From Anonymous 2: “Response to response: I didn't write the original response but I have two remarks: is it clear that Thomism and phenomenology can be wedded or is it simply and oil-water emulsion? The remark about the objectivism of received scholasticism is true to the extent that there was a decadent scholasticism but figures of Thomism like Gilson have rejected solutions to this problem by trying to wed Thomism with Kantianism. Maritain too tried to address the problems raised by Kantianism and Descartes without claiming to wed Thomism with these systems.”
Dear Anonymous 2,
Short response to your questions. As I recall, Maritain thought that phenomenology and metaphysics were oil-water. I am sure that he was right in view of the later Husserl. But notice that von Hildebrand, E. Stein, Ingarten and Scheler left him for that very reason. All were looking for realist phenomenology. I would dare say that Wojtyla did the master work of doing his own brand of Phenomenology of the moral act and showing how not only is the “I” not cartesian consciousness, but that consciousness is the key to how we form the experience of the “I” (and experience always means access to being) and the moral subject.
Maritain and Gilson were not part of decadent Thomism precisely because they both saw the centerpiece of his metaphysics in “esse” and not in essence or substance. They were absolute masters in this. However, they never went beyond the object - or better, they never reached the "I" as "I.". Even in his work on the person and "subsistence," Maritain always stayed within the horizon of the substance where subsistence was a mode of the substance limiting it in the order of essence making it capable of receiving and exercising “esse.” And Gilson really didn’t get into it. He was interested in the epistemology of “esse” and the (negative) judgment beyond the world of essences and abstraction, and did the history of it.
What Wojtyla has done is not Kantianism. Kant never discovered nor disclosed the experience of the “I” in the moral moment. I emphasize the word "experience." According to Josef Seifert, no one has outside of Wojtyla. Kant's a priori are of a subject that is consciousness. The “I” of Wojtyla is “Esse” (as in "Being") - experienced in the moment of free self-determination.
* * * * * *
I have been fascinated with St. Thomas's esse as act of all acts, perfection of all perfections. My Saul to Paul moment came while reading of Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity” (1970/1990 edition) pp. 131-132. where Ratzinger proposed the meaning of Being – and therefore “esse” – to be intrinsically and constitutively relational. I was astounded to see the seriousness with which he proposed it and immediately saw that this would be a veritable revolution.
The most obvious problem is what happens to conceptual thought and the world of being understood in terms of substance/accident. In order to know being that is relation as agape, one must be in act as agape. Like is known by like. My first attempts were to explore the consequences – whereupon I published a little thing called: “Person as Resonating Existential” – clearly a red flag to objectified conceptualism – which Robert Woods was kind enough to publish in the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly (1992 I believe) after which I did “Relational Esse and the Person” which I have on the blog: look below in February 2005 and which appeared in American Catholic Philosophical Proceedings. I must say the topic fascinates me.
I more than understand “Anonymous 1” and his frustration with the use of words and terminology, but that is precisely the problem. The human intellect does not have a sensible experience from which it can abstract and form a category (concept), establish propositions, created syllogisms and return to sensible experience to verify. Categorical conceptual thought is objectifying and abstractive of real existential reality. The most profound and immediate access I have to the reality of esse comes in the experience of the self in the moment of free self-determination. This presupposes the experience of things through sensation, but, as Wojtyla says, "Man's experience of anything outside of himself is always associated with the experience of himself, and he never experiences anything external without having at the same time the experience of himself" (The Acting Person" 3). There is an element of unreality (as in distortion) in abstract knowing precisely because of the mediation of sense perception and abstract categories. The non-precision of consciousness that is not conceptual thought is not for that less real, but in fact, more so. It is a far greater realism since the being that is experienced is the very self – “esse” - if you will.