Saturday, December 09, 2006

"Principles of Doing Philosophy"

Never engage someone in a discussion of someone else's thought, even if he believes in it wholeheartedly.

1. He may be misunderstanding or misrepresenting what the author/text is saying. An example: a discussion last week of how AM defines modernity.

2. In a dialogue, one is concerned not with what some accepted authority teaches, but whether that teaching is true or not. So if the other person says, "I believe that x's teaching on y is true," the reply is to see whether this teaching has sufficient support or not, not whether he is reporting the teaching correctly because presumably he believes in this teaching, regardless of whether it is actually that of the author or not.

If it turns out that he's just a yes-man, then a different approach must be taken.

3. This principle is even more important if you yourself are not familiar with the texts or authors to which he refers. So a common basis for dialogue must be sought elsewhere--our knowledge of reality, which should be the primarily resource anyway.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Some articles by Fr. John Behr

Fr. John Behr is a member of the faculty at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary.

The Trinitarian Being of the Church
The Paschal Foundation of Christian Theology

Fr. Oliver Herbel makes references to Fr. Behr in the discussion of St. Maximos and the filioque at Energetic Procession.

(SVS photo gallery)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Worker's paradise?

Today I read an article on the Jesuit Reductions of South America, and posted it over at The New Beginning. Was the evangelization of the Guaraní halted with the destruction of these Jesuit missions? How many Guaraní today are Catholic? How much of the current state of S. American countries is due to the injustices perpetuated by those with power? How great of an impediment to evangelization has been created by these so-called "Catholics"? Did the Church fail to excommunicate when it should have, even at the risk of persecution? And what have the liberal revolutionaries done to improve the situation for the poor? (How anti-Church and anti-clerical were they?)

Should the Reductions be considered to have been truly self-sufficient polities? What sort of crops did they cultivate for food? Did they domesticate animals? What can the transition of these hunter-gatherers to agriculture teach us about limiting the ecological footprint of our communities? While their adoption of European culture (especially music) as their own is well-known, is this an example of cultural imperialism? Or is it the case that the Guaraní found European music to be truly beautiful?

The Reductions were an example of communes--property was owned in common, I believe--though it is not clear to me if there was no private property whatsoever. Were they Communist? Not at all--they were Christian in inspiration. I do not know if the Guaraní owned things in common as hunter-gatherers, and if this was something they carried over into the Reductions, or if it was introduced by the Jesuits. Who exercised leadership in the Reductions? The Jesuits? The Guaraní? A select group among the Guaraní? The Jesuits and the Guaraní jointly? I should see if there are any good histories that would provide the answers to these sorts of questions.

Was this sad event an example of just polities being destroyed by empire? The oppression of the peaceful and relatively powerless by the powerful and the rich?

Tonight I checked out Fr. Augustine Thompson's Cities of God from O'Neill. I will be looking to the Italian city-states to see what sort of lessons can be drawn for the science of politics. Does the conversion of peoples lead to the formation of healthier political communities? And if so, why did it not happen, especially with the Germanic tribes? How does one account for the rise of monarchies and the feudal system? Would not tribes be more likely to have some sort of democratic government? Or did the Germanic tribes grow too big in size for this to be practically possible? Was the feudal system rooted in the customs proper to tribal alliances/subordination?
When did the Germanic tribes start practicing agriculture? Were there different social strata/classes within the tribes?

So many questions for me to find answers to...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

St. Francis de Sales, on the natural love of God

See his Treatise on the Love of God




Cicero, the cardinal virtues?

again, from the De Officiis

{15} V.

