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Philosophy of Evolution: Survey of Literature

Neo-Scholastics in South America

North America
South America

Ivan Illich (1956).100 Ivan Illich is a multinational and multilingual Neo-Scholastic academic, popular philosopher and activist. Illich was born in 1926 in Vienna, Austria. He studied philosophy and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He obtained his doctorate (Ph.D.) in history at the University of Salzburg. He came to the United States in 1951, and became the assistant pastor of a New York City parish with a mixed population of Irish and Puerto Ricans. From 1956 to 1960, he was the rector of the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, where he organized an intensive training program for priests in language and Latin American culture. He was the co-founder of the well-known and controversial Center for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC) in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In 1964, he became the director of research seminars on "Institutional Alternatives in a Technical Society," with special emphasis on Latin America.

Illich treats the future of man. His interests are in a better world for the future. Six of his eleven books are on social development. He is interested in educating for a better future. Three of his eleven books are on education. On the one hand, Illich is critical of the growth economy, political centralization, and unlimited technology. On the other hand, Illich provides a set of alternative concepts, so that he is a positive activist. He is known as one of the most radical social and political thinkers of the twentieth century. However, his activism has a positive and realistic foundation.

Illich treats person. The Neo-Scholastic academic definition of person is a substantial individual in a rational nature (Persona est individuum substantiale in natura rationali). Illich is far outside the academic philosophic treatment of person, and has moved to a pragmatic Existential view of person: person is important "for the constitution of the new order of society."

Gustavo Gutirrez (1971)101 Gustavo Gutirrez was a South American Neo-Scholastic Dominican priest. First, Gustavo Gutirrez is world- known as the founder of Liberation Theology. Second, Gustavo Gutirrez promoted as his theme human liberation through small groups (base communities) which can influence the future of man. Third, Gustavo Gutirrez does not believe in social determinism.

Gustavo Gutirrez Merino was born in Lima, Peru, on 8 January 1928. He was a priest and theologian of the Dominican Order. He studied medicine and literature in Peru. He studied empirical psychology (not the rational psychology of the scholastics) and philosophy at the University of Louvain, Belgium. Louvain is one of the great centers of Neo-Scholasticism. He finished his doctorate at the Catholic University of Lyons, France, in the Institut Pastoral d’Etudes Religieuses (IPER). Academic work never distanced him from "Base Communities" where he elaborated his theological and spiritual vision. He had the consent of the local bishop for his work with the poor. However, in September 1984, he was called to Rome with the explicit purpose of condemning his work of Liberation Theology. He defended his theological orthodoxy and his work with the poor. The real problem with Rome was the fear of Marxism, and this was clear later in the case of Leonardo Boff in 1985, where he was explicitly accused of Marxism. Gustavo Gutirrez was recognized and praised as the founder of Liberation Theology. He was a professor at the Pontifical University of Peru. He was visiting professor at major universities of North America and Europe. He taught at Notre Dame University, in Indiana, in the United States. He was a member of the Peruvian Academy of Language. In 1993, he received the French Legion of Honor.

Gutirrez’s fundamental work was Theology of Liberation (1971). Here he explains two fundamental principles of his vision. First, there must be an act of loving solidarity with the poor. Second, there must be a liberating protest against poverty. This "liberation" develops within three great and fundamental dimensions: politico-social, human, and theological. The political and social liberation is directed towards eliminating the causes of poverty and injustice. The human liberation emancipates the poor, the marginal, and the oppressed from whatever limits their capacity to grow "by themselves" freely and with dignity. The theological liberation emancipates from egoism and sin by establishing a relation with God and with every human being.

Leonardo Boff (1997).102 Leonardo Boff was a South American Neo-Scholastic philosopher, theologian, writer, Franciscan priest and activist for the poor and excluded. First, Boff is noted for Liberation Theology, and the fear of Rome that his philosophy was Marxism. Second, he rejected external social determinism even in structures of religion, that were adverse to the poor, and taught this had to be overcome. Third, the future of the world depends on small groups, or extinction of man is possible. Philosophically, this last view of the future touches on the Pantheism of the Gaia Hypothesis, that the earth itself is alive. Boff notes in his book Ecologia (1997) that Gaia (the living Earth) may allow man to become extinct, and allow the rest of creation to continue on its evolutionary trajectory.

Leonardo Boff was born on 14 December 1938 in Concrdia, Brazil. He entered the Franciscan Order in 1959, and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1964. He received his doctorate in theology and philosophy at the University of Munich in 1970, for a thesis: The Church as Sacramental Sign in a Secular World and in the Process of Liberation of the Oppressed. The thesis was published as Die Kirche als Sakrament im Horizont der Welterfahrung. He is one of the best known (along with Gustavo Gutirrez) Liberation theologians. He was one of the first exponents of Liberation Theology to articulate indignation against misery and marginalization.

