Saturday, June 23, 2007

Robert George on 'Reason, Freedom and the Rule of Law'

Robert George on 'Reason, Freedom and the Rule of Law'
"Reason, Freedom and the Rule of Law: Their Significance in the Catholic Intellectual and Moral Tradition" was the title of a recent (Nov 11) presentation by Professor Robert P. George of Princeton University. Professor George, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and previously on the United States Commission on Civil Rights, was invited by the Institute of Catholic Studies.

Introduction by Mark Lewis SJ (2 min)
Lecture by Robert George (1 hr)

New url for Pontifications

evidently Fr. Al has moved to wordpress; the old website appears to be gone--no idea if the archives have been saved somewhere and eventually restored...

edit: apparently everything is gone, though one can still find what has been cached by Google and Yahoo...

The Rule of Law

Often liberal democrats will claim that democracy is superior to other forms of government precisely because of "the Rule of Law." But is their assertion really justified?

Can it not be claimed that during the middle ages, it was understood that the ruler was subject to the Divine Law (and the Natural Law)? And did not the medievals speculate about the limits to authority and to legislation? Even if a temporal ruler had no earthly superior who could judge him, he was still subject to the Divine Judgment, and his rule was not absolute.

(Notes: See Pennington on "princeps legibus solutus" and "plenitudo potestatis" and also Charles N.R. McCoy's essay.)

Should we then identify the Rule of Law solely with the possession of a written constitution and written laws? This seems to be too narrow, since it ignores the role of custom. Writing down laws does seem to be beneficial to the community, facilitating their being made known (assuming of course that the community is literate). Still, there are ways to make laws known to a society that relies exclusively on oral communication and the spoken word.

Nonetheless, written laws have a permanence and fixity that unwritten laws seem to lack, at least in our imagination. Law seems to be more "tangible" when it is written, even though it is first and foremost a spiritual reality. While it is good not to change laws too much, if a law is written does this prevent it from being changed when necessary, because we develop an excessive attachment to the law as it is formulated? (Do we run the risk of document worship?)

And if liberals were reacting to the claims of absolutism and also to the religious wars of the 16th century, were they justified in seeking a religion-free ideology upon which they could ground their political theory?

If the "Rule of Law" is simply that a community is governed by laws rather than by men, and there is an acknowledgement of the existence and priority of Natural Law, then what sets liberal democracies apart from polities that observed the Natural Law? Is it the secular nature of many liberal democratic governments? After all, if this is how the "Rule of Law" is understood by liberals, then it is not a defining feature of liberalism (or of the form of government known as politeia). We must look to other core beliefs of liberalism that set it apart from other political theories and ideologies of government.

SEP: Natural Law Theories

Friday, June 22, 2007

Fr. Rutler on eating meat


Someone asked that I reply to a recent comment on your blog that questioned the logic of my letter on vegetarianism. Let me say that I am not a meat fanatic, and in fact I often have meatless dinners. One should never cite Genesis to promote strict vegetarianism, as it was written by meat-eaters inspired by God who created all the animals as a menu for Adam and Eve. Their “dominion” over every beast gave them authority to choose how they wanted to serve them up, it seems to me.

I had a great aunt who was a vegetarian and her body started to make funny sounds and then she died. We hardly mention her, although we pray that our merciful Lord has welcomed her to the eternal Supper of the Lamb where there is no alternative menu.

It is silly to suppose that the creation of seed-bearing plants and fruit trees means that we should not eat meat. It only means that we should eat vegetables and fruits just as the provision of animals means we should eat them, as we are biologically designed to do. To think that incisor teeth for biting meat evolved only as an indulgence to beefeaters later on, would be like saying that legs evolved as a consequence of wanderlust.

Vegetarianism is not like celibacy. Vegetarians disdain meat; celibates do not disdain marriage. I am a celibate, but would not exist if Adam and Eve had not married, albeit without the benefit of a clergyman. Their only dietary restriction was against a certain fruit; experts think it was a pomegranate. I suspect they did not eat the first animals because there would not have been second animals, but once animals got going, there you had dinner.

We need not wait for Exodus to find carnivorous action permitted. Abel ate meat and Cain seems to have been a vegan. The Lord had respect unto Abel’s roasted lamb and rejected Cain’s vegetables and so Cain waxed exceeding wroth and slew Abel. The first murderer was a vegetarian. Vegetarians tend to be more violent toward meat eaters than the other way around, probably because of a lack of protein. Also in Genesis, Jacob made his father a lamb stew from what was evidently an old family recipe. It probably went back to Eden.

The citation of Deuteronomy only supports meat eating. The prohibition of blood and strangled animals renders licit bloodless meat slaughtered some other way. Rare is the man who can strangle a cow to death anyway. It is also unwise to cite the saga of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar became a vegetarian only when he went mad. He was driven from men and ate grass like an ox (Daniel 4:33).

As for health, meat is now being promoted for its vitamins and other sorts of stuff our bodies need, although preferred meats include hard to get elk and impalas. I had a great aunt who was a vegetarian and her body started to make funny sounds and then she died. We hardly mention her, although we pray that our merciful Lord has welcomed her to the eternal Supper of the Lamb where there is no alternative menu.

Meat eating is better for the economy, too. It gave us Chicago for starters. It also gives us waterproof rainwear and sensible shoes. In a vegetarian society we’d be clad in watermelon rinds and shod with potato skins.

Vegetarians do not address my point about vegetable abuse. The vegan sentimentalist has no tears to shed for the mashed potato. Ask the olive: How cold is it at the bottom of a martini?

The New Adam is certainly an improvement on the Old Adam. But even in resurrected glory, He had a barbecue on the shore of Galilee. One more evidence of the Divine Mercy is that Jesus never hectored the early Christians about the health benefits of spinach.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CIEL proceedings

Sixth Proceedings: Presence of Christ in
the Eucharist
• The Degrees in Holy Orders and their Liturgical
Fr. Martin Reinecke
• The Offering of Christ in the Roman Liturgy
Mgr. Arthur Burton Calkins
• Memory, Presence and Contemplation -- The Feasts of
our Lord in the Traditional Roman Missal
Professor Pawel Milcarek
• The Celebrant and the Notion of President
Dr. Andrew Beards
• 'Altar Girls': Feminist Ideology and the Roman Liturgy
Fr. Brian Harrison OS
• Quid Hoc Sacramento Mirabilius? The Presence of
Christ in the Sacrament according to St. Thomas
David Berger
• Holy Scripture, Liturgy and the Presence of Christ
Fr. Andrew Wadsworth
• The Rites of the Consecration
Fr. Raoul Olazabal
• A Pastoral View of the Ecclesia Dei Communities
Mgr. Camilo Gregorio
• Christ, the Principal Priest of the Eucharistic Sacrifice
and Ministerial Priests Acting in Persona Christi
Dom Basile Valuet OSB
• The Cross, the Mass... and the Key to Eucharistic
Dom Jaques de Lillers OSB
2000, 266 pages, paperback, $20.00

