Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reply to Kozinski


I’ve been meaning to write up a response to Thaddeus Kozinski’s post at Ethika Politika criticizing my recent piece on David Bentley Hart’s views about natural law.  Brandon Watson has already pointed out some of the problems with Kozinski’s article, but it’s worth making a few remarks.  Kozinski is the author of the important recent book The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism, and I have enjoyed the articles of his that I’ve read over the years.  However, this latest piece seems to me to manifest some of the foibles of too much post-Scholastic theology -- in particular, a tendency to conflate a view’s no longer being current with its having been proved wrong; a failure to make crucial conceptual distinctions; and a tendency to caricature the views of writers of a Scholastic bent.
 
Kozinski is pretty tendentious straight out of the gate.  He writes:

The classical view of metaphysics, at least as articulated by Edward Feser, presupposes an extrinsicist understanding of the relation of nature and grace, and reason and Faith, and is, therefore, not Thomistic.  It’s as if Feser has not read, or just not digested, the work of John Milbank, Tracey Rowland, and Alasdair MacIntyre.

Needless to say, that is a false alternative, since one could, of course, know and understand the views of Milbank and Rowland and simply think they are wrong.  (MacIntyre I do not necessarily disagree with about the specific matters at issue in Kozinski’s article, but neither is what he says incompatible with what I have said.  More on that below.) 

For those not in the know, “extrinsicist” is a buzzword for Nouvelle Theologie writers who like to think that the centuries-old tradition of Aquinas commentators, and the Neo-Scholastics in particular, somehow all got Aquinas wrong on questions of nature and grace, natural and supernatural.  When Kozinski says “not Thomistic,” what he really means is “not Thomistic as Nouvelle Theologie writers like de Lubac would reconstruct Thomas.”  And naturally, whether these writers get Aquinas right is itself a matter of controversy.  Indeed, there is a growing wave of reaction against the Nouvelle Theologie’s reaction against the tradition of the commentators.  It’s as if Kozinski has not read, or just not digested, Lawrence Feingold’s The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters, Steven A. Long’s Natura Pura: On the Recovery of Nature in the Doctrine of Grace (a book praised by MacIntyre, let it be noted), Ralph McInerny’s Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers, Bernard Mulcahy’s Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac, or Serge-Thomas Bonino’s edited volume Surnaturel: A Controversy at the Heart of Twentieth-Century Thomistic Thought.

In any event, Kozinski’s false alternative follows a straw man.  He starts out the article as follows:

What is at the heart of the debate over Hart? It is this: both the classical and new natural law schools are wrong if they think that the natural law can be known, lived, and legislated in abstraction from tradition and culture, which is, at heart, theological.

And Kozinski glosses this (by itself somewhat vague) characterization as follows:

In my view, both the classical and the new traditions neglect these four realities: 1) the mutually dependent relation of speculative and practical reason; 2) the subjectivity-shaping role of social practices; 3) the tradition-constituted-and-constitutive character of practical rationality; and 4) the indispensability of divine revelation in ethical inquiry and practice.

End quote.  Let’s consider these points in order.  Why Kozinksi thinks that classical natural law writers “neglect… the mutually dependent relation of speculative and practical reason,” I have no idea.  Classical natural law theory, as I noted in my article on Hart, is the approach to natural law that was standard in Neo-Scholastic manuals of ethics and moral theology in the pre-Vatican II period and in more recent decades has been defended by writers like Ralph McInerny, Henry Veatch, Russell Hittinger, David Oderberg, and Anthony Lisska.  If you read the old manuals, you will find that they are steeped in the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics of essences and final causality.  Veatch advocated what he called an “ontology of morals.”  Lisska devoted a book (also praised by MacIntyre, for what it is worth) to showing how natural law in the tradition of Aquinas is grounded in a metaphysics of essences and dispositional properties.  Oderberg is no less keen to insist on “The Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Law.”  In my own case, as my longtime readers know, I absolutely never shut up about how ethics must be grounded in classical metaphysics.  And all of these writers would, I think, agree that ethics is also relevant to metaphysics insofar as in our knowledge of our own nature and rational and volitional powers we have examples of finality even more obvious and undeniable than those we see in the extra-human world.

So, where does Kozinksi get this idea that classical natural law theorists ignore the relationship between practical and speculative reason?  Again, I have no idea; certainly he provides no textual or philosophical support for this claim whatsoever.  “New natural law” theory might be accused of ignoring the relationship in question -- I’ll let its advocates defend themselves if they want  to, since as an “old” natural law theorist I think that particular charge against them is just -- but the classical version?  Not a chance.

What about this idea that natural law theory neglects “the subjectivity-shaping role of social practices” and “the tradition-constituted-and-constitutive character of practical rationality“?  Here too we have nothing but sheer assertion, unsupported either by quotations from natural law writers or philosophical analysis of the implications of their position.  And here too the characterization of natural law theory is simply wrong.  While I don’t necessarily buy everything that lies behind the passages from MacIntyre that Kozinski cites, the general idea that moral reasoning must always take place within a concrete social, historical, and cultural context is true enough as far as it goes.  Indeed, that reason and morality are unavoidably embedded in tradition is a thesis I’ve defended many times myself, such as here, here, and here.  How does this thesis conflict with anything natural law writers say?  Kozinski does not tell us.

Kozinski’s complaint is not a historicist or relativist one to the effect that there are no tradition- or culture-independent moral truths, for he evidently endorses the view that practical reason is “able and inherently ordered to transcend particularity and contingency to reach universal and necessary truth” and affirms the reality of an “intrinsic and necessary human nature and set of inclinations.”   So what’s the problem, exactly?

Perhaps Kozinski supposes that natural law theorists think that every individual is capable of spinning out the whole of morality from first principles, divorced from any context, from the armchair as it were.  But I know of no natural law theorist, “old” or “new,” who believes such a thing.  The natural law theorist claims merely that at least a good deal of morality, at least at the level of general principle, can be known in principle through philosophical reasoning apart from divine revelation (“natural law” being in this respect like “natural theology”); and also (in the case of “old” natural law theorists) that this knowledge can be had from the study of human nature.  But that is a far cry from saying that every human being or even very many human beings are in fact likely to arrive at explicit knowledge even of the general principles; and it certainly does not entail that the details of morality or the way moral principles ought to be applied to concrete circumstances can be arrived at in the abstract, divorced from concrete circumstances.

On the contrary, natural law theorists would follow Aquinas’s position that human law is required in order to give the natural law a “more particular determination” is some of its aspects, and that (as a passage Aquinas approvingly quotes from Tully puts it):

[J]ustice has its source in nature; thence certain things came into custom by reason of their utility; afterwards these things which emanated from nature and were approved by custom, were sanctioned by fear and reverence for the law.  (Summa Theologiae I-II.91.3)

Natural law theorists would also follow Aquinas’s view that what we can know by philosophical arguments alone is in practice typically incomplete, mixed with error, and arrived at only by a few.  Vis-à-vis natural theology, Aquinas writes:

Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors.  (Summa Theologiae I.1.1)

He says something similar about ethics:

[O]n account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result (Summa Theologiae I-II.91.4)

Needless to say, these passages evince the opposite of a “Cartesian” view that would purport to discover moral truth “ex nihilo or, perhaps, ex individuo in [one’s] self-consciousness” via an “‘unaided’ or ‘pure’ form of reason” divorced from tradition, history, and the like (to cite Kozinski’s description of the sort of view he opposes).  And if Kozinski thinks that natural law theorists -- who are, especially in the case of us “old” natural law theorists, notoriously deferential to Aquinas -- hold that the Angelic Doctor got things wrong in these particular passages, I’d love to see the quotes from their works that back this claim up. 

This naturally brings us to the charge that natural law theorists “neglect… the indispensability of divine revelation in ethical inquiry and practice.”  As the passages from Aquinas just quoted indicate, to claim that a great deal of moral truth is in principle knowable via unaided reason is in no way to deny that in practice -- given the difficulty of philosophical reasoning and the errors to which we are prone -- divine revelation is needed in order for most people to have adequate knowledge even of the natural law. 

As Aquinas also emphasizes, divine revelation is necessary for all people if they are to have knowledge of what is necessary for us in order to attain our supernatural end -- the beatific vision, which transcends what we are naturally ordered to.  He writes:

Besides the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a Divine law. And this for four reasons. First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end.  And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man's natural faculty, as stated above (Question 5, Article 5), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God... (Summa Theologiae I-II.91.4)

There are two points here that require equal emphasis in the present context.  First, the natural and supernatural ends of man are distinct -- so much so that to the realization of our natural end alone a “further direction” from divine revelation would not be strictly necessary, even if it is in practice fitting given the limitations of human nature.  (This does not mean, by the way, that knowledge of God is not necessary for attainment of man’s purely natural end -- the knowledge of God we can acquire via natural theology is certainly necessary -- only that a special divine revelation is not necessary for that end.)

The second point to emphasize is, of course, that for our supernatural end -- the beatific vision, which surpasses merely natural knowledge of God -- revelation is necessary.  But this is a separate end.  And that means that while the full story about man must include reference to both his natural and supernatural ends and to what is needed in order to realize each, there is in principle a body of moral knowledge that concerns man as he would have been in a state of pure nature.

Now, citing Jacques Maritain, Kozinski writes:

[A]ny science of human action that excludes the realm of the supernatural from its purview is deficient, and radically so.  There is no such thing as “pure ethics” if that means a discourse or methodology that excludes consideration of what God has revealed about the destiny of man.

If what Kozinski means by that is that the full story about the good for man must include both the natural and supernatural ends, then no natural law theorist (or no Catholic natural law theorist, anyway) would deny that.  But if he means that the natural law as such cannot be understood even in principle without reference to man’s supernatural end, then he’s just wrong.  It would not, in that case, be natural law.  Certainly he could not appeal to Aquinas in defense of such a claim -- and not to Maritain either, as Kozinski himself realizes, acknowledging that:

Maritain does distinguish between moral philosophy and moral theology, with the former relatively autonomous in its methodology and conclusions, and resolving its judgments in the light of human reason alone.

So once again, we have to ask what exactly Kozinski’s beef with natural law is.  And once again the answer just isn’t clear.  On the one hand Kozinski tells us, following Maritain, that “ethical inquiry is incomplete and bound to err if it is not ‘subalternated’ to theology” -- a claim which on one natural reading is just what the natural law theorist, following Aquinas, acknowledges in light of the difficulty, for most people, of philosophical reasoning and the fact that the complete story about man must include his supernatural end.  On the other hand, Kozinski acknowledges -- once again following Maritain -- that “moral philosophy… is distinct from theology in that it resolves its judgments in the natural light of practical reason and experience, not the light of divine revelation.”  And of course, Maritain, to whose views Kozinski appeals in at least much of his article, was himself a natural law theorist!  So, what exactly is it that natural law theorists have gotten wrong?  In particular, what exactly is it that I got wrong vis-à-vis revelation, the supernatural, etc. in my article on Hart?  The reader’s guess is as good as mine.

The rest of Kozinski’s article seems even more radically disconnected from anything I actually said in my reply to Hart -- and more opaque too.  For example, Kozinski writes:

Conservative theists such as Feser endorse wholeheartedly the infusion of integrally religious practices and discourse into the naked public square; yet they also tend to limit the participation in and scope of these practices and discourses to the in-house crowd, as it were.

End quote.  I’m not sure what to say about this except that I am not even sure what exactly he is attributing to me, nor how what I said in my reply to Hart (or anywhere else for that matter) prompted such a strange attribution!

350 comments:

1 – 200 of 350   Newer›   Newest»
Thaddeus Kozinski said...

Thanks for your response, Edward. Fair criticisms. I could have been clearer, and I think, reflecting on your comments, that you don't quite fit with those I criticize. I am really taking aim at the quick dismissers of Hart's point (and I do think Hart's view is not without its problems), which is the point of people like MacIntyre, Cavanaugh, Rowland, Aidan Nichols, Engelhardt, and Schindler. Those who are quick to condemn Hart and co. usually promote some sort of Catholic version of Rawls's public reason. This used to be the First Things paradigm, but its changing for the better. No more neo-con, Americanist Thomism hopefully!

Also the following wasn't fair:

"Conservative theists such as Feser endorse wholeheartedly the infusion of integrally religious practices and discourse into the naked public square; yet they also tend to limit the participation in and scope of these practices and discourses to the in-house crowd, as it were."

There are those who do this, but it was unfair to attribute this to you, as I can see now. This was rashness on my part. I apologize.

Edward Feser said...

Thanks, Thaddeus. You are a gentleman and a scholar!

Bobby Bambino said...

Wow, this kind of gentlemanly exchange is not something you see everyday, especially on the internet! Thank you to both of you for listening to and respecting each other.

Matthew Gaetano said...

Beautiful response. And Mr. Kozinski's reply is almost moving. I had come close to despairing about the possibility of fruitful argument, at least on the internet. Thank you.

There is also an interesting exchange about natural law and the American Founding at Public Discourse. Perhaps the challenges of our day are encouraging us to look even more carefully at this rich tradition of moral reflection. And, if I may say so, I believe that there are unexplored features of this tradition in Thomas Aquinas' greatest commentators. These are, we can hope, exciting times for such inquiries.

Foobobble the Absurd said...

"For those not in the know, 'extrinsicist' is a buzzword for Nouvelle Theologie writers who like to think that the centuries-old tradition of Aquinas commentators, and the Neo-Scholastics in particular, somehow all got Aquinas wrong on questions of nature and grace, natural and supernatural."

I don't claim to understand all the nuances in the debate between neo-Thomists and Lubacians, but from the little I do grasp I sympathize with De Lubac. If I understand right, De Lubac received obloquy from Thomists who thought that he erred in insisting that human nature contains a natural desire for the supernatural (A claim upon which C. S. Lewis's conversion was based and formed much of his apologetics). The Thomists insisted, on the contrary, that while there is an obediential potency of the human to the divine will, this does not amount to a natural desire for the supernatural. To suppose that we do have such a desire is to do violence to the sheerly gratuous nature of grace.

Here is what I don't understand about that framework: 1)If we are made in the image of God, isn't only natural that we should desire the thing that we image? 2)One doesn't have to turn to the catechism to be told that man's telos is contemplation of God; one only has to open Book X of Aristotle's Ethics. Aristotle, without the aid of revelation, along with all Neo-Platonists, knew that the telos of human nature is contemplation of God--doesn't this fact speak in favor of Lubac and not the neo-Thomists? 3) Saint Thomas distingushes between intellectus and ratio, following Boethius. But according to Boethius, intellectus is not for things of this world; it is a faculty which grasps supernatural realities, and to exercise the intellective faculty is to share in a vision which is sub specie aeternitatis. And yet all men have this faculty by nature.

And as an aside, Jacques Maritain's "Sixth Way" seems to go much further in collapsing the distinction between grace and nature than anything De Lubac ever said. How has this argument managed to escape the scrutiny of his fellow neo-Thomists?

Foobobble the Absurd said...

*gratuitous*

DavidM said...

"human nature contains a natural desire for the supernatural" - According to ST I-II.3.8, man cannot be perfectly happy if there remains something for him to desire and to seek; so, he argues, perfect happiness requires that man's intellect reach to the very essence of the first cause. Aquinas certainly accepts that man naturally participates in the divine understanding by the natural intelligible light which is one of his natural potencies. But it seems clear also that the light of grace is required for perfect happiness. So how to read ST I-II.3.8? Does Thomas distinguish between 'perfect happiness' and 'natural happiness'? Is it supposed to be implied in the article mentioned that man would not *naturally* desire quidditative knowledge of the first cause, i.e., that this desire is only the result of grace?

Alan Aversa said...

I was going to mention Feingold, but you beat me to it. ☺

Alan Aversa said...

@David M:

As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange quotes in a footnote of his "Where is the New Theology Leading Us?", these articles from St. Thomas support a twofold end of man:

I q. 23 a. 1
The end towards which created things are directed by God is twofold; one which exceeds all proportion and faculty of created nature; and this end is life eternal, that consists in seeing God which is above the nature of every creature, as shown above (q. 12 a. 4). The other end, however, is proportionate to created nature, to which end created being can attain according to the power of its nature.

I-II q. 62 a. 1
Now man's happiness is twofold, as was also stated above (q. 5 a. 5). One is proportionate to human nature, a happiness, to wit, which man can obtain by means of his natural principles. The other is a happiness surpassing man's nature

De Veritate q. 14 a. 2
Man, however, has a twofold final good […] The first of these is proportionate to human nature […] This is the happiness about which the philosophers speak […] The other is the good which is out of all proportion with man’s nature.

Lawrence Feingold's excellent The Natural Desire to See God according to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters addresses your question very well (see this The Thomist review of it).

Thaddeus Kozinski said...

The following is from an article of mine, here, on the debate between Hadley Arkes and Matthew O'Brien in public discourse a while back, about natural-law discourse: http://www.anamnesisjournal.com/issues/2-web-essays/13-the-good-the-right-and-theology

I think it captures and resolves the debate better than my pro-Hart article. I think the main issue is that there is, as Milbank and Archbishop Martinez say, no "secular reason." By the way, this one by the Archbishop is just outstanding on this issue: http://www.secondspring.co.uk/articles/martinez.htm
Here's a selection from my article:

What Maritain wished to affirm was a modern version of Aquinas’ thesis that every human being has within him or herself a natural knowledge of divine law and hence of what every human being owes to every other human being. The plain pre-philosophical person is always a person of sufficient moral capacities. But what Maritain failed to reckon with adequately was the fact that in many cultures and notably in that of modernity plain persons are misled into giving moral expression to those capacities through assent to false philosophical theories. So it has been since the eighteenth century with assent to a conception of rights alien to and absent from Aquinas’ thought.

Tracey Rowland describes MacIntyre’s position: “Macintyre’s analysis raises the question of whether there can be any such things as ‘universal values,’ understood not in a natural law sense, but rather…the idea that there is a set of values which are of general appeal across a range of traditions, including the Nietzschean, Thomist, and Liberal traditions.” MacIntyre again:
Abstract from the particular theses to be debated and evaluated from their contexts within traditions of enquiry and then attempt to debate and evaluate them in terms of their rational justifiability to any rational person, to individuals conceived as abstracted from their particularities of character, history, and circumstance, and you will thereby make the kind of rational dialogue which could move through argumentative evaluation to the rational acceptance of rejection of a tradition of enquiry effectively impossible. Yet it is just such abstraction in respect of both of the theses to be debated and the persons to be engaged in the debate which is enforced in the public forms of enquiry and debate in modern liberal culture, thus for the most part effectively precluding the voices of tradition outside liberalism from being heard.

D. Stephen Long puts the whole point powerfully:

Beginning with the flesh of Jesus and its presence in the church, theology alone can give due order to other social formations—family, market, and state. The goodness of God is discovered not in abstract speculation, but in a life oriented toward God that creates particular practices that require the privileging of certain social institutions above others. The goodness of God can be discovered only when the church is the social institution rendering intelligible our lives. . . . For a Christian account of this good, the church is the social formation that orders all others. If the church is not the church, the state, the family, and the market will not know their own true nature.

Moral judgments are certainly principled judgments, and we should search for and declare these principles, even enforce them in law. Yet, all principles of reason, whether moral or logical, are first and foremost expressions of the divine logos, who can be encountered in and through his manifold, principled, universal expressions, but absent a personal, experiential encounter with Him through Faith, in the very particular place and time where His Flesh becomes available to touch and experience, principles are just principles—fleshless, bloodless, and dead.

Charles said...

Foobobble,
The natural desire to see God in his essence, is considered by Thomists to be an elicited desire, consequent on the knowledge that God exists. Our natural desire, the innate tendency of the will, is to the good in general. But the will must receive its object from the intellect, that is, a man can only desire what he knows. Now, the intellect itself has a natural appetite to know being, i.e., the essences of all things that are. By natural reason, we can know that God exists, but we cannot know his essence. Consequently, we can will to know God's essence, but apart from sanctifying grace and the call to beatitude, this desire is necessarily inefficacious. The desire is only efficacious if supported by the theological virtues, which order us to an intrinsically supernatural beatitude which consists in knowing God as God knows himself. The specific obediential potency of the rational creature is that he can be ordered to this intrinsically supernatural end without his nature being essentially changed. A rock, or plant, or animal could not have an obediential potency of this kind, for in being ordered to a higher end, they would cease to be the kind of thing they are and become something of a higher order.

Dr. Feser,
I would also highly recommend the book 'The Role of Demonstration in Moral Theology' by William Wallace (his doctoral dissertation) for an excellent overview of how demonstration in moral philosophy works and how it differs from demonstration in moral theology. He also gives an excellent account of the relationship between speculative and practical reason, and how each relates to demonstration. This latter aspect is treated comprehensively in the article "Resolution and composition in speculative and practical discourse" by S. Edmund Dolan in Laval theologique et philosophique 6 (1950), 9-62.

Chris said...

I just ordered "The Political Problem of Religious Pluralism" by Thaddeus Kozinski. I am curious to discover if he is entirely opposed to the esoteric ecumenism of Schuonian Perennialism.

rank sophist said...

Kozinski's argument confuses me--I don't see what it has to do with Hart's position or Prof. Feser's. However, it seems like it all turned out in the end, which is good.

On the topic of the natural desire to see God, I think that this can be declared traditional based on even a small sampling of the Church Fathers' work. Garrigou-Lagrange--as a legalist and a hard determinist--obviously would have problems with such a desire, particularly since it owes more to Cassian than it does to Augustine. Those who accept the Banezian heresy (and I do not use that term lightly), as G-L did, must believe that God decides from eternity who will be given grace. God determines all of our actions in this life, and so he decides, as in Calvinism, ahead of time who will be saved and who will be damned. We are essentially reduced to being God's action figures.

A more traditional view, of the kind ressourcement rediscovered, escapes this nonsense by simultaneously affirming A) that grace is a free gift and B) that humans desire it and can do things to merit it, at least in some sense. (Cassian's Conference 13.11 explains this point better than I ever could.) Any theory of grace that leaves out one of these two factors will be either Pelagian or deterministic.

Alphonsus Jr. said...

I second that recommendation of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's devastating essay - "Where is the New Theology Leading Us?" - against the toxic Nouvelle Theologie De Lubac, Von Balthasar et al. Definitely click on that link.

The "new theology" led us to the catastrophe of the Hippie Council, aka the Judas Council, aka the Second Vatican Council. We now live amidst its wreckage. I'll never forget the words of that new St. Athanasius, Abp. Marcel Lefebvre, in the Prologue to his book Spiritual Journey:

"At the close of a long life (for I was born in 1905 and I now see the year 1990), I can say that it has been marked by exceptional world events: three world wars, that which took place from 1914 to 1918, that which took place from 1939 to 1945, and that of the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. The disasters caused by these three wars, and especially by the last of them, are incalculable in the domain of material ruins, but even more so in the spiritual realm. The first two paved the way for the war inside the Church...."

As for Tracey Rowland, isn't she a NeoCath? I think so. This raises my skeptical antennae.

Anyone unsure of what "NeoCath" means would do well to google for these articles:

The Justice of the Term 'Neo-Catholic' by Christopher Ferrara

and

Revenge of the Neo-Cats by Hilary White

BenYachov said...

When it comes to this "neo-Catholic crap" Ferrara has always had his head up his arse.

Radtrads are pointless they are just Gnus with Rosary Beads.

On the other side of the coin.

>Garrigou-Lagrange--as a legalist and a hard determinist.

I don't agree with you RS. It seemed to me G-L was a mysterian in that regard. He believed God from all eternity choose who will be given efficacious grace but since he doesn't command the impossible the sufficient grace he gives is truly sufficient.

God determines how the world will unfold via His Providence but He gives me true free will.

How does that work? Like the Trinity it's a mystery.

It's one of the reasons I might be moving away from Molinism but that still doesn't mean I am some sort of Catholic Calvinist.

BenYachov said...

I'm all for Traditional Thomism but not at the cost of equating Scotism or Eastern Catholic Theology & Philosophy with heresy or doctrinal error.

I am a Catholic first before being a Thomist.

Alphonsus Jr. said...

Friends, notice that this BenYachov is of Catholic Answers, one of the bastions of NeoCatholicism.

By the way, I also recommend this essay by Christopher Ferrara:

Gnostic Twaddle

Foobobble the Absurd said...

@Charles—Thanks for your explanation. That gives me something to put in my pipe and smoke for awhile. Just to clarify, when you say that for Thomists the natural desire to see God is “elicited”, you don’t say that it’s not natural; it is natural, but dormant in the human will until awakened by knowledge of God. That’s going too far for at least Garrigou-Lagrange, no? (Father GL writes: “God, the author of our nature, could not give us the innate natural desire for an end to which he could not lead us ut auctor naturae. The order of agents would no longer correspond to the order of ends.”)

You also point out that although we have a natural desire for God, the desire itself cannot deliver us to God; the grace of God alone can fulfill the desire—it’s a top-down and not a bottom-up affair. I’m sure De Lubac has no wish to question this, and Aquinas says as much in Prima Secundae:

…Thus he is better disposed to health who can attain perfect health, albeit by means of medicine, than he who can attain but imperfect health, without the help of medicine. And therefore the rational creature, which can attain the perfect good of happiness, but needs the Divine assistance for this purpose, is more perfect than the irrational creature, which is not capable of attaining the good, but attains some imperfect good by its natural powers. (q.5 a.5)

The analogy Aquinas uses here seems to tell against Garrigou-Lagrange’s conception of “pure nature”, since Aquinas speaks of imperfect and perfect health, and imperfect and perfect happiness—not two forms of perfect happiness on different levels.

@DavidM and Rank Sophist—Thanks for the references.

