Saturday, September 09, 2006

Forgiveness therapy

Found this on Zenit:
Filling the Psychological Void With Charity

Jesslyn McManus on Replacing Hatred With Love

ARLINGTON, Virginia, SEPT. 9, 2006 ( The cultivation of Christian charity in the wake of forgiveness can go a long way to improving mental health, says a Catholic doctoral extern therapist.

So says Jesslyn McManus, of the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, who presented her research on forgiveness therapy for the Society of Catholic Social Scientists at its last national meeting. In this interview with ZENIT, McManus shares her views on working through hatred and resentment in order to build a sense of self rooted in love.

Q: Many would agree that it is good to forgive one's enemies, and that forgiveness contributes to mental health. So why is it sometimes difficult to let go of anger or hatred toward those who have hurt us?

McManus: In recent years, forgiveness has come to be seen by many as an effective means to bring about psychological healing to those who are suffering from the effects of an injustice.

Anger, whether outwardly expressed or defensively denied, is a reoccurring theme in psychotherapy.

Forgiveness therapy models, such as those offered by Robert Enright and Richard Fitzgibbons; E. Worthington; and F. DiBlasio, offer an alternative to common methods for dealing with anger and resentment, which rely primarily upon expression and/or the use of medication.

Forgiveness therapy is used in order to help people gradually let go of resentment and hatred, which causes stress and psychological pain.

After working through each of the phases in the "forgiveness model," the client is able to make a moral response of goodness toward the offender.

However, when anger and hatred come to take on a central role in one's life, problems may arise even when one has successfully worked through the forgiveness stages and the dispositions are abandoned. These difficulties, which may become apparent in "post-forgiveness therapy," need to be addressed with empathy, genuine care and skillful guidance.

Given its vivacious quality, hatred has a powerful attraction which is difficult to resist. Although forgiveness contributes to mental health, it is sometimes difficult to let go of anger or hatred toward those who have hurt us because of the psychological "benefits" these emotional states provide.

Pain or hurt is usually underlying anger or hatred. Therefore, hatred can be seen as a way to protect oneself from damage to one's self-image or concept. However, these "rewards," which are associated with egocentric gratification, only perpetuate hatred and impede psychological and spiritual health.
There is a difference between hate as an emotion, in which one reacts to an evil that is present or one that has been afflited upon one's self by another and hatred that is the act of will. While the former can be morally licit, the latter, involving the willing of evil towards another, is not.

Q: What kinds of psychological benefits does hatred provide on a short-term basis that makes it difficult to let go of?

McManus: As psychologists Paul Vitz and Philip Mango point out, hatred can be used to defend against painful memories and emotions.

As long as one hates, he or she does not have to confront or experience the underlying pain and suffering caused by the offender. It also keeps one from recognizing that one's self is flawed and that others have positive attributes.

In addition, hatred may become so pronounced that it comes to provide a sense of meaning or purpose in one's life and makes one feel alive and powerful.

In cases where intense hatred persists over a long period of time, it may also come to serve as a means of self-identification.

A person may come to define himself in a negative way, by contrasting himself with the one he hates. Those who find themselves in this situation may experience an existential crisis and psychological pain manifested in the form of profound feelings of emptiness, upon letting go of the hatred.

Q: What is it about our postmodern culture that leads people to latch onto hatred for a sense of identity, and how can a person move toward an accurate sense of self devoid of negative attitudes?

McManus: In its forms of deconstruction as well as its rejection of universal truths, postmodern culture produces a society in which "knowing oneself" proves to be a difficult task.

The absence of tradition and shared meaning and values characteristic of postmodern society has resulted in a fragile, empty sense of self. This condition leads people to turn to such things as consumerism to fill the vacant self as Phillip Cushman states.

This lack of rootedness, combined with a fragmented sense of reality, makes it difficult for one to establish a firm sense of where one came from and who one is today.

This sets up a context in which self-identification through hatred will flourish.

A person can move toward an accurate sense of self devoid of negative attitudes by fulfilling their vocation as relational beings, who are made for love.

Are we talking about racism and such? What other examples of establishing an identity through hate are there?

Q: What is the next step, after letting go of anger and hatred? What is the significance of "filling the void"?

McManus: As was previously stated, successful removal of the hatred may produce an existential void and the loss of sense of self.

The hatred must be replaced with something engendering self-worth, namely, altruism -- that is, living a life of true Christian charity.

The next step after letting go of anger and hatred, therefore, is to redefine oneself as a person who loves rather than one who hates, through acts of self-giving. The significance of "filling the void" is to provide the person with newfound meaning in their lives and a source of identity through love.

