“Scholastic thinkers emphasise a healthy respect for tradition, in two respects. First, they are keen to uphold Catholic orthodoxy. Second, they tend to regard the history of Western thought from the Pre-Socratics through to the medievals as, more or less, progressive.”
— Edward Feser, “In Defence of Scholasticism”
What is Quodlibetalism (Q.L.)? Of itself, it means nothing, although it calls to mind the mediaeval quaestiones quodlibeta which the Scholastics engaged. The title suggests a kind of haphazard investigation into whatever I would like to investigate. I suppose that is not terribly far from the truth. Indeed, I would like for Quodlibetalism to be not terribly far from the truth — as close as possible, actually.
My method and sources here are hopefully at least half as Scholastic as Feser illustrates above. The quaestiones quodlibeta were always, we should remember, situated within this larger system and context. They were anchored by the Church’s orthodoxy, and they were buoyed up by the continual development from the Pre-Socratics to Thomas Aquinas and the Thomist tradition. Hence the insights gained from entertaining such questions were targeted, not at the mere satisfaction of curiosity, but at a deeper appreciation of the whole Scholastic system, and indeed the whole world. The mingling of apparently disparate issues reveals their underlying structure — maybe some of which has not yet been seen.
There also an historical benefit to this method. Modernity tends to be positively obsessed with specialization. Where on the earth today is the work of some grand synthesis taking place? (I am agreeing with Thomas Nagel when I say that reductionist physicists do not qualify.)
We are at a loss for thinkers striving after wisdom. But in the past, this was not so. The ancient and mediaeval thinkers were entirely devoted, not to specialization, but to sapientia. True, they specialized and asked the occasional quodlibet, but only for the sake of wisdom. A certain very important seeker of wisdom, Aristotle, continues to be deeply influential to this day. He was the pinnacle of the ancient world. Something similar could be said for Thomas Aquinas, as the pinnacle of the mediaeval world.
This blog (how lowly!) is not anything like a pinnacle. But I hope to to emulate Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas in the quest, as it were, for sapientia. Other thinkers I may very well drag into the debate, but these two hold pride of place as archetypes. The pursuit of wisdom should not be abandoned. And in the interest of this pursuit, neither should Scholasticism.
But what about the owner of the blog? He is a student of philosophy and theology, preparing (hopefully) for a career in academia. — Q.L.