Seventh Proceedings: Faith and Liturgy
• The Nature and Content of Preaching
Mgr. Martin Viviès
• Defence and Propagation of the Faith in the Prayers of
the Tridentine Missal
Abbé Dariusz Olewinski
• The Liturgy as Locus Theologicus
Mgr. Joseph Schumacher
• Unity of Faith and Liturgical Diversity
Fr. Gabriel Díaz Patri
• Doctrine, Liturgy and Ecumenism
Brother Ansgar Santogrossi OSB
• Revelation, Tradition and the Liturgy
Fr. Aidan Nichols OP
• The Development of Doctrine and the Evolution of
Dom Basile Valuet OSB
• Liturgy and Catechesis
Professor Robert Kramer
• The Holy Spirit, the History of the Church and of the
Mgr. Rudolf Michael Schmitz
• The Centrality of Christ in the Ordo Missae of the
Classic Roman Rite
Professor John Saward
• Authentic Liturgy versus the Tower of Babel: the Dawn
of a 'New Era'
Mrs. Helen Hitchcock
2001, 280 pages, paperback, $20.00

Eighth Proceedings: Liturgy and the Sacred
• Modern Man in Search of the Sacred
Fr. Maurice Gruau
• Sacred Signs
Fr. Samuel F. Weber OSB
• Architecture and Sacred Space
Professor Thomas Gordon Smith
• Liturgical Music - Sacred or Profane?
Dr. Mary Berry CBE
• The Effects of the Sacred: Is the Sacred Missionary
Fr. James Jackson
• The Roman Missal - Bearer of the Sacred
Fr. Tancrede Guillard
• Revelation Through Concealment in the Old Roman
Catholic Liturgy
Martin Mosebach
• Time and the Sacred
Fr. Andre Forrest
• The Sacred and the West - Preliminary Reflections on a
Forgotten Concept
Benoit Neiss
• Tradition, Liturgy, and Catholic Culture
Rudolf Michael Schmitz
• The Liturgy and Man's Spiritual Life
Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
• The Classical Rite and Holy Scripture
Dr. Sheridan Gilley
2002, 208 pages, paperback, $20.00

Ninth Proceedings: Liturgy, Participation, and
Sacred Music
• Mystery, Comprehension, and Participation
Fr. Pietro Cantoni
• Elements of a Theory of Participatio Actuosa in the Writings
of St. Thomas Aquinas
David Berger
• Active Participation and Pastoral Adaptation
Dom Alcuin Reid OSB
• St. Pius X and the Liturgical Question
Fr, Christian-Philippe Chanut
• Active Participation in the Liturgy in Accordance with the
Prescriptions of Mediator Dei
Fr. Bernard-Marie Laisney
• Participation in the Current Magisterium
Fr. Peter M J Stravinskas PhD STD
• Quis Non Amantem Redamet?
Fr. Charbel Pazat de Lys OSB
• Josef Pieper and Participatio Actuosa
Dr. Guido Rodheudt
• Participation and Singing
Benoit Neiss
• Position and Attitude of the Faithful during Mass: The Body in
the Liturgy
Fr. John Perricone
• Active Participation in the Parish
Fr. Jerry J Pokorsky
• The Principle of Participation in the Roman Rite
Fr. Tancrede Guillard
• Participation in the Holy Liturgy
Jorge A Cardinal Medina Estevez
• Sermon Given at the Closing Mass
Jorge A Cardinal Medina Estevez
• Ens, Verum, Bonum et Pulchrum Liturgicum Conventuntur:
Reflections to Serve as a Conclusion to the Colloquium
Mgr Rudolf-Michael Schmitz
• Liturgy, the Sacred, and Inculturation: the Testimony of a
(From the 2002 Colloquium)
Fr. Jean-Marie Moreau
2003, 270 pages, paperback, $20.00


I think I have 2-5, but I'm going to have to double-check once I get the library organized.

New titles from St. Augustine's Press

that are of interest to me...

A reprint of the Tractatus de Signis, by John Poinsot -- Latin text plus English translation by John Deely. This is the corrected second edition; the first edition, published by UC Press, has been out of print for a while.

624 pages, jacketed clothbound, $85
publication date: November 2007
ISBN: 978-1-58731-877-1

And two titles published in association with Thomas International:

Virtue's End: God in the Moral Philosophy of Aristotle and Aquinas
ed. Fulvio Di Blasi, Joshua P. Hochschild, Jeffrey Langan; preface by Ralph McInerny
208 pages, paperbound, $19.00
ISBN: 978-1-58731-901-3
publication date: October 2007

Ethics Without God?
ed. Fulvio Di Blasi, Joshua P. Hochschild, Jeffrey Langan; preface by Ralph McInerny
196 pages, paperbound, $19.00
ISBN: 978-1-58731-225-0
publication date: October 2007

From the Fall 2007 catalog:
Virtue's End collects nine substantial essays on the nature and relationship of theological commitment to moral theory, practical reason, and the metaphysical framework of Aristotelian ethics. Among the questions explored: What does it mean to know the good? What is the source of moral law? What role does God, or the notion of God, play in practical reasoning and human action? What is the relationship between Aquinas's ethics and Aristotle's? How is friendship with God possible? The contributors include: Kevin Flannery, Christopher Kaczor, Antonio Donato, Anthony J. Lisska, Fulvio di Blasi, Giacomo Samek Lodovici, Robert A. Gahl, Marie I. George, Daniel McInerny.

Ethics Without God? brings the theological perspective of the Aristotelian and Thomistic traditions to bear on a variety of current political and theoretical questions. The main essays explore a place for the role of God in recent academic philosophy and political theory. The volume also explores a place for the role of God in recent academic philosophy and political theory. The volume also explores the implications of two recent books, each a major scholarly venture in theologically realist ethical reflection: a defense of Platonism in John Rist's Real Ethics and a natural law jurisprudence in Russell Hittinger's The First Grace. With lengthy essays prompted by these books--four essays each, by prominent theologians, moral philosophers, and political scientists--and with extended responses from Rist and Hittinger, the result is a volume that engages ultimate questions across academic disciplines and intellectual traditions.

None of these titles are listed yet at the website. St. Augustihe's Press has been trying to catch up with its publishing schedule for a while, so we'll see if these books are published not too long after the tentative publication date.

