Volume 76, Issue 2, Spring 2002
Fides et Ratio et…
Although Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas are often cited in support of “faith and reason,” the doublet achieved prominence in that form only in the nineteenth century. The encyclical Fides et ratio can be seen as forming Aeterni patris, Humani generis, and Dei verbum into a tradition. Indeed, it looks back to the nineteenth century and remains at best uninterested in twentieth-century thought. One difficulty with the expression is that each of “faith” and “reason” can be defined against “experience,” and there is a danger that the doublet “faith and reason” invites abstraction from all contexts, including exegesis and love, imagination, and sacrament. Properly understood, “faith and reason” implies “faith and reason and . . .” The encyclical is unclear at crucial moments. It begins to speak of reason, then slides into talk of rationalism. It regards a crisis of rationalism as leading to nihilism, but the conclusion is hastily drawn, at best. It underlines the importance of metaphysics and is critical of “the end of metaphysics,” but confuses different senses of the word.