Saturday, April 24, 2010

Zenit: Archbishop Speaks on Aquinas and Universities
"We Must Reaffirm the Passion for Truth That Animated St. Thomas"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Treasonous Clerk: “See, I Am Doing Something New”: John Paul II’s Summons to Secular Being, by James Matthew Wilson

The pope’s summons proves extremely daunting: he wants a philosophy attentive to metaphysics in order to reground modern theology in a concern with reality—with objective and absolute truth. But, in 1998, he finds no one (or few) in contemporary philosophy turned toward the questions of being. Who any longer treats philosophy as founded in its sapiential dimension—that is, in its drive to explore the foundational human questions all persons need answered if they are to live fully (§81)? And who endeavors to arrive at philosophy’s “genuinely metaphysical range” (§83), its concern with being, with what is real? And so Fides et Ratio makes an intervention in philosophy in hopes of building up a population of philosophers who might, someday and in turn, help to rebuild modern theology as a discipline attentive to the foundations of reality rather than merely the phenomena of history or experience. Beyond analytic and Continental philosophy, we need, as it were, a renewal of “plain old-fashioned philosophy.”
Emblem of the Papacy

Thus, the provisional nature of this encyclical. It makes insightful arguments about the history of religions and intellectual inquiry in general; it recovers a reading or narrative of history often dismissed as the alibi of an anti-modern Church; but in doing so it primarily makes the case for others to begin a new work: the rediscovery of human life as an intellectual and spiritual pilgrimage whose terrain is always what is real (being) and whose horizons are the specific historical revelation of God’s Word and the “infinite mystery” of God Himself (§14). We are asked to rediscover that the reason of “separate philosophy” leads finally to despair of reason. If, on the contrary, we recognize that reason is preceded by faith (as we experience, for instance, in the already present desire to know the truth about ourselves) and that reason is completed by faith (reason opens onto truths that, finally, surpass it and that it can see in only fragmented fashion) (§13)—we discover something grand. Reason participates in the human being’s circular journey from the gift of being and the gift of revelation toward a theological understanding of those gifts. It is man’s natural means of searching for a truth that ultimately transcends human life and reason alike and brings all searching to an end (§73).

Fr. Benedict Ashley has written that Thomism has neglected the historical dimension of being, but it is not clear to me how this can be the case if philosophy is to attain to the Aristotelian ideal of episteme and sophia. The contingent may be helpful in helping us understand natures and causes, but there cannot be a science of the contingent as such. While Pope John Paul II is correct that we are in need of metaphysics, Fr. Ashley rightly reminds those who desire to know that we must first have an adequate physics.
Edward Feser: Dembski rolls snake eyes and the actual response.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Edward Feser, Cudworth and Fuller respond

One of the comments at WWWTW:

30. In order to maintain the unity of body and soul clearly taught in revelation, the Magisterium adopted the definition of the human soul as forma substantialis (cf. Council of Vienne and the Fifth Lateran Council). Here the Magisterium relied on Thomistic anthropology which, drawing upon the philosophy of Aristotle, understands body and soul as the material and spiritual principles of a single human being. It may be noted that this account is not incompatible with present-day scientific insights. Modern physics has demonstrated that matter in its most elementary particles is purely potential and possesses no tendency toward organization. But the level of organization in the universe, which contains highly organized forms of living and non-living entities, implies the presence of some "information." This line of reasoning suggests a partial analogy between the Aristotelian concept of substantial form and the modern scientific notion of "information." Thus, for example, the DNA of the chromosomes contains the information necessary for matter to be organized according to what is typical of a certain species or individual. Analogically, the substantial form provides to prime matter the information it needs to be organized in a particular way. This analogy should be taken with due caution because metaphysical and spiritual concepts cannot be simply compared with material, biological data.

Which reveals two things, to a Thomist -- a Catholic theologian cannot do without adequate training in philosophy, especially physics, if he is to speak of natural things. Secondly, one must look at the causes of natural things in order to judge what others speak of them. While it may be easy for those of some intelligence to look for corresponding concepts, it is unfortunate that they do not see the problem with saying DNA is the formal cause of a human body, which can lend support to a dualistic understanding of human nature. Catholic intellectuals have lost much in the last century.
James Chastek, Notes on Thomism and ID

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wolfgang Smith has a new book out from Sophia Perennis, according to Amazon, but it is not listed on the Sophia Perennis website yet -- Science and Myth: What We Are Never Told.
NLM: R.I.P. Cardinal Tomas Spidlik
Public Discourse: Free Will and Biology, by William Carroll
Biological reductionism doesn’t disprove the notion of free will.
Edward Feser, ID theory, Aquinas, and the origin of life: A reply to Torley
(via WWWTW)