Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dharmakīrti and Maimonides on divine action


Here’s a juxtaposition for you: the Buddhist philosopher Dharmakīrti (c. 600 - 660) and the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (1138 - 1204).  Both had interesting things to say about divine action, Dharmakīrti from the point of view of a critic of theism and Maimonides from the point of view of a theist committed to “negative theology.” 

Theism of a sort reminiscent of Western philosophical theology has its defenders in the history of Indian philosophy, particularly within the Nyāya-Vaiśeșika tradition.  In particular, one finds in this tradition arguments for the existence of īśvara (the “Lord”) as a single permanent, personal cause of the world of intermittent things.  The debate between these thinkers and their Buddhist critics parallels the dispute between theists and atheists in the West.  (To map the Indian philosophical traditions onto those of ancient Greece, you might compare the Buddhist position to that of Heraclitus, the Advaita Vedanta position of thinkers like Shankara (788 - 820) to that of Parmenides, and Indian theism to Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover.  But the similarities should not be overstated.)

Dharmakīrti’s critique of theistic arguments is usefully surveyed by Roger Jackson in his 1986 article “Dharmakīrti's Refutation of Theism” (from Philosophy East and West Vol. 36, No. 4).  In response to arguments from intermittent things to a permanent cause, Dharmakīrti objects:

How, if an entity is a cause,
(But is said) sometimes to be
A non-cause, can one assert in any way
That a cause is a non-cause?  One cannot so assert.

Jackson comments:

Successive causality and noncausality poses a problem because the causal entity posited by the theist, īśvara, is permanent.  He cannot, therefore, change from moment to moment, and if he is asserted to be causal, then he must always be causal, and can never become noncausal, for that would entail a change in nature, an impossibility for a permanent entity… Simultaneous causality and noncausality poses a problem, because īśvara is a single entity, yet is being furnished with contradictory qualities at one and the same time.  Contradictory properties cannot be predicated of a single, partless entity at one and the same time, and if these properties are reaffirmed, then īśvara cannot be single, but must be multiple.  Īśvara cannot, thus, be a creator of intermittent entities. (pp. 330-31)

The objection can be read as a dilemma, to the effect that īśvara either acts successively or he acts simultaneously, and each possibility leads to an unacceptable conclusion.  Start with the first horn of the dilemma.  If īśvara acts successively, then since intermittent things sometimes exist and sometimes do not, that means that he is sometimes causing them and sometimes not causing them.  That in turn entails that he undergoes change, in which case he is not the permanent entity he is supposed to be.  To put the point in Western terms, if īśvara is sometimes not causing intermittent things and then sometimes is causing them, then he goes from potency to act and is thus not immutable.

Now the Western classical theist will say that the divine first cause of things must be eternal or outside of time and thus does not act successively.  Rather, he causes the world of intermittent things in a single timeless act.  This brings us to the second horn of the dilemma posed by Jackson in expounding Dharmakīrti.  If īśvara timelessly causes intermittent things (as the Western classical theist would put it), then he simultaneously causes an intermittent thing (insofar as he is what makes it true that such a thing exists at the times when it does exist) and does not cause it (insofar as he refrains from making it true that it exists at the times when it does not exist).  But then we are making contradictory attributions to īśvara, insofar as we say both that he is causing and that he is not causing.  And to avoid this contradiction by making these attributions of two different causes would be to abandon the unity attributed to īśvara.

There is a fallacy here, though, which can be seen by comparison with the following example.  Suppose I am drawing a line across the top of a piece of paper, but that at the same time I am not drawing a line at the bottom of the paper.  So I am both drawing and not drawing at the same time.  Is there a contradiction here?  No, because I am not both drawing and not drawing in the same respect.  There would be a contradiction only if it were said that I am both drawing a line at the top of the page and also at the same time not drawing a line at the top of the page.  But that is not what is being said.  What is being said is that I am drawing a line at the top of the page and at the same time not drawing a line at the bottom of the page, and there is no contradiction in that. 

Similarly, suppose we say that īśvara timelessly causes an intermittent being A that exists from 8 am until 9 am.  Then he is not causing it to be the case that A exists before 8 am or after 9 am but is causing it to be the case that A exists between 8 am and 9 am.  There would be a contradiction here only if it were being claimed either that īśvara both causes and does not cause A to exist between 8 and 9 am, or if it were being claimed that īśvara both causes A to exist before 8 am and does not cause A to exist before 8 am, or if it were being claimed that īśvara both causes A to exist after 9 am and does not cause A to exist after 9 am.  But of course none of these things is being claimed.  What is claimed is rather that īśvara causes the existence of something that exists during the interval in question but not before or after it, and there is nothing contradictory in that.

More can be said -- which brings us to Maimonides, who, though he certainly did not have Dharmakīrti in mind, says things that imply a response to the objection under consideration.  Maimonides famously holds that we cannot make affirmative predications of God but only negative predications.  We can say what God is not but not what he is.  What about attributions of actions to God, as when we say that God shows mercy to us?  For Maimonides these should be understood as assertions not about God’s essence but rather about his effects.  To say that God shows mercy is to say that his effects are like the effects a merciful human agent would produce.

Now, consider the suggestion that a diversity of effects implies diversity in the cause -- in particular, that it implies either numerically distinct causes (which, in the case of divine action, would conflict with monotheism) or a distinction of parts (which would conflict with divine simplicity).  Dharmakīrti might be read as putting forward such an objection, if we interpret him as saying that insofar as īśvara both produces intermittent things and does not produce him, then we have to say either that there is more than one divine cause (one which causes intermittent things and one which does not) or distinct parts within īśvara (a part which causes intermittent things and a part which does not). 

Maimonides (though, again, he is obviously not addressing Dharmakīrti himself!) responds to this sort of objection, in his Guide of the Perplexed, using the analogy of fire:

Many of the attributes express different acts of God, but that difference does not necessitate any difference as regards Him from whom the acts proceed. This fact, viz., that from one agency different effects may result, although that agency has not free will, and much more so if it has free will, I will illustrate by an instance taken from our own sphere. Fire melts certain things and makes others hard, it boils and burns, it bleaches and blackens. If we described the fire as bleaching, blackening, burning, boiling, hardening and melting, we should be correct, and yet he who does not know the nature of fire, would think that it included six different elements, one by which it blackens, another by which it bleaches, a third by which it boils, a fourth by which it consumes, a fifth by which it melts, a sixth by which it hardens things--actions which are opposed to one another, and of which each has its peculiar property. He, however, who knows the nature of fire, will know that by virtue of one quality in action, namely, by heat, it produces all these effects. If this is the case with that which is done by nature, how much more is it the case with regard to beings that act by free will, and still more with regard to God, who is above all description. (Book I, Chapter 53)

So, just as effects as diverse and indeed opposed as bleaching and blackening, hardening and melting, can be produced by one and the same cause, heat, so too can a radical diversity of effects be produced by a divine cause which is absolutely simple and unique.  And (we might add, applying the point on Maimonides’ behalf to Dharmakīrti’s objection) just as heat will effect some things in one of the ways named while affecting others not at all, so too does the same absolutely simple God cause it to be the case that a thing exists at one point while not causing it to be the case that it exists at some other point.

Maimonides considers a related objection in Book II, Chapter 18, to the effect that “a transition from potentiality to actuality would take place in the Deity itself, if He produced a thing only at a certain fixed time.”  Maimonides says that “the refutation of this argument is very easy,” for a transition from potency to act need occur only in things made up of form and matter.  (Aquinas would add that it could occur in something immaterial but still composed of an essence together with a distinct act of existence, viz. an angel.)  To suppose that since the material things of our experience go from potential to actual when they produce a temporally finite effect, so too would God have to go from potential to actual in order to produce a temporally finite effect, is to commit a fallacy of accident.  All the philosophy professors who have ever lived or who are likely ever to live have been under ten feet tall, but it doesn’t follow that every philosophy professor must necessarily be under ten feet tall.  And even if the causes with which we are directly aware in experience produce their effects by virtue of moving from potency to act, it doesn’t follow that every cause must necessarily move from potency to act.

(I have considered related objections in this post and this one.)

318 comments:

1 – 200 of 318   Newer›   Newest»
Scott said...

"Similarly, suppose we say that īśvara timelessly causes an intermittent being A that exists from 8 am until 9 am. Then he is not causing it to be the case that A exists before 8 am or after 9 am but is causing it to be the case that A exists between 8 am and 9 am. There would be a contradiction here only if it were being claimed either that īśvara both causes and does not cause A to exist between 8 and 9 am, or if it were being claimed that īśvara both causes A to exist before 8 am and does not cause A to exist before 8 am, or if it were being claimed that īśvara both causes A to exist after 9 am and does not cause A to exist after 9 am. But of course none of these things is being claimed. What is claimed is rather that īśvara causes the existence of something that exists during the interval in question but not before or after it, and there is nothing contradictory in that."

Also, and I think just as importantly as a reply to Dharmakīrti, the proposition that "īśvara timelessly causes an intermittent being A that exists from 8 am until 9 am" is not at all the same as the proposition that "from 8 am until 9 am, īśvara timelessly causes an intermittent being A to exist." The latter implies that the supposedly timeless īśvara is sometimes a cause of A and sometimes not, but the former has no such implication.

dd said...

Hello Good Doc., hope you're well.

You said: "So, just as effects as diverse and indeed opposed as bleaching and blackening, hardening and melting, can be produced by one and the same cause, heat, so too can a radical diversity of effects be produced by a divine cause which is absolutely simple and unique."

but it seems that the heat, contra what Maimonides holds, is not the per se cause of these diverse effects. the heat is, strictly speaking, the cause of only the heating; all the diverse effects (bleaching, blackening, etc) result rather from the nature of the substances or things that are heated. for the heat by itself is not sufficient to account for all those diverse effects. therefore, etc.

Bob said...

Now the Western classical theist will say that the divine first cause of things must be eternal or outside of time and thus does not act successively. Rather, he causes the world of intermittent things in a single timeless act.

Time is usually a necessary part of the definition of cause.

What do you mean by the word cause, in this context?

Bob said...

Thinking about this further;

Does the classical theist propose that the universe exists simultaneously with God?

Thus the universe contingently exists eternally with God?

Is this what you mean by cause?

Greg said...

@Bob
Time is usually a necessary part of the definition of cause.

Causes are simultaneous (not instantaneous, which is what I'd generally think about if the definition of cause excluded time), which is to say that they can occur over a period of time (or that a timeless act, creating time, can be present to all of time).

But a cause does not have to be temporally prior to its effect. This can be seen by considering the case of causality given in the First Way: a man pushing a staff. The moving of the staff is simultaneous to the moving of the hand. (Perhaps a better example is the shaping of a clay pot on a potter's wheel by the potter's hands.)

Does the classical theist propose that the universe exists simultaneously with God?

Yes. (Though of course simultaneity relations are not generally transitive.)

Daniel said...

Shankara ought to be considered closer to Plotinus than Parmenidesas he most certainly assets that the Absolute is transcendent. Some of the 'atheistic' schools Hinduism which identify the Divine action with world substance (in a non-naturalistic way contra, say, Spinoza) would be closer to Parmenides.

An article on the Theistic arguments some of the Indian schools came up with would be interesting.

- Actually taking the line solely from Shankara does īśvara even become directly involved with caustion? I thought the Triimurti )sic spelling), the Trinity manifestation each related to Coming to be, Conservation and Passing away?

Bob said...

@Greg,

But a cause does not have to be temporally prior to its effect. This can be seen by considering the case of causality given in the First Way: a man pushing a staff. The moving of the staff is simultaneous to the moving of the hand. (Perhaps a better example is the shaping of a clay pot on a potter's wheel by the potter's hands.)

Just to clarify, these are both accidentally ordered series.

The moving staff will continue moving unless acted upon by something (friction, gravity, the hand itself) to stop it moving.

The clay pot, once made, will continue to exist regardless of the continued existence of the potter.

But I get your intent.






Brandon said...

Just to clarify, these are both accidentally ordered series.

Actually, they are both essentially ordered. Further effects due entirely to the moving staff continuing to move, or the clay pot's continuing to exist, would be accidentally ordered.

Bob said...

@Brandon,

Actually, they are both essentially ordered. Further effects due entirely to the moving staff continuing to move, or the clay pot's continuing to exist, would be accidentally ordered.

If that's what essentially ordered means then you have blown a giant hole in the argument for Divine Conservation.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Daniel,

I think it depends how one views Parmenides. An argument can be made that he did believe in the transcendent. If Peter Kingsley is correct, Parmenides was nothing short of a non-dualist mystic.

In general, I think the use of the term atheist, with all its modern connotations is misplaced when referring to Hindu and Buddhist sects. Non-Theism might be a better term. Only the Charvakas (who are distinctly heterodox from a Hindu point of view, as well as being marginal) bear much in common with the general usage of the term atheist in the modern West.

Chris said...

I think Daniel is right that Shankara is closer to Plotinus than Parmenides.

It seems to me that the Hindu Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman corresponds with the Essence-Energies distinction of Orthodoxy.

If Shankara is clear about Divine transcendence, does the charge of pantheism stick?

Greg said...

@Bob
If that's what essentially ordered means then you have blown a giant hole in the argument for Divine Conservation.

The potter's hands are a per se cause of the change in the clay. If the hands were to be removed, the clay would stop changing, so the changing in the clay is instrumentally dependent on the simultaneous action of the hands.

But that's an explanation of the motion/change in the clay, not of the clay's existence, which requires divine conservation.

Bob said...

@Greg,

It is not simultaneous. Perhaps to our senses it seems simultaneous, but in reality it is not.

If you took a video with a super high speed camera and ran it very slowly, you would see the delay between the removal of the hands and the cessation of the change. Furthermore, if there was nothing working to stop the change, (the physical characteristics of the clay itself), it would not stop changing even though the hand was removed.

It might seems strange, but the physics is correct.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Chris,

I think that Parmenides is a lot closer to Plotinus than is often recognised today. Plato drew strongly not just from the Pythagoreans and the mysteries, but also from the Eleatics.

With the pre-Socratics there is an interesting divergence in interpetations, with them being quasi-rationalists and natural scientists on the one hand and them (or many of them - obviously they are a diverse group - I'm mostly referring to the Ionians, Eleatics, Pythagoreans, Heraclitus, and Empedocles) definitively relgious and even mystical.

Dr. Nasr somewhere, indeed, makes the argument that the ultimate substance of the Ionians, for example, was meant to be essentially spiritual and symbolic and not primarily a matter of quasi-scientific investigation.

Of course, that is not to deny the pre-Socratics represent an increase in the use of disursive reason, for better or worse, than their forebears. It is a fascinating topic and my knowledge is very limited, of course.

Daniel said...

Well, Shankara is a panentheist though not a pantheist.

Scott said...

@Bob:

"It is not simultaneous."

Simultaneous (in this context, at any rate) doesn't mean instantaneous.

@Daniel:

"Well, Shankara is a panentheist though not a pantheist."

I agree. So, in my view, is John Leslie, even though he describes himself as the latter.

Scott said...

@Bob:

"Furthermore, if there was nothing working to stop the change, (the physical characteristics of the clay itself), it would not stop changing even though the hand was removed."

All that matters to the illustration, though, is that it would stop being changed into a pot.

Brandon said...

If that's what essentially ordered means then you have blown a giant hole in the argument for Divine Conservation.

I didn't say what 'essentially ordered' means; I pointed out that the precise series indicated by Greg were essentially ordered, and distinguished it from the particular accidentally ordered series you yourself identified. There is also no single argument for divine conservation, but several, so you'll have to be more specific.

It is not simultaneous. Perhaps to our senses it seems simultaneous, but in reality it is not.

You seem to be confusing 'simultaneous' and 'instantaneous'.

Prince Randoms said...

Indeed. I think transtheism is a better word. One of my good friends is a Buddhist convert and he says that westerners trying To approach Buddhism as an atheistic faith is causing a lot of problems for white people who are serious about Buddhism finding a sangha that will accept them. Too many westerners are trying to. Essentially take Buddhism away from native practitioners.

Somak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catholicz said...

I think the author attempted to pre-empt such a common objection. He wasn't being absolutist about the comparison. He hinted at similitude and squashed the argument into an easier to understand Western classical philosophy frame of reference.

Somak said...

*I deleted my previous comment for an edit; I had confused TLS with a book by David Bentley Hart.

