The Charles De Koninck Project

Writings

Yves Simon’s Correspondence with Charles De Koninck and Jacques Maritain on the Common Good

Yves Simon’s Correspondence with Charles De Koninck and Jacques Maritain on the Common Good

On Tolerance: The Benignity of the Christian

On Tolerance: The Benignity of the Christian

A translation of Charles de Koninck, “Sur la tolérance : la bénignité du chrétien,” Itineraires 66 (1962): 189–196. De Koninck discusses the nature of tolerance of non-believers and the boundaries of intolerance with regard to natural religion. A timely reflection for our times: "The state which would oblige me to behave publicly as an agnostic would be as intolerant as the state that forced me to be Christian."
Determinism, Contingency, Chance and Finality in Nature

Determinism, Contingency, Chance and Finality in Nature

"We have made these considerations in order to show the very close connection which exists between finality and contingency in Nature. There would not be true contingency in Nature, if the latter did not act for an end, and if there were not this “indisposition” of matter, to overcome by a process of alteration spread out in time. It is precisely the distinction between the form and the matter to be disposed which is the root of this contingency. There would be no contingency properly speaking in Nature if the intention of the end necessarily led to the execution of this same end. In order to eliminate this contingency, it would be necessary either to accord priority to matter, or to remove from natural agents all true causality. On the one hand, the priority of matter would assure the existence of the end, so that one would be able to say: the iron exists, therefore the saw will be; but this end would have in no way the nature of end: it would not be the cause of what is done, and would no longer be a form, - it would be pure result. On the other hand, natural agents would not truly be agents: because, in order to act, it would be necessary that they attain the infallibility of the absolutely first universal cause. One would thus return to the position of those who deny real causality to all created agents."
Indeterminism and Indeterminacy

Indeterminism and Indeterminacy

On the role of indeterminism in nature.
Art and Morality, with a Note on History

Art and Morality, with a Note on History

A brief discussion on the relation of art to morality in which it is argued that, since poetry serves a moral purpose, there is a necessary connection between the work of the poet and disposing toward virtue, so that it is not only as a man that a given writer is bound to consider the moral order in relation to his work, but as a poet. With a Note on History examining Aristotle's statement (Poetics, ch. 9) that poetry is more universal than history.
Utrum Quia Experientia Decepti Aristoteles Et D. Thomas Causas Posuerunt Aequivocas In Natura Operantes

Utrum Quia Experientia Decepti Aristoteles Et D. Thomas Causas Posuerunt Aequivocas In Natura Operantes

A short (4 pages) paper written in defense of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas on the role of equivocal causes in animal generation as this relates to the possibility of evolution. Having noted that "every univocal generation at one and the same time is the effect of a universal agent in causando", he observes that "concerning an equivocal cause and equivocal generation, there is strong debate". After next establishing that "[a]ny work of nature is a work of some separated substance whose action is universal in causando," and explaining how the doctrine inherited by contemporary Scholastics in no way depends on an outmoded cosmology or a mistaken view of equivocal generation, De Koninck then corrects certain contemporary misconceptions about the nature of such causality.
NOTULA IN IAE PARTIS Q. I. A. IX, AD 1

NOTULA IN IAE PARTIS Q. I. A. IX, AD 1

In the following work, Charles De Koninck expands on the following reply of the Angelic Doctor: "that the poet uses metaphors on account of representation: for representation is naturally delightful to man. But sacred teaching uses metaphors because of their necessity and utility, as was said." Beginning with the placement of poetry among the imitative arts, De Koninck goes on to define them as the arts of imitating delightfully, then expands each part of the definition before treating certain objections to his position. In the course of the argument, he makes plain the difference between the poet's use of metaphor and that of Sacred Scripture (the one producing an imitation of an inferior original whose end is to delight us with its greater intelligibility; the other using such means to lead us to rest in an original which is greater than the imitation), as well as the difference between such imitative arts and religious art, showing how they agree in means but differ according to the aforementioned ends.

The Principal Being of Man is Thinking

"The characteristic activity of man is thinking. This is why we can say: 'homini intelligere est esse'. Of course, with man, thinking is not his absolute, substantial being; it is however the activity for which he exists. And it is by it that he most perfectly resembles God, in whom thinking and absolute being make only one thing. A resemblance which is better expressed, however. . . in which the whole of man is denominated following the activity of his principal part, the intelligence. Here, however, are [given] some precisions called for by the manner in which the primacy of 'esse' is sometimes spoken of. (1962)
The Philosophy of Sciences: Sapiential Function of the Philosophy of Nature

The Philosophy of Sciences: Sapiential Function of the Philosophy of Nature

A brief article in which a provisional division of the philosophy of science is suggested: "In the first place comes scientific methodology, in which we attempt to determine what is essential to the object of the experimental sciences and to their proper method. . . .In the second place one can make a comparative study of the objects and the methods of the philosophy of nature as discipline, and the experimental sciences. . . .Next can be made an explanatory deduction of what had been determined in the two preceding sections. . . .The Critique of the Sciences which comes in the last place differs from the three preceding: it is limited to reflecting on a given and provisional experimental theory, such as biological mutationism, for example, or again the theory of the quanta. But these reflections are as provisional as the theories in question."

