Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Desires Natural and Unnatural: A Reply to Paul Griffiths by R. J. Snell

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

James Chastek, The basis of Aristotle’s logic

Aristotle’s whole system of logic starts from two premises:

Logic is the direction of the act of reason

The direction of reason is from what is more universal in predication to what is less so.

Aristotle says the major premise everywhere, and at the slightest provocation; the minor is from St. Thomas, and Aristotle simply assumes it everywhere. The conclusion is that logic is the right order from what is more universal to what is less so. This is why Aristotle starts his logic with a study of most universal things (the Categories) Then shows all the ways that one universal thing can relate to another (On Interpretation) and then goes on to speak of arguments as the motion from what is major (or most universal) to what is minor (least universal) through a term of middle universality. The middle only has a middle universality when we speak in a way that follows what is called “the first figure syllogism” and so Aristotle rightly insists that this is the pre-eminent tool for ordering reason, and that all other tools of reasoning are correct so far as they can be reduced to it. Aristotle insists that this is even true of non-categorical reasoning, as Yvan Pellitier proves here (download “PelletierStrategy.pdf”). This is not to say it is the only way that reason can go from one thign to another: there is an ocean of dialectical tools that are used to bring us to the point where we can actually form a valid universal.

We more tend to look at terms like checkers that can be arranged in certain correct ways, and in doing so we can reach conclusions that cannot be reached by the mere categorical method. This is all fine, but it is not logic in the same sense of the term, and it is not clear how we can make one thing called logic relate to the other thing called logic.

Burke Lecture: Stanley Martin Hauerwas

A blog dedicated to him.

Faith Fights Back: A Conversation with Stanley Hauerwas

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dr. Gilbert gives a response concerning Orthodox treatments of the papacy:

Veritas’s comment, that Orthodox views of the papacy run the gamut, is a fair assessment: there is the “papal antichrist” literature, which you can find if you go to almost any monastic bookseller in Greece and, I would assume, in countries like Russia and Serbia as well,* and, at the other extreme, there are people like Soloviev, who more or less accept the pope as being what he says he is, or, at the very least, who think the slogan “first among equals” is not a terribly precise way of describing the role the Bishop of Rome played in the early Church and who would like to see to see communion reestablished on something like the terms that obtained during the first millennium; I myself would fall into this last-named category. Clément’s book, mentioned by Veritas, also takes this view and is worth reading (although there are things in his book that I would criticize, especially his postscript). But I would not go so far as to say, with Veritas, that there is no mainstream Orthodox view. There is, among Orthodox, a common rejection of the claim of the First Vatican Council that the doctrinal pronouncements of the Bishop of Rome are binding ex sese, non ex consensu ecclesiae, that is, of themselves, not from the consent of the Church. Most Orthodox fear that such a doctrine gives the Bishop of Rome a blank check on which he can write whatever he pleases. And I confess that I share that worry, although I recognize that the Second Vatican Council sought to reaffirm the role of the bishop and of bishops’ conferences, and I also recognize that, in the absence of a final dogmatic court of appeal, like that of the Pope, there is a great danger of the Church being unable to speak with one common, authoritative voice on matters of pressing importance.

The first book that came to mind when you raised the question of a “mainstream” Orthodox understanding of the papacy is one of the books Veritas has mentioned, The Primacy of Peter. It is a book I own, but my copy of it does not seem to be immediately at hand; what I remember of it is that it has historical essays by Meyendorff and Schmemann (with Meyendorff, in particular, stating some of the Byzantine responses to the Roman claims), and gives an assessment of the role of what St. Ignatius of Antioch calls “the Church that presides in love” from the standpoint of eucharistic ecclesiology; if I’m not mistaken, there is an essay in the volume by Afanassiev with that title. Granted, not all Orthodox are quite sure what “eucharistic ecclesiology” means, and I probably should count myself among the number of the not-so-sure: when authors affirm that “the eucharist makes the Church” and that the bishop is ontologically defined by his role as president of the eucharistic synaxis, or when they say that the word “catholic” in the early Church referred simply and exclusively to the “fulness” of the faith and not to its “universality” in terms of geographical extent, my mind grows dizzy from the metaphysical heights, and I recognize that I am in the presence of argumentation of such exquisite, self-referential completeness that any attempt to verify or question it by examination of evidence would be pointless. I do not mean to belittle these theses; I only mean to express my concern that, when stated as ideological premises, immune to historical verification, they make the attempt to understand the role exercised by the bishop of Rome in the early Church very difficult.

