Father M.A. Krapiec, OP. 1989
translated and edited by Hugh McDonald with the permission of the author,
original title: "Przewyciezyc kryzys teologii"


Father Mieczyslaw Albert Krapiec of the Catholic University of Lublin read this article when he received a doctorate honoris causa from the University of the Louvain, and also in Rome at a conference on the state of modern theology called by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

On Overcoming the Crisis in Theology

The documents of the Second Vatican Council were not written in the traditional language of scholasticism, but in the language of common sense and everyday discourse. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Polish theologians and philosophers also resorted to such language. Colloquial though it was, this is not to say that this language was philosophically neutral, or free of influences from outside philosophy. Although one could still find forms of neo-Scholastic (post-Kleutgen(1)) forms of argumentation in the writings of some theologians and philosophers, there was for the most part a flight from neo-Scholasticism: theological writers moved toward various ideologies and looked to sociology and psychology. The result was a a variety of movements toward the reconstruction of theology in general, and of ethics and moral theology in particular, after the pattern of psychology or sociology, or some ideology. Each such movement was associated with a certain kind of language.

This poses a grave threat to theological thought, especially in the area of the theory of morality where we run the risk of succumbing to relativism, subjectivism and psychologism. Hence we need to reflect upon the method and language used in formulating the theory of morality. We can do this by re-examining the direction taken by St. Thomas Aquinas in the construction of his great theology.

The Suarezian legacy in neo-Scholasticism

The language of neo-Scholasticism formulated after the First Vatican Council reminds us of the masters of the mediaeval period, especially as to the way in which theological and philosophical problems were presented, but the manner in which problems were resolved owes more to the scholasticism of the renaissance, especially the masters of the Jesuit school, in particular Francis Suarez(2) and Luis de Molina(3). The Jesuit school declared its fidelity to the thought of St. Thomas, but this quickly became Thomism ad mentem Suarezii(4). Suarez had diverged from St. Thomas at a very critical juncture in philosophy, in the understanding of reality, in what was called the conception of being as being.

Since a language is a system of signs related to our cognition, the character of the language we use depends upon our understanding of reality; it depends on how we have formulated the concept of being. Suarez apparently conceived reality as if it were exhausted in a system of essences; existence is only the internal mode of an essence. This mode of the essence does not really differ from the essence itself. In the language he used, he expressed the cognizability of these essences through a system of concepts. He made these concepts intelligible through a system of definitions. These definitions were to reveal the set of features which constitute the concept of a given thing. His presupposition was that we are able to form a concept of everything in reality, and that whatever can be conceptualized can be defined. Definitions can be ordered one to another in syllogistic inference; thus, by way of a syllogistic operation of deduction, it is possible to rationally justify all the various states of reality which are grasped and expressed in concepts. There was one more error, as I have shown in my book on the theory and methodology of metaphysics(5), namely, the inadmissible passage from essence (expressed in concepts and definitions) to existence, since existence was supposed to be revealed by a syllogistic conclusion. Now it is well known that a posse ad esse non valet illatio(6). The apparent precision of the neo-Scholasticism of Kleutgen(7), that of Suarezian metaphysics, was in essence an overdeveloped verbalism; the definitional character of the system was founded on an a priori and erroneous conception of reality. A being is not merely a 'nature', but it is a really existing concrete thing, a concrete thing which can be truly grasped only in analogical cognition, cognition which is based upon judgment. Being is not grasped in univocal and conceptual cognition. We know that the existence of the concrete being cannot be conceptualized; it can be grasped originally only in existential judgements.

So it is that the neo-Scholastic manuals of philosophy and theology which employed definitional syllogisms as a tool for demonstrating factual existence were in the final analysis misleading in the cultivation of theology in general and the theory of morality in particular.

