Friday, May 08, 2009

Edward Feser, Act and potency and James Chastek, Descartes' greatest revolution

Edit. Mr. Chastek responds:

Logic is one of the hardest arts/sciences to learn. What logic has been reduced to (formalism and validity, and intellectualism- remember that St. Thomas includes dialectics, rhetoric, and poetry in the modes of argument) is relatively easy to learn, but it is of dubious value and, as far as I can tell, is a tool of thought that excludes the possibilty of metaphysics from the beginning. Trying to make any statement about being or existence is either silly or impossible in all the formal systems I look at. The difference between the per se and the per accidens- which was the dividing line between philosophy and sophistry- is impossible to make or to take seriously where the fundamental unit of logic is the proposition, or where “classes” are seen as terms, or where the copula “is” is taken as having a single meaning.

A real logic course, studying all modes of argument and inference and the basis for them, etc. would probably take eight years. A basic program would probably take two years, and be followed by real life argumentative drills, like the medieval disputation (St. Thomas’s format of writing was developed by a real life public argument his “disputed questions” are developments of “transcipts” of public disputations) Given the rate of maturity of modern people, the needs we require our university system to meet, and the carpetbombing destruction that we commit upon our cognitive powers which makes contemplation very difficult (advertisements, pop music, movies, etc.) I’m not sure that the old modes of knowing logic could come back. The Medievals could never have had our medical or technological skill, and we can’t have their skill at metaphysics, logic, or disputation.

8 years! Did it take the medievals so long?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Is everything issued by the Vatican protected from error? One would think not. Is it a good attitude to have, to test everything against Tradition? Perhaps not. But they must be read in the light of Tradition, and if they seem to contradict Tradition, then one may (should?) raise questions for the sake of clarification. If it is true that not everything spoken or written by the pope is protected from error -- how much more so, if something is issued by the Roman Curia, without him scrutinizing it carefully? (Is it correct to say that the other bishops participate in the ordinary magisterium of the Church?)

The introduction from Johannes Althusius's Politica. Very Aristotelian. I need to read the rest of the work, especially his brand of "Federalism."



Politics is the art of associating (consociandi) men for the purpose of establishing, cultivating, and conserving social life among them. Whence it is called 'symbiotics'. The subject matter of politics is therefore association (consociatio), in which the symbiotes[1] pledge themselves each to the other, by explicit or tacit agreement, to mutual communication of whatever is useful and necessary for the harmonious exercise of social life.

The end of political 'symbiotic' man is holy, just, comfortable, and happy symbiosis,[2] a life lacking nothing either necessary or useful. Truly, in living this life no man is self-sufficient (autarkhV), or adequately endowed by nature. For when he is born, destitute of all help, naked and defenceless, as if having lost all his goods in a shipwreck, he is cast forth into the hardships of this life, not able by his own efforts to reach a maternal breast, nor to endure the harshness of his condition, nor to move himself from the place where he was cast forth. By his weeping and tears, he can initiate nothing except the most miserable life, a very certain sign of pressing and immediate misfortune.[3] Bereft of all counsel and aid, for which nevertheless he is then in greatest need, he is unable to help himself without the intervention and assistance of another. Even if he is well-nourished in body, he cannot show forth the light of reason. Nor in his adulthood is he able to obtain in and by himself those outward goods he needs for a comfortable and holy life, or to provide by his own energies all the requirements of life. The energies and industry of many men are expended to procure and supply these things. Therefore, as long as he remains isolated and does not mingle in the society of men, he cannot live at all comfortably and well while lacking so many necessary and useful things. As an aid and remedy for this state of affairs is offered him in symbiotic life, he is led, and almost impelled, to embrace it if he wants to live comfortably and well, even if he merely wants to live. Therein he is called upon to exercise and perform those virtues that are necessarily inactive except in this symbiosis. And so he begins to think by what means such symbiosis, from which he expects so many useful and enjoyable things, can be instituted, cultivated, and conserved. Concerning these matters we shall, by God's grace, speak in the following pages.

The word 'polity' has three principal connotations, as noted by Plutarch.[4] First it indicates the communication of right (jus)[5] in the commonwealth, which the Apostle calls citizenship.[6] Then, it signifies the manner of administering and regulating the commonwealth. Finally, it notes the form and constitution of the commonwealth by which all actions of the citizens are guided. Aristotle understands by polity this last meaning.[7]

The symbiotes are co-workers who, by the bond of an associating and uniting agreement, communicate among themselves whatever is appropriate for a comfortable life of soul and body. In other words, they are participants or partners in a common life.