@Chris-I could be wrong, but I don't think Kozinski deals with Schuonian perennialism in his work. There are a few Thomists who do: Jean Borella and Wolfgang Smith. Both are in degrees sympathetic but critical. Martin D'Arcy formed a friendship with perennialist Ananda Coomaraswamy, and I think as a result wrote a book as an interface between Catholicism and perennialism:The Meeting of Love and Knowledge.

Brian said...

rank sophist, are you accusing Lagrange of heresy? Are you even Catholic?

rank sophist said...

Ben,

Good to see you around again.

I don't agree with you RS. It seemed to me G-L was a mysterian in that regard. He believed God from all eternity choose who will be given efficacious grace but since he doesn't command the impossible the sufficient grace he gives is truly sufficient.

I haven't read G-L's book Predestination--I've only read about it--, so I won't argue directly against your interpretation. I'll just say that, if G-L is true to Banez and the "pre-motion" of the will, hard determinism is the only option. Banez's arguments against this conclusion were rhetorical games. Free will is ruled out by pre-motion--just a bit less explicitly than it is by Lutheran and Calvinist determinism. God decides from eternity to pre-move certain individuals toward him and others away from him. The good done by humans is God's, and, since God is in control of every single human action, so is the evil. It's determinism through-and-through, no matter how you look at it. Maybe G-L breaks with Banezian tradition, but I haven't read anything that suggests it.

God determines how the world will unfold via His Providence but He gives me true free will.

How does that work? Like the Trinity it's a mystery.


If that's really G-L's argument, it seems like a cop-out. He's holding two contradictory positions and he knows he can't reconcile them, so he calls it a mystery.

Anyway, something worth mentioning is that, when Aquinas talks about God's providence, he isn't talking about predetermination. Providence is the final causality that God implants in all things (ST Ia q22 a1-4), which allows him to order nature as he pleases. God is not an efficient cause of change except by analogy, as the primary cause of all agent power whatsoever. He gives agents efficient power in the same way that he gives them being: creating it and sustaining it at every moment. This is not, however, the same as God causing change--which is what happens when God produces a miracle. God doesn't determine history's events except insofar as he gives them the power to occur.

It's one of the reasons I might be moving away from Molinism but that still doesn't mean I am some sort of Catholic Calvinist.

I almost abandoned Thomism after finding out about Molina and Banez, but I've since come to understand that most of Aquinas's interpreters throughout history have been hugely ignorant--Banez and Molina included. A formative essay for me was this one (click "Page 34") by Hart. It really tore down the difficulties I was having in understanding the traditional notions of free will and divine causality, which, even though Hart doesn't say it explicitly in there, are absolutely what Aquinas advocated. You can see them particularly in Aquinas's less cited works, like De Potentia, the Summa contra Gentiles and De Veritate.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Feser,

Off topic, but I thought you'd find this article interesting:

http://voices.yahoo.com/the-forgotten-link-between-free-will-honesty-12077072.html

George R. said...

Radtrads are pointless they are just Gnus with Rosary Beads.

Really? It seems to me that if you had a rational argument against the traditionalists, you'd present it. But as things are, you are apparently only able to hurl insults, just like the Gnus.

rank sophist said...

Brian,

rank sophist, are you accusing Lagrange of heresy?

I merely said that he followed a heretical doctrine, which is the denial of free will. This is contrary to Scripture and the Church Fathers' work, and it was anathematized at the Council of Trent.

Jules said...

rank sophist,

This is not, however, the same as God causing change--which is what happens when God produces a miracle.

I have interest in this question and I hope you can reply to my commentary.

So, let's see, we have these premises from definitions, observation and standard thomism:

(1) Choosing involves changing;
(2) Changing involves actualization of a potential;
(3) No potential can actualize itself;

But your position seems to imply that God is not causing the change of the act of free will as a efficient cause. So it seems that humans are first movers when acting as efficient cause... Right?

Is there anything wrong with the above?

benYachov said...


>Friends, notice that this BenYachov is of Catholic Answers, one of the bastions of NeoCatholicism.

Actually I have no affiliation with Catholic Answers having let my subscription to THIS ROCK magazine elapse years ago.

That is just something I put in the link box.

>By the way, I also recommend this essay by Christopher Ferrara:

Good old Ferrara when Bob Sungenis was plagiarizing neo-nazi material, expounding on geocentricism & suggesting holocaust denial was a respectable viewpoint for Catholics & naturally this didn't go over well. Yet Ferrara was complaining people where just picking on him because he became a traditionalist.

Nice fellow. Not at all clueless or obtuse. BTW I have this bridge about 20 miles from my house I would love to sell Ferrara's fans.

Anyway it's nice to know George R the Sede can have a playmate in Jr.

For myself I'll take the common sense Traditionalism of Pete Vere, Kevin Tierney or Jacob Michael any day of the week over wackos like Ferrara,

benYachov said...

What's up RS my Home Boychic! Shalom!

>I haven't read G-L's book Predestination--I've only read about it--, so I won't argue directly against your interpretation.

I've read REALITY: A SYNTHESIS it's available online.

> I'll just say that, if G-L is true to Banez and the "pre-motion" of the will, hard determinism is the only option. Banez's arguments against this conclusion were rhetorical games. Free will is ruled out by pre-motion--just a bit less explicitly than it is by Lutheran and Calvinist determinism.

Are you sure about that? Luther and Calvin where Nominalists and clearly influenced by mechanism. Hence their hard determinism.

>God decides from eternity to pre-move certain individuals toward him and others away from him.

I don't see how that can be true? Double Predestinarianism is a Calvinsit concept. Catholics believe God predestines people to Heaven based on His good pleasure & predestines others to Hell based on their foreseen sins. Calvin believed both predestinations where gratuitous and unconditional. Catholics as a matter of dogma believe the predestination to Hell is conditional.

So whatever the concept of "pre-moving" is it can't be that or the Vatican would have hammered them into spoo.

>The good done by humans is God's, and, since God is in control of every single human action, so is the evil. It's determinism through-and-through, no matter how you look at it. Maybe G-L breaks with Banezian tradition, but I haven't read anything that suggests it.

Or maybe Benez meant something else? Unlike Calvin he defended Free Will.
Since his view has not been formally condemned by the Church it is not correct to call it heresy. Benez, Molinis, Congruentism and the other systems are equal opinions a Catholic may hold. I like Fr William Most's additions to the subject. OTOH Benez views make sense only if one surrenders to Mystery.

I don't know how Free Will works or how Grace moves the Will yet keeps it free.
I don't know how sufficient grace is truly sufficient and I don't know it's real difference with efficacious grace. I only know I can by Grace freely choose Heaven yet take no credit for my free choice but I can also freely choose Hell and it is no fault but mine and I had enough Grace to have chosen otherwise.

I don't know how it works & I don't think we are meant to know.

benYachov said...

>If that's really G-L's argument, it seems like a cop-out. He's holding two contradictory positions and he knows he can't reconcile them, so he calls it a mystery.

I don't want to start a fight with you my friend but that sort of sounds like what I'm-skeptical might say about the Trinity. I think it is more complicated then that.

>I almost abandoned Thomism after finding out about Molina and Banez, but I've since come to understand that most of Aquinas's interpreters throughout history have been hugely ignorant--Banez and Molina included. A formative essay for me was this one (click "Page 34") by Hart. It really tore down the difficulties I was having in understanding the traditional notions of free will and divine causality,

I'll look into it since I have some interest in the Eastern view vs the West from my days of dabbling in Eastern Rite Catholicism. Anyway I think if we study mystery more the problems are not that bad OTOH it could be all the views in some way revolve around mystery.

Cheers brother. I hope we can have another round with duller on analogy or that Prof Feser might address the issue. I've been reading different schools on analogy. I haven't disided if analogy is a logical doctrine or a metaphysical one.

But if it is logical then I think most of dgullers ontological objections loose their force. But I am grateful he is one of the few atheists here to seriously study the issues and seriously challenge us. One gets so tired of explaining to the Gnus for the Umpteth time the Argument from Motion is not an argument from physics.

rank sophist said...

Jules,

So, let's see, we have these premises from definitions, observation and standard thomism:

(1) Choosing involves changing;
(2) Changing involves actualization of a potential;
(3) No potential can actualize itself;

But your position seems to imply that God is not causing the change of the act of free will as a efficient cause. So it seems that humans are first movers when acting as efficient cause... Right?

Is there anything wrong with the above?


The will is moved by the intellect, and the intellect by the will, in various ways. It's extremely complex. (If you're interested, Aquinas's summary of the will-intellect relationship appears in ST Ia q82-83 and ST IIa q8-17.) The general point is that God does not reduce the will from potency to act: the intellect does this. And the intellect is, in turn, reduced from potency to act by the will (in certain cases) and by exterior phenomena. It's a self-sufficient system that does not require divine intervention.

However, as Oderberg has written in response to Kenny, this doesn't mean that humans are first movers. The intellect would have no content (and thus the will would have no object) without its relationship to the exterior world. Our senses take in sensible species ("likenesses") of the world, without which the intellect cannot operate (ST Ia q84 a7). It must be said, then, that the senses cause the intellect, which causes the will. And the senses, in turn, are caused by the external world. As a result, humans cannot in any way be called first movers, since they rely on things outside of themselves.

God does not enter this system of causes in any direct way. He isn't "at the bottom" of the chain, as the cause of quantum events or what-have-you. That would make him just another secondary cause. Rather, God provides causal power to each individual cause at every moment, just as he provides being to each individual being at every moment. This is what it means to be the primary cause: to be the principle of every secondary cause, without which no secondary causes would exist. He does not cause anything in the sense that we understand the word "cause", which indicates a secondary cause. The label "primary cause" is an analogy for a type of action that we cannot comprehend in itself, because God's action is his very essence (SCG b2 ch10)--something that we can't know in this life. All we know is that secondary causes can't be self-sufficient, because then there'd be an infinite regress of causes that derive their power from one another, which is nonsense.

Sobieski said...

@Jules

Is there anything wrong with the above?

As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange explains, one must hold that God either determines or is determined. Determination of the will by God on St. Thomas's view, however, is not necessitating, extrinsic or violent. God acts as both an efficient and final cause of the will, lest we say something operates outside of His power. I would recommend both Fr. G-L's Grace commentary and his book on predestination. Both are available free online.

DavidM said...

"He does not cause anything in the sense that we understand the word "cause", which indicates a secondary cause." - Uh, no. 'We' do not understand the word 'cause' as indicating only secondary causes and God certainly does cause all sorts of things in precisely the sense in which we understand the word 'cause.' What reason could you possibly have for denying this?

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Western Christianity is always beset by this sort of alternatism? Free will versus Predestination; Grace versus Works; Nature versus Supernatural. Eastern Christianity simply doesn't seem to have these problems. Has Western Christianity gone wrong somewhere?

George R. said...

Good old Ferrara when Bob Sungenis was plagiarizing neo-nazi material, expounding on geocentricism & suggesting holocaust denial was a respectable viewpoint for Catholics & naturally this didn't go over well.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the holocaust denying. I concede, there are some holocaust deniers among the traditionalists. However, Ferrara is not one of them. In fact, he has condemned holocaust denial as being against all evidence. So why are you suggesting otherwise?

But there is a denial even more ludicrous than holocaust denial, and that is spiritual holocaust denial, i. e., the denial that the institutional Catholic Church has in fact imploded and has been reduced to rubble and wreckage as the result of ingesting a "New Theology" concocted by the worst enemies of God. The evidence for this holocaust is at least as overwhelming as that for the other. Just compare photos of the pre-holocaust Church with photos of the post-holocaust (ahem) "People of God." Just compare Pope Saint Pius X, for example, with the latest leader of the neo-catholic intrusion, Poncho the Foot-Kissing Bandito. It's not rocket science, people! Obviously something traumatic has taken place. Those who deny it simply have no credibility.

One last point: why, one might ask, would anyone deny the holocaust against the Jews in the face of the evidence? I'll tell you why: it's because they hate the Jews. And, likewise, why would anyone deny the obvious destruction willfully inflicted on the Mystical Body of Our Lord over the last century? Hmmm.

Those who have eyes to see, let them see.

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose there's any chance of actually discussing the post, is there?

Charles said...

Foobobble:

"Father GL writes: “God, the author of our nature, could not give us the innate natural desire for an end to which he could not lead us ut auctor naturae. The order of agents would no longer correspond to the order of ends."

By "innate natural desire" G-L means "innate natural tendency" such that the tendency has an object in the order of nature which is able to fulfill it. God does not endow us with "natural" tendencies that cannot be fulfilled by natural means. So although the desire to see God in his essence is natural in the sense that we naturally desire to know the essence of every being, the fact that it is an elicited desire, consequent on our knowledge that God exists, does not entail that the vision of the divine essence is due to us by nature. The operative principle is that "nature does nothing in vain", consequently, for every (innate) natural appetite, there corresponds the natural means to attain it. So if we had an innate natural desire to see God in his essence, God would have to provide us with natural means to attain it. As it is, our innate natural desire is for the good in general, and we have been provided with adequate natural means to attain it, namely, intellectual cognition. The ability to efficaciously desire the vision of God's essence is dependent on the supernatural gift of God, and the supernatural means to attain that vision.

With respect to imperfect and perfect happiness, Aquinas means by "imperfect" happiness a happiness such as can be had in this life. Consequently, imperfect happiness can be attained by a virtuous pagan, but in a much higher way by a virtuous Christian.

God bless.

William Maximilien Dunkirk said...

Professor Feser, we desperately need a strictly rational-natural defense of the traditional definition of marriage. Could you please post or share a defense of the definition of marriage and perhaps reply to major objections to it? Your Church and your country need you here I think.

thomas said...

Mr. Feser,

I'm curious: have you read Surnaturel? Or its revisions into "Augustinianism and Modern Theology" and "The Mystery of the Supernatural"?

The story of how Aquinas' view of the supernatural was understood by his immediate contemporaries and the commentatorial tradition is reviewed in great detail, and the origins of the concept of natura pura shown to have arisen fairly late in the commentatorial tradition.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

@George R

>One last point: why, one might ask, would anyone deny the holocaust against the Jews in the face of the evidence? I'll tell you why: it's because they hate the Jews.

In spite of your sede heresy & other errors your stock just leaped by an order of magnitude in my eyes.

>Oh yeah, I forgot about the holocaust denying. I concede, there are some holocaust deniers among the traditionalists. However, Ferrara is not one of them. In fact, he has condemned holocaust denial as being against all evidence. So why are you suggesting otherwise?

As for Ferrara my criticism of him is not that he denies the holocaust but when it was revealed at the time Sungenis was going in that direction he acted all non-pulsed.

If he has changed since then well we must forgive and hale moral progress when we see it.

But OTOH I still don't think much of him.

@Thaddeus Kozinski

Yeh we had a lunatic here a while back after the election spouting Racism and white separatism.

Feser showed him the door as soon as he caught wind of him. It took some time because he was busy & I deeply regret thinking because of the delay it was even remotely possible he would tolerate such shit but the Sungenis wounds run deep in me.

But now I have no doubt your days here are numbered here buddy.

Civilized, Sane and Charitable persons don't champion holocaust denial, rape or the virtues of belonging to NAMBLA.

Shit stains who claim holocaust denial light "Oh only maybe a 100,000 or million died the rest was inflated by Jewish Bankers etc"
are morally the same as the above dirtbags.

Holocaust denier are like people who claim Slavery in the USA was a myth started by NAAACP.

Fruitcakes!

After reading Feser I find I am more open to sane Traditionalism then I used to be & might call myself one.

But wackos like you remind me why I have been suspicious of them for a decade.

Smeg off heretic!

BenYachov said...

He is some documentaion on Sungenis & his anti-Semitic conspiracy nonsense.

Note I don't reference Bill Cork who was a liberal& now an Apostate who documended his early nonsense.

These websites are from Sungenis former CAI associates who tried to shield him and save him from himself to no avail.


http://www.sungenisandthejews.com/

http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/

Thaddeus Kozinski you have nothing to teach me.

BenYachov said...

I will give you a chance Thaddeus Kozinski.

Perhaps you never investigated the issues or the evidence surrounding the Sungenis lunacy?

Perhaps you just mindlessly spout the Radtrad party line in tribalistic fashion?

So happy reading. Feel free to contact David Palm or Michael Forrester to get the real story.

OTOH statements like this

"There are many government-concocted conspiracy theories that obviously fail the test of reason and evidence, such as 9/11 and Sandy Hook. The history of government, false-flag terrorism is an open secret." are on the same level as people who claim the Moon Landings have been faked(which BTW Sungenis also flirts with because of his Geocentracism nonsense).

BenYachov said...

continue

Don't fill me with confidence.

DavidM said...

@Charles: "although the desire to see God in his essence is natural in the sense that we naturally desire to know the essence of every being, the fact that it is an elicited desire, consequent on our knowledge that God exists, does not entail that the vision of the divine essence is due to us by nature."

But if the elicited desire is simply consequent on our knowledge that God exists, and our knowledge that God exists is natural, then (given our natural desire to know the essence of every being)
that does seem to entail that the vision of the divine essence is naturally desired by us... and due to us by nature(?).

@Alan Aversa: Thank you kindly for the links - very helpful. I'll just mention what I've understood of Cajetan's solution to the problem: Our natural desire for the beatific vision corresponds to a 'specific obediential potency', i.e., a potency that is *specific* (to our spiritual nature), rather than merely *generic*, which is what allows us to call it a 'natural' desire. But fulfillment of this desire is not *due to us by nature* in the same sense in which the fulfillment of a natural desire corresponding to a 'natural passive potency' (like our capacity to understand material substances) is. But it seems that a 'specific obediential potency' differs from a 'natural passive potency' only in that the former requires grace while the latter does not, so that the problem of explaining why fulfillment of one is due to us while the fulfillment of the other is not seems to be given a purely verbal solution. (It is not naturally due to us because it requires grace; and it requires grace because it is not naturally due to us.) Unless I'm missing something...

Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus, I have to say that as I gaze at my computer I am finding it hard to fight off a David Lewis-style incredulous stare.

No more of this stuff, please.

BenYachov said...

Thank you Doc.

I'm sorry Prof F for fanning the flame but it is rather personal for me.

Edward Feser said...

No apology necessary, Ben. Having just gone back and re-read Thaddeus's comments more carefully I find that to the incredulous stare has been added a jaw-drop.

BenYachov said...

>No apology necessary, Ben. Having just gone back and re-read Thaddeus's comments more carefully I find that to the incredulous stare has been added a jaw-drop.

Now you know how I feel when I read Sungenis' article attacking Jews and claiming the Talmud teaches adult men may have sex with children.

George R. said...

Thaddeus, I have to say that as I gaze at my computer I am finding it hard to fight off a David Lewis-style incredulous stare.

No more of this stuff, please.


You do realize, Ed, that you have revealed yourself to be just another "useful-idiot Catholic who does the regime's anti-logos bidding for it by regurgitating its self-serving, aggressive-war-making fantasy plots, such as the 'war on terror,' which is nothing but a mass scapegoating project based upon false-flag terror."

You might want to look into fixing that.

BenYachov said...

@George R

>You might want to look into fixing that.

Cut it out with the humor George or you are going to wind up making me like you!!!!

Who wants that?

Cheers.

Edward Feser said...

You might want to look into fixing that.

No can do. Afraid I signed that neo-con anti-logos contract in blood. Plus I've been getting emails from Rove all morning threatening to cut me out of the loop if I don't "deal with the Kozinski situation"...

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

You are a real piece of work Thadd.

>Sure, Ed. I didn't want to get into all this, but I was forced to. I was only defending two of my colleagues against outright defamation by one of the commenters.

My contempt for Ferrara stems from him at the time not condemning Sungenis for his holocaust denial but defaulting to his "Your just picking on him for being a Traditionalist" stick.

At the time. It was 15 years ago.

I didn't call him a holocaust denier. If he is more sane now then water under the bridge.

Sungenis' nonsense is well documented. See my links if you really believe in "evidence".

>Is it ok now to defame Catholics in good standing with the Church, and who are neither schismatic nor heretical, on this site, if they just have a different opinion about some debatable issues?

That you consider the reality of the holocaust "debatable" is simply shocking and sickening.

The prudence of the Iraq war is debatable to there is no equivalence. But if I went around claiming the CIVIL WAR & AFRICAN AMERICAN SLAVERY NEVER HAPPENED that would rightly label me a nutcase.

It's also a RED HERRING to claim it is "neither schismatic nor heretical" to deny the holocaust.

It is neither schismatic nor heretical for me to claim the CIVIL WAR was a myth.

It is extremely unreasonable, scandalous and a sin against charity to claim such a nutty thing.

That you don't get that tells me you have nothing to teach me.

You are not qualified.

BenYachov said...

>By the way, I have not made my opinions known here about the holocaust....

That brute fact you think it's not such a big deal for Sungenis to plagiarize anti-Semitic material from holocaust denial websites and White Supremest websites tells us all we need to know.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles said...

@DavidM:

"But if the elicited desire is simply consequent on our knowledge that God exists, and our knowledge that God exists is natural, then (given our natural desire to know the essence of every being)
that does seem to entail that the vision of the divine essence is naturally desired by us... and due to us by nature(?)."

One of the problems with understanding the general debate is that the term "natural" is used in many ways. On the one hand, we have the natural desire to see God, because it is natural that we desire a good that we recognize. On the other hand, the vision of the divine essence is simply impossible for any created intellect. The problem, then, is that there seems to be a natural desire incapable of being fulfilled by natural means. Consequently, the desire itself is somehow unnatural. If we don't make adequate distinctions, we run into a contradiction, namely, an unnatural natural desire.

Hence the preference of those who write on this topic is to distinguish as clearly as possible between a natural desire that is innate, and one that is in accordance with nature. Every faculty of the soul (and every agent generally) has an innate appetite for its own perfection, as a potency is ordered to act. Hence the intellect, as intellect, has an innate appetite to its own activity, namely, intellection. But there corresponds to this appetite an object by which it can be reduced from potency to act, namely, an intelligible. In creating an intellectual creature, God must provide it with an intelligible object adequate to its nature - this "must" is in the category of "hypothetical necessity", i.e., if I am to make a saw, it must be made of steel and be adequately sharp to cut wood. This kind of necessity governs the order of nature.

Now, our knowledge of God's existence is "natural" in that we able to arrive at the truth of the proposition "God exists" by the natural light of reason. But this is an imperfect knowledge, the product of an a posteriori "quia" demonstration, and so it does not put the mind to rest. The mind only comes to rest when it is able to apprehend the essence of a thing, and by an adequate definition of it, explain why it possesses the properties it has. This is difficult enough even with material realities. As St. Thomas says, we don't even know the essence of a gnat to adequately demonstrate its various properties. So although we may know the essences or quiddities of material things, we do not thereby know them "quidditatively", whereby we should be able to give perfect "propter quid" demonstrations of their attributes. And if this is the case for the quiddities that the human intellect is adequate to know, how much more is it the case in knowing God! We need to form a concept of God, but that concept, unlike our concept of the gnat, is not abstracted from an object of sense experience, but formed in light of various analogical concepts, which have themselves been abstracted from sense, and so are unable to be applied to God in the same mode as we apply them to material things. This disparity of the mode of applying these analogical conceptions to God and to creatures is one of the things that show us that our intellects operate at a mode infinitely inferior to the divine mind, and that we are completely incapable of arriving at a vision of the divine essence by natural means. And we are also led to realize that this is not a defect in our nature; rather, the perfection of our intellectual nature consists in being able to know the essences of all material things. Consequently, although the desire to know the divine essence is in accordance with intellectual nature in general, knowledge of that essence is not required for the perfection of the intellect itself, considered as a natural faculty. If it were necessary, then the vision of the divine essence would be due to it.

rank sophist said...

Ben,

Are you sure about that? Luther and Calvin where Nominalists and clearly influenced by mechanism. Hence their hard determinism.

Hart thinks that Banez was influenced by mechanism, too, and I'm inclined to agree. It's the only way his misunderstanding of what Aquinas meant by efficient causality can be coherent.

I don't see how that can be true? Double Predestinarianism is a Calvinsit concept. Catholics believe God predestines people to Heaven based on His good pleasure & predestines others to Hell based on their foreseen sins. Calvin believed both predestinations where gratuitous and unconditional. Catholics as a matter of dogma believe the predestination to Hell is conditional.

What I meant was that pre-motion, by determining every action of every man ahead of time, guarantees some for hell and others for heaven. That's just what pre-motion entails. It isn't an explicit double predestination, but it's barely distinct from Calvin's.

So whatever the concept of "pre-moving" is it can't be that or the Vatican would have hammered them into spoo.

That's what I'd think, too. I don't know why they didn't. But it's definitely a kind of double predestination, despite the contortions Banez went through to deny that. You can read Hart's article for a fairly detailed run-down of the idea.

Since his view has not been formally condemned by the Church it is not correct to call it heresy. Benez, Molinis, Congruentism and the other systems are equal opinions a Catholic may hold.

True enough. I merely called it heresy based on my understanding that it denies free will and makes God the cause of sin.

I don't know how Free Will works or how Grace moves the Will yet keeps it free.
I don't know how sufficient grace is truly sufficient and I don't know it's real difference with efficacious grace. I only know I can by Grace freely choose Heaven yet take no credit for my free choice but I can also freely choose Hell and it is no fault but mine and I had enough Grace to have chosen otherwise.

I don't know how it works & I don't think we are meant to know.


I tried to be satisfied with that kind of explanation, but it just didn't work for me. Honestly, I think that the Eastern Orthodox sorted this one out a long time ago, by using John Cassian as their main source. I recommend his Conference 13 (you can find it on New Advent's incredible archive of the Church Fathers' writings), in particular. To me, it's the only account of grace and free will I've ever read that makes logical sense.

I don't want to start a fight with you my friend but that sort of sounds like what I'm-skeptical might say about the Trinity. I think it is more complicated then that.