There is a difference between hatred of an evil that has been done [emotion] and a transferrence of that emotion to the one who committed that evil. Now, is it possible for one to feel anger (or hate) towards that person, without willing evil towards that person? I think so. Charity and understanding may, over time, mitigate the emotions, but one wonders if those emotions can be so quickly dispelled when there is no sign of repentance and reform.

Q: In what sense do you equate altruistic activities with the virtue of Christian charity, or love?

McManus: Both altruism and Christian love involve self-giving, moving away from the self and toward others. This love was perfectly exemplified in Christ Jesus.

Q: How has altruistic behavior proven successful in improving mental health?

McManus: Many studies have shown that altruistic emotions and behaviors are associated with psychological health and well-being. In his article "Altruism, Happiness and Health: It's Good to be Good," Stephen Post provides a summary of the literature in this area.

Some of the factors which have been found to help bring about these psychological benefits are enhanced social integration, distraction from the agent's own problems, increased perception of self-efficacy and competence, and enhanced meaningfulness.

Q: On what level could secular psychology adopt this theory, and how does our Catholic faith imbue it with a deeper dimension?

McManus: This theory may be formalized in a clinical program in which self-giving love is actualized in overt altruistic acts. This therapeutic program may be implemented once the forgiveness process is under way.

The program would resemble the following:

The client would be encouraged to choose a person whom the client feels is having a difficult time and is need of care, and to do specific acts of kindness for him or her. This may consist of running an errand, cooking a meal or simply calling the individual often to see how they are doing.

In addition, the client will be asked to choose a secondary group or organization to which he can offer his time. For example, the person may choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, visit the elderly in a nursing home, or work with disabled children.

They will keep a journal in order to track their progress in their altruistic activities. They will record what each act was and for whom each was done. They should also include the feelings they experience and any feedback they receive.

While these acts may not be altruistic in the true sense of the word in the beginning -- since they are done as part of a therapeutic program -- they will lead the client to understand the merit of living selflessly. This will, in turn, lead the person to do truly altruistic acts on his or her own initiative as time goes on.

Theologically, the idea that people are fulfilled in and through community with others is based on the idea that we are created in the image and likeness of a triune God whose very being is self-giving love.

Therefore, this type of program would not only be effective in that it would bring about psychological benefits for the client. It also would enable people to fulfill their vocation as persons made for self-giving and relationships with others.

Furthermore, in helping others to cultivate the virtue of charity, the therapist plays a role in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth.
Benevolence is a part of "natural law" ethics, but charity is not the same as benevolence. This is fundamentally a moral question--what is needed is for the morally wise person to give advice (or the saint, both of whom need to be detached to some extent, but detachment is not the same as not having sympathy). Why should "mental health professionals" take over a task that was originally proper to the morally virtuous in a community? Now a Catholic psyhologist/psychotherapist may recognize that spiritual health (as opposed to real mental health that is seated solely in the organs of the body) requires a recognition of real moral norms. But will they lose clients if they bring up this fact? Without such moral norms, can one avoid a saccharine "touchy-feely" conception of love and human relationships?

And what of true obligations to the community and one's kith and kin and friends? A recognition of duties to one's social circles is necessary, if we are to avoid a secular conception of "charity"--doing good works to others to feel good about one's self or to get brownie points with God, as if such works might not be required by charity.

As for forgiveness... I have heard conflicting opinions as to whether someone can forgiven another who has not asked for forgiveness. Fr. Ripperger (and Dr. Laura) maintain that one cannot forgive until the other has asked forgiveness. On the other hand, Fr. Cessario says that one should forgive, regardless. We have the example of St. Maria Goretti (and others) who forgave her murderer even though he was not repentant (and in the middle of murdering her). I think the first opinion makes more sense. While one can recognize that a harm has been done, still one can be charitable and love the offender for the sake of God and to pray for the offender's conversion, etc.

From the CCC, on the Lord's Prayer:

2842 This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another."139 It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.140 Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.141

2843 Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end,142 become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."143 It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.

What is it, then, to forgive or pardon? Here to forgive seems to be the same as responding with charity. But that does not seem to exclude recognition that there is a debt because of the evil done. I have not found a definition of forgiveness yet; strange that one would be hard to find.


Is there a Latin original for the English word intelligence? Or would a Latin neologism have to be created? Intellect names the power, intelligence names a quality related to the power.

Now there has been some dispute over whether the intelligence quotient (I.Q.) really means anything, besides being some sort of score derived from a test. Others have argued for the existence of other forms of intelligence, e.g. emotional intelligence.