I think I'll hold off ordering them until I see Mr. Fingerhut at the next Center for Ethics and Culture conference, if I am able to attend.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

National Times series on climate change


Things to check out

From the ISN conference:
Prof S Conway Morris, Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge
Simon Conway Morris - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Life's Solution - Cambridge University Press Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely ...
PCID - A Review of Life's Solution by Simon Conway Morris
Book Review by Anthony Campbell: Life's Solution (Simon Conway Morris)
Pharyngula::Curse you, Simon Conway Morris!
Simon Conway-Morris, "The Crucible of Creation," 1997
Gifford Lecture Series - Biography - Simon Morris

Someone collaborating with him recently moved from Cambridge to Oxford?
Templeton Foundation: Biology

Dr. Ard A. Louis, Royal Society Research FellowCambridge University (Cambridge UK)
Adriaan (Ard) A. Louis: homepage
Ard Louis Research Group Home Page
Dr Ard Louis
Redeeming Reason

Dr. Jonathan Doye Department of ChemistryUniversity of Cambridge (Cambridge UK)
Jonathan Doye's Research Group
Dr Jonathan Doye
Dr Jonathan Doye

Emergent Properties; Neil Campbell?

A Proposed Link Between Emergent Biological Principles and Cosmology

Albert Goodelbert
Allphonso Aguilar

Jacques Maritain, Introduction to Philosophy

Alan Guth, The Inflationary Universe
MIT Department of Physics - Alan H. Guth

William Carroll, "At the Mercy of Chance: Evolution and the Catholic Tradition"

Professor Nancy Cartwright
London School of Economics and Political Science
No God, No Laws

Chris Olsen (PhD, CUA) -- also teaches at the Center for Higher Studies

What Genes Can't Do
Michael Bradie reviews What Genes Can’t Do by Lenny Moss

Pierre Gassendi
Pierre Gassendi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pierre Gassendi (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Mercurius in Sole Visus - Pierre Gassendi

Baylor University Department of Sociology Rodney Stark
Rodney Stark - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Faith and reason - The Boston Globe
A Double Take on Early Christianity, An Interview with Rodney Stark
The Testimony of Rodney Stark, Ph.D.
The American Enterprise: Fact, Fable, and Darwin

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Behe's latest book

The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
By Michael J. Behe
(Free Press, 320 pp., $28)

More by James Larson

his series on the New Theology

Broken Cisterns (on Hans Urs von Balthasar)

By Arts Entirely New (on Henri de Lubac)

The Suffering Continues

Christian Order: Eastern Orthodoxy Unveiled

Eastern Orthodoxy Unveiled


We tend to think of Eastern Orthodoxy as a branch of Christianity whose form of worship and religious symbolism may seem rather strange to us, and we are also ready to admit that the one really important Catholic doctrine which they have rejected is the Primacy of the Pope (we tend to mistakenly think of their rejection of the Filioque - the doctrine that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son - as being a rather marginal issue), but most of us are not prepared to consider that Orthodoxy is something radically different, and even opposed, to Catholicism.

However, such is the case. The extraordinary fact is that virtually any serious Orthodox writer will be the first to make precisely this claim: namely, that Orthodoxy and Eastern Spirituality represent a faith and spirituality which in many ways are in profound opposition to the Latin Tradition. And this, despite the fact that his counterpart in the West is usually expending a good deal of effort in attempting to prove that the differences are minimal and inconsequential.

Dionysisus and the "Palamite" tradition

I want to begin our analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality with a series of quotes which I hope will shock the reader into a state of acute watchfulness. It is, of course, always possible to distort a writer’s thought by taking quotations out of context. We will therefore be discussing their full meaning in relationship to Eastern theology and spirituality as we proceed in our discussion. For the present, however, I would like the reader to try to conceive of any context in which the following statements might be acceptable. They are all taken from authors writing in what certainly must be considered the dominant Orthodox tradition.
Two of the writers are of ancient tradition. Dionysisus the Areopagite was considered until relatively recent times to be of apostolic origins. In his writings he disingenuously portrays himself as a contemporary of the apostles, and to have witnessed the solar eclipse at the Crucifixion. It is now known for certain that he lived somewhere around the year 500 A.D. We should also note that the writings of Dionysisus are of immense importance to Orthodox tradition, and have also probably been the primary source of Neoplatonic contamination of Western theology.

Gregory of Palamas (1296-1359) is considered by the Eastern Church to be a Saint (proclaimed to be so by a Synod in Constantinople in 1368), and the greatest theologian in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. A series of Eastern Councils in the 14th century endorsed his theology as being the doctrinal basis for Orthodox Christianity.

The two other writers, Vladimir Lossky and John Meyendorff, are probably considered the most respected explicators and apologists for this tradition (the "Palamite" tradition) in the twentieth century. I would therefore ask the reader to carefully consider all the following quotes:

1. "The cult of the humanity of Christ, is foreign to Eastern tradition….The way of the imitation of Christ is never practiced in the spiritual life of the Eastern Church." (Vladimir Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 243

2. "The Eastern tradition knows nothing of ‘pure nature’ to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For it, there is no natural or ‘normal’ state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself." (Lossky, 101)

3. "The notion of a state of grace of which the members of the Church can be deprived, as well as the distinction between venial and mortal sins, are foreign to Eastern tradition." (Lossky, 180)

4."The notion of merit is foreign to Eastern tradition." (Losski, 197)

5."The essence of God is everywhere, for, as it is said, ‘the Spirit fills all things’, according to essence. Deification is likewise everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power. But just as one cannot see fire, if there is no matter to receive it, nor any sense organ capable of perceiving its luminous energy, in the same way one cannot contemplate deification if there is no matter to receive the divine manifestation. But if with every veil removed it lays hold of appropriate matter, that is of any purified rational nature, freed from the veil of manifold evil, then it becomes itself visible as a spiritual light, or rather it transforms these creatures into spiritual light." (Gregory Palamas, The Triads, p. 89)

6. "This latter division [of mankind into two sexes] was made by God in prevision of sin, according to St. Maximus, who is here reproducing the thought of St. Gregory of Nyassa. ‘Being, which has had its origin in change – says the latter – retains an affinity with change. This is why He who, as Scripture says, sees all things before their coming to be, having regarded or rather having forseen in advance by the power of His anticipatory knowledge in which direction the movement of man’s free and independent choice would incline, having thus seen how it would come to pass, added to the image the division into male and female: a division which has no relation to the divine Archetype, but which, as we have said, is in agreement with irrational nature’." (Lossky, 108-109)

7. "It was the divinely appointed function of the first man, according to St. Maximus, to unite in himself the whole of created being; and at the same time to reach his perfect union with God and thus grant the state of deification to the whole creation. It was first necessary that he should suppress in his own nature the division into two sexes, in his following of the impassible life according to the divine archetype. He would then be in a position to reunite paradise with the rest of the earth, for, constantly bearing paradise within himself, being in ceaseless communion with God, he would be able to transform the whole earth into paradise. After this, he must overcome spatial conditions not only in his spirit but also in the body, by reuniting the heavens and the earth, the totality of the sensible universe. Having surpassed the limits of the sensible, it would then be for him to penetrate into the intelligible universe by knowledge equal to that of the angelic spirits, in order to unite in himself the intelligible and the sensible worlds. Finally, there remaining nothing outside himself but God alone, man had only to give himself to Him in a complete abandonment of love, and thus return to Him the whole created universe gathered together in his own being. God Himself would then in His turn have given Himself to man, who would then, in virtue of this gift, that is to say by grace, possess all that God possesses by nature. The deification of man and of the whole created universe would thus be accomplished. Since this task which was given to man was not fulfilled by Adam, it is in the work of Christ, the second Adam, that we can see what it was meant to be." (Lossky, 109-110)

