Defining the nature of the relationship shared by faith and reason has proven to one of the questions that has plagued humanity. Philosophers and theologians alike have constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed a host of understandings. John Henry Newman proved to be one of the Church's greatest voices in relation to this question. However, Newman was not simply satisfied with seeking to determine the nature of the relationship shared by faith and reason in abstract terms. By contrast, he also assessed how the connection an individual shares with the larger set of communities in which he or she exists impacts his or her understanding of the relationship shared by faith and reason. At the heart of Newman's argument is his understanding of illative sense. In Communities of Informed Judgment: Newman's Illative Sense and Accounts of Rationality, Frederick D. Aquino offers invaluable insights into Newman's argument concerning how the formative experiences encountered by an individual within these larger communities contribute to his or her understanding of the relationship shared by faith and reason.
The essence of Aquino's argument concerning Newman's work is that belief formation is a process that defies the modern distinction between subject and object. As a result, knowledge is not fragmented but rather part of a singular whole. According to Aquino, "Belief-formation reflects a holistic process, involving cognitive, affective, and moral dimensions of the human person. Hence, truncated versions of cognition are not empirical enough, since they fail to account for multi-faceted dimensions of belief-formation" (18). Aquino sees this line of thought in Newman's University Sermons and in Newman's A Grammar of Assent. The communities in which people find themselves and the practices in which they participate reduce needless or artificial distinctions. "A reasoned account of faith, then, involves both a subjective dimension (faith as a habit of mind) and an objective dimension (faith as the object of critical analysis)" (34). As a result, "The illative sense is the elastic logic of thought, the living rule by which people judge issues in various fields of knowledge" (68).
Aquino's ability to draw upon recent intellectual developments is what makes his argument concerning Newman's illative sense unique. In particular, Aquino draws upon the work of theorists that reflect the commitments of a social epistemology of informed judgment. A sample of these works includes William P. Alston's Perceiving God: The Epistemology of Religious Experience and Steve Fuller's Social Epistemology. Such resources allow Aquino to re-read the works of Newman and see how the practices and habits encountered by an individual within a larger community relate to belief-formation. As a result of his implementation of these frameworks, Aquino is able to defy the tendency to view the relationship shared by faith and reason as an enterprise conducted by an isolated individual. By contrast, Aquino is able to re-capture Newman's understanding that such an enterprise occurs within the context and activities of the larger community.
While Aquino has provided any scholar interested in the relationship shared by faith and reason with an invaluable resource, one is left wondering whether greater specificity needs to be offered in terms of how these contextual frameworks apply to Newman's understanding of community. Aquino refrains from identifying the Church in Newman's thought as being distinct from other communities of informed judgment. At one point Aquino even argues "that to isolate the church as the sole locus of theological judgment would negate wisdom as a fundamental principle of authority" (150). However, while the Church for Newman is not the sole locus, the Church is the first locus in terms of belief-formation. Aquino's work can leave the reader with the perception that perhaps the Church is equal in terms of these matters with communities such as a nation state, an employer, or even a family. By clarifying such a point, Aquino would add to his already strong argument while also offering clarification in terms of what Newman understood to be the relationship shared by the various communities in which an individual invariably exists.
Frederick D. Aquino's Communities of Informed Judgment: Newman's Illative Sense and Accounts of Rationality relates recent intellectual developments to one of the most important contributions made by John Henry Newman. However, Aquino's work concerning Newman's understanding of the illative sense is not simply an important contribution to scholars interested in Newman's work. By contrast, Aquino's use of social epistemology as a conceptual framework through which to read Newman's writings makes a fascinating and important contribution to the work of anyone concerned with the relationship shared by faith and reason.