In teaching one comes across in education workshops and such the elaboration of different types of learning, with the implication that the teacher must be aware of the existence of different types and use the corresponding methods of teaching.

Perhaps the question that should be asked what intelligence names, and what is the nature of the power in which it resides. Is the intellect or corporal power or a spiritual power? And if it is a spiritual power can it directly be enhanced in any way other than learning or reasoning?

Memorization is not the same as the acquisition of a science, though the latter depends on imagination and memory, but memory not of words on a text, but on actual experience of the objects being studied. Hence I am skeptical of reports on academic achievement, when the majority of tools a teacher uses measure memorization and not reasoning. It is possible for one to be a good "learner" as defined by contemporary techniques, and be unable to reason well. (Of course, the effect of memorization that is not coupled to inquiry and reasoning is indoctrination, and often in false and even harmful opinions.)

It seems true to say that taken in the abstract, the power of the intellect is the same for all. Still, is it possible for one to be gifted with a better intellect than another? A more powerful active/agent intellect? Or to be naturally more quick at reasoning? (With the acquisition of the intellectual virtues, one's abilities will be 'enhanced' but is it possible for there to be natural differences?)

When looking at the interaction between the senses and the intellect, differences in people's ability to understand can be explained even better. The existence of such differences seems obvious--differences in memory and imagination especially. It should be no surprise that if certain brains are naturally oriented towards three-dimensional projection; one would expect that people with such brains would have a better time acquiring the science of geometry than those who don't.

On the other hand, with respect to natural science and metaphysics, one needs first-hand experience of the objects being studied to have a genuine science, and not just a body of opinion. Understanding and science rely upon our phantasms of sensed [real] objects, not "imaginary" objects that we imagine while reading a text. In an contemporary academic setting, one would expect that those with a better imagination and memory will do better in science exams than those who don't. Nonetheless, such exams are poor indicators of what they actually know. While some tests may ask one to dabble in some reasoning (what happens if protein x is removed or if protein y is used), I find such questions to be rather "dishonest" and inappropriate to the level of understanding achieved by the students--that is, the questions expect the student to be able to imagine what is going on without first-hand experience of the things (or derivatively, through work on experiments in a laboratory, for example). Besides, perhaps there is nothing that is worse for sound scientific inquiry than fostering a habit of a priori reasoning from what one imagines to be the case, rather than from what a true understanding of the actual nature of the thing.

Of course the moral virtues have some role to play--it is hard to engage in intellectual inquiry if one's desires draws him to something else, or he is easily distracted. There may even be bodily defects that impede learning; for example, ADHD, to the extent that it is a real disorder. Similarly, one needs to be able to concentrate on observing a thing's behavior and to be open to the possibility that one has not observed everything yet. That is, coming to know the nature of thing will always be a work in progress and unlikely to be completed exhaustively in a lifetime.
Hence, the importance of humility for aiding us to refrain from making judgments and conclusions without proper observation of a thing's behavior and a firm grasp of it.

wiki entry on intelligence

Howard Gardner
his research homepage
official page
"howard gardner, multiple intelligences, and education"
info at Human Intelligence
wiki on the man, and his theory

Triarchic theory of intelligence
homepage of Robert J. Sternberg (also Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Tufts)
Human Intelligence page

Stuff on "emotional intelligence"
EI Consortium

I suppose one sort of evidence for the existence of emotional intelligence is the privation of such in mentally handicapped people, for example those suffering from autism. Still, I wonder if the account of emotional intelligence could not be better. How much of it is due to native "animal" perception and instinct?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Janet Smith, The Human Person as the Subject of Suffering


In defense of casuistry

I recall reading an article by a traditionalist (not sure where--was it online? I can't find anything through yahoo and google, and I'm not sure if I've saved it somewhere...). It was a defense of the 19th century moral theology manuals and of casuistry. I think it would be uncontroversial to claim that there is a place for moral casuistry today, whether it be by the confessor or by someone whose advice is being sought. What else is the dealing of difficult (or not-so-difficult) particular cases than casuistry? Is the problem primarily the reduction of moral theology to casuistry? Can the art be integrated into the larger schema of a virtues-based moral theology?

Dr. Thomas Fleming has studied the ethics of St. Alphonsus Liguori and recommends it for those wishing to learn Catholic moral theology.

Edit. Ite ad Thomam
Edit. (9/1/11) The Ite ad Thomam post is no longer available, but has been copied elsewhere. And, more recently, St. Alphonsus's Theologia Moralis: The Magisterially-Guaranteed Manual of Casuistry.