I don't want to start a fight, either, so I'll just drop that argument. I still don't believe that G-L had any coherent solution to the problem of grace and free will.

Edward Feser said...

When truth-seekers and whistle-blowers are demonized and mocked and defamed by those who should know better, orthodox Catholics, we are in real trouble.

'Cause the people we should be demonizing, mocking, defaming, etc. are the ones you label "neo-cons," "useful-idiot Catholics," "Americanists," etc. bent on doing "the regime's" "anti-logos bidding" by "regurgitating its self-serving, aggressive-war-making fantasy plots." Is that it?

And you're not presenting your own views here -- except that you allude to merely "hundreds of thousands" of Jews who died in the Holocaust (that's all?), you say that "the official narrative of... genocidal gas-chambers" has "apparent holes," that 9/11, Sandy Hook, etc. are not what they seem, that "the 'war on terror'... is nothing but a mass scapegoating project based upon false-flag terror," etc. You're not expressing your own views... other than all that, you mean?

rank sophist said...

Cheers brother. I hope we can have another round with duller on analogy or that Prof Feser might address the issue. I've been reading different schools on analogy. I haven't disided if analogy is a logical doctrine or a metaphysical one.

But if it is logical then I think most of dgullers ontological objections loose their force. But I am grateful he is one of the few atheists here to seriously study the issues and seriously challenge us. One gets so tired of explaining to the Gnus for the Umpteth time the Argument from Motion is not an argument from physics.


Cheers. I think I'm pretty burned out talking to dguller about analogy, since he doesn't seem to understand that it can't be expressed as an analytic proposition. That, to me, is his big confusion. You really have to take in Pseudo-Dionysius's reasoning before you can talk about Aquinas's doctrine of analogy. Analogy is an a priori, apophatic, mystical doctrine by necessity.

Also, on the subject of Kozinski, I've learned that arguing with conspiracy theorists is an absolute waste of time. They live in their own little world. G. K. Chesterton's The Maniac (from Orthodoxy) says it best:

"It is exactly such careless and causeless actions that the madman could never understand; for the madman (like the determinist) generally sees too much cause in everything. The madman would read a conspiratorial significance into those empty activities. He would think that the lopping of the grass was an attack on private property. He would think that the kicking of the heels was a signal to an accomplice. If the madman could for an instant become careless, he would become sane. Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience."

rank sophist said...

Sobieski,

As Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange explains, one must hold that God either determines or is determined.

For Brian's sake, I feel the need to respond.

This is because G-L was a fairly profound onto-theologian, who reduced God to the order of secondary causes without realizing it. Traditional apophatic theology of the kind Aquinas supported had no such problem. Pseudo-Dionysius (arguably Aquinas's biggest influence) said it best:

"What has actually to be said about the Cause of everything is this. Since it is the Cause of all beings, we should posit and ascribe to it all the affirmations we make in regard to beings, and, more appropriately, we should negate all these affirmations, since it surpasses all being. Now we should not conclude that the negations are simply the opposites of the affirmations, but rather that the cause of all is considerably prior to this, beyond privations, beyond every denial, beyond every assertion."

No god trapped in a determining/determined binary can be said to be beyond every denial and assertion.

Anon at 2:46 AM,

Why is it that Western Christianity is always beset by this sort of alternatism? Free will versus Predestination; Grace versus Works; Nature versus Supernatural. Eastern Christianity simply doesn't seem to have these problems. Has Western Christianity gone wrong somewhere?

I'd put the blame on the Western Church's unflagging devotion to all things Augustine. It's caused more problems than most are willing to admit. Eastern Christianity has generally read Augustine as just one of many Church Fathers, which mitigated his more dangerous, pessimistic and (dare I say) Manichean beliefs. The Western problems with predestination, grace, inherited guilt, free will and so forth all trace back to Augustine, for the most part.

William Maximilien Dunkirk said...

We need to be defending marriage not debating Vat 2, the holocaust or whatever. This is the reason I am not a Traditionalist anymore; traditionalism often acts like a limb having a spasm when the rest of the body is trying to accomplish something. Marriage, your country and your Church, gentlemen, absolutely needs your attention and we especially need a rational-natural argument for its traditional definition coupled with an exposure of the errors latent in the typical objections to traditional marriage.

Brandon said...

No god trapped in a determining/determined binary can be said to be beyond every denial and assertion.

Which is a denial. However one takes 'beyond every denial and assertion' it can't be in a way that makes it to deny and assert things correctly about God, when it is kept in its proper bounds.

I'm not a fan of Banezianism, but I don't think Garrigou-Lagrange is getting a fair shake in this discussion. For instance, it is essential to the premotion view that there be an absolute difference between primary and secondary causation, and that divine premotion not be treated as subject to the limits of secondary causation. Likewise, things are 'determined by God' in this account in the sense that they receive their determinateness as actually existing from God as providential creator, and the 'pre' in premotion is an insistence that all causes have their power, and the application of their power to action, from God as first cause. If you do reject these suppositions, it does indeed follow that Banezianism is inconsistent with free will; but that's precisely why Banezians insist on them as essential to their account. I think there's still room to argue that Banez and Garrigou-Lagrange don't leave enough free will, and to argue against them for other reasons, but a straightforward identification with determinism I think requires skipping a lot of elements that they take to be essential to their accounts.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rank sophist said...

Which is a denial. However one takes 'beyond every denial and assertion' it can't be in a way that makes it to deny and assert things correctly about God, when it is kept in its proper bounds.

You seem to have the same problem understanding analogy that dguller struggles with. To say that God is beyond every assertion is, of course, an assertion. But it applies even to itself. God is beyond the assertion that he is beyond every assertion. And he's beyond that assertion, too. This is how the traditional, apophatic process of analogy works: we apply a label from the world to God, and then we deny that this label encompasses God. This includes labels like "being". God is always higher than and prior to any of our assertions about him--since he falls into none of the categories we know--, and so we have to keep saying that he is greater than our assertions, forever. So: God is higher than being; but he's higher than that; and he's higher than that, too.

All of this plays havoc with analytic notions of truth, since it's nonsense from a purely propositional standpoint. Most modern Thomists on the analytic side of the fence "solve" this "problem" by sneaking kataphatic language in through the back door, which reduces God to a being among beings. The traditional Christian solution, which Aquinas endorsed, is that we simply cannot say anything absolute about God whatsoever. This is the mystical method that ressourcement rediscovered. It wasn't something that even Thomists like Maritain understood, let alone G-L.

For instance, it is essential to the premotion view that there be an absolute difference between primary and secondary causation, and that divine premotion not be treated as subject to the limits of secondary causation. Likewise, things are 'determined by God' in this account in the sense that they receive their determinateness as actually existing from God as providential creator, and the 'pre' in premotion is an insistence that all causes have their power, and the application of their power to action, from God as first cause.

Of course they insist on these things. But they don't have any meaning. If nothing has power without God in the sense that nothing can happen unless God causes it, then it follows that God caused the fall of man, the crucifixion, the holocaust--and many other unpleasant things. It follows that no one has ever done anything that God did not predetermine. That's what it means to pre-move something from eternity. It's fatalism through-and-through.

The problem occurs because of Banez's bone-headed ideas about causality. He can't imagine God giving something independent causal power--in the sense of causal power sustained by God at every moment. If something has causal power, Banez thinks that it must be because God is causing it directly, as when we apply the term "cause" to a stick moving a stone. Aquinas saw God as the cause of causality: the thing that enabled causality at all. God enabled the fall of man by providing and sustaining the causal power of Adam and Eve, in the same sense that he enabled the fall of man by providing and sustaining the being of Adam and Eve. But he had no part in moving Adam or Eve to this or that particular action: they did what they did independently of his will. To say otherwise is to say that God caused--not only foresaw, but directly caused--every evil in human history. It's also to say that we are not free to accept or reject grace. It's heresy, in other words.

benYachov said...

@ Thadd you sir are out there like freakin Pluto!

>As I say, there are those true anti-semites who dismiss or lie or make light of the holocaust, or even root for the Nazis. Then there are those who simply try to look at the evidence objectively in any historical event, no matter how "taboo", and don't just buy what their public-school history textbooks tell them, or what Hollywood says or what the ADL threatens. To call such anti-semites and lunatics and lump them in with the former group is despicable.

http://sungenisandthejews.com/Section2.html

I reply: Oh so by "scholars" who look at the evidence you mean people like Michael Hoffman II holocaust denier, anti-Catholic, anti-Semite who Ahmadinejad of Iran cites to deny the Holocaust? Because your boy Sungenis is a fan of his & cites him!

Bob also highly recommends work by Michael Piper and his book “The New Jerusalem," including a reiteration of the charge that the Jews were behind the murder of JFK.Michael Piper is as favorite of white supremacists/separatists.]
Note that he is recommended along with such work as Michael Hoffman II, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Piper also recommends The Two Babylons -- Is Roman Catholicism the revival of ancient Mystery Babylon? and Space Invaders—Mysterious Aliens] and the UFO End-Time Plot.

These are the scholars who your buddy Bob & we assume you recommend we read to know the truth objectively?

Bob has praised the Journal of Historical Review as being “a very credible source,” using its material without attribution in his original piece back in 2002.

Sungenis cites "scholarly material" such as the National Vanguard a White Supremacist group!

It's all painfully documented in the link above .

So let me get this straight? We shouldn't listen to those evil jooozzz who run Hollywood, own all the banks and run the public schools. We should listen to the great assembly of Minds your friend Bob has put together consisting of extreme holocaust deniers, White Supremacists and anti-Catholic bigots who refer to the One True Holy Church as the Whore of Babylon?

To not do so is Orwellian in your view & we are all despicable for being offended by this?

Yeh take your story walking pal! I think your tin hat need changing too.

Your credibility here is shot.

Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus,

Perhaps I should ignore your remarks, but in case that would facilitate your evident persecution complex, I think a reminder is in order.

The original post was about Hart, natural law theory, and nature vs. grace. On the basis of a passing reference someone made about Sungenis, you suddenly went off on a series of rants about the "official narrative" regarding the Holocaust, 9/11, WTC7, Gaza, the Iraq war, Afghanistan, Sandy Hook, Likudniks, the military-industrial complex, the ADL, "useful-idiot Catholics" doing "the regime's" bidding, etc. etc. And then you accused those whose eyebrows were raised by this bizarre, out-of-left-field farrago of wanting to stifle debate, engaging in Orwellian tactics, “deferring to court sophists and media-prostitutes who feed the regulated-group mind,” etc.

What hasn’t occurred to you is that those who’ve raised their eyebrows do in fact know something about the views you’re describing, and have on the basis of their knowledge simply judged them to be crackpot. Nor has it occurred to you that they might be flat-out gobsmacked at the sight of a guy who just two days ago sounded like C.S. Lewis discussing theology over sherry, yet today comes off like an 18-year-old Occupy protester who’s just discovered Fletcher Prouty.

Yes, by all means “let's end this now please.” Please.

Edward Feser said...

William,

I've got a long article on sexual morality in general set to appear around summertime, and a piece on marriage in the works that will probably appear sooner.

Sobieski said...

@RS

It's heresy, in other words.

Please cite your sources if you are going to make accusations of heresy against respected Catholic theologians. To my knowledge, neither Fr. Banez's nor Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange's views on predestination have been condemned by the Catholic Church. The latter theologian, in fact, is a pillar of orthodoxy and is said, for example, to be the ghostwriter of Pope Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis. He is a favorite whipping boy of progressives and the nouvelle theologie crowd, however. Regardless re: the Catholic faith neither are heretics, and one would be within the pale of orthodoxy to hold their views regarding predestination until the Church rules otherwise. That may not be acceptable to certain members of Eastern Orthodoxy (which I take is your religion also), but such opinions re: matters pertaining to faith and morals have no authority for Roman Catholics.

So far as I know most OPs (up until the 60s revolution at least) agree on what Banez calls "physical premotion," but there are differences with respect to God's permission of evil, a modern controversy on that subject being between Frs. G-L and Marin-Sola. (Dr. Michael Torre has written extensively on this topic, but I haven't read his book yet and thus can't speak intelligently on the issue -- maybe someone else can.) If that's true, you've basically said a greater part of the Dominican Thomistic school on predestination is heretical.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>Let's end this now please. Another can have the last word if you like, but I won't be responding. Ed's got a philosophy blog to run.

>Boy, it's difficult to stop this. Let me have the last word if I may since I am outnumbered.

> Hence my defense of (some) of his scholarship, which is attacked by people like Ben primarily because it gets a lot of things right, to the chagrin of the neo-con, Zionist establishment and the Catholic defenders (sadly you are among this group) of wild conspiracy theories.

Speaks for itself.

You show your true colors & what you really are.

Yeshua Ben Miriam forgive you.

BenYachov said...

I myself like RS but I think his attacks on R-L are way off but as you can see I've been distracted by extremist weirdness lately.

RS I think you need to dial it back a bit with Benez. Hart's eastern views more often then not might be compatible with Eastern Rite Catholicism but Molina, Augustine, the Jesuits and a host of view fall under the umbrella of Catholic orthodoxy.

You should follow the rules set down by the Popes in these matters. You may defend the views of your school. Critique (fairly) the views of the competing schools. But you should refrain from calling heresy what the Church has not so labeled.

The Pope forbad the followers of Benez to call the follows of Molina Semi-Plagians and he forbad the follows of Molina to call the school of Benez Calvinists.

Alphonsus Jr. said...

BenYachov,

Kozinski is most definitely not a "RadTrad," as he attends the Novus Ordo service rather than the traditional Catholic Mass. Participation in any Novus Ordo service is of course inconceivable for any truly traditional Catholic.

BenYachov said...

Get lost Jr!

Aquinas3000 said...

I'd like to address two comments. One to Foobobble and one to Thaddeus.

Foobooble, it would be easier to understand the issue to first grasp that Garrigou Lagrange does not deny that there is a natural desire for God's existence. People such as Rowland (whom I've read quite a lot of) get it completely wrong in saying he denies outright that there is a natural desire. I have created a document with many statements from him affirming it. What he denies is that the natural desire is innate. The elicited desire that is in response to knowledge t(hat another person has pointed out to you briefly) is a natural desire and Garrigou explicitly states that it is. So the question is not "is there is a natural desire?" But what is it like? Also I would recommend paragraph 37 of Pascendi by Pius X for a little known quote on this issue.

Thaddeus (going back to the main point of this thread). I note you refer to Rowland. I'm afraid many of us have digested the works of her and the others you mention and find them gravely wanting. A friend of mine has just completed writing a 350 page critique of Rowland's book "Culture and the Thomist Tradition" which is very much in the style of Feser's post here (though perhaps less aggressive - that isn't a criticism btw Ed). It absolutely though charitably shreds it to bits. All the other authors such as MacIntrye etc are dealt with as well. I note for instance your comment on secular reason. I have no idea what you mean by this term but the trouble is people like Rowland go much further than this. She even questions whether there is such things as natural reason which Aquinas affirms many times and is present in many papal encyclicals. Her understanding of the notion of "secular" is itself quite confused too as my friend shows in his book. Her speculative thinking is very weak. Now I am quite happy for you to get in contact with me to go through this further and even get in touch with my friend. My email is matthewppb@gmail.com. I think you will find there are quite a few misunderstandings to clear up. But even if you don't choose to get in contact and you are reading this post let me make one little plea to you and others of Rowland's ilk. Please please, please for the love of God try and be more clear and precise in how you write. I have read very difficult abstract books but I find so much of what these types write (including your second or third comment here) to be so impenetrable and verbose to read. It is definitely the worst side affect the rejection of Thomistic precision. Define terms, be clear in expression. That's at least one thing that can be learned from the so called "neo thomists". God bless you.

Aquinas3000 said...

All RS, Garrigou most certainly believes in free will. The explanation of sin etc is all in his works. I think you haven't given him a fair deal.

Aquinas3000 said...

Also*

Chris said...

Rank Sophist,

Since I know that the apophatic tradition is one of your specialties, I would be grateful to get your feedback on this essay, "Lossky's Palamitism in the Light of Schuon" by William Stoddart. Thanks.

dguller said...

Rank:

To say that God is beyond every assertion is, of course, an assertion. But it applies even to itself. God is beyond the assertion that he is beyond every assertion. And he's beyond that assertion, too. This is how the traditional, apophatic process of analogy works: we apply a label from the world to God, and then we deny that this label encompasses God.

Here is the problem, as far as I can tell.

To say that God is “beyond every assertion” could either mean that he can never be entirely encompassed within the meaning of any assertion or that he can never be at all encompassed within the meaning of any assertion. The former would be true if there was always something left out about God that could not be contained within the meaning of any assertion about God. The latter would be true if everything about God would be left out of any assertion about God, and nothing about God would be contained within the meaning of any assertion about God. According to my understanding, the former would be consistent with analogy and the latter would be consistent with equivocation.

If the former is true, then just because not everything about God is contained with the meaning of an assertion about God, it does not follow that nothing about God is contained within the meaning of an assertion about God, but rather that something about God is contained within the meaning of an assertion about God, or else it is not about God at all. But if this is true, then you get into all kinds of paradoxes and aporias, such as how something without parts can be partially contained, and so on. My solution has been to say that this is a necessary impossibility, i.e. it is necessary for the system itself to be possible at all, but it is impossible according to the standards of the system.

dguller said...

I think I'm pretty burned out talking to dguller about analogy, since he doesn't seem to understand that it can't be expressed as an analytic proposition. That, to me, is his big confusion. You really have to take in Pseudo-Dionysius's reasoning before you can talk about Aquinas's doctrine of analogy. Analogy is an a priori, apophatic, mystical doctrine by necessity.

Actually, what I don’t understand is how analogy cannot be explained in a meaningful statement. I don’t know what you mean by an “analytic proposition”, but I’ve been focusing upon how the very meaning of “analogy” is compromised by the Thomist account. After all, there is a particular framework within which analogy makes sense, i.e. a Neoplatonic account of efficient causality in terms of participation. Without that framework, there is no justification for the doctrine of analogy. Since the framework completely breaks down when it comes to describing God, then it follows that God is beyond the framework, and thus beyond any justification for the use of analogy itself.

And what this shows is that language breaks down in a fundamental fashion when discussing God. The cataphatic collapses into the apophatic, leaving us with “a somber silence” (DN I.4). One of the reasons why this is so is because all meaningful discourse is only meaningful if sameness and difference are applicable, i.e a particular meaning is the same as another meaning, but different from other meanings, both in terms of the senses and the referents. Without the applicability of sameness and difference, there can be no meaning. However, since sameness and difference only operate where there is a common respect in which something is the same as or different from another -- i.e. X is the same as Y with respect to R, or X is different from Y with respect to R -- then if X and Y have no common respect R, then they can be neither the same nor different. And since God and creation do not share a common genus, then neither sameness nor difference can apply, and thus no language is possible when discussing God.

But this is a problem, because it makes theology impossible. What is supposed to save theology, according to Denys, is his Neoplatonic participatory framework, i.e. that creation is the finite and imperfect instantiation of the perfect and ideal exemplars within the divine intellect. So, every creature is a manifestation of the divine by virtue both of the fact that God is sustaining its very existence and being at all moments by efficient causation that prevents it from reverting to nothingness, but also by providing its essence from within God’s intellect, as well as being the final end of all creatures, because all creatures try to perfectly actualize their natures, and thus manifest their natures as closely as possible to how they exist within the divine intellect, i.e. perfectly. That is why God “is rightly nameless and yet has the names of everything that is” and “the songs of praise and the names for it are fittingly derived from the sum total of creation” (DN I.56).

So, Denys actually says that we must talk constantly about God, because all our talk about God must use names derived from creation, which is perfectly fine, because all of creation is a manifestation of God by virtue of its participation in the divine, but also that none of our names are actually about God, because he is infinitely beyond creation, and so when we are constantly talking about God, we are not, in fact, talking about God at all, but only about creation, which falls infinitely short of God. There is a core contradiction between God’s being infinitely far away from creation, and yet immanently present to all creatures, as well as the contradiction between God’s infinite distance from creation and creation’s existence in a hierarchy of degrees of proximity to God. After all, there is no proximity whatsoever to what is infinitely far away, and thus the entire account is incoherent, and yet absolutely necessary.

dguller said...

Here's another way of putting my problem with theology. When you talk about God, are you actually talking about God, or are you only pretending to talk about God? If your words cannot possibly mean what they purportedly refer to, then how can you be said to be talking about the referent at all? It would be like firing a bullet at the moon, and even though you know that it could not possibly have hit the moon, go around congratulating yourself at your bull's eye accuracy. I mean, you would just be kidding yourself.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brandon said...

You seem to have the same problem understanding analogy that dguller struggles with.

No, I understand it quite as well as you do, although I think you over-epistemologize the doctrine. My point, however, was that your application of it in this case was based on an equivocation about what makes something assertion or denial. Garrigou-Lagrange's divide is one of his ways of talking about negative theology; it would apply to the Dionysian in the same way, if it applied at all, and it certainly would apply to Aquinas's version of it, because it's one of Garrigou-Lagrange's ways of talking about Aquinas's version.

If nothing has power without God in the sense that nothing can happen unless God causes it, then it follows that God caused the fall of man, the crucifixion, the holocaust--and many other unpleasant things. It follows that no one has ever done anything that God did not predetermine. That's what it means to pre-move something from eternity. It's fatalism through-and-through.

Again, no. What it means to pre-move something -- the "from eternity" is ambiguous, since everything God does is from eternity, but from the perspective of the creature it is cooperative in the very act of acting -- is that every change necessarily depends on God as the source of actuality, and therefore he knows everything that ever happens because it requires something from him when it happens. The whole point of it is that premotion is God's act as First Mover -- the "pre" indicates that it is moving precisely as first. This is why your claim that Banezians fail to distinguish primary and secondary causation doesn't make any sense; the whole thing is based on the distinction. Anyone who accepts the First Way already accepts what the Banezians would call premotion; the only question is whether it can actually answer the questions they claim in the way they claim it can.

Aquinas doesn't have a view in which God gives things an independent causality; he has a view in which God gives things a dependent causality that is their own, which is a different thing. Banezianism historically has been an attempt to defend the latter against what they saw as the Molinist tendency to the former. It is not a form of determinism, nor is Banez the sort of idiot you accuse him of being. (And I say that as someone who thinks that physical premotion is wrong both in itself and as an interpretation of Aquinas. But the actual mistake Banez is making -- at least, one could say -- is taking the natural relation of God's primary causation as providential creator to free will as secondary cause, and treating it as if it had exactly the same structure as the gratuitous relation of God's being the source of grace to free will as capable of charity. That this is mistake, however, is precisely why your criticism doesn't work: Banez treats the relation between natural premotion and free will too much like the relation between prevenient grace and free will, and the latter does not have the specific problem you are attributing to Banez.)

Daniel Smith said...

Ed: First, the natural and supernatural ends of man are distinct[...]
for our supernatural end -- the beatific vision, which surpasses merely natural knowledge of God -- revelation is necessary. But this is a separate end.


As a Protestant, I will always appeal to scripture in matters of theology (not in the sense of Sola Scriptura - which I believe is in error - but in the sense of Prima Scriptura).

Aquinas often appeals to scripture when dealing with sacred matters (something I notice rarely occurs with the thomists here for some reason), and settles disputed matters, for himself at least, by quoting scripture: "On the contrary, It is said (Psalm 2:7): 'This day have I begotten Thee'." and etc.

So, re: the distinction between the natural and supernatural ends of man, Aquinas' commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:13-16 is especially useful.

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/SS1Cor.htm#23

That scripture reads: 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit. 14 The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Some of St. Thomas' comments especially applicable:

112. – Here should be noted the sort of man called sensual [animalis]. Recall, therefore, that the soul [anima] is the body’s substantial form. Hence, those soul powers which are associated with bodily organs, namely, the sense-powers, are proper to the soul [anima]. Consequently, those men are called sensual who follow the lead of such powers, among which are the powers of perception and appetition. Hence, men are called sensual in two ways: first, on the basis of the perceptive power, where a man is called sensual in perception, because he judges about God in terms of bodily images or the letter of the law or philosophical reasons, all of which are interpreted in accordance with the sense-powers. Secondly, on the basis of the appetitive power, which is attracted only to things that appeal to the sense appetite. In this case a man is called sensual in his manner of life, because he follows the dissolute wantonness of his soul, which his ruling spirit does not confine within the bounds of the natural order. Hence Jude (1:19): “It is these set that set up divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”

117. – The reason given is this: Spiritual things should be entrusted to one who can discern: “The ear discerns with words” (Jb 12:11); but the spiritual man is such. Therefore, spiritual things should be entrusted to him. And this is what he says: The spiritual man judges all things, and he himself is judged of no man. Here it should be noted what sort of man is called spiritual. Recall, therefore, that we usually call incorporeal substances, spirits. Consequently, because there is a definite part of the soul not associated with any bodily organ, namely, the intellectual part, which includes both intellect and will, that part of the soul is called the man’s spirit. Now in this part of the soul the Spirit of God enlightens the intellect and enkindles the affections and will. Hence, man is called spiritual in two ways: first, on the part of the intellect enlightened by the Spirit of God. In this way man is called spiritual, because, being subjected to the Spirit of God, he knows spiritual things with the greatest certitude and fidelity. Secondly, on the part of the will enkindled by the Spirit of God. In this way a life is called spiritual because, having the Spirit of God as its guide, it guides the soul, i.e., the sensual powers: “You who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Gal 6:1).

I would, of course, encourage all the thomists here to read the full commentary.

Sobieski said...

Brandon,

Would you please provide some references regarding the critique of the Banezian interpretation of Aquinas (unless it is entirely your own)? I am not entirely understanding your point (i.e., the distinction you are making or saying Banez is failing to make). Thanks.

Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus wrote:

I suspect that those who dislike it do so, not because of some lack of rigor or scholarly excellence in it or "weak speculation", but mainly because it strikes a nerve, because it challenges their rigid and sterile, Thomistic fundamentalist paradigm, because its critique of American culture and politics, as well as a lifeless and untrue-to-Thomas Thomistic fundamentalism, is devastating.

...

I have seen other "Thomistic" critiques of MacIntyre and Rowland and, to use your words, have found them wanting. I suspect that it's an ideological, not scholarly, issue.

Wow. Guess you have read your MacIntyre. Except that to his "Nietzsche or Aristotle?" you decided to opt for Nietzsche, given all this "unmasking" of "true" motives stuff that seems to be your favorite move.

Nothing could be less Thomistic than this paranoid "hermeneutics of suspicion." You once wrote an article rightly decrying the "gnosticism" you see in some traditionalist circles. What you don't see is that you appear beholden to a gnosticism of your own -- belief in a secret knowledge of what "real" Thomism is, of what the "real" motives of those who disagree with you are, of what the "real" history of the Holocaust, 9/11, the Iraq war, etc. involved. Those who reject this gnosis are, you think, beholden to the powers of darkness.

Very easy to deal with criticism then, or so it seems from inside this epistemological bubble. "Sure I'll look at it, but I know where it's really coming from, so..." It's like Van Tillian presuppositionalism or P.Z. Myers-style New Atheism. The adept thinks he's speeding past all critics when in fact he's just spinning around in a circle.

I've addressed the epistemological problems with, and philosophical roots of, modern conspiracy theorizing in a couple of places:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/01/trouble-with-conspiracy-theories.html

http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2006/09/we-the-sheeple-why-conspiracy-theories-persist.html

Interested readers are asked to read them first before raising objections, since I deal with the usual ones in the articles. (For example, it's no good to say, as Kozinski does, "But the 'official story' is itself a conspiracy theory!" since the kinds of "conspiracies" posited in the two cases are radically different, as I explain in the first piece.)

Brandon said...

Daniel Smith,

I'm all for recommendation of Aquinas's Scriptural commentaries -- I myself always recommend that people new to Aquinas start with them, especially the handily short but still substantive commentary on Colossians -- but your argument goes off the rails a bit. You say:

Aquinas often appeals to scripture when dealing with sacred matters (something I notice rarely occurs with the thomists here for some reason), and settles disputed matters, for himself at least, by quoting scripture: "On the contrary, It is said (Psalm 2:7): 'This day have I begotten Thee'." and etc.

Sed contras (the 'on the contrary' partys) don't settle disputed matters, by definition; they establish that they are disputed matters by showing that some reason can be given that opposes the objections. Your example is an example of Scripture being recognized as a source, not a settler, of dispute, as a reason for thinking something that does not, in itself, establish it definitively. (Scripture can have the role in Aquinas, of course; but not just any appeal to Scripture is an example of it.)

There's a pretty straightforward reason why Thomists around here don't appeal to scripture to settle sacred matters, I think; the discussions here are usually not about sacred matters. They do come up (they couldn't possibly not), but that's not what people actually discuss, at least here. (For discussion of sacred matters themselves from a Thomistic perspective, you'd have to go somewhere like The New Theological Movement.) The discussion above about Banezianism is a good example: it touches on issues of sacred providence and prevenient grace, but the actual discussion is about causation and its implications for free will. And, frankly, I think that's probably for the best.

Brandon said...

Sobieski,

You'll have to be more specific -- I mentioned a distinction that Garrigou-Lagrange (a Banezian) makes (determining / determined) which is one Banezian way of discussing a distinction that Thomists generally make (primary cause / secondary cause), and a distinction that Banezians arguably don't make as clear as they should (the way premotion works / the way prevenient grace works). The third isn't original to me, but I don't remember which criticism of physical premotion first pointed it out. I keep thinking Lonergan (he notes somewhere a number of distinctions that he thinks Banezians fail to maintain properly), but that might not be right (and shouldn't be taken as a general endorsement of Lonergan's own account, even if so). In any case, I think it's commonly recognized that Banezian accounts of natural premotion connect the issue fairly closely with how God gives divine grace.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus,

How about an actual, rational response to the "sophisticated epistemological and Thomistic arguments" in question?

(NB: Ad hominem accusations and mere mockery do not count as a "rational response.")

George R. said...

How do these Kozinski posts keep getting through? What are we paying these gate-keepers for anyway?

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rank sophist said...

Chris,

I haven't studied Lossky (!) or the Perennialists to any large degree, but here are my comments after reading the essay.

Schuon's distinction between God-as-absolute and God-as-relative strikes me as Platonistic, in that the One must create a demiurge before it can interact with us. This, when applied to Christianity, essentially entails subordinationim. Hart quotes Karl Rahner's "maxim" extensively to argue against this view. That is: "The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa". The immanent Trinity is the Trinity-in-itself, and it would apply to God-as-absolute. The economic Trinity is the Trinity as it acts in the world, which applies to God-as-relative. This, though, means that there isn't any God-as-relative: the God that acts in the world is the same God that is beyond all being and comprehension. The major Church Fathers--and several scholastics, like Aquinas and Bonaventure--held the view Rahner described.

Now, when the author quotes Eckhart and attributes Schuon's view to him, I'm pretty sure he's doing him a disservice. Eckhart certainly believed that all of our representations of God are ultimately illusions--and, if this is all Schuon means, then it's appropriate--, but this does not mean that it is not really God who acts in creation. The immanent Trinity and economic Trinity are the same: neither can be rationally comprehended. God doesn't act through a demiurge.

As for Palamas, things are tricky here, because Palamas was not a clear writer and there's a lot of disagreement on what he actually said. However, those who try to characterize him as a subordinationist are clearly in the wrong. From what little I know of him, Lossky was a flawed thinker, but not so flawed as this article's author seems to think. Subordinationism of the type Schuon seems to advocate is a heresy, and Lossky could not in good faith endorse it. To understand what Palamas meant by God's essence and energies, it's important to remember that the energies are not the Son and the Holy Spirit, unlike what Schuon and the author claim. God's essence, as Palamas uses that term (it's different from the way Aquinas uses it), is the Trinity. The uncreated energies are also the Trinity.

What does this mean? Think of it like this. When Aquinas says that man can see God's essence for all time, gaining more and more knowledge of it, without ever fully comprehending it, he is making the same point that Palamas made. The uncreated energies are the limitless, co-eternal "ocean" of God that we see in the Beatific Vision. It's through union with the energies that we become divinized (Aquinas's "created grace"). However, the energies are not kataphatic: they aren't "being", or "relative", or what-have-you. They're totally apophatic. They aren't maya. They aren't in any interesting way distinct from God. Palamas used them to explain how one could experience God for all time without gaining a totalized knowledge of him: no matter how long we swim "upstream" through the energies, we cannot ever see their "core" (God's essence, as Palamas uses the term). Aquinas's solution was that we can see his essence (again, a different definition) without our minds being able to comprehend it.

I once saw someone explain that Palamas solved the problems of divinization and the Beatific Vision via a "distinction" in God, while Aquinas solved it via a distinction in man. That sounds about right to me. Schuon seems to have totally missed the point.

Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus,

I asked you to provide a rational, non-ad-hominem response to my arguments vis-a-vis conspiracy theories if you were going to disagree with them.

Your response is to suggest that my disagreement with you stems from "the influence of prestige," "snobby unwillingness," "fear of consequences," "pride," a fear of "suffer[ing] social ostracism and ridicule," a fear of what might make me "uncomfortable, perhaps because [it would pose] a threat to [the] airtight, comfortable, neatly furnished, intellectual penthouse [I have] created for [my]self."

And the assumptions that (a) I am unfamiliar with the arguments of 9/11 Truthers and (b) that those arguments are good arguments -- neither of which is true.

In other words, more question-begging ad hominem remarks, and no response to my own arguments themselves.

No more comments from you, please. Feel free to believe that that is because I can't stand to hear the truth, am an "anti-logos" neo-con, crave prestige, blah blah blah. Yes, great, sure, fine, whatever.

Good luck and God help you.

Thomas said...

I don't get why people don't just admit that Suarez' view on the supernatural is superior to Thomas', rather than trying to contort Thomas himself into that view.

Aquinas clearly taught that man's ultimate end is knowledge of God in his essence, that man is inclined to that end by nature (though he does not have the natural powers to reach it), and that intellectual creatures are ontologically ordered toward intellectual union with God.

rufusdog said...

I find it hard to believe people can actually bring themselves to the point of regarding the government with enough respect to think they could pull off grand conspiracies like staging 9/11.
I enjoy the blog Ed, over my head most the time, but I am slowing picking up enough to follow along.
Comment box took a weird turn today…

rank sophist said...

Ben,

But you should refrain from calling heresy what the Church has not so labeled.

I tried to be careful and only declare that the denial of free will was heresy--and that Banezianism was only heresy if my interpretation of it is correct--, but I guess I wasn't clear enough. Oh well.

Brandon,

Garrigou-Lagrange's divide is one of his ways of talking about negative theology; it would apply to the Dionysian in the same way, if it applied at all, and it certainly would apply to Aquinas's version of it, because it's one of Garrigou-Lagrange's ways of talking about Aquinas's version.

Pseudo-Dionysius and G-L offer contradictory viewpoints. They cannot be reconciled. How can something that must determine to avoid determination be above the "finite economy" (as Hart might say) of secondary causality? How can it be wholly impassible? How can its relation to creation be only imagined by us (DP q7 a10), rather than real? A being that determines to avoid determination is onto-theological to the core: a lower-g god and a "giant" secondary cause. It's no primary cause.

How, exactly, would you cash out G-L's phrase to avoid these conclusions?

Anyone who accepts the First Way already accepts what the Banezians would call premotion

This is obviously false. The First Way explains that there cannot be an infinitely long series of secondary causes deriving their power from one another. As a result, it concludes that each and every cause receives its ability to cause from God. This is not the same as saying that God causes the individual actions of the world, which is determinism. God merely enables causality-as-such, at every moment. He enables and sustains--that's it. To say anything more is to say that every event in the world is a miracle.

Further, it's false to say that God causes anything at all, in an absolute sense. God's action is his essence, and so, if you say that he caused something absolutely, it's the same as saying that you know his essence. Calling God a "cause" is an analogy, as I've tried to explain to dguller, based on secondary causes. "Primary cause" is another such analogy. Since we can only know God's effects, we name him from these effects--and "cause" is one of those names. Banezianism is doomed from the start by its inability to grasp this distinction. For them, a primary cause must be merely the first secondary cause, because they understand causality univocally.

So, yeah. All the First Way says is that secondary causes rely on something that is not a secondary cause. It doesn't entail anything like pre-motion.

rank sophist said...

But the actual mistake Banez is making -- at least, one could say -- is taking the natural relation of God's primary causation as providential creator to free will as secondary cause, and treating it as if it had exactly the same structure as the gratuitous relation of God's being the source of grace to free will as capable of charity.

This is one of the mistakes he makes. It's an important one, to be sure, but it only exists because of his already-terrible understanding of divine causality that I've outlined already.

I think I'm just going to direct your attention to the same essay I linked Ben to: this one (click Page 34). Most of what I've said in this combox is a rehash of Hart's argument there, combined with a bit of my own studies of Aquinas.

dguller,

I really, really don't want to get into another marathon debate, but I will make one point here.

So, Denys actually says that we must talk constantly about God, because all our talk about God must use names derived from creation, which is perfectly fine, because all of creation is a manifestation of God by virtue of its participation in the divine, but also that none of our names are actually about God, because he is infinitely beyond creation, and so when we are constantly talking about God, we are not, in fact, talking about God at all, but only about creation, which falls infinitely short of God.

And this is correct, as far as it goes. All of our names signify creation. None of them can signify God absolutely, because we would have to know his essence (his true and infinite name) to achieve this. However, if we acknowledge

1) that creation itself has an a priori, ontological relation to God;
2) that our names for creation thus signify God;
3) that the highest aspects of creation more perfectly imitate God; then
4) our names for the highest aspects of creation more perfectly signify God than our lower ones.

Our best name for God is that which has the least determinate ontic residue: He Who Is (ST Ia q13 a11). This still signifies creation, in that it signifies esse; but esse, as the highest thing, is that which signifies God most perfectly. Obviously, even this name must be denied in the end, leaving us with, as you said, "somber silence". However, it's wrong to say that theology shouldn't exist simply because it necessarily collapses into silent mysticism. Theology is the format Christianity uses to lead people to mysticism. It's how mystics talk to one another about God. You can't communicate mystical experience in itself: you have to use words, which means imperfect analogy. If one mystic walks up to another mystic and says, "I saw God just now", he isn't giving a literal, absolute explanation of what he just saw. But the analogy makes what he's hinting at clear to everyone involved.

Anonymous said...

"I find it hard to believe people can actually bring themselves to the point of regarding the government with enough respect to think they could pull off grand conspiracies like staging 9/11."

To which part of government is one referring? Some parts may be incompetent, but that does not mean that every part is incompetent or incompetent to the same degree.

A MacIntyrean said...

Good article Ed. The posts by Kozinski in this comment section have been pretty nutty. If you are such a great defender of MacIntyre, perhaps you should keep in mind what he said in his esssay, "Toleration and the Goods of Conflict" about the exclusions necessary for rational communal dialogue. The example he uses there of the type of persons we should exclude from discussion is the very type you wish to defend as "truth seekers" - that is, Holocaust deniers.

You really shouldn't listen to those nutcases if you want to call yourself a MacIntyrean in any real sense

Anonymous said...

From what I've read, T. Kozinski is trying to define what is proper skepticism regarding statements from another source, and relating it to questions of credibility and trustworthiness. To say that conspiracy theories are unlikely are impossible given the way certain kinds of governments are (E. Feser's post from 2009) does strike me as being an a priori argument which may attain the level of probable opinion but is by no means certain. It is unfortunate that what had started out as a rather polite disagreement has ended in a rather ugly manner, but it should be some indication that even Catholic philosophers can't present a unified front against the forces of the "modernity." At some point personal connections must become more important than minor philosophical disagreements or Catholics will continue to marginalize themselves and be unable to do anything to bring about reform.

Brian said...

With due respect, rank sophist, you have gone wrong somewhere. I may be too much of an amateur to argue the point, but you must have gone wrong somewhere if your views lead you to think that theology does not speak real and true truth about God.

Edward Feser said...

Hello MacIntyrean,

I know you didn't mean it this way, but anyone reading your comment out of context would suppose, given the grammar of your paragraph, that the "you" to whom you were directing your comments (i.e. the one defending the nutcases) is me, since you start out speaking to me in the second person and referring to Kozinski in the third person.

So, anyone coming late to this discussion should know that the "you" to whom MacIntyrean is directing his criticism is Kozinski, not me.

rank sophist said...

With due respect, rank sophist, you have gone wrong somewhere. I may be too much of an amateur to argue the point, but you must have gone wrong somewhere if your views lead you to think that theology does not speak real and true truth about God.

Well, I didn't say that theology had nothing real or true to offer about God. I'm just working from the traditional view that all theology is from effects--something that Aquinas makes clear in the ST. As such, it will necessarily be imperfect, since it can only comment on God indirectly. Aquinas himself rather famously accepted the ultimate incompleteness of theology at the end of his life: "All that I have written seems like straw compared to what has now been revealed to me." (Not that this conclusion wasn't anticipated by his "straw"--it's embedded all over the place in the ST, SCG, DP, DV and the rest.)

A MacIntyrean said...

Feser, you're quite right that my grammar was ambiguous there. I realized that just after I submitted the comment and it was too late to change. What I meant to say about MacIntyre was solely to Kozkinski

James Chastek said...

Sobieski,

[to Brandon]

I am not entirely understanding your point (i.e., the distinction you are making or saying Banez is failing to make).



Two relations:

1.) Primary cause to secondary cause
2.) The cause of grace to a will capable of charity

Brandon's claim is that Banez treats 2 as more or less just an instance of 1. Brandon doesn't say exactly what the difference is, but I think I can give a relevant one, even if it's different from the one he had in mind. A primary cause is responsible for both the operation and existence of the secondary cause, and so, absent the primary cause, there is neither a operation nor even existence of the secondary cause (this is the first casual axiom in the Liber de Causis). But the cause of grace is not, as such, the cause of the existence of the will capable of charity. In other words to consider God as a cause of grace puts him in relation to something given in existence whereas to consider him as primary cause does not. God as giver of grace is therefore in relation to the actualities of his creatures, and so opens the possibility of him considering merits, worthiness, efforts, desire, freedom of the creature etc. whereas the relation of primary to secondary causality can never take such actualities as simply given.

Brandon is right that anyone who allows for the truth of the First Way is committed to physical premotion in Banez's sense of the term; he could have gone further and said that it is more or less a done deal as soon as one admits the truth of omne quod movetur ab alio movetur. There's still a good deal of work we have to do to understand this, but Hart's article could have done more to draw out the how conceptually basic the problem is. At any rate, I love Banez and have gotten much pleasure from reading him, even though, to be honest, I never had any interest in reading what he said on physical premotion. Even if it were horrid, so what? Etiam Homer dormivit.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

dguller:

I gather that you and rank sophist, and perhaps others, have some "history" in regards to the issue of analogy and "God-talk". I will add only three points to consider:

1) Shooting the moon entails shooting at the moon. Shooting a bullet at the moon without the bullet reaching the moon does not negate the accuracy of the shot. The point of verbal analogies about God are along the same lines: they are accurate even if ultimately insufficient. You are forcing a false dichotomy by saying the choices are either (implicitly) univocal adequacy (i.e. hitting the moon itself) or radical equivocation (i.e. shooting anywhere but in the moon's direction).

2) I think you're also putting the cart before the horse, as if a boy said he found the moon in a piece of mirror he found on the ground. He found an image of the moon reflected in the glass, just as we reflect God in theology. In the first case it is the moon that illuminates the mirror, and in the case of theology it is God Himself that informs the discourse. (I leave aside the issue of what lights the moon––it's just an analogy yuk yuk yuk! Even so, it might be even more accurate to imagine the boy saying he caught the sun in the image of the moon, as poorly as language about finite beings catches the simplicity of God's integral existence.) It seems that your complaint is that, if God is so transcendent, He can't meaningfully be said to participate in anything of which we say or refer to Him. But that's putting the cart before the horse. In fact it is we and all finite things which fail to participate in the transcendent completeness of God––a wholeness and simplicity which in a single act of existence includes and thus relativizes every created category/mode/creature that resembles it. So God is not, properly speaking, "like X only way more so." Rather, we ought to say "X resembles God but in a way so far from His fullness that the only more false would be to say that X doesn't resemble God at all."

3) As a mental drill, examine how you/we talk about "nothing." Though language would deceive us, we know that talking about "nothing" does not render nothing-as-such existent. Every mention of and attempt to describe pure-nothing fails to achieve its goal (i.e. never reaches the moon). For in every case and in every utterance there is an ontic remainder that partakes of finite beings, by which we orient ourselves as fellow existents. Likewise, but in the opposite, every notion and description of God fails to describe pure-existence, yet that failure to hit the moon does not render God any less existent than it renders nothing into something. God transcends all speech and finite categorization much like nothing "antiscends" all speech and categorization. My point is that if we can speak about nothing by analogy, we can speak about God by analogy.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

ERROR: "...the only more false thing would be to say that X doesn't resemble God at all."

Also, my second point was probably the most muddled, so let me add this: Even if thousands of people that night found different pieces of the mirror with the moon reflected in them, it would still be one and the same moon. And even if they put all their pieces together, that image would still fall short of the size and ornateness of the moon. Theology is just the attempt to put all our verbals pieces together in the direction of the same reality, even though we know from the outset that every such synthesis is a laughable failure in comparison.

Jeffrey S. said...

Thaddeus,

I gather you are Catholic (as am I), so I know it might be strange for me to be quoting Cromwell, but "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken."

9/11 happens to be personal for me, as just a couple of weeks ago I attended the funeral of the father of one of my friends from high school:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Gene_Corley

Now, as you can read if you follow some of those links, Mr. Corley was indeed part of the "official" establishment -- but he was also (like his son) a man of integrity and intelligence. Which is probably true for many of those individuals who were tasked with studying the collapse of those buildings. The conspiracy theorists would have you believe that these flesh and blood people, people of good will and integrity and intelligence, are dupes and fools and don't know what they are talking about. They would have you believe...well, they have you believing all sorts of strange ideas because you hate war (which is fine, to a point) and more specifically you seem to hate the idea that we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here is a crazy idea I want you to think about: the wars may or may not have been good ideas but whether or not terrorists committed 9/11 first is a separate question. I suggest you think long and hard about the "ideas" and motives of those who would question the obvious truth (i.e. that Osama bin Laden recruited and trained terrorists to commit 9/11). That YouTube video link was pathetic and crazed -- the producers decided to throw a bunch of crazy at the wall and hope that some of it will stick. The only ones who pay attention to such nonsense are those (like Alex Jones) who have decided already that no one in authority can be trusted with basic facts and everyone in power is working some angle to "screw the little guy". In your world people don't just have an honest clash of worldviews or have a policy difference (lord knows, those of us who consider ourselves traditiona conservatives would like to believe there is a conspiracy against us -- but no, it is just liberals in power doing the stuff that liberals like to do with power -- you know, screw up the country).

Anyway, I don't know if any of this will get through to you but maybe you'll read the report on WTC7 and learn a thing or two.

dguller said...

Rank:

1) that creation itself has an a priori, ontological relation to God;
2) that our names for creation thus signify God;
3) that the highest aspects of creation more perfectly imitate God; then
4) our names for the highest aspects of creation more perfectly signify God than our lower ones.

There is no sense of proximity with respect to that which is infinitely far away. If God is infinitely far away, then all our names are equally infinitely far away from him, and thus there is no sense to names that “more perfectly signify God”. To believe otherwise is an illusion.

Obviously, even this name must be denied in the end, leaving us with, as you said, "somber silence". However, it's wrong to say that theology shouldn't exist simply because it necessarily collapses into silent mysticism.

Theology shouldn’t exist, because a necessary condition of its possibility is impossible. The only meaningful discourse about God is meaningless.

Theology is the format Christianity uses to lead people to mysticism. It's how mystics talk to one another about God. You can't communicate mystical experience in itself: you have to use words, which means imperfect analogy.

That’s because there is no mystical experience. The mystical is not an experience at all. There is a difference between the experience of negativity and the negativity of experience. The latter is most properly consistent with mysticism, because there is no possible experience, because any experience will be tainted by creation, and thus be incapable of representing the metaphysical simplicity of the divine at all.

Thaddeus Kozinski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dguller said...

Codgitator:

1) Shooting the moon entails shooting at the moon. Shooting a bullet at the moon without the bullet reaching the moon does not negate the accuracy of the shot.

It certainly does if one claims to have hit the moon as the basis of one’s accuracy.

The point of verbal analogies about God are along the same lines: they are accurate even if ultimately insufficient. You are forcing a false dichotomy by saying the choices are either (implicitly) univocal adequacy (i.e. hitting the moon itself) or radical equivocation (i.e. shooting anywhere but in the moon's direction).

The problem is that all options fail. Univocity fails, because it destroys divine transcendence. Equivocation fails, because it destroys any possibility of meaningful theology. Analogy fails, because it requires a partial identity and partial difference between God and creation, and partial identity is impossible, because God is metaphysically simple (i.e. without composition), and thus there is no sense to a being without parts being partially identical to anything.

2) I think you're also putting the cart before the horse, as if a boy said he found the moon in a piece of mirror he found on the ground. He found an image of the moon reflected in the glass, just as we reflect God in theology. In the first case it is the moon that illuminates the mirror, and in the case of theology it is God Himself that informs the discourse. (I leave aside the issue of what lights the moon––it's just an analogy yuk yuk yuk! Even so, it might be even more accurate to imagine the boy saying he caught the sun in the image of the moon, as poorly as language about finite beings catches the simplicity of God's integral existence.)

But the problem is that we have some understanding of how the moon can appear in the mirror, i.e. reflected electromagnetic radiation. There is no possible way for our language to be meaningfully about God at all.

It seems that your complaint is that, if God is so transcendent, He can't meaningfully be said to participate in anything of which we say or refer to Him. But that's putting the cart before the horse. In fact it is we and all finite things which fail to participate in the transcendent completeness of God––a wholeness and simplicity which in a single act of existence includes and thus relativizes every created category/mode/creature that resembles it. So God is not, properly speaking, "like X only way more so." Rather, we ought to say "X resembles God but in a way so far from His fullness that the only more false would be to say that X doesn't resemble God at all."

Again, you keep talking about God, and have not explained how this is possible, if all our language is rooted in what we can conceive, imagine and experience, and God is infinitely beyond anything that we can conceive or imagine or experience. No matter what you say about God, it is always infinitely inadequate to the point that there can be no commonality between the created origin of your language and God himself, and without such a commonality, there is no connection between them, making meaning impossible.

dguller said...

Even if thousands of people that night found different pieces of the mirror with the moon reflected in them, it would still be one and the same moon. And even if they put all their pieces together, that image would still fall short of the size and ornateness of the moon. Theology is just the attempt to put all our verbals pieces together in the direction of the same reality, even though we know from the outset that every such synthesis is a laughable failure in comparison.

Except that it is impossible that anyone could see the moon in their mirrors, and yet they all pretend that they do, and begin a centuries-long dialogue about the illusion that they all perceive, which cannot possibly be what they claim it is about.

3) As a mental drill, examine how you/we talk about "nothing." Though language would deceive us, we know that talking about "nothing" does not render nothing-as-such existent. Every mention of and attempt to describe pure-nothing fails to achieve its goal (i.e. never reaches the moon). For in every case and in every utterance there is an ontic remainder that partakes of finite beings, by which we orient ourselves as fellow existents.