8. "The true purpose of creation is, therefore, not contemplation of divine essence (which is inaccessible), but communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world." (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, p.133)

9. "But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical." (Gregory Palamas, TheTriads, p. 97)

10. "In God the order of nature precedes the order of volitive action, and is both superior to and independent of it [this means that God and His Will are not One]. Because God is what He is, He is not determined or in any way limited in what He does, not even by His own essence and being." (Meyendorff, pl 130)

11. "Now this union with the illuminations [which is the divinizing experience of the "saints"] – what is it, if not a vision? The rays are consequently visible to those worthy, although the divine essence is absolutely invisible, and these unoriginate and endless rays are a light without beginning or end. There exists, then an eternal light, other than the divine essence; it is not itself an essence – far from it! – but an energy of the Superessential." (Gregory Palamas p. 100)

12. "This is the perfecting of prayer, and is called spiritual prayer or contemplation….It is the ‘spiritual silence’ which is above prayer. It is that state which belongs to the kingdom of Heaven. ‘As the saints in the world to come no longer pray, their minds having been engulfed in the Divine Spirit, but dwell in ecstasy in that excellent glory; so the mind, when it has been made worthy of perceiving the blessedness of the age to come, will forget itself and all that is here, and will no longer be moved by the thought of anything.’" (Lossky, 208)

13. "This tradition remains common to the East and to the West as far as the Church witnesses with power to those truths which are connected with the Incarnation. But those dogmas which are, so to speak, more inward, more mysterious, those which relate to Pentecost, the doctrines about the Holy Spirit, about grace, about the Church, are no longer common to the Church of Rome and to the Eastern Churches. Two separate traditions are opposed one to another." (Lossky, 237)

14. "But these things are not to be disclosed to the uninitiated, by whom I mean those attached to the objects of human thought, and who believe there is no superessential [in Orthodox theology this term is used to convey the belief that God is "above" essence] Reality beyond, and who imagine that by their own understanding they know Him who has made Darkness His secret place. And if the principles of the divine Mysteries are beyond the understanding of these, what is to be said of others still more incapable thereof, who describe the transcendental First Cause of all by characteristics drawn from the lowest order of beings, while they deny that He is any way above the images which they fashion after various designs; whereas they should affirm that, while He possesses all the positive attributes of the universe (being the Universal Cause) yet, in a more strict sense, he does not possess them, since He transcends them all; wherefore there is no contradiction between the affirmations and the negations, inasmuch as He infinitely precedes all conceptions of deprivation, being beyond all positive and negative distinctions….He is super-essentially exalted above created things, and reveals Himself in His naked Truth to those alone who pass beyond all that is pure or impure, and ascend above the topmost altitudes of holy things, and who, leaving behind them all divine light and sound and heavenly utterances, plunge into the Darkness where truly dwells, as the Oracles declare, that ONE who is beyond all." (Dionysisus the Areopagite, Mystical Theology)

In the ensuing analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, the numbers in parenthesis will refer to the quotations given above.


The name given by Eastern Orthodoxy to their theological approach to God, and also to the process by which man is "deified" is "apophatism."
The "apophatic way," as taught by Eastern Orthodoxy, is rooted in a conception of God which makes of Him an Absolute Who is beyond everything the human mind can attribute to His nature. He is, in fact, beyond essence, nature, and being (9,10,11,14).

Anyone who is familiar with the monism of the Absolute in philosophical Hinduism will be familiar with such a concept. It is rooted in the belief that the human mind can predicate nothing of God. If we wish to call God such things as Good, Truth, Love, Being, Essence, Existence, One, Eternal, Immutable, Just, Merciful, we may do so only with the proviso that these "names apply only to the "energies" of God, and not to His "Superessential" Godhead, which always must be seen as "beyond" any naming, essence, or even being.

The human mind can never, even with the assistance of God’s grace, know anything positive about God’s ultimate being and essence. (Interestingly enough, the Eastern theologian, while denying being and essence to the ultimate nature of God, are still forced into using these terms).


Our ultimate union with God is therefore not a matter of "seeing Him as He is", but rather the fruit of a negative process of growth and evolution by which we are liberated from all limitations (both of passions and mind) and become united in contemplative union with God’s "energies" or "rays" which are already present in creation (we will be exploring Eastern Orthodoxy’s distinction between God and His "energies" in a moment).
This union can take place in this life and is called, among other things, "contemplation" (5,7,8,11,12,14). It is also called "deification", and this deification culminates in that state of union whereby God gives himself to man "who would then, in virtue of this gift, that is to say by grace, possess all that God possesses by nature (7)." (This would indeed seem to be self-contradictory since, as we have seen, Eastern Theology believes God is beyond nature, essences, and even being).

However, in considering the real content of what Eastern theology considers "deification", we must take into account two things.

Eastern understanding of nature and grace

First, in the words of Vladimir Lossky, "The Eastern tradition knows nothing of ‘pure nature’ to which grace is added as a supernatural gift. For this tradition, there is no natural or ‘normal’ state, since grace is implied in the act of creation itself (2)."
Deification in this tradition must then consist of a union with the "energies" of God which are in man and in all creation from the beginning. This is simply a variant of Pantheism, and involves a profound violation of the Catholic ontological distinction between God and His creation. John Meyendorf writes:

This concept of salvation is itself based upon an understanding of the human being which views the natural [this is Meyendorf’s own emphasis] state of man as composed of three elements: body, soul, and Holy Spirit….The Spirit is not seen here as a ‘supernatural’ grace – added to an otherwise ‘natural,’ created humanity – but as a function of humanity itself in its dynamic relationship to God, to itself, and to the world. (Meyendorf, Catholicity and the Church, p.21)

In other words, according to the Eastern tradition, the Divine is ontologically part of creation from the beginning. This involves a profound violation of creation ex nihilio ( creation from nothing). If the Spirit (the Holy Spirit) is "a function of humanity itself" from the beginning, and if, as Gregory Palamas say, "the Spirit fills all things according to essence", then creation is not "out of nothing" because it contains God in its original essence.

Further, in viewing the human being in his "natural" state as a "dynamic," evolutionary process in which the Holy Spirit seeks to rend the veil of all human limitation (5), Eastern theology also denies the substantial "nature" of the human person. There is no "grace added to nature" – both because grace and the Holy spirit are present as the Spirit of man from the beginning (2,5), and also because there is no such thing as human substantial nature to begin with. The whole concept of "nature" is to be seen as abstract, limiting, and stultifying to the process of man’s "deification."