Phenomenology and the phenomenological method

At the same time, we see in the twentieth century the development of phenomenology, which strives for an exact description of the intentional contents which we experience in a living manner in consciousness (and to present this in language which all could understand)(8). The technique of phenomenological description was all the easier to refine as the object of description was in fact not that which really exists, a real thing or state of affairs, but the contents of essences, intentional beings, as these are given to us in the living experience of consciousness. Despite Husserl's slogan "Back to the things in themselves", the phenomenological movement returned to the contents of consciousness, to the so-called Wesenschau(9), the inspection of the 'essence of the thing' as it is given to us. It was this inspection which became the 'thing in itself', all the more as it was subjected to the 'phenomenological reduction' which ordered that the historical, theoretical and existential contents of things be put in brackets. Husserl himself said during a visit to Paris that the Cartesian postulate of a return to the clear and distinct idea is the foundation of the phenomenological standpoint. Ideas, which became 'the thing in itself', could be described with precision and finesse: the more clear and vivid the mental image, the more precisely could it be described.

It seemed to certain theoreticians of morality, including professor Karol Wojtyla, that the phenomenological method should be a supplementary approach to moral problems, as these problems are given to us in conscious living experience to be explained. Thus, we need to draw upon consciousness in the descriptions of the 'moral facts' which man experiences. The practice of individual confession would be a particular confirmation of this position, since the memory of experiences preserved in the consciousness and the recollection of these experiences plays an important role in appraising a moral act. Professor Wojtyla, for his part, still took the philosophical and anthropological framework of St. Thomas as his foundation, and he took Father Jacek Woroniecki's «Catholic Educational Ethics» as the basic textbook in examinations. This three-volume work by an outstanding Thomistic theologian is based completely in the secunda pars of the Summa Theologica.

The function of consciousness as a witness in the living moral experience was treated somewhat differently among certain of Wojtyla's disciples (Tadeusz Styczen(10) and his group); the accent was shifted in that at the starting point consciousness enjoyed the exclusive position as that which establishes the 'moral fact'. This group appealed to what is called 'the experience of morality' which manifests itself in the feeling of an absolute moral imperative, the object of which is the 'obligation' - the debitum - to perform a moral act. This obligation is absolute and the experience one has of it is already constitutive of a moral fact. The strange conclusion of all this is that a man is said to be dealing with a moral fact, with a moral being, even before the man in his completeness, in both the cognitive and appetitive order, is involved. According to this position the conscious feeling of obligation is sufficient to constitute morality. This feeling is absolute such that by itself it already constitutes a moral fact (it is not said whether this feeling is freely chosen or appears as a Zwangvorstellung(11)). I criticized this position, as it is a particular form of Kantianism and as it leaves aside the whole matter of the act of decision: in order for a moral being to come into existence, the involvement of both cognition and free will are necessary. Only an act of decision, an act in which we freely elect a practical judgment, can be an moral act, a moral fact subject to philosophical interpretation.

Sociology and moral theology

In the theory of morality we may encounter tendencies toward the 'sociologization' of theology, towards remaking moral theory after the model of sociology. Such tendencies involve a certain interpretation of the term populus Dei - 'the people of God' - which was used to describe the Church in the documents of Vatican II.

It seemed to some that the Church could direct and evaluate its development by way of sociology. Now, sociology uses chiefly uses statistical methods for justifying statements. Statistics may be of great service in determining what the level of morality is in a given milieu, for example, the rate of divorce, of various crimes, drug use, et cetera. However, when statistics are extended to the realm of deontology to establish norms and the laws of moral experience, the result is disastrous. Unfortunately statistics are used in this way: if statistics show that over 50% of marriages in a given popululation sample end in divorce, it is all too easy to conclude that therefore divorce is morally regular and to call for a change in moral teaching concerning divorce. This becomes all the more dangerous as, with the decline of philosophy, the very conception of human nature disappears; some think that the concept of human nature is a consequence of certain overly idealistic conceptions, and that only by analyzing what people can actually be observed doing can it be established what is and what is not human nature. This position has disastrous consequences for man himself, for man's rationality is a contingent being and is sometimes, on account of degeneracy in cognition and activity, more inclined to evil than to good. Since each man was capable of acting other that he did act, a simple analysis of behaviour does not reveal to us all of man's potential.