But there is an important difference between God and nothingness. We can understand nothingness by simply negating existence. To understand God, one must negate affirmation and negation, which I contend is inconceivable and incoherent, and thus is why language and thought breaks down when it purports to reach God. To speak meaningfully about God is to be reduced to meaninglessness.

Likewise, but in the opposite, every notion and description of God fails to describe pure-existence, yet that failure to hit the moon does not render God any less existent than it renders nothing into something. God transcends all speech and finite categorization much like nothing "antiscends" all speech and categorization. My point is that if we can speak about nothing by analogy, we can speak about God by analogy.

The problem is that God is far more radical than absolute nothingness. And if we cannot have an analogy with absolute nothingess, then we can even less have an analogy with God.

Edward Feser said...

Thaddeus,

I asked you yesterday to stop posting this conspiracy stuff -- a request you have ignored for over a day now -- and in my most recent post I asked you to stop posting any comments at all. And still you won't stop.

I have tolerated your antics because I suspected you would accuse me of censoring you if I deleted your remarks (which would, frankly, have been in your best interests). But enough is enough.

You are a guest here -- at first you were a welcome one, but then a very rude and irrational one. And now you show you don't have even the basic courtesy and good sense to leave when asked fairly gently.

So, let me be even more direct. You are no longer welcome here. Get the hell out of my combox. Any further comments from you, whatever their content, will be deleted.

rufusdog said...

Thaddeus,
Dude, you’ve inspired me, I have been prying on this damn propaganda lens for hours and it just won’t come off. Those evil government bastards must have used some sort of secret glue the Jews and Aliens developed.

rank sophist said...

There is no sense of proximity with respect to that which is infinitely far away. If God is infinitely far away, then all our names are equally infinitely far away from him, and thus there is no sense to names that “more perfectly signify God”. To believe otherwise is an illusion.

If God is infinitely far away, infinitely higher than anything we can know--then the names that are most infinite and indeterminate will be more accurate. You've just admitted as much by saying that God is "infinitely far away", which is a divine name. (Unless you claim that "infinitely far away" is an absolute statement.) It's obviously more accurate to say that God is more infinite than to say that he is less infinite. So where's the problem?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Well, dguller, I think you're being dogmatic. You're just asserting that all talk of God is meaningless... yet you keep talking about God. The reason we must negate affirmation and negation of God is that those are dialectical operations of discursive reasoning, and reason works from particulars. Any affirmation of God immediately entails a qualification (a sort of negation), yes, but to say this is utter meaninglessness is just to beg the question. We can and do have an analogical grasp of nothingness. The fact that you responded to my usage of it, and used the term yourself, is proof of that.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Dguller, again, I'd say that your approach to nothingness just as easily works for theology. To paraphrase you, "We can understand God simply by maximalizing existence." Insofar as God is the one thing in which all things partake and which all things resemble and on which all things depend, all affirmations will apply to him (as drawn from the diverse perfections of all things), and yet precisely because of that each affirmation, if taken in isolation, will require a negation. For example, to say that cats and particle accelerators resemble God is true, and yet the attempt to affirm of God catness as such and particle-accelerator-ness as such requires a negation, since catness and particle-accelerator-ness mutually exclude each other.

By the way, I'm curious what you've read to deal with these issues. Any Augustine, Cappadocians, Maximus, Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, et all.? Kai Nielsen? Feser, McInerny, James Ross?

Aquinas3000 said...

Now that you can't post I hope you can contact me privately. I was however a bit disappointed by your reply since you already seem to have come up with a list of what the "real" motives behind any such critique. Take your comment on Americanism for instance. Both myself and my friend are Australians so we really don't care about how America comes out of the mix. In fact in the book he agrees with her in essence but disagrees with the method of her critique since it is muddled. In any case it only comprises a few pages. I do hope you are actually open to discussing this issue. Ironically here's another point of agreement. We would also agree that other critiques of Rowland are rather wanting. No one has really done a terribly good job of it which is rather surprising. I'm sorry but yes Rowland does question the whole idea of natural reason and if we have a discussion I can provide you with the references. Thanks for your own references.

Edward Feser said...

I ask other commenters also to stop posting remarks about conspiracy theories, etc., since Kozinski evidently thinks it would be unfair to him to do so given that he is no longer welcome to comment here and thus cannot reply.

In general, if anyone would like to continue their exchanges with Kozinski, perhaps they can do so in the combox of his own article over at Ethika Politica, to which I linked at the beginning of the original post. That's his own combox, so he can say whatever he wants in it.

BenYachov said...

I think it's long overdue if he has the time & the interest for Prof Feser to give his thoughts on some of dguller's criticisms of analogy.

I have been inspired to dabble in analogy from watching this discussions from the sidelines. There seems to be a division between those who see analogy in ontological terms vs merely logical terms.

Hart may be more on the logical side I think?

The traditional Thomistic school vs the analytic or those with a foot in both like McInerny. Did Cajetan get Aquinas wrong? Most in the Traditional school say no (sans MncInerny).

What is the deal here?

Also to RS I have been reading R-L's book CHRISTIAN PERFECTION AND CONTEMPLATION.

It seems a good idea to read a man spirituality since it often has a direct practical application to his philosophy and Theology.

I am not as of yet willing to write off Banezianism as mere Calvinism with Rosary beads. It makes a lot of sense once one embraces the idea of mystery.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

dguller:

I think this/these is/are the crucial premise/s you hold:

"If [God can never be entirely encompassed within the meaning of any assertion], then just because not everything about God is contained with the meaning of an assertion about God, it does not follow that nothing about God is contained within the meaning of an assertion about God, but rather that something about God is contained within the meaning of an assertion about God, or else it is not about God at all. But if this is true, then you get into all kinds of paradoxes and aporias, such as how something without parts can be partially contained, and so on."

Here's why I think you are in error:

Take the natural number 1. Then take the number 2. 1 is contained in 2, but only by 'analogy', and not completely. For a complete assimilation of 2 to 1 would entail that 2 is 1, which is false. Precisely in the act of 'containing' 1, 2 masks and confuses the oneness of 1. So, veeerrrry roughly speaking, God is 1 and everything else is a higher natural number (i.e. a being of less simplicity and unity). Why is that so difficult? Why do you keep talking about what you say is utterly meaningless? Why is the All so much harder to accept than the Nothing?

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

dguller:

I also take issue with your rebuttal to my first point earlier.

I wrote that "Shooting a bullet at the moon without the bullet reaching the moon does not negate the accuracy of the shot."

You retorted that "It certainly does if one claims to have hit the moon as the basis of one’s accuracy."

But this is spurious for at least two reasons:

First, it's disingenuous, since the theologians in question have said up front that they can't hit the target. As I said, though, it's a logical fallacy to say that accuracy depends on reaching one's goal (more of which in a moment). You're basically holding analogists to a univocal standard and then accusing them of equivocating. Christian orthodoxy has never held that knowing God depends on forming an accurate cognitive cannon to shoot at Him. What we know of God by natural reason is, admittedly, pretty sparse. What we know of God in depth is a gift of His own self-revelation. That our language fails to plumb such depths is no surprise and certainly no indictment on His self-revelation.

2) I assume you're a naturalist, and I gather from your profile that you're a physician. I highly doubt that you apply the same critique to medicine as you do to theology. Prescribing the correct medicine to a patient does not depend on prescribing the maximally best medicine for all sufferers of the same illness. Clinical accuracy (shooting at the moon) suffices even when ultimate theoretical explanation (hitting the moon) fails. More generally, the aim of natural science is to form an increasingly broad and fundamental quantitative-theoretical model of nature. That various experiments never reach such a high goal is no argument against the scientific method. Further, that no particular model of the universe could ever encompass the universe's whole reality, is not generally an argument naturalists would give the time of day to. I have had some pretty deep discussions on my blog about just how hard it is to separate the ultimacy of God from the ultimacy of the physical universe. I think you are being parsimonious in your preference for the transcendence of the universe.

dguller said...

Rank:

If God is infinitely far away, infinitely higher than anything we can know--then the names that are most infinite and indeterminate will be more accurate. You've just admitted as much by saying that God is "infinitely far away", which is a divine name. (Unless you claim that "infinitely far away" is an absolute statement.) It's obviously more accurate to say that God is more infinite than to say that he is less infinite. So where's the problem?

But it isn’t more accurate, by definition. If X is infinitely far away from Y, and Y moves 100 meters closer to X, then how far is Y from X now? It is still infinitely far away. There is no such thing as getting closer to something infinitely far away. This would be yet another example of a theological statement that superficially seems meaningful and plausible, but by virtue of the deeper dynamics involved, becomes meaningless and incoherent.

BenYachov said...

OF course dguller if we could know nothing about infinity and by analogy (pun intended) God then how could we reason that you can not add or subtract form infinity and thus conclude moving 100 meters closer to an object that is an infinite distance makes no real progress?

So we must be able to know something about it. The same with natural abstract knowledge of God.

Daniel Smith said...

Brandon: Sed contras (the 'on the contrary' parts) don't settle disputed matters, by definition; they establish that they are disputed matters by showing that some reason can be given that opposes the objections. Your example is an example of Scripture being recognized as a source, not a settler, of dispute, as a reason for thinking something that does not, in itself, establish it definitively. (Scripture can have the role in Aquinas, of course; but not just any appeal to Scripture is an example of it.)

I guess I've always considered the sed contras in a stronger sense than that. To me, it seems like Aquinas always leads with his strongest statement of opposition (the knockout punch if you will). The fact that most of them are appeals to either scripture or official church teaching seems to me to indicate that Aquinas considers these authoritative. I must point out also that I did not say that scripture "settles disputed matters" [full stop], I said scripture "settles disputed matters, for [Aquinas] at least". That's the sense I get from reading the sed contras. Perhaps you're right though and I'm reading too much into it. Maybe "settles" is too strong a word.

There's a pretty straightforward reason why Thomists around here don't appeal to scripture to settle sacred matters, I think; the discussions here are usually not about sacred matters. They do come up (they couldn't possibly not), but that's not what people actually discuss, at least here.

Well my observation is that scripture is very rarely cited here even when dealing with sacred matters. As a Protestant, I was taught to always search scripture as the first resource in sacred matters.

Take the issue I cited - the natural and supernatural ends of man. My mind immediately went to scriptures dealing with "the flesh vs. the spirit". St. Paul had a lot to say about that. I decided to pick one passage and see what Aquinas said about it and found his comments illuminating (especially this part: "there is a definite part of the soul not associated with any bodily organ, namely, the intellectual part, which includes both intellect and will, that part of the soul is called the man’s spirit").

I had always wondered how Aquinas defined the soul vs the spirit and there it was. (Notice too that he doesn't consider the intellect to be associated with any bodily organ - including the brain.) So, for me, going back to scripture as a first resource, then Aquinas as a second resource, was fruitful. Maybe it's just my Protestant training that leads me that way.

dguller said...

Codg:

Well, dguller, I think you're being dogmatic. You're just asserting that all talk of God is meaningless... yet you keep talking about God. The reason we must negate affirmation and negation of God is that those are dialectical operations of discursive reasoning, and reason works from particulars. Any affirmation of God immediately entails a qualification (a sort of negation), yes, but to say this is utter meaninglessness is just to beg the question. We can and do have an analogical grasp of nothingness. The fact that you responded to my usage of it, and used the term yourself, is proof of that.

First, my argument starts with the assumption that God talk is possible, but ends up concluding that it is impossible, and thus all the earlier God talk only superficially looked meaningful, but was actually meaningless. It is like someone walking around talking about square circles as if they were a meaningful concept.

Second, any affirmation of God does not entail a “qualification”, but a total negation, because anything that we can conceive of God is through the filter of created multiplicity, and thus we have no concept of uncreated simplicity, which is beyond our understanding.

Third, how can we have an analogical grasp of nothingness when nothingness is nothing like anything we can conceive, imagine or experience?

Fourth, do you have any conception of similarity that does not presuppose partial identity and partial difference?

To paraphrase you, "We can understand God simply by maximalizing existence." Insofar as God is the one thing in which all things partake and which all things resemble and on which all things depend, all affirmations will apply to him (as drawn from the diverse perfections of all things), and yet precisely because of that each affirmation, if taken in isolation, will require a negation. For example, to say that cats and particle accelerators resemble God is true, and yet the attempt to affirm of God catness as such and particle-accelerator-ness as such requires a negation, since catness and particle-accelerator-ness mutually exclude each other.

I would be perfectly happy with that account, but where things go off the rails is the further condition that, despite that Neoplatonic metaphysical account, God is infinitely beyond anything that we can think, including the thought that God is the ultimately source and cause of all creation. That is why even Aquinas says that we cannot absolutely say that God is creator, but only that we are created. Once we start talking about things from God’s perspective, language breaks down into incoherence and meaninglessness. It is a “cloud of unknowing”, a “darkness”, a “nothingness”, without anything affirmative or negative, because all assertions and all denials must be denied of God, leaving us with emptiness.

Take the natural number 1. Then take the number 2. 1 is contained in 2, but only by 'analogy', and not completely. For a complete assimilation of 2 to 1 would entail that 2 is 1, which is false. Precisely in the act of 'containing' 1, 2 masks and confuses the oneness of 1. So, veeerrrry roughly speaking, God is 1 and everything else is a higher natural number (i.e. a being of less simplicity and unity). Why is that so difficult? Why do you keep talking about what you say is utterly meaningless? Why is the All so much harder to accept than the Nothing?

Because 1 and 2 can be like one another, because they participate in a common genus of quantity. God and creation do not share a common genus, and thus cannot be similar to one another, and thus one cannot be analogous to another. Also, similarity is partial identity and partial difference, and in order for X to be similar to Y, X and Y must both have parts, but since God has no parts, he cannot be similar to anything, but only totally identical or totally different, neither of which is possible.

dguller said...

You're basically holding analogists to a univocal standard and then accusing them of equivocating. Christian orthodoxy has never held that knowing God depends on forming an accurate cognitive cannon to shoot at Him. What we know of God by natural reason is, admittedly, pretty sparse. What we know of God in depth is a gift of His own self-revelation. That our language fails to plumb such depths is no surprise and certainly no indictment on His self-revelation.

Why do mystical theologians, such as Denys, Aquinas, Eckhart, and others, say that ultimately all our speech about God must be reduced to silence, if there is no problem with talking about God? Silence is the logical conclusion of the breakdown of language when it attempts to meaningfully speak about an infinitely transcendent being, such as God. If analogy solved the problem, as you claim it does, then why the silent conclusion?

I highly doubt that you apply the same critique to medicine as you do to theology. Prescribing the correct medicine to a patient does not depend on prescribing the maximally best medicine for all sufferers of the same illness. Clinical accuracy (shooting at the moon) suffices even when ultimate theoretical explanation (hitting the moon) fails. More generally, the aim of natural science is to form an increasingly broad and fundamental quantitative-theoretical model of nature. That various experiments never reach such a high goal is no argument against the scientific method. Further, that no particular model of the universe could ever encompass the universe's whole reality, is not generally an argument naturalists would give the time of day to. I have had some pretty deep discussions on my blog about just how hard it is to separate the ultimacy of God from the ultimacy of the physical universe. I think you are being parsimonious in your preference for the transcendence of the universe.

None of this is relevant. In principle, it is possible for a medical treatment to cure a physical illness. If it was metaphysically impossible on the basis of indubitable first principles for medical treatment to cure illness, then your analogy would hold, but with theology, especially mystical theology, first principles lead to a contradiction and incoherence when it comes to meaningfully talking about God. Mystical theology states, on the one hand, that God is immanently present in the deepest interiority of every created being in order to sustain its existence and prevent it from falling into absolute nothingness, and on the other hand, that God is transcendently beyond any created being’s capacity to contain or represent such that they actually cannot have anything in common whatsoever, because if they did, then that would be a common genus, which is impossible. The solution is to say that God is beyond any distinction between himself and creation, including the distinction between sameness and difference, which makes him beyond any concepts or experiences that we could possibly have of him, being saturated by distinction.

dguller said...

Ben:

OF course dguller if we could know nothing about infinity and by analogy (pun intended) God then how could we reason that you can not add or subtract form infinity and thus conclude moving 100 meters closer to an object that is an infinite distance makes no real progress?

God is not like infinity. Infinity is the negation of finitude and limitation, and as such we can understand it perfectly fine. To understand God is to negate all affirmation and negation, which also negates all kinds of identity and difference, and which destroys any coherent meaning to that which transcends such fundamental distinctions and conceptual categories that are the basis for any meaningful concept or statement. Come on. There’s a reason why mystical theologians agree that to truly speak about God in an accurate way is to be reduced to silence.

BenYachov said...

>God is not like infinity. Infinity is the negation of finitude and limitation, and as such we can understand it perfectly fine.

I don't see how? I have an idea that numbers go on forever getting larger and larger but I can't comprehend every single potential number. Yet infinity positively contains every single number.

>To understand God is to negate all affirmation and negation, which also negates all kinds of identity and difference, and which destroys any coherent meaning to that which transcends such fundamental distinctions and conceptual categories that are the basis for any meaningful concept or statement.

And understanding this how is it not understanding "something" about God?


>Come on. There’s a reason why mystical theologians agree that to truly speak about God in an accurate way is to be reduced to silence.

In the unequivocal sense yes. I am all for negative theology.

BenYachov said...

@dguller
>First, my argument starts with the assumption that God talk is possible, but ends up concluding that it is impossible, and thus all the earlier God talk only superficially looked meaningful, but was actually meaningless. It is like someone walking around talking about square circles as if they were a meaningful concept.

Square Circles are a contradiction. God's existence is concluded logically and PSR tells us from nothing nothing comes. Analogy is a logical doctrine regarding language and the analogy of names not a metaphysical doctrine on the analogy of being. At least not in regards to the issue of wither nor not we can name God.

We conclude God exists and God created us. We are not like God in the unequivocal sense but we cannot be compared to God in the Purely Equivocal sense.

Things that are compared in the Purely equivocal sense have only a word/symbol in common nothing else. Like the "bark" of a dog vs the "bark" of a tree.

Since God created us and is the ultimate cause of our being we clearly can't be compared to God in the Pure Equivocal sense otherwise there could be no relation between God and us even by way of creation.

Since we concluded the existence of God/Deep Reality we are stuck with Him even if we can't ultimately understand him.

So logically creation is an analog of God. We are like God on a very simple level. God is good in that he is desirable and the Good is what all things desire. We are good too but like the way he is being Goodness Itself and the Good in every good.

You are right to put an emphasis on negative theology. The mystics are awesome to that effect.

But maybe analogy is in Aquinas (as Ralph McInerny & or Mortensen claim) a logical doctrine on the analogy of names and not a metaphysical one on analogy of being.

I see if I can get you some links later on & some book recommendations.

Also I hope Dr. Feser or someone from the Traditional School can chime in & give a defense of Cajetan's view/development of Aquinas.

If only to hear the other side defended since both McInerny & Mortensen say Cajetan got Aquinas wrong on analogy.

Sobieski said...

@RS

I tried to be careful and only declare that the denial of free will was heresy--and that Banezianism was only heresy if my interpretation of it is correct--, but I guess I wasn't clear enough. Oh well.

You are anything but careful. Most if not all of your spewage is mere assertion without any citation of references from primary or secondary texts. But you've read Hart apparently and that's good enough. You said, for example:

The problem occurs because of Banez's bone-headed ideas about causality. He can't imagine God giving something independent causal power--in the sense of causal power sustained by God at every moment. If something has causal power, Banez thinks that it must be because God is causing it directly, as when we apply the term "cause" to a stick moving a stone. Aquinas saw God as the cause of causality: the thing that enabled causality at all. God enabled the fall of man by providing and sustaining the causal power of Adam and Eve, in the same sense that he enabled the fall of man by providing and sustaining the being of Adam and Eve. But he had no part in moving Adam or Eve to this or that particular action: they did what they did independently of his will. To say otherwise is to say that God caused--not only foresaw, but directly caused--every evil in human history. It's also to say that we are not free to accept or reject grace. It's heresy, in other words.

No, it is not. Regardless, your assertions about St. Thomas's doctrine directly contradict his statements on the matter of the action of the will. For example, he says:

"God not only gives things their form, but He also preserves them in existence, and applies them to act, and is moreover the end of every action." (ST 1.105.5 ad 3)

"Moreover, whatever agent applies active power to the doing of something, it is said to be the cause of that action. Thus, an artisan who applies the power of a natural thing to some action is said to be the cause of the action; for instance, a cook of the cooking which is done by means of fire. But every application of power to operation is originally and primarily made by God. For operative powers are applied to their proper operations by some movement of body or of soul. Now, the first principle of both types of movement is God. Indeed, He is the first mover and is altogether incapable of being moved, as we shown above. Similarly, also, every movement of a will whereby Powers are applied to operation is reduced to God, as a first object of appetite and a first agent of willing. Therefore; every operation should be attributed to God, as to a first and principal agent." (SCG 3.67)

"It must be observed that one thing may be the cause of another’s action in several ways. First, by giving it the power to act: thus it is said that the generator moves heavy and light bodies, inasmuch as it gives them the power from which that movement results. In this way God causes all the actions of nature, because he gave natural things the forces whereby they are able to act, not only as the generator gives power to heavy and light bodies yet does not preserve it, but also as upholding its very being, forasmuch as he is the cause of the power bestowed, not only like the generator in its becoming, but also in its being; and thus God may be said to be the cause of an action by both causing and upholding the natural power in its being. For secondly, the preserver of a power is said to cause the action; thus a remedy that preserves the sight is said to make a man see. But since nothing moves or acts of itself unless it be an unmoved mover; thirdly, a thing is said to cause another’s action by moving it to act: whereby we do not mean that it causes or preserves the active power, but that it applies the power to action, even as a man causes the knife’s cutting by the very fact that he applies the sharpness of the knife t6 cutting by moving it to cut." (De Potentia 3.7)

Sobieski said...

continued...

If you had read Fr. G-L on the matter you would know these things (e.g., Predestination 3.30), but you have condemned him before even doing so, a man who is acknowledged by many as perhaps the greatest Thomist of the 20th century. Your caricature of the Dominican position is a straw man. You called Fr. Banez, the head of the Domincan order in his day, who further submitted his and his colleagues writings to the pope on the matter of predestination and was not censured, a "bone head" and heretic. It would be quite ironic that St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, had a bone-headed, heretic for her confessor:

"In another way, Bañez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. 'To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bañez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter. . . . All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications.'" (Catholic Encyclopedia online)

Like I said your writings are anything but careful, but with respect to the good Dominicans I would also venture to say they are not even Christian.

BenYachov said...

>Third, how can we have an analogical grasp of nothingness when nothingness is nothing like anything we can conceive, imagine or experience?

We logically conclude nothing is everything and anything minus itself. We abstract away everything giving us a correct thought imperfect idea. Granted if I try to imagine nothing as a big black void I am still imagining something.

Nothing is still kind of inconceivable but I can still logically conclude what nothing is.

Just as I can conclude the existence of God and know something about Him.

But ultimate comprehension? Well then how could God be God if I could ultimately comprehend him?

rank sophist said...

Ben,

OF course dguller if we could know nothing about infinity and by analogy (pun intended) God then how could we reason that you can not add or subtract form infinity and thus conclude moving 100 meters closer to an object that is an infinite distance makes no real progress?

Exactly. dguller is presupposing analogy in his own attacks against it.

dguller,

God is not like infinity.

Which is, of course, more analogy. You've admitted that infinity has some kind of proportion to God by saying that God is unlike it.

Sobieski,

No, it is not. Regardless, your assertions about St. Thomas's doctrine directly contradict his statements on the matter of the action of the will. For example, he says:

"God not only gives things their form, but He also preserves them in existence, and applies them to act, and is moreover the end of every action." (ST 1.105.5 ad 3)


You've just fallen into the same ridiculous misreading that created Banezianism. What does Aquinas mean when he says that God "applies them to act"? What does it mean to say that God "moves" something? Let's find out, shall we?

"Again it is to be observed that where there are several agents in order, the second always acts in virtue of the first; for the first agent moves the second to act. And thus all agents act in virtue of God Himself: and therefore He is the cause of action in every agent." (ST Ia q105 a5)

"Wherefore it [God] moves all things in accordance with their conditions; so that from necessary causes through the Divine motion, effects follow of necessity; but from contingent causes, effects follow contingently. Since, therefore, the will is an active principle, not determinate to one thing, but having an indifferent relation to many things, God so moves it, that He does not determine it of necessity to one thing, but its movement remains contingent and not necessary, except in those things to which it is moved naturally." (ST IIa q10 a4)

"But man determines himself by his reason to will this or that, which is true or apparent good. Nevertheless, sometimes God moves some specially to the willing of something determinate, which is good; as in the case of those whom He moves by grace, as we shall state later on." (ST IIa q9 a6)

"To be moved voluntarily, is to be moved from within, that is, by an interior principle: yet this interior principle may be caused by an exterior principle; and so to be moved from within is not repugnant to being moved by another." (ST Ia q105 a4)

God's "movement" of secondary causes is at the most universal level: he causes necessary causes to move necessarily, and contingent causes to move contingently. But he doesn't efficiently move causes toward "this or that" particular goal. That's what secondary causes do to each other. God's primary causality is the conditioning of all causes to move in the universal ways proper to them. He enacts no direct causality over them himself, except during miracles. That's all it means to apply something to act. God creates something with the nature of a necessary cause, and then he allows it to act like a necessary cause: he does not cause it to do this or that, which would be occasionalism.

Here's a good example of why my reading is the only coherent one:

rank sophist said...

