to be an eternal reason), it follows, that the medium itself is not held to be virtually an eternal reason; and therefore that it may be able to produce only an analogous cognition.   If, on the other hand, the first is assumed (as indeed, it is assumed by ontologism), when the idea or eternal reason is really itself the divine essence, it is held that the object of our natural intuition is an adequate objective medium, which is really identical to the divine essence.  This however tears away the foundation of the absolute supernatural order.

    What we are here reasoning is able to be confirmed out of the most profound doctrine of Saint Thomas:  "In God the whole plenitude of intellectual knowledge is contained in one thing, that is to say, in the Divine essence, by which God knows all things. This plenitude of knowledge is found in created intellects in a lower manner, and less simply. Consequently it is necessary for the lower intelligences to know by many forms what God knows by one, and by so many forms the more according as the intellect is lower. Thus the higher the angel is, by so much the fewer species will he be able to apprehend the whole mass of intelligible objects. Therefore his forms must be more universal; each one of them, as it were, extending to more things.  An example of this can in some measure be observed in ourselves. For some people there are who cannot grasp an intelligible truth, unless it be explained to them in every part and detail; this happens from the weakness of their intellect: while there are others of stronger intellect, who can grasp many things from few." (ST. I, Q. 55, art. 3)

    To be noted are these most true words, confirmed from experience:  "this happens from the weakness of their intellect", not, however, from the objective medium, which is assumed to be the same in everyone.  But, according to ontologism, the natural objective medium of understanding is God Himself immediately known, or, from no pre-known medium, such as is in the Blessed.  Therefore the supernaturality of divine truths, given the ontologistic opinion, would be only that which is also in the Blessed, evidently subjective and relative, consisting in only the incomprehensibility of God, and coming from the weakness of our intellect; it would not, however, be absolute and objective, mind you, on the side of an objective medium.  Because when ontologism contends this medium to be God immediately perceived by us, it understands nothing beyond the medium itself:  for God does not have anything beyond Himself.  Of course, having admitted ontologism, this proposition would be true:  By observing the objective medium of our natural cognition, the supernatural order of divine truths does not exist, just as, by observing the objective medium alone, and, notwithstanding the incomprehensibility of God by a subjective medium, or by the finite intellect of the Blessed, the supernatural order is not given in regards to them. This proposition, as we see, is against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

    To his own reasoning, Zigliara adds seven propositions of ontologists regarding the immediate and the innate knowledge of God's being, and the relation of finite things to God, that the Holy Office condemned on September 18, 1861.  Although this in effect is an "argument from authority", it does represent the careful  examination of these opinions by competent Church scholars, and a consideration of their conclusions would not be out of place given that his book, written in Latin, was mainly intended for study by seminarians and clerics.

    The seven condemned propositions taken from the writings of the ontologists are:  I. The immediate cognition of God, at least habitual, is essential to the human intellect, thus that without it, nothing can be known, since it is itself the light of the intellect;  II. That being, which is in all things, and without which we know nothing, is divine being;  III. Universals, considered on the part of the thing, are not distinguished really from God;  IV. Congenital knowledge (that we always have) of God, as the idea simply of "being", involves all other cognition, such that, through it, we have as implicitly known all being, under whatever respect it is knowable;  V. All other ideas are not anything except modifications of the idea, by which God is understood as simply "Being";  VI. Created things are in God, as a part in the whole, not indeed in the formal whole, but in the infinite, most simple whole, which He places outside Himself, as His parts without any separation and diminution to Himself;  VII. Creation is able to be explained thus: God by a special act of His, by which He knows and wills Himself, as distinct from a certain creature, for example man, produces the creature.

    Inclined as Zigliara was to a life of quiet study and meditation upon the highest questions of Philosophy and Theology, he was drawn, almost despite himself, into one of the most heated controversies of 19th century Catholicism.   It would be easy to consign this theoretical dispute to the footnotes of history, except that its central figure was himself, like Zigliara, a faithful priest and a devout son of the Church, Antonio Rosmini.  Born on March 24, 1797, Rosmini was, by any standard, one of the most competent philosophers of the 18 hundreds, widely read in the modern systems, he poured out books in clear elegant Italian; the only difficulty being that, right from his first major work, in fact especially in his first work, in 1829, on the "Origin of Ideas", the young philosopher expounded an original system that more traditional Catholic thinkers judged to be ontologistic, or tinged with the metaphysical difficulties of ontologism.  The debate then largely revolved around proving, from his copious and deep works, the existence, in this system and permeating all his thinking, of a central idea, which, in the end, was irreconcilable, certainly with Thomism, and possibly with Catholic philosophy itself, not to mention the Church's Theological foundations.