Boff spent most of his life as a professor in academic fields of philosophy, theology, and ethics throughout Brazil and Universities abroad: Heidelberg, Harvard, Salamanca, Lisbon, Barcelona, Lund, Louvain, Paris, Oslo, and Turin. He was Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, and Ecology at the University of Rio de Janeiro. He has honorary doctorates in politics from the University of Turin, and in theology from the University of Lund.

Boff fought for human rights. He had always been an advocate against human rights abuse. He helped to formulate a new Latin American perspective with "rights to life and the ways to maintain them with dignity." The work of the liberation theologians led to the creation of more than one million "ecclesial base communities" (Comunidades Eclesiais de Base or CEBs) among the poor Catholics in Brazil and Latin America. The movement and Boff himself also criticized the Roman Catholic Church in the social and economic order that oppressed the communities where the liberation movement was active. Boff found much justification for his work in the document of the Second Vatican Council on the Church (Lumen Gentium 1. 8). In 2001, he was awarded the "Right Livelihood Award" by the Swedish Parliament.

Boff was a political critic. Boff considers the leadership of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon similar to that of "fundamentalist terrorist states." He has never made a similar criticism of Islamic fundamentalists. Boff gave an interview to the site "Communista Italiana" (November 2001) about the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York that was very negative about the power of the United States.

Boff was a controversial figure in the Catholic Church. He has actually supported Communist left-wing regimes. He is alleged to support homosexuality. He criticized the Church for supporting governments which use social oppression. The base communities were also involved in politics against the United States and Israel. Boff was accused of "politicizing everything"and of Marxism. In 1985, because of his book, Church: Charism and Power, Boff was silenced for one year by the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, whose head at that time was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. In 1992, he was almost silenced again to prevent him from participating in the Eco-92 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, which finally led him to leave the Franciscan Order and the presbyteral ministry.

Lucio Florio (2005).103 Lucio Florio is a South American Neo-Scholastic theologian. He is a professor at the Catholic University of Argentina. Florio attended the international congress on evolution at the Pontifical Atheneum Regina Apostolorum in Rome on 23 and 24 April 2002. He presented a paper written in Spanish that touches on atheism. He was also present for the dialogue on evolution.

Florio treats evolution. Florio studies the relationship between evolution and God. This is the new Christian doctrine of the Trinitarian God, Florio remarks. Usually evolution is argued in the context of Deism (God creates, but the subsequent cosmos is Mechanistic without the need for God) or Undifferentiated Monotheism. Florio presents an evolutionary dynamic in the universe in the light of trinitarian theology. Florio selects some theological trinitarian texts elaborated over the centuries to show their rapport with the theology of creation. Finally, Florio identifies the most relevant themes for reflection on the Trinity and evolution. Those themes are: first, personal responsibility in the evolutionary process; second, communion between persons; third, the category relation; and fourth, the consequences for ecological equilibrium and conflict in this process.

Florio treats the future of man. Forio quotes Leonardo Boff that the cosmos gravitates to the mystery of communion. Boff concludes that communion present in God is the reality most profound and foundational that exists.

CONCLUSION: The conclusion for the South American Neo-Scholastic philosophers brings to light a social activism in all. However, all these philosophers are trained academics: Illich trained in philosophy at the Gregorian University in Rome and with a Ph.D. from Salzburg, Gustavo Gutirrez trained at Louvain University and with a doctorate from Lyons, Leonardo Boff has a doctorate in theology and philosophy from the University of Munich and two honorary doctorates, and Lucio Florio is a university professor.

All the South Americans have written extensively: Illich wrote eleven books, Gustavo Gutirrez was a prolific writer on the International Board of Concilium, Leonardo Boff has written more than one hundred books which have been translated into the main languages of the world, and Lucio Florio presented a paper to the International Congress on Evolution (2002).

All the South Americans are concerned about education: Illich the rector of the University of Puerto Rico and founder of an international school for linguistic and cultural studies, Gustavo Gutirrez was professor at the Pontifical University of Peru and visiting professor in North America and Europe, Leonardo Boff taught at Universities in Brazil and in at least ten universities abroad, and Lucio Florio teaches at the Pontifical University of Argentina.

All the South Americans were concerned, not about the origin of man, but about the future of man. Further, this concern was a passion for these Neo-Scholastic philosophers. Illich was both opposed by traditionalists and idealized by liberals. Gustavo Gutirrez was called to Rome to defend Liberation Theology and his base communities for the poor. Leonardo Boff was also accused of Marxism by Rome in 1985. Lucio Florio notes that the evolutionary process does not diminish personal responsibility. Florio notes that ecological equilibrium is an evolutionary theme.

All the South Americans maintained that there is no social determinism. Gustavo Gutirrez says so explicitly. Any external social pressure from the state or from the Church must be eliminated according to Leonardo Boff, who has helped the movement to found more than one million of the Ecclesial Base Communities to work for self-determination. Illich tried to train North Americans in the language and culture of Latin America to aid in self-determination. Lucio Florio cites Leonardo Boff concerning community as the most profound and fundamental reality.


Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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