To @bob, @daniel, and all the posters here, and also Prof. Feser

As a Hindu, regular reader of this blog, and owner of a copy of The Last Superstition, it pleases me that a post on Eastern thoughts on God has finally been posted.

As a Hindu who is serious about his tradition and a fan of Shankara, I should also point out some corrections.

I would suggest, first of all that comparing Western and Eastern thinkers is a dangerous exercise. At most, we can point out some parallels in their thinking, but saying that thinkers separated by thousands of miles in geography and centuries in time are like each other completely ignores the socio-historical context within which they wrote. That this is harmful can be seen by the common misunderstandings of the words 'potential' and 'actual' etc by many modern readers when they read Aristotle. One can only point out certain ideas that seem similar.

Regarding what label to give Shankara, if we can call Shankara anything, it would have to be a non-dualist; not even a monist, as non-dualism does not need differences to be consistent, while monism accepts differences as real.

Understanding Shankara's doctrine is extremely difficult though, and a study of his doctrines needs to be taken on very carefully, specially since a lot of his work has been misinterpreted. For the novice Western reader, I'd suggest Eliot Deutsch's 'Advaita Vedanta : A philosophical reconstruction', which is very readable and clear.

Shankara however, wasn't a natural theologian, though he did mention arguments that resemble some Western arguments insofar as they try to show God as the most fundamental Reality on which all contingent things depend for their continued existence. But overall, he was more focused on the method of liberation than on proving the existence of God.

Natural theology was taken up by the Nyaya school, as Prof. Feser mentions. The two most famous philosophers of this school vis-a-vis arguments for God, are Udayana and Gangesa Upadhyay. For an overview of their approaches to God, I'd suggest George Chemparathy's 'An Indian Rational Theology. Introduction to Udayana's Nyayakusumañjali' as well as John Vattanky's Gangesa's philosophy of God

I have been told by an Advaita practitioner that Advaita, and thus Shankara, accepts these arguments on am empirical level, empirical level being advaita terminology.

I hope that helped the readers of this site, as well as Prof Feser, should he come across this comment.

Somak said...

@catholicz

If that was addressed to me, I agree, which is why I've included books in my comment which should help the Western reader.

Scott said...

@Somak:

Thank you. That's a very helpful and informative post.

damntull said...

"And even if the causes with which we are directly aware in experience produce their effects by virtue of moving from potency to act, it doesn’t follow that every cause must necessarily move from potency to act."

I completely agree - however, this is where conversations with various wackjobs always go terribly wrong. I will make a similar argument, and they will reply with something like, "Well, we've never seen anything produce an effect without moving from potency to act, so YOU have to prove that it can be done!" Lord how they try my patience!

Catholicz said...

Yes @Somak it was. I thought hurting reply would have produced the '@Somak' on my last comment. Obviously I'm not used to replying on blogs yet!

Prince Randoms said...

Well, I was trying to reply to Jeremy Taylor in my first comment but phone-posting just never works right.

Edward Feser said...

Many thanks, Somak. I'd heard of Chemparathy's book -- hard to find (the best books often are, for some reason) -- but not the other books.

Tony said...

Bob: Time is usually a necessary part of the definition of cause.

I don't think so. If you have God alone, who *then* chooses to create an absolutely simple creation consisting of one angel, there is no implication of time. Angels are not subject to change and time in the same sense that material reality is, having no bodies - some say they are aeveternal. And the mere creation itself - even before considering anything further that the angel may do - does not require anything other than priority. But priority is timeless, as we see in logical priority: the premise is logically prior to the conclusion, but need not be before the conclusion in time.

The same result could be had if God created a material universe consisting of exactly one absolutely simple particle - say an electron - with no additional space, matter, energy, etc. With nothing for the electron to interact by, it wouldn't "do" anything, and would not change, and although there might be some remote sense of time, there is no time that can be measured or observed. And (again) even if there were time, that time is not part of the creative act which brings the electron into existence.

Greg said...

@damntull
I completely agree - however, this is where conversations with various wackjobs always go terribly wrong. I will make a similar argument, and they will reply with something like, "Well, we've never seen anything produce an effect without moving from potency to act, so YOU have to prove that it can be done!" Lord how they try my patience!

Perhaps you should direct those wackjobs to buy Scholastic Metaphysics. I'm not exactly sure what Feser's argument for the truth of the principle of causality will be, but it's probably safe to assume that it is not an inference from a lack of known exceptions.

Somak said...

@Daniel

While the Trimurti is identified with the aspects of creation, preservation, and destruction, these aren't considered as things which do the job for God, who doesn't get his hands dirty.

It is recognised by Hindus that God and only God can bring about creation etc, and it happens by God's Power and Will alone, so it helps to think about the Trimurti as aspects of the process.

The Vaishnava iconography, for example, shows the creator, Brahma, come out from the navel of Vishnu, thereby establishing Him as the primary agent.

Bob said...

@Scott, Greg and Brandon

Thanks for your responses.

Okay, I think I see what you guys are saying. Tell me if this is right.

A 'per se' cause is that which directly initiates a change.

So for the potter; each change in the clay initiated by the potters hands would be examples of 'per se' causes.

Or for the staff; the exertion of force, by the hand, necessary to overcome friction and gravity is the 'per se' cause of the movement of the staff.

But then, what are accidental causes? Are they a series of 'per se' causes?

Scott said...

@Bob:

You've just about got the main idea. But it's better here to talk about series of causes ordered per se and per accidens (rather than just about single per se or per accidens causes).

What makes a causal series a per se series is that the present action of each cause other than the first depends on the action of the previous one for its own causal power. When one cause stops working, its effect stops too, and so does the rest of the series; the later effects don't continue in the absence of the earlier causes.

My own preferred illustration, because I think it's easiest to understand, is a musician playing a song for an audience; when the musician stops playing, the music ends, even if the instrument continues to vibrate for a short time afterward. The causal series here is something like performance-of-musician→music→audience's-hearing-of-music, and this is (part of) a per se causal series.

Similarly, the process of the clay's becoming a pot is (part of) a per se causal series; if the potter takes his hands off the clay, at that moment (not "instant," just "moment") the clay stops being changed into a pot even if it keeps moving afterward for other reasons.

But this example is a bit confusing, in part because the causal series action-of-potter→pot isn't ordered per se (the pot continues to exist after the potter stops making it)—and doubly confusing because, despite this, the potter is usually said to be the per se cause of the pot!

At any rate, once you understand what a per se causal series is, you can understand its importance for Aquinas's First Way. Basically, since the action of every cause in the series except the first is acting only because the one before it is acting, there must be a first cause that doesn't require the action of a prior cause. Otherwise none of them would be acting at all.

Scott said...

@Bob:

A minor correction: I should have said that the potter is usually said to be a per se cause of the pot, as there are others.

At any rate, that's why I think it's better to focus here on the ordering of causal series rather than types of individual causes.

"But then, what are accidental causes? Are they a series of 'per se' causes?"

No, but if you want to pursue that question, I'd recommend scrolling down to the third paragraph of section C.5. here. For present purposes we're considering series of changes, and it will be clearer if we stick to that.

Scott said...

There's a helpful discussion here, starting at the bottom of the page (headed "The Five Ways"). The first full paragraph on p. xiv is, I think, especially good.

Daniel said...

@Somak, many thanks for the erudite comments and for the further task suggestions (I have ordered a copy of the Chemparathy title). At some point in the future I want to make an extensive study of Indian philosophy – I’ve got Surendranath Dasgupta’s five volume history, some SUNY books and as many translations of Shankara as I can lay my hands on.

By the way, do you know any good books in English on the Vedantic approach to epistemology and the Mind-Body problem?

Scott said...

To boil it down: A per se causal series is one that is ordered instrumentally, and that's precisely why it has to have a first member.

Bob said...

@Scott,

Thanks, I think I am getting closer now.

For example, billiards:

The white ball is struck by the cue.

The cue is the per se cause of the change of the white ball.


The white ball per accidens strikes the red ball.

The white ball is the per se cause of the change in the red ball.


The red ball per accidens strikes the blue ball.

The red ball is the per se cause of the change in the blue ball.


Is this correct?

Is the cue the per accidens cause of change in the red and blue balls?

Bob said...

@Scott

Sorry, I meant to ask:

Isn't the cue the per accidens cause of change in the red and blue balls?

Scott said...

@Bob:

Well, here again, I think it's best here not to think in terms of per se and per accidens individual causes. Let's stick to causal series.

So there's a causal series in which a cue strikes the white ball, the white ball strikes the red ball, and the red ball strikes the blue ball. And the question is: Is this causal series ordered per se or per accidens?

The answer you propose, in these terms, is that the first part of the series (the cue striking the white ball) appears to be ordered per se, whereas the later part (the white ball striking the red ball and the red ball striking the blue ball) appears to be ordered per accidens.

My own answer—which is not authoritative and it won't surprise me if other people give different answers—is that it depends whether we're talking about the balls clunking together as a series of purely physical events or, instead, as part of a game (or at any rate some purposeful human activity).

Suppose the cue hit the white ball just because it accidentally fell over onto the table. In that case I'd be disinclined to regard the series of purely physical events as ordered per se, even if the balls were all touching. I expect some disagreement on that point, but honestly I don't think it matters much; this sort of thing is only ever offered as an illustration, not as an unquestionable example.

Suppose instead, though, that the whole series is, say, a player's shot in a game of billiards or pool. In that case I'd be inclined to say that the entire series is ordered per se. The movement of the last ball has in some way had imparted to it, not just physical motion, but the purpose of the player, through the other balls as intermediate instrumental causes.

There's plenty of room for argument here. Whatever precise analysis turns out to be correct, though, my main point is that the world is not "reductionistic" and that what looks like a per accidens series at one level may turn out to be ordered per se when viewed at a different level. If the cue/ball/ball/ball series is part of a billiards game, then there's a very important sense in which its being part of that game is more real than its being a series of physical changes.

Somak said...

@Daniel

Well first of all, Hindu philosophy in general does not have the mind-matter distinction like the Cartesian model does. Here it's more of a matter-consciousness distinction, with mind falling in the realm of matter. You can see this article on the Sankhya school for an example of Indian metaphysical dualism.

This SEP article is a good intro to classical Indian epistemology.

Dr. Dasgupta's work, while voluminous, is also dated, and somewhat slanted in its interpretation. It is always a good book to have, but must be supplemented with more recent scholarship.

If you like, you can email me if you have any doubts in your reading and I'll try my best to offer some way forward.

Bob said...

@Scott

That is a very interesting response.

So, if I understand you correctly, you believe, apart from any physical description, that intent determines, whether a causal series is 'per se' or 'per accidens'.

Scott said...

Sorry, I should have said The last ball [not The movement of the last ball] has in some way had imparted to it, not just physical motion, but the purpose of the player."

By the way, I really do hope other posters offer different (and better!) analyses of that example.

Somak said...

@Daniel

Sorry, I just realised you asked for book recommendations. If you read the book by Eliot Deutsch I mentioned, (and all beginners to Advaita should), you'll find a large bibliography.

Advaita in general does not focus a lot on epistemology, they accept the Mimamsa epistemology almost entirely.

There is this book by Swami Satprakashananda, an Advaitin monk of the Ramakrishna Mission on the Advaita epistemology. Though I have not read it myself, I have heard only good things about it, and the scholarship of the Ramakrishna Mission monks are usually top notch.

Scott said...

@Bob:

"So, if I understand you correctly, you believe, apart from any physical description, that intent determines, whether a causal series is 'per se' or 'per accidens'."

Not necessarily intent; that's just what was in play in this example. The point is that a per se causal series is in some way instrumental: each of the intermediate causes is in some way "passing along" something imparted to it by the preceding cause. What is being "passed along" may vary from one example to another; in this one, it was at least partly the intent of the billiards player.

I'm just calling attention to the fact that there are different "levels" of causality at which things can be "passed along," and in particular that local motion (movement in space) isn't generally the important part even though it's often used in illustrations.

The main point of my reply is to assist in thinking about per se causal series in other terms than local motion, whether or not my analysis is correct (and, believe me, I'd be the first to point out problems with it!).

Bill said...

Bob, I agree with Scott that perhaps music is a good illustration of a per se causal series. Feser uses the same approach in The Last Superstition.

Take a record player (dating myself, I know) and play a record on it. During play, a turntable is rotating; an arm holding a stylus (needle) is riding on the grooves of the record; the grooves create vibrations in the stylus; the vibrations travel along wires in the arm to a compartment which converts the vibrations into electrical signals; the electrical signals are carried along more wires to the amplifier, and the amplifier converts the signals into the sound which comes out of a speaker. Everything in this series is dependent upon electrical power. Cut off the electricity, and everything in the series which is causing the music to play will stop operating and the music will stop.

Hearing music from a record player requires a series of causes which are simultaneous (not instantaneous), but the (for purposes of illustration only) the initial cause of the series is electricity. If one wants to wax technical, one could say that a person has to turn the record player on, but again, this is just an illustration.

On the other hand, Elvis Presley sings Hound Dog and a record is produced as a result. Elvis is one of the causes of said recording. He is dead, but Hound Dog remains. Said recording is not dependent upon Elvis' continual causation. Hence, that type of causality is per accidens, not per se.

Bill said...

@Bob

I should add that electricity is not only the initial cause; it is also a sustaining cause. That particular series cannot be sustained without electricity.

Scott said...

I agree with Bill and the "expanded" version of the music illustration.

To the "Hound Dog" example, I just want to add that it illustrates further some of the difficulties in giving illustrations, and in particular shows why I'm trying to be so careful to talk about causal series rather than just causes.

(1) On the one hand, the causal series Elvis→"Hound Dog" is clearly, as Bill says, a per accidens series: the record continues to exist even after Elvis stops recording it (like the pot made by the potter). Elvis is only a cause in fieri ("in becoming") of the record.

(2) On the other hand, when the record is originally being made in the studio, the process of recording "Hound Dog" stops when Elvis stops singing. The series Elvis-sings→"Hound Dog"-is-recorded is ordered per se (like the process of a potter making a clay pot). Elvis is a cause in esse ("in being"), not merely in fieri, of the changes that constitute the recording process.

(3) Even more confusingly, there's a sense in which Elvis can be said to be a per se cause of the record, even though the series Elvis→"Hound Dog" is ordered per accidens. To borrow and adapt an example from Aristotle, the potter, as a potter) is a per se cause of the pot he makes. If the potter were also a doctor, then it would also be true that a doctor was a cause of the pot, but only a per accidens cause, since it was not as a doctor that he had caused the pot. So we might say that Elvis-as-singer is a per se cause of the "Hound Dog" recording, and yet that (say) Elvis-as-consumer-of-fried-banana-sandwiches is only a per accidens cause.

Take the foregoing as a caution about trying to extract too much from an mere illustration. The real-life cases are complicated; the illustrations are simplifications intended only to get the point across. Once you've understood the idea, don't get lost in the physical minutiae.

Scott said...

. . . which means a per se causal series is not just a series of per se causes.

That, Bob, is why I'm being so insistent on talking specifically about causal series rather than about individual causes.

Tom said...

With all this talk of causal series, it seems to me that intercessory (or even penitential) prayer would violate the idea that God is Pure Actuality and immutable. For if we ask God to do something (heal someone sick or forgive our sins) and he does it, then it certainly seems that he has changed, or else or prayer would have been pointless. I'm sure that this occurred to the Scholastics at some point, but alas, I'm just an amateur with an Internet connection and no solution.

Scott said...

@Tom:

You're right that this question occurred to the Scholastics. What's common to all the proposed solutions is just that since God eternally knows when you're going to pray and what for, effective prayer doesn't involve any change in Him; He simply makes there be a world in which some things are brought about through prayer just as some things are brought about through (say) biological growth or the operation of gravity.

God doesn't use acorns as a means to make oaks; what He wants is the entire causal process acorns-becoming-oaks. Likewise, in the case of prayer, what He wants is not just the result X (conditionally on whether or not you pray) but the entire process X-comes-about-through-prayer.

Anonymous said...

"For if we ask God to do something (heal someone sick or forgive our sins) and he does it, then it certainly seems that he has changed, or else or prayer would have been pointless."

The backdoor, in my opinion, is that God has supplied the grace which led to the repentance which led to the prayer, making God the initiator of that causal series. Sola Gratia was one of the Protestant tenets which received a nod of approval from the Church, if I recall.

Anonymous said...

... Or what Scott said.

Bill said...

Scott writes,

The real-life cases are complicated; the illustrations are simplifications intended only to get the point across. Once you've understood the idea, don't get lost in the physical minutiae.