Ideology and theology

Another dangerous tendency in the theory of morality is the movement toward ideologies. Some would take ideology as a guide in both theory and practice while being ignorant of philosophy and theology. In these times while people see the need for a 'rational' foundation to serve as a ground for human social behaviour their opinions are often derived from various ideologies. Among such ideologies we may count the various forms of contemporary Marxism, the panentheism(12) of Whitehead (and his elaborate theory of processualism), the cosmic evolutionism of Teilhard de Chardin, and contemporary movements of Zen Buddhism. These ideologies at times lay claim to being the only 'scientific' foundation for the interpretation of the world and social phenomena, as is the case with Marxism and processualism.

The Ideology of Whitehead


Alfred North Whitehead is without doubt one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. We are not without justification, however, in including his system of thought among the ideologies. As he writes, «the true method of philosophical construction is to frame a scheme of ideas, the best one can, and unflinchingly to explore the interpretation of experience in terms of that scheme»(13) He holds that there is always such a scheme behind constructive thought, and that the task of philosophy is to bring it out in the open and thus render it explicit. Yet the approach is to place ideas before reality, to form a scheme wherein «everything of which we are conscious, as enjoyed, perceived, willed, or thought, shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme.»(14) Such a philosophical scheme should be coherent, by which he means «it is presupposed that no entity can be conceived in complete abstraction from the system of the universe, and that it is the business of speculative philosophy to exhibit this truth.»(15) Thus when he approaches reality he already has determined what he shall find, and this is precisely an a priori attitude. The things of the universe which are perceptible to our senses undergo constant change, and to be «coherent» everything must take part in this change. So it is that Whitehead posits as a category of explanation «that an eternal object can be described only in terms of its potentiality for "ingression" into the becoming of actual entities».(16) It would further seem that the static terms of Greek, specifically Aristotelian, philosophy, terms taken up by the mediaevals, viz Aquinas, are illusions, giving the illusion of fixity in a world of change. Since everything in the universe is changing, whereas language has at least the illusion of refering to fixed entities, language must be held responsible for the malaise of philosophy. No proposition can be treated in isolation, for each has meaning only in its various nexs with the whole universe. Thus precision is impossible. Whitehead recalls the charge of John Stuart Mill «They (the Greeks) had great difficulty in distinguishing between things which their language confounded, or in putting mentally together things which it distinguished; and could hardly combine the objects in nature, into any calsses but those which were made for them by the popular phrases of their own country; or at least could not help fancying those classes to be natural, and all others arbitrary and artificial.»(17) The Greeks and the mediaevals, while fancying themselves to be speculating reality, were doing little more than a «a mere sifting and analysing of the notions attached to common language. They thought that by determing the meaning of words they could become acquainted with facts.» How just this is to the Greeks and the mediaevals we shall see later. In particular, classical philosophy's important notion of substance, which is taken from our normal way of looking at the world, is subjected to revision. Substance, specifically what in Aristotle's De interpretatione is called first substance, , Whitehead replaces with the «Category of the Ultimate». This category is fluid. The universe is one conjunctively, and many disjunctively. The many are always in flow to the one, and the togetherness of the many in the one is what is called the category of the ultimate. Whitehead goes on to propose the verbal noun «concrescence» as the successor to substance.(18) As for the relation of God to the other entities in the universe, first of all, he is no more a being than the most insignificant puff of existence out in the vastness of space. Whitehead is in agreement with classical philosophy that there must be a certain unity to the whole universe. This finality was in Aristotle the unity brought about by the movement of everything toward its final cause. In Thomas everything is joined by having an ultimate cause, the efficient, formal and final cause. God is the efficient cause as He is the Creator, the formal cause, as the forms of things exist analogically within him, and the final cause, for everything tends toward him. God is not the starting point of philosophical reasoning, but the end point, for we are led from a frank look at the world to his existence. For Whitehead, the unity of the universe is a conceptual unity. «God's rôle is not the combat of productive force with productive force, of destructive force with destructive force; it lies in the patient operation of the overpowering rationality of his conceptual harmonization.» (19) God and the world complete each other like two poles in a magnetic field. God is found at the pole of permanence and derives flux from the world, and the world is found at the pole of flux and derives its permanence from the opposite pole. One pole cannot exist without the other. God is subject to a process whereby He starts from his position as the primordial unity and acquires a multiplicity, whereas in the process of the world, there is a primordial character of multiplicity which moves toward convergence.

