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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Faith and Reason

"Aquinas applied this principle to his own study of Aristotle, and the philosophical tradition he founded encouraged later generations of commentators on the law not to mechanically reproduce an existing body of law but instead to reason about the sources of law and how it was to be applied to novel situations. The classical tradition that was revived in European universities was not simply one of appeal to the authority of certain static texts but also of rational inquiry into the meaning of those texts." -- Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order, p. 269

Hmm, so the Medieval Catholic tradition was not one of blind acceptance of authorities, but of rational inquiry into what they meant, how it did or didn't apply to the present, and so on? You don't say.

Fukuyama does not seem to a be a religious man. But the above is very common: anyone who seriously studies history simply cannot maintain the cartoon version of what the Church was like that the new atheists put forward. The professor who taught me the history of science at King's College, London, was very much like this: not a believer himself, but swift to debunk the pop-villain version of the Church's actions regarding science at that time.

3 comments:

  1. Next you'll tell us the story about the Church vs. Galileo isn't how it really happened...

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  2. Wait, so is Fukuyama a historian or not? If not, why do you post Fukuyama citations regarding historical narratives? I'm presuming he at least cites sources for his claims, so why not point to those instead of book by a nonhistorian?

    I'm not saying he's wrong or fabricating his narrative, but this seems like a very bad way of convincing your audience of something. Argument from authority is one thing, argument from an unqualified authority is another. "This guy, who by the way is not a historian, said X in his book, contradicting the conventional story Y. So there."

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  3. "Wait, so is Fukuyama a historian or not? If not, why do you post Fukuyama citations regarding historical narratives? I'm presuming he at least cites sources for his claims, so why not point to those instead of book by a nonhistorian?"

    Here is an able user of the work of historians. I trust that he can use his sources aptly.

    ReplyDelete