Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The Writings of Charles De Koninck
Volume One
Charles De Koninck
Edited and translated by Ralph McInerny

The Writings of Charles De Koninck, Volume 1, introduces a projected three-volume series that presents the first English edition of the collected works of the Catholic Thomist philosopher Charles De Koninck (1906–1965). Ralph McInerny is the project editor and has prepared the excellent translations.

The first volume contains writings ranging from De Koninck’s 1934 dissertation at the University of Louvain on the philosophy of Sir Arthur Eddington, to two remarkable early essays on indeterminism and the unpublished book “The Cosmos.” The short essay “Are the Experimental Sciences Distinct from the Philosophy of Nature?” is also included and demonstrates for the first time De Koninck’s distinctive view on the relation between philosophy of nature and the experimental sciences. A comprehensive introductory essay by Leslie Armour outlines the structure and themes of De Koninck’s philosophy. The volume begins with a biographical essay by De Koninck’s son, Thomas.

Charles De Koninck was on the faculty of Québec’s Université de Laval and was Director of Laval’s philosophy faculty from 1939 to 1956. He determined the course of philosophy at Laval and in much of French Canada through his publications and his connections with the Roman Catholic Church. He lectured frequently in the United States, as well as in Latin America, Europe, and Canada.

“Charles De Koninck, perhaps because of his untimely death, is not as well known to English-speaking readers as Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, but his work belongs to that same world-class scholarship as his notable contemporaries. It is almost an understatement to say that his contribution to the philosophy of science remains timely. Readers are fortunate that his former student, Ralph McInerny, has seen fit to collect and to translate, where necessary, some of De Koninck’s most important work for this volume.” —Jude P. Dougherty, The Catholic University of America


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A problem with saying rights are "God-given"?

In connection with the Declaration of Independence. For the moment I am ignoring the rights themselves that are enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, and the question of whether they are subjective passive rights or subjective active rights or both.)

It isn't the case that these rights have been Divinely Revealed to us, not in the form of Christian Tradition at any rate. They must then be discoverable by human reason alone, but nonetheless connected to God in some way. That is, rights [may] have their origin in Divine Law, in the form of the Natural Law, if they can be said to be "God-given."

If rights correlate to duties, then we can say that "God-given" rights correspond to "God-given" duties incumbent upon the individual or the government. But what are these duties, and of which virtues are they precepts? It is not enough to say that they are in some way derived from human nature (like the Natural Law is derived in some way from human nature -- which can be a very questionable way to explain the Natural Law)--one must talk about what goods are involved.

If the precept that is involved is one of charity, love of God and neighbor, then how can one possibly legislate concerning God-given rights, when one cannot legislate charity, which requires grace and cannot be induced through human law? One the other hand, if the rights that are spoken of are connected to justice (and thus can be an object of human legislation), is it not a bit misleading to connect them directly with God? Do we need to have the virtue of charity in order to have the virtue of justice? Perfect justice, yes, but not imperfect justice.

It is true that both human nature and its goods are given by God. Man is made in the image of God, having a spiritual side that other animals lack. But as I have written before, this principle is insufficient to explain the foundation of rights as being in justice, rather than charity. One must show how they are derived from the precepts of particular justice and legal justice. Legal justice is especially important, since it is the virtue that directly pertains to the common good of a political community. In so far as rights can be derived from the precepts of justice, which are a part of the Natural Law (or an extension of it, in human law), then they can be said to be "God-given."

We must then ask, what conception of legal justice and the common good do we find in Jefferson? How about the Anglo-American political tradition in general? Does the Anglo-American political tradition accept a more traditional notion of the common good, or does it get it from the Enlightenment or liberalism? It does not matter so much if the Natural Law in itself is ignored or even denied in this tradition, so long as the precepts and the goods they involved can be reconciled with a proper understanding of the Natural Law.

Human Rights (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Rights (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Jefferson on Politics & Government: Inalienable Rights
John Locke Foundation | John Locke: His American and Carolinian Legacy
Principle 3. Unalienable Rights From God
What is this? The Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction

Rebuilt 1-22
Princeton - News - Jurists demand end to impunity
Equipo Nizkor - The Princeton Principles on Universal Jurisdiction.
Google Books: Universal Jurisdiction in Modern International Law: Expansion of National Jurisdiction for Prosecuting Serious Crimes under International Law

The International Law of Responsibility for Economic Crimes: Holding State Officials Individually Liable for Acts of Fraudulent Enrichment
, by Ndiva Kofele-Kale
(Google Books)

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Orthodox on Remarriage

Some links:
De unione ecclesiarum: Mother’s Day reflections
Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Orthodox Church: Economia ...
I came upon this old post by Christopher Roach, Where Does the Mind End and the Soul Begin?, in which he questions the adequacy of Thomistic natural philosophy regarding the mind:

The more I study Thomistic philosophy considered in the light of modern psychology and neuroscience, the more troubled I am by the encroachment of science on the traditional idea of the soul. But these insights are real, and the more I understand about them, the more I find the traditional Thomistic and Aristotelian formulae inadequate. Under Aristotelian and Thomistic accounts of the soul dominant in the Catholic Church, the soul is the seat of reason and the intellect, as well as the animating principle of the entire unified person (including the body). The soul is evident and coextensive with the body in this account–it is its “formal cause,” from which any person or thing is by definition inseparable–but the soul is also deemed immaterial, permanent, and the reason we have the potential of eternal life.

Neuroscience has begun to demonstrate that a variety of matters traditionally thought to lay outside the realm of purely material explanation–will, decision-making, personality, moral reasoning, imagination–in fact have strong components in the brain itself, where specific areas “light up” when certain kinds of decisions are made or feelings are felt. Injuries to certain areas of the brain–like the frontal lobes–can yield irrational behavior traditionally thought of as immoral. Finally, the dramatic effects of psychopharmaceuticals in manipulating behavior suggest that we may really be much more determined materially than traditional Christian theology would suggest.

How would you respond to him? I would recommend Dr. Baars treatment of compulsive behavior as start, and perhaps the recent mult-ivolume work by Fr. Ripperger, F.S.S.P. on psychology (I will have to check and see if he deals with these sorts of phenomena, and the semblance of determinism.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dom Illtyd Trethowan

Downside Abbey profile

Awareness of God

He wrote some books I'd like to read, including Christ in the Liturgy, The Meaning of Existence, Mysticism and Theology: An Essay in Christian Metaphysics, and The Absolute and the Atonement.

Google Books: Certainty - Philosophical And Theological: Philosophical and ...
Philosophy and Theology in Monastery: The Thought of Dom Illtyd ...
Illtyd Trethowan, monk of Downside and Fergus Kerr

Hmm... Louis Lavelle, The Meaning of Holiness