    Zigliara never doubted the sincerity of Rosmini and those Catholic thinkers who were or became his  disciples in his train of thought.   Not inclined to personal attacks, Zigliara was a man of all the Christian virtues which rendered him, in the words of one biographer, "dear to his friends and not disliked by his adversaries".  Nevertheless, as a Dominican Thomist and a principle figure in the Neo-thomist movement of the later 19th century, Zigliara dedicated a fair amount of time to this question over the acceptability or outright orthodoxy of Rosmini's novel point of view.

    After the death of Rosmini on July 1, 1855, another group of his works were published posthumously and once again there were ignited new controversies.  Those opposed to Rosmini's system examined Rosmini's works and drew out from them specific ideas they felt to be objectionable.   At one point this became the official view, and in 1887, a Church decree was issued condemning no less than 40 propositions judged to be incompatible with Catholic doctrine or, at least, having a suspicious ring to them,  and, Rosmini's works were placed on the index.

    On the other hand, the defenders of his thinking, of which there would be numerous even to our own times, dedicated themselves to what they considered to be a fairer and more accurate interpretation of those same propositions: part of a debate that goes on, not so much in articles but, in works of 500 pages or more.  It is with this background that we take up Zigliara's treatment of the third type of "ontologism".  

     It is only just that Rosmini receive special attention, since, apart from whatever one may think of his conceptual system, it is clear that he never formally or intentionally embraced any idea against the faith which  he clearly knew, held and defended, and that he possessed likewise a deep core of spirituality that kept him from confusing his thought with his faith.  In many ways he was very much like Zigliara, prone to study more than action, most at home in the realm of ideas and in retreat away from the quagmire of daily political life.  In the tumultuous and fast moving world of the Italian "risorgimento" or revival, however, he was fatalistically, if you will, drawn into the public square of political battle, with the gaining of powerful adversaries that inevitably results.  This is not to say that, from the ranks of more traditional Catholic theologians, he lacked formidable opponents as well, but merely that his political involvement only complicated a more disinterested evaluation of his philosophical thought.

    After a two year interval which brought him into contact with many figures, both ecclesiastic and civil, directly entangled in the political upheavals of the period, he was more than happy to return, towards the end of 1849, to the relative seclusion of the northern Italian town of Stresa, located on the shores of Lake Maggiore against a backdrop of lofty hills that fade into the more distant Alps.   Here in one of the houses of his own institute, he could dedicate himself once again to a life of study, meditation and attention to his young religious community.  It was in this peaceful environment that he enjoyed the company of his friend, novelist Alessandro Manzoni, who often joined him for a Rosary on a walk in view of the scenic mountain panorama.

    Zigliara first presents an outline of Rosmini's system and then proceeds to critique it.  To assure a better understanding of Rosmini's Philosophy, we insert here a summary of it, from the Italian Catholic Encyclopedia, by Padre Giuseppe Bozzetti, who had a great knowledge and sympathy for the thought of Rosmini:

    Rosmini gives the maximum importance to immediate experience, as the base of dialectic reasoning.  He rebukes Germanic idealism as a grave error of method and a true sophism having the pretext of starting from the "I" (conscious of itself) and from philosophic thought, without taking account of the rational human activity which precedes it and underlies it; rebuking it for even presuming to be able also to deny it or completely undervalue it.  There is a profound tendency in Rosmini for psychological analysis and for the search for that which is the "direct" life of man, as opposed to that about which the subject is aware and that he directs by a reasoning will.  The unconscious is one of the laws of human activity and many things "are or are born in the mind and in the heart of man about which he has no awareness.   This is one of the factors of the human spirit, which can easily escape him and, which, nevertheless, are of supreme necessity to whoever wishes to do philosophy."

    The psychological analysis given to Rosmini shows that the first act by which man exists is a synthesis, whose elements are: 1) a fundamental bodily sentiment; 2) a sensitive perception; 3) an intuition (or intellection) of being.

