Although the treatise presented here is most interesting, it was never widely disseminated. As far as we know, it is preserved only in Latin, in one manuscript. The text poses many questions. Who produced a copy of the text? Who is the translator? Is the treatise a genuine work of Averroes? And if so, what was his intention in writing this monograph on the First Cause?
The Commentary on Plato's Parmenides by Proclus is the most important extant document on the interpretation of this enigmatic dialogue in antiquity, and has had a crucial influence on all subsequent readings. In Proclus' Commentary, the Parmenides provides the argumentative and conceptual framework for a scientific theology wherein all mythological discourse about the gods can be integrated. Its exposition was therefore the culmination of the curriculum of the Platonic school. This theological reading of the Parmenides persisted, through the medium of (...) Ficino, until the nineteenth century. Previously this important text was only accessible in the edition of V. Cousin. This new critical edition is based on an exhaustive study of both the Greek tradition and the medieval Latin translation. (shrink)
IN THE DISCUSSION on education in the Republic, Socrates lays down the principles which those who speak about the gods must follow if they want to avoid the errors of traditional mythology. The first typos of this rational theology is this: "God is the cause, not of all things, but only of the good." For "God, being good, cannot be responsible for everything happening in our life, as is commonly believed, but only for a small part. For we have a (...) far smaller share of good than of evil, and while God must be held to be the sole cause of good, we must look for some other factors than God as cause of the evil." Rightly celebrated, this passage has set the agenda for ages of reflection in Western thought on the cause of evil. In contrast to traditional mythology where the gods are seen as the origin of both good and evil--as Homer says, "Zeus has two jars standing on the floor of his palace, full of fates, good in one and evil in the other"--the divinity is now freed of all responsibility for evil. God, who is entirely good, can only be the cause of well-being. If this answer sets God free of all responsibility for evil, it seems to be at the cost of limiting God's power: for God is no longer responsible for "most things in human life," since most of them are evil. What, then, may be the cause or causes of evil? Do bad things have a cause? Or do they just happen? Plato's formulation seems to suggest that he favours a dualistic solution to the problem of evil: God is the cause of all good, but for evil we have to find other causes. What could those causes be: matter, cosmic necessity, an evil soul? Various answers of this type were developed in later Platonism and in later mythological philosophies. Without denying that Plato often uses a dualistic discourse and uses elements of it in his cosmology, I do think that Plato had something different in mind. After all, he was not primarily interested in the problem of theodicy. For in this passage of the Republic, he is not concerned with the problem of evil in the universe as a whole, which is really the theodicy question, but with evil in "human life," that is, evil insofar as human beings experience it and suffer from it: the fact that we are not at all living well but are instead miserable and unhappy. (shrink)
Dans cet article nous avons essayé d'examiner la valeur de l'attribution traditionelle du commentaire De Anima à Simplicius. En comparant ce traité aux grands commentaires de Simplicius (sur les Catégories, la Physique et le De Caelo d'Aristote), nous avons été en effet frappés par les divergences de style, et de langue, ainsi que par la différente manière de commenter. Dans la première partie nous démontrons que l'auteur de l'In D.A. a écrit également la Metaphrasis in Theophrastum, qui nous a été (...) transmise sous le nom de Priscien le Lydien. 1° Dans le In D.A. l'auteur renvoie à une de ses œuvres, qu'il appelle „Epitomé de la Physique de Théophraste". En réalité, cette référence se rapporte à un passage de la Métaphrase de Priscien, où la même problématique est exposée dans des termes identiques. — 2° Une comparaison détaillée, qui porte sur l'ensemble des deux œuvres, nous révèle une telle ressemblance de style et de pensée — il y a même des phrases à peu près identiques — qu'elle ne peut s'expliquer que par l'hypothèse de l'identité de l'auteur. Dans la deuxième partie nous essayons d'identifier l'auteur de ces deux œuvres qui pourtant nous ont été transmises sous deux noms différents. L'étude de la tradition directe et indirecte n'apporte guère de solution, puisque l'attribution des deux textes, l'un à Simplicius, l'autre à Priscien, y paraît très solide. Ce n'est donc que par une critique interne de l'In D.A., notamment par la confrontation avec les commentaires de Simplicius, dont l'attribution est certaine, que la question pourra être tranchée. 