The mystery of Aquinas's virtue ethics -- The gifts as second-personal dispositions -- Virtues and the second-person perspective -- The fruition of the virtues and gifts -- Conclusions and implications.
Thomas Aquinas devoted a substantial proportion of his greatest works to the virtues. Yet, despite the availability of these texts, Aquinas’s virtue ethics remains mysterious, leaving readers with many unanswered questions. In this book, Pinsent argues that the key to understanding Aquinas’s approach is to be found in an association between: a) attributes he appends to the virtues, and b) interpersonal capacities investigated by the science of social cognition, especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorder. The book uses this (...) research to argue that Aquinas’s approach to the virtues is radically non-Aristotelian and founded on the concept of second-person relatedness. To demonstrate the explanatory power of this principle, Pinsent shows how the second-person perspective gives interpretation to Aquinas’s descriptions of the virtues and offers a key to long-standing problems, such as the reconciliation of magnanimity and humility. The principle of second-person relatedness also interprets acts that Aquinas describes as the fruition of the virtues. Pinsent concludes by considering how this approach may shape future developments in virtue ethics. (shrink)
Although there is some consonance in the language of transcendence between proponents of the Catholic faith and of human biotechnological enhancement, their goals are incommensurate. Nevertheless, consistent with the valuation of the body as integral to the human person, Catholic culture has in fact proven to be a fruitful context for developing external therapeutic HBEs. Catholic perspectives on internal HBEs, especially in the context of ‘transhumanism’, are, by contrast, neither clear-cut nor easy to establish. A prerequisite for progress is to (...) understand what is meant by flourishing in a Catholic worldview, the root metaphor of which is second-person relatedness to God, culminating in divine friendship. Hence important measures of success of internal HBEs will include sustaining, or at least not impeding, thoughtful attention and the capacity to receive experiences that can sanctify the mind. (shrink)
Growing public interest in the dark arts, and the fact that even some philosophers have been accused of casting spells with their own writings, suggest that philosophers should not wholly neglect the topics of spells and spell-breaking. In this paper, written in honor of an effective spell-breaker in social and leadership contexts, Fr Theodore Vitali, I set out a taxonomy of spells and ways in which some philosophers may be said to cast them in a naturalistic sense. I also examine (...) ways of breaking a spell, with reference to the will and second-person relationship. I conclude with a brief observation about the desire for intellectual completeness, the root of a disordered appeal of at least some spells to their victims, suggesting an alternative scenario for a good satisfaction of this desire. (shrink)
The fate of the ungraced innocents highlights much of what has been most difficult about the doctrine of original sin. As an alternative to the extremes of an easy-going universalism or consignment to the fires of hell, this paper re-examines Aquinas’s claims about a possible state of ungraced natural flourishing, arguing that this state is richer and more interesting than the name “limbo” implies. The paper also applies recent work in philosophy and psychology, especially on the second-person perspective, to understand (...) better the state of those in limbo, who might more appropriately be called the “children of faerie.” It concludes by examining the possible relationship of the children of faerie and the children of God in a post-resurrection state. (shrink)
The claim has been made that when Aquinas speaks about the virtue of truth and its opposing vices in the Summa theologiae 2-2.109-113, he regards himself as speaking of the same virtue of truth as found in the Nicomachean Ethics 4.7. In this paper, I dispute this claim, showing how Aquinas’s account cannot be Aristotelian and, in particular, that the possibility of forfeiting the virtue of truth by one serious lie cannot be explained by habituation. I argue instead that Aquinas’s (...) account can be better understood by reference to the kind of embodied experience most commonly encountered in joint attention or second-person relatedness, an approach that may offer new ways to address broader moral questions regarding truth. (shrink)
According to the theological worldview of J. R. R. Tolkien, the principal work of a Christian is to know, love, and serve God. Why, then, did he devote so much time to creating an entire family of imaginary languages for imaginary peoples in an imaginary world? This paper argues that the stories of these peoples, with their ‘eucatastrophes,’ have consoling value amid the incomplete stories of our own lives. But more fundamentally, secondary creation is proper to the adopted children of (...) God and can be a way of drawing closer to God. Such work also witnesses to the freedom of the children of God, not only to receive salvation from God, but to contribute to the enrichment of creation and eternal life. (shrink)
Purported evidence for purposeful divine action in the cosmos may appear to warrant describing God as personal, as Swinburne proposes. In this paper, however, I argue that the primary understanding of what is meant by a person is formed by the experience of ”I’ -- ”you’ or second-person relatedness, a mode of relation with God that is not part of natural theology. moreover, even among human beings, the recognition of purposeful agency does not invariably lead to the attribution of personhood (...) in the usual sense. ”Person’ is therefore a misleading term to use of God on the evidence of cosmic purpose alone in the absence of suitable revelation. (shrink)
Insights play a role in every field that can be called knowledge, but are of particular interest to the philosophy of religion and special divine action. Although these acts of understanding cannot be generated at will, a second person can vastly accelerate understanding by a first person. In this paper, I argue that this catalysis of insight is best attained in a situation of ‘second- person relatedness’, involving epistemic humility and shared awareness of shared focus. I also argue that this (...) approach provides an appropriate interpretation of Aquinas’s account of God’s gift of understanding. On this basis, it is specifically the context of second-person relatedness to God, as ‘I’ to ‘you’, that is expected to have the most far-reaching impact on understanding of the world. I illustrate the conclusions by means of the story of The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen, drawing also some practical implications for insights in daily life. (shrink)
The virtue of temperance with respect to food and drink is often assumed to be relatively straightforward, a matter of steering a mean between excess and deficiency. Given also that humans share the need to eat and drink with non-human animals, this topic might therefore seem promising to explore for possible connections between evolutionary research on morality and theological ethics. In this paper, however, I argue that many aspects of temperance go far beyond the Aristotelian account and can be understood (...) principally as reflecting the fact that human beings are embodied relational persons. This second-person account can indeed be connected to theological ethics, but it is also one that draws principally from the discontinuities of human and non-human behaviour. (shrink)
Los sistemas mecánicos simples que incluyen feedback fácilmente pueden manifestar teleonomía, aunque es ampliamente aceptado que no hay lugar para una genuina teleología dentro de una metafísica naturalista. En este artículo sostengo que los sistemas caóticos, de hecho, proveen ejemplos de teleología irreducible neo-aristotélica en mecánica, pero sólo cuando su comportamiento es considerado en términos de cambios de objetos extensos en un espacio de fase, con aspectos que pueden ser mapeados a las nociones de materia y forma.