La Nouvelle Theologie

You know, I’ve never run across a quantum mechanics textbook that builds the case for its subject around how dull, dry, and uninspiring most texts on classical mechanics seem to be.  Running across such a frivolous argument might lead one to suspect that quantum mechanics is actually a big fraud.  Fortunately, quantum theory is not a fraud, and so students are instead given examples of phenomena that are described by classical physics incorrectly, not just boringly.  That’s how intellectually serious disciplines work.

21 Responses

  1. @Bonald –

    I have always felt that Einstein was absolutely correct in regarding Quantum Theory as useful, important, un-refuted, not false; but not ‘true’.

    Somehow, as a deep and immovable conviction, it just is not the *kind of thing* that *could* be true: at least not ‘true’ in the sense of being a more or less accurate description of real-reality.

    Not a fake, not bogus… nothing like that; and nothing better is available – but, still… not True.

    Despite Einstein, you may well regard this conviction as merely ignorant; but it has some relevance. I think it is probably the reason why I always find it profoundly unconvincing, even seriously-mistaken, when people use quantum ideas in a religious or spiritual context; when people use quantum ideas to explain ‘ultimate reality’ – in metaphysics, for example.

  2. Ha ha, awesome. But traditional theology doesn’t have car chases and hot chicks.

  3. Hi Bruce,

    Actually, my impression is that many physicists–even given the refutation of local hidden variables theories–privately hold suspicions like Einstein’s.

  4. Mr. Bonald, a couple of years ago I read a book called Beyond the Big Bang by Dr. Paul Laviolette. As the title sugests he claims there was no Big Bang, the universe is not expanding and there are no black holes. Instead the space is euclidean, filled with what he calls ether. Galaxies are steady like islands of matter in the big sea. In fact, they are sources of matter located in “fertile” areas of the universe and they are continually producing matter – to name a few implications of his theory.
    This seems to be quite different picture of the universe and I admit I like it. Unfortunately, as the book was written for wide audience its author mixed up his theory with some mythology and new age crap. His personal beliefs aside, the theory itself seems interesting to me. However, having poor knowledge of modern physics and astronomy I wonder whether it has a merit or not. I read to your weblog to learn more about conservatism (btw. excellent job, you have the gift of clear explanations) but since physics is your daily job I’d like to know your professional opinion. Have you ever heard of this theory? Is it a serious work, amateurism or bogus? In case it is serious is the theory so profoundly flawed that there is no doubt it is incorrect? I am afraid I can’t follow any technical explanation I am just curious about its position within scientific community.

  5. This is great. I’m currently reading Roberto de Mattei’s excellent history of Vatican II where he traces at some length the writings of the ‘new theologians’ who won all the battles of the Council. They are, almost to a man, smug and insufferable.

  6. Hello RT,

    I have not heard of him. Given the big bang’s spectacular successes in explaining the abundances of light elements, the cosmological redshift, the microwave background and its spectrum, and resolving Olbers’ paradox, I start with a strong a priori skepticism of steady state theories. However, I can’t have an opinion of this theory in particular until I learn more about it. I expect the author is probably regarded in mainstream circles, if he is known at all, as a crackpot. (However, the unspoken rules for how somebody gets to be thought of as a crackpot are not ideal. Right or wrong, taking one’s case to the public instead of addressing the astronomical community does a lot to get the crackpot label attached to somebody.)

  7. You should write a book review at the Orthosphere. I think it would be very refreshing to read about these NT characters from someone other than their sycophants.

  8. NT was far from being merely an attack on the “aridity” of Neo-Scholasticism.

    In the memorable exchange in 1910, in the philosopher Maurice Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, between Pedro Descoqs, the Jesuit defender of the “Catholic Atheist,” Charles Maurras and his l’Action Française, and the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière. Descoqs, a follower of Suarez’s interpretation (or, rather, travesty) of St Thomas had allowed the political sphere a wide degree of autonomy and he was prepared to detach “political society” from “religious society.” Laberthonnière had retaliated by accusing Descoqs of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient, in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.” Laberthonnière also shrewdly accused Maurras of seeing the Church as shoring up society against “the anarchy he saw as inherent in Christianity itself.”

    So far as I know, this exchange has never appeared in English, which is astonishing, as it was what united such disparate thinkers as Blondel, the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, Maréchal, Lubac and Daniélou. It was a fundamental moment for the Nouvelle Théologie, much as Keble’s Assize Sermon had been for the Oxford Movement.

    No doubt, some of the school, notably Claude Mondésert SJ, along with Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou preferred the discursive methods of the Fathers (and, especially, the Greek Fathers) to the syllogistic method of the Scholastics – So, by the by did Bl John Henry Newman – but to suggest that was the heart of their protest is to trivialise the school.

    “Latin theology’s return to a more authentic tradition has taken place–not without some jolts, of course–in the course of the last century. We must admit that the main impulse for this return came from a philosopher, Maurice Blondel. His thinking was not primarily exercised in the areas proper to the professional theologians, nor did it base itself on a renewed history of tradition. Still, he is the one who launched the decisive attack on the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought. Time after time he demonstrated the deficiencies of the thesis of the “extrinsicist” school, which recognized “no other link between nature and the supernatural than an ideal juxtaposition of elements which…were impenetrable to each other, and which were brought together by our intellectual obedience, so that the supernatural can subsist only if it remains extrinsic to the natural and if it is proposed from without as something important only in so far as it is a supernature…” [Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J., A Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace]

  9. In the foreword of his book he says that his paper was published in International Journal of General Systems in 1985. The book was published in 1995. At least he tried to address the scientific community before going public. Of course, he still might be a crackpot.
    Anyway, thank you for reply. At least now I know it’s not closed case but strong scepticism is appropriate.

