Friday, September 02, 2011

Who was St. Gregory the Great? Benedict XVI tells us in his own words

James Chastek, What sort of revision does scientific research call for on the Catholic doctrine of the fall? The Aquinas Center of Ave Maria University and the 'New' Thomistica.Net

The university has a lot of good people, but will it ultimately survive the bad leadership of the past? It looks like there are plans to publish the proceedings for the conference honoring Ralph McInerny:

In pursuit of this aim, The Aquinas Center hosts international conferences on the thought of Aquinas, grants annual awards for superlative books and dissertations written on the thought of Aquinas, and publishes substantial volumes on Aquinas’ thought.  These volumes include, to date, Reading John with St. Thomas (CUA Press), Aquinas the Augustinian (CUA Press), Rediscovering Aquinas and the Sacraments (Hillenbrand Books), Reading Romans with St. Thomas (in preparation), and a forthcoming volume on the role of philosophy in theological education in honor of Ralph McInerny. Signification of Names in Duns Scotus and Some of His Contemporaries by Pini Giorgio

Ralph McInerny on rights

Updating some links: On Natural Law and Natural Rights and Natural Law and Human Rights.

The Precepts of Natural Law

There is a very good article in the January 2011 issue of The Thomist by Randall Smith, "What the Old Law Reveals about the Natural Law." I think St. Thomas's discussion of the moral precepts of the Old Law does illuminate his teachings about Natural Law and the first principles of practical reason. However, it is curious that Smith reduces the Natural Law to the two great commandments:

The natural law is grounded in two general, invariable precepts, which are invariable with respect to both rectitude and knowledge: to love God and to love neighbor as oneself. The natural law also contains a series of more specific precepts  derived from these first-level, general, invariable precepts (135).
Did he not remember I II 100, 5 ad 1?
Now there was need for man to receive a precept about loving God and his neighbor, because in this respect the natural law had become obscured on account of sin: but not about the duty of loving oneself, because in this respect the natural law retained its vigor: or again, because love of oneself is contained in the love of God and of one's neighbor: since true self-love consists in directing oneself to God. And for this reason the decalogue includes those precepts only which refer to our neighbor and to God.
According to Aquinas, there is a precept to love one's self, but it was not necessary for it to be promulgated as a separate commandment from God.

A reminder about St. Thomas on the fppr:
Now as "being" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension simply, so "good" is the first thing that falls under the apprehension of the practical reason, which is directed to action: since every agent acts for an end under the aspect of good. Consequently the first principle of practical reason is one founded on the notion of good, viz. that "good is that which all things seek after." Hence this is the first precept of law, that "good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided." All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man's good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided. 
I think this post at Siris, On Grisez on the First Principle of Practical Reasoning, goes too far to make a distinction between the first principle of practical reason and the first principle of law, as it says the first principle of practical reason is "one founded," not that it is

(The Latin: "Et ideo primum principium in ratione practica est quod fundatur supra rationem boni, quae est, bonum est quod omnia appetunt. Hoc est ergo primum praeceptum legis, quod bonum est faciendum et prosequendum, et malum vitandum.")

SEP: Medieval Theories of Practical Reason
IEP: Medieval Theories of Practical Reason

Germain Grisez, "The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae, 1-2, Question 94, Article 2"

Kelsen and Aquinas on “the Natural-Law Doctrine”
by Robert P. George

An Overview of Practical Reason on Aquinas


Tomás Luis de Victoria - Letaniae de Beata Virgine

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Fr. Z summarizes the Theological Studies controversy

The Theological Studies dust up, NCR, creeping infallibility, and the ecclesial vocation of the theologian

Fr. Cessario on casuistry

The appendix to Introduction to Moral Theology.

Rather than putting all of the blame for the laity developing a distorted understanding of obedience on the Jesuits (as Geoffrey Hull does in A Banished Heart, iirc), should we attribute it instead to the general intellectual and cultural trends following Trent? Was this development in Christian moral theology mirrored by secular trends in understanding ethics in the 18th and 19th centuries? I can see how it would be in the interest of those in power to create docile citizens, but this is always the case, as we see in Aristotle's differentiation of the good citizen from the good man.

Regarding the appraisal of pre-conciliar treatments of sexual morality,  we should keep these comments by Fr. Cessario in mind:
The liberty of indifference favors a dualist anthropology insofar as the theory envisions the will as set over and against the rest of the powers of the human person. This may explain why casuist moral theology took a disproportionate interest in regulating sexual morality. No greater threat to the liberty of indifference could be imagined than the sudden upsurge of bad lust. So every precaution had to be taken to maintain the serene "indifference" of the will in the face of some de facto, especially unexpected, compelling good. Recall that, according to the casuist theorists, no factor outside of the will itself could set human willing effectively upon a particular course of action (238).

