FROM PHYSICS TO METAPHYSICS
by Fr Francis J Selman
(The Saint Austin Press, 2001, 156pp, $34.30 plus postage. Available from Saint Austin Press, PO Box 180, Sumner Park, Qld 4074, tel (07) 3279 7415)
For those who admire Pope John Paul's Theology of the Body and are seeking a framework for following, understanding and learning, not only his own powerful teachings, but also the depths of the Church's theological and social doctrines, then there is nothing for it but to begin learning Christian metaphysics.
Father Francis Selman's book, From Physics to Metaphysics, meets the call Pope John Paul II made, in his encyclical Faith and Reason, for a return to metaphysics as a foundation for teaching theology.
Even this year, while meeting with students of the major seminary of the Rome Diocese in March, John Paul spontaneously recalled his secret studies of metaphysics during the Nazi occupation: "I saw that metaphysics, Christian philosophy, gave me a new vision of the world, a more profound penetration of reality. With metaphysics, with philosophy, I found the key, a key to understanding and penetration of the world" (Zenit, 3 March 2003).
From Physics to Metaphysics is especially aimed at students who need to know philosophy in order to study theology, but is also helpful for anyone looking for a philosophy that aids in understanding the Catholic Faith, for it presents an outline of classical metaphysics, built on an examination of the five basic concepts of form, substance, existence, cause and nature.
Special features of the book include: firstly - and its chief claim to fame - its logical discovery of metaphysics from the beginning point of physics; clear answers to the question "what are nominalism, idealism and realism?"; the fact that this book draws on the whole tradition of philosophy, from the ancients to contemporary writers.
From Physics to Metaphysics devotes considerable attention to the criticisms of Hume and Kant. It provides a simple explanation of Kant's basic philosophy, which will be useful to students: oils ain't oils, and neither will any old philosophy serve those who wish to think in the high-performance way that John Paul II thinks. (The discernment of good oils is the very point behind the call of the Code of Canon Law for seminaries to teach dogmatic theology "with St Thomas [Aquinas] in particular as their teacher" (Can 252, ¤3).
How important is Christian metaphysics? What cost of time spent in study and contemplation is worth the loss of TV time? "During my eight-hour shift in the factory, either at night or during the day, I would take some books," John Paul said to the seminarians in Rome. He risked life, and gained the ability to penetrate the mysteries of life.
Fr Selman teaches at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster and at the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. He has also written St Thomas Aquinas (T&T Clark, 1994).
Michael Casanova is a Victorian State Officer of the National Civic Council.