Alfred North Whitehead proceeds from a conceptual scheme to a metaphysical explanation. He posits that the world must have a certain kind of coherent unity, which unity is based in «creativity». This creativity is in turn what in Aristotelian terms has been called matter. Matter is potency to change, that what can take on the new, and so the universe is united in its movement toward novel realizations or rearrangements of its component parts. One wonders why Whitehead speaks of God at all, except to introduce an element of fixity, for he neither presents any cogent philosophical argument for the existence of God, nor does he clarify how what he calls God corresponds to «that which all men call God». Yet he does have quite a bit to say about God, even about how God has experience. While he professes to be wary of using language as the criterion of things, he does use his conceptual scheme as the criterion of the strength of any explanation. That with which he reproaches the Greeks, therefore, he has committed himself. How do the Greeks themselves measure up? The Socrates of Plato did indeed use language as the criterion for judging thought, and thought for the criterion of judging reality. Socrates searched for the wise, and since the poets were professed to be wise, he went to them. Since they could not give a precise account of what they had sung in poetic language, he concluded that they were impostors. What Socrates could not define he would discount. The Greeks, however, were not all of one mold. We see the philosopher Mison, who would say that we should not search out facts by starting from words, by seek words starting from the facts.(20) We arrive at intelligibility from things, but we may not impose intelligibility upon things. Likewise Aristotle, in his Categories, asserts that existence is prior to the truth of a statement affirming existence. If it the statement «a man exists» is true, then a man exists, and if a man exists then the statement is true, yet the existence of the man is prior to the truth of the statement affirming his existence, as the state of affairs is in a sense the cause of the truth of the statement.(21)

If an ideology converges in some aspect or another with certain phenomena of human life, if it can provide an apparent interpretation of certain phenomena, this is grounds enough for some to accept unreservedly the whole system as rational. They would forget that every ideology, as it is a work of the human reason, cannot be totally devoid of rational elements. Indeed, there has never been a theory, however far-fetched, which could not provide an explanation of some facts of human life. A theory is not, however, on that account justified and necessary; on the other hand, the theory of classical philosophy, when rightly expounded, is both. One cannot arbitrarily pick and choose among various optional visions of the world and of man in the supermarket of ideologies. Each ideological choice involves a certain theory of morality. The consequences of Marxism in moral theory are well known. Teilhard de Chardin's version of the theory of pan-cosmic evolution leads to a point beyond Christian morality, as the coming-into-being of the noosphere is to lead to meta-Christianity. According to Zen man is lead by way of internal 'self-emptying' to the full EMPTINESS. Since an ideology is in fact an a priori theory which cannot be called into question by anyone or any account, neither can the moral conduct which is based on an ideology be called to account; an ideology may be fascinating as a theory but is always dangerous in its consequences.

What, then, are the concrete consequences of such interpretative tendencies in the field of morality? Generally speaking, the acceptance of the theories mentioned above leads inevitably to some degree of moral relativism, to the non-recognition of the foundations of morality. This relativism is particularily apparent in a certain type of moral conventionalism. Each arbitrarily selected ideology may serve as the groundwork upon which one may construct a theory of morality and establish norms of individual and social conduct. Justice and the moral good are conceived in one way in Marxist ideology and in another way in pan-cosmic evolution and processualism (progress is the good in the system of Teilhard de Chardin and dynamism in the system of Whitehead), and in yet another way in Zen, wherein 'renunciation' and the stripping away of self is the chief form of psychological and moral activity. Although in certain aspects it may be sublime and indeed may enoble the life of certain individuals, conventionalism in the area of moral norms, wherein these norms may depend on what is falsely called the 'metaphysical' option, is an erroneous and a priori ideology which leads to tragic consequences, as we see in the history of Marxism.

By overstepping the limits proper to them, psychology and sociology may become ideologies - psychologism and sociologism, or sociopsychologism if they are taken together. These are no less dangerous for morality, since they provide a basis for treating certain selected factors (albeit real factors) in the direction of human behaviour as absolutes. Even if the factor which is rendered into an absolute is an important one, such as the moral living experience of absolute obligation, such an absolutization eliminates the moral order as an objective and verifiable factor.

