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For The Love of Wisdom
Chris John-Terry
ISBN 0818906952

Review by Pravin Thevathasan

This is an immensely enjoyable introduction to the study of philosophy, that is, the study of wisdom. The author argues that the pursuit of wisdom is not only neglected in our age but is in danger of being replaced by false substitutes. We live in a world dazzled by the success of the experimental sciences and that regards experiment as the only legitimate source of knowledge. In contrast, metaphysical statements such as "God" and the "soul" are regarded as unreliable because they are not verifiable by the method of modern science. Indeed, for many scholars, the only worthwhile knowledge is that which leads to more pleasure and success. Perhaps this helps explain the high incidence of Utilitarian philosophers in our academic departments.

The work explains with great clarity the true meaning and purpose of our philosophical heritage. The author argues that it is not beneficial to deny philosophy's debt to Christianity: as Gilson noted, the errors of Greek philosophy are precisely the errors into which a philosophy, unaided by Christian faith has fallen.

The author begins his study with ancient Greek philosophy. For Plato and Aristotle, true wisdom consists in a genuine knowledge of things. Aristotle went further by saying that true philosophy seeks the first cause of things.

Following Aristotle, Saint Thomas was to further distinguish philosophy from theology, between natural and revealed wisdom.

Philosophy is a science because it is a knowledge of things attained by an investigation of their cause. The man of science has a knowledge of the whys of things and certitude is the result of knowing the causes of things. However, our knowledge of physics, for example, is always developing and no human science that is still developing could contain a complete set of conclusions. Philosophy is also in the process of development. However, there are some philosophical truths that are certain for example Aristotle's conclusion that what is moved is moved by another.

The author notes that the philosopher's concern is not only the question of essence, or what things are, but primarily the question of existence, or why things are. As philosophy is the study of all contingent beings, it is a universal science.

The author notes that some say that there cannot be a Christian philosophy just as there cannot be a Christian physics. He counters that, although there may not be such a thing as a Christian reason, there is such a thing as a Christian exercise of reason. For the believer, divine revelation is an indispensable ally of reason. Theology is the most certain of the sciences because the source of revealed truth is the divine intellect. Then comes philosophy, the science of wisdom. Physics merely describes contingent reality in measurable terms. The goal of philosophy, on the other hand, is to explain contingent being, to find the cause of the actual existence of contingent reality.

The author succeeds admirably in reminding us that philosophy is the study of wisdom. One of the marks of an authentic philosophy is wonder and this sense of wonder is captured within these pages.

Version: 11th April 2010


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