Saturday, August 06, 2011

Grisez on the Good of Religion

My Finnis books are not handy, so I will use Germain Grisez's treatment of religion* as a reference for the New Natural Law Theory:

[1] "We experience sin and alienation from God; the goods are the peace and friendship with God which are the concern of all true religion."

[2] "Religion is a great blessing, for nothing in life is more important than liberation from sin and friendship with God. However, harmony with God should not be confused with God himself nor with the divine life in which Christians share by adoption. The human good of religion—that harmony with God which perfects human persons as human—is only one human good alongside others (see GS 11). St. Thomas Aquinas makes this point by distinguishing the virtue of religion from the theological virtues. The former, concerned with specifically religious acts, such as prayer and sacrifice, does not bear upon God himself as the latter do (cf. S.t., 2–2, q. 81, a. 5)."

[3] Finally, in his summary of the seven basic categories of human goods Grisez writes:
"(4) religion or holiness, which is harmony with God, found in the agreement of human individual and communal free choices with God’s will."

Friendship with God is charity, and should not be confused with the virtue of religion. It is not clear to me that Grisez does not muddle the two in [1], as he says that peace and friendshipw ith God are the concern of all true religion. In [2] the differentiation is clearer.

In his discussion of religion and its act, devotion, Aquinas seems to be saying that there cannot be the virtue of religion without charity, since religion is concerned with the means to the end which is the object of charity, God Himself. In the response to the first objection, he says:

The power or virtue whose action deals with an end, moves by its command the power or virtue whose action deals with matters directed to that end. Now the theological virtues, faith, hope and charity have an act in reference to God as their proper object: wherefore, by their command, they cause the act of religion, which performs certain deeds directed to God: and so Augustine says that God is worshiped by faith, hope and charity.

Can one will something to God as an end without first loving Him? Can there be the act of religion without the virtue of charity? It seems not: charity is the proximate cause of devotion [religion]. How can someone will something as a means to an end without his will first being referred to the end? Without willing the end, how can the means be a means?

Is religion, then an infused virtue, and not an acquired one? It is apparent that there must be an infused virtue of religion that corresponds to the theological virtue of charity.** But is there a natural, acquired virtue of religion matching the natural love of God? Here we enter into the thicket of controversy: the relationship between the natural order and the supernatural order and the consequences of the Fall and effects of original sin.

I tend to think that there is not an acquired virtue of religion after people attain the use of reason. Either they accept God's grace or they do not.

Germain is clearly doing moral theology in his books. But if he follows Aquinas (or this understanding of Aquinas) and implicitly admits in his account of natural law that religion is thus tied to charity, then its usefulness ends. What is needed for non-believers beyond this point, as I said earlier, is not more discourse about the precepts of the natural law, but grace and Christ.

I should compare this with what Finnis writes about the good of religion...

I note that a special issue of the American Journal of Jurisprudence was devoted to Grisez on the question of human fulfillment, and iirc, some of the contributions examined his treatment of religion.


On religion as "belief system" or "worldview":
In a comment to a previous post from today JBS gives a definition of religion:
Religion - that set of rules by which I know I'm ok...and you're not.

This definition allows for many belief-systems not normally thought-of as 'religious' to function, allowing for everyone to have a religion, apart from a real relationship with God.

It seems that here religion is synonymous with belief system or world view. Everyone has a belief system or worldview, which is a mixture of knowledge and set of beliefs about reality. But it is not the same as religion as it is defined by Grisez or Aquinas. People act in accordance with certain first principles, but these first principles may not include God.

What about the pagans and their beliefs and attitudes? Is God or are the gods superior to us? Hence we must give them the proper respect and may even need to placate their anger. Or are they merely used by us? That is, they are servants of our happiness. Whom must we please? Ourselves or the gods?