The way of St. Thomas

So it was that the departure from realistic philosophy and the crisis within neo-scholasticism, which contains an erroneous conception of reality (being) stemming from the teachings of Suarez and Kleutgen, underlies the crisis in theology in general and in ethics in particular.

What is the way out of this crisis? It seems that we would do best to look to St. Thomas and his approach. St. Thomas, of course, was primarily not a philosopher but a theologian. As a theologian, however, he could not work in a vacuum. He needed an ultimate metaphysical understanding of the reality in which we live, move and have our being. Since man is the one who receives revelation, he also required a metaphysical understanding of man. St. Thomas' original contribution in philosophy was his understanding of being and of man. This revolutionary contribution was not completely understood in his own time in his philosophical milieu and has often been misunderstood thereafter. His philosophical insights allowed him to pose the question of God both as Creator and as He is in His own internal life. In the domain of morality he was able to construct a unique system of morality, a rationally justified system consistent with the history of human culture, a theory of morality which also had a theological face. It provided a theological interpretation of human moral conduct in general. Morality is a mode of human behaviour, and human behaviour requires both philosophical clarification and theological interpretation.

One of St. Thomas' prime concrens was to bring greater precision to the conception of being, to providing a metaphysical understanding of the reality in which man is immersed from the moment of his conception unto his death. How should reality be understood? What is being qua the real? This question is important because God himself is the highest reality and the source of reality, and he is corresponding conceived as the 'object' of theological knowledge.

Philosophers have always been occupied with the ultimate understanding of reality. Before Thomas we see various conceptions of being, that of the Ionian philosophers, of Parmenides, Heraclites, Plato, Aristotle, and that of the neo-Platonists. All these conceptions and theories were built up with and involved epistemological theories and methods. For his part, Thomas began from the common-sense cognition of reality. He also employed elements of Arab thought (Avicenna), which acknowledged the role of existence in being, probably as the result of religous thought of biblical provenance. Being-reality is constituted by concrete natures, in as much as these really exist. It is the actually existing concrete which is real being, being existing as innumerable individuals. We may grasp really existing individuals under the aspect of their 'onticity'(22), not merely under the aspect of an individual content 'like this'. We can grasp concretely and really existing beings in view of the fact that they are real, that they exist, and we express this as "being as being", that is, being as that which concretely exists. Now the being which thus exists is really grasped in analogical cognition, since in its real existence being itself is analogical. The act of existence is the factor constitutive of the onticity (reality) of the being. Existence as the act of the being is not really identical to the concrete content-essence of the being. Hence every real being in which we find that existence and essence are not identical is a contingent being, a being which calls for a proportional reason-cause that the fact of its existence may be rendered free of contradiction. In the world of such being the necessity of there being some first being, the Absolute, God, becomes apparent; He alone is 'pure existence' and in relation to all contingent being He is the efficient, exemplar and final cause. God exists as the efficient, exemplar and final cause everywhere where there exists a real being, a being whose whole existence is an existence 'by way of participation'. The fact that God is present in his work of creation is the reason why that which is a real being has being at all.

God's presence in man is a particularly important form of His presence in His work of creation. Man is alone among material creatures in being able to understand being and become aware of the sense of being, and the sense of human existence upon the background of existence in general.

St. Thomas drew out a new and revolutionary theory of man. He presupposed an acquaintance with the Platonic conception of man as a spirit-intellect locked in the human body as in a prison; the body is a fragile tool which impedes the soul, not an effective tool which might liberate it. He also took into account Aristotle's theory of man as ZOON LOGIKON; man possesses a soul, i.e. a substantial form which is the result of material processes. Thomas took both theories only to go beyond them. He completed them, retaining from each those elements which are realistic and important. In order to single out those elements which are important and realistic, he went to experience, to the fundamental experience each of us have of what it is to be a man, since in our every conscious activity we perceive our own subjectivity - the 'I' which is present in all 'my' activity. In relation to this activity the 'I' is present or immanent; at the same time it transcends this activity, since the 'I' is not exhausted in any once instance of activity, nor in the sum of activities. Each of us affirms his own subjectivity and identity in his own internal experience - "experitur enim unusquisque se esse idem qui intelligit et sentit"(23) A man experience himself ('se'-'ego') as the same subject in both intellectual and sensual cognition, and thereby in all of his activities which involve the body.

