Wolfgang Smith, Aristotle, and the Quantum Enigma

Aristotle Profile StatueAlthough Wolfgang Smith is not an Aristotelian-Thomist, his work in the area of the quantum enigma has united the ontology of St. Thomas Aquinas with the authentic discoveries of modern science in accordance with the two stipulated criterion listed below. It is because of Smith’s insights that adherents to the school of perennial philosophy can now present a thoroughly coherent philosophical interpretation of authentic scientific discovery.

Aristotelian Thomism

A Thomism emphasizing the reliance of St. Thomas on the philosophy of Aristotle is also sometimes referred to as ‘River Forest Thomism,’ because the members (of which I was one) of the Albertus Magnus Lyceum for Natural Science located in that Chicago suburb (1950-1969) contended for this interpretation of Aquinas. James A. Weisheipl (c. 1923-1984) of the Medieval Institute, Toronto, and William A. Wallace (1918-) of the Catholic University of America provided it with a good historical grounding. It has, however, other independent supporters. For this position, which I have principally adopted in the present work, the validity of metaphysics depends on two conditions:

  1. There can be no valid metaphysics formally distinct from natural sciences unless its subject, Being as Being (esse), as it analogically includes both material and immaterial being, has first been validated in a manner proper to the foundations integral to natural science by a demonstration of the existence of immaterial being as the cause of material beings.
  2. Modern natural science can achieve such a demonstration, but only if its own foundations are rendered unequivocally consistent with sense observation by an analysis such as is exemplified by Aristotle’s Physics as interpreted by Aquinas.

This position, therefore, seeks a positive dialogue with natural science, looking toward the integration of philosophia naturalis with the foundation of modern science and the establishment of a valid metaphysics formally distinct from natural science, yet open to the possibility of Christian revelation or some other divine revelation. The reasons for preferring this Aristotelian version of Thomism concerning how we can validly arrive at the subject of metaphysics will be developed step-by-step in what follows, in a manner that remains in dialogue with the other views and attempts to assimilate their insights.

From this typological sketch it should be evident that the need and validity of metaphysics has been in serious question since Descartes, and is difficult indeed to defend against the remarkable advance of a modern natural science that is not only independent of metaphysics but seems to render it unnecessary. As soon as Leo XIII revived Thomism and made it for a time the quasi-official philosophy of the Catholic Church, it was apparent that it had to meet this challenge. Unhappily, most Thomists simply assumed, as the medieval generally had done, that there is such a valid discipline as metaphysics and sought to defend Aquinas’s version of metaphysics by elevating it to a level of certitude beyond the probabilities of empirical natural science.

The Way Toward Wisdom, Benedict M. Ashley, O.P. –


– Lucas G. Westman

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