Thursday, September 01, 2005

Yes, I am still alive

And after some prodding from the Cogitator, I have finally expanded the Wikipedia article on Xavier Zubiri, and firmly planted myself on a soapbox for more theologians of the Zubirian school. Here 'tis:

Xavier Zubiri (1889–1983) was a Spanish philosopher noted for his intellectual rigor. Zubiri's most impressive intellectual accomplishment is the creation of an entire metaphysical system stemming from his view of man as a "sentient intelligence" situated in reality. In this system, man is "religated" by the "power of the real," so that his personal reality is intimately connected with being situated in a real context. At the same time, man can be considered the author of his own personal being, his "I," through the appropriation of experience and the exercise of personal freedom within this real context, so that Zubiri can refer to man as the "animal of realities." This openness of man to possibilities is what makes man an "open essence," as opposed to a "closed essence" (i.e., a structure that simply operates according to rules of functionality). Many of his works have been translated into English by Thomas B. Fowler and by Nelson Orringer. After his death, the Fundación Xavier Zubiri and the Xavier Zubiri Foundation of North America were set up as charities to disseminate his work.

Zubiri's Critique of Classical Metaphysics

Probably the most innovative aspect of Zubiri's metaphysical system is his critique of classical metaphysics and particularly of the notion of reality as "subject" in the Aristotelian sense, viz., a reality that is somehow "autonomous" apart from its context. Zubiri reconceives reality as an interconnected structure of "notes," which structure is "in its own right" to a certain degree (a property Zubiri refers to as "substantivity" in contrast to the classical notion of "substantiality"). The "notes" themselves are reality's ways of "giving-of-itself" in being, so in this respect, reality is actually prior to being rather than being identifiable with being. Thus, Zubiri can criticize the "logification of intellect" that identifies what is intellectively known with being, which in turn leads to the "entification of reality" (identification of reality with being). This critique spans the entire history of philosophy, from Parmenides to the medieval scholastics all the way to Hegel and Heidegger (who himself was one of Zubiri's philosophical mentors, along with Edmund Husserl).

The possibilities for applying Zubiri's metaphysics in a theological context are quite diverse, owing to its ability to adapt classical metaphysical formulations of theology into Zubiri's own terms. Zubiri himself applied such adaptations to the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, and the Real Presence of the Eucharist, as well as other diverse theological subjects. Of note is the intrinsic compatibility of Zubiri's notion of reality as prior to being with the earlier patristic notion that God Himself is beyond being. Thus, Zubiri's system has significant potential for reconciling what appear to be inherent contradictions between Eastern and Western theology, such as the debate over the so-called "essence-energies distinction" and the filioque. Unfortunately, the application of Zubiri's work in the theological sphere has been relatively limited outside of Ignacio Ellacuría's work in liberation theology, a controversial application of theological principles to society that is somewhat notorious for its entanglement with Marxism.