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Froschammer on the Freedom of Science

A Review of: Athenaum. Dr. J. Froschammer. Munich. 1862.

Brownson's Quarterly Review, October, 1862

THIS is the title of a philosophical and scientific Review that has recently made its appearance in Germany, under the editorship of Dr. J. Froschammer, professor of philoso-phy in the University of Munich. It first met our eye on a casual visit to Westermann & Co., well-known foreign booksellers of this city, and we were at once struck with the author's clear comprehension of the problem of the church in our age. How to restore science and genius to the position they once held in her bosom? -in other words, how to determine, on true and comprehensive principles, the relation of science to faith,of philosophy to theology? Indeed this problem may be regarded as the intellectutal phase of the great question of nature and grace, just as the moral phase of the same question has been determined by defining the relation of free will to grace. The world has marvelled at the vast amount of lear-ning and science that has been brought to bear on this latter question before a true mean was struck between Pelagius and his adherents on the one hand, and Baius and Jansenius on the other. And it would seem that, in our day, a contest no less laborious is in preparation, before the dualism between the natural and supernatural in the matter of faith and science is brought into harmony without compromising the legitimate sphere of either. Professor Kuhn of Tubingen, in his Katholische Dogmatik, published some few years ago, one of the ablest writers in our day, was the first we met with in Catholic Germany to assert and maintain the independence of science, or its right to be governed by its own laws. He was attacked in an elaborate pamphlet by Dr. Clemens, professor of philosophy at Munster who in turn advocated the common traditional doctrine, that science is but the handmaid of theology, and as such, of course, should take its principles from faith, and be governed in its conclusions entirely by the dogmas of the church. We read Professor Kuhn's rejoinder at the time, now some two years since; and until the present publication of Professor Froschammer fell into our hands, we had met with nothing superior in our German reading. Dr. Froschammer sees clearly enough that it is the dearth of such philosophical studies as are based on the free legitimate use of our mental faculties that has brought the church into antagonism with the science that is outside of her, and has hampered and emasculated whatever of science there is within her- and the task is, to labor to restore science to its independent position,to give back to it the vigor and legitimate sway it held in the apologetic age of the church, when Justin Martyr and his compeers came freighted with the spoils of Grecian philosophy to aid in defending, in unfolding, and in consolidating her doctrine. Of Professor Froschummer himself we have no knowledge except what we derive from his works- of these, die Freiheit der Wissenschaft, Freedom of Science, die Aufgabe der Natur-philosophie und ihr Verhaltniss zur Naturwissenchaft, the Problem of Natural Philosophy and its relation to Natural Science, and the one at the head of this article, are all that we have read. They, however, make it clear enough to us that he is one of the leading minds of Catholic Germany, and is destined by his extensive scientific and philosophical learning, by his logical strength and acuteness, and his bold, independent thought, to excercise no ordinary influence upon his country and his age. He has entered upon his work, fully aware of the number and power of the enemies he must encounter, and what is better still, fully armed for their assaults. Certainly if he can sustain himself against future opponents as ably as the Atheaum attests he has done with The Catholic, one of the first to make an onslaught upon him, he will prove in the end a true benefactor to the church and society,-such a one as she would have been glad to hail for these many generations. No one can read his scathing replies to the old timeworn objections of The Catholic, his complete riddling of the defences it relied upon as impregnable, without a feeling of joy that "a strong man, armed" has come to lift off the load of oppression that has kept science and reason manacled within the church for so long a period, and that this emancipation comes from the hand of a priest (such the remark of his opponent would lead us to conjecture) makes it none the less welcome by reason of our own poor efforts in the same cause. His work entitled Freiheit der Wissenschaft, or Freedom of Science, goes to show, in the first place, that science, especially philosophy, must have freedom, that is, be free to follow its own laws; laws which are essential to its very existence; that these laws constitute therefore its natural right, without which science itself ceases, since only constraint and arbitrariness can rule in its place. Therefore even within the Catholic Church, this freedom of science must be granted so long as she admits and does not exclude and repudiate science itself. Without this freedom the church must fall into contradiction with herself, for while on the one hand she would admit science to exist, and even seek to foster it, on the other, by depriving it of its natural rights or the very conditions of existence, she would render it impossible. In the second place, science must be free, must follow the law of its nature (which only herself can find out and determine) because the perfection of science could not otherwise be seriously sought and attained. On this ground also must the Catholic Church allow freedom of science, otherwise that ideal of science could not be actualized on which she relies to show the accordance of science with faith; since this ideal is not attainable by mere obedience, submission, and belief, but is striven after and reached only by means purely scientific. Finally, in the third place, he shows that, apart from the pure standpoint of science and of its interests, it lies in the interest of Christian faith and of the church herself, to possess and perfect a science which brings the facts of revelation-faith, its contents and authority itself, to the test of a proof that is free and independent of faith, and resting upon natural principles, in order to bring home faith to the natural consciousness, to the reason of the unbeliever, to legitimate it, and to defend and vindicate it against the attacks of its enemies. He further goes on to show that such a science has at all times been assumed in the Christian Church, and it is from these principles that Christian science has taken its rise, and which, adapting itself to all the changes and necessities of the times, gives birth to that natural and apologetic science always fostered by the fathers, and which has continually been perfecting itself, and which will and must become further perfected and remodelled, so long as it is deemed allowable, indeed, necessary, that natural power and activities should operate effectively in the preservation and advancement of Christianity.