Some contemporary theologians dismiss the classical discussions of the existence and nature of God as out of step with and unworthy of serious consideration by so-called "modern man." Others contend that even though the historical giants of philosophical theology generally had an intimate acquaintance with Sacred Scripture, their philosophical biases beguiled them unwittingly into forming conceptions of God that are wholly foreign to as well as incompatible with the biblical conception of God. These two distinct lines of criticism sometimes converge (...) in the suggestion that today's philosophical theologians should forsake their old heroes for duly modern ones like Whitehead, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, whose writings allegedly provide philosophical outlooks more in tune with biblical categories of thought. Just as often, however, we find an attitude of distrust toward any sort of metaphysical reflection on the ostensible theological claims of the Judaeo-Christian tradition--both on the part of those who believe that the Judaeo-Christian myths have at most only ethical and perhaps political significance and on the part of those who believe that metaphysical inquiry invariably distorts theological truths by displacing Sacred Scripture as the foundation of the life of faith. Despite their disagreements, however, all sides concur in assigning little if any systematic importance to traditional philosophical theology. (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)
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.
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)
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)
Central to the western theistic understanding of divine providence is the conviction that God is the sovereign Lord of nature. He created the physical universe and continually conserves it in existence. What's more, He is always and everywhere active in it by His power. The operations of nature, be they minute or catastrophic, commonplace or unprecedented, are the work of His hands, and without His constant causal influence none of them would or could occur.
A quick scan of the leading figures in western philosophy reveals that relatively few have made a name for themselves by defending intuitive, natural, and sensible positions. Aristotle is one, and perhaps Aquinas is another. Francisco Suarez, the sixteenth-century Spanish scholastic, would be a third. His invariable working procedure is to give copious consideration to the various ancient and medieval views, and then to find some sensible compromise position. But today Suarez can hardly claim to have a broad readership. Of (...) his fifty-four Metaphysical Disputations, only nine have now been published in English, while his other works remain almost entirely untranslated. This clear and accurate new translation aims to show readers what they have been missing. (shrink)
This paper lays out the main contours of an objectivistic account of natural necessity that locates its source within natural substances themselves. The key claims are that what occurs by a necessity of nature constitutes the culmination of deterministic natural tendencies and that these tendencies are themselves rooted in the natures or essences of natural substances. The paper concludes by discussing the notion of a law of nature as it emerges on this account.
In this paper, I observe that Hobbesian physicalism on the one side, and Cartesian dualism on the other, have had a widespread cultural influence on the way we regard ourselves and on the way we behave toward one another. I argue that what we now need is a conceptual space within which we might forge a metaphysical alternative, an alternative that will give us some hope of overcoming the deleterious intellectual, moral, and social consequences of both physicalism and dualism.
Emulating Bill Hasker, I will begin with a few autobiographical remarks. Numbered among the half-dozen or so writers whom I have been most influenced by spiritually as well as intellectually are St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. Having pondered at length the philosophical doctrines of God fashioned by these two brilliant and holy men, I find it difficult to entertain the idea that we moderns will be better positioned philosophically to make progress in our understanding of the divine (...) nature once we set aside their principal metaphysical claims. Yet the authors of.. (shrink)
Let me begin somewhat perversely by making clear what I do not intend to do in this paper. I do not propose to offer a general defense of Ockham's resolution of the metaphysical perplexities engendered by the dogma of the Incarnation. In fact, I have argued elsewhere that his account of the hypostatic union is seriously deficient. 1..
Molinism, named after Luis de Molina, is a theological system for reconciling human freedom with God's grace and providence. Presupposing a strongly libertarian account of freedom, Molinists assert against their rivals that the grace whereby God cooperates with supernaturally salvific acts is not intrinsically efficacious. To preserve divine providence and foreknowledge, they then posit "middle knowledge", through which God knows, prior to his own free decrees, how any possible rational agent would freely act in any possible situation. Beyond this, they (...) differ among themselves regarding the ground for middle knowledge and the doctrines of efficacious grace and predestination. (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.
