Rousselot was an early pioneer of the movement that came to be called ‘transcendental Thomism’, whose more illustrious representatives include Joseph Maréchal, Emerich Coreth, Karl Rahner, and Bernard Lonergan. Notwithstanding substantial differences, these thinkers share similar concerns and questions pursued in relation to Thomas Aquinas. If there is a single thread linking them together, perhaps it is the rediscovery of wonder as constitutive of human knowing and human being. Rousselot’s goal was to retrieve the ‘architectonic’ theses of Thomas Aquinas and disengage them from their merely residual context. He brought into focus the derailment of later scholasticism into a ‘conceptualism’ that overlooked intelligence and understanding because of a preoccupation with universals, logic, and necessity. What Rousselot. called the ‘intellectualism’ of St Thomas was a metaphysical account of knowledge that took as its ideal the intuition of concrete individuals rather than abstract, universal concepts. He insisted that the human intellect achieves this ideal only in a deficient manner through a process of discursive reasoning. Concepts as representational of being illustrate the deficiency rather than the power of human intelligence; the real power of intellect is in the capacity to identify with being.
This is the third volume of Rousselot’s Philosophical Works brought out in English by Marquette. Its seven essays were written during the last seven years before his untimely death in World War I. The essays are ordered chronologically by the date of their composition. None of them lend themselves to passive reading. Rousselot never published the first two, and they are the most compact and difficult essays in this volume. Readers new to Rousselot might be well advised to start with the third and fourth essays—“Spiritual Love and Apperceptive Synthesis,” and “Being and Spirit”—wherein Rousselot lays out his basic and characteristic positions. He shows how Scotus and later scholastics were preoccupied with universal concepts but overlooked the discursive way understanding develops. Rousselot stresses the priority of the act of understanding to the act of conception. He also recognizes the important role played by love and desire not only in shaping what we ask about but also shaping what we are able to discern. Rousselot’s recovery of the Aristotelian and Thomist principle that knowledge is by identity leads him to a refreshing and important appreciation for the importance of loving in coming to know. The first and second essays are experimental forays into much the same terrain, and are valuable complements.
In the final three essays in this volume, Rousselot relates his project to various philosophical and theological currents. In “Thomist Metaphysics and the Critique of Knowledge,” he argues that the affirmation of being as intelligible is implicit in the very nature of the soul, so that in some way the resolution of the critical problem is through self-knowledge. His “Remarks on the History of the Notion of Natural Faith” bring into relief the functional interdependence of two factors for a theological account of the act of faith: the distinction of the natural and supernatural orders, and the differentiation of the subjective ground from the objects of intellection. Rousselot shows that among many of the scholastics there was a forgetfulness of mind. The objective truth of revelation was so emphasized that it could seem to get along without minds. Against this oversight, Rousselot urges that the subjective necessity of the light of faith does not in any way detract from the objective sufficiency of the motives of faith. Similar considerations are advanced in the last essay, “Intellectualism,” originally an entry in the Dictionnaire apologétique de la foi catholique.
The volume surely is of historical relevance to those interested in twentieth century developments of the Thomistic tradition. But in their substantial foreword and introduction, Tallon and Vandevelde (respectively) make a case for Rousselot’s ongoing philosophical relevance, as well. If Rousselot’s achievement was limited by his short career and his contentment with a metaphysical rather than a thoroughgoing psychological intellectualism (à la Lonergan), by my lights he remains important for his break with conceptualism, his insight into the role of love in knowing and believing, and his ability to situate this concern in relation to the problematics of faith and knowledge. These essays could be fruitfully used in graduate or seminary courses which touch on the relationship of faith and reason or questions of religious epistemology.
The translation of Rousselot.’s French is fluid. A handful of Greek quotations (all in notes) are untranslated; quotations in other languages are rendered serviceably, if sometimes idiosyncratically, into English. The editors did not update Rousselot’s notes to reflect more recent developments in scholarship, e.g., the subsequent consensus that the opusculum De natura verbi intellectus is spurious.