"Therefore God so moves the created intellect, inasmuch as He gives it the intellectual power, whether natural, or superadded; and impresses on the created intellect the intelligible species, and maintains and preserves both power and species in existence." (ST Ia q105 a3)

Under your reading, this entails that God is the agent intellect (as Avicenna said), and that he determines every action of our intellect. But this is obviously not what Aquinas is saying. He is saying that God is that which allows the agent intellect to inform the passive intellect with intelligible species, and that which provides "the intellectual power": the ability to move in this or that way. To say otherwise is to imagine God as a univocal, necessary secondary cause, rather than the reason for the existence of both necessity and contingency. It's also to collapse any meaningful distinction between grace and nature.

If you had read Fr. G-L on the matter you would know these things (e.g., Predestination 3.30), but you have condemned him before even doing so, a man who is acknowledged by many as perhaps the greatest Thomist of the 20th century.

Thomism in general has been a trainwreck for several centuries, so I don't see what meaning that's supposed to have to me.

Also, why would I read G-L's Banezian nonsense when I can read Aquinas's primary texts? Further, why should I read any of the modernist cant of innovators like Banez or Molina when I can go back to the sources on which Aquinas based his theology? Or are you one of the ones who still thinks that Aquinas was particularly original?

Like I said your writings are anything but careful, but with respect to the good Dominicans I would also venture to say they are not even Christian.

And I would say the same thing about Banezian theology. It bears more of a resemblance to paganism than it does to the Church Fathers' work.

dguller said...

Ben:

I don't see how? I have an idea that numbers go on forever getting larger and larger but I can't comprehend every single potential number. Yet infinity positively contains every single number.

Irrelevant. The infinite could apply to creation, and thus be perfectly understandable as within the categories. What we are talking about is understanding something beyond the categories, beyond all conceptuality, beyond all experience, and beyond all language. Infinity is nothing like that.

And understanding this how is it not understanding "something" about God?

First, if you want to affirm only the denial of all knowledge of God, then that’s fine, but what you have to give up is all other characteristics and descriptive properties of God. You cannot also affirm that he is the creator, merciful, all-powerful, the cause of existence, an intellect, possessive of will, and a Trinity. It all has to go if the only thing we know is that we know nothing.

Second, this knowledge is not about God, but about our limitations. Ignorance is ultimately about us, and not about what we are ignorant about.

In the unequivocal sense yes. I am all for negative theology.

Then if the most authentic form of theology is silence by virtue of a cloud of unknowing, darkness and nothingness, then that should be the end of God talk, other than an inaccurate form of God talk, which can only be not about God at all. In other words, as I have been arguing, to speak about God is to say nothing about God.

Square Circles are a contradiction. God's existence is concluded logically and PSR tells us from nothing nothing comes. Analogy is a logical doctrine regarding language and the analogy of names not a metaphysical doctrine on the analogy of being. At least not in regards to the issue of wither nor not we can name God.

The doctrine of analogy only makes sense within a Neoplatonic metaphysics of participatory efficient causality. Without that framework, there is no justification for the doctrine of analogy whatsoever. That is fine as far as it goes, but if one says that God transcends that very framework, then he is also beyond any justification of analogy, and if analogy is the only way of knowing anything about God and talking about God, then analogy cannot apply to God.

We conclude God exists and God created us. We are not like God in the unequivocal sense but we cannot be compared to God in the Purely Equivocal sense.

You cannot conclude that. You conclude that reason breaks down and language is reduced to silence. Knowing that God is creator is more than knowing that you know nothing about God. Again, you are stuck in a contradiction. Either we know nothing about God or we know all kinds of things about God. You cannot affirm both simultaneously, other than on pain of contradiction.

dguller said...

Since God created us and is the ultimate cause of our being we clearly can't be compared to God in the Pure Equivocal sense otherwise there could be no relation between God and us even by way of creation.

Again, all of this is only possible within a particular metaphysical framework involving ordered hierarchies, i.e. actuality > potency, cause > effect, and so on. Since God transcends all ordered hierarchies, then he transcends the only framework within which we can know anything about him, and within which the doctrine of analogy is applicable. Once you leave the framework, you have left the solidity of the ground and are flying through the air without any friction to slow you down.

So logically creation is an analog of God. We are like God on a very simple level. God is good in that he is desirable and the Good is what all things desire. We are good too but like the way he is being Goodness Itself and the Good in every good.

Again, only applicable within the framework that God is supposed to transcend. Once you leave the framework, its rules and determinations no longer apply. It would be like leaving a game of basketball and pretending that its rules still apply. They only apply within the game of basketball.

But maybe analogy is in Aquinas (as Ralph McInerny & or Mortensen claim) a logical doctrine on the analogy of names and not a metaphysical one on analogy of being.

The doctrine of analogy presupposes the validity of a Neoplatonic metaphysics of participatory efficient causality in which an effect is like a cause by virtue of participating in the cause’s properties, but in a different mode of being. So, you have a cause C with virtual property P and effect E with either potential P or actual P. For C to cause E is for virtual P to cause the transition from potential P to actual P in E. However, they all participate in P, but in different modes of being. That is also how the effect is like the cause, i.e. they are partially identical in that they both have P, but they are partially different in that P exists in different modes of being (virtual in C and either potential or actual in E). That is the basis of the doctrine of analogy, because if God is the cause C and creation is the effect E, then E must participate in the virtual properties of C in a potential or actual mode of being, and knowing the properties of E allows us to know something about the properties of C. But God transcends this entire framework, and thus none of this is applicable to God, and thus there is no longer any justification for the doctrine of analogy.

If you want to say that God does not transcend this framework, then that would solve one problem, but only on pains of sacrificing his transcendence. And without his transcendence, you have God and creation sharing a common genus, i.e. the Neoplatonic framework that I described above, which would result in univocity, and is also impossible, because there are strong reasons to reject that God and creation could possibly share a common genus. So, it is all an incoherent and contradictory mess.

My preferred solution is that theology is rooted in necessary impossibilities. In other words, there are doctrines that are absolutely necessary in order for theology to be possible, but those doctrines are ultimately impossible according to the rules of theology.

Any thoughts?

dguller said...

Rank:

Exactly. dguller is presupposing analogy in his own attacks against it.

And the result is a reductio ad absurdum. Assuming analogy is true, the conclusion is that analogy is false.

rank sophist said...

I'd like to add one more thing.

Any theology that explains motion by making God a univocal "highest mover", as Banezianism does, hasn't really explained motion at all. Why? Because it places God in the order of motion: God moves everything else so that he is not himself moved. But if this is true, then motion certainly can't have come from God, since he participates in it. He's less than motion. And, in that case, how can he be God? How can he be that on which all things rely? The same applies for act and potency, essence and existence, being and non-being, contingency and necessity--all of that stuff. If God is univocally identified with any one of those categories, then he becomes a participant in a mode of being that pre-exists him. If God is trapped within the binary opposition of "mover" and "moved", then he can't be the absolutely simple ground of all binary oppositions. As I've said before, this is a lower-g god--something hardly more impressive than the Platonic demiurge. He's infinitely distant from the One.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

>Irrelevant. The infinite could apply to creation, and thus be perfectly understandable as within the categories.

I think it is. Is creation perfectly understandable? I say no. Do humans have the power of perfect understanding? Since when? Humans at best might have relatively perfect understanding of some things relative to their actual powers of comprehension. but an absolute perfect understanding? That does not seem to be the case yet we can logically/philosophically conclude there must God who created all things. Even in a Theistic Reality the Universe is in many ways ultimately inexplicable. A godless reality even more so thought I am starting to think as read more Aquinas, Tillich and others the differences kind of blur there.

>What we are talking about is understanding something beyond the categories, beyond all conceptuality, beyond all experience, and beyond all language. Infinity is nothing like that.

Absolute Infinity might in fact fall into that category thought we should find where grod is & ask him. He is the Math dude. We can understand something about this Something.


>First, if you want to affirm only the denial of all knowledge of God,

Of unequivocal knowledge yes. But I can philosophically and logically conclude God's existence and as the Creator/Conservator and in neo-Platonic fashion conclude relative to God we are analogs.

>then that’s fine, but what you have to give up is all other characteristics and descriptive properties of God.

In the unequivocal sense yes.

>You cannot also affirm that he is the creator,

Even Moses Ben Mamon whose extreme negative theologys seems identical to what you are channeling here affirmed we can prove God exists. So I don't see how this is possible. Unless you are equivocating between affirming God as creator vs knowing how he created in the unequivocal sense.

> merciful, all-powerful, the cause of existence, an intellect, possessive of will, and a Trinity. It all has to go if the only thing we know is that we know nothing.

dguller buddy! My boychik! My beloved internet friend! My goombah! Don't mix natural theology with revealed theology.
We can only know God is a Trinity threw revelation not reason.

That having been said I don't see how not ultimately knowing God the way God absolutely and Perfectly knows Himself undoes the 5 ways.

BenYachov said...

>Second, this knowledge is not about God, but about our limitations. Ignorance is ultimately about us, and not about what we are ignorant about.

I agree as every Thomist text I have read regardless of school says we can only have a mere human knowledge of things and God by nature.
I always thought that was the point?

>Then if the most authentic form of theology is silence by virtue of a cloud of unknowing, darkness and nothingness, then that should be the end of God talk, other than an inaccurate form of God talk, which can only be not about God at all. In other words, as I have been arguing, to speak about God is to say nothing about God.

Ultimately yes but in the short term no. For example I don't know what it means to be Goodness Itself but I can conclude God must be that. I can conclude God is desirable and the cause of perfection & goodness in things which means he must be good.

>The doctrine of analogy only makes sense within a Neoplatonic metaphysics of participatory efficient causality. Without that framework, there is no justification for the doctrine of analogy whatsoever. That is fine as far as it goes,

For now I tentatively agree.

> but if one says that God transcends that very framework, then he is also beyond any justification of analogy, and if analogy is the only way of knowing anything about God and talking about God, then analogy cannot apply to God.

All that seems to mean is that we logically acknowledge that God is objectively more than we think He is however correct it may be it in our limited human power to know it is still not absolutely perfecty adequate. That doesn't get rid of analogy.

>You cannot conclude that. You conclude that reason breaks down and language is reduced to silence.

I am not certain how the 5 ways or any other argument for the existence of God in the Classic sense is overthrown? Mose Ben Mamon( i.e.Maimonides) held the same negative theology you are giving me without any theory of analogy just metaphor and revelation
and he believed we could know God existed philosophically.

So I don't get it.


> Knowing that God is creator is more than knowing that you know nothing about God.

It simply means I know who is the author of conditional reality. I don't have to hold any view of analogy to know that. Not Cajatan, Aquinas, Scotus or anything. I can have a pure negative theology.

>Again, you are stuck in a contradiction. Either we know nothing about God or we know all kinds of things about God. You cannot affirm both simultaneously, other than on pain of contradiction.

Sort of a fallacy of the undistributed middle. I can't ultimately know but I can imperfectly and partially know,

That is not hard.

BenYachov said...

@dguller
>Again, all of this is only possible within a particular metaphysical framework involving ordered hierarchies, i.e. actuality > potency, cause > effect, and so on.

Agreed. That is how we can have our limited imperfect but correct as far as it goes human understanding of God.

>Since God transcends all ordered hierarchies, then he transcends the only framework within which we can know anything about him, and within which the doctrine of analogy is applicable.

I don't get it? How does our intrinsic inability to ultimately comprehend God prevent him from causing all the ordered hierarchies He objectively transcends?

> Once you leave the framework, you have left the solidity of the ground and are flying through the air without any friction to slow you down.

There is no reason to leave the frame work and in effect you can't since we can only have a human level understanding of God being we are merely human.


>Again, only applicable within the framework that God is supposed to transcend. Once you leave the framework, its rules and determinations no longer apply. It would be like leaving a game of basketball and pretending that its rules still apply. They only apply within the game of basketball.

Abner Doubleday doesn't actually have to play any game of baseball or ever having played one to invent it. God can be an outside cause because the framework itself dictates there must be an outside ultimate cause that is the Cause of causes outside it.

But maybe analogy is in Aquinas (as Ralph McInerny & or Mortensen claim) a logical doctrine on the analogy of names and not a metaphysical one on analogy of being.

>The doctrine of analogy presupposes the validity of a Neoplatonic metaphysics of participatory efficient causality in which an effect is like a cause by virtue of participating in the cause’s properties, but in a different mode of being.

Which doctrine the logic one or the metaphysical one?

>But God transcends this entire framework, and thus none of this is applicable to God, and thus there is no longer any justification for the doctrine of analogy.

Rather philosophy leads us to what we must logically label Pure Act & we can also conclude threw other philosophical theology and revelation this Pure Act transcends the entire framework of act from potency and that the Pure Act transcends every form of act within the framework.

So what is the problem?

>If you want to say that God does not transcend this framework, then that would solve one problem, but only on pains of sacrificing his transcendence.

Rather the framework cannot account for itself so it must appeal to something outside the framework and the metaphysics within point to the outside. We can't have an infinite essential chain of causality so there must be a first cause outside keeping the cain going.

Why do I get the feeling Russell set paradox is at work here? Or something like it?

BenYachov said...

Now I am still learning the difference between the different Thomistic schools on analogy.

I don't think I have the stomach to go 300 posts with dguller. Of course unlike the gnus dguller gives us usually challenging posts & they move me to think and explore never the less now that I think of it that is also a problem because answering gnus doesn't really require much research. Like playing a video game with cheat codes.

So will someone who knows a lot about Aquinas on analogy chime in here?

Just saying.

dguller said...

Ben:

I think it is. Is creation perfectly understandable? I say no. Do humans have the power of perfect understanding? Since when? Humans at best might have relatively perfect understanding of some things relative to their actual powers of comprehension. but an absolute perfect understanding? That does not seem to be the case yet we can logically/philosophically conclude there must God who created all things. Even in a Theistic Reality the Universe is in many ways ultimately inexplicable.

I’m not even talking about perfect understanding. I’m talking about any kind of understanding. The problem with divine knowledge is that whenever you get a foothold anywhere, you have to immediately let go by virtue of the need for negation, which is a byproduct of the fundamentally self-effacing nature of divine language. No matter what you say, no matter what you think, you are always necessarily infinitely falling short of God. In fact, it is so radical a negation that you must negate all affirmations and negations, because the negation of X presupposes some knowledge of X, and you cannot have any knowledge of X when X is God, because our finite understanding is structurally incapable of knowing God. It cannot even know God partially, because God has no composition, and thus there are no parts of God that we can know and other parts that we are ignorant of. It is just ignorance and darkness.

Of unequivocal knowledge yes. But I can philosophically and logically conclude God's existence and as the Creator/Conservator and in neo-Platonic fashion conclude relative to God we are analogs.

Yes, you conclude God’s existence, but only within the Neoplatonic framework. However, since you also must conclude that God cannot be determined by a genus, then that includes any framework that you can conceive of, which includes the very framework that allowed you to conclude God’s existence to begin with. So, your result ends up negating and effacing itself once you have reached the conclusion. After all, if the very condition of the possibility to demonstrate God’s existence is also falsified by God’s existence, then you have a logical contradiction.

Even Moses Ben Mamon whose extreme negative theologys seems identical to what you are channeling here affirmed we can prove God exists. So I don't see how this is possible. Unless you are equivocating between affirming God as creator vs knowing how he created in the unequivocal sense.

I am not equivocating at all. Any sense of God as cause of creation uses a conceptualization of causality that is fundamentally rooted in the created universe, and cannot be applicable to God himself, if one takes his transcendence seriously. If you want to ignore his transcendence, embrace immanentism and univocity, then you have no problem in this regard, but if you reject both, then you are stuck with a huge problem, I think. As Rank keeps emphasizing, to take his transcendence seriously, as all Christian Fathers did, means to realize that any conceptualization that you may have of God is fundamentally an idol of your intellect that falls infinitely short of God’s true reality.

That having been said I don't see how not ultimately knowing God the way God absolutely and Perfectly knows Himself undoes the 5 ways.

The Five Ways undo themselves, because they demonstrate the existence of something that is completely beyond our comprehension, including our ability to assert that it exists at all. A true darkness of unknowing. I’m currently reading a book by Denys Turner about this claim, and so I’ll have more to say when I’m done.

dguller said...

Ultimately yes but in the short term no. For example I don't know what it means to be Goodness Itself but I can conclude God must be that. I can conclude God is desirable and the cause of perfection & goodness in things which means he must be good.

In any term, long or short, this is the problem. As soon as you open your mouth to talk about God, your words efface themselves into meaninglessness. You can pretend that you are conversing meaningfully, but the reality is otherwise, as mystical theologians have realized for centuries. The idea is that you use reason to reach a point in which reason unravels, because the conclusion is about that which transcends all distinctions and all affirmations and negations, which makes it beyond reason and language. At that point, intellect perceives the truth in a dark cloud of unknowing and nothingness, beyond all categories and concepts and words and experience. That is the truth, and the truth is nothing.

All that seems to mean is that we logically acknowledge that God is objectively more than we think He is however correct it may be it in our limited human power to know it is still not absolutely perfecty adequate. That doesn't get rid of analogy.

No. It means that the background assumptions that allow us to conclude that God exists are ultimately rejected as inapplicable to God at all, and thus the arguments that we used lose their very foundation, and become useless. It is a reductio ad absurdum, i.e. the assumptions contradict the conclusion via a deductive argument. To say that God is beyond all binary opposition, beyond all our concepts and experiences, beyond all affirmation and negations, puts him beyond any conceptual framework within which to argue his existence.

And yes, that eliminates analogy, because analogy only makes sense within a framework that cannot possibly apply to God.

I am not certain how the 5 ways or any other argument for the existence of God in the Classic sense is overthrown? Mose Ben Mamon( i.e.Maimonides) held the same negative theology you are giving me without any theory of analogy just metaphor and revelation 
and he believed we could know God existed philosophically.

They break down, because the conclusion of the arguments are a being without distinction, beyond affirmation and negation, beyond any concept or experience we may have, and thus beyond any meaningful discourse, which is rooted in affirmations and negations, in identity and difference, none of which are applicable to God himself.

It simply means I know who is the author of conditional reality. I don't have to hold any view of analogy to know that. Not Cajatan, Aquinas, Scotus or anything. I can have a pure negative theology.

No, you do not, because “the author of conditional reality” is something that you are affirming about God, but God is beyond all affirmations. You cannot even negate this affirmation to gain knowledge of God, because the negation of X implies knowledge of X since you must first know what you are negating, which is a Scholastic principle. So, you affirm, then negate in a higher affirmation, which you must then negate in a higher affirmation, and on and on, forever without end, because you cannot reach the end of an infinite activity. The only end comes when one negates affirmation and negation themselves, when one negates all distinctions, when one negates identity and difference, and is left with nothing at all in a cloud of unknowing, a darkness, and are reduced to silence.

dguller said...

I don't get it? How does our intrinsic inability to ultimately comprehend God prevent him from causing all the ordered hierarchies He objectively transcends?

Because to say that God causes X is to put him in an ordered hierarchy in which cause is superior to effect, act is superior to potency, and so on. You cannot say that God is under the purview of an ordered hierarchy and yet transcends all ordered hierarchies, except on pain of a logical contradiction.

There is no reason to leave the frame work and in effect you can't since we can only have a human level understanding of God being we are merely human.

Except that all human understand of God is infinitely deficient. We don’t even know how far our deficiency is, because that would presuppose a comprehensive understanding of God, which we fundamentally lack.

God can be an outside cause because the framework itself dictates there must be an outside ultimate cause that is the Cause of causes outside it.

But an “outside ultimate cause” is still a cause and causality only makes sense from within the framework. The properties of causes within the framework cannot hold outside the framework. Why would they? You have left the system within which those properties derive their sense. It would be like cutting off the branch that you are sitting on, and expecting to remain in place. In fact, you would fall, because you have detached the one thing that was keeping you in place.

Which doctrine the logic one or the metaphysical one?

What logical one? Analogy is not a logical truth. It is a conclusion of a Neoplatonic metaphysical framework.

Rather philosophy leads us to what we must logically label Pure Act & we can also conclude threw other philosophical theology and revelation this Pure Act transcends the entire framework of act from potency and that the Pure Act transcends every form of act within the framework.

But if Pure Act transcends the entire framework, then we cannot use the framework to know anything about it at all, but without the framework, we know nothing at all about it, because everything we know is rooted in that framework. You want to have your cake and eat it, too. Rank’s point is that Pure Act is not just an actuality without potency, but beyond any kind of actuality that we can conceive, including pure actuality.

Rather the framework cannot account for itself so it must appeal to something outside the framework and the metaphysics within point to the outside. We can't have an infinite essential chain of causality so there must be a first cause outside keeping the cain going.

But then you have something outside the framework causing the framework. Why does the framework require an outside cause? Because within the framework all effects require causes. But that puts what was supposed to be outside the framework still inside the framework, because the rules of framework apply to it, thereby implying its subservience to the framework itself. And that means that it is not transcendent at all, but still immanent. In the language of Levinas, you are still in the Same, and not the Other.

BenYachov said...

>But God transcends this entire framework.

>If you want to say that God does not transcend this framework, then that would solve one problem, but only on pains of sacrificing his transcendence.

So what dguller seems to be saying is because Pure Act transcends the framework of potency being reduced to act we can't say Pure Act is the first cause of the essential causal chain of any existent.

Well that the essential chain must have as it's ultimate/first cause be Pure Act it doesn't logically follow that logic ceases at the level of the transcendent or that what is not comprehensible is to be equated with the logically impossible.

I don't think incomprehensibility equates with reason or logic ceasing to exist at the deep reality.

BenYachov said...

>Yes, you conclude God’s existence, but only within the Neoplatonic framework.

How can I reason using a rational framework without presupposing reason? Is there some non-rational type of reason that I can use to get to a rational framework and then what must I do to justify that framework?

You committing an act of philosophical MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction.

>However, since you also must conclude that God cannot be determined by a genus, then that includes any framework that you can conceive of, which includes the very framework that allowed you to conclude God’s existence to begin with.

How is that a problem for Theism? That is a problem of epistemology itself.

>So, your result ends up negating and effacing itself once you have reached the conclusion. After all, if the very condition of the possibility to demonstrate God’s existence is also falsified by God’s existence, then you have a logical contradiction.

This makes no sense.

BenYachov said...

>I am not equivocating at all. Any sense of God as cause of creation uses a conceptualization of causality that is fundamentally rooted in the created universe, and cannot be applicable to God himself, if one takes his transcendence seriously.

No rather it is used logically to conclude the existence of a transcendental cause there is no promise of unequivocal knowledge or even of analogous knowledge of that cause other then it is the Reason there is Something not nothing and it exists.

> If you want to ignore his transcendence, embrace immanentism and univocity, then you have no problem in this regard, but if you reject both, then you are stuck with a huge problem, I think.

Christian tradition believes in both immanentism and transcendence. There is no reason to believe they are both in conflict or to hold to an either or mentality. God by nature is immanent via the doctrine of divine conservation. God causes our existence here an now. Thus he has to be outside of our existence to do so. He must transcend it or he is just another being alongside other beings instead of the Ground of Being.

> As Rank keeps emphasizing, to take his transcendence seriously, as all Christian Fathers did, means to realize that any conceptualization that you may have of God is fundamentally an idol of your intellect that falls infinitely short of God’s true reality.

That is just a fancy eastern Christian way of saying we cannot have anything more than a mere human conception of God.

That is unavoidable.

BenYachov said...

I wrote:
It simply means I know who is the author of conditional reality. I don't have to hold any view of analogy to know that. Not Cajatan, Aquinas, Scotus or anything. I can have a pure negative theology.

>No, you do not, because “the author of conditional reality” is something that you are affirming about God, but God is beyond all affirmations.

The praise "beyond all affirmations" is ironically itself an affirmation. But in context it is merely a statement of God transcendence & ultimate unknowability. But knowing God exists or the success of any particular set of arguments for God have nothing to do with analogy.

> You cannot even negate this affirmation to gain knowledge of God, because the negation of X implies knowledge of X since you must first know what you are negating, which is a Scholastic principle.

I am afraid you are equivocating between the fact we cannot ultimately know what God is with the brute fact we can only use our intellects to know that he is.

> So, you affirm, then negate in a higher affirmation, which you must then negate in a higher affirmation, and on and on, forever without end, because you cannot reach the end of an infinite activity. The only end comes when one negates affirmation and negation themselves, when one negates all distinctions, when one negates identity and difference, and is left with nothing at all in a cloud of unknowing, a darkness, and are reduced to silence.

I can and must affirm using my limited human intellect the existence of God but I must negate any unequivocal absolute perfect knowledge of what God is.

I can only conclude we are analogs when compared to God & using the doctrine logically I can make affirmations of that God. Which thought inadequate are true.

BenYachov said...

>What logical one? Analogy is not a logical truth. It is a conclusion of a Neoplatonic metaphysical framework.

You should get around to reading Ralph McInerny & or Mortensen.

I still would like to see Dr Feser or someone chime in on this.

We desperately need a series of posts on analogy.

rank sophist said...

Ben,

I'd love to answer your call for assistance, but I've already gone 200 rounds with dguller on this issue and I don't want to do it again. Maybe Codgitator will come back. I will say something in response to this:

That is just a fancy eastern Christian way of saying we cannot have anything more than a mere human conception of God.

I endorse this interpretation. That's what I'm saying and what all the Fathers said.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

dguller:

1) Again, I think your reductio just begs the question. Your objection is that any analogical predication, when analyzed apophatically, does not hold of God univocally, so analogical predication fails in hindsight. Perhaps that is what rank sophist meant about your wanting an "analytic" claim about God. (I take it that you are an ignostic (religious non-cognitivist)?) But that is just a Procrustean tactic which doesn't respect why and how analogy is the tertium quid between univocity and equivocity.

2) I fear you are also muddying the waters by addressing too many things at once, namely, the doctrine of analogy as well as God's immanence and transcendence, all among the most abstruse and challenging issues in philosophy. So perhaps we can address one thing at a time under one head. Tidier.