This mutual communication,[8] or common enterprise, involves (1) things, (2) services, and (3) common rights (jura) by which the numerous and various needs of each and every symbiote are supplied, the self-sufficiency and mutuality of life and human society are achieved, and social life is established and conserved. Whence Cicero said, 'a political community is a gathering of men associated by a consensus as to the right and a sharing of what is useful.'[9] By this communication, advantages and responsibilities are assumed and maintained according to the nature of each particular association. (1) The communication of things (rei) is the bringing of useful and necessary goods to the social life by the symbiotes for the common advantage of the symbiotes individually and collectively. (2) The community of services (operae) is the contributing by the symbiotes of their labours and occupations for the sake of social life. (3) The communion of right (jus) is the process by which the symbiotes live and are ruled by just laws in a common life among themselves.

This communion of right is called the law of association and symbiosis (lex consociationis et symbiosis), or the symbiotic right (jus symbioticum)[10], and consists especially of self-sufficiency (autarkeia), good order (eunomia), and proper discipline (eutaxia). It includes two aspects, one functioning to direct and govern social life, the other prescribing a plan and manner for communicating things and services among the symbiotes.

The law of association in its first aspect is, in turn, either common or proper. Common law (lex communis), which is unchanging, indicates that in every association and type of symbiosis some persons are rulers (heads, overseers, prefects) or superiors, others are subjects or inferiors.

For all government is held together by imperium and subjection; in fact, the human race started straightway from the beginning with imperium and subjection. God made Adam master and monarch of his wife, and of all creatures born or descendant from her.[11] Therefore all power and government is said to be from God.[12] And nothing, as Cicero affirms, 'is as suited to the natural law (jus naturae)[13] and its requirements as imperium, without which neither household nor city nor nation nor the entire race of men can endure, nor the whole nature of things nor the world itself.'[14] If the consensus and will of rulers and subjects is the same, how happy and blessed is their life! 'Be subject to one another in fear of the Lord.'[15]

The ruler, prefect, or chief directs and governs the functions of the social life for the utility of the subjects individually and collectively. He exercises his authority by administering, planning, appointing, teaching, forbidding, requiring, and diverting. Whence the ruler is called rector, director, governor, curator, and administrator. Peter Gregory says that just as the soul presides over the other members in the human body, directs and governs them according to the proper functions assigned to each member, and foresees and procures whatever useful and necessary things are due each member — some useful privately and at the same time to all or to the entire body, others useful publicly for the conservation of social life — so also it is necessary in civil society that one person rule the rest for the welfare and utility of both individuals and the whole group.[16] Therefore, as Augustine says, to rule, to govern, to preside is nothing other than to serve and care for the utility of others, as parents rule their children, and a man his wife.[17] Or, as Thomas Aquinas says, 'to govern is to lead what is governed to its appropriate end'.[18] And so it pertains to the office of a governor not only to preserve something unharmed, but also to lead it to its end.[19] The rector and moderator so endeavours and proceeds that he leads the people by method, order, and discipline to that end in which all things are properly considered.

Government by superiors considers both the soul and the body of inferiors: the soul that it may be formed and imbued with doctrine and knowledge of things useful and necessary in human life, the body that it may be provided with nourishment and whatever else it needs. The first responsibility pertains to education, the second to sustentation and protection. Education centres on the instruction of inferiors in the true knowledge and worship of God, and in prescribed duties that ought to be performed towards one's neighbour; education also pertains to the correction of evil customs and errors. By the former, inferiors are imbued with a healthy knowledge of holy, just, and useful things; by the latter, they are held firm in duty. The responsibility for sustentation of the body is the process by which inferiors are carefully and diligently guided by superiors in matters pertaining to this life, and by which advantages for them are sought and disadvantages to them are avoided.[20] Protection is the legitimate defence against injuries and violence, the process by which the security of inferiors is maintained by superiors against any misfortune, violence, or injury directed against persons, reputations, or properties, and if already sustained, then avenged and compensated by lawful means.

