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C H A P T E R E L E V E N The Perfect Storm On the Loss of Nature as a Normative Theonomic Principle in Moral Philosophy S T E V E N A . L O N G The title of this essay—“The Perfect Storm”—is perhaps rather an offputting title for a paper that might be expected to celebrate the positive achievements of Thomistic moral thought in the twentieth century. And in fact the twentieth century saw many positive developments within Thomistic moral theology and philosophy. However, the gravamen of my analysis here is that the confluence of a certain antecedent “problem situation ” of Catholic moral reflection with influential currents of thought deriving from the Enlightenment—and found in diverse forms on the continent of Europe and in anglophone thought—conspired in the twentieth century to contradict, obscure, and disrupt the fundamental elements of Thomistic moral thought. This occurred both in the wider intellectual culture and to some degree even within the precincts of Catholic thought among some who think of themselves as broadly Thomistic. While on the one hand the consequent confusions have been deleterious, on the other, the provocation with respect to the actual teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas has midwifed critical and positive responses. I will first describe the intellectual currents that for a time have threatened to obscure the moral teaching of Aquinas, beginning with the 271 272 STEVEN A. LONG extra-Catholic sources and moving toward the doctrinally intra-Catholic ones. Then in brief conclusion I will acknowledge the manner in which the very omnipresence of these influences has served slowly but surely to elicit from the tradition accounts vindicating the wider horizon of Thomistic moral thought. The Threefold Speculative Etiology of the Storm First, as to etiology, three elements may be identified, each of which matriculated to its full volatility during the twentieth century and thence virally interrupted the transmission of Thomistic moral thought so severely as temporarily to seem to threaten the latter’s genetic code.These three theoretic elements—the first of secular, and the latter two of intra-Catholic, origination—are (1) transcendental philosophy and analytic logicism; (2) the removal of human freedom from divine providence; and (3) a view of nature and grace that negates the proportionate natural end from which the species is derived. Thomistic moral thought has nevertheless proven far more durable and immune than the marked divagations from the tradition might have led one to suspect. But what precisely are these elements, and how have they contributed to so disruptive an effect? Transcendental Philosophy and Analytic Logicism Descending lineally from Enlightenment roots are two related but diverse species of rationalism. On the continent, the influence of Kant reigns supreme in the transcendental turn to the subject, articulated not only in those of Kant’s school but in subsequent minds of genius such as Husserl and Heidegger and even Catholic savants such as Dietrich von Hildebrand, who fell prey to Kant’s misportrayal of natural teleology. The turn to transcendental subjectivity refers principally to Kant’s loss of metaphysical realism and negation of normative natural teleology, but also to transcendental phenomenology as prescinding from actual existence or esse and so, as John Paul II argued eloquently in his famed Review of Metaphysics essay, unfit to found anthropology or ethics. As then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla argued in his essay “Person, Subject, and Community,” regarding the abnegation of being by transcendental phenomenology: This manner of treating consciousness is at the base of the whole so-called “transcendental philosophy.” This examines acts of cognition as intentional acts of consciousness directed to transsubjective matter and, therefore, to what is objective or to phenomena. As long as this type of analysis of consciousness possesses the character of a cognitive method, it can and does bear excellent fruit [by providing descriptions of intentional objects]. However , the method should not be considered a philosophy of reality itself. Above all it should not be considered a philosophy of the reality of man or of the human person, since the basis of this method consists in the exclusion (epoche) of consciousness from reality or from actually existing being. This transcendental remotion of thought from being and nature sprouts offshoots found even in Christian thinkers. Dietrich von Hildebrand, for example, concurs with Kant’s view of natural teleology in his famous work Christian Ethics, in which he argues that the character of the end as good means “nothing more than the...


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