According to a metaphor offered by Jacques Maritain, it is either the sound of the poverty of “scientism” on the one hand or the vacuity of “ideosophy” (the unwarranted allegiance to rationalistic categories themselves instead of to the world they are meant to disclose) on the other hand. Maritain counsels:
What will also be needed…is an uncanny sense of the requirments of that ‘subtle and delicate’ art which consists in distinguishing in order to unite. […] I will simply note that the sciences of nature, all of them, have a hold on the real insofar only as it can be observed (or within the limits of the observable). [The natural sciences] are all, therefore, equally dependent upon an intellection of an ’empiriological’ order…. They are ‘sciences of phenomena.’ The philosophy of nature, by contrast, is dependent upon a type of intellection which, through the observable, or through signs apprehended in experience, attains the real in its very being, and must be called an intellection of an ontological order (the most natural kind of intellection, to tell the truth; the other kind requires a more particular sort of mental training and discipline). The functioning of thought, and the conceptual vocabulary, then, are typically different in the sciences of nature and in the philosophy of nature. The error of antiquity was to believe that the functioning of thought and the conceptual lexicon proper to the philosophy of nature extended to the sciences of nature. The error of certain modern scientists, insofar as they are in serach of a philosophy, is to believe that the kind of thinking and conceptual vocabulary proper to the sciences of nature can serve to build a philosophy of nature. We are faced here with two different keyboards. […] It is first and foremost through such an awareness [of this distinction] […] that […] a philosophy of nature [could be] entirely renewed…. In the team which will work as such a renewal, each man must be able to use (with relative ease) two typewriters, one equipped with a certain keyboard, the other with a quite different keyboard–one that his discipline has made familiar to him, and the other which, as a man of good will, he will have to learn how to use rather late in the day. The philosophers should know how to use, at least as amateurs, the machine equipped with the scientific keyboard, and the scientists the one equipped with the philosophic keyboard. May the angels of true knowledge be there to help them!
But what about a theological keyboard (if there really is such a thing)? Do we actually need three typewriters? If so, we’ll definitely need each other to act as the “team” Maritain is envisioning. I am not so sure the “unity of knowledge” is something I can have, but it may be something we can have.
If only our angels would lend us a hand….