If the virtue of religion is tied to the love of God, then what motivates those who do not love God but are "imperfect" to perform certain acts of religion? The fear of punishment or the promise of reward (or a certain good of reason), which can be harmonized with the love of self. One does not need the love of God to fear punishment, etc. Similarly, non-Christians do not need charity in order to perform the rituals that they have learned from their elders. Just because certain acts associated with a virtue are being done does not imply that this virtue is present in the agent.

We can use Aquinas's treatment of the Old Law as a model for understanding non-Christian religions*** before the coming of Christ and relate their proximity to the truth through the supposition of a Primitive Revelation. See Journet's The Meaning of Grace for his account of grace before the Incarnation and "God in Search of Man" by Patrick Beeman for more about Wilhelm Schmidt.




Some thoughts of my own on the topic of authority and consent of the governed...

Is withdrawing consent the same as disobedience? Is consent identical to designation, so that withdraw of consent is the removal of authority? Even if one is a good ruler does that by itself give him the right to rule?

In disobeying one may not necessarily be designating one's self as the ruler, though in effect that is what he is doing. Can there be disobedience without recognition that obedience is owed?

One is not guilty of disobedience if a sin is enjoined.  

There is a difference between designating another ruler as opposed to designating one's self, in effect, through disobedience. One should follow the law in the changing of rulers but I can imagine that if there is a grave threat to the common good, this law may be ignored. What if the process for selecting the ruler is itself unjust? For example, hereditary succession seems to violate distributive justice, even if it has a long history and is found in many cultures.

Law is ordered to the common good, but following the law is not always identical with the common good? Obeying the law is a component of the common good, as can be submission to an unjust ruler. But in replacing an unjust ruler with a just ruler, even if one is not following the established custom in doing so, might it not be that one is obeying a "higher" law?
 Is a ruler, once he becomes a ruler, above judgment? Who can judge whether he is acting in accordance with his office or if he has exceeded it? If all powers related to the common good reside in the community as a whole before they are delegated to one or some, can those powers be recovered by the community? Does it matter whether they are virtuous or not?

Has someone resisting an unjust ruler not already made a judgment about the ruler? It may not be binding on the public; is private judgment sufficient to ground a claim of legitimate self-defense? Or must he be acting in some public capacity, even if he is acting as lone individual? (Acting as a lone individual is not the same as acting as a private individual.)

(The origin of government.)

Should it be presumed that one is unqualified to rule until he qualifies himself (military service + property + family)? Or should one be reckoned qualified until it is established that he is vicious? The former qualifications are rather low, since the appearance of virtue, such that it garners the trust and respect of others, is sufficient, and may be compatible with the latter stance.

There is also the pragmatic question of effectiveness -- even if a ruler is virtuous and right, if the people do not agree to his being the ruler, how can he rule except with the use of force? What if he does not have sufficient force?

RJ Snell on the New Natural Law Theory

Anamnesis has a symposium on Natural Law:
God, Religion, and the New Natural Law by R. J. Snell and The Good, the Right, and Theology by Thaddeus J. Kozinski.

This post will have my comments on Mr. Snell's essay. Mr. Kozinski's essay I leave to another post.

I find the essay on othe NNLT too short and uninformative. NNLT as an account of Natural Law solely from the perspective of the moral agent, prescinding from metaphysical or theological considerations? I don't have a problem with that and I think the debate about whether natural law has a metaphysical basis or is tied to metaphysics because of the "good" has largely been a pointless one. It depends on the science in which the definition of natural law is being used. (Dr. Berquist gave me this nugget.)

I think the more traditional Thomists would hold that the goods which are assumed in ethics and can be "proven" only through dialectic can be demonstrated in metaphysics.
However, the Natural Law as considered within ethics would only be under the aspect of the first principle(s) of practical reason and what can be elaborated from them?

