Scholastic Metaphysics and Phenomenology
by Jim J. McCrea
** Phenomenology has been called fundamental philosophy. It studies the contents of the consciousness of the investigator. It can be considered fundamental philosophy, for to know anything about reality it must first be in our consciousness. Although traditional phenomenology started as being subjectivist, it can be adapted to Catholic realism. This is because it can be understood that the content of our consciousness includes the elements of objective reality **
Scholastic metaphysics and phenomenology can complement one another. Scholasticism is like the skeleton. It is required to give our knowledge form and structure. The abstract statements of scholastic philosophy are needed, but they are not enough. Scholastic metaphysics is too coarse a sieve to capture all of reality. There are many subtle and singular features of reality that are hard pressed to be put into abstract formulae. That is where phenomenology would come in. Phenomenology puts the "flesh" on the skeleton.
To understand man for example, we would need to start with basic notions such as him being defined as a rational animal. Theologically he is also defined as made in the image and likeness of God. We start with those and other abstract statements about man. However, phenomenology, through what the observer experiences, fills in the details - thus putting flesh on the skeleton. With a phenomenological method (adapted to Catholic realism) man is viewed from many many different angles - giving what the philosopher subject experiences from many many different view-points. It is like understanding the full three dimensionality of something by encircling it, and taking photographs at every conceivable angle. Thus a much fuller concept of man is built up (still retaining the basic scholastic understanding as a foundation). This concept is so rich that it exceeds our conceptual formulae, and is only communicated to another mind by relating all the snapshots it has received from every angle, and relating them in a great number of statements.
But it is still a singular concept of man that is known and communicated. A definition of man is thus communicated, but this definition may occupy many paragraphs or even pages. This is the case because of the limitations of human language on earth.