Eastern understanding of God

Secondly, the "nature" of God which man is alleged to possess in this supposed state of deification cannot be what Eastern Orthodoxy considers the absolutely transcendent and ineffable God Himself, who is beyond all nature, essence, and being. This "nature" can only be the "energies" of God which are in no way identifiable with the "God Who is."
We may see, therefore, that in kindred cause with reductive analytical science, that Eastern theology is at war with the whole concept of substantial being itself, whether it be Supreme Being or created being.

To realize how profoundly contrary all this is to Catholic theology and spirituality, it is very beneficial to consult St. Thomas. St. Thomas is explicit in his affirmation concerning the "knowability" of God:

It is written: We shall see Him as He is (1 John, ii. 2)

I answer that, Since everything is knowable according as it is actual, God, Who is pure act without any admixture of potentiality, is in Himself supremely knowable….Hence, it must be absolutely granted that the blessed see the essence of God (I, Q.12, A.1).

Profound difference

There is, of course, a certain way in which negative assertions are also integral to Catholic theology. St. Thomas goes on to say that because the Saints see the essence of God is not at all the same as meaning that they totally comprehend Him. God is infinite, man finite. We may very well see God face to face, be able to see His Divine Essence, receive the Gift of knowing Him as He is, and yet be infinitely far away from comprehending the fullness of God.
Yet this does not in any way justify the notion that God is unknowable in His essence. Rather than being infinitely unknowable, God is in fact infinitely knowable. And herein lies the profound difference between Catholic and Eastern theology and spirituality.

Catholic understanding of God

This profound difference is reflected in the way in which we understand the Names that are attributed to God.
When Catholic theology understands the concept of man being created in the image of God it also understands that this concept means that man’s nature is created in the image of God’s Nature. As such, the supreme values of our life are directly reflective of Who God is. When, therefore, we say that God is supreme Being, or that He is infinite Intelligence and Love, that He is Good, Eternal, Immutable, etc. we give names to God that are His Essence, Substance, or Nature. These Names while being severely affected by our finite limitations, are nevertheless positive affirmations of Who God is. In speaking of these names, St. Thomas writes:

Therefore the aforesaid names signify the divine substance, but in an imperfect manner, even as creatures represent it imperfectly. So when we say, God is good, the meaning is not, God is the cause of goodness, or, God is not evil; but the meaning is, Whatever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God, and in a more excellent and higher way (I, Q.13, A.2)."

Nor does the fact that we attribute all these various names or attributes to God violate His Divine Simplicity or the Absolute Unity of His Being. St. Thomas further writes:

The perfect unity [and Simplicity] of God requires that what are manifold and divided in others should exist in Him simply and unitively. Thus it comes about that He is one in reality, and yet multiple in idea, because our intellect apprehends Him in a manifold manner, as things represent Him (I, Q.13, A. 4)."

While there is, therefore, a total discontinuity between man and God according to being (according to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo), there is at the same time a profound continuity in the fact that man is truly created in the image of God, and that man’s perfections, and the perfections of all created things, are created "likenesses" to the very Essence of Who God is.

Catholic understanding of nature and grace

The process of "deification" in the Catholic tradition does not therefore require a negation of all that is human nature. Rather it requires the perfecting of human nature through a gratuitous Gift of God superadded to human nature.
It necessitates, in the first place, the free cooperation of man with God’s grace. Secondly, however, it requires the Gift of a special grace of God, the "Light of Glory", which lifts man’s intellect and will above its created nature in order for him to be able to see the very Essence of God. St Thomas again writes:

"It is written: In thy light we shall see light (Ps. 35:10).

I answer that, Everything which is raised up to what exceeds its nature, must be prepared by some disposition above its nature; as for example, if air is to receive the form of fire, it must be prepared by some disposition for such a form. But when any created intellect sees the essence of God, the essence of God itself becomes the intelligible form of the intellect. Hence it is necessary that some supernatural disposition should be added to the intellect in order that it may be raised up to such a great and sublime height. Now since the natural power of the created intellect does not avail to enable it to see the essence of God, as was shown in the preceding article, it is necessary that the power of understanding should be added by divine grace. Now this increase of the intellectual powers is called the illumination of the intellect, as we also call the intelligible object itself by the name of light of illumination. And this is the light spoken of in the Apocalypse (21:23). The Glory of the Lord hath enlightened it – viz., the society of the blessed who see God. By this light, the blessed are made deiform – that is, like to God, according to the saying: When He shall appear we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is (1 John 2:2)

"Energies" of God are not His "essence"

Eastern spirituality and theology reverses all this. On the one hand, in accord with its apophatic theology, it denies that the Names of God are applicable to His essence. In fact, it denies essence to God.

On the other hand, it destroys the absolute distinction between the Being of God and the being of created things by placing the eternal energies of God within creation itself (5). This amounts to a denial of creation ex nihilo through a not-so-subtle affirmation of Pantheism. In order to now be able to fully see the truth of this statement, we shall quote again a portion of quote # 5:

"The essence of God is everywhere, for, as it is said, ‘the Spirit fills all things’, according to essence. Deification is likewise everywhere, ineffably present in the essence and inseparable from it, as its natural power."

The reader will notice that Eastern theologians are very willing to use a term such as "essence" when speaking of the "energies" of God. Usually, they are only willing to apply such concepts as "essence", "nature", and "being" to created things or to the "energies" of God, simply because they believe in the apophatic conception that God is beyond all such concepts or assertions, including any assertions concerning God’s own "energies." There is, however, one instance in which they are willing to violate this rule – this occurs when they wish to distinguish between the "energies" of God and His "essence." Thus, Gregory Palamas writes:

But He Who is beyond every name is not identical with what He is named; for the essence and energy of God are not identical. (Gregory Palamas, TheTriads, p. 97

Simply because God is viewed as being completely transcendent in the sense that no Name or operation can be predicated of Who He is, then Eastern Orthodoxy found it necessary to make an ontological distinction in God between Who He is and What He does.

"Who God is" is therefore viewed as totally distinct from "What God does." The first is God Himself. The second are the "energies" of God, which are not to be identified with His essence (again we must emphasize that the Eastern Orthodox use of the word "essence" here contradicts its own assertion that God is not an essence).

Radical divide

These energies are, as I have said, not identical with God, and yet are to be seen as eternal, and inhering in God. Thus, in order to deify creation, Eastern Orthodoxy is forced to violate not only the Catholic doctrine creation ex nihilio, but also the truth concerning the unity and simplicity of God.
It is also important to understand that these energies are not just limited to the actual work of God (such as creation), but also to all the Names of God. In other words, God’s Will is not identical with His essence. Nor are His supreme Intelligence, Goodness, Immutability, Eternity, Beauty, or Unity identical with God.

