By Kenneth Garcia (auth.)
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Extra resources for Academic Freedom and the Telos of the Catholic University
In the overall scheme, though, the ultimate end must be kept in view. For Thomas this is done sequentially, beginning with the natural sciences and progressing to more abstract disciplines as the student matures. Learning, then, is a continuum through which we seek knowledge of different aspects of the one reality, the entire natural-divine continuum, if you will. We begin with natural sciences because they focus on physical objects in the world and are readily understandable to the student. To study physical objects, we abstract them from their surroundings, from all the other things to which they are related, so as to better focus on the essence and function of the object at hand.
31 It is God’s free gift that awakens this desire and prompts the mind’s journey toward its fulfillment. On these principles, Thomas bases his view of the architectonic role of philosophy (understood as metaphysics, or divine science) among the sciences. The practical arts and sciences, he says, are valuable goals and objects worthy of our attention because they are means to something greater. ”32 The sciences, of course, have their own distinct subject matter and methods. The fact that the ultimate goal of the sciences is always knowledge of God does not mean that every act of knowing and each inquiry into a given subject matter must explicitly refer to God, to the first and final cause.
Both perspective contain valid elements. Catholic thinkers from the Patristic period have held that God is present to the mind, unthematically and amorphously, right from the start, as the source of wonder, the engine driving inquiry, the criteria by which we judge truth from falsehood, and the direction toward which inquiry ultimately moves. This view is more characteristic of the Augustinian-Bonaventuran tradition. At the same time, what is unthematic and dimly intuited, seeks to become explicit and thematic.