The history of thought
is a continuity Rcason and Revelation in the Middle Ages. By Etienne Gilson. (Scribners, es.) Reviewed by GERALD VANN, O.P.
THE history of thought is a continuity. We can fully understand modern philosophy only in the light of medieval thought; medieval thought only in the light of Greek speculation and patristic teaching. " The Varieties of Religious Experience and the Twofold Sources of Ethics and Religion . , . would be stilt greater than they are if their conclusions had taken into account seven centuries of historical experience." If " we learn from medieval theologians what is faith in an objective truth and what is an objective philosophical knowledge, we shall find ourselves possessed of both a Revelation and a Reason. Then there will be something to harmonise, and anyone attempting to do it will end at last in meeting the real problem."
The idea that the Middle Ages were in fact dark ages in which " natural reason was obscured by blind faith," and philosophy "became a mere tool at the hands of unscrupulous theologians," is not yet wholly dead, and still, therefore, needs refuting. But Professor Gilson does far more than supply a learned and critical refutation of an unscholarly simplification. He demonstrates the co-existence of three very different trends of thought. The first (The Primacy of Faith) itself includes two very different families: that of Tertullian and the anti-rationalists; that of Augustine and the Augustinians, whose common ground was the idea of faith as the basis of understanding. The second trend (The Primacy of Reason) includes the medieval rationalists with Averroes at their head. The third is that which accepts both reason and faith without trying to explain away either, admits the autonomy of reason in its own sphere, harmonises the two by refusing to confuse them: the achievement of St. Thomas.
THE thomist synthesis did not convince m the contemporary world; and Professor Gilson gives reasons for this failure. The result was the continuance continuance of an of disharmony, and the contin rationalism on the one hand, and of anti-rationalist fldeism on the other. to-day a day we If t wish to examine afresh the real problem of reason and revelation, we can "scarcely avoid meeting Saint Thomas Aquinas." This stimulating book, which embodies the Richards Lectures in the University of Virginia, thus covers something of the same ground as M. Gilson's Christianisme at Philosophic. One always expects, when opening a book of his, to find not only great learning lightly worn, but also valuable and constructive thought. The clear light which these pages throw on the main trends of medieval speculation more than fulfils one's expectations.
Address Unknown. By Kressmann Taylor. (Hamish Hamilton, 2s. 6d.) " Read in half an hour and remembered a lifetime." Perhaps not a lifetime, but long enough. The story, charmingly told, of two friends, a German and a German-Jew, both the noblest and most cultured representatives of their race. Tells of the faithlessness of the German under the sublime and ridiculous " mysticism and nonsense " that is affecting the race at the moment, and the cruel, relentless, cold blooded revenge of his Jewish friend. Told in letter form with an original ending.
theniece, though also bullied, was, on ho
the whole, happy and content. But the lodger was strange. He came from ignored another world and nored their eager, devouring curiosity. It led to difficulties and a climax, for Mrs Sparge was highly sexed.
STEPHEN, who is adored by his frail and sensitive Aunt Marge, is badly treated by life. To Kill is my Vocation shows him, fundamentally a dreamer and sepsitive like his aunt, hunted on a charke of murder and, in the end, guilty of one. His was a tragic destiny. Fate drove him into impossible positions, and some weakness in him led him to make the most of them, so he was caught.
some It is a book of som distinction, though it takes one into rough places and amongst some brutal people.