There is no question but that the "apophatic way" of Eastern Orthodoxy destroys the simplicity of God. In order to preserve and protect their sterile conception of an absolutely transcendent and unknowable God, the Eastern theologians have been forced to posit a radical divide between God’s essence and His operations.

Variant of Pantheism

For St. Thomas, this is, of course, completely unnecessary. God is defined as pure Act. All the Names and Acts we rightly posit of God may be multiple in our conception of them, but are in reality One in His Substance. It is this fundamental fact of the Nature of God which Orthodoxy has entirely missed.
But there is more. Having denied a knowable Nature in God, and the real possibility of man achieving union with God through the Beatific Vision of God’s Essence, Eastern Orthodoxy is left, in a sense, with God’s crumbs under the table.

It is left, in other words, with the possibility of union with God’s "energies" or "rays." And since these rays or energies are defined by Eastern theology to be in the world, then the process of deification becomes identified with a "communion in divine energy, transfiguration, and transparency to divine action in the world (Meyendorff, p.133)." This "divine action in the world" is seen to be the action of the Holy Spirit. Some Orthodox writers, including Soloviev, have in fact called the Holy Spirit the "Soul of the World." This is simply a variant of Pantheism.

Aversion to the Incarnation

In our analysis of Eastern Orthodoxy we have now come full circle. We should now be able to understand why Vladimir Lossky could say that "The cult of the humanity of Christ is foreign to Eastern tradition", and that "The way of the imitation of Christ is never practiced in the spiritual life of the Eastern Church."
We should also be able to understand why both Lossky and Meyendorff can conclude that the question concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit is the absolutely central point of contention between Roman and Eastern Christianity. If, as believed by Eastern Orthodoxy, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, and not also from Christ, then our Faith is not truly Incarnational because the road back to God does not lie through the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ:

Having therefore, brethren a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. (Heb 10:19-20)
I believe that there is a causal relationship between the division established in Orthodox theology between God’s essence and His "energies" and, on the other hand, the denial of the "Filioque."

In Catholic mystical theology, the way to the "Heart" of God, and the Vision of His Essence, lies through Christ. Since Eastern theology denies that man can ever see or know the Essence of God, then his aspirations must stop at union with the divine "energies." These "energies" would then most appropriately be the operations of a Spirit Who is the Soul of the World, but not sent by Christ. Any incorporation into the Mystical Body of Christ would then never be accompanied by a true union with, and vision of, the Divine Person of Christ, anymore than it would ever be fulfilled in the direct vision of the Blessed Trinity.

Aversion to Transubstantiation and Original Sin

The reader should not be surprised that since it views God as being beyond any category of substance, essence, being or nature, Eastern theology also has no time for the doctrine of Transubstantiation. John Meyendorff writes:
"The Byzantines did not see the substance of the bread somehow changed in the Eucharistic mystery into another substance – the Body of Christ – but viewed this bread as the ‘type’ of humanity: our humanity changed into the transfigured humanity of Christ (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, P. 205)."

This aversion to the idea of substance or nature as applied to either God or man also affects Eastern Orthodoxy’s view of Original Sin. The Catholic view is aptly expressed in the New Catechism of the Catholic Church (the italics in the following passage are part of the actual text):

By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice (#404)."

The Eastern position, on the other hand, is succinctly stated by Meyendorff:

"But sin is always a personal act, never an act of nature. Patriarch Photius [author of the Photian schism in the latter part of the ninth century] even goes so far as to say, referring to Western doctrines, that the belief in a ‘sin of nature’ is a heresy (p. 103)."

"There is indeed a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine traditions in identifying the inheritance of the Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality (Meyendorff, p. 145)." [In a subsequent passage the author specifies that "mortality" is the "means through which the fundamentally unjust ‘tyranny’ of the devil is exercised over mankind after Adam’s sin" – p. 146].

It is not at all surprising, therefore, that the Orthodox view of baptism does not accord with the Catholic:

"Thus, the Church baptizes children, not to ‘remit’ their yet non-existent sins, but in order to give them a new and immortal life, which their mortal parents are unable to communicate to them. The opposition between the two Adams [the First Adam and Christ] is seen in terms not of guilt and forgiveness but of death and life (Meyendorff, p. 146).

Aversion to St. Thomas

All of the errors which I have discussed concerning Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality (and there is much more that could be said) are the fruit of violating those truths which are contained in the Catholic doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

There is no true understanding of this doctrine without at the same time understanding the real existence of Being, Essence, and Nature in both God and man.

Creation ex nihilo is necessarily founded upon an absolutely real ontological distinction between the being of God and the being of His creation The metaphysics of St. Thomas, which has been embraced by the Catholic Church as "her own" (Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem) is absolutely necessary to this distinction and this doctrine. In placing itself in direct opposition to this metaphysics, Eastern theology not only compromises the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, but also all other doctrines of the Church which are either directly or indirectly dependent on such ontological concepts of being and substance, including as we have seen: Original Sin, Baptism, and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Union by conversion alone

It would, of course, be very easy to also expand this list to include the necessity of the Papacy as the foundation of a hierarchical Church. As the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdiaev said: "For the East the infallibility of the pope and the outward unity of the ecclesiastical organization were superfluous…."
After all, if God does not have an identifiable Nature, why should His Church? We should be able to see from this how pathetic are any attempts to achieve unity with the Eastern Orthodox in any way that falls short of their full conversion to the Catholic Church.

Fellow-travellers against Catholic truth

Finally, we should also realize that whenever Thomistic philosophy is undermined in our own tradition, inevitably some form of Neoplatonism or Eastern theology and spirituality is there to take its place.
Therefore, since the primary intellectual force involved in the war against Thomistic metaphysics has been reductive analytical science, it should come as no surprise that over the centuries reductive atomic science and Eastern theology (including both Neoplatonic and Orthodox) have been fellow-travellers in their war against Catholic truth.

Eastern Orthodoxy and the New Theology

I would hope that all through the preceding analysis of Eastern Orthodox theology and spirituality, the reader would have experienced a great deal of resonance with my previous articles on the "New Theology." [CO, March, April, May 2006]
When Lossky, for instance, denies the Catholic notion of grace added to nature, our minds should go back to de Lubac.

When Gregory Palamas tells us that God’s essence and energy are not identical, this heresy should resonate with the heretical propositions of Rosmini. [CO, Feb. 2004]

The totally foreign attempts by Eastern authors to explain Original Sin and the Real Presence by eliminating all Thomistic concepts of cosmology and ontology should bring us face to face with the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger. [CO, Oct., Nov. 2003]

And the vehemence with which Eastern Theology combats and persecutes any form of Thomistic Metaphysics should bring before our minds the image of a whole host of 20th century philosophers and theologians, at the centre of which stands the whole Communio movement.

