Could This Be a bit of One-upmanship?

A random thought that came to me while reading Colin Gunton’s essay, Enlightenment and Alienation:

One of the features of the Enlightenment, as far back as Roger Bacon, to Kant (the culmination of the Enlightenment proper) and beyond is the premise that rational thought, or as we typically think of it today, scientific thought, can be absolutely sure (or, what Michael Polonyi identified as “infallible”) as long as it has enough data and the rationality behind it is rigorous enough.

The contemporary critics of the Enlightenment, both secular and religious, are pretty much in agreement that this is one of the two greatest errors of the Enlightenment. (The other one is the idea that reason leads to sure knowledge while perception is inherently unsure. This is what is typically called “the bifurcation of knowledge,” or, to use a far more ancient term, “dualism.”)

The First Vatican Council was both a product of the Enlightenment as well as a reaction to it. Do you suppose it is any accident that the greatest error of the Roman Catholic Church – the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope when speaking ex cathedra petri – was formulated and foisted upon the faithful shortly after Immanuel Kant declared that scientific knowledge can be infallible?

The parallel seems too obvious to ignore.


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