You see here, Marcus, my son, the very form and as it were the face of Moral Goodness; "and if," as Plato says, "it could be seen with the physical eye, it would awaken a marvellous love of wisdom." But all that is morally right rises from some one of four sources: it is concerned either (1) with the full perception and intelligent development of the true; or (2) with the conservation of organized society, with rendering to every man his due, and with the faithful discharge of obligations assumed; or (3) with the greatness and strength of a noble and invincible spirit; or (4) with the orderliness and moderation of everything that is said and done, wherein consist temperance and self-control. Although these four are connected and interwoven, still it is in each one considered singly that certain definite kinds of moral duties have their origin: in that category, for instance, which was designated first in our division and in which we place wisdom and prudence, belong the search after truth and its discovery; and this is the peculiar {16} province of that virtue. For the more clearly anyone observes the most essential truth in any given case and the more quickly and accurately he can see and explain the reasons for it, the more understanding and wise he is generally esteemed, and justly so. So, then, it is truth that is, as it were, the stuff with which this virtue has to deal and on which it employs itself.

{17} Before the three remaining virtues, on the other hand, is set the task of providing and maintaining those things on which the practical business of life depends so that the relations of man to man in human society may be conserved, and that largeness and nobility of soul may be revealed not only in increasing one's resources and acquiring advantages for one's self and one's family but far more in rising superior to these very things. But orderly behaviour and consistency of demeanor and self-control and the like have their sphere in that department of things in which a certain amount of physical exertion, and not mental activity merely, is required. For if we bring a certain amount of propriety and order into the transactions of daily life, we shall be conserving moral rectitude and moral dignity.

{18} VI.

Now, of the four divisions which we have made of the essential idea of moral goodness, the first, consisting in the knowledge of truth, touches human nature most closely. For we are all attracted and drawn to a zeal for learning and knowing; and we think it glorious to excel therein, while we count it base and immoral to fall into error, to wander from the truth, to be ignorant, to be led astray. In this pursuit, which is both natural and morally right, two errors are to be avoided: first, we must not treat the unknown as known and too readily accept it; and he who wishes to avoid this error (as all should do) will devote both time and attention

{19} to the weighing of evidence. The other error is that some people devote too much industry and too deep study to matters that are obscure and difficult and useless as well. If these errors are successfully avoided, all the labour and pains expended upon problems that are morally right and worth the solving will be fully rewarded. Such a worker in the field of astronomy, for example, was Gaius Sulpicius, of whom we have heard; in mathematics, Sextus Pompey, whom I have known personally; in dialectics, many; in civil law, still more. All these professions are occupied with the search after truth; but to be drawn by study away from active life is contrary to moral duty. For the whole glory of virtue is in activity; activity, however, may often be interrupted, and many opportunities for returning to study are opened. Besides, the working of the mind, which is never at rest, can keep us busy in the pursuit of knowledge even without conscious effort on our part. Moreover, all our thought and mental activity will be devoted either to planning for things that are morally right and that conduce to a good and happy life, or to the pursuits of science and learning. With this we close the discussion of the first source of duty.

{20} VII.

Of the three remaining divisions, the most extensive in its application is the principle by which society and what we may call its "common bonds" are maintained. Of this again there are two divisions — justice, in which is the crowning glory of the virtues and on the basis of which men are called "good men"; and, close akin to justice, charity, which may also be called kindness or generosity. The first office of justice is to keep one man from doing harm to another, unless provoked by wrong; and the next is to lead men to use common possessions for the common interests, private property for their own.

{21} There is, however, no such thing as private ownership established by nature, but property becomes private either through long occupancy (as in the case of those who long ago settled in unoccupied territory) or through conquest (is in the case of those who took it in war) or by due process of law, bargain, or purchase, or by allotment. On this principle the lands of Arpinum are said to belong to the Arpinates, the Tusculan lands to the Tusculans; and similar is the assignment of private property. Therefore, inasmuch as in each case some of those things which by nature had been common property became the property of individuals, each one should retain possession of that which has fallen to his lot; and if anyone appropriates to himself anything beyond that, he will be violating the laws of human society.