Raphael Gallagher, CSsR.(Religion and in the Social and Cultural Development of Ireland)

Casuistry--A Summary by Jeramy Townsley
The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning

Misc Links:
Servais Pinckaers, "The Place of Philosophy in Moral Theology"
Livio Melina. Christ and the Dynamism of Action. Communio Spring, 2001
Philokalia Republic
Peter Kwasniewski CV ("William of Ockham and the Metaphysical Roots of Natural Law")
Michael Waldstein CV ("The Common Good in St. Thomas and John Paul II," "Dietrich von Hildebrand and St. Thomas Aquinas on Goodness and Happiness," interview)
Stephen Long, "Charity and Justice: Christian Economy and the Just Ordering of the Commandments" (alt)
Cardinal Ratzinger, "Relativism: The Central Problem for Faith Today"
Alfred J. Freddoso's site
Christopher Kaczor's review of Moral Theology in an Age of Renewal
Anthony Kelly, CssR, A Trinitarian Moral Theology
Augustine DiNoia, O.P., "Imago Dei-Imago Christi"
Michael Hull, "Schools of Thought in Contemporary Moral Theology"
Notes, Analysis of the Moral Act, A Proposal


Note to self:
Ralph McInerny, "On natural law and natural rights"
(see also McInerny, Ralph. "Natural Law and Human Rights." American Journal of Jurisprudence 36 (1991): 1–14)
His review of What We Can't Know
(Found through search results at for natural law morality)

Pinckaers, "The Recovery of the New Law in Moral Theology," Irish Theological Quarterly 64.1 (Spring 1999).

Something by Daniel Westberg

To Delight in His Will and Walk in His Ways: A New Anglican Moral Theology

(He is a member of the faculty at Nashota House.)

Can the use of labels dehumanize?

Never mind the fact that the labels "liberal" and "conservative" are usually very vague, and that both liberals and conservatives are generally adherents to philosophical/classical liberalism in their worldview.

Does the use of such labels lead to an "us versus them" mentality? One would seem to think so, listening to talk radio. Of course, if there were true community, the danger of "polarization" would be less, since one would have to live with one's neighbors and depend on them, so that disagreements about first principles would be tempered by civility and civic friendship.

As Christians, we have to shrug off such worldly thinking; being called to live our lives in charity and service of neighbor, while we must be aware of others' (as well as our own) moral qualities and moral positions, such differences should not be an excuse for not acting with charity towards them. To them we are especially called to show charity and to be concerned with their good, striving to bring them to God when possible.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Interview with John Zizioulas

John sends Pontificator 2 links:

30 Days interview with John Zizioulas
Emmanuel Clapsis, Papal Primacy

The Species Problem

[Originally posted at The New Beginning. The weekend symposium is now over, but there are plans for the papers to be published. See Amy Welborn for links. I didn't know Robert Spaemann was in attendance; his works that are in English translation pertain either to ethics or to the liturgy. I have not read anything by him concerning evolution or science; it would be interesting to see what his perspective is, as I do not think he is a Thomist.]

Pope Benedict XVI is holding a 3-day symposium with his former students; this year's topic? Evolution. I'll be waiting to see if any statements or interviews are published after the symposium is over. I think it would be best for nothing to be said, but undoubtedly someone will offer his perspective. "There is no conflict between religion and science." "The question of evolution is one that deserves special attention and further inquiry." etc. etc.

Amy Welborn's most recent post. Zenit article with Fr. Rafael Pascual providing some comments. Fr. Pascual is dean of philosophy at Regina Apostolorum in Rome, the Legionary university. He concedes the use of the word "science" to modern science and its method and presuppositions. I don't. Good philosophizing is not less certain than "science;" if anything, it is more certain. There are two main questions with respect to evolution -- the historical question, whether it has happened in the past, and the question of mechanism, which is proper to science and philosophy, if we accept the traditional Aristotelian account of science. What agents are involved, what is the sequence of changes and the chain of causes?

As I've stated elsewhere, the problem of species is one that needs to be resolved in a way that addresses the other fundamental questions pertaining to the essence of evolution. What is the problem of species? It is this: how is "species" to be defined within biology? Tied to this problem is the question of whether there are natural stable "kinds" or "types" of living things. One might think that since the word is used so often in theorizing about evolution, that its definition would be clear; however, rather than being clear it has become more obscure.

Eventually I will have to read through the following if I am going to write anything more substantial on the topic.