Exactly.

Step2 said...

@Bob
Isn't the cue the per accidens cause of change in the red and blue balls?

Yes it is. The balls are not structurally connected to one another and the cue can be motionless while the rest of the series continues to act.

@Tony,
Whenever you have a change of state that can be designated "before" and "after" you have the implication of time.

Scott said...

@Step2:

"Yes it is. The balls are not structurally connected to one another and the cue can be motionless while the rest of the series continues to act."

In Aquinas's paradigmatic example of the hand moving the stick that moves the stone, there's also no structural connection between stick and stone (nor, arguably, between hand and stick, although the hand is holding the stick), and the stone can (and ordinarily will) continue moving after the hand stops.

Scott said...

@Step2:

"Whenever you have a change of state that can be designated 'before' and 'after' you have the implication of time."

Perhaps so; in fact "time" is regarded in A-T thought as a measure of change.

However, causality need not involve a change of state, as when e.g. God creates the world or knows all the natural numbers; in such cases it's logical priority that matters (as Tony says), and there's causality without a change of state.

rank sophist said...

Very interesting topic, and a nice change of pace. Also a great post from Somak.

I will say something regarding the interpretation of Buddhism presented by Prof. Feser in his post, though. He wrote that "you might compare the Buddhist position to that of Heraclitus", but this, even with his caveat later on, seems incomplete. The philosophy of Heraclitus lacks a coherent explanation for the origin of creation: he simply points to the most fundamental force in creation. To my knowledge, few to no forms of Buddhism make this mistake. Most Buddhists certainly understand creation to be an ungrounded flux, in the sense that it lacks an intrinsic sustaining principle or form. But they are not similarly tied to the idea that contingent creation is all that exists, contra Heraclitus. It is true that many forms of Buddhism claim that creation is "from nothing", but the "nothing" under discussion is very rarely compatible with the "nothing" that descends from Greek philosophy. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that the Buddhist "nothing" is similar to a very extreme negative theology, which lacks any form of analogy or predication of personal traits. Just my two cents.

Scott said...

Or, to put it another way . . .

Tom said...

@Scott: Your solution makes sense, but it seems to come at the cost of human free will (which is yet another subject I'm trying to learn more about). If God wants there to be a world where things are brought about through prayer, how can it be said that we freely choose it?

Jinzang said...

To the best of my knowledge, Dharmakirti's works are still untranslated, with the exception of Drop of Logic. The article in Stanford Encyclopedia is informative, as it usually is, also this article in Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia fleshes some points out.

Step2 said...

@Scott,
To the extent the stone’s motion is instrumentally caused by the hand/stick combo, I would say they are structurally connected – there is a direct transfer of force that stops once the driving force stops. If the stone’s continued motion like a Rolling Stone (sorry!) is from a different cause such as gravity it cannot be traced only to the first cause of the essentially ordered series.

Scott said...

@Tom:

"If God wants there to be a world where things are brought about through prayer, how can it be said that we freely choose it?"

Well, that's a special case of the problem of free will generally, which is a whole 'nother can of worms. The two main Scholastic solutions are Thomism and Molinism (named for Luis de Molina).

Aquinas—at least according to Garrigou-Lagrange's understanding of him—held that when God makes there be a system of secondary causes (including human volition), He doesn't circumvent those secondary causes but works through them; thus when you choose something, even though God has to cooperate in your choice, it's still your own will that's doing the choosing.

Molina, in contrast, held that God has something called "middle knowledge"—hypothetical knowledge of what anyone will in fact choose under any given set of circumstances—and created/creates a world in which people are placed in circumstances that result in the choices He wants.

It's a very thorny issue and I've presented only the very barest bones of it here; a full discussion would have to get into such issues as sufficient vs. efficacious grace, Divine impassibility, and so forth. But I think I've said enough for you to see that on either account, the efficacy of prayer doesn't require any change in God; He's simply made there be a world in which some things are brought about in part through (freely willed) human prayer.

Scott said...

In rereading what I wrote there, I see that the contrast between Thomism and Molinism may not be as obvious as I had hoped. So let me just add that for Thomas, God is ultimately what makes everything happen, whereas for Molina, God at least seems to be dependent on something outside Himself in creating the world that He wants.

Scott said...

@Step2:

"If the stone’s continued motion like a Rolling Stone (sorry!)"

Heh.

" . . . is from a different cause such as gravity it cannot be traced only to the first cause of the essentially ordered series."

And it isn't supposed to be. That's part of the point: the stone's continued motion isn't the result of an instrumental series of causes "passing along" something from the first cause, just as the clay's continuing to move after the potter removes his hand isn't part of the process of its becoming a pot.

Bob said...

@Bill and Scott

Thanks for the responses. I think I now have a fair understanding of what you guys mean by a 'per se' causal series.

I want to focus on Scott's comment because I think that this is important:

. . . which means a per se causal series is not just a series of per se causes.

Aquinas, in the First Way, says that a 'per se' series cannot go to infinity, because a 'per se' series, from what I understand, must have an initiator and, per the discussion, that a 'per se' series must be, in some way, sustained by the initiator. Let's call this 'A'.

Here is something Bill said:

Hearing music from a record player requires a series of causes which are simultaneous (not instantaneous), but the (for purposes of illustration only) the initial cause of the series is electricity. If one wants to wax technical, one could say that a person has to turn the record player on, but again, this is just an illustration.

This important point here though is that we have illustration of an accidental cause, (the person who switched on the record player, sadly, dropped dead after doing so), of a 'per se' series. Let's call this 'B'.

It seems that for A, Aquinas would be correct in saying that such a series cannot go to infinity.

How about series 'B'?

Bob said...

@Scott

However, causality need not involve a change of state, as when e.g. God creates the world or knows all the natural numbers; in such cases it's logical priority that matters (as Tony says), and there's causality without a change of state.

Though I think the word creates implies before and after as part of it's definition.

Bob said...

Correction for clarity:

It seems that for A, Aquinas would be correct in saying that such a series cannot regress to infinity.

How about series 'B'?

Tony said...

Though I think the word creates implies before and after as part of it's definition.

No, the notion of creation explicitly denies a "before" aspect to what happens. When we humans speak about it, WE cannot help falling into careless ways of speaking about it and so you will see people say things like "before God created the universe", but these expressions are not meant to imply that there was time measuring the states of affairs even before the creation began.

Speaking carefully, time itself started with creation, and so any "before and after" ways of speaking about creation are uncareful expressions getting at NON-temporal priority. God certainly is prior to creation, but not before in time. Since we temporal, finite, created intelligences only have verb forms suited to temporal action, we don't really have a good way of designating the manner of God's action. But one might put it: God Is. God creates, and then there was time.

Step2, thanks for the assist.

Eahab said...

It seem the argument Dharmakirti is making about God making an existent for a particular period of time implying change within God is similar to the argument that argues for the eternality of the universe, because why would God create the universe all of a sudden, when He did not create it prior? This is why many medieval philosophers argued for the eternality of the universe and people within the Platonic tradition used the analogy of God being like the sun and the universe His rays (I think this is a powerful analogy). Of course that time was created with the universe doesn't completely solve this problem. It would seem to me that creation as such would have to be co-eternal with God, although not such and such a creation. I believe the Hindu tradition, as well as mystics in the west speak of something like the breaths of God, where a creation is effused and than reabsorbed into God.

Bob said...

@Tony

No, the notion of creation explicitly denies a "before" aspect to what happens.

Without before and after the word is incoherent.

Creation:

'A' does not exist -> 'A' exists

Without a before you would only have:

'A exists'


Scott said...

@Bob:

In series B, the person who turned on the record player is not part of the per se causal series, for the very reason you give. He, or his action, is what I earlier called a cause in fieri ("in becoming") of the series, but not its cause i esse ("in being") or what Bill called a "sustaining cause."

The cause in esse is that which accounts for the present, here-and-now existence[*] of each element of the series, and thus of the series itself. We don't arrive at that cause by working backward through time; we arrive at it by working backward in order of logical priority. And in that "direction," we can't have an infinite regress.

----

[*] For reasons I won't go into fully in this post (though I'll be happy to return to them later if you like), even the continued existence of a thing counts as a sort of "change." Anything that comes into existence doesn't have the power to continue to exist "under its own steam," as it were; if it did, its existence would be accounted for by its own nature, and it would already just be in existence with no external "help" from anything else.

Scott said...

@Bob:

"Without before and after the word is incoherent."

Not at all. Creation has to do with causal dependence, not with time.

Suppose (to take a silly example designed only to get the point across) that the universe consisted of nothing but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle eternally thinking of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle would still be Holmes's creator even though there's no "before and after" about it.

Bob said...

@Scott

I agree that we cannot have an infinite regress of a 'per se' series.

Anything that comes into existence doesn't have the power to continue to exist "under its own steam," as it were; if it did, its existence would be accounted for by its own nature, and it would already just be in existence with no external "help" from anything else.

For something that actually "come into existence", like a story for instance, it seems so. The story would need to be held in someone's memory, or written down somewhere for it to continue to exist.

However, I do not think this applies to physical stuff, or at least it doesn't seem to.

As far as I know, physical stuff doesn't "come into existence" in the same sense that a story does. I think this is the ex nihilo/ex materia distinction.

.......................

Doyle could not eternally think of Holmes, if Doyle is also the creator of Holmes, since this necessarily implies two states. One where Holmes does not exist and one where Holmes does exist.

Scott said...

@Bob:

"However, I do not think this applies to physical stuff, or at least it doesn't seem to."

If the Big Bang theory is correct (and/or if the revealed doctrine that our universe had a beginning in time is true), then physical stuff did in some sense come into existence. But the same point can be made in other ways; for present purposes it's sufficient to say (loosely) that physical stuff isn't the reason for its own existence. The heart of the matter is that anything whose existence requires explanation at all needs the same sort of explanation for the moment-by-moment continuation of that existence.

"Doyle could not eternally think of Holmes, if Doyle is also the creator of Holmes, since this necessarily implies two states. One where Holmes does not exist and one where Holmes does exist"

Granting the latter point arguendo, it still doesn't follow that there was ever a time when the first state actually obtained. They're two logical possibilities, that's all.

At any rate, the doctrine of creation specifically holds that there was no time "before" creation. If you think that means the idea of "creation" is applied analogously between God and human creators, you're right.

Bob said...

@Scott

If you think that means the idea of "creation" is applied analogously between God and human creators, you're right.

Fair enough.

If the Big Bang theory is correct (and/or if the revealed doctrine that our universe had a beginning in time is true), then physical stuff did in some sense come into existence.

I have been considering this.

If the BB theory is correct, this would still be an example of coming into existence ex-materia.

I think what you mean to refer to is the coming into existence of the "singularity", that is what it was that initially "banged", itself.


rank sophist said...

Tom,

Your solution makes sense, but it seems to come at the cost of human free will (which is yet another subject I'm trying to learn more about). If God wants there to be a world where things are brought about through prayer, how can it be said that we freely choose it?

All of time is present to God from eternity, and so he knows (like someone in the future might) every action of every person who will ever live. We freely pray in the present, but God has always already answered our prayers--from the perspective of someone who exists in the present, past and future simultaneously. God doesn't predetermine our actions; he just "responds" to them from eternity.

Scott,

Actually, Garrigou-Lagrange believed in strong physical premotion, such that God efficiently caused the individual actions of everything in creation from eternity. Banezian talk of "cooperation" is just a cover for the group's occasionalistic determinism. And Molina's middle knowledge was roughly the same thing, except that it brought in talk of possible worlds to suggest that God's premotion of some to hell was a necessary sacrifice, so that a maximal number of people could go to heaven.

I understand that you were just giving Tom a summary, but I think it's a bad idea to sugarcoat the perversion of either view.

BenYachov said...

>Actually, Garrigou-Lagrange believed in strong physical premotion, such that God efficiently caused the individual actions of everything in creation from eternity.

I must disagree. He goes out of his way to say it's more of a transcendental cause that transcendentally causes the will to physically change.

He explicitly denies occasionalism. I've been reading PREDESTINATION by G-L.

Good stuff it's persuading me to move away from Molinism.

Disagree with the Banezian view all you like but I am convinced it's not Calvinism with Rosary beads.

It's something else.

Brandon said...

Yes, Banezians are neither occasionalists nor determinists, but explicitly reject and argue against both. This is a different matter from having an adequate or even consistent account of free will; but even inconsistent nondeterminism about free will puts one's position in an entirely different class from determinism.

Tony said...

Ben, I really like a lot of what G-L says in Predestination. Unfortunately, he also makes a significant error or two. Fr. William Most in "Grace and Free Will" is even better, borrows from G-L but improves on him.

One of G-L's difficulties is his notion that even after sufficient grace moves you to act, it takes a second, additional grace to remain in the act during its period of operation. This runs into theoretical problems with one act being integral, having a single end and so on. But this is all a side track from the real conversation here, so let's not get bogged down on grace and free will here.

Tony said...

'A' does not exist -> 'A' exists

Without a before you would only have:

'A exists'


Bob, you are looking at the whole thing within a temporal frame of reference. You are assuming time already. Without that assumption, there is no implication that "not A -> A " exists implies time. If you step back and do not assume time, the "event" of an eternal being saying "let angel Shiny be" does not mean there was time before Shiny and then after some passage of time Shiny came to be. Nothing prevents Shiny coming to be the moment time comes to be also, as a result of God's willing it, which means that there was no "before" prior to the moment Shiny comes to be.

Tom said...

If anybody could further explain the Thomist viewpoint on free will, that would be most helpful. I know of the three most common modern answers to the question (libertarianism, compatibilism, and rejection of free will), and none of them are able to get off the ground. Libertariansim falls into a morass of trying to explain how things can cause our actions without determining them (Galen Strawson's argument is particularly persuasive), compatibilism is obliterated by the Consequence Argument, and rejecting free will encounters the same problem that the old friend of the blog Alex Rosenberg does in that it winds up presuming free will while arguing against it. I find Peter Van Inwagen's rear guard action into libertarianism appealing, but it still has the same problems all other theories of free will have.

I'm willing to accept that the modern conception is hopelessly wrongheaded, as most debates after Descartes end up being, but I don't see a way out. There have been some references to how the mind operates in terms of formal and final causes and to how the mind as an immaterial entity can't be determined, but I fail to see how this gives us a working, robust theory of free will like the Thomistic apparatus usually give us.

Tony said...

Tom, this isn't a full answer, but it's a start: According to Aquinas, the will by nature inclines toward good. That is, it naturally inclines toward that which is presented to it under the aspect of "good", the will cannot incline toward something precisely under the aspect evil. So, the will is not free about THIS, it is determinately oriented in general terms.

However, the will is not determined that it must move toward any and every good so presented. There are many goods that are available, and the will is free to move in favor of one good over another good. (However, this is true only of goods insofar as the many goods presented are not presented under the aspect of "the whole, complete, utter and entire good which encompasses every and all possible good", for a good presented under that aspect the will is not free not to adhere to such a good. That only happens with the Beatific Vision after death, in this life this presentation of good doesn't happen.)

So, right off I think, Thomas distinguishes between the will inclining and the will acting: the will is an appetite (the rational appetite), and there is more than one operation of the appetite. The inclination of the will toward good(s) is not the will acting in volition, or choice.

There, that's a start, can someone explain volition and choice?

Gary Black said...

Tom,

I will give you my current opinion on free will. It is very likely not the Thomistic position since I am not really sure what that is. BTW, I welcome any criticism of the view as I am aware it likely has holes.

To me, it is important to first define the thing we are trying to synthesize. Like Augustine says [paraphrasing], what is more reasonable, to look for a thing we do not know what it is or to first find out what we are looking for? To borrow what I have been reading in the comboxes as of late, "life" is defined by something that has immanent causation towards its own good. To me, an animal has life and it has a will. Its will necessarily wills its own good. In other words, its will is the power by which the animal causes its own good.


Then what is free will? To me, a "free" will is one that is not bound in this manner. A free will is a power of a thing to cause the good or ill of itself.

Here is when I typically go into an example instead of using precise language. You have just read this sentence. Does the fact you have read it mean you were not free in the choice? (No) Then, how did the knowledge of your decision impact your [previous] free choice? (It didn't). This is because your knowledge (being in the future) quite obviously could not have acted on your decision.

