Friday, August 22, 2008

Avery Dulles, The Assurance of Things Hoped For

Google Books

Within the formal object some Scholastic theologians, seeking additional precision, distinguished the objectum formale quod (the formal object which is attained, and by reason of which the material object is attained) from the objectum formale quo (that by virtue of which the formal object is attained). They hold that the formal object “which” (quod) is attained in faith is God himself, the Creator and Lord, and that the formal object “by which” (quo) God’s authority becomes accessible is God’s action in revealing. Thus the formal object, completely stated, is the “authority of the revealing God.”

St. Thomas and others who emphasize the intellectual aspect of faith frequently characterize the formal object as the First Truth (prima veritas). Thomists frequently express the formal object “by which” (objectum formale quo) as “the authority of the First Truth in revealing” or “the truthfulness of God in speaking.” (188)

From the current issue of Humanitas: Phillip W. Gray, Political Theology and the Theology of Politics: Carl Schmitt and Medieval Political Thought

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


James J. O'Donnell's biography of Cassiodorus is available online. His Cassiodorus page.

Iirc, I've read reviews critical of his biography of St. Augustine, so I don't know if his biography of Cassiodorus is worth reading. But there do not seem to be many books about him.

James J. O'Donnell: Augustine of Hippo

UPenn site for Dr. O'Donnell. FM Interviews.

Other links:
The Letters of Cassiodorus by Senator Cassiodorus - Project Gutenberg
Google Books: Cassiodorus: Explanation of the Psalms
Societas internationalis pro Vivario
Latin Library

Benedict XVI: ZENIT - On Boethius and Cassiodorus

Sunday, August 17, 2008

David Gordon, Going off Rawls

Going off Rawls

He offers an ingenious substitute for utilitarianism. Instead of directly advancing a theory of his own, Rawls asks what we can do when faced with the fact that people do not agree on a common conception of the good. He answers that even if people do not agree on the good, they can accept a fair procedure for settling what the principles of justice should be. This is key to Rawls’s theory: whatever arises from a fair procedure is just.

But what is a fair procedure? Rawls again has an ingenious approach, his famous veil of ignorance. Suppose five children have to divide a cake among themselves. One child cuts the cake, but he does not know who will get the shares. He is likely to divide the cake into equal shares, an arrangement that the children, no doubt grudgingly, will admit to be fair. By denying the child information that would bias the result, a fair outcome can be achieved.

Rawls’s veil of ignorance generalizes the point of this example. He asks that we imagine a situation, which he calls the original position, in which people do not know their own abilities, tastes, and conceptions of the good. Under this limit, individuals motivated by self-interest endeavor to arrive at principles of justice. People behind the veil of ignorance are self-interested but in crucial respects ignorant.

Rawls thinks that everyone, regardless of his plan of life or conception of the good, will want certain “primary goods.” These include rights and liberties, powers and opportunities, income and wealth, and self-respect. Without these primary goods, no one can accomplish his goals, whatever they may be. Hence, individuals in the original position will agree that everyone should get at least a minimum amount of these primary goods. This is an inherently redistributionist idea, since the primary goods are not natural properties of human beings. If someone lacks these primary goods, they must be provided for him, if necessary at the expense of others.

Concretely, Rawls thinks that people will agree to two principles of justice. The first calls for the greatest liberty for each person, consistent with equal liberty for all. Surely, he suggests, even if you lack information about your actual goals, as the veil prescribes, you will want to be free to pursue whatever these goals turn out to be. Not only will people want liberty, Rawls thinks, they will give this principle priority over the other one, the principle of difference, which in part deals with distribution of economic goods. The two principles cannot be “traded off” against each other: economic equality, for example, cannot be achieved at the expense of liberty