[Note to self: with respect to terminology one needs to make clear what the difference is between "part" and "structure"--there are various "levels of organization" in complex living things, and the structure of one part is the arrangement of its own component parts relative to one another. Is it necessary that such an arrangement have a useful function (as opposed to one that fulfills a purely aesthetic purpose)? Perhaps at some levels and not at others.]

Richard Blanchette
U. Laval thesis, "The Problem of Classification in Zoology" (pdf)

Thomas Reydon (homepage)
his thesis: Species as Units of Generalization in Biological Science
"Why does the species problem still persist?"
"Monists, pluralists, and biologists"
"Species are individuals--or are they?"
review of David Stamos, The Species Problem: Biological Species, Ontology, and the Metaphysics of Biology

David Stamos (faculty page)
The Species Problem
Darwin and the Nature of Species

David Hull
reviews The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History by Marjorie Grene and David Depew
His The Philosophy of Biology

based on Hull's work:
"David Hull's Natural Philosophy of Science"
"Ontology of Evolution: Species, Units, and Levels"

Jody Hey
faculty page
"A Reduction of 'Species' Resolves the Species Problem"
Genes, Categories, and Species
a review of his Genes, Categories, and Species

Marjorie Grene
faculty page
"Aristotle and Modern Biology"
"Recent Work on Aristotelian Biology"
There is a good summary of the species problem in chapter 10 of her book (co-written by David Depew), The Philosophy of Biology: An Episodic History

Ernest Mayr
page at Stephen J. Gould's site (scroll down for some online texts)
page at (bio)
excerpt on teleonomy
"What is a species, and what is not?"
"Is Biology an Autonomous Science"
news of his death
Systematics and the Origin of Species
"Ernst Mayr and the modern concept of species" (alt)

Mortimer Adler, Jacques Maritain?
Problems for Thomists: The Problem of Species (1940)
New York, Sheed & Ward

Not available online, as far as I know, but I probably need to read it just to see what Adler wrote on the subject. Maritain is listed as an author on certain webpages, but have not confirmed that this is so. Perhaps he just wrote the introduction, as "Problems for Thomists" was a series of inquiries written by Adler, in The Thomist? (I should double check and see if this book isn't a collection of articles he wrote for The Thomist.)

Matthew H. Slater, The Metaphysics of Species and Specious Metaphysics
Encyclopedia Brittanica, Philosophy of Biology
Alfred Tauber, Ecology and the Claims for a Science-Based Ethics
Intro to Nature's Purposes

KLI Theory Lab, Philosophy of Biology

Rob Wilson's syllabus; lecture handout
Review of Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change
"Different species problems and their resolution"
"Wittgenstein Solves (Posthumously) the Species Problem"
"The Species Problem" (of unknown quality)
"Antiquarian Musings"
Eric Voegelin

hmm... totally unrelated... Wilfred Sellers, Aristotelian Philosophies of Mind
Whoa, I found Christopher Mirus's thesis online: Aristotle's Teleology and Modern Mechanics


Only hylomorphism can account for substantial and accidental change; any form of materalism will turn out to be reductionistic--it's just a question of how much. Take for example the generation of water from oxygen and hydrogen. (What is normally called synthesis in chemistry.) The properties and behavior of water are very different from oxygen and hydrogen.

Knowing how oxygen and hydrogen behave will not enable you to make an a priori prediction of how water will behave. Moreover, water is quite different from a a mixture of oxygen and hydrogen gas--continguity or proximity is not the same as generation, even if generation depends on local motion and continguity. While the generation of complex substances does depend on the constituents being present (the "matter," in one sense), the substance generated is more than the constituents taken singly.

(Hence we see how materialism within chemistry has affected how chemists explain things--bonding within compounds, for example, as if water were simply hydrogen and oxygen "bonded" to one another, and the constituents plus the bond are enough to explain water.)

Today Dr. Pakaluk writes:
But today I wish to press another difficulty, namely, that the natural scientific doctrine of the mean (as we may call it) is evidently different from the Doctrine of the Mean as stated in the ethics. They are two different notions of an intermediate or mean (meson).

The natural scientific doctrine of the mean, I take it, is something like the following. In a teleological system, it often happens that extremes, or opposites, need to be somehow 'neutralized', in order to make the required contribution to the good of the whole. This neutralization can take place either through a balancing (in which we imagine that the extremes continue to have their force, but in equiposition), or a mixture (in which we imagine that each extreme acts on the other to produce some resultant product that falls in between).

One might regard this doctrine as Aristotle's view about what is right in Heraclitus' view of co-dependent opposites.

Now two points about this.