NNL correctly claims religion as a good knowable to reason, but reason claims religion as a good from within the mode of natural or proportionate reason—religion known according to the mode of the knower. So reason can indicate the desirability of knowing God from the standpoint of reason, and, further, reason also tells us the desirability and goodness of knowing God in a mode transcending our proportionate nature. Aquinas, for instance, is able to argue that beatitude or union with God is our complete happiness and ultimate end, just as he’s able to argue that we cannot attain beatitude without a relationship with God transcending our causal power.

Thus, natural law can tell us that (1) union with God is our final end, and (2) that attainment of this final end transcends what is proportionate to us. We can reasonably distinguish our natural desire to have religion from our desire to have union with God. Our apprehension of the good of religion is a wholly natural desire expressed in our dynamism to know all things; we can, by our own power, seek to know everything about everything including knowledge of God insofar as God is knowable by reason. This desire is human, proportionate, and natural.

Natural law is not identical to human reason itself; human reason can tell us something about God and our orientation to Him. But our natural desire to have "religion" (whatever that may mean in NNLT) is not the same as the natural love of God, or God as our ultimate end. Religion is not merely knowing about God. So what happened to the natural love of God? This is the wound that is forgotten in "purely natural" accounts of the natural law or attempts to explicate a natural morality or comprehensive philosophical ethics. So in that respect, NNL theorists such as Mr. Snell do overlook the Fall. (I believe that the same charge could be levelled at Maritain in so far as he has a seemingly contradictory notion of a Christian philosophical ethics.)

Natural reason can only get us so far in deepening our moral understanding. We can demonstrate that we ought to love God above all other things and that we fail to do so for some reason. If NNLT goes beyond elaborating the precepts of morality that we can know by reason alone, then it is no longer philosophy but theology. As a tool used by Christians for dialogue with non-Christians it is useful, but one should be careful with one's ascriptions, predications, or claims about natural morality.

Galileo Was Wrong: Feature Articles

Galileo Was Wrong: Feature Articles: "David Palm on Geocentrism More Trouble in Tom's Bubbles by Robert Sungenis Answer to Lawrence Krauss' Youtube Cosmology by Robert Sunge..."

Related: A recent "discussion" between Mark Shea, Robert Sungenis, and others on geocentrism...

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Robert Sungenis on the recent popes

From Robert Sungenis's review of Jesus of Nazareth:

In the history of the Church it’s not often that a private book is published by a reigning pope, but Vatican II popes apparently started a trend. John XXIII published a couple of books; Paul VI doubled that; John Paul II doubled Paul VI, and now Benedict XVI has almost doubled John Paul II, and in half the time. Prior to Vatican II hardly any pope wrote a private book on theology. I’m not sure of the reason for this trend. I am more concerned with the fact that it tends to foster what E. Michael Jones calls the “I/We dichotomy” which “demeans the papacy by allowing the pope to become a celebrity” for the purpose of “establishing the bounds of permissible discourse according to a political agenda…”1 In other words, what cannot be said officially because of ecclesiastical constraints is said unofficially in order to achieve a desired result. Paul VI apparently saw another side to this potential duplicity when he said: “Is it really right for someone to present himself again and again in that way and allow oneself to be regarded as a star?”2 Perhaps this same temptation also hampered our first pope. It was Pope Peter in Galatians 2:11-21 who, when he decided to engage in some private and unofficial commentary on the Gospel under the name Cephas, eventually shunned his Gentile converts and instead bent over backwards to placate the hostile and unbelieving Jews, upon which he was severely upbraided by Paul for “perverting the Gospel.” This is an ever-present danger for a pope when he is wearing the papal tiara; how much more when he dons a hat with the title “private theologian”? As we shall see, it may be no coincidence that the Jews who made the Cephas-side of Pope Peter stumble in proclaiming the Gospel are eerily similar to the Jews today who are making the Joseph Ratzinger side of Pope Benedict XVI stumble as well. It’s uncanny to see such a resemblance between the first century and the twenty-first century. In light of the dire warnings from our saints; the Fatima message; and Scriptures that speak about the rise of antichrist, who will now win this battle on earth between the popes and the Jews remains to be seen.