High doctrinal stakes

The reader is probably aware of the great emphasis which John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have placed upon establishing unity with the Orthodox Church. We tend to equate such ecumenism with what has been traditionally considered to be the sin of indifferentism. But I believe that we are here dealing with something much more than indifferentism. Rather, we are faced with a passion for unity founded upon a hunger for a certain kind of theology and spirituality (Palamite spirituality) which both the New Theology and Eastern theology make possible and acceptable.
Meanwhile, what is at stake in this contest is virtually every doctrine of the Catholic Faith: of Who God is, and also who man is; of what constitutes nature and grace, sin and redemption; and, most fundamentally, of the distinction between God and man that is enshrined in the Catholic doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

Theology of Antichrist

In conclusion, I would like to quote a passage from George Williams’ book entitled The Mind of John Paul II, in which he gives his synopsis of the theological approach promoted by the proponents of a "New Theology" (often called "Neo-Thomism") in their promotion of the ecumenical agenda. I will leave the reader to make his own comparisons between what is quoted below, and the subject which we have discussed above:
Always carefully enunciated, a fundamental concern of the New Theology was to accommodate a general Catholic acceptance of human evolution to received theology at the crucial point of Adam created in the image of God and of Christ as the Second Adam and Redeemer of men. By speaking of "the unity of mankind" alongside the received oneness of the race in the First Adam, and in beholding the eternal son of God incarnate as the second Adam and as having from eternity with God the Father sought the redemption of all humanity and indeed of all creation with "the new man" even before the incarnation and the rise of the Church as his salvific prolongation in time through the Holy Spirit, they had come to understand Christ as continuously active in the minds and hearts of all peoples and persons under Providence. Going back behind the sharp distinction drawn by Thomas between nature and grace and between reason and faith, the proponents of the New Theology in different ways found sanction in St. Augustine and the Greek Fathers and in Scripture itself for their disposition to see the whole of life sacramentally (hence their interest in lay participation in the Liturgical Movement) and to see nature suffused with sustaining grace and the Church itself as the Sacrament and Sign of the fundamental unity of every man in body, mind, and soul, of all mankind in a common global history. They were opposed to secularism but they were also opposed to a displacement of the supernatural spatially above and beyond the natural ( p. 99).

It is out of such a Pantheistic theology that the Antichrist will surely rise.

David Gordon's lectures on the history of political philosophy

The History of Political Philosophy: From Plato to Rothbard (A Steve Berger-Kenneth Garschina Seminar)

No idea about the quality of the lectures.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Smithy

a blog devoted to Duns Scotus

(via Scott Carson)

The principle of subsidiarity

How is the principle of subsidiarity formulated in the CCC and the Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine?

From the Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching:
185. Subsidiarity is among the most constant and characteristic directives of the Church's social doctrine and has been present since the first great social encyclical. It is impossible to promote the dignity of the person without showing concern for the family, groups, associations, local territorial realities; in short, for that aggregate of economic, social, cultural, sports-oriented, recreational, professional and political expressions to which people spontaneously give life and which make it possible for them to achieve effective social growth. This is the realm of civil society, understood as the sum of the relationships between individuals and intermediate social groupings, which are the first relationships to arise and which come about thanks to "the creative subjectivity of the citizen." This network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons, making possible the recognition of higher forms of social activity.

186. The necessity of defending and promoting the original expressions of social life is emphasized by the Church in the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, in which the principle of subsidiarity is indicated as a most important principle of "social philosophy." "Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them."

On the basis of this principle, all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help ("subsidium") -- therefore, of support, promotion, development -- with respect to lower-order societies. In this way, intermediate social entities can properly perform the functions that fall to them without being required to hand them over unjustly to other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and other social entities of a higher level, by which they would end up being absorbed and substituted, in the end seeing themselves denied their dignity and essential place.

Subsidiarity, understood in the positive sense as economic, institutional or juridical assistance offered to lesser social entities, entails a corresponding series of negative implications that require the State to refrain from anything that would de facto restrict the existential space of the smaller essential cells of society. Their initiative, freedom, and responsibility must not be supplanted.
I believe that it would be a mistake to read this as a libertarian manifesto. The good of a nation state is not different in kind from that of a polis. It is however, more difficult to obtain, because of the size involved. One needs to remember the distinction between incomplete/imperfect communities and complete/perfect communities. The political community is a perfect community, while the family and other intermediate societies or associations are not.

A polis is complete because it can provide all that is needed for the good life. The principle of subsidiarity protects the lesser societies and even the individual from micromanagement by the government.

Still, I do not think the principle of subsidiarity as it is presented within recent Church teaching should be understood as a positive endorsement or promotion of the modern nation-state. It may be an acceptance and affirmation that such political organizations exist, without an endorsement of their existence as being an ideal. Aristotle's criticism of communities that are too big are still valid today, especially for those nation-states that claim to be democracies. The principle of subsidiarity rather is a prudential response to them and their overreaching. The Church's teaching on subsidiarity can be seen as an attempt to limit the problems associated with nation-states that are too big for their own good and centralization, and is another example of the Church's realism.

Even in a properly sized polis the principle of subsidiarity would apply--there is a place for individuals to exercise some prudence in determining what to do for themselves, their families, and for the polis. In fact, the principle of subsidiarity is more a normative feature of the polis than of large nation-states. Why?

Because even in such a community there are multiple levels of organization; while the lower are wholly subordinate to the higher as to the end, nonetheless the lower have ends/goods proper to them.

The case can be made that for some smaller political "sub-units" (the province, state, etc.), that they are actually perfect communities. I would argue that it is not intrinsically unjust for such subunits to secede; only considerations of prudence, such as interdependency for essentials (food, etc.) should prevent such a unit from seceding. (Such communities which are contemplating secession should do what they can to mitigate such interdependency and to build up self-sufficiency before declaring political independence.)

(What work is proper to a certain level of organization?
An extreme interpretation--affirm that there is autonomy? Potential basis for independence?)

Note: the compendium makes a distinction between the political community and civil society:

417 The political community is established to be of service to civil society, from which it originates. The Church has contributed to the distinction between the political community and civil society above all by her vision of man, understood as an autonomous, relational being who is open to the Transcendent. This vision is challenged by political ideologies of an individualistic nature and those of a totalitarian character, which tend to absorb civil society into the sphere of the State. The Church's commitment on behalf of social pluralism aims at bringing about a more fitting attainment of the common good and democracy itself, according to the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and justice.

Civil society is the sum of relationships and resources, cultural and associative, that are relatively independent from the political sphere and the economic sector. "The purpose of civil society is universal, since it concerns the common good, to which each and eveyr citizen has a right in due proportion." This is marked by a planning capacity that aims at fostering a freer and more just social life, in which the various groups of citizens can form associations, working to develop and express their preferences, in order to meet their fundamental needs and defend their legitimate interests.

