Commentators on Pope John Paul II's encyclical Fides et Ratio(1) have not failed to notice the incongruity that envelops the Pope's defense of the powers of reason against contemporary forms of skepticism. As Nicholas Wolterstorff has put it: "How surprising and ironic that roughly two centuries after Voltaire and his cohorts mocked the church as the bastion of irrationality, the church, in the person of the pope, should be the one to put in a good word for reason." (2) In (...) fact, given that professional philosophers of all stripes have largely abandoned the classical search for a comprehensive and systematic wisdom that provides firm answers to the deepest and most pressing human questions, Pope John Paul's call for us philosophers to recover our 'sapiential' vocation is not just ironic but downright mortifying. (shrink)
At a poignant juncture early in Brideshead Revisited, Sebastian, after briefly recounting for Charles his family's rather checkered performance with regard to its Catholicism, remarks, "I wish I liked Catholics more." When Charles replies, "They seem just like other people," Sebastian rebukes him: "My dear Charles, that's exactly what they're not ... It's not just that they're a clique-- as a matter of fact, they're at least four cliques all blackguarding each other half the time--but they've got an entirely different (...) outlook on life; everything they think important is different from other people. They try and hide it as much as they can, but it comes out all the time. It's quite natural, really, that they should. But you see it's difficult for semi-heathens like ... me." Outsiders are often distracted and even mesmerized by the blackguarding. In discussions of the elusive "Catholic character" we have come to expect comments like, "You can't even agree among yourselves what 'Catholic' means; is it any wonder that the rest of us get edgy when we hear of efforts to reinforce the Catholic character of Notre Dame?" Larry's paper helps us to understand a bit better both the significance of these internal disagreements and the fervor with which they are carried on. As he suggests, a true catholicity is marked by a kind of "coincidence of opposites," a plurality within a unity, or perhaps better, a creative anarchy within fixed limits, a volatile mixture of the hierarchical and the charismatic, of the stabilizing and the spontaneous, of St. Peter and St. Paul. Chesterton characterized it as an equilibrium in which the duelling opposites are allowed to become exaggerated just short of the point where the one would wipe out the other: "St. Francis, in praising all good, could be a more shouting optimist than Walt Whitman. St. Jerome, in denouncing all evil, could paint the world blacker than Schopenauer.. (shrink)
This outstanding book, which incorporates but goes beyond Hasker's extensive previous work on the subject, is a genuinely pivotal contribution to the lively current debate over divine foreknowledge and human freedom. If you plan to plunge into this debate at any time in the foreseeable future, you will have to take account of God, Time, and Knowledge.
These are bleak days for moral theory in mainstream professional philosophy. At the heart of the matter lies our inability, within contemporary liberal democracies, to come to a consensus on the deep issue of what we are as human beings and where our true good lies. Because of this, any moral theory built on a rich view of human nature and of the good for human beings is automatically viewed with suspicion. And, in fact, there are few such theories around. (...) Instead, the lack of agreement on the deep issue is typically taken as a sign that moral theory should proceed as if there were no philosophical anthropology that yields a true and detailed account of human nature and the good for human beings. The reasoning goes like this: Either there is no such account or, at the very least, no such account has the degree of certitude required for philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
In his treatise on justice St. Thomas points out that the virtue of filial piety (pietas), by which we render honor to our parents, fails to satisfy the proper definition of justice because we cannot fully repay our debt to them. The same holds true of the virtue of respectfulness (observantia), by which we render honor to our teachers and guides, all the more if they themselves are virtuous. Ralph McInerny has been teacher and guide to me, and a virtuous (...) one at that. Still, it would be deplorably small-minded merely to call Ralph virtuous without noting the sheer magnificence of his moral and intellectual contributions to the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth. As is only fitting in the Christian dispensation, these contributions have made him an object of scorn in the eyes of some who are less magnanimous than he. But, like Peter and the apostles before him, he has rejoiced at being "judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name.". (shrink)
Born in England and educated at Oxford, Ockham was the preeminent Franciscan thinker of the mid-fourteenth century. Because of his role in the bitter dispute between the Franciscans and Pope John XXII over evangelical poverty, he was excommunicated in 1328. After that he abandoned philosophy and theology proper, producing instead a series of political tracts on the ecclesiastical and secular power of the papacy.
My topic is God's activity in the ordinary course of nature. The precise mode of this activity has been the subject of prolonged debates within every major theistic intellectual tradition, though it is within the Catholic tradition that the discussion has been carried on with the most philosophical sophistication. The problem, in its simplest form, is this: Given the fundamental theistic tenet that God is the provident Lord of nature, the First Efficient Cause who creates the universe, sustains it in (...) being, and exists in all things by His essence, presence, and power,1 how exactly do the actions of secondary (i.e., created) causes fit in with God's own activity in the ordinary course of nature? Or, to put it a bit more neutrally, how exactly is God's own action as the First Cause in nature related to the causal activity, if any , of His creatures? (shrink)
After an exposition of some key concepts in scholastic ontology, this paper examines four arguments presented by Francisco Suarez for the thesis, commonly held by Christian Aristotelians, that God's causal contribution to effects occurring in the ordinary course of nature goes beyond His merely conserving created substances along with their active and passive causal powers. The postulation of a further causal contribution, known as God's general concurrence (or general concourse), can be viewed as an attempt to accommodate an element of (...) truth present in occasionalist accounts of divine causality. (shrink)
According to the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, the Son of God is truly but only contingently a human being. But is it also the case that Christ’s individual human nature is only contingently united to a divine person? The affirmative answer to this question, explicitly espoused by Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, turns out to be philosophically untenable, while the negative answer, which is arguably implicit in St. Thomas Aquinas, explication of the Incarnation, has some surprising and significant (...) metaphysical consequences. (shrink)
This paper attempts to construct a systematic and plausible account of the necessity of the past. The account proposed is meant to explicate the central ockhamistic thesis of the primacy of the pure present and to vindicate Ockham's own non-Aristotelian response to the challenge of logical determinism.
In the Logica Ingredientibus Abailard attacks the theory according to which universals are collections of individuals. This paper argues that Abailard's principal objection to this 'collective realism', viz, that it conflates universals with integral wholes, is actually quite strong, though it is generally overlooked by recent commentators. For implicit in this objection is the claim that the collective realist cannot provide a satisfactory account of predication. The reason for this is that integral wholes are not uniquely decomposable. In support of (...) thesis the author first explicates the medieval distinction between integral and subjective parts and then discusses its application to collective realism. (shrink)