Now available in bookshops is the new book by Stefano Fontana: “Filosofia per tutti. Una breve storia del pensiero da Socrate a Ratzinger” [Philosophy for everyone. A brief history of thought from Socrates to Ratzinger] (Edizioni Fede & Cultura, Verona 2016). This is a “two hundred thousand” character presentation of the history of human thought in very simple and straightforward language. In addition to being a synoptic presentation, it is also an evaluation of thought, and therefore readers have before them a user-friendly map of good philosophy and bad philosophy.  

Engaging in philosophy is of fundamental importance in order to engage correctly in theology. Philosophy is like a key that opens some doors and not others. John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio tells us that theology necessarily avails itself of a philosophy, even it says it doesn’t. This is because philosophy is the grammar of theology.

Therefore understandable is the strategic nature of philosophy for the Church. If its seminarians, later priests and also bishops imbibe a bad philosophy, their comprehension of the deposit of the faith will be different. Many aspects of the crisis of the Church today depend on the philosophical pathways embarked upon by theology, and the theology taught in seminaries, theological scholasticates and Catholic universities.

The book is written in simple and straightforward language because philosophy is simple. Philosophy makes things speak out, and, in a articulated manner, says what even a child sees. This proved true as long as it retained realism as a benchmark. Ever since philosophers started giving precedence to thought over being, however, philosophy became artificially entwined in itself, speaking only about itself and its own neuroses, and no longer about reality and truth. A small mistake at the beginning becomes a big mistake at the end: just like when we come to a junction along a mountain trail, the first step we take is the decisive one. In philosophy as well, decisive is the way we relate to being at the very beginning.

Mr. Fontana offers an overview of all ancient, medieval and modern philosophy, and also examines contemporary authors all the way to Ratzinger, as the subtitle indicates.  This book is therefore a gold mine of information and assessments. Likewise documented is the entry into Catholic theology of the erroneous approach of modern philosophy and the ensuing dangers for the faith. Judgments are given on personalism, modernism, the philosophy of tradition, the modern liberal philosophies from Habermas to Rawls, the philosophy of dialogue of Buber and Lévinas, the evolution of communism in bourgeoisie and individualistic post-communism,  Noce, Gilson and Cornelio Fabro. . . .all the way to Ratzinger, whose thought and pontificate laid the foundations for a correct resumption of dialogue between reason and faith, and projected the equally philosophical issue of truth in such a way as to make this resumption possible.

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Benedetta Cortese