The inferior, or subject, is one who carries on the business of the social life according to the will of his chief, or prefect, and arranges his life and actions submissively, provided his chief does not rule impiously or unjustly.

Proper laws (leges propriae)[21] are those enactments by which particular associations are ruled. They differ in each specie of association according as the nature of each requires.

The laws by which the communication of things, occupations, services, and actions is accomplished[22] are those that distribute and assign advantages and responsibilities among the symbiotes according to the nature and necessities of each association. At times the communication regulated by these laws is more extensive, at other times more restricted, according as the nature of each association is seen to require, or as may be agreed upon and established among the members.

On the basis of the foregoing considerations, I agree with Plutarch that a commonwealth is best and happiest when magistrates and citizens bring everything together for its welfare and advantage, and neither neglect nor despise anyone who can be helpful to the commonwealth.[23] The Apostle indeed advises us to seek and promote advantages for our neighbour, even to the point that we willingly give up our own right, by which we guard against misfortune, to obtain a great advantage for the other person.[24] For 'we have not been born to ourselves, inasmuch as our country claims a share in our birth, and our friends a share'.[25] The entire second table of the Decalogue pertains to this: 'you shall love your neighbour as yourself; 'whatever you wish to be done to you do also to others', and conversely, 'whatever you do not wish to be done to you do not do to others'; 'live honourably, injure no one, and render to each his due'.[26] Of what use to anyone is a hidden treasure, or a wise man who denies his services to the commonwealth?

In light of these several truths, the question of which life is to be preferred can be answered. Is it the contemplative or the active? Is it the theoretical and philosophical life or the practical and political life? Clearly, man by nature is a gregarious animal born for cultivating society with other men, not by nature living alone as wild beasts do, nor wandering about as birds. And so misanthropic and stateless hermits, living without fixed hearth or home, are useful neither to themselves nor to others, and separated from others are surely miserable. For how can they promote the advantage of their neighbour unless they find their way into human society?[27] How can they perform works of love when they live outside human fellowship? How can the church be built and the remaining duties of the first table of the Decalogue be performed? Whence Keckerman rightly says that politics leads the final end of all other disciplines to the highest point, and thus builds public from private happiness.[28]

For this reason God willed to train and teach men not by angels, but by men.[29] For the same reason God distributed his gifts unevenly among men. He did not give all things to one person, but some to one and some to others, so that you have need for my gifts, and I for yours. And so was born, as it were, the need for communicating necessary and useful things, which communication was not possible except in social and political life. God therefore willed that each need the service and aid of others in order that friendship would bind all together, and no one would consider another to be valueless. For if each did not need the aid of others, what would society be? What would reverence and order be? What would reason and humanity be? Everyone therefore needs the experience and contributions of others, and no one lives to himself alone.

Thus the needs of body and soul, and the seeds of virtue implanted in our souls, drew dispersed men together into one place. These causes have built villages, established cities, founded academic institutions, and united by civil unity and society a diversity of farmers, craftsmen, labourers, builders, soldiers, merchants, learned and unlearned men as so many members of the same body. Consequently, while some persons provided for others, and some received from others what they themselves lacked, all came together into a certain public body that we call the commonwealth, and by mutual aid devoted themselves to the general good and welfare of this body. And that this was the true origin first of villages, and then of larger commonwealths embracing wide areas, is taught by the most ancient records of history and confirmed by daily experience.[30]

From what has been said, we further conclude that the efficient cause of political association is consent and agreement among the communicating citizens. The formal cause is indeed the association brought about by contributing and communicating one with the other, in which political men institute, cultivate, maintain, and conserve the fellowship of human life through decisions about those things useful and necessary to this social life. The final cause of politics is the enjoyment of a comfortable, useful, and happy life, and of the common welfare — that we may live with piety and honour a peaceful and quiet life, that while true piety toward God and justice among the citizens may prevail at home, defence against the enemy from abroad may be maintained, and that concord and peace may always and everywhere thrive. The final cause is also the conservation of a human society that aims at a life in which you can worship God quietly and without error. The material of politics is the aggregate of precepts for communicating those things, services, and right that we bring together, each fairly and properly according to his ability, for symbiosis and the common advantage of the social life.