  10. But NT supporters themselves always put this frivolous complaint about Thomism being boring up front and center. (The irony being that the leader of their silly school, de Lubac, is himself almost unreadable. I know, having forced my way through his excruciatingly-written “Catholicism” and “The Splendor of the Church” back when I was told that this was the *only* school of orthodox Catholics.) Your own comment hardly helps their case, in that it shows them to be dupes of the Left whose real goal was to sabotage the unity of the Right and ensure anticlerical-socialist domination of France. Because, let’s be clear, for all we hear about Catholics having a duty to make common cause with non-believers “of good will”, Maurras’ movement was the only movement of nonbelievers who were not set on our destruction, had common goals with us, and who it actually made sense for us to ally ourselves with. Indeed, it seems particularly perverse that they claim that, in the name of overcoming a false nature-supernature distinction, we must condemn those who want to preserve the historic constitution of Christian France but instead ally ourselves with the openly atheistic doctrines of democracy and communism. Is this not what the NT Church has done, “rescuing” itself from Action Francaise’ alleged hidden separation of Church and state by embracing the openly anti-Catholic separation of Church and state of the liberals?

    Given that their whole purpose was to advance a pernicious cause, it’s no wonder that their main claim itself seems to me to have so little merit. Saint Thomas himself plainly teaches that man has a natural end and a supernatural end. He could hardly do otherwise without losing the concept that man has an intelligible nature at all and destroying the distinction between nature and supernature and the gratuity of grace, as de Lubac is rightly accused of doing. God is both our natural and our supernatural end. The former is to know, love, and serve Him via our natural modes of operation; the latter to do so by His own mode via His indwelling in the soul. However, these are completely distinct, and God was under no obligation to offer anyone grace rather than ordaining all of humanity to a state of pure nature. Had He done so, He would still be entitled to our worship, gratitude, and obedience. There is thus no bad “extrinsicalism” in the sense of any human order that is properly autonomous from God. There is a good “extrinsicalism” in that those things that really are distinct are clearly designated as such.

    A curse on Blondel and all his heretical spawn. They said if we embraced their twaddle, the Church would grow and flourish, but now even the dullest can see the ruin at all sides.

  11. Bonald,

    What is your opinion on some of the modern Communio thinkers like David Schindler? I think he offers some pretty solid arguments against modern liberalism. I certainly agree that Nouvelle Theologie’s triumph was largely a disaster, though they did I have some important insights. I also have to question just how formidable neo-scholasticism really is though. Many Nouvelle theologians have been co-opted by left-liberalism it may be fair to say that far too many modern scholastics have been co-opted by right-liberalism (Robert George is course prime example, but even Ed Feser employs too much Hayekianism for my tastes.)

  12. Schindler I haven’t actually read, although the summaries of his books that I’ve seen sound very promising. (Which of his books would you recommend most?)

    We should probably distinguish the new natural law theorists like George from the old-style Aristotelians like Feser. George and co really are appalling in their surrender to right-liberalism and Americanism. See for instance George’s recent post on First Things saying that Catholics (i.e. the SSPX) who won’t grovel hard enough before the Jews should be excommunicated. Who needs the ADL with bastards like that? They’re equally shameless Negro-grovelers, as one would expect from people who gush about how proud they are to belong to a nation based the Idea of Equality.

    There isn’t much about Feser that I object to, although that may just be because he doesn’t talk much about the areas where I’d expect a recovering libertarian and I would disagree. In some ways he’s more traditional than I am, because he accepts some scholastic propositions that I find very doubtful (e.g. that life cannot arise from non-life), and because I’m undecided on the death penalty whereas he’s settled on the traditional position.

  13. I realize he’s a journalist and you are discussing theologians, but what are you thoughts on E. Michael Jones? He doesn’t get much mention in the orthosphere with the exception of the occasional mention of Slaughter of Cities.

  14. It is worth noting that Lubac explicitly rejects the notion that God was under any sort of obligation to order man toward the supernatural. According to him, God could have made an intellectual being ordered toward a purely natural beatitude, but he did not, and so the idea of an autonomous natural end in regard to man is an abstraction that has nothing to do with man as he actually is.

    Anyway, I agree with the above commenter. You are generally pretty good about attempting to properly understand and articulate the views of those with whom you disagree, but this seems closer to one of those soft arguments you were discussing a few days ago, except aimed at a Catholic traditionalist audience rather than a left-liberal one.

  15. And yet St Thomas himself says, ““even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.] and, again, “The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

  16. Bonald, I remember some time ago you saying you found the pro-death penalty arguments vastly more convincing, though you were still on the fence; has nothing really changed since then?

  17. Hi Proph,

    I haven’t given the matter any thought since then, so nothing’s changed. My own private reasoning leads me to reject the practice, but because this differs from the historical Christian consensus I suspect that I’m missing something.

  18. Do you, Bonald?

  19. Actually, yes. But it’s clear that the ultimate truth is not going to be less weird than QM. There’s no going back to classical physics.

  20. I’m sure you’ve already read this Bonald, but readers who are interested in traditional theology might like this piece by Garrigou-Langrange on Nouvelle Theologie.

    It’s difficult to overstate how much NT scholars dislike Garrigou-Langrange.

  21. […] you’ve been reading here or a few other places, as we’ve expressed our skepticism of nouvelle theologie […]

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