There is merely two things to add as far as God is concerned. One, it is wrong to think God's knowledge is "before" you acted; rather it is simultaneous with your actions. Second (and irrespective of the first point), God's "foreknowledge" does not by any means imply an act on your choice. As long as the knowledge does not act on the choice, it is properly free.

Gary Black said...

I would just like to add that Tony hijacked my answer - how dare you pen your answers more quickly and coherently than I?! Also, his description of free will as one being able to choose between goods is much better than my saying choosing between good or ill. After all, what is sin other than choosing the lesser good?

Bob said...

@Tony

Scott referred to the necessity to understand this analogically.

Perhaps one could say that each and every state, that has been or will ever be, exists co-eternally as a necessary consequence of pure act.

Bob said...

It seems to me that, within this metaphysical framework, what we experience as free will would solely be the result of our lack of specific knowledge of future states that, themselves, necessarily must already exist eternally in the purely actual.

A very hard type of (pre?)determinism?

Is this part of what motivated John Calvin?

Tom said...

@ Tony, Gary: The Thomistic models of free will still run into the problems associated with modern theories of free will, that if our actions aren't determined then they're random, and that our actions are determined by our character, which is something that we have no control over, since we're not our own parents or our own environment. Finally, as Bob said, this idea that it was all Divinely preordained seems to entail hard determinism, which is another point against free will.

BenYachov said...

I ripped this off from a Calvinist website. But it seems like a good summery of Aquinas on Free Will.

Quote"Here is a good summary regarding what Thomas Aquinas taught regarding predestination and free will:

“Now there is no distinction between what flows from free will, and what is of predestination . . . that which flows from free-will is also of predestination. . . .Thus we might say that God pre-ordained to give glory on account of merit, and that He pre-ordained to give grace to merit glory. . . . it is impossible that the whole of the effect of predestination in general should have any cause as coming from us; because whatsoever is in man disposing him towards salvation, is all included under the effect of predestination; even the preparation for grace.”

- Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), Summa Theologica, I. Q.23, A.5

Thomas maintains both God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. Furthermore, he maintains that they operate “savingly” at the same time (i.e., chronologically). God predetermines all things, but He also predetermines the causes of which all things are an effect. Because God’s causality works within created nature, He can cause effects via free will choices. Divine causation is far more transcendent than simply being powerful enough to cause without (or against) man’s will, and it is not simply that He “foreknows” effects. Even free will choices are sovereignly caused by God, but they are caused as free choices.

Thomas on grace and free will:

“If we speak of grace as it signifies a help from God to move us to good, no preparation is required on man’s part, . . . but rather, every preparation in man must be by the help of God moving the soul to good. And thus even the good movement of the free-will, whereby anyone is prepared for receiving the gift of grace is an act of the free-will moved by God.”

- Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), Summa Theologica, II.I, Q.112, A.
END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

For me to understand Aquinas on free will & Divine sovereignty requires a lot of negative theology and a bit of Mystery.

I don't think even in principle we can ever know what the mechanisms of free will are truly.

I don't think we could ever construct a hard AI with Free Will so Scifi characters like Lt. Data, C3PO & R2D2 are never going to become reality.

Since we can't know what the mechanisms of free will are we can't say God isn't the Transcendent cause of free will.

That is how I see it.

Tom said...

Aquinas's view seems kind of like compatibilism on this account, and it also seems like it says God predestines evil decisions, which would poke a hole in his being all good. It might be that I'm missing some basic Thomistic doctrines here (I am, again, just a hack with an internet connection and no solutions who should read Aquinas and The Last Superstition), but the first has the same problem that compatibilism does (the consequence) argument, and the second can't fit with an omnibenevolent God. And taking an "I don't know but there's no way we don't have it" position is appealing here, but as John Searle says, free will isn't like other metaphysical problems without a solution because, while I can live my life easily without knowing for sure whether abstract objects are real, I can't do so without an idea of free will.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this discussion with Eleonore Stump on the question of free will could be helpful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ox2gWD3XTNs

Eric

Bob said...

@Tom

You can be at ease because as long as you cannot actually see the future then, for all intents and purposes, you have "free will" .

rank sophist said...

Brandon and Ben,

I know that Banezians claim not to be occasionalists or determinists. Naturalists generally claim not to be eliminativists. Not relevant in either case.

Tom,

Ben's quotes from Aquinas are typical Banezian prooftexts. Aquinas's writings on the subject of free will are self-contradictory at every turn, but you wouldn't be able to tell that by reading G-L or the work of his fans.

Aquinas's actual position is something of a Rorschach test. Those who want to understand God's causation of motion as efficient--and thus deterministic--will find enough material to support that view. Likewise for those who want to understand God's causation as teleological. I happen to be in the latter camp.

Here are two papers on this subject that I post probably too often, but that I could not recommend more highly: Lonergan's St. Thomas' Theory of Operation and Hart's Impassibility as Transcendence: On the Infinite Innocence of God, which used to be online but has vanished.

BenYachov said...

>And taking an "I don't know but there's no way we don't have it" position is appealing here,

More of an "I don't believe we can know in principle what it's inner mechanisms are other then knowing intuitively and via experience that we have it and that it has certain properties.

I think the "contradicts" in Aquinas on free will are apparent only & not actual(not unlike the Trinity).

It's like trying to explain to a Flatland inhabitant how a tetrahedron has in one sense four sides and in another three.

Only a being with 3D comprehension can resolve the apparent contradiction cognitively. A 2D being in principle never will.

God causes me to act freely and causes my free choice to be made freely.

So it's determined by him in one sense but by me in another.

I am forever the square flatlander who can't comprehend the tetrahedron.

Brandon said...

I know that Banezians claim not to be occasionalists or determinists. Naturalists generally claim not to be eliminativists. Not relevant in either case.

Entirely relevant in both cases; lying about what people are actually claiming is not rational analysis.

Brandon said...

And I want to be quite clear: lying is exactly what it is. You yourself have conceded that you know that Banezians argue against determinism and think it false. You just don't think their argument works on their own principles. This is, again, infinite worlds away from determinism. And the same thing is the case with occasionalism.

BenYachov said...

I wouldn't say RS is lying. He just thinks we are not following our conclusions to their natural logical end.

I counter he is too kneejerk seeing Banezism as some form of Catholic Calvinism (not that the Banezians don't misread the molinists as Semi-Plagians. They are equally wrong to do that including G-L)and that is a mistake on the level of seeing Aristotle's motus as Newtonian Momentum.

Like I said without negative theology and mystery Banezianism devolves into Calvinism which I absolutely reject because the Council of Trent condemns Calvinism.

BenYachov said...

Mind all of you I lean these days toward Banezianism because of my late in life emphasis on God's Transcendence which I have fallen in love with in a major fashion. My renewed love of the importance of Negative Theology.

(Also there is my traditional daily two minutes of hate toward any form of Theistic Personalism)

But in the end dogmatic minimalist that I am I hold all schools as equal till the Pope formally says otherwise.

So my brothers don't take my defenses of a particular school as absolute.

rank sophist said...

Brandon,

Enough with the aspersion casting. I have never said that the Banezians claim to be determinists. I said that they are determinists. Their position entails determinism, whether they believe it or not. Somehow, you've mangled this argument (which, as you know, I've been making on this blog for over a year) into unrecognizable gibberish: "Rank Sophist is lying! He's saying that the Banezians claim to be determinists!" Please.

Ben,

I do think that Banezianism is a Catholic Calvinism once all of the t's are crossed and the i's dotted. I believe that it's only been deemed acceptable for so long because Banezians keep it vague. You yourself admit that it would be Calvinism if it lacked "negative theology and mystery", which is to say vagueness. Mystery and negative theology are well and good--when we're talking about God. When we're talking about whether man has free will, an appeal to the mystery of God is just a cop out. Banezianism and Molinism are both radical Augustinian schools, and, when the premises have been cashed out, they differ from each other about as much as they differ from Calvinism.

I say all of this as an outside observer, though. Since I'm not a Catholic (full disclosure: I'll be Orthodox as soon as one of their churches becomes available to me), I don't have to contend with Augustinian doctrines like inherited guilt and predestination, and I don't have any skin in the Molinist/Banezian game. I find the Catholic free will debate to be weird and unfortunate, which is why I was warning Tom. There's a rabbit hole of determinist nonsense written by Christians (both Protestant and Catholic) on the Internet, and too many people, including myself, have gotten lost and confused in it. But I understand your decision to avoid dismissing Catholic schools of thought until the Pope makes a formal declaration. It's a humble and unassuming position to take.

Tom said...

@Ben: What does it mean to say that God causes our choice to be made freely? That seems to punt on the question of who is responsible for our actions.

Tom said...

And @rs, what are you currently, if not Orthodox, and what do you think about free will?

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"I understand that you were just giving Tom a summary, but I think it's a bad idea to sugarcoat the perversion of either view."

I was indeed giving Tom a summary, and it was accurate as far as I know. I certainly think it was more accurate than yours, at least as to what the proponents of those two views actually hold.

But if you like, when I give such summaries in the future, I'll add the disclaimer that rank sophist regards each of the two views as a perversion.</sarc>

"Naturalists generally claim not to be eliminativists. Not relevant[.]"

It is if you're just giving someone a short thumbnail sketch of what naturalists believe, as opposed to other positions you think they are logically committed to and wrongly believe themselves to have avoided.

BenYachov said...

>What does it mean to say that God causes our choice to be made freely?

God causes our reality & things within this reality to exist with it's nature and properties. God thus causes free will to exist with it's essence of being free.

>That seems to punt on the question of who is responsible for our actions.

I am responsible morally for my actions and I credit God with my freely chosen salutatory actions.

So I am saved by acts of grace which I freely perform by God's Power and I am responsible for my own sins.

BenYachov said...

RS

>I do think that Banezianism is a Catholic Calvinism once all of the t's are crossed and the i's dotted. I believe that it's only been deemed acceptable for so long because Banezians keep it vague. You yourself admit that it would be Calvinism if it lacked "negative theology and mystery", which is to say vagueness. Mystery and negative theology are well and good--when we're talking about God. When we're talking about whether man has free will, an appeal to the mystery of God is just a cop out.

With all due respect RS with a little re-wording that sounds like something dguller might say to object to the Trinity.

Man has free will this is an infallible dogma and God is soveren. It is no more a cop out then saying God is One in one sense and three in another is a cop out just because we can't put those two together in a concievable way.

Negative theology and Mystery are a gift of the Christian East.


>Since I'm not a Catholic (full disclosure: I'll be Orthodox as soon as one of their churches becomes available to me),

Don't leave the Catholic Church man join an Eastern Rite Church.

>I don't have to contend with Augustinian doctrines like inherited guilt

The Catholic Church does not doctrinally teach "inherited guilt" that is Eastern Orthodox propoganda on the level of Protestants claiming Catholics believe in Plagian works salvation.

I researched that years ago.

>and predestination, and I don't have any skin in the Molinist/Banezian game.

The word "predestined" is found in the writings of St Paul.

Besides the eastern synergy view is acceptible the last time I checked.

You don't have to be western to be Catholic. Ask my cousin he switched rites.

I can't make you stay RS but leaving the Church is IMHO a big mistake.

BenYachov said...

BTW RS I don't see much difference between me or G-Land the Orthodox on Predestination.


http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/predestination.aspx

"Divine predestination is one of the most inaccessible mysteries, locked in the abyss of divine reason and wisdom. The human mind, short on comprehension and limited in its ability to grasp concepts, will never be able to understand this mystery even if it studies and investigates it endlessly"


"The teaching on predestination is a dogma of faith, based on the Sacred Scriptures. No Orthodox Christian has any doubt in this. For whom he did foreknow, Paul clearly states, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified (Romans 8:29,30). The book of divine foreknowledge is incomprehensible to us. In this book, those whom God loves, He inscribed to life, and those whom He despises—to death."

That last bit sounds like something G-L might say.

IMHO I suspect all the schools east & west and their subdivisions are basically the same with different emphases.

Peace to you.

rank sophist said...

Tom,

Somewhere near the beginning of Mere Christianity, Lewis uses a metaphor for finding a denomination that involves a hallway and a series of doors--the hallway being "mere Christianity", the doors being denominations. I'm still in the hallway, though not by choice.

As for free will, my view is that God's causality does nothing to hinder it. I think that Aquinas was correct in his breakdown of how the will works--viz. reasoning which goods are the most desirable--, though. His view is more-or-less consistent with that of the patristic canon. The will is self-caused in the sense that its efficient cause is the intellect, and the intellect's efficient cause is the will (and so on, until the first act by which the intellect and will were created). It's a rational appetite directed by the intellect's analysis of which goods should be sought, which also directs that analysis. God does not interfere with any of this. His causality of the will is final and formal rather than efficient, which means that he doesn't actually take control of the will at any point, even through grace. I find this viewpoint, after a few years of studying it and arguing about it, to be perfectly coherent and attractive.

Scott,

I only meant to suggest that a newcomer to the field of free will should be warned of the ominous aspects (implicit or explicit) of every view presented. This can be done in a thumbnail sketch, as Prof. Feser has demonstrated numerous times in his discussions of materialism's implicit eliminativism. I just happened to do it in an extreme manner here, since I consider both Molinism and Banezianism to be fairly dangerous.

Ben,

Man has free will this is an infallible dogma and God is soveren. It is no more a cop out then saying God is One in one sense and three in another is a cop out just because we can't put those two together in a concievable way.

And I agree with all of that. But I also believe that God being both one and three makes sense even to us, when you properly analyze it. It's mysterious, but it isn't incoherent. I just don't understand how the propositions "God causes all actions individually" and "man causes his own actions" can be reconciled like this. God's sovereignty must be understood in a way that doesn't turn free will into a word game, or else you end with either determinism or incoherence.

rank sophist said...

Don't leave the Catholic Church man join an Eastern Rite Church.

I've never been a Catholic, actually. I wasn't even baptized as one. Eastern Rite Catholicism does seem interesting, but after a lot of thought and study I decided that Orthodoxy was for me.

None of this is to say that I think Catholicism is somehow a false religion, tantamount to Protestantism. I think that JPII and Benedict were right to call Orthodoxy and Catholicism the two lungs of the church.

The Catholic Church does not doctrinally teach "inherited guilt" that is Eastern Orthodox propoganda

It depends on how you mean it. Orthodox propaganda is indeed a huge problem, but Catholicism's teaching of original sin is different from that of Orthodoxy in key ways. Orthodoxy considers original sin to be nothing more than the Fall itself, which caused man and nature to descend into their current state. Catholicism, with Augustine, treats original sin as something passed down from father to child since Adam. It's an impurity intrinsic to each person, which is why Augustine (and Aquinas, and many others) held such disturbing views regarding unbaptized infants. This is what I meant by "inherited guilt".

The word "predestined" is found in the writings of St Paul.

I know. I've done a fair amount of research into the subject, because I found the idea of predestination so unsettling. The interpretation of Paul's wording there differs massively between Augustine (with his faulty Latin translation of the Bible) and that of the Eastern fathers.

I can't make you stay RS but leaving the Church is IMHO a big mistake.

I appreciate your concern, and I get why Catholics are so concerned about people who leave the flock. But I've never been a Catholic, despite my Catholic-sounding comments over the years.

IMHO I suspect all the schools east & west and their subdivisions are basically the same with different emphases.

Peace to you.


To you, too.

And, in many respects, I agree. There are only a few points of real doctrinal weight that divide Orthodoxy and Catholicism: the rest is just historical and cultural.

Ty said...

@Rank Sophist

I don't know what passage of Aquinas you have in mind, but here's EWTN on what he thought:

" UNBAPTIZED INFANTS

The Church has given us no teaching on the eternal fate of these babies.
The view of St.Thomas Aquinas has been widely accepted, never rejected by
the Church.

Here is the his position:

1) On the one hand, there is no positive suffering for the babies, or they
have no personal guilt. This is confirmed by Pope Pius IX, in "Quanto
conficiamur moerore," August 10, 1863 (DS 2866) "God in His supreme
goodness and clemency, by no means allows anyone to be punished with
eternal punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault."

2) On the other hand, their souls seem to lack the transformation by grace
needed for the Beatific Vision.So they cannot have it.But they have a
natural happiness, and do not miss what they do not have. "



Augustine and Aquinas strongly differ on this point. Don't get them confused.

Jeremy Taylor said...

Tom,

It seems to me that, like many modern perspectives on free will and determinism, you are trying to understand free will discursively, which is to say essentially in a deterministic fashion. There is something mysterious in free will from the standpoint of discursive thought because it is in the very nature of free will not to be reducible to the deterministic reasoning of our discursive intellects.

