By Werner Wilhelm Jaeger
Publication by means of Jaeger, Werner Wilhelm
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Additional resources for Humanism and Theology (Aquinas Lecture 7)
Humanism, so they might say, is that modest attitude towards life which never transcends the limits of human nature. And as they interpret human nature, they would say that St. Thomas and Dante and all theological systems do transcend those limits because they try to enter the realm of the unknowable. There is a group of modern thinkers who have adopted the word "humanism" in this new sense of an agnostic philosophy. Without entering a more detailed discussion of their view of human nature we may briefly say that they confine knowledge to the immediate sensual experience of man's natural and social environment.
From that principle Aristotle deduced step by step the concept of a supreme science or rational theology. His scholastic followers would insist that the fear of God, which is stressed by Thomas a Kempis, and their own Page 16 philosophical approach were not mutually exclusive. 20 If the nature of man, so they might reply, includes as one of its essential elements the desire for knowledge, that desire has been implanted in it by the Creator. In their opinion the example of Aristotle's metaphysics showed that the inborn potentiality of and desire for knowledge, when actualized in the right manner through methodical training of the mind, leads finally to the knowledge of God as the highest grade of reality and perfection.
The very fact that the intellectual progress of the new age set in with and went parallel to the gradual rediscovery of a great civilization of the past made the more advanced minds of that time aware of the shallowness of the narrow channels through which the profane knowledge of the so-called liberal arts, the trivium and quadrivium, had come down to them from the classical period in a number of arid text books. A truly humanistic consciousness dawned on them of what we would call the historicity of the human spirit.
Humanism and Theology (Aquinas Lecture 7) by Werner Wilhelm Jaeger