D. C. SCHINDLER, The Catholicity of Reason. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013. pp. 333. $30.00 pb. ISBN 978-0-8028-6933-3. Reviewed by Derek HATCH, Howard Payne University, Brownwood, TX 76801
In The Catholicity of Reason, D. C. Schindler presents a volume of philosophical theology that challenges the prevailing modern notion that human rationality is extrinsically related to Being such that reason operates by possessing its object or creating an identity between rational understanding and the beings that are comprehended. Further, in contrast to the presumptuous self-limitation of reason within modernity, Schindler avers that reason is ecstatic, that it is “always out beyond itself” and “always already with the whole.” The result of this ek-stasis is that reason is already intimately related to beings through the intelligibility of the whole; thus, reason is catholic.
Schindler develops this claim in three parts. In part one, drawing on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, he argues that reason operates in a dramatic fashion, where, in rationality’s openness beyond itself, there is coinherence between the response of that which is understood and reason’s understanding. To make this more receptive account of rationality possible, the encounter with beauty must stand first, mediating the disclosure of truth through the drama of the good. The perichoresis between the transcendentals opens out into the analogical relationship between revelation and philosophy. Moreover, it resolves the opposition between love and reason by revealing the ecstatic character of both.
In part two, Schindler addresses the occlusion of beauty and goodness from causality beginning in early modernity. The embrace of a more mechanistic account of the natural world made power the essence of causality, effectively starving the human imagination. By contrast, Schindler aims to recover a sense of cause as “anything that accounts for a thing’s being the way it is,” including whatever answers the questions what a thing is, why it exists, and how it exists. With this truncated conception of causality, even efficient and material causality are temporalized (as the force that produces a thing and the matter that constitutes a thing, respectively), thereby reducing the meaning of being by creating an extrinsic relationship between causes and their effects. This runs against the grain of a more classical understanding of causality and creation, where wholes rather than atomized moments and objects are the focus, integrating the horizontal/temporal dimension of being within the vertical. The importance of this understanding of causality becomes evident when Schindler contrasts Heidegger’s understanding of causality with that of Dionysius the Areopagite, whose notion of goodness and beauty as self-giving generosity preserves an intrinsic relation between wonder and knowledge.
In part three, Schindler treats philosophy’s openness to God and how philosophy handles revelation as inescapably historical (i.e., divine revelation occurs in history). In the first two chapters of this section, the terms of Heidegger’s critique of ontotheology and certain contemporary forms of Thomistic natural theology are negatively appraised because of the dualism subtly present within their logic. In response, Schindler emphasizes the ecstatic nature of being, the intrinsic relation between divine being and the being of the world, and the coinherence of the orders of faith and reason. In the book’s final chapter, Schindler proposes that philosophy, when it is truly itself, is at the heart of theology. Likewise, theology, by attending to God’s intrinsic relation with the world, also opens up to philosophy at its center.
While this book is certainly not for the occasional reader of philosophical theology, it is a fascinating treatment of the operations of reason, and Schindler is relentless in his pursuit of a more ecstatic notion of human rationality. Readers will find incredible depth in Schindler’s engagement with the Western philosophical tradition as well as phenomenal force and nuance in his arguments. In broad terms, Schindler’s work proclaims that the supernatural (e.g., love, theology) works with the grain of the natural (e.g., intellect), with each opening out into the other. Two particularly helpful insights, among many that the book offers, are worth noting. First is Schindler’s treatment of Fr. Thomas Joseph White’s claim (in Wisdom in the Face of Modernity) that reason attains to God a posteriori. While agreeing with White in affirming the necessity of natural knowledge of God, Schindler rejects what he finds to be White’s “epistemological semipelagianism.” That is, Schindler reveals that White’s approach preserves the distinction between faith and reason precisely by assigning them mastery over separate spheres. Instead of limiting reason to what it works out on its own without any influence from the order of faith, Schindler states that that which reason receives as gift is also rational. This counter of the modified and tempered extrinsicism that has appeared in White’s and other recent Thomist works will help readers since Schindler demonstrates precisely what is at stake in a noncompetitive and coinherent construal of faith and reason.
The second insight worth noting here is the proposed model for the disciplines of philosophy and theology at the conclusion of the book. Though a concern for generations, the question of how these fields intersect has gained new interest with the rise of postmodern theology. Schindler is careful to avoid a simplistic (yet tempting) identification of faith with theology and reason with philosophy. To do so would betray the ecstatic character of rationality and the intrinsic relation between faith and reason. Rather, the whole must remain in focus so that philosophy’s openness to theology fulfills philosophy as philosophy. Thus, reason’s catholicity creates a dynamic relationship between theology and philosophy such that they are united yet distinct from each other.