Metaphysics and the Interpretation of Words

This paper -- an expansion of some lines which appeared in ‘Abstraction from Matter’ -- was read at a University of Notre Dame symposium on Explanation, toward the end of the first semester, 1959. "Now, if God can be known only from things previously known, these will be named first, and God will be named only with dependence upon the things first known and named. Since the things we name first are in the order of sense experience, all further naming will have to relate in one way or another to these things. In other words, unless the names employed by the metaphysician can be related to earlier impositions that refer to objects in the order of sense experience, they will be meaningless. Yet if such names receive new impositions, if they are more than metaphors, they simply must be analogous. And there is the rub."

Notes on the Philosophy of History

"These cursory notes are intended only as an accompaniment to a course of lectures. They make no attempt to resume the doctrines of the three influential theories with which they deal, but merely sketch out the line of thought which the lecturer intends to follow. Marxism may scorn Hegelianism as mere dreaming, yet the thought of both is determined by the same general principles and by the same utter faith in Reason. Existentialism, on the other hand, is hardly understood until it is seen how its desperate broodings are provoked by the extravagant claims of the two earlier schools. Finally, when we understand how these three schools of thought are interrelated, and how they pass judgment on each other, it becomes easier to make up our own minds as to the truth or falsehood of what they teach."

On Philosophy of History

“On Philosophy of History” is a lecture text of uncertain date - probably the late 1930’s. History in De Koninck’s account is transformed into an astonishing pageant of a cosmic journey toward self-understanding. "Why study history? We might give two reasons. The obvious one is that from the past we might draw lessons for the future. This reason is true, but it is merely pragmatic. I think there is a more profound one. The study of the past is worthwhile just for the sake of knowing it." "...the very attempt to know ourselves is implicitly an effort to know our entire universe. And this effort is in part historical."

The Image of the World in Antiquity

"One must not forget that the philosophers and theologians of the past concerned themselves with experimental science, and made great contributions to it (Aristotle and St. Albert, for example), and continually made use of it in their philosophical and theological works (especially St. Thomas). Why do we no longer do the same today? It is no longer possible, but this impossibility must not be, as it is, a cause of insupportable arrogance. Let us not double over our ignorance with stupidity."

Our Awesome Creed

"Of course error has no rights, and neither has ignorance. How could they possess rights, when they are not even persons? In using such language, we are resorting to a literary device, a trope, or perhaps even a synecdoche. Now there is no harm in tropes or synecdoches, so long as we bear in mind that it is tropes and synecdoches they are and no more. What must be respected is the person. He alone has rights, and always retains certain basic ones, no matter how great his ignorance or errors regarding what we believe to be true." Written during the Second Vatican Council, De Koninck lays out an argument for religious freedom by emphasizing the extent to which Catholics depend on Faith in order to accept the tenets of Christianity as true.

Natural Science as Philosophy

"Some people object to a Ph.D. obtained for a dissertation on the activities of slugworms. On the contrary, the implication that such research is the business of a Doctor of Philosophy, has the backing of sound tradition — now little understood by the ‘philosophers.’" Published in Culture in 1959, this is a transcript of remarks De Koninck made to a group of students and faculty at Holy Redeemer College in Detroit after watching a televised lecture of his friend Mortimer Adler on “The Difference between Philosophy and Science.” It is an excellent introduction to De Koninck’s general understanding of the relation of natural science to philosophy, and his criticism of the general scholastic understanding of that relation in the 20th century.

Course Notes on Nietzsche

Translated from De Koninck's handwritten notes in French, these provocative lectures from 1936 reveal natural philosophy as DeKoninck understood it—to philosophize is to ask about the whole of things. Nietzsche wanted it all, but didn't know what that meant. De Koninck argues that Nietzsche's thought is a kind of providential sign of the revolt of nature against the diminished desires of modern man, sketching a parallel account of the superman and a Thomistic understanding of magnanimity and magnificence en route to explaining how "we want the superman...we want a superman infinitely greater" than Nietzche's.