Moreover, Aristotle teaches that man by his nature is brought to this social life and mutual sharing.[30] For man is a more political animal than the bee or any other gregarious creature, and therefore by nature far more of a social animal than bees, ants, cranes, and such kind as feed and defend themselves in flocks. Since God himself endowed each being with a natural capacity to maintain itself and to resist whatever is contrary to it, so far as necessary to its welfare, and since dispersed men are not able to exercise this capacity, the instinct for living together and establishing civil society was given to them. Thus brought together and united, some men could aid others, many together could provide the necessities of life more easily than each alone, and all could live more safely from attack by wild beasts and enemies. It follows that no man is able to live well and happily to himself. Necessity therefore induces association; and the want of things necessary for life, which are acquired and communicated by the help and aid of one's associates, conserves it. For this reason it is evident that the commonwealth, or civil society, exists by nature, and that man is by nature a civil animal who strives eagerly for association. If, however, anyone wishes not to live in society, or needs nothing because of his own abundance, he is not considered a part of the commonwealth. He is therefore either a beast or a god, as Aristotle asserts.[31]

Furthermore the continuous governing and obedience in social life mentioned earlier are also agreeable to nature. For, as Peter Gregory adds, 'to rule, to direct, to be subjected, to be ruled, to be governed' are natural actions proceeding from the law of nations (jus gentium). 'Anything else would be considered no less monstrous than a body without a head, or a head without members of the body lawfully and suitably arranged, or even lacking them altogether. For it is especially useful to the individual member who cannot meet his own needs to be aided and upheld by another. The better member is said to be the one who meets his own needs, and is also able to help others. The greater the good he communicates with others, the better and more outstanding the member is. Then, this world has so great and so admirable a diversity [...][32] that unless it be held together by some order of subordination, and regulated by fixed laws of subjection and order, it would be destroyed in a short time by its own confusion. Nor can the diverse parts of it endure if each part seeks to perform its own function indifferently and heedlessly by itself. Power set over against equal power would bring all things to an end by continuous and irreconcilable discord, and would involve in its ruin things that do not belong to it, and that it does not know how to govern.'[33] As long as each part decides to live according to its own will, it may disregard the rule of discipline.[34] Finally, the conservation and duration of all things consist in this concord of order and subjection. 'Just as from lyres of diverse tones, if properly tuned, a sweet sound and pleasant harmony arise when low, medium, and high notes are united, so also the social unity of rulers and subjects in the state produces a sweet and pleasant harmony out of the rich, the poor, the workers, the farmers, and other kinds of persons. If agreement is thus achieved in society, a praiseworthy, happy, most durable, and almost divine concord is produced. [...] But if all were truly equal, and each wished to rule Others according to his own will, discord would easily arise, and by discord the dissolution of society. There would be no standard of virtue or merit, and it follows that equality itself would be the greatest inequality', as Peter Gregory rightly asserts.[35] Hence, when this harmony of rulers and subjects ceases, and there are no longer servants and leaders, such a situation is considered to be among the signs of divine wrath.

I add to this that it is inborn to the more powerful and prudent to dominate and rule weaker men, just as it is also considered inborn for inferiors to submit. So in man the soul dominates the body, and the mind the appetites. So the male, because the more outstanding, rules the female, who as the weaker obeys. Thus, the pride and high spirits of man should be restrained by sure reins of reason, law, and imperium less he throw himself precipitously into ruin.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pope's Address to Biblical Commission

Pope's Address to Biblical Commission

"God Really Speaks to Men and Women in a Human Way"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave April 23 to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission gathered in plenary assembly.

* * *

Your Eminence,
Your Excellency,
Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission,
I am pleased to welcome you once again at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly. I thank Cardinal William Levada for his greeting and for his concise presentation of the theme that has been the object of attentive reflection at your meeting.

You have gathered once again to study a very important topic: Inspiration and Truth of the Bible. This subject not only concerns theology, but the Church herself, because the life and mission of the Church are necessarily based on the word of God, which is the soul of theology and at the same time the inspiration of all Christian life. The topic you have addressed furthermore responds to a concern that I have very much at heart, because the interpretation of Sacred Scripture is of capital importance for the Christian faith and for the life of the Church.

As you have mentioned, Cardinal President, in his Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus," Pope Leo XIII offered Catholic exegetes new encouragement and new directives on the subject of inspiration, truth and biblical hermeneutics. Later, Pius XII in his Encyclical "Divino Afflante Spiritu," gathered and completed the preceding teaching and urged Catholic exegetes to find solutions in full agreement with the Church's doctrine, duly taking into account the positive contributions of the new methods of interpretation which had developed in the meantime.

The vigorous impetus that these two Pontiffs gave to biblical studies, as you also said, was fully confirmed and developed in the Second Vatican Council, so that the entire Church has benefited and is benefitting from it. In particular, the Conciliar Constitution "Dei Verbum" still illumines the work of Catholic exegetes today and invites Pastors and faithful to be more regularly nourished at the table of the word of God.

In this regard the Council recalls first of all that God is the Author of Sacred Scripture: "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For Holy Mother Church relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the Books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself" (Dei Verbum, n. 11).

Therefore since all that the inspired authors or hagiographers state is to be considered as said by the Holy Spirit, the invisible and transcendent Author, it must consequently be acknowledged that "the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures" (ibid., n. 11).

From the correct presentation of the divine inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture certain norms derive that directly concern its interpretation. The Constitution "Dei Verbum" itself, after stating that God is the author of the Bible, reminds us that in Sacred Scripture God speaks to man in a human fashion and this divine-human synergy is very important: God really speaks to men and women in a human way. For a correct interpretation of Sacred Scripture it is therefore necessary to seek attentively what the hagiographers have truly wished to state and what it has pleased God to express in human words.

"The words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men" (Dei Verbum, n. 13).

Moreover, these indications, very necessary for a correct historical and literary interpretation as the primary dimension of all exegesis, require a connection with the premises of the teaching on the inspiration and truth of Sacred Scripture. In fact, since Scripture is inspired, there is a supreme principal for its correct interpretation without which the sacred writings would remain a dead letter of the past alone: Sacred Scripture "must be read and interpreted with its divine authorship in mind" (ibid., n. 12).

In this regard, the Second Vatican Council points out three criteria that always apply for an interpretation of Sacred Scripture in conformity with the Spirit that inspired it.

First of all it is essential to pay great attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture: only in its unity is it Scripture. Indeed, however different the books of which it is composed may be, Sacred Scripture is one by virtue of the unity of God's plan whose centre and heart is Jesus Christ (cf. Lk 24: 25-27; Lk 24: 44-46).

Secondly, Scripture must be interpreted in the context of the living tradition of the whole Church. According to a statement of Origen: "Sacra Scriptura principalius est in corde Ecclesiae quam in materialibus instrumentis scripta", that is, "Sacred Scripture is written in the heart of the Church before being written on material instruments".

Indeed, in her Tradition the Church bears the living memory of the Word of God and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her its interpretation according to the spiritual meaning (cf. Origin, Homilae in Leviticum, 5,5).

As a third criterion, it is necessary to pay attention to the analogy of the faith, that is to the consistence of the individual truths of faith with one another and with the overall plan of the Revelation and the fullness of the divine economy contained in it.

The task of researchers who study Sacred Scripture with different methods is to contribute in accordance with the above-mentioned principles to the deepest possible knowledge and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture. The scientific study of the sacred texts is important but is not sufficient in itself because it would respect only the human dimension. To respect the coherence of the Church's faith, the Catholic exegete must be attentive to perceiving the Word of God in these texts, within the faith of the Church herself.

If this indispensable reference point is missing, the exegetical research would be incomplete, losing sight of its principal goal, and risk being reduced to a purely literary interpretation in which the true Author God no longer appears.

Furthermore, the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures cannot only be an individual scientific effort but must always be compared with, inserted in and authenticated by the living Tradition of the Church. This rule is decisive to explain the correct relationship between exegesis and the Magisterium of the Church. The Catholic exegete does not only feel that he or she belongs to the scientific community, but also and above all to the community of believers of all times. In reality these texts were not given to individual researchers or to the scientific community, "to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research" (Divino Afflante Spiritu, eb 566).

The texts inspired by God were entrusted in the first place to the community of believers, to Christ's Church, to nourish the life of faith and to guide the life of charity. Respect for this purpose conditions the validity and efficacy of biblical hermeneutics. The Encyclical "Providentissimus Deus" recalled this fundamental truth and noted that, far from hindering biblical research, respect for this norm encourages authentic progress. I would say, a rationalistic hermeneutic of faith corresponds more closely with the reality of this text than a rationalistic hermeneutic that does not know God.

Being faithful to the Church means, in fact, fitting into the current of the great Tradition. Under the guidance of the Magisterium, Tradition has recognized the canonical writings as a word addressed by God to his People, and it has never ceased to meditate upon them and to discover their inexhaustible riches.

The Second Vatican Council reasserted this very clearly: "all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commisssion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God" (Dei Verbum, n. 12).

As the above-mentioned Dogmatic Constitution reminds us, an inseparable unity exists between Sacred Scripture and Tradition, because both come from the same source:

"Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit. And Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. He transmits it to the successors of the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching. Thus it comes about that the Church does not draw her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Hence, both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal feelings of devotion and reverence" (Dei Verbum, n. 9).

As we know, this word "pari pietatis affectu ac reverentia" was created by St Basil and then absorbed into Gratian's Decree, through which it entered the Council of Trent and then the Second Vatican Council. It expresses precisely this inter-penetration between Scripture and Tradition.

The ecclesial context alone enables Sacred Scripture to be understood as an authentic Word of God which makes itself the guide, norm and rule for the life of the Church and the spiritual growth of believers.

As I have said, this is in no way an obstacle to a serious and scientific interpretation but furthermore gives access to the additional dimensions of Christ that are inaccessible to a merely literary analysis, which remains incapable of grasping by itself the overall meaning that has guided the Tradition of the entire People of God down the centuries.

Dear Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, I would like to end my talk by expressing to you all my personal gratitude and encouragement. I thank you warmly for the demanding work you do at the service of the Word of God and of the Church through research, teaching and the publication of your studies. To this I add my encouragement for the ground that has yet to be covered.

In a world in which scientific research is assuming ever greater importance in numerous fields, it is indispensable that exegetical science attain a good level. It is one of the aspects of the inculturation of the faith that is part of the Church's mission, in harmony with acceptance of the mystery of the Incarnation.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate and the divine Teacher who opened the minds of his disciples to an understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24: 45), guide and sustain you in your reflection.

May the Virgin Mary, model of docility and obedience to the Word of God, teach you to accept ever better the inexhaustible riches of Sacred Scripture, not only through intellectual research but also in your lives as believers, so that your work and your action may contribute to making the light of Sacred Scripture shine ever brighter before the faithful.

As I assure you of my prayerful support in your efforts, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to you, as a pledge of divine favours.
The paper Michael Augros delivered for ISN's Insurgent Science Series (2009) can be found online:

The online text of Mike Augros's lecture is here (HTML), or you can download it in printable form (PDF).

Unfortunately the 2009 Conference has been cancelled:

The Conference has been called off, but the ISN's 2009 Summer Seminar on "Reduction, Emergence, and Essence" will take place June 15-19 at MIT as planned. Contact us if you need more information.

I haven't heard what the reasons are; I had been thinking of attending.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

James Chastek, The Predicable Universal as Mental Word
Have I changed my mind about torture? Originally I thought it was unjust. But now it seems that there are arguments for inflicting pain to punish disobedience and to force compliance. So I haven't changed my mind about acts that inflict pain or directly attack the health of his body and are not meant as punishment--these are always unjust and therefore intrinsically evil. But acts that are intended as punishment? These seem to be morally good, at least with respect to the object. Other considerations, like the circumstances of the act, may make them imprudent or even evil.

The formal object can be tricky to understand...

Some things for me to work out:
If I hold a lit match up to the fuse of a stick of dynamite in order to light the fuse, lighting the fuse is part of the formality of my action, even though I do not bring this about except by means of the lit match. I cannot say that it is the match which is responsible for the lighting of the fuse.

Similarly, if I torture someone in order to get information, I do it precisely to induce them to act in a certain way, even though they are free to refuse, unlike the fuse of the stick of dynamite, which will always light, provided that nothing interferes with the action of the fire. Getting them to talk seems to be part of the formal object, since it is an intended result or consequence of my action.

One may ask how it is possible to separate consequences in one's intent -- for example, how does the principle of double-effect work? How is it possible that I can use deadly force, even lethal means, to defend myself, without intending the death of the assailant? Can I intend to stop the assailant with something that could possibly kill him, without wanting him to die?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Papal Address to Social Sciences Academy

Papal Address to Social Sciences Academy

"Natural Law Is a Universal Guide Recognizable to Everyone"

VATICAN CITY, MAY 4, 2009 ( Here is the text of the English-language address Benedict XVI gave today to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The members of the academy are gathered in the Vatican through Tuesday for their plenary session, which is focused on Catholic social doctrine and human rights.

* * *

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you gather for the fifteenth Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, I am pleased to have this occasion to meet with you and to express my encouragement for your mission of expounding and furthering the Church's social doctrine in the areas of law, economy, politics and the various other social sciences. Thanking Professor Mary Ann Glendon for her cordial words of greeting, I assure you of my prayers that the fruit of your deliberations will continue to attest to the enduring pertinence of Catholic social teaching in a rapidly changing world.

After studying work, democracy, globalisation, solidarity and subsidiarity in relation to the social teaching of the Church, your Academy has chosen to return to the central question of the dignity of the human person and human rights, a point of encounter between the doctrine of the Church and contemporary society.

The world's great religions and philosophies have illuminated some aspects of these human rights, which are concisely expressed in "the golden rule" found in the Gospel: "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Lk 6:31; cf. Mt 7:12). The Church has always affirmed that fundamental rights, above and beyond the different ways in which they are formulated and the different degrees of importance they may have in various cultural contexts, are to be upheld and accorded universal recognition because they are inherent in the very nature of man, who is created in the image and likeness of God. If all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, then they share a common nature that binds them together and calls for universal respect. The Church, assimilating the teaching of Christ, considers the person as "the worthiest of nature" (St. Thomas Aquinas, De potentia, 9, 3) and has taught that the ethical and political order that governs relationships between persons finds its origin in the very structure of man's being. The discovery of America and the ensuing anthropological debate in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to a heightened awareness of human rights as such and of their universality (ius gentium). The modern period helped shape the idea that the message of Christ - because it proclaims that God loves every man and woman and that every human being is called to love God freely - demonstrates that everyone, independently of his or her social and cultural condition, by nature deserves freedom. At the same time, we must always remember that "freedom itself needs to be set free. It is Christ who sets it free" (Veritatis Splendor, 86).

In the middle of the last century, after the vast suffering caused by two terrible world wars and the unspeakable crimes perpetrated by totalitarian ideologies, the international community acquired a new system of international law based on human rights. In this, it appears to have acted in conformity with the message that my predecessor Benedict XV proclaimed when he called on the belligerents of the First World War to "transform the material force of arms into the moral force of law" ("Note to the Heads of the Belligerent Peoples", 1 August 1917).

Human rights became the reference point of a shared universal ethos - at least at the level of aspiration - for most of humankind. These rights have been ratified by almost every State in the world. The Second Vatican Council, in the Declaration Dignitatis Humanae, as well as my predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, forcefully referred to the right to life and the right to freedom of conscience and religion as being at the centre of those rights that spring from human nature itself.

Strictly speaking, these human rights are not truths of faith, even though they are discoverable - and indeed come to full light - in the message of Christ who "reveals man to man himself" (Gaudium et Spes, 22). They receive further confirmation from faith. Yet it stands to reason that, living and acting in the physical world as spiritual beings, men and women ascertain the pervading presence of a logos which enables them to distinguish not only between true and false, but also good and evil, better and worse, and justice and injustice. This ability to discern - this radical agency - renders every person capable of grasping the "natural law", which is nothing other than a participation in the eternal law: "unde...lex naturalis nihil aliud est quam participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura" (St. Thomas Aquinas, ST I-II, 91, 2). The natural law is a universal guide recognizable to everyone, on the basis of which all people can reciprocally understand and love each other. Human rights, therefore, are ultimately rooted in a participation of God, who has created each human person with intelligence and freedom. If this solid ethical and political basis is ignored, human rights remain fragile since they are deprived of their sound foundation.

The Church's action in promoting human rights is therefore supported by rational reflection, in such a way that these rights can be presented to all people of good will, independently of any religious affiliation they may have. Nevertheless, as I have observed in my Encyclicals, on the one hand, human reason must undergo constant purification by faith, insofar as it is always in danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by disordered passions and sin; and, on the other hand, insofar as human rights need to be re-appropriated by every generation and by each individual, and insofar as human freedom - which proceeds by a succession of free choices - is always fragile, the human person needs the unconditional hope and love that can only be found in God and that lead to participation in the justice and generosity of God towards others (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 18, and Spe Salvi, 24).