    The first two place and circumscribe the individual subjectivity of man; the third actuates man in so far as he is intelligent; but their sustenance is one thing only, given the reciprocal need that they have for one in order to be able to realize themselves.  The words from Saint Augustine's "On the Trinity": "I shall impress upon you, if I can, in order that you may see yourself to see", is placed as the motto at the beginning of the second volume of his work, "The Origin of Ideas", where he lays out his solution to the problem of knowledge and illustrates these three mentioned elements.  They are something immediate, present  in us, even if not habitually averted to.  "Man does not know any other reality in himself", writes Rosmini, "except his own fundamental sentiment and his own intellective sentiment"; but these two sentiments in fact do not exist except in a living unity: the "rational sentiment", which truly is " fundamental to us".   Such sentiment individualizes the human subject, who is a single principle of two terms, which simultaneously characterize him: 1) the body, in which and through which man finds himself in relation with the world of material sensitive experience, 2) ideal being ("the idea of being"), objective form or "formal object", whose presence gives to the subject its true intellective, and therefore rational, actuality.  Thus man results from an intellective principle which individualizes himself by means of a bodily sentiment "perceiving it", that is, actualizing itself by way of permanent synthesis with it.

    The fundamental bodily sentiment is the single, uniform, continuous, "unfigured" act, with which we sense our body in so far as it is living: it renders the possibility for the body to react to external stimuli and to give occasion to the various, discontinuous, particular sensations, determined by the different organs of sense, but identical in belonging to a single subject of which they are from time to time passing modifications.

    One's own body ("substance furnished with extension, that produces in us a pleasing or painful feeling, which terminates in the same extension"), comes perceived in the fundamental sentiment as force with respect to which the soul is passive, and this is proof of the otherness of the body with respect to the soul.   But together the soul reacts on the body, and occupies it, and makes it its own (psychological fact from which is born the concept in general of possession), using it as its own instrument and nevertheless averting in it a power of resistance to its activity.  The body presents itself therefore according to this double aspect: 1) subjective in so far as made precisely of the soul and become co-subject with it; 2)  extra-subjective in so far as perceived in the same manner as the bodies extraneous to ours.

    The subjective body is the true "my" body.  The body in so far as extra-subjective is "mine" with an analogous meaning in the manner according to which the cloths we wear are mine.  However the two modes of the body are inseparable in the natural order (not thus in the supernatural order).  The subjective body must not, however, be confused with the fundamental sentiment; this is an act of the soul; on the other hand, the subjective body involves the physical material in its immediate relation with the soul which vivifies it.  The sensitive perception is also a primitive act of the soul; both of its own body in so far as extra-subjective, and of other bodies.

    To feel our body is to feel together with it all the actions which the forces of the world exert upon it: in a certain manner, all the material universe, through a synthesis of all its elements, of which no one exists absolutely to itself, but exists in relation with others; while for its part, these exist through the relation which they have with it (which is one of the applications of the "law of synthesis").

    But neither the sentiment, nor the perception are human acts if not in so far as both form a synthesis with that which, for Rosmini, is the form of the "rational sentiment", proper to man, or rather, the presence of the formal intellective object, ideal being: "being" as the light of the mind.  It is "form" which renders the perception, true cognition, that is to say, intellective perception; "form" in a sense very different from the Kantian form, because objective and not merely functional (Rosmini's critique of Kant is harsh both because of the persistent subjectivism of human knowing - an involuntary residue of sensism, and because of the groundlessness of the "a priori" synthetic judgments).  The objectivity of the "form" of human knowing is what Rosmini especially insists upon against Kant and idealism.

    From a passage of the Summa Theologica: "The object of the intellect is universal being and universal truth", Rosmini means to draw inspiration for his theory of the idea of being whose innateness he shows in a minute proof in the Origin of Ideas, distinguishing, however, his innateism from that of Plato and other thinkers, because that which he considers innate in the mind has the characteristic of indeterminateness.  Whence he declares: "if by cognition one understands those notices which come (to man) from his own mental operations,  then one cannot give the name of cognition to the notice of indeterminate being which is present to the intuition".  This being is "indeterminate" in the sense that it has with itself an infinite potentiality of determining itself, dialectically anterior to any actual distinct operation of the intelligent subject.  It is that which renders the subject capable of doing such operations; it is the light of reason, having the characters of universality, absoluteness and necessity, and containing implicit, the principles of reason.  It should not be confused, however, with the idea of being as the ultimate result of the abstractive process.  To avoid the danger of this confusion, Rosmini later prefers the expression: ideal being, which seems to him also apt to show the nexus between ontology and gnoseology [the branch of philosophy which treats of cognition].