Be that as it may, when the pope writes a book that is disseminated all over the world and refers to the author as “Pope Benedict XVI,” and which carries an emblem of the papal seal embossed on the
hardcover edition, is this to be considered an “I” book written by Joseph Ratzinger or a “We” book written by Pope Benedict XVI? As Jones says, this question is especially significant when, for example, the pope addressed the use of condoms and gave the wrong answer in his private book Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and the Signs of the Times. Perhaps for the book Jesus of Nazareth the issue is much simpler because there the pope explicitly states that it “is precisely not a book of the Magisterium. It is not a book that I wrote with my authority as Pope….I very intentionally wanted the book to be, not an act of the Magisterium, but an effort to participate in the scholarly discussion,”3 adding that “everyone is free, then, to contradict me.” Fair enough. But I don’t think the masses see it that way. If the pope says or writes something, it is like Gospel, regardless if he temporarily assumes the alias “Joseph Ratzinger.” Popes need to be very careful with the impressions they create. Benedict XVI must realize he is no longer Joseph Ratzinger and he cannot go back there, at least not without confusing the rest of Catholicism. He is the pope, the vicar of Christ, the head-hauncho, and the whole world hangs on his every word; and that, whether he likes it or not, will remain the case until he dies. The days of Joseph Ratzinger and his speculative theology are over; and it is very dangerous for Benedict XVI to try to revive them. If he is going to speak on an issue as sensitive and important as condoms then he must only speak from his magisterial chair.

The job of each Catholic is to protect the papacy and Joseph Ratzinger is no exception to that mandate. He cannot put the papacy in precarious positions and exploit it for future book sales. The Church has had enough opinions from the prelature. It is time for hard and fast decisions about what the Church is and what it meant by what it officially stated, especially what it “officially” stated at Vatican II. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pope, after 50 years of turmoil created in the wake of Vatican II, actually wrote an official document with the express purpose of clearing up the inordinate amount of ambiguities in the major documents of Vatican II? THAT would be something to get excited about! But another book, like Jesus of Nazareth, which spends 300 pages delving into the finer points of historical criticism and arguing about which of the four Gospel writers got his facts right, we need like we need vinegar on our teeth.

Some have claimed that the book exemplifies the best of the historical-critical method, but Mr. Sungenis disagrees with that assessment.

So can a bishop or pope be a theologian? Some may believe that the task of handing on of the Faith cannot be separated from theology. Others may draw the limit at speculative theology or the use of modern tools of interpretation.  Are we just disagreeing with the results of their "research" or arguments? The unfolding of the truths of the Faith can be called theology. Is this so different from the theology of the Church Fathers or monastic theology? Is the problem, then, with advancing (tentative?) theological opinions, especially in a time of poor catechesis?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Adam Curtis -- The Century Of The Self

Cornelio Fabro

Thomistica.net: Aquinas the Italian
Mark Pagel: How language transformed humanity



Mark Pagel

How was a certain trait generated? Selected for? What advantage did it confer? This time, it's a discussion of human language.
OpStJoseph: Do Dogs Have Souls?
A Talk on the Nature of the Soul

Do Dogs Have Souls: The Nature of the Soul from Province of Saint Joseph on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Edward Feser, On some alleged quantifier shift fallacies, Part III

We’ve been looking at alleged cases of the quantifier shift fallacy committed by prominent philosophers. We’ve seen that Aquinas and Locke can both be acquitted of the charge. Let’s now look at the common accusation that Aristotle commits the fallacy in the Nicomachean Ethics. Harry Gensler tells us that “Aristotle argued, ‘Every agent acts for an end, so there must be some (one) end for which every agent acts.’” But what does Aristotle actually say? And need it be interpreted the way Gensler interprets it?

More on authority at WWWTW

Zippy Catholic, No theory is better than bad theory
Jeff Culbreath, Revolution and unthinkable thoughts