Pre-Modern Philosophy Defended

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Translated by William H. Marshner, 675 pages, 6" x 9", jacketed clothbound, $60, introductions, notes, index

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Pre-Modern Philosophy Defended

Kluetgen, Josef, S.J.

“Pre-modern philosophy” means the line of reflection that started with Plato andvAristotle, passed through Augustine and Boethius, and reached its acme in Aquinas, Scotus, and Suarez. The whole line was harshly judged by Descartes, then mocked by the empiricsts of the 18th Century. Why, then, did Pope Leo XII make a determined effort to revive it? And, more importantly, why was the revival a stunning success by the middle of the 20th Century?

The answers to both questions are found in a famous German book, Philosophie der Vorzeit by Josef Kleutgen, now available for the first time in English. Pre-ModernPhilosophy Defended shaped and strengthened Pope Leo’s resolve. It showed how inaccurate the harsh judgments had been and how sadly inferior the modern replacements from Descartes to Hegel had turned out to be in many respects.

Not in all. Kleutgen was no knee-jerk reactionary. He made no bones about the obsolete status of pre-Newtonian physics and cosmology. Rather, he focused on the central boast of “modern” thought, namely, that it had turned at least to the “subject” and had provided a long-needed thing called a “critique of knowledge.”

This book is must reading for intellectual historians and for philosophers working today in epistemology. But most of all, it is essential reading for laity and clergy concerned about revivals of modernism in the church. What was modernism, after all, but an attempt to make the Church revise her theology in the “light” of Kant or Hegel? This is why every Modernist knew Kleutgen’s name and hated this book.

Here is the first English translation (from the German) of the master work of Josef Kleutgen, the nineteenth century social philosopher whose thought lies at, or near, the heart of Catholic Social Thought. Kleutgen is widely and rightly seen as the shadow author of the social encyclicals of Leo XII. Leo’s Rerum Novarum remains the origin and constant reference point of all Catholic Social Teaching. And Popes since have dated their own social encyclicals from Rerum Novarum – hence, Quadragesimo anno and Centesimus annus. —Gerard V. Bradley, University of Notre Dame