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)
This 1982 book is a history of the great age of scholastism from Abelard to the rejection of Aristotelianism in the Renaissance, combining the highest standards of medieval scholarship with a respect for the interests and insights of contemporary philosophers, particularly those working in the analytic tradition. The volume follows on chronologically from The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, though it does not continue the histories of Greek and Islamic philosophy but concentrates on the Latin Christian (...) West. Unlike other histories of medieval philosophy that divide the subject matter by individual thinkers, it emphasises the parts of more historical and theological interest. This volume is organised by those topics in which recent philosophy has made the greatest progress. (shrink)
The thesis of this paper is that an agent S has the power to bring it about that a proposition p is or will be true at a moment t only if S has at the same time the power to bring it about that it has always been the case that p would be true at t. The author first constructs a prima facie compelling argument for logical determinism and then argues that whoever accepts an Ockhamistic response to that (...) argument should also accept the above thesis. (shrink)
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)
A leading figure in sixteenth-century Iberian scholasticism, Molina was one of the most controversial thinkers in the history of Catholic thought. In keeping with the strongly libertarian account of human free choice that marked the early Jesuit theologians, Molina held that God's causal influence on free human acts does not by its intrinsic nature uniquely determine what those acts will be or whether they will be good or evil. Because of this, Molina asserted against his Dominican rivals that God's comprehensive (...) providential plan for the created world and infallible foreknowledge of future contingents do not derive just from the combination of his antecedent "natural" knowledge of metaphysically necessary truths and his "free" knowledge of the causal influence - both natural (general concurrence) and supernatural (grace) - by which he wills to cooperate with free human acts. Rather, in addition to God's natural knowledge, Molina posited a distinct kind of antecedent divine knowledge, dubbed "middle" knowledge, by which God knows pre-volitionally, i.e., prior to any free decree of his own will regarding contingent beings, how any possible rational creature would in fact freely choose to act in any possible circumstances in which it had the power to act freely. And on this basis Molina proceeded to forge his controversial reconciliation of free choice with the Catholic doctrines of grace, divine foreknowledge, providence, and predestination. In addition to his work in dogmatic theology, Molina was also an accomplished moral and political philosopher who wrote extensive and empirically well-informed tracts on political authority, slavery, war, and economics. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to take issue with two aspects of Marilyn Adams's monumental work William Ockham . Part I deals with Ockham's ontology, arguing (i) that Adams does not sufficiently appreciate the use Ockham makes of the prinicple of ontological parsimony in his attempt to refute the thesis that there are extramental universals or common natures and (ii) that she sets an implausibly high standard of success for Ockham's project of showing that the only singular entities are (...) substances and qualities. Part II argues that Adams fails to provide a convincing defense of Ockham's 'anti-secularist' answer to the question of how Christian thinkers should react to prima facie conflicts between the deliverances of faith and the deliverances of reason. (shrink)
In this paper I will explore certain key features of Francisco Suarez's account of God's action in the world, with an eye toward explaining his view of the precise way in which God concurs with--that is, makes an immediate causal contribution to--free action in general and sinful action in particular. Suarez agrees with his mainly Thomistic opponents that God is an immediate cause of every effect produced by creatures--including every free act and, a fortiori , every sinful act elicited by (...) creatures with a rational or 'free' nature. But he differs markedly from them in his account of how it can be plausibly maintained that God permits sin without causing sin or, to put it somewhat differently, how it can be plausibly maintained that the moral defectiveness of a sin is not traceable to God as a source. (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.
The Cambridge History of Later Medieval Philosophy (CHOLMP) brings together in one volume an impressively large number (47) of short essays (averaging 18 pages) by an impressively large number (41) of able scholars. The final product, sad to report, is something less than impressive.
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)
Father Sokolowski advances two theses. The first is that "faculty members who teach theology . . . have a particularly strategic role to play in working out a successful harmony between the university and the Church and between faith and reason." The second is that "in the current controversies about the university and the magisterium, the Church has put itself and its own authority at a disadvantage because of the comprehensive revision of the liturgy that was carried out after the (...) Second Vatican Council . . . [That is], the way the academic world looks at Church authority has been influenced by changes in the Church's liturgy.". (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)
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)
I would be scandalously remiss were I not to preface my remarks on translation with two expressions of gratitude to the Franciscan Institute. First of all, I am very pleased to have been invited to participate in this celebration of Ockham, not merely for professional reasons but also because I have thereby been afforded the opportunity to return to the Southerntier, as this part of New York State is known to those of us who trace our roots to the Buffalo (...) area. In my all too distant youth I worked for several years as a camp counsel lor down the road in Allegany State Park, and yesterday's drive through the Allegany River valley rekindled my love for this enchanting region and occasioned many fond memories as well. Second, I feel obligated to acknowledge publicly my own deep personal debt to those who have labored so diligently to produce the critical edition of Ockham's works. It is remarkable, indeed well-nigh astonishing, that the critical edition of Ockham's.. (shrink)