Franciszek Gabryl’s anthropology and epistemology
„Forum Philosophicum”, t. 8, Kraków 2003, s. 234-236.
Franciszek Gabryl (1866-1914) was a priest, professor of philosophy and theology, Rector of the Jagiellonian University, and a member of the local Parliament (Galicja). He is regarded as one of the precursors of Polish neo-scholastic philosophy and his work is a combination of traditional Thomism and a Thomism cultivated at the University of Louvain. The first is influenced by Aristotelian philosophy (essentialism) and the opinions of commentators like Aegidius Romanus; the second tries to combine Aquinas with the modern scientific disciplines of psychology, biology and physics. This paper will examine Gabryl’s work in anthropology and epistemology.
1. Aims and methods of Gabryl’s philosophy.
Gabryl belonged to the group known as the neo-scholastic philosophers. At the end of the nineteenth century, neo-scholasticism was gaining popularity in universities throughout Europe, including Rome, Turin, Florence, Paris, Louvain and Cracow. According to Konstanty Michalski, Gabryl had three main aims:
a) to keep his own system constantly under review.
b) to make contact with modern philosophy.
c) to make contact with contemporary philosophy.
He set out to achieve his aims and establish what was essential through dialectic analysis and the historico-genetical method. Such methods were typical of neo-scholasticism and contrasted it with Cartesianism, Kantianism, positivism, fideism and other modern –isms. Eucken called it ‘philosophia militans’.
2. Gabryl’s understanding of metaphysics, theology, psychology, noetics and other modern sciences.
For Gabryl, metaphysics provides the way to enquire about the cause of all entities. He divides such study into the general (which he calls ‘ontosophia’) and the particular (which includes psychology). He regards theology as more important than philosophy and distinguishes between natural and supernatural theology; ‘natural’ based only on the human reason, while ‘supernatural’ also includes divine revelation.
3. Union of soul and body in the human being.
Gabryl follows in the footsteps of Aristotle and Aquinas by defining ‘human being’ as the union of soul and body, contrasting against the dualism of Descartes and other more materialistic philosophers. He uses Thomistic terminology; ‘form’, ’substance’, and ‘matter’. According to Gabryl, if the underlying substance that supports attributes is not part of another being but exists independently, it is called ‘suppositum’ or ‘hypostasis’. When it is a rational suppositum, it becomes a person. The first substance is a singular being ‘tode ti’ and the second is a notion or an idea of ‘tode ti’. The first can be complete, such as a tree or a human soul, or incomplete, such as a leaf or an animal soul. Its main characteristic is ‘subsistentia’, a Thomistic term understood by Gabryl to have independent existence . For a person, this would be personality. Therefore Gabryl calls a person ‘substantia rationalis, singularis, integralis, tota in se’. However, the philosopher from Cracow seems to underestimate the role of ‘esse’ in the structure of entities. He follows the opinion of Suarez and his essentialism although for him, the ‘esse’ is not an accidental in entities.
Gabryl’s epistemology is termed ‘noetics’ from the Greek ‘noesis’, meaning the most certain knowledge. He seeks to impose objectivism on realism and strongly criticises subjectivism, idealism, materialism and agnosticism. Gabryl is strongly influenced by Aristotelian philosophy and follows the rule of Aristotle which says: ‘nihil est in intellectu quod non prius fuerit in sensu’. Hence he can be regarded as an empirical philosopher.
Gabryl distinguishes between the following sources of human knowledge:
a) self-consciousness (the inner self).
b) the use of senses.
c) comparison of notions based on impressions or imagination. These are universal since they are abstracted from particular entities.
d) reasoning: direct, indirect, deduction and induction.
e) faith as taken from another. We assess something to be true because of the authority of the person who reveals or explains it. Faith and reason reveal the same truth but there are some aspects of truth that can only be revealed through the eyes of faith (with God as the ultimate guarantor of the truth).
Gabryl also emphasises the role of ‘species’ in the process of acquiring knowledge. This makes clear the relation between the subject and the object of knowledge and states that change happens in the subject only.
He speaks of consciousness as being that part of a human which is always constant and so envelops the whole person, body and soul. He distinguishes between sensual consciousness, present in both humans and animals, even during sleep, and intellectual consciousness, present in humans and responsible for reflective knowledge which he calls ‘perfect’ or ‘philosphical’ knowledge.
He considers there is only one intellect in the human soul but it has both passive and active functions; the one can know particulars and the other is responsible for abstracting universal ideas from those particulars.
He opposes progressivism by holding that there are borders to human knowledge. There are some truths – primarily moral, metaphysical and religious – which are unchangeable. As a criteria of truth, Gabryl chose:
1) faith in revelation (as Pascal).
2) common agreement (as Bautain).
3) clarity and evidence of notions (as Descartes).
4) common sense (as Reid).
5) moral imperative (as Kant).
6) pragmatism (as James).
5. Human free will and desire (appetites).
Gabryl emphasises a strong relationship between knowing and desiring. Knowing, especially sensual knowing, must always come before desiring since only objects that are known, whether real or imaginary, can be desired and their goodness influences our free will. He distinguishes after Aquinas between natural desire ‘appetitus naturalis’ and rational desire ‘appetitus rationalis’ which can in turn be divided into sensual and intellectual desires. Intellectual desire means human free will ‘liberum arbitrium voluntatis’ and Gabryl explains human freedom and questions of determinism and indeterminism. However he also recognises that sensual desires – impulses. cravings, passions, feelings (including aesthetical, spiritual, religious, intellectual and normal feelings) – have a considerable impact on human decision making.
Although sadly almost completely neglected by historians, Gabryl remains very important for a student of Polish philosophy. This paper tries to make his work known to the wider public.
Tłum. Grzegorz Baczewski
© Mikołaj Krasnodębski 2008