I'm not saying free will is illogical or incoherent, or that we cannot understand it to a large degree, simply that free will is not, by definition, deterministic and it is a mistake to start, as many modern perspectives do, by trying to reduce it to a deterministic understanding.


Rank Sophist,

Which Orthodox Church are you thinking of converting to? I have long considered converting myself from the Church of England. Where I live currently there is only a Coptic Church and a Serbian one. The Coptic Church especially interests me greatly.

BenYachov said...

>I've never been a Catholic, actually. I wasn't even baptized as one. Eastern Rite Catholicism does seem interesting, but after a lot of thought and study I decided that Orthodoxy was for me.

My bad I thought you where Catholic.

Never mind then never being Catholic and joining a Church (with valid sacraments) is not the same as being Catholic & leaving.

Which to us (with all due respect to other non-Catholic Christians who post here) is technically a step down.

Cheers then.

Tom said...

@Jeremy: What do you mean by trying to understand free will deterministically? I admit that I might be looking at the whole debate backwards (as happens in modern philosophy) but I can't see how else to approach the problem and what your alternate approach could possibly mean? How else are we to speak of free will except as the cause of our actions?

Brandon said...

Enough with the aspersion casting. I have never said that the Banezians claim to be determinists. I said that they are determinists.

No, you said they were using using 'cooperation' as cover for their occasionalistic determinism, despite the fact that you also conceded that they explicitly reject both occasionalism and determinism. Unless you don't know enough English to know what using something as 'cover' means, you were lying about Banezians, in black and white.

Nor is there any end to the irrational results one gets in this through-the-looking-glass characterization of positions. If Banezianism is a consistent position, they aren't in any way, shape, or form determinists: they explicitly reject determinism and argue that divine premotion does not necessitate free will. If Banezianism is an inconsistent position on this point, they would be more coherent with some of their fundamental principles if they were determinists; but they would equally be more coherent if they were nondeterminists. Inconsistency can always go two ways. This is why it is never reasonable to call noneliminativist naturalists eliminativists; all one can say is that, if they are still going to be naturalists, consistency dictates that they should be eliminativists.

But merely being inconsistent does not make them either. If Parsons, say, claims to be an atheist but has no coherent argument for atheism and concedes things that can be proven to require theism, this does not make him a theist. If I insist that God exists, but hold views that, if followed all the way through, imply that God does not exist, I am a theist with a defective account of theism, not an atheist. And so on for everything under the sun.

And it's not a niggling matter, either. No human being has thought through consistently every aspect of even those positions they consider most important. Everyone is inconsistent somewhere. But this does not give anyone the right to ignore people's actual statements of their position, especially when they explicitly argue for and on the basis of those statements, no matter how badly or inconsistently they do so. And Banezians are explicitly, repeatedly, and insistently nondeterminists about free will, whether they themselves can provide an adequate account of this nondeterminist free will or not.

BenYachov said...

RS

>Orthodoxy considers original sin to be nothing more than the Fall itself, which caused man and nature to descend into their current state.

With all due respect that is the Catholic view. Adam fell from a preternatural state to a mere natural one. Which is not to be confused with the view of some Protestants that we fall to a damned state.

>Catholicism, with Augustine, treats original sin as something passed down from father to child since Adam.

Maybe he did but individual Fathers taught errors. Doesn't mean the Church holds them. St. John Chrysostom for example either doubted or denied the divine inspiration of the Book of Revelation.

> It's an impurity intrinsic to each person, which is why Augustine (and Aquinas, and many others) held such disturbing views regarding unbaptized infants.

Many eastern Fathers did believe unbaptized Children neither merited salvation nor earned any of the pains of Hell. Which is close to Aquinas' view.

I believe according to Timothy Ware some Eastern theologians(a minority) have postulated infant damnation at least as bad as Augustine. Thought historically followers of Augustine on infant damnation have so fallen out of favor in the RC that I don't think you will find a modern proponent. Believers in Limbo a few centuries ago mocked persons who followed Augustine on infant damnation as "Tormentors of Infants".

The Jansenist heretics followed Augustine on this view. They where called as observant as Angels but as proud as Devils.

>This is what I meant by "inherited guilt".

I no more have to believe Augustine on infant damnation or "inherited guilt" then you will have to hold as a future EO Chrysostom's flawed views on the Book of Revelation.

Believe what you want bro. But let Catholics tell you what we believe not non-Catholics.

BTW Catholics have their own propaganda. On the subject of Calvin. If you ever read some radical traditionalist site that trys to claim Calvin was convicted of sodomy at age 18 in Geneva that is a lie invented 100+ years after his death by anti-Protestant Catholic knuckleheads.

All have sinned.....etc

Jeremy Taylor said...

Tom,

I mean essentially what Dr. Johnson meant when he said all theory ( by which he meant deductions from observations of the external world) was against free will and all experience (by which he meant knowledge of ourselves) for it.

Free will is certainly a cause, but it is separate from the usual causal chain of material objects. When, for example, he who objects to free will makes a point like how does free will break out from the psychological and other causes that work on our actions, he is trying to understand free will deterministically and forgets the nature of free will.

BenYachov said...

BTW in Catholicism using strict theological technical language.

Not gaining the Beatific Vision upon death is classified as "damnation". Which is not the same as receiving positive punishment suffering.

I was in my previous posts using the term "damnation" in the common usage of God imposing the pains of Hell and positive suffering on a condemned soul according to his justice.

OTOH In defense of Augustine's weird view that damned infants suffer positive pain, when called on it he explained their suffering was "very very light". One almost thought he was embarrassed by his view.

I read this & imagined an unbaptized Lisa Simson in hell being poked by the finger of a Bart Simson like Imp & having her say "quit it!" for all eternity.
:-)

Still I think we can throw Augustine's view to the wind.

Personally I favor God saving unbaptized infants eventually threw extra ordinary means which is a valid view but as a Catholic I am commanded by the Holy Church to only seek salvation for my Children threw Baptism and not neglect to give them the sacrament.

Intellectually I can accept God doesn't owe me or anyone Heaven & God is just and thus won't inflict pain on the undeserving so Limbo makes sense even if I prefer not to think it is true.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"I only meant to suggest that a newcomer to the field of free will should be warned of the ominous aspects (implicit or explicit) of every view presented. This can be done in a thumbnail sketch, as Prof. Feser has demonstrated numerous times in his discussions of materialism's implicit eliminativism. I just happened to do it in an extreme manner here, since I consider both Molinism and Banezianism to be fairly dangerous."

No, you didn't "just happen" to warn Tom "in an extreme manner" about "the ominous aspects" of views you believed to be dangerous; you positively misrepresented those views and their proponents.

In particular you said: Banezian talk of "cooperation" is just a cover for the group's occasionalistic determinism. And Molina's middle knowledge was roughly the same thing.

The most that could possibly be said in your defense is that you were unclear, and that's a stretch.

Tony said...

The Thomistic models of free will still run into the problems associated with modern theories of free will, that if our actions aren't determined then they're random, and that our actions are determined by our character, which is something that we have no control over, since we're not our own parents or our own environment. Finally, as Bob said, this idea that it was all Divinely preordained seems to entail hard determinism, which is another point against free will.

I was hoping not to have to do this but: No, I really don't think Aquinas position can run with determinism at all, and Bob is wrong about predestination.

This is Fr. Most's account, with my mis-rememberings thrown in free of charge. The needed account must account for God being the whole original cause of all good, and this entails that people who do the good and who go to heaven do so because God caused that. The needed account must also have it that God is not the cause of bad people doing evil, for God is good only and cannot cause sin.

The solution is in understanding the operation of the will, especially the act of volition. The will is constructed in such a way as to INCLINE toward good, but this is insufficient for the will to actually move toward the good (to adhere to it actually). For each distinct act of willing the good, God is the first cause of that motion - not just by making you in the moment of conception, but in the here and now reducing the will from potency to act in adhering to this good.

What man adds to the event, what does not come from God, is strictly and only any aspect of refusal to accept the motion toward true good by diverting toward a lesser good. That is to say, man's will is free to not cooperate with the orientation of the motion thus initiated by God, in favor or something else. Thus: if the man completes the good act, it is on account of the motion of the will toward the proper good that God gave him. If he does not complete the motion toward the proper good but toward something else, it is because of his (free) refusal to cooperate with God's initiating movement of his will.

My imperfect analogy: think of the will as a little boy at the top of a slide. Gravity is the will's natural, general inclination toward the good. There are many good things on the ground, but only one at the bottom of the slide. The boy is pulled by gravity, but he doesn't actually start moving until God pushes him. Once he is pushed in the direction of the proper good at the bottom of the slide, he will arrive there unless he does something to prevent it. If he slows himself down, this is like a defect or venial sin. If he pushes himself off the slide over the side, (and gets smashed) this is like a mortal sin. There is nothing the boy adds to the motive causes of arriving at the proper good that is his own, only the negative "I didn't prevent it" which isn't properly a cause. There is no proper sense in which God is the cause of his sinning. Sin is a defect, and has a deficient cause, not an efficient cause: that which is good is act and that which is defect is not in act.

Tony said...

This account preserves predestination and does not imply determinism. For everyone who completes the good and goes to heaven, God and only God is the cause of this, for he is the original cause of your every good act. God is not the cause of any evil act, only good acts.

Our acts are not random or arbitrary: the will either moves to the proper good, or to an improper good as chosen freely in repudiation of God's directive initiation. The evil in the act is not determined beforehand by forces outside the will, the evil is PRECISELY IN the will, but it hasn't an efficient cause, only a deficient cause, for defect as such is not in act. The will doesn't act arbitrarily, it always wills a good. The only mysteriousness is that the will "determines itself" when it moves to repudiate the orientation to the proper good. This is not determinism at all, for the 'cause' is intrinsic to the will, not extrinsic.

DeusPrimusEst said...

hi all,

sorry for the OT post, but I need to write an argument against euthanasia and was wondering if there were specifically philosophical arguments I could utilize from the A-T tradition. At the moment, I can only see its wrong from a vague perspective, focusing on the "natural right" to life. I cant seem to develop it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated thanks.

Bob said...

@Tony

Bob is wrong about predestination

Perhaps, though I believe that I have simply followed the metaphysical argument to the necessary conclusion with regards to this question.


1. The good is metaphysically the absolutely simple.

2. Creation is metaphysically complex.

3. Nothing metaphysically complex is metaphysically, absolutely simple.


Therefore free will seems kind of superfluous to evil.

BenYachov said...

Evil is either privation, causing something privation or morally choosing a lesser good at the expense of an obligatory greater one.

Evil has no real existence it is a privation.

This is the classic Thomist understanding so I don't understand Bob's argument.

Bob said...

@Ben

My point is that anything short of absolute simplicity is a privation.


rank sophist said...

Ty,

I didn't confuse them; I said that both were disturbing. Augustine said that infants were damned. Aquinas, at least in the Sentences, said that they were denied the Beatific Vision and given some form of natural happiness. In one of his short stories, Hart has a character compare this latter view to a scenario in which "a very wealthy man with a large estate chooses to throw a party for all the local children, but then elects to admit only a few of them into his house -- say, the children of only certain favored families -- where all the choice delicacies and the best sweets are laid out, as well as a great many gifts, while the rest, the common village children, have to stay in the garden and be content with dishes of cheap vanilla ice cream and graham crackers and perhaps a few balloons".

Jeremy,

I was planning on converting to the Eastern Orthodox church, whichever branch of it is available in my area of the US. The Oriental Orthodox church, to which you're referring, has very little representation in this country. I agree that it's a very appealing church, though.

Brandon,

"Cover" was meant to signify "facade" or "red herring". The talk of cooperation is a red herring to distract from the inherently determinist tendencies of their logic, which they desperately try to forget. I was not saying that Banezians are a secret cult of occasionalist-determinists who hide from the Pope's condemnation by lying about their real beliefs. The principle of charity is a lifesaver, Brandon.

This is why it is never reasonable to call noneliminativist naturalists eliminativists; all one can say is that, if they are still going to be naturalists, consistency dictates that they should be eliminativists.

They are virtually eliminativists, because the premises they endorse virtually contain eliminativism as their conclusion. Same with Banezians, or with anyone who believes a premise whose conclusions they have not yet agreed with. Now that the unnecessarily precise terminology is out of the way, I hope that you'll drop this.

Ben,

Maybe he did but individual Fathers taught errors. Doesn't mean the Church holds them.

I'm aware of that distinction. However, this statement is one of the dogmas of the Catholic church: "Original sin is transmitted by natural generation." This follows it: "Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God." In other words, original sin is a stain of guilt passed down from Adam.

If you ever read some radical traditionalist site that trys to claim Calvin was convicted of sodomy at age 18 in Geneva that is a lie invented 100+ years after his death by anti-Protestant Catholic knuckleheads.

I'll keep that in mind.

rank sophist said...

Bob,

My point is that anything short of absolute simplicity is a privation.

This is true. But there are two kinds of privation. The first is a privation of a good proportionate to the nature of the substance in question. This is what we call "evil", because it means that the good of a substance is being impeded. The second is a far more general and abstract term. Everything in any way limited necessarily encounters this second kind of privation, in that it can't be in two places at once, or that it is obscured when another object is in front of it--so on, so forth. Another example of this neutral privation is empty space of any kind, such as a hole. But since this privation is not an impediment to the nature of any substance, it can't be called evil. It's just the state of contingency.

More to the point, goodness is not metaphysically simple. Goodness is a transcendental property present in every contingent being. "The Good" as such is absolutely simple, of course, but it is reflected in the individual complex goodnesses of creation. Contingent goodness relates to the flourishing of a substance proportionate to its nature.

MukeNecca said...

test

BenYachov said...

RS

>I'm aware of that distinction. However, this statement is one of the dogmas of the Catholic church: "Original sin is transmitted by natural generation."

So you must be a child of Adam to inherit original sin? The EO teach this as well. What does that have to do with “guilt” & how is that remarkable? This means the mere natural transmission of a mere natural nature only, sans preternatural gifts, which we would have inherited had Adam not sinned. Sorry guilt has nothing to do with it. Doubt me? Go look it up in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

It’s like if my father looses all his money I loose my inheritance. But I don’t get sent to jail just because he does if he commits a crime.

Sorry RS but that is wrong. The Catholic Church does not teach “original guilt” otherwise I would have read about it & you can’t read the doctrine into our dogmas otherwise your just making up your own straw man. Dude I like you, but I viciously ragged on dguller for doing that with the Trinity. I’ll go easy on you but really don’t make up you own “Catholic” doctrines.

It’s not cool dude. Not cool at all.

> This follows it: "Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God." In other words, original sin is a stain of guilt passed down from Adam.

Rather “no flesh can see God and live” mankind as a consequence of the sin of Adam falls from a supernatural state to a natural one. We can’t have the beatific vision by our natural powers we need Grace. What? You haven’t been reading the Orthodox on Divinization? It’s virtually the same as the Catholic teaching.

What is this Plagianism? Both the RC & EO condemn that mishigoss. Since when do the Eastern Orthodox ever claim a non-divinized person can see the beatific vision or be divinized without grace? I’ve never heard of it.

BenYachov said...

>"Original sin is transmitted by natural generation."

How can Mankind in a natural state transmit anything but a mere natural nature?

Since Grace is an unmerited gift God did not have to give it to Adam in the first place. Because of his sin Adam lost the ability to transmit a supernatural state to his offspring & Christ restored supernatural grave via Baptism and the Sacraments but he did not change man's nature back to the pre-Adam perternatural state.

That doesn't come till the resurrection of the dead & of course when that happens nobody will marry or be given in marriage.

It's not hard.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"[T]his statement is one of the dogmas of the Catholic church: 'Original sin is transmitted by natural generation.' This follows it: 'Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God.' In other words, original sin is a stain of guilt passed down from Adam."

Not just "in other words" but in words with other meanings.

The statements you quote make no reference to "guilt." The RC Church most certainly does not teach that guilt, or even actual personal sin or fault, is transmitted to Adam's descendants. What is transmitted is the loss of the grace of original holiness and justice.

I think you'll find that the CCC is quite clear on this.

Scott said...

Heh, I see Ben Yachov got there before me.

Tom said...

So, with all these understandings of the will in Thomist thought considered, how would a Thomist respond to the dilemma of determinism? How would you explain that our actions can be neither determined nor random? I know that Jeremy says that we have to understand the will apart from the normal material chain or causes, but what is this non-determined, non-random form of causation and how does it work?