    Being has an immediacy of relationship with the human soul, not only in the ideal form (by which man is made capable of realizing truth and certainty: Origin of Ideas), or in the real form by means of the perception of the "I", or the perception of bodies, but also in the moral form, that is, in so far as being is object and criterion of judgment.

    The light of reason has, in fact, a logical priority on the principle of morality, but together with this, it  "informs" the human soul in a single primitive act, and thus, reason and will arise in him at one time; and the "primitive perception" or first substantial synthesis with which man begins to realize himself, is also an act of judgment.

    The formula of the supreme moral principle is "the practical (voluntary) recognition (esteem, love) of being in its own order".   The concept of the order of being is born from the measure which everything has, seen in the universal relationship of beings, and it appears little by little more clear with lived experience: "it loves being wherever it knows it, in that order in which it presents itself to our intelligence".

    Every moral act, even though carrying itself towards a particular and limited object, sees being and loves it in the universal order of which it is a part, and therefore it loves in it, implicitly all being: morality, in its very self, tends to the infinite good.

    When, then, the intelligence presents to man Being, first and supreme Absolute, man sees that "all the other beings compared to Him have only relative entity, and He, however, is the end of all.  Therefore the other beings, and the estimate which one makes of them, must be ordered and referred to that Supreme (Being)".  It follows that morality finds its complement, indeed, its most real and concrete foundation, in absolute Being "as that to which one refers every entity, and, in consequence, every estimate which one makes of the various entities".

    Here morality meets with religion, and one understands in what sense one cannot have a full morality, except it be religious.  In any case, the moral law is in man, it enters into the very act of his being constituted man with intelligence and will, but it does not become therefore its subjective and individualizing element; it remains in respect to this, the same as the light of reason (the idea of being), in a relationship of immediacy, yes, but at the same time of objectivity and it conserves its absoluteness in the face of the relativity of the existence of man as an individual.  In this way Rosmini intends to save the interiority of the moral life and, at the same time, he preserves the reconciliation between human reality, in its unsuppressible need of happiness (Eudemonology), and the moral requirement.

    "Both justice as well as beatitude are able to be said the end of man; but justice is the end that man must propose to himself; beatitude is the end which, creating man, God has intended.  The nature of man desires essentially beatitude; therefore precisely beatitude is not a duty, nor is it, as such, the end which the will of man must propose to himself, but it is the end which can be proposed to himself, and which he cannot do less than  propose to himself.  If then one considers beatitude. . . that which in it is just, then beatitude, as well, is the end which man must propose to himself: that is, he must . . . love happiness considered as the effect of justice, and therefore as something willed by God: since God wills the beatitude of the just man; and it is something more than just, that the just man be happy".

    Against Idealism, which tried to reduce all man to pure thinking activity, Rosmini affirmed the true concept of man as an "intellective and volitive animal subject", revealing the manifold nature in its unity.  The subject "man", in so far as rational, is person.  To the person belongs all the activities of the nature, including the instinct, of which Rosmini illustrates two aspects: vital and sensual, showing by what manner it imitates the rational activity; but the human person has for its principal instrument and base, the will, which Rosmini, against Kant, does not identify with the moral law, vindicating the true nature of moral obligation.  This is "the obligation that a person has to work in a determinate manner so as not to render himself defective", that is, so as not to diminish the value which derives to him from being in communion with the objective order of being. This cannot but refer to a free being: liberty is precisely the peak of personal activity.

    Free will is the faculty of choice between the objective order and a subjective good; that is, between two criteria of valuation, which can come into conflict: the one offered from the need of subjectivity, necessary for man to exist as individual, the other offered from the need of the objective and universal value of being, which is also necessary to man to exist as a person.  It is up to man to decide between the two needs which have, each in a different way, something of totalitarian and of the irreducible, while each promises to man, if satisfied, an augment: the one of natural life, the other of personal value.

    In the Moral Anthropology is given the conceptual distinction between nature and person.  While embracing both, all the subsistence of being itself, indicates, the first, the complex of all the elements of being (evaluated in it own quality and function), the second, the intrinsic order of such elements: the "person is an intellective subject in so far as he includes a supreme (independent) active principle".  Concerning this doctrine, Rosmini develops applications not only in ethics, but also in law, in politics, in education, and in theology: the doctrine of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, and of original sin.  The human person has absolute dignity, in so far as man by nature has a divine light innate to his reason (ideal being), and "since the dignity of this light is infinite, therefore nothing can stand above the personal principle".