{22} But since, as Plato has admirably expressed it, we are not born for ourselves alone, but our country claims a share of our being, and our friends a share; and since, as the Stoics hold, everything that the earth produces is created for man's use; and as men, too, are born for the sake of men, that they may be able mutually to help one another; in this direction we ought to follow Nature as our guide, to contribute to the general good by an interchange of acts of kindness, by giving and receiving, and thus by our skill, our industry, and our talents to cement human society more closely together, man to man.

{23} The foundation of justice, moreover, is good_faith; — that is, truth and fidelity to promises and agreements. And therefore we may follow the Stoics, who diligently investigate the etymology of words; and we may accept their statement that "good faith" is so called because what is promised is "made good," although some may find this derivation/a rather farfetched. There are, on the other hand, two kinds of injustice — the one, on the part of those who inflict wrong, the other on the part of those who, when they can, do not shield from wrong those upon whom it is being inflicted. For he who, under the influence of anger or some other passion, wrongfully assaults another seems, as it were, to be laying violent hands upon a comrade; but he who does not prevent or oppose wrong, if he can, is just as guilty of wrong as if he deserted his parents or his friends or his country.

{24} Then, too, those very wrongs which people try to inflict on purpose to injure are often the result of fear: that is, he who premeditates injuring another is afraid that, if he does not do so, he may himself be made to suffer some hurt. But, for the most part, people are led to wrong-doing in order to secure some personal end; in this vice, avarice is generally the controlling motive.

Cicero, ius naturale?

De Officiis,

{11} IV.

First of all, Nature has endowed every species of living creature with the instinct of self-preservation, of avoiding what seems likely to cause injury to life or limb, and of procuring and providing everything needful for life — food, shelter, and the like. A common property of all creatures is also the reproductive instinct (the purpose of which is the propagation of the species) and also a certain amount of concern for their offspring. But the most marked difference between man and beast is this: the beast, just as far as it is moved by the senses and with very little perception of past or future, adapts itself to that alone which is present at the moment; while man — because he is endowed with reason, by which he comprehends the chain of consequences, perceives the causes of things, understands the relation of cause to effect and of effect to cause, draws analogies, and connects and associates the present and the future — easily surveys the course of his whole life and makes the necessary preparations for its conduct strangely tender love for his offspring. She also prompts men to meet in companies, to form public assemblies and to take part in them themselves; and she further dictates, as a consequence of this, the effort on man's part to provide a store of things that minister to his comforts and wants — and not for himself alone, but for his wife and children and the others whom he holds dear and for whom he ought to provide; and this responsibility also stimulates his courage and makes it stronger for the active duties of life. {13} Above all, the search after truth and its eager pursuit are peculiar to man. And so, when we have leisure from the demands of business cares, we are eager to see, to hear, to learn something new, and we esteem a desire to know the secrets or wonders of creation as indispensable to a happy life. Thus we come to understand that what is true, simple, and genuine appeals most strongly to a man's nature. To this passion for discovering truth there is added a hungering, as it were, for independence, so that a mind well-moulded by Nature is unwilling to be subject to anybody save one who gives rules of conduct or is a teacher of truth or who, for the general good, rules according to justice and law. From this attitude come greatness_of_soul and a sense of superiority to worldly conditions.

{14} And it is no mean manifestation of Nature and Reason that man is the only animal that has a feeling for order, for propriety, for moderation in word and deed. And so no other animal has a sense of beauty, loveliness, harmony in the visible world; and Nature and Reason, extending the analogy of this from the world of sense to the world of spirit, find that beauty, consistency, order are far more to be maintained in thought and deed, and the same Nature and Reason are careful to do nothing in an improper or unmanly fashion, and in every thought and deed to do or think nothing capriciously. It is from these elements that is forged and fashioned that moral goodness which is the subject of this inquiry — something that, even though it be not generally ennobled, is still worthy of all honour;[2] and by its own nature, we correctly maintain, it merits praise even though it be praised by none.