Friday, February 18, 2011

Aquinas-Barth Conference

At Princeton in June.

Google Books: 2 by Edward Grant

The Nature of Natural Philosophy in the Late Middle Ages
A history of natural philosophy: from the ancient world to the nineteenth century

The Art of Definition

Working with elementary school students, I noticed that when asked to give definitions, students usually just give synonyms. But this is true of teachers as well. Is it also a weakness of children's dictionaries? Does this instill a bad habit that gets in the way of acquiring the intellectual virtues later on in life?

Aristotle's theory of the syllogism By Günther Patzig

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"If a Man Has a Great Love Within … He Endures Life’s Problems More Easily"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

While I was driving home and thinking of my recent hospital experience, I asked if part of the problem was not an inordinate desire for health, and if the amount of money being spent on research was not an indication of our wrong priorities. If we found that a majority (if not most or all) diseases of civilization were due to diet, would our society continue to spend so much money on research? I say "so much" since the amount of funding and grant money required to pay scientists and their staff and keep medical, pharmaceutical, or biological research laboratories running must be great. Even if we eliminated 70 or 80% of the diseases that plague us as we age, would we nevertheless demand 100% eradication? Would we not be satisfied with our lot in life?
This is assuming that everyone doing research is doing so with pure intentions, and not because they seek to make money from it. We could once again ask how the surplus wealth that is necessary for research is being obtained--if our research is a form of prodigality and the means by which the money is being obtained involves great injustice, then wouldn't the whole enterprise be doubly compromised?

Still, collective sin as it is used in contemporary discourse can seem like it is poorly-defined. How much responsibility do those who benefit from the system bear, as compared to those who are in control of the system?

It's been a long day...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council Now Available

Fr. Z: Archbp. Marchetto’s book about “School of Bologna” and interpretations of Vatican II now in English


Happiness Surveys and the Good of Ethics

We have often received reports through the MSM of the results of surveys trying to find the world's happiest country, and so on.

The most recent item I've seen that makes use of such surveys is Jim Bannon's "The Pursuit of Happiness" (EB), which uses the results of astudy comparing the 50 states, which attempted to link objective criteria with respondents' subjective life-satisfaction scores.

How does one determine unhappiness, or dissatisfaction? The failure to attain the goods that one wants or expects? How is this quantified in a survey? Some surveys may find a correlation with simplicity in lifestyle--others may not, especially when the top 5 happiest countries are industrialized. The definition of happiness is left up to the individual -- though external markers are sought to justify their impression. As far as I have seen, these surveys do not rely upon a notion of happiness universally applicable to all, a standard by which societies (and their ways of life) everywhere can be judged.

But on to my main point: it seems natural to us to think of goods as things that we possess. If we have the good or goods, then we are happy. Is this a problem of language? Does the word "good" lend itself to thinking in terms of abstractions and habits, things that we have? That is, because the word "good" is an [abstract] noun, are we inclined to seek a res that is a substance, rather than an accident. Do we find this problematic conception in other languages, or is it limited only to English? (Merriam-Webster, etymology)
Or is it more the psychology of fallen nature -- we spend much time thinking about what we wish to acquire in order to satisfy inordinate desires? Then, when we come across the word in a writings dealing with ethics, we first think of things before anything else. (Did utilitarianism/consequentialism play any role in promoting this understanding?)

Which of the Greek or Latin Fathers talked about goods as being things that are possessed? I can't remember St. Augustine's treatment. I do remember Boethius talking about the goods that are constitutive of happiness. He seems to share that conception of  the relationship of "good" to happiness with many moderns. From The Consolation of Philosophy: Aristotle does enumerate "goods" (things to be possessed) which are identified by various people as being happiness in the first book of the Nicomachean Ethics, but this is a dialectical discussion(?) aimed at showing that these opinions are incorrect.

What needs to be recovered is an understanding of good(s) of happiness primarily as an activity, and not as something that we have/possess, either "internal" to us (e.g. virtue or office/power/ability) or external to us (e.g. family). These latter goods are instruments or occasions for activity or the exercise of virtue.

If they are to be really meaningful, these surveys should not be a "sociological" study of what people want and desire and are missing, but a study of how people live. But that would probably require too much of an academic survey.

*Boethius's account, or any traditional Catholic theology for that matter, does seem to be right with respect to  naming God as our first ("highest") good. But this requires a nuanced explanation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Dominican Spiritual Life

op-stjoseph: The Dominican Spiritual Life
A talk by Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P

Fr. Brian Mullady, OP on EWTN

(via op-stjoseph)
Zenit: On Christ and the "Fullness" of the Law
"What Is This Superior Justice That He Demands?"

Fr. Michael Himes

Someone in the OLOP Young Adult Group posted this video on FB:

I was a bit curious, since I had heard one of Fr. Himes's homilies and was not impressed, despite the presence of what I considered a personality cult at his Mass. He didn't strike me as someone orthodox, but the typical American theologian who thinks he is a better authority than the bishop of Rome. I suppose I should listen to the video and read some of his stuff to have a better judgment of him as a theologian, teacher, and priest.

The talk he gave as part of BC's Last Lecture series--Boston College Front Row:


Food for Thought
Foundations of Christianity: Faith and Hope

He offers some guidance on discernment.

Heights article
Something on him and his brother.

2008: Dominican University Presents Michael Himes in Mazzuchelli Lecture

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Robert Araujo, Law as a Moral Idea -- a short note about Nigel Simmond’s Law as Moral Idea.

Related: Natural Law “Externalism” v. Law as a Moral Idea
Juriprudence Discussion Group
Positivism and Separation of Laws and Morals, Fifty Years On

James Chastek on Nature as a Principle of Motion

An interview with an old friar

Loving God More than Yourself

Aquinas argues that we should love God more than ourselves, for example in the Summa Theologiae here (with reference to the angels and the natural love of God) and here (with reference to us and charity). Now, it seems that if you were to ask a simple Catholic the reason why we love God more than ourselves he would not talk about God being the common good of all creation or as the cause of happiness.

Loving God more than ourselves seems to be part of Sacred Tradition; is it explicit in Sacred Scripture? One could interpret "greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:36-40) as implying this order. It is only implicit in Luke 10:27 -- it must be read into it, from Tradition and perhaps from Matthew 22:37?

It seems that through the theological virtue of Faith we believe that God is more lovable than us or more worthy of love. If pressed for a reason we might talk about His goodness and His relationship to us as Creator to creature. He is the cause, we are the effects, we are subordinate to Him. He is also "greater" in perfection, "better" than us. It seems to me that Aquinas's argument with God as the universal good is a more sophisticated version of this line of reasoning. If asked to give an explanation of the order of charity as it pertains to God, I think many of the faithful could manage an explanation with the sort of amateur theology I've outlined above.