    The metaphysical justification of this affirmation is given in the vast posthumous work, Theosophy (that is, theory of absolute thinking).  The central question is the antinomy (Rosmini recognizes the merit of Kant in having brought up the problem of antinomies) between the unity of being and the multiplicity of beings.

    The unity for Rosmini is found in the "commonest being", which he calls the "essence of being", common ground of all the determinations in which being manifests itself.  It is not the "idea of being" of the Origin of Ideas, which is one of its determinations in so far as light of the mind.  Its fundamental character is the infinite virtuality of receiving determinations, in which, precisely, one finds the reason (the possibility of being thought) of the multiplicity.  It is therefore the "dialectic beginning" of all entities.

    Having (Idealism) confused it with God, it had to lead to pantheism.  It is true that the "identical initial being is in the divine mind, in the human mind, and in the finite beings, created by divine Intelligence, and perceived by man"; but this is as a consequence of creation.  God abstracts it from Himself.  In regard to God Himself, it is only an abstraction and its ontological existence is based in its relationship with the creative act.  It is in regard to us, that it exists as something truly ontological; it precedes dialectically every single existence in creation and constitutes formally the light of reason.  However it has, above all, an intrinsic multiplicity.

    From here the doctrine of the three forms of being.  Ideal, real, moral (or subjectivity, objectivity, morality), are no longer, as in the first works of Rosmini, supreme categories, inductively drawn from observation; they are, under another aspect, essential forms which all and three show themselves deductively necessary to the "essence of being", and distinct from one another but interdependent.

    The demonstration is given in Theosophy: "1st.  Supposing that there is ideal being, but that there is in the totality, things not at all real; one would be making an absurd supposition, namely, a contradictory concept.  2nd.  Supposing that there is real being, but in the totality of things, one might not find ideal being at all; the supposition would be equally absurd.  3rd.  Supposing that there is ideal and real being, and that there is not that relation between them which constitutes the moral form; again, the supposition would be absurd".

    The virtuality, therefore characteristic of "the essence of being" is a virtuality of real, ideal and moral at the same time, and if it might not be simultaneously of all and three, and of their organic relationship, it would remain canceled.  The form of being is: "being itself which, although, completely whole, is in various  ways, essential to it".

    The analogy with the three Divine Persons of Catholic dogma is evident, an analogy which Rosmini excluded might lead to confusion, when you keep present the essential impersonality of the "essence of being" and therefore of its "forms".  Ideal being then is the only "form" which is communicated totally to man, as light of his mind.  As to real being, man, like the other created beings, does not share it except in a limited manner, and likewise for moral being, does not arrive at it, even in a continual possible development, except in a limited measure.  This is so because of the intrinsic multiplicity of being.

    The essence of being, moreover, is open to an extrinsic multiplicity, that is, not essential to it, receiving determinations or limited boundaries.  Proper boundaries are those which fit the proper characters of the above mentioned essence of being: absoluteness, necessity, totality.  It is evident that of such boundaries, one cannot have but only an actuation.  In this manner, the human soul, after having received directly from God ideal being as the light of reason, (something that absolutely is, without however being Absolute subsistence) through it, it ascends to God.  It ascends with an act of reason.  

    Rosmini excludes ontologism, including that of Gioberti.  Manifold, instead, is the actuation of being in improper terms, namely: relative, contingent, partial, the world of experience.   These, contrary to proper terms, are the equivalent of limits placed on being.  How do they actuated themselves?   In themselves they have not the cause of existence.  Nor has the "essence of being", dialectic base of their possibility, by its own impersonality, power of actuating them.  From this, there is the necessity for the human mind to have recourse to the activity of the Absolute personal Being:  the creation.  But the manner with which those limits come inserted into virtual and initial being, and with it make a synthesis without, however, confusing themselves with it, remains a mystery.   In any case, the theory of creation is inseparably bound up with the whole of ontology.