Edward Feser said...

Also there is my traditional daily two minutes of hate toward any form of Theistic Personalism

BenYachov, I love ya man...!

CCK said...

Is the Orthodox view of predestination essentially different from the Catholic one? As far as I understand them, both parties:

(1) Reject double predestination (God wills that men be saved);
(2) Affirm the free cooperation of man in either accepting or rejecting God's grace;
(3) Affirm that whatever goodness leads men to accept and persevere in Christ is itself due to God's grace.

When it comes to explaining the the mechanics of this, Orthodox tend toward the mystery while the most Catholics can claim is that there are two leading theories that have not (to this point) been condemned.

Am I just ignorant (quite possible) or is there really an irreconcilable conflict between the two? I am having trouble seeing it but I welcome correction.

BenYachov said...

>BenYachov, I love ya man...!

I'm speechless.....

Though I suppose for manly purposes & to keep dguller from getting the wrong idea I should include this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8sS4RIn6Kw

Cheer Doc!

Tony said...

1. The good is metaphysically the absolutely simple.

2. Creation is metaphysically complex.

3. Nothing metaphysically complex is metaphysically, absolutely simple.

My point is that anything short of absolute simplicity is a privation.


You are confusing "There is a good that is not present HERE" with "This is evil".

Ontological: Mere limitation of good does not imply that an evil is present: The creation of an angel, who loves and adheres to God and is perfected in his angelic nature implies limitation but does not imply evil. The fact that the angel is not God means that there is a limitation in his being, but that limitation is still perfectly satisfied: his nature is perfected in every (limited) manner to which good he is ordered. There is NO EVIL present.

Logically: mere negation of good is not privation. A rock present here means there is not a plant here in the same place, but the non-presence of a plant is not a privation. The fact that Jim is here in place A means that Jane is not here - the fact that we have a state of not-Jane is not a privation. Privation implies an actual DEFECT, which requires both the concept of a non-presence of good AND some nature calling for that good. It requires as a pre-condition a nature that is capable of lacking some good, so that the non-presence of that good bears on the entity.

In the example of a creation involving just one angel who loves God perfectly and enjoys the perfect union with God in the Beatific Vision, there is no privation because, while the angel is a of such a nature as to potentially lack some good, in fact he lacks no good of which his nature is capable. True, his nature does not possess divinity naturally, he does possess divinity by participation in the Beatific Vision. There SIMPLY IS NO DEFECT whatsoever.

Brandon said...

The principle of charity is a lifesaver, Brandon.

Says the completely un-self-aware person who has repeatedly insisted on reading both Banezians and Molinists in the most uncharitable way possible and labeling them with views they explicitly and firmly reject. Again, it's all in black and white: everybody can see exactly what you've said on the subject -- including the repeated stubborn refusal to extend any sort of charity in the interpretation of claims by Banezians and Molinists.

Of course, saying what you mean and not widely exaggerating to the point of saying what is actually false is also a significant lifesaver.

Greg said...

Parson's final reply.

Tony said...

So, with all these understandings of the will in Thomist thought considered, how would a Thomist respond to the dilemma of determinism? How would you explain that our actions can be neither determined nor random? I know that Jeremy says that we have to understand the will apart from the normal material chain or causes, but what is this non-determined, non-random form of causation and how does it work?

Ah, now I begin to see the nature of your problem - now that we have accounts of human will that is not determined. Your problem isn't really with free will, it is with different kinds of causality.

In modern parlance, "to cause" is coterminal with "to cause determinately". It got that way by first deciding only to look at material and efficient causality, and only to look at efficient causality that works via material instrumentality. That sort of causality appears to work determinately (pace quantum physics, which doesn't fit that mold). So, since Descartes and Newton and their ilk, "to find the cause" has resolved to "to find the determinate sort of cause" and an assumption that there is no causality that operates in any other mode.

But this is a metaphysical position, and one that is certainly not accepted by the A-T crowd. Formal causality is not like that. Final causality won't work in that model. And some forms of agent cause won't either. St. Thomas rejects it quite definitively: God causes some things in a necessary manner, other things he causes in a contingent manner - but he is the cause of both sorts. The things that are caused in a contingent manner are contingent - they could possibly "not happen" according to their natures.

God's causing meritorious human acts of willing the good is another example: He does actually cause the good acts, even though he does not cause them by a necessary mode of causality.

The will is the sort of thing that automatically inclines toward good, but not of necessity to any specific good. Thus, when you choose X good over Y good, (such as when you reject the proper good Y for an improper good X) the act of determination toward X is from yourself, which means that it is neither uncaused nor random. Your willing is the only cause of the defection from Y, and your willing just is the cause insofar as there is a cause. There isn't anything "in back of" your defection to X, that accounts for it as cause, the root cause is your will.

You want there to be a deterministic cause of your so willing X, but there isn't one. And there doesn't need to be one, if the will is that sort of actor that is free to defect by a self-motive act.

Which isn't really surprising, since that's the only sort of arrangement that actually is consistent with moral responsibility for evil acts.

Tom said...

@Tony, thank you for the explanation, but I'm still trying to understand the difference between a non-deterministic or contingent cause, as the mind is if it follows formal and final causality, and simple randomness. And furthermore, the idea of the will that just is the cause of any action runs into the problem that someone, if asked to explain his action, won't say "it was just my will" but will mention all sorts of other causes and reasons for his action outside of the will, owing to either his nature or his circumstance.

rank sophist said...

Ben,

So you must be a child of Adam to inherit original sin? The EO teach this as well.

The Orthodox don't teach inheritance of original sin at all. Original sin is just a name for the Fall itself, and it has no existence outside of Adam's own actions at the beginning of human history. We live in a fallen world in which we are capable of sinning--but, because of humanity's rebirth in Jesus, infants are sinless. They have a fallen nature, certainly. But "fallen nature" is nothing more than the temptations toward and capability of sinning: it does not, of itself, entail a loss of supernatural gifts. That's the Orthodox view, and that's why they characterize the Catholic view as "inherited guilt".

It’s like if my father looses all his money I loose my inheritance.

Indeed. But that's contrary to the Orthodox view.

mankind as a consequence of the sin of Adam falls from a supernatural state to a natural one.

This belief is not present in Orthodox theology.

We can’t have the beatific vision by our natural powers we need Grace. What? You haven’t been reading the Orthodox on Divinization? It’s virtually the same as the Catholic teaching.

I have read quite a bit about theosis, and I am aware that it's highly similar to the Catholic teaching. But unbaptized infants attaining the Beatific Vision has nothing to do with natural powers--which are not discussed nearly as much in Orthodoxy. God wills that all be saved, and, unless one fights against this will by sinning, one will be saved. In Orthodox terms, the idea of someone "depart[ing] this life in the state of original sin" is incoherent, because there is no such thing as the state of original sin.

Since when do the Eastern Orthodox ever claim a non-divinized person can see the beatific vision or be divinized without grace?

They don't claim this. But their criteria for divinization are different from those of the Catholics.

rank sophist said...

Ben,

This should make it clear. From the Vatican's 2007 document "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised":

Very few Greek Fathers dealt with the destiny of infants who die without Baptism because there was no controversy about this issue in the East. Furthermore, they had a different view of the present condition of humanity. For the Greek Fathers, as the consequence of Adam's sin, human beings inherited corruption, possibility, and mortality, from which they could be restored by a process of deification made possible through the redemptive work of Christ. The idea of an inheritance of sin or guilt - common in Western tradition - was foreign to this perspective, since in their view sin could only be a free, personal act.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"'[F]allen nature' is nothing more than the temptations toward and capability of sinning: it does not, of itself, entail a loss of supernatural gifts. That's the Orthodox view, and that's why they characterize the Catholic view as 'inherited guilt'."

And, again, both they and you are quite wrong to do so, as the loss of supernatural gifts entails no "guilt" according to Catholic teaching and the two concepts are very obviously different.

This makes two different topics in one thread on which you've insisted on repeatedly mischaracterizing the Catholic views with which you disagree, even when the actual beliefs have been pointed out to you. You might want to check your credibility meter.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

And, again, both they and you are quite wrong to do so, as the loss of supernatural gifts entails no "guilt" according to Catholic teaching and the two concepts are very obviously different.

And yet the Vatican itself agrees with what I said: "The idea of an inheritance of sin or guilt - common in Western tradition - was foreign to this perspective, since in their view sin could only be a free, personal act." The dogmas related to dying in a "state of original sin", which was somehow passed down from Adam, are pretty clear when you interpret them in the light of the Western tradition. Obviously, the Catholic church does not accept Augustine's views on original sin (i.e. an inherited state deserving of punishment) whole hog. But it comes close enough that it's foreign to the Orthodox view.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"And yet the Vatican itself agrees with what I said:"

And yet it doesn't.

"'The idea of an inheritance of sin or guilt - common in Western tradition - . . . '"

You surely don't need me to tell you that "Western tradition" is not equivalent to "the teaching of the Catholic Church." Nor, I expect, do you need me to point out that "inheritance of sin or guilt" is a disjunction, or that the Catholic Church teaches (in a sense) the former but not the latter.

But in a way I hope you do need me to point those things out, because the alternative is that you're engaging in sheer chicanery.

"[I]t's foreign to the Orthodox view."

And your own reinterpreted version of it according to your own biases is foreign to both the Orthodox and Catholic views. The Catholic Church does not teach inherited guilt—period. I've already referred you to the relevant portion of the Catechism; Ben has also referred you to the Catholic Encyclopedia, of which the relevant article is here.

Now study up before you commit any more silly mistakes (or, as I'm beginning to believe Brandon is right about, tell any more lies) and your credibility drops even further.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

But in a way I hope you do need me to point those things out, because the alternative is that you're engaging in sheer chicanery.

You seem to be willfully misreading my posts. I said that the Vatican and the Orthodox agreed that inheritance of original sin (read: "deserving punishment because of the actions of your predecessor") was present in the West but not in the East. Further, I did not say that the Vatican, in that passage, endorsed the view that it ascribed to Western tradition: I said that the relevant dogmas of the church reflect that traditional view, and should be understood in light of that view. Indeed, they make no sense otherwise.

Now study up before you commit any more silly mistakes (or, as I'm beginning to believe Brandon is right about, tell any more lies) and your credibility drops even further.

If you redefine "guilt" to mean something incredibly specific and obscure, then the Catholic church doesn't teach inherited guilt. I already knew this before engaging in this debate. But if you mean inherited guilt in the sense that the Orthodox do (read again: "deserving punishment because of the actions of your predecessor"), which is how I explained it in my post at 4:00 PM March 27, then Catholicism has traditionally taught inherited guilt. It's even present in the CCC link you provided. More importantly, the theory of inherited guilt so understood is presupposed by several dogmas of the church, including the two I mentioned already and a few related to the immaculate conception. Deny it, slander me and play word games all you like. My point was to explain to Ben what I and the Orthodox mean by "inherited guilt", and to show how even Catholic doctrine supports this view, which I have now done.

rank sophist said...

And one more post.

Brandon,

Says the completely un-self-aware person who has repeatedly insisted on reading both Banezians and Molinists in the most uncharitable way possible and labeling them with views they explicitly and firmly reject. Again, it's all in black and white: everybody can see exactly what you've said on the subject -- including the repeated stubborn refusal to extend any sort of charity in the interpretation of claims by Banezians and Molinists.

My interpretation of the claims of the Banezians and Molinists is the same as that of Hart and Lonergan, viz. that both positions are ultimately deterministic. Will you accuse everyone who makes this claim of being uncharitable? In none of my reading has either viewpoint done more than contradict itself and/or explain away free will. And, as we've gone over in the past, their exegesis of Aquinas is crippled from the start by their insistence that his texts be read as a self-consistent whole. I have never accused the Banezians and Molinists of being anything more than misled and confused innovators, whose beliefs (despite their protests) can't help but end in a depraved and basically Calvinistic mess.

Of course, saying what you mean and not widely exaggerating to the point of saying what is actually false is also a significant lifesaver.

I know that I'm a chronic user of hyperbole. It's led to more misunderstandings on this blog than I can count.

Scott said...

@rank sophist:

"You seem to be willfully misreading my posts."

Right, it couldn't be that you're (a) not being clear or (b) trying to cover your tracks.

"I said that the Vatican and the Orthodox agreed . . . "

Yes, I know what you said and so does everybody else. So what? Here's what you'd previously said, which was my own point of contention with you: [T]his statement is one of the dogmas of the Catholic church: "Original sin is transmitted by natural generation." This follows it: "Souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific Vision of God." In other words, original sin is a stain of guilt passed down from Adam. (Emphases mine.)

As I've already pointed out, those are not "other words" for the ideas presented in the quoted bits. They are "other words" with other meanings. You were misrepresenting the Catholic point of view, and that's that.

"If you redefine 'guilt' to mean something incredibly specific and obscure, then the Catholic church doesn't teach inherited guilt. . . . Deny it, slander me and play word games all you like."

Oh, please; this sort of reply should be beneath you. Since it isn't, I see little point in engaging you further on this subject.

"I know that I'm a chronic user of hyperbole. It's led to more misunderstandings on this blog than I can count."

What's led to even more is the fact that you think (or at least say) that "hyperbole" is the problem. But I'll leave you to Brandon's tender mercies on the other subject you were caught lying about.

Scott said...

And by the way:

"(read again: 'deserving punishment because of the actions of your predecessor')"

Read again: the refusal to offer an unmerited gift that one has done nothing to earn or deserve in the first place is not a "punishment" and has nothing to do with personal "guilt"—unless you "redefine 'guilt' [the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law] to mean something" not only "incredibly specific and obscure" but flat-out wrong.

dguller said...

Just out of curiosity, what is the Catholic doctrine regarding what precisely entered into the world as a result of Adam's original disobedience? Furthermore, it seems that Christ's death and resurrection is supposed to have changing whatever entered the world with Adam's disobedience. How did his death change it?

dguller said...

Or another way to put it.

Adam's disobedience caused X to enter the world. Christ's death and resurrection changed X somehow.

(1) What is X?

(2) How did X change with Christ's death and resurrection?

Thanks.

Scott said...

@dguller:

To get you started (though you may have read these before), you can read some of Ed's exposition of the Catholic teaching on original sin here and here, particularly the latter.

dguller said...

Scott:

Thanks for the links.

So, with Adam and Eve's sin, nothing actually entered the world, but rather something left the world, i.e. God's supernatural gift to assist them in reaching the Beatific Vision, because they violated the one condition of the gift, i.e. obedience. And so what is passed on from Adam and Eve through their descendants is nothing but the natural state of man, as created by God.

My second question was what purpose was served by Christ's tortuous death and resurrection vis-a-vis the above account. Presumably, his death and resurrection resulted in the reintroduction of the possibility of supernatural assistance to attain the Beatific Vision. But what is the relationship between his death and resurrection and the reintroduction of the gift of supernatural assistance? They seem to have nothing to do with one another, and thus it was completely arbitrary.

Scott said...

@dguller:

As I understand it, the link is in Christ's performance of an act of perfect obedience pleasing to the Father, in contrast to Adam's disobedience. Different accounts of the precise way in which this act was efficacious have been offered, but that's the essential bit, and I think it's sufficient to show that the connection isn't just arbitrary.

Scott said...

(To clarify: that's the heart of the Catholic view. Protestants tend to think the Father somehow "poured out His wrath" on the Son as punishment for the sins of everybody else or at least the elect, a doctrine which I find utterly repugnant and which forms no part of Catholic teaching.)

BenYachov said...

Scott understands Catholic doctrine on this issue.

I am sorry RS but in my judgement you do not.

Please cease from misrepresenting Church teaching.

RS I consider you a friend. Be an expert in EO theology & tell us to the best of your ability what it means but don't tell Catholics what Catholicism means.

It is my greatest pet peeve. My general rule to all person here Disbelieve in Catholicism all you want but never misrepresent Her.

>the refusal to offer an unmerited gift that one has done nothing to earn or deserve in the first place is not a "punishment" and has nothing to do with personal "guilt"—unless you "redefine 'guilt' [the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law] to mean something" not only "incredibly specific and obscure" but flat-out wrong.

Scott was paying attention to what I wrote.

BenYachov said...

BTW if we are quoting Catholic documents.

From the Catholic Encylopedia.