The "Jansenistic" attitude towards sex may not have been due to formal or even cultural Jansenism, but a "practical" Jansenism arising from the dominance of casuistry?

Father Reed talks with Father Romanus Cessario on This Is The Day

James Chastek, A (sort of) Thomistic divine command theory

“Command” is an analogous term, that is, the meanings of “[human] command” and “divine command” are in one sense the same and in another sense different. They are the same so far as, when considering a command, we view it as either (a) a procession from the will or (b) a normative being. But the sense in which a human command is an (a) and (b) is not the same as the way a divine command is. The unity we find between (a) and (b) in human commands must be negated when speaking of divine commands.

I'm curious as to why command is described as a "procession from the will" as opposed to something pertaining to reason. When imposed on another, it does involve the will of the law-giver.

Introduction to Moral Theology
The Pinckaers Reader

Physical Premotion: What's so hot about Thomism?

Concierto del Coro de la Paz de la Universidad de Hiroshima (Elisabeth University of Music)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let us pray for someone worthy of the office.

(via Catholic Fire)

A promotion for Augustine Di Noia? It would be good to have a traditional Dominican in charge.

Monday, August 29, 2011

While looking through the website for St. Augustine's Press today, I saw John Deely's latest in the new releases -- Semiotic Animal. It was the subtitle that really caught my eye: A Postmodern Definition of
“Human Being” Transcending Patriarchy and Feminism. What does this mean, exactly? Patriarchy and Feminism are related to the sphere of moral action though they are rooted in conceptions of sex (or gender). So does Mr. Deely attempt to downplay sex differences?

A brief essay with the same name as the title of the book.

Basics of Semiotics (Semiotics page)

Nicholas Orme Medieval Schools: Roman Britain to Renaissance England, a post about Nicholas Orme's Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England.

Orme also has a book about Medieval Children. A review of that book. (Mars Hill Audio)
Childhood in Medieval England, c.500-1500

More about Nicholas Orme:
The Devonshire Association

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Someone writes in this controversy at FPR:
Also, the desire to embrace the continuation of the Jewish religion, rather than the negation, under Christ is being rediscovered in beautiful ways. This of course, dealing with God’s covenants, His people and what marks them out as His, etc. The heavy anti-semitism, most noticeably from the 4th century on by the church, has been linked to the Greek “trinity” of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle on the Church’s approach rather than the Hebraic understanding. This is what is driving much scholarship today in the Reformed circles of Christianity. The idea of the “rediscovering” of historical context and the mindset of Judaism, the followers of this Judaic Messiah, and the sociological implications are creating much fruitful discussion. Again, this is extremely broad, but at least covers an overview of some of the main presuppositions.

The Medieval Appropriation of Aristotle

1. The medieval schoolmen studied Aristotle, that is clear. What was their purpose in doing so? Was it only for the sake of their theology? Or did they wish to learn philosophy as philosophy?

2. Did they respect the integrity and reasoning of the science, as it was laid out by Aristotle in his lectures? How seriously did they take Aristotle's treatment of the sciences? Was the predominant attitude to use Aristotle only in so far as he bolstered their theological arguments, but without looking at how his arguments fit into the rest of his sciences, as he laid them out? (If he contradicted the Faith he was corrected with a response and/or not employed.) Was their theology so important that they lost sight of the philosophical argumentation?

I have to say that from what I have read of St. Bonaventure, this characterization appears to be true for him. But what of the Franciscans who came after him, or the secular masters? One can appropriate Aristotle without learning well from him, and the early medievals may have been disadvantaged in comparison with their successors.

3. The medievals had inherited certain ways of understanding material creation, but much of this apparatus was not Divinely revealed but given by their non-Christian predecessors, for example the neo-Platonists. Still, are the Augustinian and Aristotelian accounts of the soul so opposed that they cannot be reconciled? With regards to understanding Aristotle's physics as preparation for metaphysics -- was there a problem there as well? Did some jump into metaphysics without acquiring physics first? It seems to me that the later medievals took his physics more seriously.

4. What about Aristotelian logic? I have been unable to investigate the medieval appropriation of logic and its development (especially in relation to metaphysics) I'll have to pick up a copy of Medieval Logic: An Outline of Its Development from 1250 to c. 1400 by Philotheus Boehner. Can differences between Aquinas and Scotus (or Ockham) be reduced or at least partially linked to different understandings/interpretations of Aristotle?
Some posts on pre-Vatican 2 treatments of marriage in moral theology. Have we really lost a lot in our understanding of sexual morality since the council? Do popular treatments of theology of the body pale by comparison?