Trying to use wisely the transferred time that I should be using to grade Comp I essays, I have begun a parallel reading tour of Fr. Dominic Bourmaud’s One Hundred Years of Modernism: A Genealogy of the Principles of the Second Vatican Council and Michael Allen Gillespie’s The Theological Origins of Modernity. To begin, allow me say that I have great respect for the SSPX. (Fr. Bourmaud is an SSPX priest.) If an SSPX chapel offered the holy Mass anywhere near where I currently live, I would probably visit on a regular basis–I do not think, however, that I would regularly attend. Okay, cards laid out on the table. To continue…
From what I can thus gather, Fr. Bourmaud uses the term “modernism” interchangeably with “rebellion,” for he calls Lucifer the first modernist (6). In particular, at least for the argument at hand, modernism is a rebellion against scholastic Catholicism, a Catholicism that elucidates the categories of divine reason manifested in one’s daily experiences. For Fr. Bourmaud, the Great Rebellion starts with the Reformation (that is, if we do not include the celestial fall of Lucifer) and culminates in Vatican II-endorsed modernism, “a philosophy without being,…a revelation without Jesus Christ,and…a theology without God” (6).
Gillespie, by comparison, takes a more nuanced and less polemical view. His main thesis (I believe) claims that modernism is not so much a rebellion against scholasticism but rather a response to the “nihilistic crisis” of late medieval thought, as nominalism started to fill the pews once populated by ontological realists (14). Thus, modernists could not, for reasons perhaps justifiable, simply return to the former scholastic categories of thought. The quarrel between scholasticism and nominalism forced those who wanted to avoid the unsettling conclusions of nominalism to search for answers amidst the remaining metaphysical possibilities (15). Also of interest, Gillespie maintains that modernism is not so much a disagreement about being qua being (metaphysica generalis) but rather one about the “hierarchy among the realms of beings” (metaphysica specialis) (16).
Through it all, though, lingering within me is this philosophically *tingly* feeling that nineteenth century American (ignored) philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce can shed much light on the path that will help modernity navigate through the nominalist forest (where each tree is an ontological individual–hehe) as well as through its confusion regarding the hierarchy of being.
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