3) Knowing that a thing is does not entail knowing what it is. To recognize the existence of God by His effects is not to grasp Him in His essence. You keep harping on how we must reject all affirmation and denial of God, but fail to see that this just is what the doctrine of analogy means: affirmation is univocal while negation is equivocal.

And while the ascent to God may result in silence, as the mystics have it, so too does a musical performance end in silence. That ultimate silence does not negate the existence, coherence, and beauty of the music; in a similar way, apophatic silence does not negate theology––it perfects it. A mystical vision of God leaves speech behind, but getting to that vision can legitimately involve rational discourse. One is reminded of Wittgenstein's "kicking away of the ladder" in his Tractatus. He may have advised readers to kick away the ladder of the Tractatus once they grasped it, but that doesn't negate the fact that he used (and insisted on) the Tractatus to get there.
...

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

...

4) In any case, your objections, while generally fair and well informed, are not new. Doc Feser dealt with analogy to some extent in this post on divine simplicity.

Likewise, the trusty 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say (I cite it just as much in order to provide textual leads for you or others to pursue):

"What is the value of our knowledge of God acquired by [natural theology]? According to Agnosticism this attribution of perfections to God is simply impossible, since we know them only as essentially limited and imperfect, necessarily relative to a certain species or genus, while God is the essentially Perfect, the infinitely Absolute. Therefore all that we say of God is false or at least meaningless. He is the Unknowable; He is infinitely above all our conceptions and terms. Agnosticism admits that these conceptions and names are a satisfaction and help to the imagination in thinking of the Unthinkable; but on condition that we remember that they are purely arbitrary; that they are practical symbols with no objective value. According to Agnosticism, to think or say anything of God is necessarily to fall into Anthropomorphism.

"St. Thomas and the Schoolmen ignore neither Agnosticism nor Anthropomorphism, but declare both of them false. God is not absolutely unknowable, and yet it is true that we cannot define Him adequately. But we can conceive and name Him in an 'analogical way'. The perfections manifested by creatures are in God, not merely nominally (equivoce) but really and positively, since He is their source. Yet, they are not in Him as they are in the creature, with a mere difference of degree, nor even with a mere specific or generic difference (univoce), for there is no common concept including the finite and the Infinite. They are really in Him in a supereminent manner (eminenter) which is wholly incommensurable with their mode of being in creatures. (Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologiæ I.13.5-6; C. Gent., lib. I, c. xxii-xxxv; in I Sent. Dist., xiii, Q. i, a. 1, ad 4am.) We can conceive and express these perfections only by an analogy; not by an analogy of proportion, for this analogy rests on a participation in a common concept, and, as already said, there is no element common to the finite and the Infinite; but by an analogy of proportionality. These perfections are really in God, and they are in Him in the same relation to His infinite essence that they are in creatures in relation to their finite nature. (Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol I.4.3; I.13.5; Q. ii, De verit., a. 11, in corp. ad 2am; ibid., xxiii, a. 7, ad 9supam.)

"We must affirm, therefore, that all perfections are really in God, infinitely. This infinitely we cannot define or express; we can say only that it is the absolutely perfect way, which does not admit any of the limitations which are found in creatures. Hence our conception of God, though very positive in its objective content, is, as represented in our mind and expressed in our words, more negative than positive. We know what God is not, rather than what He is. (Cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologicæ I.3, the whole question; I.13.2, 3, 5, 12; Q. ii, De veritate, a. 1, ad 9am, ad 10am.) Such a conception is evidently neither false nor meaningless; it is clearly inadequate. In a word, our conception of God is a human conception and it cannot be other. But if we necessarily represent God in a human way, if even if it is from our human nature that we take most of the properties and perfections which we predicate of Him, we do not conceive Him as a man, not even as a perfected man, since we eliminate from those properties, as attributes of God, all limits and imperfections which in man and other creatures are a very part of their essence."

BenYachov said...

>The Five Ways undo themselves, because they demonstrate the existence of something that is completely beyond our comprehension, including our ability to assert that it exists at all. A true darkness of unknowing. I’m currently reading a book by Denys Turner about this claim, and so I’ll have more to say when I’m done

Is the book you are reading THE DARKNESS OF GOD:Negativity in Christian Mysticism. by Turner.

I see the problem here. Our good friend dguller might be equivocating between the natural intellective knowledge we can have of God via philosophy or philosophical theology vs Spiritual insight and general spiritual and mystical knowledge of God in religious experience.

I believe Turner's thesis is the best mysticism saw God as "beyond all affirmation". I just read a book by a slightly liberal Catholic on spiritulity that said we must embrace not being able to grasp what God is and learn instead to grasp Him with love not the intellect.

It's ironic how both Traditional and Liberal Catholics can sometimes find themselves on the same page.

Miracles never cease.

This could also be a source of the confusions over RS's citations of Hart. Sometime in the east philosophy and mysticism are mixed and that might lead to some confusion unless you recognize it.

Anyway I want someone with some professional knowledge on Thomistic Analogy any school to chime in here.

We are amateurs trying to make sense of it all. Some of us (like RS or duller) are better read on it but we still need a guiding hand.


So I will refrain from answering dguller the best I can.

Not because I don't think he is worthy of a response but because he needs a better one then I can provide.

I love RS's reposes but RS is channeling an Eastern approach (which BTW is awesome) but might not reflect all the views of all the Thomist schools.

I need more. Like I said some of McInerny ideas might answer the charge of onto theology OTOH maybe Cajatan might say onto-theology is nt a bad ting.

Cheers.

dguller said...

Ben:

Well that the essential chain must have as it's ultimate/first cause be Pure Act it doesn't logically follow that logic ceases at the level of the transcendent or that what is not comprehensible is to be equated with the logically impossible.

Remember that the transcendent is metaphysically simple, i.e. no composition. Logic is discursive and sequential, and thus is the providence of reason, but not intellect, which is supposed to be a unitary vision of the truth at the highest level of human cognition. So, the transcendent is unitary and simple, and thus beyond reason, because it is not sequential or discursive, which is simply a limited human form of reasoning, but is attainable by intellect in a form of theosis.

How can I reason using a rational framework without presupposing reason? Is there some non-rational type of reason that I can use to get to a rational framework and then what must I do to justify that framework?

We are not talking about reason itself, but about Neoplatonism. Are you claiming that Neoplatonism is a priori and necessarily true and a direct extension of pure reason? If not, then your point is a red herring.

How is that a problem for Theism? That is a problem of epistemology itself.

How so?

This makes no sense.

That’s the point. At the end of the argument, nothing makes sense anymore, which is supposed to be a sign that you have reached the deepest reality that is simply beyond human comprehension and causes a deep confusion and disorientation in the human mind, akin to the dark night of soul that John of Cross described.

No rather it is used logically to conclude the existence of a transcendental cause there is no promise of unequivocal knowledge or even of analogous knowledge of that cause other then it is the Reason there is Something not nothing and it exists.

Sorry, not dice. There is no justification for the need for a cause except within the framework itself. If the framework is false, then there is no longer any need for a cause at all.

Christian tradition believes in both immanentism and transcendence. There is no reason to believe they are both in conflict or to hold to an either or mentality. God by nature is immanent via the doctrine of divine conservation. God causes our existence here an now. Thus he has to be outside of our existence to do so. He must transcend it or he is just another being alongside other beings instead of the Ground of Being.

I understand all that, but it is still a contradiction. God is simple, and thus lacks all composition, which means that he cannot partly be here and partly be there, but rather is either entirely here or entirely there, or nowhere at all. If he is entirely here, then he cannot also be entirely there, because if X is entirely here, then there is nothing left of X to be available anywhere else. That is what “entirely” means. So, if God is here in an immanent fashion, then he must be entirely here, because he cannot be partly here, and if he is entirely here, then he cannot be anywhere else, which means that he cannot be sustaining the existence of anything else.

dguller said...

Also, there is a contradiction between the notion that creatures exist in degrees of proximity to God and God being immanent in all creatures. If he is immanent, then he is fully present to all creatures in their deepest beings, and thus they are all equally close to God. But this contradicts the idea of a hierarchy of being in which there are degrees of proximity to God. Furthermore, since all beings are infinitely far away from God by virtue of his transcendence, this affects the doctrine of proximity and immanence, and thus the whole thing is an incoherent mess.

The mystical solution is to say that God is beyond all distinction, including here and there, immanence and transcendence, affirmation and denial, identity and difference, and so on, and thus none of these categories or conceptual distinctions are applicable when describing God and his relationship to creation. But again, since all our knowledge and language is rooted in distinctions, then we can have no knowledge about God or language about God, because it is all only present to us via modes of distinction, which are fundamentally inapplicable to God himself.

That is just a fancy eastern Christian way of saying we cannot have anything more than a mere human conception of God.

Then we can have no conception of God at all, because any conception we have is a human conception, which is infinitely deficient of God. Again, a good reason why silence and ignorance is the most authentic response to the divine.

The praise "beyond all affirmations" is ironically itself an affirmation. But in context it is merely a statement of God transcendence & ultimate unknowability. But knowing God exists or the success of any particular set of arguments for God have nothing to do with analogy.

Of course it does. Without analogy, you cannot have arguments about God, because all arguments about God presuppose that we can argue from effects to causes, and what unites causes to effects is analogy and similarity, i.e. effects are like their causes. If you eliminate this piece of the puzzle, then you can know nothing about God.

I am afraid you are equivocating between the fact we cannot ultimately know what God is with the brute fact we can only use our intellects to know that he is.

How can you know that X is without knowing what X is. What exactly are your proving to exist if you don’t even know what it is?

I can and must affirm using my limited human intellect the existence of God but I must negate any unequivocal absolute perfect knowledge of what God is.

Then you stand in opposition to Christian mystical theology. Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory of Nyssa, Eckhart, the Cloud author, John of the Cross, and others, all agree that knowledge of God is actually an unknowing darkness. They do not say that you see a little bit of light in the darkness, a faint silhouette in the blackness to guide your way, but rather that there is a radical nothingness, darkness, emptiness.

When you say that you reject unequivocal knowledge of God, you are opening the door to analogical knowledge of God. But analogy is rooted in similarity between analogates, and this is only possible on the Neoplatonic account, which is rooted in ordered hierarchies. If God transcends all ordered hierarchies, then he transcends the Neoplatonic framework, and thus the reasoning and principles of that framework cannot be applied to him at all, including their doctrine of analogy.

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

dguller:

"…analogy is rooted in similarity between analogates, and this is only possible on the Neoplatonic account, which is rooted in ordered hierarchies. If God transcends all ordered hierarchies, then he transcends the Neoplatonic framework, and thus the reasoning and principles of that framework cannot be applied to him at all, including their doctrine of analogy."

A crucial thesis, but one, again, that I think is subtly fallacious. In the fourth way in the Summa Theologiæ, as I think you know, Aquinas argues that the maximum in any genus G orders the members of that genus, and then goes from such ordered perfections P to the existence of God. Again, though, you seem to want analogy to hold of God in an ultimately univocal way––you want to fit Him onto the Procrustean bed of general being––but it is precisely the point of natural theology that its conclusions point beyond their own terms (their termini). The integral perfection of God's sheer existence is reflected imperfectly in all the analogates of being to which you refer. And because all such perfections derive from Him in an incomprehensibly undifferentiated way, neither negation ("P in G is totally unlike God") nor affirmation ("P in G is just like God") holds. Natural theology is meant to convince nonbelievers that a Being exists––wait for it––beyond the universe. Once they follow the immanentist reasoning to its terminus, they are indeed called to leap into the transcendent realm of silence and darkness. By saying natural theology over-extends itself (beyond the ladder of analogous being), you think you are refuting natural theology, but are in fact just vindicating it. Natural (cataphatic) theology is a propaedeutic to––wait for it––supernatural (apophatic) theology.

BenYachov said...

I'm sorry duller but you are equivocating between the spiritual claims of mystics on how we spiritually experience God in prayer and contemplation with how we know God intellectively via philosophy.

You are making a category mistake & thus it muddies your arguments.

Turner's book is awesome but it's not a dissertation on natural theology or the Analogy of names like Mcinerny's AQUINAS & ANALOGY or .Mortensen's UNDESTANDING ST. THOMAS ON ANALOGY.

BenYachov said...

Maybe a few points to clarify for dguller.


>Remember that the transcendent is metaphysically simple, i.e. no composition.

How do we know that if according to your dogma the transcendent is completely unknowable? Maybe because the logic of philosophy leads you there thus gaves you a positive piece of information on the nature of the transcendent?

>Logic is discursive and sequential, and thus is the providence of reason, but not intellect, which is supposed to be a unitary vision of the truth at the highest level of human cognition.

This makes no sense how does one reason without an intellect? Did I read this right?

> So, the transcendent is unitary and simple, and thus beyond reason, because it is not sequential or discursive, which is simply a limited human form of reasoning, but is attainable by intellect in a form of theosis.

Are you citing a mystic on mystical knowledge because analogy is within the providence of Philosophical theology and category mistakes don't help move the discussion along?

>We are not talking about reason itself, but about Neoplatonism. Are you claiming that Neoplatonism is a priori and necessarily true and a direct extension of pure reason? If not, then your point is a red herring.

No I am saying any philosophy by definition points to something outside itself as the ultimate reality.

For example Materialism points to Material reality as the only reality yet the material world is outside the philosophy of materialism.

But that doesn't make the claims of materialist philosophy true or false.

>How so?

It's the old "How do I know anything is true?" My senses tell me then how do I know I can trust them? My reason tells me then how can I trust it? etc...
Or maybe I mean phenomenology?

>That’s the point. At the end of the argument, nothing makes sense anymore, which is supposed to be a sign that you have reached the deepest reality that is simply beyond human comprehension and causes a deep confusion and disorientation in the human mind, akin to the dark night of soul that John of Cross described.

You are equivocating between spiritual conclusions in one's personal relationship with God vs intellectual conclusions of philosophical theology.

That is a problem. That is a category mistake.

>Sorry, not dice. There is no justification for the need for a cause except within the framework itself.

Why can't we ask what caused the framework? That is just an adhoc claim. What is the justification for it? Also the framework argues that it is not sustainable within itself.

>If the framework is false, then there is no longer any need for a cause at all.

To show the framework false you need to overthrow realism in all it's forms and argue for nominalism or conceptionalism. Which is fine but it has little to do with analogy. You don't need analogy to argue causality.

BenYachov said...

I want to clear up some more conclusion here since ironcially they deal little with analogy and are up my ally.

>Also, there is a contradiction between the notion that creatures exist in degrees of proximity to God and God being immanent in all creatures.

No God causes all creatures to merely exist equally. In that sense Satan and the Blessed Mother are on radically equal footing. OTOH on the level of natural theology intellects reflect God more than mere sense does. Living beings more than the inanimate.

>If he is immanent, then he is fully present to all creatures in their deepest beings, and thus they are all equally close to God.

In that they merely are caused to exist. On that level Satan is the same as Mary.

>But this contradicts the idea of a hierarchy of being in which there are degrees of proximity to God.

Well the saved reflect God more then let us say the damned.

>Furthermore, since all beings are infinitely far away from God by virtue of his transcendence, this affects the doctrine of proximity and immanence, and thus the whole thing is an incoherent mess.

They are far away in the sense they are not unequivocally like him. They can't be wholey equivocal to him since He could even be their creator but the 5 ways show us their is a God.

I blame myself for these confusions of dguller.
I seem to remember the last go around I might have recommend he read some mystics since I have found them helpful but I don't foresee he would treat them as propounding natural or philosophical theology.

My bad.

Sorry buddy.

Sobieski said...

@RS

Nothing that you have cited in St. Thomas's texts argues against the Thomist doctrine of physical premotion. From the texts I cited, we know St. Thomas holds:

1. God brings the will into being.
2. God further sustains it in being,
3. God applies the will to its act.
4. That at least in some cases God further determines the will to a particular good (cf. ST 1-2.9.6 ad 3 as cited by you; e.g., a salutary act vs. sin)

With respect to (4), St. Thomas holds that God's determination of human acts occurs in accordance with the nature of the will and without necessity or violence (cf. ST 1-2.10.4 as cited by you: "but having an indifferent relation to many things, God so moves it, that He does not determine it of necessity to one thing"). Note that he does not say that God does not or cannot determine the will at all, but that He does not do so of necessity. If God decrees that something be done, it is infallibly done from all eternity without destroying freedom of the will. Such is the power and majesty of God.

God's "movement" of secondary causes is at the most universal level: he causes necessary causes to move necessarily, and contingent causes to move contingently. But he doesn't efficiently move causes toward "this or that" particular goal.

As we can see, this is false per the citations above, but St. Thomas also directly contradicts your interpretation here:

"...God alone can move the will in the fashion of an agent, without violence.

"Hence it is said in Proverbs (21:1): 'The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord; wherever He wishes, He turns it.' And again in Philippians (2:13): 'It is God Who works in us, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will.'

"Some people, as a matter of fact, not understanding how God could cause a movement of the will in us without prejudice to freedom of will, have tried to explain these texts in a wrong way. That is, they would say that God causes willing and accomplishing within us in the sense that He causes in us the power of willing, but not in such a way that He makes us will this or that. Thus does Origen, in his Principles, explain free choice, defending it against the texts above...

"To these people, of course, opposition is offered quite plainly by the texts from Sacred Scripture. For it is stated in Isaiah (26:2): 'O Lord, Thou hast wrought all our works in us.' So, we receive not only the power of willing from God, but also the operation.

"Again, this statement of Solomon, 'wherever He wishes, He turns it' shows that divine causality is not only extended to the power of the will but also to its act.

Sobieski said...

"Besides, God not only gives powers to things but, beyond that, no thing can act by its own power unless it acts through His power, as we showed above. So, man cannot use the power of will that has been given him except in so far as he acts through the power of God. Now, the being through whose power the agent acts is the cause not only of the power, but also of the act. This is apparent in the case of an artist through whose power an instrument works, even though it does not get its own form from this artist, but is merely applied to action by this man. Therefore, God is for us the cause not only of our will, but also of our act of willing...

"Damascene states in Book II, that 'God foreknows the things that are within our power, but He does not predetermine them.' These texts should be explained as meaning that things in our power are not subject to determination by divine providence in the sense that they receive necessity from it." (SCG 3.88-90 as cited in Predestination 3.4 by Fr. G-L)

Notice that St. Thomas clearly says that God determines the will, but in a qualified way as determining without necessity. Divine determination does not equate to divine necessitation in the case of the will.

God's primary causality is the conditioning of all causes to move in the universal ways proper to them. He enacts no direct causality over them himself, except during miracles. That's all it means to apply something to act.

This interpretation is false per the texts of St. Thomas cited above, but to hold that this is equivalent to occasionalism and thus pantheism or paganism is an error because St. Thomas and the Thomists do not make the action of secondary causes superfluous. The same goes for your argument regarding the soul's agent intellect.

Thomism in general has been a trainwreck for several centuries, so I don't see what meaning that's supposed to have to me.

Ego much?

Sobieski said...

@RS

Any theology that explains motion by making God a univocal "highest mover", as Banezianism does, hasn't really explained motion at all.

Please give citations where Frs. Banez or G-L state or imply that God is univocally the same in His being or action with respect to creatures. I confess I'm not really following your reasoning here at all.

BenYachov said...

@ Sobieski

I take it your more from the Traditional Thomistic School then the analytic one or the hybrid Trad/analy one like McLnerny?

Might I temp you away from your pounding of RS on his misunderstandings of Banezism (which I am slightly sympathetic with you on even thought RS is a friend) and entice you toward addressing dguller's critique of analogy?

I would like to hear from the Traditional school on the matter outside of the "Cajetan got is wrong" view of the other schools. Which so far is the main school I have been dealing with.

BTW to be clear I don't want people ganging up on dguller. Thanks to him I have bough a host of books on analogy.

I want a discussion on analogy.

Are you interested?

It could be fun?

It's your free choice(which we both know God causes and causes to be free).

Pun intended!

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

I'm leaving this link here for my own reference, but I encourage y'alls to read it if you like. Good luck. Semiotic Thomists have a tendency to write impenetrable prose. --> "How Yves Simon Trumps Cajetan on Analogy" by John Cahalan. The end of the article will be of interest for this discussion.

Happily enough, Cahalan's book Causal Realism is available for download via Google and here is Yves Simon's essay on analogy which Cahalan so strongly endorses (you lose a few pages now and then, but we do what we can when we do what we must).

Codgitator (Cadgertator) said...

Oh, and Hochschild's thesis on Cajetan is what led me to those other links. I recommend reading pages 143–157 for the dispute here about analogy.

rank sophist said...

Sobieski,

I'm just going to direct you to Lonergan's explanation: http://www.ts.mu.edu/readers/content/pdf/3/3.3/3.3.3.pdf. He discusses the history of Aquinas's approach on this subject and how Banez got it wrong--including that most recent passage you cited.

dguller said...

Codg:

1) Again, I think your reductio just begs the question. Your objection is that any analogical predication, when analyzed apophatically, does not hold of God univocally, so analogical predication fails in hindsight. Perhaps that is what rank sophist meant about your wanting an "analytic" claim about God. (I take it that you are an ignostic (religious non-cognitivist)?) But that is just a Procrustean tactic which doesn't respect why and how analogy is the tertium quid between univocity and equivocity.

That is part of my argument. The main argument that I have is that it is impossible for two identical terms to have the same referent, but totally different senses. That is what Aquinas’ doctrine of analogy ultimately comes down to. Univocity occurs where two identical terms have the same sense and the same referent. Equivocation occurs when two identical terms have different senses and different referents. Analogy occurs as a middle ground in which two identical terms have different senses, but the same referent. It is my contention that the only way the human mind can refer to anything is via a mental construct known as the sense, or modus significandi, as Aquinas would put it. Another way to put it is that the sense is the individual mental perspective of the referent.

If the senses are different, then they could either be totally different or similar. I do not think that two totally different senses could have the same referent. No-one has ever been able to provide me with a single non-divine example of such a state of affairs, and thus it is the theists would endorse analogy who beg the question. And if the two senses must be similar, then they must be partly identical and partly different. If one focuses upon the partly identical part of the senses, and gives them the same name, then they have the same name, sense and referent, which makes that portion univocal, and thus at the core of analogy, there must be univocity.

Knowing that a thing is does not entail knowing what it is. To recognize the existence of God by His effects is not to grasp Him in His essence. You keep harping on how we must reject all affirmation and denial of God, but fail to see that this just is what the doctrine of analogy means: affirmation is univocal while negation is equivocal.

Yes, but you should be able to know something about that thing. The only thing we know about God is that our cognition and language fall infinitely short of reaching his true essence, and thus anything we think or say about him is infinitely deficient, mainly due to his metaphysical simplicity, which means that he is an esse indistinctum, as Eckhart said. His status as a being that transcends all distinctions and differences is what makes him impossible to conceive or talk about.

And negation is not equivocal. To negate X is to first know X. That is a Scholastic principle that Aquinas endorsed.

And while the ascent to God may result in silence, as the mystics have it, so too does a musical performance end in silence. That ultimate silence does not negate the existence, coherence, and beauty of the music; in a similar way, apophatic silence does not negate theology––it perfects it.

The difference is that music is something that you can experience. The divine mystery is not an experience of negation, but rather the negation of experience. It is not an experience at all, because we cannot possibly experience the divine, but only a cognitive idol that falls infinitely short of the reality it is supposed to be about. And the reality is that one does not have to reach the highest pinnacle of mysticism to be reduced to silence. That demand occurs as soon as you open your mouth and start to talk about God, because anything you say will be infinitely deficient, and whatever is present to your mind during the speech will be nothing but an idol of your mind. And the fact that one must use an idol to get to God does not negate the fact that every step of the way is false until one reaches the truth.

dguller said...

Codg:

Again, though, you seem to want analogy to hold of God in an ultimately univocal way––you want to fit Him onto the Procrustean bed of general being––but it is precisely the point of natural theology that its conclusions point beyond their own terms (their termini). The integral perfection of God's sheer existence is reflected imperfectly in all the analogates of being to which you refer. And because all such perfections derive from Him in an incomprehensibly undifferentiated way, neither negation ("P in G is totally unlike God") nor affirmation ("P in G is just like God") holds.

What is the difference between an incoherence that is indicative of a deeper coherent truth and an incoherence that is indicative of nothing at all due to its inherent meaninglessness?

My argument is that if a conclusion is only possible on the basis of premises and assumptions that are ultimately false, then the conclusion itself is unjustified and ungrounded, and thus there are no longer any reasons to maintain it at all. Analogy only makes sense within a system that cannot possibly be applicable to God, and thus analogy itself cannot be applicable to God. It is incoherent to say that (1) analogy presupposes certain conditions, (2) those conditions cannot possibly apply to God, and (3) analogy applies to God. There is a contradiction and incoherence here. You seem to want to say that this incoherence points towards a deeper truth, but the question is how one knows whether the darkness that surrounds oneself is due to excessive light blinding our sight into darkness or the complete absence of light altogether? From our perspective, there is only darkness, a cloud of unknowing, a nothingness. However, you want to say that there is still light, still some degree of knowing, still something there, but have denied and eliminated any possible grounds to justify that belief in the course of the argument itself.

Natural theology is meant to convince nonbelievers that a Being exists––wait for it––beyond the universe. Once they follow the immanentist reasoning to its terminus, they are indeed called to leap into the transcendent realm of silence and darkness. By saying natural theology over-extends itself (beyond the ladder of analogous being), you think you are refuting natural theology, but are in fact just vindicating it. Natural (cataphatic) theology is a propaedeutic to––wait for it––supernatural (apophatic) theology.

