Fundamental Philosophies

by Richard Kovac

The scholastics said that essence precedes existence, that the idea precedes the fact in defining anything at all, including mankind. The existentialists say that in man existence precedes essence, and that fact is the basis for our freedom. My argument here is that both points of view are va1id different aspects of the same reality.

But a greater question is whether in our freedom we strive to define ourselves as servants in this world to meet the needs of other people, especially the poor, who should receive preferential option. Our philosophies, scholastic or existential, stoic or epicurean, are nothing if with overweening pride we ignore our neighbor in his need.

The definition of man as freedom implies, I think, is that somehow there should be a goal, or freedom simply would be indeterminacy and the repetition of random numbers. Most of the great philosophers of the 1ast severa1 centuries have been adroit but dry as dust verbalizers, ignoring the sweat of the worker, and the cry of the oppressed from within the fastness of their castles in the air. We need new beginnings if any "philosophy" is to be at all valid. Perhaps a return to the pre-Socratics and the prophets or the Hebrews.

St. Paul says he attempts to "destroy sophistries" - here like Socrates - and perhaps this would be the basis for a genuine "love of wisdom" which is what "philosophy" literally means.

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