1° Dans l'In D.A. l'auteur renvoie trois fois à son commentaire sur la Physique. Pourtant, il est bien difficile de retrouver dans le grand commentaire de Simplicius trois passages dont le contenu et surtout le vocabulaire prouvent que l'auteur s'y réfère. — 2° Dans l'In D.A. on ne retrouve pas les traits caractéristiques de la méthode de commenter de Simplicius, ni l'approche du texte par la documentation historique, ni les longues discussions avec les exégètes antérieurs, ni l'exposé prolixe et bien structuré; d'autre part aucun des commentaires de Simplicius ne témoigne de la phraséologie tortueuse de notre oeuvre, ni de ses formules stéréotypées. — 3° La différence doctrinale est encore plus importante. Nulle part chez Simplicius n'apparaît la théorie de l'âme comme όριστική, qui est si fondamentale dans l'In D.A. (όρίζω y est un concept-clé). Les rares digressions de l'In D.A. à propos de questions physiques et logiques ne correspondent pas aux exposés de Simplicius sur les mêmes problèmes. Ainsi nous avons confronté la doctrine de la ‚physis', de l'âme et de son ‚automotion’ et enfin le rapport entre le ‚genre’ et les différences ‚constitutives’ et ‚diérétiques’. De tout cela se dégage une telle divergence entre l'In D. A. et les autres commentaires qu'elle ne peut s'expliquer par une évolution chez Simplicius lui-même. L'in D.A. lui est donc faussement attribué; et puisque nous avons établi que ce commentaire est du même auteur que la Métaphrase, nous pouvons conclure qu'il a été vraisemblablement écrit par Priscien le Lydien, un philosophe néoplatonicien dont nous savons seulement qu'il a accompagné Damascius et Simplicius en exil en Perse. (shrink)
The centenary of the Louvain Institute of Philosophy (which was founded to contribute to a renewal of philosophy within the Christian community „by adhering as closely as possible to the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas”) is the occasion for a critical examination of the particular form of Thomism developed by Désiré Mercier, the first president of the Institute. In Mercier's view, the appeal to Thomas can not be a submission to tradition or authority. Since philosophy is always a personal, free, rational (...) investigation, the only reason for adhering to a certain doctrine, is its intrinsic philosophical value. The mean argument for preferring Thomas „in philosophicis” is the fact that he „combines observation and rational-speculation, analysis and synthesis”, whereby all empirical facts are integrated and made intelligible in a larger metaphysical frame. By so doing Thomas avoids the extremes of empiricism, which leads to materialism, and idealism, which goes hand in hand with dualistic spiritualism. One may doubt whether this is a good characteristic of the „essence of Thomism”. However, Mercier follows Thomas, not so much for any original doctrine, but because he best represents the great scholastic tradition starting from Aristotle. This tradition should not be admired as an ideal of perfection that cannot be improved upon, but should be further developed and renewed, especially by integrating the achievements of modern experimental investigations within it. (Besides the sciences, we should expect not too much from modern philosophy, except in the discussion of the „critical problem”). Mercier thus bases his philosophical option for Thomism on his judgment that it better than any other philosophy offers a metaphysical synthesis within which the investigations of the modern sciences can be integrated, while at the same time being in concordance with the Christian view on man and world. However, when one studies the Thomism as elaborated in Mercier's manuals, it turns out that his attempt at integration fails. For there is no intrinsic link between the scientific findings he considers and the philosophical theses he develops. Herein lies the inherent weakness of the neo-scholastic construction as it was advocated by Mercier. When one defends Thomism by arguing that it offers a „comprehensive synthesis of all knowledge”', and at the same time one stresses the autonomy of scientific inquiry without apologetic intentions, one can expect that as these sciences develop, there will also arise the need for new conceptual schemes and new philosophical models which better fit these new findings. At that moment Thomistic doctrine also seems to fall away as a superfluous superstructure. One can argue that Mercier too easily understood philosophy as a „natural complement” of the sciences and that for that reason he could not really succeed in renewing Thomism. Most neothomists will try to base their option for Thomas upon the originality of his metaphysics. But this search for the „essence of Thomism” is problematic. At the end of the paper it is argued that no intrinsic philosophical arguments can be given for a normative preference for Thomas. The demand to philosophize „ad mentem Thomae” only makes sense when the relation of reason to faith is considered. As É. Gilson has shown, most neothomists were reluctant to develop this argument, except in a negative way : to argue for the autonomy of their philosophical (thomistic) arguments (although they were, in fact, motivated by a religious interest). (shrink)
Since its origin, Greek philosophy has made an attempt to rationally determine what the 'divine', object of myth and religious practice, really is. In the present article we examine Proclus's project of a philosophical theology. First, by determining its object (theion) : the absolute One and the henads, secondly by distinguishing its method (logos) from other forms of theological discourse : symbolic-mythological, eikonic and oracular. Finally, we explain how Proclus came to understand the logical discussion in the Parmenides of Plato (...) as the perfect system of scientific dialectical theology, a philosophical 'hymn of the generation of the gods'. (shrink)