Nature of original sin

This is a difficult point and many systems have been invented to explain it: it will suffice to give the theological explanation now commonly received. Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam. This solution, which is that of St. Thomas, goes back to St. Anselm and even to the traditionsof the early Church, as we see by the declaration of the Second Council of Orange (A.D. 529): one man has transmitted to the whole human race not only the death of the body, which is the punishment of sin, but even sin itself, which is the death of the soul [Denz., n. 175 (145)]. As death is the privation of the principle of life, the death of the soul is the privation of sanctifying grace which according to all theologians is the principle of supernatural life. Therefore, if original sin is "the death of the soul", it is the privation of sanctifying grace.

The Council of Trent, although it did not make this solution obligatory by a definition, regarded it with favour and authorized its use (cf. Pallavicini, "Istoria del Concilio di Trento", vii-ix). Original sin is described not only as the death of the soul (Sess. V, can. ii), but as a "privation of justice that each child contracts at its conception" (Sess. VI, cap. iii). But the Council calls "justice" what we call sanctifying grace (Sess. VI), and as each child should have had personally his own justice so now after the fall he suffers his own privation of justice.

We may add an argument based on the principle of St. Augustine already cited, "the deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin". This principle is developed by St. Anselm: "the sin of Adam was one thing but the sin of children at their birth is quite another, the former was the cause, the latter is the effect" (De conceptu virginali, xxvi). In a child original sin is distinct from the fault of Adam, it is one of its effects. But which of these effects is it? We shall examine the several effects of Adam's fault and reject those which cannot be original sin:

BenYachov said...

continue

1) Death and Suffering.- These are purely physical evils and cannot be called sin. Moreover St. Paul, and after him the councils, regarded death and original sin as two distinct things transmitted by Adam.

(2) Concupiscence.- This rebellion of the lower appetite transmitted to us by Adam is an occasion of sin and in that sense comes nearer to moral evil. However, the occasion of a fault is not necessarily a fault, and whilst original sin is effaced by baptism concupiscence still remains in the person baptized; therefore original sin and concupiscence cannot be one and the same thing, as was held by the early Protestants (see Council of Trent, Sess. V, can. v).

(3) The absence of sanctifying grace in the new-born child is also an effect of the first sin, for Adam, having received holiness and justice from God, lost it not only for himself but also for us (loc. cit., can. ii). If he has lost it for us we were to have received it from him at our birth with the other prerogatives of our race. Therefore the absence of sanctifying grace in a child is a real privation, it is the want of something that should have been in him according to the Divine plan. If this favour is not merely something physical but is something in the moral order, if it is holiness, its privation may be called a sin. But sanctifying grace is holinessand is so called by the Council of Trent, because holiness consists in union with God, and grace unites us intimately with God. Moral goodness consists in this, that our action is according to the moral law, but grace is a deification, as the Fathers say, a perfect conformity with God who is the first rule of all morality. (SeeGRACE.) Sanctifying grace therefore enters into the moral order, not as an act that passes but as a permanent tendency which exists even when the subject who possesses it does not act; it is a turning towards God, conversio ad Deum. Consequently the privation of this grace, even without any other act, would be a stain, amoral deformity, a turning away from God, aversio a Deo, and this character is not found in any other effect of the fault of Adam. This privation, therefore, is the hereditary stain.

BenYachov said...

Also from the same article thought much earlier then the part I quoted.

.....according to Catholic theology man has not lost his natural faculties: by the sin of Adam he has been deprived only of the Divine gifts to which his nature had no strict right, the complete mastery of his passions, exemption from death, sanctifying grace, the vision of God in the next life. The Creator, whose gifts were not due to the human race, had the right to bestow them on such conditions as He wished and to make their conservation depend on the fidelity of the head of the family. A prince can confer a hereditary dignity on condition that the recipient remains loyal, and that, in case of his rebelling, this dignity shall be taken from him and, in consequence, from his descendants. It is not, however, intelligible that the prince, on account of a fault committed by a father, should order the hands and feet of all the descendants of the guilty man to be cut off immediately after their birth. This comparison represents the doctrine of Luther which we in no way defend. The doctrine of the Church supposes no sensible or afflictive punishment in the next world for children who die with nothing but original sin on their souls, but only the privation of the sight of God [Denz., n. 1526 (1389)].END QUOTE

BenYachov said...

>Protestants tend to think the Father somehow "poured out His wrath" on the Son as punishment for the sins of everybody else or at least the elect, a doctrine which I find utterly repugnant and which forms no part of Catholic teaching.

Well not to pick on the Protestants unjustly to be fair I think they got that idea from St Anselm.

Fr. Gerotechel once said "Protestants payed Anselm the complement that his view was somehow really St. Paul'".

dguller said...

Scott:

As I understand it, the link is in Christ's performance of an act of perfect obedience pleasing to the Father, in contrast to Adam's disobedience. Different accounts of the precise way in which this act was efficacious have been offered, but that's the essential bit, and I think it's sufficient to show that the connection isn't just arbitrary.

A few comments and questions.

First, I have a hard time seeing the proportion between Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience. The latter’s obedience required hours of torture and agony, which seems completely out of proportion to Adam’s eating of the prohibited fruit. The absence of proportion between the two acts certainly adds an element of arbitrariness to the equation.

Second, I think it is questionable to characterize Christ’s act as one of “perfect obedience”. In the garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded: "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42). And on the cross, he cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Hoping for the act to be avoided, and declaring that he has been abandoned by performing the action are hardly features of “perfect obedience”.

Third, the entire affair seems hypocritical to me. It seems that Adam was doomed to disobey God, because disobedience is always possible for human beings, and thus he would eventually have disobeyed God, unless God provided supernatural support to eliminate the possibility of disobedience, which would have required the replacement of human nature with superhuman nature. So, removing the supernatural gift for Adam doing what was inevitable, given his nature, seems manifestly unfair to me.

Fourth, if Christ is God, then I do not understand why God’s act of obedience somehow justifies the reintroduction of supernatural support to human beings after Adam’s disobedience. After all, if a human’s act of disobedience justified the removal of supernatural support, then why does God’s act of obedience justify its reintroduction? Again, there seems to be a complete lack of symmetry between the two, which introduces a significant element of arbitrariness.

Any thoughts?

Scott said...

@BenYachov:

"Well not to pick on the Protestants unjustly to be fair I think they got that idea from St Anselm."

You're probably right that that's where the Reformers thought they got it, and it's certainly where they began historically.

But Anselm's own satisfaction theory of the Atonement, whatever its other problems may have been, didn't involve penal substitution. According to Anselm, Christ paid a debt to God's honor, not to His justice; Anselm certainly never claimed that the Father in any way turned against the Son, let alone did anything as unthinkable as "pouring out wrath" on Him. Indeed, the whole point was that the Father was pleased by the Son's act of obedience and sacrifice.

That's my understanding, at any rate.

rank sophist said...

Scott,

As I've already pointed out, those are not "other words" for the ideas presented in the quoted bits. They are "other words" with other meanings. You were misrepresenting the Catholic point of view, and that's that.

I wrote less clearly than I could have when referring to it as a stain of guilt in that post. Without thinking, I defaulted back to the Orthodox meaning of the word. Apologies for that. However, I was not misrepresenting anyone. The Catholics do believe that original sin is a stain of guilt (using the Orthodox, not the Catholic, definition of that term) passed down from Adam. Again, that is all I was trying to explain to Ben.

the other subject you were caught lying about.

And more slander. I've always liked you, Scott, but that hurts.

Read again: the refusal to offer an unmerited gift that one has done nothing to earn or deserve in the first place is not a "punishment" and has nothing to do with personal "guilt"—unless you "redefine 'guilt' [the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law] to mean something" not only "incredibly specific and obscure" but flat-out wrong.

Of course it has nothing to do with personal guilt. It has to do with inherited guilt, as the Orthodox use that term. The guilt is Adam's, and his descendants inherit from him a state that damns them.

But it's clear that this hasn't gone over well with the resident Catholics, so I'll just drop it.

Ben,

I am aware of the distinctions you highlighted in the quoted text. I'll only say that the loss of supernatural gifts is an incoherent idea to the Orthodox, who don't distinguish between nature and supernature in the same fashion as the scholastics. Defining a loss of the Beatific Vision as man's natural state makes no sense to them--and, in my view, it presents theological problems. But this debate isn't going anywhere, so let's stop.

BenYachov said...

@dguller

>First, I have a hard time seeing the proportion between Adam’s disobedience and Christ’s obedience. The latter’s obedience required hours of torture and agony, which seems completely out of proportion to Adam’s eating of the prohibited fruit. The absence of proportion between the two acts certainly adds an element of arbitrariness to the equation.

Adam’s disobedience was the act of defying the Will of the Infinite God the specific act by which he did this is irrelevant. In terms of proportion defying an Infinite God requires Infinite punishment so only someone who is equal to pay that debt & Infinite in some degree may pay it.

>Second, I think it is questionable to characterize Christ’s act as one of “perfect obedience”. In the garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded: "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Christ had two wills. How is it sinful for Him in his human will to ask if there is another way we can do this but with the qualifier whatever you want to do I will do regardless? It is not a sin dguller to ask God for something not inherently evil in itself that He ultimately might decide not to give you.

>And on the cross, he cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Hoping for the act to be avoided, and declaring that he has been abandoned by performing the action are hardly features of “perfect obedience”.

Rather by crying out He was pointing to the Prophecy in Psalms that He was fulfilling as a sign to the witnesses of the Crucifixion.

>Third, the entire affair seems hypocritical to me. It seems that Adam was doomed to disobey God, because disobedience is always possible for human beings, and thus he would eventually have disobeyed God, unless God provided supernatural support to eliminate the possibility of disobedience, which would have required the replacement of human nature with superhuman nature. So, removing the supernatural gift for Adam doing what was inevitable, given his nature, seems manifestly unfair to me.

This is just a restatement of the old “How can God be sovereign in salvation and Man is still free” conundrum. Pick a School and run with it.

>Fourth, if Christ is God, then I do not understand why God’s act of obedience somehow justifies the reintroduction of supernatural support to human beings after Adam’s disobedience.

Technically the Three Persons share the same identical will with no real distinction of any kind via the divine simplicity. But Christ had two wills. We don’t do monophysite or monothelite heresy here dude.

>After all, if a human’s act of disobedience justified the removal of supernatural support, then why does God’s act of obedience justify its reintroduction? Again, there seems to be a complete lack of symmetry between the two, which introduces a significant element of arbitrariness.

It’s actually a human act of obedience united to a divine nature.

These rest I will punt and refer you to Brandon if he is interested. Since considering our past history & my thin temper this might not end well.

BenYachov said...

RS

>I am aware of the distinctions you highlighted in the quoted text. I'll only say that the loss of supernatural gifts is an incoherent idea to the Orthodox, who don't distinguish between nature and supernature in the same fashion as the scholastics. Defining a loss of the Beatific Vision as man's natural state makes no sense to them--and, in my view, it presents theological problems. But this debate isn't going anywhere, so let's stop.

Very well then. If neither of us understands the other there is no shame in leaving it & revisiting it later after hitting the books.

Cheers friend.

Scott & dguller

Peace.

dguller said...

Ben:

Adam’s disobedience was the act of defying the Will of the Infinite God the specific act by which he did this is irrelevant. In terms of proportion defying an Infinite God requires Infinite punishment so only someone who is equal to pay that debt & Infinite in some degree may pay it.

First, it still seems that Adam was set up to fail. It was in his nature for it to be possible to disobey God, and so it was inevitable that at some point, he would have disobeyed God, especially if he was going to live forever.

Second, if losing the supernatural assistance to achieve the Beatific Vision is considered “infinite punishment”, then what purpose does Hell serve? Or is Hell simply the absence of the Beatific Vision?

Third, if defying an infinite God is considered an infinite act, then isn’t obeying an infinite God also an infinite act? And if so, then why is a finite being obligated to perform an infinite act?

Christ had two wills. How is it sinful for Him in his human will to ask if there is another way we can do this but with the qualifier whatever you want to do I will do regardless? It is not a sin dguller to ask God for something not inherently evil in itself that He ultimately might decide not to give you.

But isn’t it better for someone to obey without question? And if so, then Christ’s obedience was not “perfect”. Sure, it was amazingly awesome, but perfect it was not.

Rather by crying out He was pointing to the Prophecy in Psalms that He was fulfilling as a sign to the witnesses of the Crucifixion.

But he wasn’t. The prophecy was about a man who believed that he was forsaken by God. If Christ did not believe that he was forsaken, then the prophecy could not be about him. And if he was not talking about the prophecy, then he was, in fact, crying out in despair. Thus, whether he was talking about the prophecy or not, he would have to be despairing that God forsook him.

This is just a restatement of the old “How can God be sovereign in salvation and Man is still free” conundrum. Pick a School and run with it.

Nope. It just questions the fairness of setting up a scenario in which it was inevitable that Adam would disobey God at some point, and then remove a benefit as a result of his inevitable disobedience.

Technically the Three Persons share the same identical will with no real distinction of any kind via the divine simplicity. But Christ had two wills. We don’t do monophysite or monothelite heresy here dude.

The problem is that neither the divine will nor the human will in Christ could possibly disobey God, and thus his obedience to God is inevitable, which puts it in a different category than Adam’s disobedience. And if they are in different categories, then how can one impact the other?

Scott said...

@dguller:

BenYachov has already given essentially the answers I'd have given, so I'll just add a couple of points.

As Ben says, it's no sin to ask God for something not inherently evil that He might nevertheless not give you. But since your objection has to do not with "sin" but with "perfect obedience," I'll add the following: the very prayer you quote includes a statement of acquiescence, so I don't see the problem.

As for "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?": As Ben implies, this is a quotation from Psalm 22, and was spoken in fulfillment of prophecy. I'll add the following: (a) The Psalm in its entirety sounds a less "abandoned" note than does its opening line, and it's possible that Jesus's recitation either included or was meant to imply the entire Psalm. (b) At any rate the content of the Psalm indicates the speaker's desire to be delivered from persecution by men, so I don't see that it involves any deeper problems than the prayer in Gethsemane.

"[T]he entire affair seems hypocritical to me."

I agree with Ben's reply but find that there's more to be said here. So I'll add this: Of course God knew that the first human(s) would disobey. As with any other evil, God permitted it only so that He could bring from it a much greater good (which is why the Exsultet sings at Easter of the felix culpa, or "happy fault," that merited so great a redeemer).

(I see from previewing my post that you've posted again while I was composing this. Well, let's see whether I've addressed any of your further questions.)

Scott said...

@dguller:

"But isn’t it better for someone to obey without question?"

I wouldn't characterize Christ's obedience as "without question"; I'd characterize it as "despite misgivings/fears." That's another matter entirely, isn't it?

Scott said...

Oops, I mean I wouldn't characterize it as not being "without question." You probably knew what I meant, though.

CCK said...

I don't mean to disrespect rank sophist's wishes, but I am investigating the claims of RC and EO and am very interested in understanding which disagreements are fundamental and which are merely misunderstandings. I've heard the EO rejection of the nature/supernature distinction before but am not sure how this works. My understanding was that this distinction arises from some fairly basic philosophical considerations of man's nature and God's nature, following Aristotle. For example:

(1) True friendship subsists only in beings equal in nature. Not only can man, as a creature, in no way be created "naturally" in friendship with God, even prior to sin; but even God cannot create a being naturally in friendship with himself, because the creature would have to be equal in nature to the Creator -- or another God. Thus only supernatural grace can elevate man to friendship with God.

(2) Preservation from death could not have been natural to man, even in Eden, because man's body is material; and the potential to lose one's form is exactly what it means to be material. Therefore any preservation from bodily death could only come from something superadded to the principles of nature to supplement (again, grace).

Am I on the right track? If so, I am interested to know how EO typically respond to these considerations.

CCK said...

dguller,

Sin being a possible choice for Adam in no way entails that sin was inevitable or that God set up man to fail. It was fully within Adam's power to persevere in obedience, as Mary did given the same prelapsarian benefits of Adam. It is inevitable for us because we inherit concupiscence, so our passions often conflict with and overpower our reason. Adam had perfect integrity, so his temptation and sin were spiritual in nature.

Also, I don't think it is held as doctrine that if Adam had been obedient he would have lived in paradise sempiternally (with infinite occasions to sin). He still lacked the Beatific Vision, and though we don't know what God's plan might have been without the Fall, God might very well have rewarded Adam's obedience by raising him to heaven to share in God's eternity (making him thereafter unable to sin).

dguller said...

