Saturday, May 14, 2011

Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife

I believe apologists have made use of this "universal" fact in favor of theism.

So what are atheists to do but try to explain this away with evolutionary psychology or some other form of reductionism? Could it be that the simple and the uneducated have some sort of understanding that the operations of the mind transcend the limits of matter?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How much effort should lay people put into discerning God's will?

Everyone should use prudence, and everyone should ask to be better confirmed God's will. Everyone should learn how to abandon themselves to Divine Providence. But does everyone equally need to know God's will? Lay people can discern what they should do, but much of their action is constrained by their duties and the rules and mores of their community. This is true of secular priests to an extent.

But at present it seems to me that those who need to discern God's will the most are those (religious) who no longer participate in the human economy, but wholly serve the Divine Economy. As a result, they need to be enlightened by Him directly as to how they are to serve Him and what they should do. Much of what the laity needs to do in order to fulfill God's will is given to them through the Natural Law, in conjunction with positive laws. The laity need to exercise prudence, as do those in religious life, but I think religious need to check that they are not presuming to be doing God's will, but must in humility ask to know whether this is actually the case.

The young do need to ask the question of whether they have a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life, but after that... maybe only with respect to great or extraordinary things or difficult cass? A parent does not need to question whether God wants him to do what is right for his children?
An old article in the Marquette Law Review, written by Anton Hermann Chroust: The Problem of Private Property According to St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lumen Christi Institute: April 27: "The Dignity of Being a Substance" by Gilles Emery, OP


“The Dignity of Being a Substance” from The Lumen Christi Institute on Vimeo.

How great the burden of proof?

Re: torturing people for the sake of getting information

What needs to be be established so that the court (or lawful authority) can find someone guilty of contempt in refusing to answer some question he has been commanded to answer? Beyond a "reasonable doubt"? It seems to me that it would be difficult to show beyond a reasonable doubt that someone knows (or plans) x - I can't imagine there being sufficient incriminating evidence that someone knows x without the needed information being present as well.

I think the burden should be rather great. If it cannot be established without a reasonable doubt that someone knows x, then he cannot be punished for refusing to divulge that information, even if those in authority have reasons for suspecting that he has that information.

Don Paco on St. Thomas's philosophy

Quaeritur: Aren't You Unfairly Criticizing Gilson?

Additional notes on the definition of torture

Begun on March 19.

Some thoughts on the use of "compel" or "coerce" in the definition of torture.

Compel, coerce, force may be synonyms, but their usage may indicate slight (or not-so-sleight) differences in their meanings?

"Compel" may be somewhat ambiguous, as ambiguous as the definition of "torture" can be. After all, torture can be defined as the use of pain or bodily harm to compel obedience, the yielding of information, etc. -- to make someone do what they do not want to do. If a police officer uses pain to make someone resisting arrest comply with his legitimate commands, is he torturing that person? (Or if a child is spanked because he is not obeying his parents' instructions, is that torture?) Pain is used to bring someone to do something the one applying the pain wants. The same is true of force. On the surface, this does not seem like punishment for disobedience, but the use of pain or force is usually a response (and hence justified in the eyes of the law) to prior non-compliance/disobedience of an instruction or order.

"Coerce" may be less ambiguous than the other two words because in the literature the word coercion is often associated with law and government. Law coerces as well as commands. It doesn't necessarily imply a voluntaristic understanding of law; it is how the effects of law are perceived by its subjects, who may have only an imperfect understanding of the purpose of law.Does coercion involve an understanding that the consequences of not following are punishments? Punishments for disobeying a (legitimate) command? In so far as it is tied to law, I think it does. One is given the opportunity to comply, and if one refuses to do so, he is punished.

(The wiki entry on coercion. SEP. IEP on Free Will.)

How do we distinguish morally licit forms of coercion  (if there are any), getting obedience, cooperation, compliance through the application of pain and so on, from illicit forms? One could make an argument from human dignity that no one should be made a tool of another's will, but taken to an extreme, this argument (proper to liberalism) would lead to the sanctioning of disobedience and the outlawing of all consequences for that act. So is compulsion (as in the example of the police officer) to be identified with (legal) coercion and hence punishment?

In coercing the will of another, one is doing so with respect to an external act, and in particular acts of the body, whether it be to say something or to submit to an arrest.One cannot coerce the will to truly choose some opinion or belief, to assent or deny something, because we cannot confirm that this is actually the case. We can only obtain the physical representation of that belief through a verbal or written profession. Nor can we coerce the will's internal acts (desiring or loving some end). "Mental states" are hidden from us. That sort of mind control is impossible for us, and hence a non-believer cannot be effectively compelled from without to embrace the Christian faith. It also goes against the nature of the act of faith because the "grounds for belief" is not relief of pain or one's physical safety or health, but God's revealing of Himself and the acceptance of this. To say that the act of faith is or must be a free act does not go far enough, in my opinion, in explaining why it cannot be coerced. How is it free, that epistemic encounter with God?

Again, even if torture could be morally justified,  it is ineffective (according to various "experts) at procuring truth (confessions of guilt) or information.

*Compulsion presupposes that the original command was lawful - the one giving the command hand the authority to do so, the one being commanded is under his authority, and so on.