Some other Orthodox books I might mention are the following:

Aristeides Papadakis, The Christian East and the Rise of the Papacy (Crestwood, NY, 1994). This is a general history of the Church between 1071 and 1453 A.D., but, as the title implies, much of it is in fact taken up with the papal claims and the history of their assertion over the Eastern Church. Papadakis is a writer with whom I have some disagreement, particularly over his assessment of John Bekkos as a theologian; but he makes some valid points in this book; for instance, he notes that the medieval papacy’s policy of demanding personal declarations of submission from Greek bishops was not calculated to reassure the Greek Church that its traditional beliefs and practices, its autonomous ecclesiastical life, would be respected. And those medieval Greek writers who complained that Rome was acting towards their church, not like a loving mother towards a daughter, but like an angry master towards an abject slave, had some genuine grounds for their complaint. Still, Papadakis’s tone in this book, while not as unrelentingly strident as in his book on Gregory of Cyprus, suggests that he has an axe to grind. He seldom condescends to acknowledge that the medieval papacy, or the Crusaders, did some actual good.

Michael Whelton, Two Paths: Papal Monarchy – Collegial Tradition. Rome’s Claims of Papal Supremacy in the Light of Orthodox Christian Teaching (Salisbury, MA: Regina Orthodox Press, 1998). Written by a Catholic convert to Orthodoxy. It is a popular presentation, a work of Orthodox apologetics, and in that sense it probably could be called mainstream.

Methodios Fouyas, Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism (London; New York: Oxford University Press, 1972; reprinted, Brookline: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1984). Not a study of the papacy as such, but a general comparison of the three churches. He tends to see greater affinities between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism than between Orthodoxy and Catholicism; this was, of course, written before some of the more notable modern developments in Anglican practice had taken place.

Philip Sherrard, Church, Papacy and Schism: A Theological Enquiry (London: SPCK, 1978). The author argues that there are deep theological differences between “the Greek East and the Latin West” (to cite the title of another of his books), which underlie the differing ecclesiologies. The book is worth reading, whether one agrees with the author or not. On p. 14, he refers to the point about “catholicity” that I mentioned briefly above, and gives a succinct and eloquent statement of this point of view:

“In its original and more profound sense, the word catholic when applied to the Church does not have this quantitative and geographical connotation, or at least it has it only in a secondary and derivative manner. Essentially, the Church is not catholic in relation to topography or space, or in relation to the fact that it embraces a multitude of local communities within a wider collectivity. Catholicity is not a collective term. What it essentially denotes is the interior integrity and spiritual plenitude of the Church. It has, that is to say, a strictly qualitative sense. It denotes fullness, completeness, what is essential rather than what is accidental. It has consequently, like the Church itself, trinitarian and christological roots. The Church is catholic because it lives in Christ. It is the expression of the fullness, the completeness or plenitude of the truth which is Christ. The catholicity of its head—Christ—is the principle of the catholicity of the Church as the body of Christ; and it is precisely its capacity to manifest divine life and truth in their fullness to all creatures that constitutes the catholicity of the Church.”

Those are the Orthodox treatments of the papacy that come to mind. I hope you find this note helpful.


* To give a brief specimen of this: one of the “famous sayings of Fr. Justin Popovitch” runs as follows: “The three great sins of humanity are the disobedience of Adam and Eve, the treason of Judas, and papism.” This is translated from the dedication page of Métropolite Michel Laroche, La papauté orthodoxe: Les origines historiqes du papisme du Patriarcat de Constantiople et de sa guerre ecclésiologique avec le Patriarcat de Moscou (Paris: Éditions Présence, 2004). Note that, in Laroche’s book, the word “papism” serves to designate an ecclesiastical tendency of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. One wonders: would Constantinople and Moscow still be in communion with each other, if they did not share the same polemics against the West in general, and against Rome in particular?

Veritas had recommended the following: (1) Olivier Clement, You Are Peter: An Orthodox Theologian’s Reflection on the Exercise of Papal Primacy (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003); (2) The Primacy of Peter: Essays in Ecclesiology and the Early Church, ed. John Meyendorff (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992); and (3) Klaus Schatz, Papal Primacy: From Its Origins to the Present (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996).