418. The political community and civil society, although mutually connected and interdependent, are not equal in the hierarchy of ends...
What is the distinction being made here? I do not think "political community" is referring here to the state (or to the government). Rather, it is between men understood as being gathered together for the sake of a political end, and men understood as being gathered together for an end that is even higher than that. If I am correct here, then perhaps the language is a bit sloppy and needs to be clarified. (It may be similar to the distinction that is attributed to Augustine, between temporal society and a supernatural society, the City of Man and the City of God--this distinction is not the distinction that Augustine himself makes, though.)

The political community is not reducible to the government and institutions associated with governing, even if the government has the role of guiding the whole community to its proper end. (see Maritain and Simon on what they have to say about the "state").

Economic interdependence is not a sufficient reason to create an even bigger political community with a centralized government, destroying sovereignty -- rather it should give impetus for relocalization and a move towards self-sufficiency. If we know that we are dependent upon other communities for the necessities of bodily life, we should take that as a warning sign, rather than an indication that we have attained some sort of lofty humane ideal.

Defensive alliances too can take care of the need for a common defense. There is no reason that a single government is necessary for a collection of states, even though by themselves, they are lacking in the means to defend themselves from a larger state.

(Is the Federal Government a necessary instrument for determining interstate commerce, movement of peoples between states? That is, the authority it has to make decisions on such matters is originally derived from the states themselves? Or does it actually have a higher authority by its very nature than that of the states?)

Historically, the trend towards consolidation is a result of sin more than "reason." (Thanks to Dr. Clyde Wilson for describing this trend as "consolidationist.") Those who attempt to justify an international community, with "one world government" point to the ills that such a government can solve, but at what price? (Advocates include certain prominent Catholic intellectuals, unfortunately.)

The size of the modern nation-states thus presents an obstacle to the good life in at least two ways (and is therefore fundamentally disordered).

1. When it has been coupled to an almost unlimited right to acquire and dispose of property, the self-sufficiency of smaller political units becomes threatened and eventually destroyed as corporations are able to expand their reach and even most food is produced by corporations. With their long chains of supply, the production of food is eliminated, for the most part, from most political units and the burden for feeding their citizens is transferred onto other political units (to the detriment of local ecologies).

2. Even in a properly ordered nation-state which is able to maintain some sort of check on the corporations and the rich, one must ask the question of how much power the new central government can have, without destroying the political life of the smaller units, or violating their authority?

Wwhat sort of justice is involved here, in these considerations about size and sovereignty and subsidiarity?

Are powers delegated to the government by the people by agreement or consent? Is transference of authority possible, and to what extent?

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church on
The Organization of the International Community

441. Concern for an ordered and peaceful coexistence within the human family prompts the Magisterium to insist on the need to establish 'some universal public authority acknowledged as such by all and endowed with effective power to safeguard, on the behalf of all, security, regard for justice, and respect for rights.' In the course of history, despite the changing viewpoints of the different eras, there has been a constant awareness of the need for a similar authority to respond to worldwide problems arising from the quest for the common good: it is essential that such an authority arise from mutual agreement and that it not be imposed, nor must it be understood as a kind of 'global super-State'.

Political authority exercised at the level of the international community must be regulated by law, ordered to the common good and respectful of the principle of subsidiarity. 'The public authority of the world community is not intended to limit the sphere of action of the public authority of the individual political community, much less to take its place. On the contrary, its purpose is to create, on a world basis, an environment in which the public authorities of each political community, their citizens and intermediate associations can carry out their tasks, fulfil their duties and exercise their rights with greater security'.

442. Because of the globalization of problems, it has become more urgent than ever to stimulate international political action that pursues the goals of peace and development through the adoption of coordinated measures. The Magisterium recognizes that the interdependence among men and nations takes on a moral dimension and is the determining factor for relations in the modern world in the economic, cultural, political and religious sense. In this context it is hoped that there will be a revision of international organizations, a process that 'presupposes the overcoming of political rivalries and the renouncing of all desire to manipulate these organizations, which exist solely for the common good', for the purpose of achieving 'a greater degree of international ordering'.

In particular, intergovernmental structures must effectively perform their functions of control and guidance in the economic field because the attainment of the common good has become a goal that is beyond the reach of individual States, even if they are dominant in terms of power, wealth, and political strength. International agencies must moreover guarantee the attainment of that equality which is the basis of the right of all to participate in the process of full development, duly respecting legitimate differences.
Is the solution worse than the problem? How can the public authority of the world community be effective if it does not in some way override the authority of sovereign nation-states? The Compendium and the Magisterium do not appear to be talking about the continued use of diplomacy and binding treaties, but of something else entirely. Catholic liberals also endorse the nation of a supranational authority as being necessary for the common good of all mankind. I find it rather dubious--how can be subsidiarity be preserved, when the size and organization of current nation-states themselves are already opposed to reason?

Mirror of Justice: Mirror of Justice: Subsidiarity Within the Church, The Ambiguities of Subsidiarity
What is the link between practical reason and a theory of authority; what is reasonable versus what is legally binding?

Clyde Wilson on Ft. Sumter

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dan Toma

faculty page

Mentioned at the conference as being someone who would be interested in its mission.

Impetus and inertia

Dr. McLaughlin gave a paper for the ISN conference on inertia, and argued for the reality of inertia by appealing to gravity fields. It wasn't clear how much I would have disagreed, except for the proposition that something in motion tends to stay in motion, and would continue to do so, unless acted upon by something else. He did say that the modern conception of the universe was more of an open-system, and that local motion involved a relationship between the object moving and the other object to which it was moving (or to which it was "attracted", my words, not his). I brought up the pure Aristotelian solution of a relation between a thing and its proper "place"--hence, in the Aristotelian conception, according to Dr. McLaughlin, where a thing was going was more bound up with what it was, or formally.

I still think that aspect of inertia (a tendency to stay at rest seems to be separate, since I think it is linked to natural motion and place) contradicts the conception of change as an imperfection, and the terminus of that change is the perfection, or the actualization to which it is ordered.

locomotion = change of place

Unless one wants to see locomotion as a separate category of being unto itself, which Dr. McLaughlin suggested though I wasn't sure how fully he endorsed this position.

The line of thought I would like to work out, instead of relying on inertia or impetus:
locomotion involves displacement; and an object moved must move other objects in order to take their place; some things are more susceptible to being displaced while others are not

immobility = resistance to being moved; and different things may have different tendencies to their proper places?

The question is whether this can explain "loss of energy" or continued motion...

We also talked about whether the universe is expanding or not, and if it is expanding, whether it would be for a purpose. He did think that an endless expansion would seem to be meaningless, pointless. He also recalled that many of the difficulties that Halton Arp had brought up regarding redshift had beeen resolved. It is not clear to me still that redshift is adequate evidence for the expansion of the universe.

And of course, there is the question of void/space and whether it is real or merely a mental construct. (Or more precisely, a mathematical abstraction.)