The fundamental experience of being a man was influential in the formation of the conception of man as a being which has life because of its soul; the the soul is acting in all human activities and yet it transcends these activities. Unless in man there is one and only one source of life, we would be faced here with a contradiction. This source of life is the soul, which exists in itself as in a subject, which acts as a form which organizes and orders to itself the matter which it has to work with, so that this matter is a human body. The soul imparts its own existence to the body, and thereby the soul is able to maintain contact (in both cognition and appetition) with the whole world and man is able to come to an awareness of his own humanity and his own structure as a being. Man is consequently able to develop, to attain to internal perfection, through human activity, activity in and through the human body. The body is ceaselessly being organized by the soul as by its form (the soul exists in itself as in a subject), and thus the body allows the soul to act in a human fashion, both at the level of the individual and of society, with the end of attaining full perfection in the final union with the Highest Good - God.

Human nature and self-determination in St. Thomas

The understanding of human activity presupposes an understanding of human nature as a fixed source of activity. The understanding of 'nature' in the case of man must keep in view the biological factors which determine man, and the spiritual, rational and volitional factors which are undetermined and 'open'. In his analysis of object-oriented activity, St. Thomas distinguished the powers of activity (the intellect, the will, the powers of emotion, appetite and the drives). Drawing upon a rich philosophical tradition, he brought to completion the theory of virtuous (as opposed to vicious) rational activity, activity which is order according to the optimal modes of human acivity (optimum potentiae - the best of which one is capable). The result was an extensive treatise on areteology, the science of virtue, ARETE. Now all these manifestations of activity fuse together in the essentially human act, in the act of 'decision', i.e. of the free selection of a practical judgment concerning a concrete good to be realized in human activity. When he has made a decision, a man is in a certain sense no longer open and undetermined with respect to activity, and thus he becomes a real source of activity and the efficient cause of activity. Hence the ACT OF DECISION is the fundamental moral fact-being, since morality is human activity - conscious and freely willed activity.

A closer look at St. Thomas' analyses from the prima secunda pars of the Summa Theologica will help us to gain a deeper understanding of the act of decision; therein we will see the factors which render free of contradiction the act of decision precisely as a moral being. The analyses in the prima secunda obviously presuppose the studies carried out in the prima pars of the Summa Theologica. The theoretical treatise on man contained in the prima pars and the analyses of the factors which condition moral activity (the prima secunda) focus on man's nature; who man is, in as much as he constitutes a real source of human activity. After laying bare the framework of human nature, Thomas was able in the secunda secundae to develop an areteology (theory of virtues) as the examplary modes of human acts. The realism and objectivisim of the various virtues is conditioned on the one hand by human nature which is undetermined as a subject which acts in various ways, and on the other hand by a necessary and objective object, the harmonious whole of human activites which in the face of a concrete good are directed by the practical reason. The practical reason sets the optimum potentiae and considers both objective and subjective factors.

The resultant image of man, based on both individual and collective experience, and the interpretations which were verified in history and which Thomas had inherited may be considered as a lasting and ever relevant monument to the most elaborate and well grounded theory of moral, in its theological interpretation, which has ever been seen.