First, it is not a whacky doctrine at all. Indeed, one might think that something like this must be true, simply given the nature of a teleological system. One might of course doubt that such systems exist (in which case it is 'teleology', and undoubtedly also 'hylomorphism', which one must regard as pseudoscience). But what such a system would be, is a system in which parts that otherwise would not operate together harmoniously, to some single effect, are so adapted that they now do so. This very description requires that its parts somehow be balanced or mutually opposed, so that the effects that each would otherwise produce are moderated.

It would be easy to think of examples of this. Consider for instance how electrical impulses are propagated along the membrane of a nerve cell. The movement of the charge is achieved not by the conduction of electrons within the cell (as in a copper wire), but rather by a change and transmission in potential effected by sodium and potassium ions. As this potential is propagated, the charge at each location is 'neutralized' and effected at the immediately continguous location. Thus the 'extremes' of positive and negative charges are used against each other to achieve safely an effect (the propagation of an electric signal) that might otherwise be hazardous to living tissue. Furthermore, through this neutralization the tissue immediately regenerates its capacity to propagate an impulse. (See for instance the Introduction here.)

The point is that it is natural to speak of living systems, or perhaps even natural systems generally, as 'harnassing' and 'moderating' forces that, operating on their own outside of such systems, would work to an extreme that would be incompatible with the good functioning of such systems. This I take it is what the 'natural scientific doctrine of the mean' is meant to capture.
It's a bit disappointing to see Aristotle's teaching on hylomorphisms dismissed just like that, solely because of the success or practical value that we have come to associate with contemporary explanations by scientists. Now what is meant by pseudoscience? Something that does not achieve the epistemic status of a real science, especially because it does not employ the scientific method (whether taken in its positivistic form or not)? But what of Aristotle's conception of science, as an explanation of a thing through its causes? And his analysis of change? Do were reject his principles of change, form, matter, and privation, in favor of a materialist account? We could easily supplement the various materialist accounts given in the first book of the physics with contemporary chemistry, and show how the physical theory present in contemporary chemistry is just as flawed, even if it is not as reductionistic as the ancient ones. (Though it depends on the chemist or the physicist--some wish to reduce chemistry to physics.)

How do we know if two things are contraries, or opposites? Througuh opposing qualities? Or because they have opposite effects? I think Dr. Pakaluk's example works in showing how in a complex ordered system, something must bring about a blanace of opposites so that one is not dominated by another. Another example of a balance or mean might be homeostasis in an animal. Within a living thing, this is in some way initiated by the living thing itself, though not at the level of the whole organism, but at a lower level of organisation, whether it be system or cell. I would have to see what examples Aristotle employs in his presentation of the mean in his natural philosophy. Within a system of more than one substances, this balancing must be done, ultimately, by the First Mover. (In Christian terms, God through His Providence.)

(See Aquinas' argument for the existence of God from the need for an intelligence to govern substances that have no intelligence.)

The notion of balance and harmony is also found in Chinese philosophy--a sign perhaps that at a "prescientific" level, we can readily intuit that opposing contraries need to be balanced out in some way for the sake of the whole (or the cosmos).

Through a thing's sensible qualities we come to know the nature of a thing. Through the senses we are able to observe how it interacts with other things (including with other things of the same kind). Moreover, the sensible qualities of a thing, which can enable us to come up with a nominal definition, involve causality, since our senses are acted upon by the thing in some way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Interview with Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P.

Here. (Dominican Province of St. Joseph's Vocations Blog.)

Thanks to Mark Shea and Disputations.

Another link for the Dominican Guide


(Primary link is at Fr. Ashley's page at; Andrew Goddard's page for Fr. Ashley.)

Plus, one of Paul Kucharski' papers is available online, "Aquinas's Account of Existence and Recent Criticisms"

Lists of philosophical weblogs


Monday, September 04, 2006

Philip L. Peterson

Syllogistic reasoning with intermediate quantifiers (pdf)

Intermediate Quantities: Logic, Linguistics, and Aristotelian Semantics

A bunch of sellers are dumping this book for $9.00. I wonder if that says something about its quality.

"On the Logic of 'Few,' 'Many,' and 'Most'"

He has another book, Fact Proposition Event
Info about the book.

Bases his work on Zeno Vendler? ucalgary

Linguistic analysis + ? (any influences from Noam Chomsky?)

