“I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” John 11:25-26
Josef Pieper (1904 –1997) was a German philosopher of the Platonist and Thomist schools of philosophy. His most highly regarded book is Leisure: the Basis of Culture (1952). Pieper believed that all knowledge leads ultimately to theology, as the following quote indicates: “The delight we take in our senses is an implicit desire to know the ultimate reason for things, the highest cause. The desire for wisdom that philosophy is, is a desire for the highest or divine causes. Philosophy culminates in theology. All other knowledge contains the seeds of contemplation of the divine.” From this we can conclude that scientists who deny God as an explanation for anything cannot be philosophers who have been released from their bondage to the senses. Thus, scientism (though it may pretend to be a philosophy) does not qualify as a philosophy. Scientism is controlled by the attitude called atheism which, mired in materialism, is the negation of any search for the first and highest Cause of Everything. This becomes, in a very interesting way, the theme of Pieper’s little book Death and Immortality (1969).
We are driven to discover (not imagine) God by the fact that we know we are going to die. We can delay the search for God, we can “invalidate” it by any number of subterfuges, but the fact of death’s immanence brings home over and over what we must confront at last … the ultimate encounter with either the Supreme Being or with Final Nothingness. Nothing gets the mind so focused, not even winning the lottery, as the immanence of dying. Think about it. If you were told on the same day that you had won the hundred million dollar lottery and that you had at most a month to live, what would you be mostly thinking about for the next thirty days? In other words, death causes us to think about dying the best way we can … coming to terms with the fate of our body and our soul. This is surely the root cause of all philosophizing; for if philosophy is trying to figure out how we should live, it is ultimately about trying to figure out how we should die, and whether there is a life we should think about beyond death.