The proper attititude toward new philosophical trends and the sciences

Is this to say that all the other methods whereby philosophers have analyzed moral phenomena are unnecessary and flawed? This is not necessarily so. It all depends on whether the new interpretation in question is a priori in character, whether it is based on a simple ignorance of what has already been established and demonstrated in the theory of morality, or, on the other hand, whether it is based upon a thorough knowledge and understanding of the traditional resolutions which established the necessary factors constitutive of human nature. He who understands the traditional resolutions which have functioned in our culture for two millenia, resolutions which have been rationally grounded and verified, not only is not limited in his study of the complementary resolutions which are found in various philosophical systems and the humanistic sciences, but, moreoever, he will be able to look at man's moral activity in a new and creative way. Should one, however, accept the complementary new resolutions provided by the humanistic sciences or by new schools of philosophy, he must analyze the method and character of the new scientific or philosophical discipline in question. The conclusions of a science or philosophical theory are always dependent upon the cognitive acts which are organized by the disipline in question. They are dependent upon acts which involve the character of the object, the end, and of the cognitive method of the discipline, and in all this one must also consider the implicit or explicit image of the world, the implicit or explicit conception of what scientific knowledge is (and in philosophy, the conception of being). This approach allows one to constantly recreate the new impulses flowing from various philosophical, and even ideological, positions, and from the particular humanistic sciences.

It is in this sense that one can and should make use of the finding of the psychological and sociological sciences in order to enliven, illustrate and complete the solutions which have been elaborated and verified in the history of human thought. These solutions constitute a solid base for the interpretations of our own times which have a basis in contemporary experience. If, however, whether through ignorance or on account of some a priori position, the bonds with the classical solutions is broken, the foundation of the theory of morality itself will be shaken and man will be deprived of a basic support in the diection and critique of his own moral acts.

If we are to surmount the present crisis in theology, we need to come to a deeper knowledge of classical philosophy, that of St. Thomas in particular. In particular, we need to think through metaphysics and philosophical anthropology anew. In a special way, classical metaphysics with its conception of being forms the base for the construction of a proper methodology of classical philosophy and the language which it involves. This must perforce be an analogical language, suited to its object, in this case the moral being(24). What is a moral being? What is its structure? The method and, what is joined with method, the language of the theory of morality, depends upon how one establishes the character of the moral being or moral fact.

The contemporary crisis in the theory of morality has come about in large measure on account of a misunderstanding in the way the nature of the moral being has been established. Even a slight shift in accent in the understanding of the very fact of morality will have far-reaching effects in the way the theory of morality is cultivated. For example, if we were to hold that the moral being is a specific social fact which comes about only in a relation to another human being, than it will be necessary to use sociological methods of interpretation, or at least not to depart from the sociological dimension of the whole problematic. One example of this are the studies or morality which have been and are carried out from the Marxist point of view, where moral facts are determined basically by the social dimension of conduct.

Now if one were to accept the experience of absolute obligation as the fundamental moral fact, while at the same time rejecting the Kantian philosophical context of this approach, then one would have to have recourse of psychological 'studies', to strictly psychological interpretations. Then the various directions of psychology (depth psychology, the psychology of personality, transpersonal psychology) could in large measure do away with the moral fact by reducing moral experience to corresponding psychological hypotheses. Perhaps again they would try to reduce the moral experience to some psychological hypothesis (whether from depth psychology, social psychology, te psychology of culture, etc.); after eliminating states of psychological abnormality, what was left over, that which could not be reduced (if indeed there would be anything left of the original moral experience) could be submitted to some conception of morality for evaluation. But what sort of conception? Moral interpretations would then appear to be secondary and 'extra-scientific'.

In these approaches one loses sight of that which is essentially human and moral in human action. They are an attempt to use scientifical hypotheses and theories to cancel out that which in our common-sense experience we regard as the most important domain of human activity.

We have two choices remaining; we may either leave the whole domain of morality at the level of pre-scientific, common-sense cognition and the resulting spontaneous judgment of what is good and evil in human activity, or we must employ the kind of philosophical thought which, begining from the data of common sense, purifies these data, orders them and seeks a rational ground for them, the type of philosophical thought which is intersubjectively verifiable. The classical philosophy of St. Thomas takes precisely this approach, and we should enter deeply into it in the light of history and methodological reflection. We will see how it is open to the new findings of science while losing nothing of that which makes it a necessary, verified and true explanation of the moral being.


1. Kleutgen, Josef Wilhelm Karl, German theologian and philosopher, b. 1811, d. 1883. He collaborated in the preparation of the Constitution "De Fide Catholica" of the First Vatican Council, and composed the first draft of the Encyclical "Aeterni Patris" wherein Leo XIII called for a renewal of Thomism. Through his own work in the revival of Scholastic philosophy he earned the name of Thomas redivivus (Thomas come to life again). [translator's note, cf. The Catholic Encyclopedia 1910.]