The experience of evil in all its aspects has always been a challenge for the project of philosophy as a search for meaning. From the beginning philosophers have tried to explain evil, but they could only do so by making this brutal fact somehow intelligible so that it could enter rational discourse. Out of respect for the victims of horrible evil, we may now be inclined to stop all attempts at explanation, which all end up as justifications of evil. But (...) by this refusal to discuss what concerns us humans most, philosophy shows how marginal and futile its intellectual activity is. This is the torture of philosophy: either giving up its own project of making sense or trying to understand evil without justifying it, whereby philosophical arguments always tend to become edifying and quasi-religious. For Kierkegaard this torture shows the impossibility of the philosophical project. All philosophical explanation of evil is "a glossing over of sin, an excuse of sin". Only religion seems to offer meaning for evil, though, as Nietzsche said, it makes suffering worse by bringing it within the perspective of guilt. Philosophers, he argues, should give up this desperate quest for meaning, which always ends with new versions of the ascetic ideal. There is a long tradition wherein philosophy is seen as a therapy and a consolation for those confronted with suffering. The most influential view was the Neoplatonic, which also incorporated many Stoic arguments. In the second part of this paper, some arguments on evil from that tradition are proposed, without, however, a desire for consolation. We may learn from Neoplatonism ways to discuss evil without making it an intelligible object. As Augustine said, we understand evil by not understanding it, as we may see darkness by not seeing it. Evil is not a being, a property, a function, an attribute. It is a perversion, failure, mistake, that is a non-being parasiting upon a being. In a discussion with Spinoza it is argued that it is not possible to give up altogether a normative concept of reality. The Neoplatonic concept of evil is also linked to the acceptance of contingency in the world. Only when things are not absolutely determined, is it possible to understand that something can go wrong. The notion of accidental causality makes it also possible to understand the tragic aspect of evil. However, this notion becomes problematic when applied to moral evil. It is in its explanation of moral evil that the limitations of the Neoplatonic approach to evil become clear. In particular its basic axiom that all agents act for some good, is questionable. (shrink)
In Summa log., I, 5-8 and Quodlib., V, 10-11 Ockham formulates the semantic that lies behind the syntactical distinction between abstract and concrete names and describes the different modes of signification corresponding to them. Sometimes concrete and abstract names stand for different things. For example, 'whiteness' signifies a quality inhering in a subject, whereas 'white' signifies the subject exhibiting that quality and, obliquely, the quality itself. There is a temptation to conclude from such cases that all abstract and concrete names (...) function in the same way. This interpretation, however, seems to imply a 'Platonic' ontology by accepting the existence of universal forms in re. To avoid this conclusion, O. contends that, in the category of substance, abstract and concrete terms are synonymous and simply signify the same thing. Thus nothing is signified by the term ' man' which is not also signified by 'humanity' and vice versa. If we do not take into account that abstract terms may incorporate some syncategorematic elements not included in concrete terms, we must grant that the proposition „man is humanity” is literally true, and we have to reject propositions such as „humanity is in man” or „Socrates is man by his humanity”. For this individual cannot be understood as a bare substrate sustaining a universal essence. Nevertheless, even though this is true from a philosophical standpoint, secundum veritatem fidei it would be false to say that ' man' and ' humanity' are synonymous. As a matter of fact, in theological language these terms can stand for different things. Here a distinction is made between 'humanity' signifying human nature and 'man' which signifies the same nature but connotes also something about the sustenance of that nature. This distinction must be rejected in the case of Socrates. Here humanity coincides with man so that the proposition „Socrates is a substrate sustaining a human nature” is false. But the same proposition is true when it is said of the divine Person united with the human nature in Christ. It follows that O. accepts in theology a semantic distinction between abstract and concrete names and also the existence of an essence different from the subject, both of which he opposes from a philosophical standpoint. He schrinks from applying his original logical insights to the theological dogmas which are often formulated in terms that involve a realistic ontology of essences. But even when he limits the results of his semantic analysis to the realm of pure philosophy, it seems difficult to maintain the equivalence in signification of abstract and concrete names. (shrink)