I am not saying that “natural theology over-extends itself”. That would imply that it goes from one place to another place. I am saying that natural theology reaches a point that it completely unravels into nothingness, such that it is impossible to justify the further conclusion that within that nothingness is actually a Something at all, because to make that inference would be to utilize premises and assumptions that only make sense from within an immanent framework. Once you have left that framework, those premises and assumptions are no longer valid, and thus cannot be used to know anything beyond the framework, unless you want to say that there is some kind of continuity between the immanent and the transcendent, but then the transcendent is not really transcendent at all, but only a very distant kind of immanence. As Denys Turner writes: “so ‘other’ is God, that that otherness has itself lost its threads of straightforward continuity with any conception of ‘otherness’ of which we do know the how. We do not know, therefore, how ‘other’ God is” (Faith, Reason and the Existence of God, p. 42).

DavidM said...

@Charles: "And we are also led to realize that this is not a defect in our nature; rather, the perfection of our intellectual nature consists in being able to know the essences of all material things. Consequently, although the desire to know the divine essence is in accordance with intellectual nature in general, knowledge of that essence is not required for the perfection of the intellect itself, considered as a natural faculty. If it were necessary, then the vision of the divine essence would be due to it."

Thomas (the promoter of Suarez) on the other hand wrote: "Aquinas clearly taught that man's ultimate end is knowledge of God in his essence, that man is inclined to that end by nature (though he does not have the natural powers to reach it), and that intellectual creatures are ontologically ordered toward intellectual union with God."

So the difference is, the intellect, considered as a 'natural faculty', can be perfected without quidditative knowledge of God; but the intellect, properly considered *as intellect*, cannot. So the consideration of the intellect as a 'natural faculty' is not properly speaking a consideration of the intellect *as such*.

DavidM said...

dguller wrote: "The [experience of?] divine mystery is not an experience of negation, but rather the negation of experience. It is not an experience at all, because we cannot possibly experience the divine, but only a cognitive idol that falls infinitely short of the reality it is supposed to be about."

Really? So how does one arrive at knowledge that, "..." (see quote above)?

Jan said...

Hi dguller,

I am very interested in the topic of analogy. However, having analytic and not Thomistic background, most of the things said here fly over my head. I'd be grateful if you could clarify some terms.

In the analytic tradition (inherited from Frege):

Referent of a term = the object the term refers to,
Sense of a term = the mental perspective on the object that accompanies using the term.

For example, 'Bruce Wayne' and 'Batman' have the same referents (the particular person) but different senses ('the orphaned millinaire' and 'the man in cape and tights fighting supervillains for the sake of Gotham').

Googling 'modus significandi' led me to believe the Thomistic understanding of those terms is similar. It cannot however be the same because you claim that analogy is the identity of referents and difference of senses. This is clearly not so under the above definitions; Bruce Wayne is not analogous to Batman, Bruce Wayne _is_ Batman.

"anything we think or say about [God] is infinitely deficient"

What do you mean by 'infinitely deficient'? Is it a colourful way of saying 'very deficient', or does it mean utterly meaningless, equivalent to saying 'God is gdsgdfhvsdg' which means nothing at all?

dguller said...

Ben:

I'm sorry duller but you are equivocating between the spiritual claims of mystics on how we spiritually experience God in prayer and contemplation with how we know God intellectively via philosophy.

Classically, all theology was mystical and all mysticism involved theology.

How do we know that if according to your dogma the transcendent is completely unknowable? Maybe because the logic of philosophy leads you there thus gaves you a positive piece of information on the nature of the transcendent?

Metaphysical simplicity is unknowable and incomprehensible, because all our knowledge and comprehension is rooted in composition and distinction. We have no idea about anything that is beyond assertion and denial, beyond identity and difference, beyond existence and non-existence, and beyond any duality or dichotomy. Our reason reaches a point in which it completely unravels into nothingness and emptiness.

This makes no sense how does one reason without an intellect? Did I read this right?

Classically, there is a distinction between ratio and intellectus. Here’s Turner:

“In this narrower sense, intellectus is a mental activity distinct from our ‘ratiocination’; it is precisely not the discursive activity of arguing on what grounds something might be true, or of calculating how something might be got, but is rather the non-discursive act of seeing a truth as such or the desirability of some good. ‘Reasoning’ is an activity of step-by-step argument to a truth; ‘intellectual’ seeing is a form of contemplative rest in a truth, and is a higher form of knowing than any achieved by reasoning” (Faith, Reason and the Existence of God, p. 80).

Are you citing a mystic on mystical knowledge because analogy is within the providence of Philosophical theology and category mistakes don't help move the discussion along?

I am citing mystics, because all classical theologians were also mystics, and made no distinction between mysticism and theology. So, analogy is the providence of both mysticism and theology, and plays a prominent role in the Neoplatonic background of mystical theology. To ignore that framework is to make the same mistake that Feser accuses philosophers of religion today in trying to evaluate Aquinas’ arguments independent of the framework within which they derive their meaning and sense.

No I am saying any philosophy by definition points to something outside itself as the ultimate reality.

The question is whether the breakdown of reason and language points to anything at all. Does the proposition “p and not-p” point to some deeper reality that is beyond language, or is it just a meaningless concatenation of symbols that does not refer to anything at all? How does one know the difference between the two? How does one know the difference between being in the dark due to an excess of light that blinds oneself versus an absence of all light whatsoever?

You are equivocating between spiritual conclusions in one's personal relationship with God vs intellectual conclusions of philosophical theology.

There is no difference, at least classically. The Church Fathers were all mystical theologians who argued that knowing God in an intellectual fashion demands a spiritual activity to model one’s life according to Christ. You could not have one without the other.

Why can't we ask what caused the framework? That is just an adhoc claim. What is the justification for it? Also the framework argues that it is not sustainable within itself.

Because the need for a cause is only relevant from within the framework itself. “Cause” is defined within the system. Once you leave the system, you leave any ground of understanding “cause”.

dguller said...

No God causes all creatures to merely exist equally. In that sense Satan and the Blessed Mother are on radically equal footing. OTOH on the level of natural theology intellects reflect God more than mere sense does. Living beings more than the inanimate.

Again, there is no sense to being closer to the infinite. After all, the infinite is that without limit. To say that X is closer to Y means that there must be less space or distance between X and Y. However, if Y is infinitely distant from X, then no matter how more closer X moves to Y, X is always infinitely far away from Y, and thus there is no sense to “closer” here, except by pretending that the unlimited has a limit of some kind.

dguller said...

DavidM:

Really? So how does one arrive at knowledge that, "..." (see quote above)?

Because all our understanding and experience is rooted in distinction and duality: affirmation and denial, identity and difference, truth and falsehood, and so on. Anything that is not similarly rooted in distinction and duality will be beyond our understanding and experience, which means that whatever comes to our minds will not properly represent what is beyond our minds, and is rather a cognitive idol of some kind that one worships at one’s peril.

Thomas said...

Charles: "And we are also led to realize that this is not a defect in our nature; rather, the perfection of our intellectual nature consists in being able to know the essences of all material things. Consequently, although the desire to know the divine essence is in accordance with intellectual nature in general, knowledge of that essence is not required for the perfection of the intellect itself, considered as a natural faculty. If it were necessary, then the vision of the divine essence would be due to it."

Thomas Aquinas: "[T]he beatitude of any rational creature whatsoever consists in seeing God by his essence." In IV Sent., d. 49, q. 2, a. 7.

and: "[O]ne has not attained to one's last end until the natural desire is at rest. Therefore the knowledge of any intelligible object is not enough for man's happiness, which is his last end, unless he know God also, which knowledge terminates his natural desire, as his last end. Therefore this very knowledge of God is man's last end." SCG III, c. 50.

BenYachov said...

>Classically, all theology was mystical and all mysticism involved theology.

Stop right there.

By equivocating as you are doing between Natural Theology, Philosophical Theology and Mystical Theology you are muddying the waters and making discussion impossible.

It like me saying All Science is related and intertwined but evolution must be false because nobody here can tell me the atomic weight of natural selection.

I'm sorry buddy. You know how fond I am of you. But this is like your insistence the doctrine of the incarnation could only mean what the monophysites said it means (i.e. God changes his nature into human nature or mixes his nature with human nature) and your refusal to accept Chalcedonian Christology.

It's a non-starter as is equivocating between the various theologies.

Obviously there is a difference between how I relate to you person to person vs how I might construct you philosphically.

They are related but not the same.

dguller said...

Jan:

Googling 'modus significandi' led me to believe the Thomistic understanding of those terms is similar. It cannot however be the same because you claim that analogy is the identity of referents and difference of senses. This is clearly not so under the above definitions; Bruce Wayne is not analogous to Batman, Bruce Wayne _is_ Batman.

Here’s the way to think about it. Say you have two statements:

(1) John is good
(2) God is good

In both (1) and (2), you have the same predicate, i.e. “good”, and this term T has both a sense S (or modus significandi) and a referent R (or res significata). You can then flesh it out as follows:

(3) John is {“good”, S1, R1}
(4) God is {“good”, S2, R2}

Where the predicate “good” in (1) and (2) can be expanded into having an identical term, “good”, but also a corresponding S and R, which is S1 and R1 in (1) and S2 and R2 in (2).

To say that “good” is analogous between (1) and (2), according to Aquinas, just means that S1 is not identical to S2, but R1 is identical to R2. To say that “good” is univocal between (1) and (2) means that S1 is identical to S2 and R1 is identical to R2. To say that “good” is equivocal between (1) and (2) means that S1 is not identical to S2, and R1 is not identical to R2.

So, analogy is always a comparison between terms in two propositions, depending upon whether the terms themselves as identical, the senses are different, but the referent is ultimately the same. To focus only on the referent, as you are doing with Bruce Wayne and Batman misses out on the different senses of those terms, because although the terms “Bruce Wayne” and “Batman” have a huge overlap in terms of senses, and a common referent, there are differences between the senses, as well.

Regardless, since the terms are not the same, this is not the kind of analogy that Aquinas is talking about. Aquinas is talking about how our language is rooted in the created world, and any terms that we use to describe the divine must also be rooted in the created world. And the question is how terms rooted in the created world can also refer to what transcends the created world. His doctrine of analogy is supposed to provide that bridge.

What do you mean by 'infinitely deficient'? Is it a colourful way of saying 'very deficient', or does it mean utterly meaningless, equivalent to saying 'God is gdsgdfhvsdg' which means nothing at all?

I mean that no matter what we say, our language falls infinitely short of reaching God, ultimately meaning that our language means nothing at all. Mystical theologians will say that it is at the level of the breakdown of reason and language that one connects with God, but others – like myself – would say that at that level, one is completely lost, unmoored, in darkness and unknowing, and one cannot say whether there is anything actually there, or whether that itself is yet another cognitive idol or illusion that our mind is throwing our way.

dguller said...

Ben:

By equivocating as you are doing between Natural Theology, Philosophical Theology and Mystical Theology you are muddying the waters and making discussion impossible.

And you are making a distinction that classical theologians would reject as artificial. All theology is necessarily mystical, because it is the attempt to speak about what cannot be spoken of, to think about what is unthinkable, and so on. The cataphatic and the apophatic are necessarily intertwined in all theological discourses, and one cannot have the one without the other.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

>I am citing mystics, because all classical theologians were also mystics, and made no distinction between mysticism and theology.

Actually they would make a distinction between mere natural knowledge(what we can know by our own natural power) vs what God can infuse in us by Grace and move us beyond our natural faculties.

>(Faith, Reason and the Existence of God, p. 80).

Case and point.


>So, analogy is the providence of both mysticism and theology,

Absolutely false. For Cajaten analogy is a metaphysical doctrine. For McInerny it is a logical doctrine but it is not a mystical doctrine.

Your past philosophical criticism seems to apply to Cajaten not McInerny.

But I would like to see Traditional Thomists step up to answer you.

>and plays a prominent role in the Neoplatonic background of mystical theology.

But that doesn't excuse mixing categories. Atomic weight of natural selection etc?

>To ignore that framework is to make the same mistake that Feser accuses philosophers of religion today in trying to evaluate Aquinas’ arguments independent of the framework within which they derive their meaning and sense.

Feser can speak for himself.

But I am confident he can tell you are making category mistakes.

It's like saying the first way proves the existence of God. God is a Trinity therefore the First Way proves the Trinity.

No!

Come on buddy. I know you are better than this.

More later.

Charles said...

DavidM: "So the difference is, the intellect, considered as a 'natural faculty', can be perfected without quidditative knowledge of God; but the intellect, properly considered *as intellect*, cannot. So the consideration of the intellect as a 'natural faculty' is not properly speaking a consideration of the intellect *as such*."

Intellect as such is capable of grasping the divine essence.
But the consideration of "intellect as such" embraces both the divine intellect and created intellect. Created intellect, though formally considered as intellect is a kind of pure perfection, is a limited perfection. Hence it does not follow that what pertains to intellect as such applies univocally to God and creatures. Rather, there is an analogy of proper proportionality between the kinds of intellectual natures that exist. A created intellect, though "capax dei", is such only by its capacity to receive the divine essence; but its natural active power has nothing to act on by which it could bring this about. Moreover, if this capacity remained unfulfilled, it would not imply an imperfection for the created intellect.

BenYachov said...

>And you are making a distinction that classical theologians would reject as artificial.

No I am not. No Theologian you cited would for example say natural reason apart from revelation can know God is a Trinity. But they would say you can know God exists and has Classic features via reason alone and Philosophy.

>All theology is necessarily mystical, because it is the attempt to speak about what cannot be spoken of, to think about what is unthinkable, and so on. The cataphatic and the apophatic are necessarily intertwined in all theological discourses, and one cannot have the one without the other.

I don't deny the unity of Theology but I also know it is not coherent to discuss the atomic weight of natural selection.

Non-starter my friend.

Peace to you & read Turner more carefully.

dguller said...

Ben:

Actually they would make a distinction between mere natural knowledge(what we can know by our own natural power) vs what God can infuse in us by Grace and move us beyond our natural faculties.

Irrelevant. Both ultimately transcend reason, whether that is discovered from within reason itself by reaching the point at which reason unravels, or is the conclusion of the rational study of the doctrines of faith as a mystery. Both involve the dialectic between the cataphatic and the apophatic as a necessary dynamic in all theology, whether natural, philosophical or whatever, and that very dialectic is the modus operandi of mystical theology itself.

Absolutely false. For Cajaten analogy is a metaphysical doctrine. For McInerny it is a logical doctrine but it is not a mystical doctrine.

It does not matter. If one is talking about God, then one is involved in theology, and all theology is ultimately self-effacing by virtue of the unstable dialectic between cataphatic and apophatic language, and thus is reduced to nothingness, emptiness and silence. Since analogy is the foundation for how we can talk about God, it must be a part of cataphatic and apophatic theology, and thus mysticism.

No I am not. No Theologian you cited would for example say natural reason apart from revelation can know God is a Trinity. But they would say you can know God exists and has Classic features via reason alone and Philosophy.

It is not about knowing if God is a Trinity. It is about reaching the point in which reason and language unravel, and in the openings of the fissures in our thought and language, we can catch a glimpse of what is beyond them both. All classical theologians would agree with this account, which is why all theology is ultimately mystical, and all mysticism must involve theology. My position is that once you have reached this point, you cannot know or say whether language unraveled due to the immense strain of what it simply cannot contain or due to the lack of underlying support to sustain language’s own weight. This is analogous to the question of whether one is in darkness due to excessive or insufficient light. One cannot know the answer from within the darkness itself, and so the question is how one can possibly know, and if one cannot know, then this fundamental undecidability at the heart of theology adds a degree of passionate intensity to faith itself.

BenYachov said...

>Here’s the way to think about it. Say you have two statements:

>(1) John is good
(2) God is good

Here is another way.

1. John is good.

2. Goodness Itself is Good.

Goodness Itself is the cause of the good in John.

The good in John is an analog to Goodness itself.

It can't be unequivocal otherwise Pantheism or Panentheism.

It can't be purely equivocal otherwise there can be no causal relationship.

So logically it must be analogous.

OTOH what is the common predicate between John's good & or God/Goodness Itself?

The good is what everything desires.

Now we can't unequivocally concieve of what Goodness Itself is like in nature but we can know it is desirable and all things are ordered to it.

It's not hard.

Glenn said...

dguller,

Again, there is no sense to being closer to the infinite. After all, the infinite is that without limit. To say that X is closer to Y means that there must be less space or distance between X and Y. However, if Y is infinitely distant from X, then no matter how more closer X moves to Y, X is always infinitely far away from Y, and thus there is no sense to “closer” here, except by pretending that the unlimited has a limit of some kind.

You mentioned earlier the 'cloud of unknowing'. The partial title of the 51st chapter of the anonymously written book with that title is,

That men should be careful not to interpret literally what is meant spiritually

This is to say that terms having to do with spatial relations sometimes are employed when speaking of non-spatial things.

For example, two people standing just two feet apart may be either close or far apart. The use of spatial relations here is for the purpose of saying something about, say, their harmony (or lack thereof). The more harmonious they are, the closer they are said to be. And the less harmonious they are, i.e., the more inharmonious they are, the farther apart are they said to be.

o For thy omnipotence is not far from us even when we are far from thee. -- Augustine, Confessions

o I fell away from thee, O my God, and in my youth I wandered too far from thee, my true support. And I became to myself a wasteland. -- ibid

o I was far from thy face in the dark shadows of passion. For it is not by our feet, nor by change of place, that we either turn from thee or return to thee. -- ibid

dguller said...

Ben:

You keep accusing me of engaging in a category mistake. I am not. Turner writes that “it is this interplay of negativity and affirmation which structures all theological discourse precisely as theological” (Ibid., p. 54) and that “it is that the tensions between affirmation and negation within all theological speech are, precisely, what determine it to be theological speech, and to be, in the only worthwhile sense of the term, ‘mystical’” (Ibid., p. 61). In other words, ll theology necessarily involves an unstable and never-ending dynamic between cataphatic and apophatic language such that each subverts the other in an infinite regress that never reaches a point of rest or cessation. This fundamental instability and self-effacing character of theology is what makes it mystical, and this is why one cannot have theology without mysticism and cannot have mysticism without theology.

BenYachov said...

>Irrelevant.

Sorry no you are equivocating between mystical theology, natural theology and philosophical theology.

>It does not matter.

It pretty much does matter. As you once told David Span(that was awesome btw) over at Law's blog you can't just redefine terms and use them in a manner your opponent doesn't use them.

Different schools understand Aquinas to have a different understanding of what he meant by analogy. You must except the possibility your criticism don't apply to all schools.

>It is not about knowing if God is a Trinity. It is about reaching the point in which reason and language unravel, and in the openings of the fissures in our thought and language, we can catch a glimpse of what is beyond them both.

Accept when I do this I am not doing Thomistic Philosophy I am trying to practice contemplative prayer.

Like I said category mistake.

You must accept it my friend.

Peace bro.

BenYachov said...

>You keep accusing me of engaging in a category mistake. I am not. Turner writes that “it is this interplay of negativity and affirmation which structures all theological discourse precisely as theological” (Ibid., p. 54).

Yes it is theological but it's not specifically natural theology but theology in general.

I don't accuse you of this to be my usual dick self.

I am doing it because I respect your arguments and your efforts & I want you to improve them.

Peace.

BenYachov said...

dguller there is a difference between Science in general vs biological science vs physics etc.

There is also a similarity.

Anonymous said...

Some random thoughts.

Say we have a number line, from 0 to positive infinity. Yes, no matter what number you pick, it will not be infinite. How ever, if you pick two numbers on the line, such as 12 and 78, couldn't you say that 78 "points" at positive infinity "better than" 12 does?

This is all quite tricky, because IIRC, infinity is not a number. So how can "infinite" be on a number line? No number on the number line is infinite. But maybe it is better to think of the number line itself as something infinite, because it is unbounded? An the numbers participate in this number line, in various positions.

Jan said...

dguller,

Thanks for the reply. So referent/sense distinction applies to predicate terms only in the Thomistic framework?

It is not clear to me what would a referent of a predicate be. Is it the so called common nature of a property (common in esse naturale and esse intentionale)?

We have

1. My cat is black.
2. My thoughts are black.

Clearly, 'black' is used in both analogically in the ordinary language sense. Is it also used analogically in the Thomistic sense?

DavidM said...

@Charles: "Moreover, if this capacity remained unfulfilled, it would not imply an imperfection for the created intellect."

Wouldn't it? You can say it wouldn't, based on the fact that created intellects lack the relevant *natural* capacity. But St. Thomas explicitly says that 'natural happiness' (i.e., happiness short of the beatific vision) is *imperfect*, i.e., imperfect *for the created intellect* - doesn't he?

rank sophist said...

Don't let dguller rope you guys into his misreading of the sense/referent business. You'll never get untangled. Stick to Aquinas's sources (instead of his infinitely benighted medieval and early modern commentators) if you want to make any sense at all of Aquinas's notion of analogy.

DavidM said...

"Say we have a number line, from 0 to positive infinity. Yes, no matter what number you pick, it will not be infinite. How ever, if you pick two numbers on the line, such as 12 and 78, couldn't you say that 78 "points" at positive infinity "better than" 12 does?"

Short answer: No. Neither number "points" at infinity at all.

Eduardo said...

Lol, you guys are tangled already hahahahahahah

rank sophist said...

And I'll get involved for a second.

To say that “good” is analogous between (1) and (2), according to Aquinas, just means that S1 is not identical to S2, but R1 is identical to R2. To say that “good” is univocal between (1) and (2) means that S1 is identical to S2 and R1 is identical to R2. To say that “good” is equivocal between (1) and (2) means that S1 is not identical to S2, and R1 is not identical to R2.

No, it isn't. This is your "partly the same, partly different" system that Aquinas never applied to God. As I said in our last argument, the res is the analogous term; the sense is wholly denied. But the res is not univocal between God and creation: a res in creation is different in kind from whatever you might call a "res" in God. There is merely an analogy of proportion between the created res and its creator. This is A) the only way to read Aquinas in line with his sources and B) the only way that Aquinas himself can be seen to be internally consistent.

dguller said...

Ben:

Sorry no you are equivocating between mystical theology, natural theology and philosophical theology.

As “theology”, all of them are ultimately mystical in the sense that I described.

Different schools understand Aquinas to have a different understanding of what he meant by analogy. You must except the possibility your criticism don't apply to all schools.

I’m open to that possibility, but it has to be demonstrated. I don’t know what the difference is between a logical and a metaphysical account of analogy. Can you explain it to me?

Accept when I do this I am not doing Thomistic Philosophy I am trying to practice contemplative prayer.

Thomist philosophy is mystical theology. It is not a dry intellectual exercise, but rather part of a spiritual journey for a seeker of God, and thus the full appreciation of his efforts demands a corresponding religious vocation of self-purification to draw closer to God.

Yes it is theological but it's not specifically natural theology but theology in general.

As I’ve been saying, all theology is mystical. Can we move on?

Charles said...

DavidM: "Wouldn't it? You can say it wouldn't, based on the fact that created intellects lack the relevant *natural* capacity. But St. Thomas explicitly says that 'natural happiness' (i.e., happiness short of the beatific vision) is *imperfect*, i.e., imperfect *for the created intellect* - doesn't he?"

Yes, anything less than the beatific vision is imperfect with respect to what the intellect is capable of, considered as intellect. But intellect as natural faculty is perfected by its immanent activity, which is species specific in created intelligences. The desire for vision of the divine essence remains even if the intellect is naturally perfected, for it only comes fully to rest when it knows the essence of the thing known. Hence the desire for God is natural, i.e., in accordance with nature, but elicited. But that is not what deLubac and company mean by a natural desire to see God.

DavidM said...

@dguller: "The [experience of?] divine mystery is not an experience of negation, but rather the negation of experience. It is not an experience at all, because we cannot possibly experience the divine, but only a cognitive idol that falls infinitely short of the reality it is supposed to be about." - How do we know this? - "Because all our understanding and experience is rooted in distinction and duality: affirmation and denial, identity and difference, truth and falsehood, and so on. Anything that is not similarly rooted in distinction and duality will be beyond our understanding and experience, which means that whatever comes to our minds will not properly represent what is beyond our minds, and is rather a cognitive idol of some kind that one worships at one’s peril."

So, basically, question not answered. Again:

How do you know that the experience of divine mystery is simply the negation of experience?? Is it that you have experienced 'divine mystery' and are unable to tell us anything about it?

Sobieski said...

@Brandon

Sorry to not get back to you, but thanks for your response. I am reading some Lonergan now. I guess I just need to do more reading in the secondary literature.

@James

Thanks also for your response. I understand what you are saying to some extent, but not the implications I guess. Maybe that would entail reading more of Lonergan. But if I understand correctly, physical premotion also occurs outside of the arena of grace, and St. Thomas says God applies the will to act and in some cases determines it without necessitating it or eliminating it as a true, albeit secondary, cause. It seems an objection is that this "Banezian" interpretation makes God a created cause. I'm not fully seeing that and am wondering if some distinction is not being made that Thomists like Fr. G-L would make in response to such objections. Since classical or neo-Thomism has been eclipsed since Vatican II, such responses may be lacking (vs. not possible). So this might, ahem, be a great topic for Dr. Feser to tackle as it would seem to have implications for the First Way.

@Ben

I don't have much background in Analytic philosophy. My background is in the Aristotelian/Natural Philosophy and Existential schools of Thomism. I also like Classical or Neo-Thomism like that found in Fr. G-L. I don't have as much background in Analytic or Transcendental Thomism.

I had a marathon session with dguller on analogy awhile back. So I will have to pass. If I recall correctly and as I see it, he wants to reduce all analogy to univocity in the order of logic and being. I don't know if he has changed his view. But given my circumstances in life, I can't jump into another discussion like that. You might find Existentialists like Wippel, Owens and Knasas helpful on these matters.

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