2. Suarez, Francis, b. 1548, d. 1617 [translator's note]

3. de Molina, Luis, b. 1535, d. 1600. Spanish Jesuit theologian and philosopher. [translator's note]

4. ad mentem Suarezii; to the mind of Suarez (translator's note)

5. Mieczyslaw A. Krapiec and Stanislaw Kaminski, "Z teorii i metodologii metafizyki"(On the Theory and the Methodology of Metaphysics) Lublin 1962, Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego (The Scholarly Society of the Catholic University of Lublin)

6. a posse ad esse non valet illatio; one cannot make a valid inference from the possibility of existence to the existence of a thing. (translator's note)

7. Etienne Gilson demonstrates how Kleutgen sides with Suarezian essentialism against the realism of St. Thomas: "...if you ask one of them, Kleutgen, for instance, what ens reale means for him, he will tell you, with explicit reference to the authority of Suarez, that it means exactly the same thing as ens, not, however, ens as a present participle of the verb esse, but as the noun which derives from it. Ens then signifies something that has an essence and is therefore a being." (Gilson, Etienne, Being and Some Philosophers, Toronto 1949, pg. 106) Kleutgen says "the real may be possible as well as existing" and, after all, this "is what Suarez has expressly stated". [translator's note]

8. The Polish historian of philosophy, Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz, describes the stated program of phenomenology in these words - "The intention of phenomenology was to establish what is given to our consciousness in an immediate manner, and to distinguish it from that which is a construction of the mind. In this way all that which is evident will be singled out: for only that which is immdeiately given can be evident. What most clearly sets phenomenology apart from the other sciences is that it is the science of those things which are evident." Tatarkiewicz, Wladyslaw, Historia Filozofii, 1981 Kraków, vol. 3, p. 218 [translator's note]

9. Wesenschau: a look at or inspection of an essence. (translator's note)

10. Styczen, Tadeusz, a professor in the department of Ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland and a disciple of Karol Wojtyla.

11. "Zwangvorstellung" a representation which imposes itself upon us; a hallucinatnion. (translator's note)

12. "panentheism": a doctrine according to which God is the only substance; he retains his own personal separateness, and transcends the world which exists in him. [translator's note]

13. Whitehead, Alfred North Process and Reality: an essay in cosmology, 1929, NY, NY, 1969 Macmillan, preface. pg. ix.

14. idem. pg. 5

15. idem. pg. 6

16. ibid. pg. 27

17. John Stuart Mill, Logic, Book V. Ch. III, quoted by Whitehead, op.cit. p. 15.

18. cf. Whithead, op. cit p. 26

19. Whitehead, op. cit. p. 408.

20. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of eminent philosophers, Chapter 9, 108, in the edition of Loeb Classics, pg. 111.

21. cf. Aristotle, Categories, chapter XII, 14b 10-20.

22. "onticity" = "bytowosc: this expression could literally be rendered as "beingness" since "byt" is "being" (ens) and "-owo" is the abstract suffix.

23. Summa Theologica I, q. 76 a 1

24. Karol Wojtyla, as a professor of ethics at Lublin, likewise favoured the analogical language of classical philosophy, the 'philosophy of being'. He criticizes the views of Scheler, the phenomenologist-ethicist, as repeating the mistakes of Kant. Both of them would do away with the philosophy of being. The philosophy of being treats the whole of experience, enabling us to see through experience how an ethical value is a real attribute of the person. "What does it hurt, if the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy of being does this [illustrates how ethical values inhere in the person] with the help of analogical concepts, if these concepts provide an accurate understanding of reality as a whole.? What good is an alleged intellectual precision, if by its use the intellect, contrary to its own natural rights and powers, either fails to grasp reality as a whole, or approaches it in a distorted manner as we see in the example of Kant's and Scheler's conceptions of the ethical experience". Wojtyla, Karol, Wyklady Lubelskie, (The Lublin Lectures) Lublin, 1986. Part I, "Act and Ethical Value", pg. 73. [translator's note]