Reason, Revelation, and Metaphysics

by Montague Brown
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
eISBN: 978-0-8132-3352-9, Cloth: 978-0-8132-3351-2

Any realist metaphysics must include an integrated account of the transcendentals and the analogy of being, for an adequate metaphysics must be about everything, and all things share in some key metaphysical characteristic—being, unity, truth, goodness, and beauty. However, they do not share in them in exactly the same way. Therefore, there is need to explain the transcendental characteristics in an analogical way. By using the phrase “transcendental analogies,” Reason, Revelation and Metaphysics claims that there are analogies of unity, truth, goodness, and beauty, which are related to, but irreducible to, the analogy of being. As this book is a systematic study of the topic, theoretical reason has primacy in the project and metaphysics is given pride of place. But reason is practical and aesthetic as well; that is, our consciences urge us to seek what is good, and we are delighted by what is beautiful. Although goodness and beauty are not reducible to truth, they must be included in any adequate metaphysical account, for metaphysics looks to explain everything.

Although metaphysics is traditionally thought to be a philosophical project involving ontology and natural theology, Montague Brown argues that an adequate metaphysics must ultimately be theological, including within its scope the truths of revelation. Philosophical reason’s examination of the transcendental analogies raises questions that it cannot answer. We experience a world of many beings, truths, goods, and beauties. Recognizing that these many instances have something in common, we affirm a transcendent instance of each (traditionally called God). However, although we know that a transcendent instance exists, we do not know its nature: therefore, we cannot say how it is related to the other instances. If we try to apply this transcendent instance as the prime analogate to shed light on the other analogates, we must fail, for the abstractness and universality of the transcendent instance can add nothing to our understanding of the particular instances. Wanting to know how the many exist and are related, philosophical reason finds no way forward and recognizes its need for help.

It is the thesis of this book that reason finds this help only in the revelation of the God’s covenantal relation with the world. The first principle of all things—most perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man—is really and freely related to us. Only by accepting this revealed prime analogate can the transcendental analogies bear fruit in our ongoing quest for understanding.

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