    Rational truths and those revealed coincide as to truth (manifestation of Being) but differentiate specifically by the diverse determination of the content and for the manner by which they come communicated to man.  On the basis of rational cognitions and of natural life (in the act in which the soul is created by God) is the communication of being, all entire, in the "ideal form"; while as to "real being", man, by means of the subjective bodily sentiment can gather only certain limited actuations of it.  On the other hand, on the basis of supernatural cognitions and life we have again the communication of being, but the Being of God, with the new faculty of perceiving it "initially", precisely as the full actuation of real Being.

    In the light of nature is participated in man "an appurtenance of God" (something belonging to God); in the light of Grace, God Himself: God in His inseparable and ineffable whole, but not "totally".  "Eternal life" is communicated to man only as beginning, open to a development, during earthly life, in which the free correspondence of man elevated to a new state enters.  

    Great importance is given to the sacred humanity of Christ as "means" of communication to man of "eternal life", and likewise, in the theory of the Sacraments, greatest stress in the intervention of that sacred humanity.

    The Grace of the New Testament is considered as the connection to the mystery of the divine Trinity.  As to original sin, Rosmini does not accept the theory that makes it consist solely in the privation of Grace.  He includes there also a voluntary element, tied to the sinful will of Adam, but also proper to each man.  In his psychology, Rosmini believed finding the data with which to render this thesis plausible.  

    He dedicated particular interest to the subject of the justification of Divine Providence in the creating and governing of the universe; whence his vast work on Theodicy.

    Returning again to Zigliara:

    Antonio Rosmini brought in a third type of ontologism which, indeed, as to substance, agrees with the preceding types.  Since, however, the form under which it is proposed is so different, as the author denies his system to be ontologistic, therefore we reckon Rosminism must be examined.

    Rosmini begins from being or being in universals, and he considers it in itself, and as ordered to our mind.  Taken in itself, it contains virtually all other entities, either existing or possible: God and creatures, which are joined together by the community of an univocal predicate; but, moreover, being or the being in universals is something of necessary Being, that is, of God, or rather, it has the same essence with God.  Consequently the being of the Rosminians is not something created, since it has both a divine nature and divine characteristics: although (since it is understood first by the divine intellect, thence by us, with formal mental separation from God and other divine attributes) it may not openly display perfect being formally in its appearance, subsisting in itself and infinite.  Consequently being or that particular being, is, indeed, God Himself, in so far as to that which it implicates, even though it may not be God as far as to that which it displays.  It is really God, it is not formally God: only that the attribute of God (although it may be really another divine attribute, and the divine essence itself, nevertheless) we distinguish formally, by means of logical distinctions, the accepted divine attributes among themselves, and from the essence.   This being (or Rosminian being) is an element properly intrinsic of contingent beings; it is univocal for God and for creatures, and it is the cause creating (determining and final) of the essence of beings and events.

    Having said summarily by us what concerning the nature of a being or the "being" of the Rosminians, in order that it might be more fully understood, it is to be noted that being according to Rosmini is endowed with three forms, which are three modes of being of "being" itself, namely, the objective or ideal form, the subjective or real form, and the moral or synthetic form, which therefore is the subjective-objective form, or the real-ideal form.  In order that that might be understood, let us assume that I may say: 1) "being" or essence, 2) subsistence or existence, 3) "being is subsisting".

    In the first case I mean "being" separately from real existence; in the second case I mean existence separately from essence, finally, in the third case, I express the identity and uniting of both.  You have in the first case the objective or ideal "being"; in the second case the subjective form; in the third case, the moral form.  "The scientific order", Rosmini says, " comes from the objective form of ideality, and the order of real things pertains to the subjective form of reality, just as the moral order pertains to the subjective-objective form of morality."  And so, as essence is "being", thus existence is "being", and the verb (is) is "being"; and therefore "being" is everything in whatever of the three just mentioned forms.  Nevertheless, "being" is able to be considered separately under any form, in fact, distinctly from any form; and as it is indeterminate and imparticular.  A being or "being" is taken in this way and inparticular, is, according to Rosmini, the object intuited naturally by us; it is, the Author says, the silently intuited object.

    From then, after being silently intuited, there follows mental reflection, through which that inparticular  "being"  receives various denominations, according to the different ways it is considered:  according as it virtually includes all being, it is called "virtual BEING"; according as it is considered as the "act" of all being, it is called "initial and most common BEING"; according as it is considered as it is act in itself, with the specification by beings, of which it is the act, it is called "abstract specified BEING".

  Latest Post:

(To be continued)
Those interested in receiving the latest additions to this work via periodic email may send their request to: