Saturday, January 15, 2011

Eighth Day Books sponsoring two symposia

January 29: Imagination & Soul: Harry Potter, Twilight and Spiritual Formation with John Granger
February 12: Patristics Symposium: On the Tree of the Cross, The Patristic Doctrine of the Atonement

More information.
Thomistica.net: Program for an Ave Maria conference in honor of Ralph McInerny (update)

Haldane and Lee (and George) and ensoulment

I'm not posting any really new material here, just summarizing what I have written in other posts.

John Haldane and Patrick Lee are probably correct in their criticism of Pasnau's application of Aquinas to contemporary embryology. (See their followup.) I'm not going to read those parts carefully. They are correct to emphasize that development (not just growth but organization/differentiation of organs) is caused by the conceptum itself, and not by something external to it. Development it is a natural operation of the conceptum.
You'll find the same sort of argumentation in the pieces written collaboratively by Lee and Robert George, and probably in George and Christopher Tollefsen's book Embryo (which I haven't had the chance to read yet).

But I would argue that development occurs in other animals as well and cannot be attributed to the rational soul alone. One cannot claim absolutely that a rational soul is present at conception, when the presence of a sensitive soul could explain what is taking place.

To clarify what I had written previously: I don't think that the medieval understanding that there is a succession of forms--vegetative, sensitive, rational--as the embryo is formed from without can be maintained. I use "sensitive"  here to distinguish the rational soul from the nonrational souls of other animals. Nor do I think one can rule out a priori with good reason that the rational soul is infused at birth. But one cannot establish the presence of the rational soul either, since there is the absence of rational activity (and the organs required for that activity). The conceptum does have the power in itself to generate those organs ("the brain and nervous system"), but this power in itself does not mean that it possess a rational soul, unless one argues additionally that only a rational soul can bring about the development of organs that are proportioned to the intellect, etc. But what does the rational soul as form of the body have in addition to what is possessed by a sensitive soul that could conceivably develop the embryo into a specifically human body? Even if it is the case that the human sense organs are very different from those of any other animal, this does not mean it is impossible for a sensitive a sensitive soul to generate those organs.

Still, a theological argument based on what the Church's teachings on the Incarnation can be made that the soul is infused at conception, but this will not convince non-believers. I tend to think that changing the laws regarding abortion on the Federal level will never happen. (And it seems unlikely to me that the Federal government will ever let this issue devolve back to the states.) With the refusal of traditional morality regarding sexuality and marriage, the culture and its institutions of many areas and states cannot but have abortion as a legitimate act for women. In those places, for a law against abortion to take hold, many other changes must be implemented. These changes are so great and encompassing that one can speak of the necessity of their people to be converted without exaggeration. Some states may be more sympathetic to stricter abortion laws, but their culture may be changing at a rapid places.

Go Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Go!

Sandro Magister, A New Syllabus for the 21st Century
That is, a document condemning mistaken interpretations of Vatican Council II. It's been requested by a bishop of Kazakhstan, at a conference in Rome with other bishops and cardinals. Also prompting reactions is the announcement by Benedict XVI of a new interreligious meeting in Assisi

(via the Western Confucian)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More on Dignity

Joe Carter offers a response to Robert T. Miller's Two Bases of Morality in Catholic Theology.

Is the concept of dignity convertible with the "good"? Is it an adequate foundation for understanding the virtue of caritas? Mr. Miller notes that the New Natural Law theorists make use of "human dignity" in their argumentation, and I agree with him. I also agree with the substance of his argument, especially on this point:

In particular, the concept of human dignity lacks definite content: It implies that we must treat others with respect, but it does not tell us which kinds of treatment are respectful and which not.26 The formula that we must treat human beings always as ends and never merely as means is similarly empty. It does not justify any particular set of moral norms because it tells us nothing about what kind of treatment is consistent with treating a person as an end and not a mere means.27 For that matter, it does not provide a clear account of what it means to say that we are treating a person as an end or a means. If I hire a prostitute to give me sexual pleasure, these moralists will say that I have treated her as a means, but if I hire a masseuse to give me non-sexual physical pleasure, they say that I have treated her as an end, for this latter transaction is morally licit. Whence the difference, since in both cases I have participated in a voluntary transaction in order that I have a pleasant sense experience? As far as I can see, the theologians who rely on the concept of human dignity have no basis to distinguish these cases.

NNL theorists have difficulties explaining the virtue of justice and its associated acts based on human dignity alone. But an extended development of this claim will have to wait until I finish my project.

Aquinas Lecture 2010 by Matthew Levering



Aquinas Institute of Theology

The Sacramental Body of the Eucharist

The Sacramental Body of the Eucharist from Province of Saint Joseph on Vimeo.

No access to this article for me.

There has been some discussion of this post on abortion, the human soul, and the question of ensoulment. While Googling for confirmation by other scholars of what I remembered about Aquinas, I found this article:

"Aquinas's Account of Human Embryogenesis and Recent Interpretations" by Jason T. Eberl

If I were an academic I would check it out (and I'd be able to get access it if the school library were decent; it's probably accessible at BC).

Some thoughts on Haldane and Lee (plus this) on ensoulment to come. I should read De Potentia all the way through, since I haven't done so before.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Forgot this

Also from CUA:
Ressourcement Thomism: Sacred Doctrine, the Sacraments, and the Moral Life
Reinhard Hütter and Matthew Levering, eds.

I was reminded of this book by Fr. Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.

Also of interest to me from the Fall/Winter 2010/2011 Catalog:
Bourdin, Bernard / The Theological-Political Origins of the Modern State
Benestad, J. Brian / Church, State, and Society (gotta check out what he says about sovereignty)
Hittinger, John P. / The Vocation of the Catholic Philosopher
Leinsle, Ulrich G. / Introduction to Scholastic Theology
Lombardo, Nicholas E. O.P. / The Logic of Desire
Rhonheimer, Martin / The Perspective of Morality

Canty, Aaron / Light and Glory, The Transfiguration of Christ in Early Franciscan and Dominican Theology

Hrm, written in honor of a Jesuit patristic scholar:
Rombs, Ronnie J. / Tradition and the Rule of Faith in the Early Church

Inspired by MacIntyre? Tarpley, Joyce Kerr / Constancy and the Ethics of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

Something on Maritain's philosophy of beauty: Trapani Jr., John G. / Poetry, Beauty, and Contemplation


The latest collection of essays from the American Maritain Association's annual meeting: Colvert, Gavin / The Renewal of Civilization

The following collection of essays might not be worth full price:
Zaborowski, Holger / Natural Moral Law in Contemporary Society

The River Forest School

One more comment from Mr. Aversa that got caught by Blogger, this time in response to "Stephen Barr on science and metaphysics":

The River Forest school is still active.


From Edward Feser's "The Thomistic Tradition (part 1)" (vide also part 2):


This approach emphasizes the Aristotelian foundations of Aquinas’s philosophy, and in particular the idea that the construction of a sound metaphysics must be preceded by a sound understanding of natural science, as interpreted in light of an Aristotelian philosophy of nature. Accordingly, it is keen to show that modern physical science can and should be given such an interpretation. Charles De Koninck (1906-1965), James A. Weisheipl (1923-1984), William A. Wallace, and Benedict Ashley are among its representatives. It is sometimes called “Laval Thomism” after the University of Laval in Quebec [which produced this brilliant thesis: Thomism and Mathematical Physics], where De Koninck was a professor. The alternative label “River Forest Thomism” derives from a suburb of Chicago, the location of the Albertus Magnus Lyceum for Natural Science, whose members are associated with this approach. It is also sometimes called “Aristotelian Thomism” (to highlight its contrast with Gilson’s brand of existential Thomism) though since Neo-Scholastic Thomism also emphasizes Aquinas’s continuity with Aristotle, this label seems a bit too proprietary. (There are writers, like the contemporary Thomist Ralph McInerny, who exhibit both Neo-Scholastic and Laval/River Forest influences, and the approaches are not necessarily incompatible.)


See also:
River Forest Thomism
Scholasticism in Empiriological Sciences
The Modeling of Nature by William Wallace, O.P.
The Way toward Wisdom by Benedict Ashley, O.P.

Some general notes for the readers:

Fr. Wallace is getting along in years; the same is true of Fr. Ashley. I had heard from one of Fr. Wallace's students that he was writing another book on natural philosophy,but I do not know if this will ever be completed and published.

Science, Philosophy, and Theology in the Thomistic Tradition by William A. Wallace, O.P.
Benedict Ashley on Atheists

It would appear that Fr. Ashley's Theologies of the Body, Humanist and Christian is no longer in print?


"How the University of Chicago Opened My American Mind" from The Lumen Christi Institute on Vimeo.

The successors to the Laval School can be found in various institutions, such as Thomas Aquinas College or the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. (The latter less so, with the retirement of Richard Berquist and the department's recruitment of faculty not formed in the tradition.) Many TAC alumni who have PhDs can be found all over the country; many end up returning to TAC to become a tutor. The influence of the River Forest school appears to have peaked in the '60s, and the various faculty members were given other assignments after Vatican II. There is a short history written by Fr. Ashley on the River Forest school. During the '50s the River Forest school would hold conferences where philosophers and scientists would discuss various topics pertaining to the philosophy of nature and philosophy of science. I don't think anything comparable has been done since, though the Institute for the Study of Nature has attempted to revive this. (Unfortunately, ISN was unable to have its planned conference in 2010 because of various difficulties.)

I don't know if Fr. Weisheipl was able to form any disciples within the tradition while he was at UoT.

His THE REVIVAL OF THOMISM: AN HISTORICAL SURVEY.
Philosophy and the God of Abraham: essays in memory of James A. Weisheipl, OP By James A. Weisheipl, Raymond James Long

While the pursuit a dialectical inquiry into contemporary science may be a worthwhile (even salvific) endeavor for Dominicans and some others, I think that we will not see its fruits widely disseminated any time soon. And perhaps we do not deserve them, as I will explain in another post.

CUA Press, Spring and Summer 2011

CUA Press is scheduled to publish The Trinity: An Introduction to Catholic Doctrine on the Triune God by Gilles Emery, O.P. and translated by Matthew Levering (no webpage yet). It is not quite clear to me from the description in the catalog how the content of this book differs from other books by Fr. Emery in English translation: Trinity in Aquinas and The Trinitarian Theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas -- it seems to deal more with the sources of Church doctrine on the Most Holy Trinity before giving a "synthetic exposition of the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in their divine being and mutual relations, and in their action for us," and ending "with a doctrinal exposition of the 'missions' of the Son and the Holy Spirit, that is, the salvific sending of the Son and Holy Spirit that leads humankind to the contemplation of the Father." (And so CUA Press has gone down the path of PCness, at least in their catalogs--I do not know if this has affected the editing of the texts.)

So less Aquinas (though the book is undoubtedly Thomistic)?

Other titles of interest to me:
Christ our Hope: An Introduction to Eschatology, by Paul O'Callaghan
Understanding Language: A Guide for Beginning Students of Greek and Latin, by Douglas Fairbairn
Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750 by Irene Fosi

Already in publication:
New paperback editions of Medieval Church Law and the Origins of the Western Legal Tradition: A Tribute to Kenneth Pennington, edited by Wolfgang P. Müller and Mary E. Sommar and Proportionalism and the Natural Law Tradition by Christopher Kaczor, and Reading John with St. Thomas Aquinas, edited by Michael Dauphinais and Matthew Levering

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Mr. Alan Aversa has attempted twice to write a comment for the post "Reductionism in Contemporary Science" but it has not shown up, so I am posting it here:

St. Thomas's commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics really helps clear this up: Are All the Classes of Causes Studied by One Science or by Many?. Mathematics, e.g., does not treat of final causes, and modern physics (mathematical physics) is a combination of physica and mathematics; it is a scientia media (See Replies to 6 and 7 of his Division and methods of the sciences; also In II Phys. lect. 3, n. 8Summa Theol. 2-2.9.2, ad 3@m (3rd reply); In I Post Anal. lect. 25, n. 2.). Mathematical physics is "formally mathematical and materially physical." 

I suspect that it has been eaten up by Blogger as spam because of the embedded links.

Edit. He also added this comment, which is also not being published for whatever reason, to my second post on Stephen Barr:
Read St. Thomas Aquinas's De Mixtione Elementorum and the Thomist article on it: "Elemental Virtual Presence in St. Thomas" by Christopher Decaen. 
Thanks!