Steve Bayne, "Nominalization and agent causation:Vendler/Chisholm"

The Nominalization Template
"Nominalization in Kavalan"
"Creative Discovery in the Lexical 'Validation Gap'"
"Generating Expressions Referring to Eventualities"
"Knowledge, Belief, and Category Mistakes: A Solution" (alt)
"Category Mistakes in M&E"
"Ontology in Formal Semantics and Lexical Semantics"
On the typology of state/change of state alternations
Max Kistler, Causes as events and facts
A finite-state approach to even semantics
Gerundive nominals and the role of aspect
The language of propositions and events (download the thesis)

Richard John Tierney

He wrote this thesis: Essence and explanation in Aristotle's philosophy of science and philosophy of nature

info here


This dissertation is concerned with the relationship between essence and explanation in Aristotle's philosophy of science and philosophy of nature. My central theme is that Aristotle's concept of the nature of a substance ties these two areas of his philosophy together. In his philosophy of science it manifests itself in the notion of the essential nature of a kind, in his philosophy of nature it finds its expression in the essential potentialities of a substance. I argue that the explanatory dimension of Aristotle's philosophy of science lies not in his concept of scientific demonstration but in its implicit recourse to a substance's essential potentialities.

A scientific demonstration, I maintain, does not constitute an explanation, nor does it involve explanation in performing its demonstrative function. Rather, demonstration gives rise to understanding; the apprehension that something belongs in the essential nature of a kind. I call this scientific exposition, rather than scientific explanation.

In order to 'recover' the explanatory dimension of Aristotle's philosophy of science I consider, first, the structure of his essentialism, and second, his metaphysics of change in which the notions of potentiality and actuality play a central role. It is in these two aspects of his philosophy that the substantial content of Aristotle's definition of 'nature' (phusis) is located. A nature, according to Aristotle, is a principle of change belonging to a thing in itself; but what is essential to a kind consists of what belongs to the members of the kind in itself, and a potentiality is defined as a principle of change.

It is through this link that Aristotle's philosophy of science finds its underlying explanatory dimension. For when, through scientific demonstrations, we 'unpack' the essential nature of a kind, what we lay bare are the essential potentialities of each of the members of the kind, the actualizations of which constitute the various changes that those substances may undergo. That is, we lay bare what it is in the nature of things that accounts for their behavior in various diverse circumstances.

Andrea Falcon's webpage


Hrm, snazzy website. Haven't read her books...

From an abstract:

Andrea Falcon
Department of Philosophy
Virginia Tech

February 3, 2005
Thursday, 4:00pm-6:00pm
BA (Close/Hipp) 008

In the opening lines of the Meteorology Aristotle outlines a program for the investigation of the natural world. I will focus on this program and show that Aristotle's science of nature is structured in a certain way and this structure is crucially dependent upon a particular conception of the natural world. Aristotle conceives of the natural world as a causal system in which the only direction of explanation is from the celestial to the sublunary world. A full appreciation of this conception will help the reader to understand the precise sense in which Aristotle's science of nature is a distinctly organized science. I will also argue that the opening lines of the Meteorology presuppose a strong grasp of the boundaries of the science of nature. Tellingly, the study of the soul is not mentioned in the opening lines of the Meteorology. Elsewhere Aristotle makes it abundantly clear that the study of the soul is preliminary to the study of life, but it is not a part of the science of nature. I will focus on the problematic relation between science of nature and study of the soul and the unique status of the De anima in the Aristotelian corpus.

The study of the soul is not a part of the science of nature? I don't know if Aristotle makes this claim. What did I read recently that was making this point? Oh never mind, I think it was Fr. Brock's paper for the Thomistic Institute. He was arguing that the soul is studied both in natural philosophy and in the metaphysics, and he was citing certain texts within Aristotle's De Anima. I'll have to reread the third book.

As for the celestial world having an influence on the soul--perhaps Aristotle does not include the soul as being under the influence of the celestial world because he believes it to be spiritual (and hence free, etc.).

I'll have to see if BC has this book and see what texts she cites to make her claims.

It turns out she wrote the SEP entry on causality. (The housemate reminded me that the aitia are enumerated by Plato; he must have been talking about the Phaedo.)

From the entry:
Aristotle was not the first person to engage in a causal investigation of the world around us. From the very beginning, and independently of Aristotle, the investigation of the natural world consisted in the search for the relevant causes of a variety of natural phenomena. From the Phaedo, for example, we learn that the so-called “inquiry into nature” consisted in a search for “the causes of each thing; why each thing comes into existence, why it goes out of existence, why it exists” (96 a 6-10). In this tradition of investigation, the search for causes was a search for answers to the question “why?”. Both in the Physics and in the Metaphysics Aristotle places himself in direct continuity with this tradition.