This perspective draws attention to some of the most critical social problems of recent decades, such as the growing awareness - which has in part arisen with globalisation and the present economic crisis - of a flagrant contrast between the equal attribution of rights and the unequal access to the means of attaining those rights. For Christians who regularly ask God to "give us this day our daily bread", it is a shameful tragedy that one-fifth of humanity still goes hungry. Assuring an adequate food supply, like the protection of vital resources such as water and energy, requires all international leaders to collaborate in showing a readiness to work in good faith, respecting the natural law and promoting solidarity and subsidiarity with the weakest regions and peoples of the planet as the most effective strategy for eliminating social inequalities between countries and societies and for increasing global security.

Dear friends, dear Academicians, in exhorting you in your research and deliberations to be credible and consistent witnesses to the defence and promotion of these non-negotiable human rights which are founded in divine law, I most willingly impart to you my Apostolic Blessing.

Mary Ann Glendon's Address to Benedict XVI
"Our Central Focus Has Always Been on the Dignity of the Human Person"
Jordan J. Ballor, Punishment and Restoration
Edward Feser, “It’s just so obvious!”: The case of torture

With respect to the use of torture in judicial proceedings -- the confession that would be extracted is not the same as self-incrimination, since it is not being used for to then indict or prosecute the suspect, but is part of the judicial proceeding itself, as a final step.

In the past, the use of torture was permitted by secular and Church authorities to extract a confession, but only within certain guidelines. Can the accused be compelled to speak the truth about his doing of evil? But how can his statement or confession be verified, unless there is corroborating evidence? A confession is for the sake of thoroughness, after sufficient evidence has been gathered to render judgment -- but if that is the case, why is confession necessary? If not enough evidence has been produced for a conviction, by what right can a judge attempt to extract a confession? In this case, the confession is necessary in order to secure a conviction.

Torture is used if someone is denying his guilt, but there is circumstantial evidence implicating him? What is the justification for this? It is not in the case of using torture on someone who is refusing to reveal the truth about an impending attack. In that case, torture may be understood as a punishment for each act of refusal, which is then followed by an opportunity to obey. (But one must have sufficient evidence that he is lying or concealing this information.)

In the case of confession, he is not disobeying, he is only suspected of lying. So torture is not being used as punishment, but as a way of compelling someone to tell the truth. Is the use of force, infliction of pain or bodily harm, justifiable in order to coerce testimony? But he is already giving testimony. What one wants is some sort of certain that he is telling the truth.

But perhaps the two instances in which torture is used are more similar than I think. After all, in both cases the one being tortured is suspected of lying when he denies, or refusing to tell the truth that he knows.

St. Thomas does not speak about the use of torture, as far as I know. He does say that the accused may not lie to protect himself from being convicted and punished (but he is not bound to satisfy the judge's request if it is no in accordance with the order of justice): Is it a mortal sin to deny the truth which would lead to one's condemnation?

[I just remembered that during hearings and trials those who do not answer the court's questions, can be held in contempt of court, and put in jail. If the information is vital to the common good, could more severe punishments not be given?]

Sunday, May 03, 2009

More thoughts on torture

Can the state compel someone to reveal information that it suspects he has? If it can establish that this person has this information, and he refuses to provide it, could he not be punished for disobedience? And could continued non-compliance be answered with continued punishment? If torture is not just a means of compelling someone to reveal information, but a form of punishment, could it not then be justified?

But how would the state establish (beyond reasonable doubt?) that this person had the information? Would it not have to try him first, and then find him to be disobedient? Can someone be ordered to tell something that he knows, if this is for the safety of the public, or the "common good"?

The use of torture to establish that someone has information would not be justified since it is not punishment--this must be established by other means (witnesses and other evidence).

Already police officers can use pain and force to make someone who is resisting (actively or passively) comply with their orders, or at the very least to get them to stop resisting. Is this torture? Even though they do not have the authority to pass legal judgment upon them, it would seem that they can use force and inflict pain. Is this to be considered punishment? Or justified coercion?

There is also this point to be remembered: it is easier to verify that one is moving one's limbs (or not moving them) than it is to verify that someone is telling the truth, if he is the only one who knows whether what he is saying is true or not.