Konrad Lorenz notes

Recommended by C. Blum. I haven't had a chance to read Konrad Lorenz's books yet, but they may be prove to be useful; what are his views on evolution? Lorenz is considered to be the founder of ethology, that part of zoology which studies behavior. iirc, Dr. Blum's main reason for his endorsement was Lorenz's acceptance of teleology as a form of scientific explanation--animal behavior is purposive and his method as a naturalist -- trying to observe animals without interference or contrived experiments.

King Solomon's Ring (Routledge Classic edition)

Nobel Prize bio
wiki entry on Lorenz, ethology, imprinting
Konrad Lorenz and imprinting
Konrad Lorenz, Classical Ethology, and Imprinting (pdf)
Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen

Other links:
Konrad Lorenz Institute
Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology
Sympsium: "Origins of Ethology"

Look up: Max Planck Institutes

Suggestions from the Philosopher

Not Aristotle, but my housemate.

The keynote lecture at the 27th annual Graduate Philosophy Conference at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this year piqued my interest. The keynote lecture was "Ethics and the Collapse of Civilization" by Jonathan Lear (John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought, Department of Philosophy, the University of Chicago). (I think he is also married to Gabriel Richardson Lear.) I asked my housemate what he thought of him, but he couldn't offer anything substantive that I can recall.

The theme for this year's philosophy graduate student conference at Fordham this year was
"The Future of Philosophy." I was going to write something on the impact of peak oil on universities in general, and philosophy in particular, and the vocation of a Catholic philosopher.
Now that it is passed, looking at the conference program as a Catholic, my reaction is "Who really cares?" I don't really see anything that would be of interest to the general public, just to a small group of people with certain specialties.

Another version of "geekdom"? Perhaps.

I asked the Philosopher what would be some good classical texts discussing the nature and purpose of philosophy.

Plato's dialogues: Philebus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Phaedrus
(To look at the arguments for the superiority of the philosophical life to all others.)

To these I would have added the practical bent of classical Confucianism.

Then I would proceed with a historical examination of the decline of the Greek schools and see if any comparisons could be drawn between their situation and the current state of universities in the United States.

Then some judgments:
(1) It would become increasingly difficult for departments of philosophy to justify their existence in universities that were oriented towards job training and other practical ends. (Unless philosophy departments made bioethics and business ethics courses a big component of their programs.)

(2) A lot of discredit that has fallen upon philosophy as an "academic discipline" is due to academic philosophers themselves.

(3) Universities themselves may be put out of business by peak oil, since the economy would not be able to sustain the existence of so many, and the job-training and skills they offered would become mostly irrelevant to economies that would have to shift towards becoming localized and less oil- and technology-dependent.

Followed perhaps by a recommendation that philosophers, if they sincerely loved truth and pursued it, should ready themselves for the upcoming economic downturn by finding a job they could handle, and offer their teaching for free, for those who were interested.

My housemate also recommended Roger Scruton's Thinkers of the New Left (plus, of course, The Meaning of Conservatism)--I don't think I would find much in Scruton that would be of interest to me, though I should note that last I heard, he will be giving lectures (on aesthetics) for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences.

I was also thinking of writing something for the American Maritain Association conference this year, but decided that it wouldn't be worth the time and expense, since I wasn't sure where I would be this semester and if I would have funds. My topic? Biological structuralism and Aristotelianism. I still hope I can finish up the paper, and submit it to a journal.

Whoopee... there's a blog for people to post info about upcoming philosophy conferences.
social decline (Jonathan Lear)

Some questions about corporations and property

Corporations -- were guilds defined as a corporation under civil law? What of any social body?

How is legal personhood defined? In terms of rights and powers that belong to the person. It seems then it is possible that there is no necessary connection between legal personhood and a Lockean right to property. Are the property rights of a private association different from that of a political community? Must a corporation have the same rights as its members?

Can property be defined apart from the rights? Does use (or consumption) always entail [transfer of] ownership? (Is the reception of a gift equivalent to taking ownership of it?)

Are there any problems with legal personhood that are intrinsic to the notion itself? Is it necessary that we conceive of a community as a substantial whole in order to consider it as a "person"? (I think the answer is no.)

What happens to legal justice when applied to relations between corporations? Does everything reduce to commutative justice? (Does commutative justice exist between communities?)

Subsistit vs. est

Pontificator has two posts on the use of subsistit in Lumen Gentium.

The first post summarizes an article by Karl Josef Becker, S.J. The second is from "The Ecclesiology of the Constitution of the Church, Vatican II, Lumen Gentium," by Cardinal Ratzinger and the CDF.