Scott:

As Ben says, it's no sin to ask God for something not inherently evil that He might nevertheless not give you. But since your objection has to do not with "sin" but with "perfect obedience," I'll add the following: the very prayer you quote includes a statement of acquiescence, so I don't see the problem.

The problem is that perfect obedience would involve a total faith and lack of doubt or misgivings about the validity and correctness of the command. The presence of doubt or misgivings necessarily means that the obedience is imperfect.

I'll add the following: (a) The Psalm in its entirety sounds a less "abandoned" note than does its opening line, and it's possible that Jesus's recitation either included or was meant to imply the entire Psalm.

The whole Psalm reads to me of a man who was rejected and tormented by his people, and because of this, felt himself to be rejected by God. Furthermore, he is pleading with God to save him from the torments of his community of persecutors. It is an argument with God to persuade him to provide relief, and if that is the case, then it would make no sense unless the person actually believed that God had abandoned him in the first place.

(b) At any rate the content of the Psalm indicates the speaker's desire to be delivered from persecution by men, so I don't see that it involves any deeper problems than the prayer in Gethsemane.

The issue is whether Christ felt abandoned by God, and the man in Psalm 22 certainly felt abandoned by God to the point that he had to plead with God to provide relief.

So I'll add this: Of course God knew that the first human(s) would disobey. As with any other evil, God permitted it only so that He could bring from it a much greater good (which is why the Exsultet sings at Easter of the felix culpa, or "happy fault," that merited so great a redeemer).

I don’t see how that follows. Prior to Adam’s sin, all mankind was destined to enjoy the Beatific Vision. Following Adam’s sin, only a select number of mankind would enjoy it. It seems that God’s withdrawal of supernatural support to attain the Beatific Vision resulted in less goodness than if he had preserved it intact following Adam’s disobedience. And since his disobedience was inevitable, and not in the sense of predestination, but rather by nature, then the entire affair is even more compounded with injustice.

dguller said...

CCK:

Sin being a possible choice for Adam in no way entails that sin was inevitable or that God set up man to fail. It was fully within Adam's power to persevere in obedience, as Mary did given the same prelapsarian benefits of Adam. It is inevitable for us because we inherit concupiscence, so our passions often conflict with and overpower our reason. Adam had perfect integrity, so his temptation and sin were spiritual in nature.

I believe that if X is possible for S, and S lives forever, then at some point in the infinite stretch of time, it is inevitable that S will do X. So, if Adam lived forever, which he did prior to the Fall, and it was always possible for Adam to sin, then it is necessary that at some point that he would sin.

Scott said...

@CCK:

"[Adam] still lacked the Beatific Vision, and though we don't know what God's plan might have been without the Fall, God might very well have rewarded Adam's obedience by raising him to heaven to share in God's eternity (making him thereafter unable to sin)."

I have to say that I'm not comfortable with the idea of God's having a Plan B. God is God; when He created/creates the world, He knew/knows exactly what choice Adam will make (and deliberately created/creates an Adam who makes that choice freely), and He permitted/permits Adam to fall precisely because He planned/plans to bring something even better from that fall. There isn't any sort of Let's make Adam and then wait and see what he does about it.

Step2 said...

@Scott
According to Anselm, Christ paid a debt to God's honor, not to His justice; Anselm certainly never claimed that the Father in any way turned against the Son, let alone did anything as unthinkable as "pouring out wrath" on Him.

I don't know where you are getting that phrase "pouring out wrath" from, but I would like to see some sort of evidence for your claim before I accept it as a legitimate description of the Protestant view. Clearly there are multiple interpretations of the Crucifixion, and I also doubt it can be entirely divorced from the ancient tradition of scapegoating, but since Jesus was a voluntary sacrifice and had the phoenix-like ability of resurrection even that interpretation seems strained and incomplete.

Scott said...

@dguller:

"The problem is that perfect obedience would involve a total faith and lack of doubt or misgivings about the validity and correctness of the command. The presence of doubt or misgivings necessarily means that the obedience is imperfect."

I don't see that. It may simply indicate uncertainty as to what precisely the command was and/or whether there was any alternative. The final yet not as I will, but as You will expresses obedience, full stop, no matter what the answer.

"The issue is whether Christ felt abandoned by God[.]"

I think the issue is what Christ felt abandoned by God to. And the words of the Psalm indicate that He felt abandoned to the hands of men who despised Him—the desire to avoid which, if possible, is entirely consistent with "perfect obedience" by my lights, at least.

"Following Adam’s sin, only a select number of mankind would enjoy it."

Only a select number are guaranteed to enjoy it. Catholics regularly pray that all may be saved, and each individual Catholic is allowed to hope (though not to believe for certain) in universal salvation.

Even assuming that some are lost, though, the Official Answer® here is that this is a (good) display of God's justice, whereas salvation is a display of His mercy.

Scott said...

@Step2:

"I don't know where you are getting that phrase "pouring out wrath" from, but I would like to see some sort of evidence for your claim before I accept it as a legitimate description of the Protestant view."

Your wish is my command. (And it's not "the" Protestant view, just the view of the main Reformers.)

Scott said...

See also here.

Scott said...

@dguller again:

And it's important to bear in mind as well that being denied the Beatific Vision is not at all the same thing as being subjected to positive punishment. For example, I believe the current Catholic view is that infants who die before baptism have no knowledge whatsoever that they've been denied the Beatific Vision and enjoy a happy existence at a purely natural level.

CCK said...

dguller,

"I believe that if X is possible for S, and S lives forever, then at some point in the infinite stretch of time, it is inevitable that S will do X. So, if Adam lived forever, which he did prior to the Fall, and it was always possible for Adam to sin, then it is necessary that at some point that he would sin."

But Adam didn't live forever -- that is my point. And even if for the sake of argument he had withstood this particular temptation of the serpent, his preservation from death does not entail that he would have lived forever (temporally) in paradise.

CCK said...

Scott,

"I have to say that I'm not comfortable with the idea of God's having a Plan B. God is God; when He created/creates the world, He knew/knows exactly what choice Adam will make (and deliberately created/creates an Adam who makes that choice freely), and He permitted/permits Adam to fall precisely because He planned/plans to bring something even better from that fall. There isn't any sort of Let's make Adam and then wait and see what he does about it."

Fair enough -- that bit of my last post was worded somewhat sloppily and I hadn't meant to suggest that the Fall was God's Plan B, only that, assuming for the sake of argument that Adam hadn't sinned (his sin being a free act), his obedience doesn't thereby entail that he would have continued in paradise in the same state forever. I meant to speculate on the counterfactual only as we might reasonably do for any one of our own sins: Sin separates us from God; I freely committed sin X; if I had been faithful and not committed sin X, God would have been faithful in return in some way -- none of which (I think) necessitates that this world isn't "Plan A."

Scott said...

@CCK:

Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification.

CCK said...

dguller,

"I don’t see how that follows. Prior to Adam’s sin, all mankind was destined to enjoy the Beatific Vision. Following Adam’s sin, only a select number of mankind would enjoy it."

My understanding of Catholic doctrine is still developing, so Scott (or others) are free to correct me, I don't think this is quite right. Adam's sin was not the difference between everyone enjoying the Beatific Vision to only a certain portion being saved by Christ. If Adam hadn't sinned, and had gone on to have children, any one of his descendants could have been tempted, sinned, and fallen away from grace just as he (actually) did. (The angels did not inherit the consequences of an "original sin" and yet a large number still fell.) The difference in Adam was that he had been made the head of the human race and steward of God's paradisal gifts (sanctifying grace and the preternatural gifts). If any other man had sinned, the damage of his sin would have been contained to himself. But with Adam's sin, the whole inheritance was lost and that loss was felt in every subsequent generation. That's why, even though Eve sinned first and was the aid in Adam's fall, the Bible and tradition speak frequently of sin entering the world through Adam. He had been given an awesome responsibility and the grace sufficient to exercise it, but he squandered it and we all feel the effects. But of course, God is love, and did not leave us in slavery to death but sent his Son to be the "New Adam" for the salvation of all who receive him.

dguller said...

Scott:

I don't see that. It may simply indicate uncertainty as to what precisely the command was and/or whether there was any alternative. The final yet not as I will, but as You will expresses obedience, full stop, no matter what the answer.

But uncertainty as to the command is a criticism of the giver of the command as imprecise, which would be a sign of imperfect obedience, i.e. not trusting the giver of the command to provide the command in a clear fashion. Similarly, questioning whether there is an alternative is likewise a criticism of the giver of the command as possibly failing to take some facts into account, which is also imperfect obedience. Again, anything short of unquestioning and unwavering obedience is imperfect.

Compare: “I think that’s a dumb idea, but if that’s what you want, fine” versus, “I trust that your idea is the best, and I will carry it out happily”. Certainly, the former is less perfect than the latter.

I think the issue is what Christ felt abandoned by God to. And the words of the Psalm indicate that He felt abandoned to the hands of men who despised Him—the desire to avoid which, if possible, is entirely consistent with "perfect obedience" by my lights, at least.

I don’t think that’s consistent with the actual text of the Psalm. Look at the language, which keeps referring to God’s distance:

“Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (22:1).

“Do not be far from me, for trouble is near
and there is no one to help” (22:11).

“But you, Lord, do not be far from me” (22:19).

If the man knew in his heart that God was close to him during the time of persecution, then why make reference to God’s perceived distance from him? That speaks to his experience of abandonment and being forsaken by God, and his repeated pleading and begging God to save him from his persecution.

Even assuming that some are lost, though, the Official Answer® here is that this is a (good) display of God's justice, whereas salvation is a display of His mercy.

How is it just that he created a scenario in which mankind was doomed to fail unless redeemed by the death of his son? That seems manifestly unjust, both to mankind and to his son.

And it's important to bear in mind as well that being denied the Beatific Vision is not at all the same thing as being subjected to positive punishment. For example, I believe the current Catholic view is that infants who die before baptism have no knowledge whatsoever that they've been denied the Beatific Vision and enjoy a happy existence at a purely natural level.

Fair enough. But there are still individuals who are not only denied the Beatific Vision on the basis of Adam’s disobedience, which was structurally inevitable, but also denied grace from God to believe in him at all.

dguller said...

CCK:

But Adam didn't live forever -- that is my point. And even if for the sake of argument he had withstood this particular temptation of the serpent, his preservation from death does not entail that he would have lived forever (temporally) in paradise.

But if Adam had never sinned, then he would never have experienced death, and thus he would have lived forever. And if he could have lived an infinitely long stretch of time, then it was inevitable that he would have disobeyed God at some point in time. Again, the entire affair was rigged against him from the start to defy God eventually, given enough time, and that counts against the justice of the penalty, because it is manifestly unjust to penalize someone for an act that they couldn’t help but perform.

CCK said...

dguller,

Even if you're right that an infinite temporal life means that the possibility of sin must at some point be realized, it can be posited that after X years of obedience God might have raised Adam out of temporal paradise into the timeless Beatific Vision, or at least some more blessed state -- thereby "ending" his finite temporal existence and rendering that possibility unrealized. For the rest of Adam's existence, he then enjoys the blessedness of Heaven, wherein no sin is possible.

While this is speculation, of course, the idea of God's rewarding a faithful Adam in some way is reasonable given (1) God's known habit of heaping ever greater blessings on his faithful, and (2) that Hell is the afterlife of unending temporal succession, which is why some who know only the popular view of Heaven as temporally infinite think the idea boring at best and hellish at worst. But Heaven is more than that -- it's a participation in God's own Trinitarian life, which is timeless. This end can be found in our deepest yearnings: All our activity is ultimately to arrive at rest.

Tony said...

But if Adam had never sinned, then he would never have experienced death, and thus he would have lived forever.

Not at all, on two accounts. First, without an interior inclination toward sin (which we have but Adam did not), the only cause of his entertaining a sin is an exterior temptation. And God can indeed prevent or defend a person against exterior temptations, (by forbidding Satan to do them), even permanently. In addition, God can overcome them interiorly, by giving grace that makes them pointless: for example, every temptation begins in a presentation or perspective of viewing a good that is an improper good under an aspect as if it were a proper good. God can so illumine the intellect, at each temptation, so as to overcome the false perspective with a truer one that dispels the possible desirability of the improper good over the proper good. And He can do this permanently.

But even more definitively: God made man that he could eventually enjoy the Beatific Vision. It is certain that if Adam had not sinned, eventually (even without death) Adam would have been raised up to the Beatific Vision, from which state temptation and sin are impossible. So, no, it just doesn't work to say that Adam would have been subject to temptations forever.

Compare: “I think that’s a dumb idea, but if that’s what you want, fine” versus, “I trust that your idea is the best, and I will carry it out happily”. Certainly, the former is less perfect than the latter.

Remember, some of the things Christ said were to show forth truths to us, that we would not have considered had he remained silent. He told the Samaritan woman at the well, "Go call your husband" but she wasn't married. We could say "gee, didn't he know she wasn't married? Of course he knew, he was eliciting something from her. After the resurrection, he asked Peter 3 times "do you love me". Each time Jesus knew better than Peter did what the truth was, he was doing it (a) for Peter's sake, and then (b) for our sake to show how Peter's role was distinct from that of the other apostles.

In Gethsemane, Jesus was not showing doubt as to whether this death was what God willed for him - after all, he had already rebuked Peter for even suggesting the possibility - he was showing us something about situations where WE LEGITIMATELY are unsure whether something is God's will for us, especially when we feel abandoned by Him even though in our faith we are in another sense sure that He has not.

CCK said...

Ah, Tony said it with much more clarity and knowledge than I. Thanks.

Tom said...

Doesn't the idea that God allows evil to bring about a greater good lead to consequentialism? Certainly we're supposed to avoid all intrinsic evils, even when we think they can bring a greater good, or else we'd have shotguns waiting right outside baptismal fonts and confessionals. Is the distinction here just that God is God and we are human?

BenYachov said...

Tony said it better then I could with an assist from Scott and others.

BenYachov said...

Maybe a few thoughts.

>>I don't see that. It may simply indicate uncertainty as to what precisely the command was and/or whether there was any alternative. The final yet not as I will, but as You will expresses obedience, full stop, no matter what the answer.

>But uncertainty as to the command is a criticism of the giver of the command as imprecise, which would be a sign of imperfect obedience, i.e. not trusting the giver of the command to provide the command in a clear fashion.

I remember Karl Keating in one of his talks mentioning God didn’t have to bring about our salvation via the Cross. He could have done it differently. So it was possible God could have from all eternity foreseeing the Son’s prayer from His human will & willed otherwise.

God freely created to express His goodness but could have done something else.

>Similarly, questioning whether there is an alternative is likewise a criticism of the giver of the command as possibly failing to take some facts into account, which is also imperfect obedience. Again, anything short of unquestioning and unwavering obedience is imperfect.

Assuming here God could not have done it another way. I think He could because sin aside I don’t think Christ would every pray for something that is intrinsically impossible. He would never ask the Father to make 2+2=5. But the example here is that it is OK to ask God for things he could give you but might not & always it should end with the sentiment “Not my Will but thy Will be done.”

>How is it just that he created a scenario in which mankind was doomed to fail unless redeemed by the death of his son?

If we believe in Calvinism I might think it unjust. OTOH even the lost had sufficient Grace to be saved and could have been saved & has the real potential to be saved. So their loss is their own fault.

>That seems manifestly unjust, both to mankind and to his son.

I don’t see how God can treat one of His Selves unjustly but I will leave it to others to answer since I am tired?

BenYachov said...

Well maybe some short simple responses.

>First, it still seems that Adam was set up to fail. It was in his nature for it to be possible to disobey God, and so it was inevitable that at some point, he would have disobeyed God, especially if he was going to live forever.

Adam had sufficient Grace to resist the temptation that was truly sufficient & He could have done so. Also as the NT says Temptation does not go on forever. For the rest see Tony’s response.

>Second, if losing the supernatural assistance to achieve the Beatific Vision is considered “infinite punishment”,

Actually primarily it’s loosing the Beatific Vision Itself that’s the punishment.

> then what purpose does Hell serve? Or is Hell simply the absence of the Beatific Vision?

There are degrees of punishment for the severity of certain offenses. In Catholic theology strictly speaking loosing the Vision is damnation. But some damnation is better then others. Limbo is technically damnation but it is also a state of perfect natural happiness.

>Third, if defying an infinite God is considered an infinite act, then isn’t obeying an infinite God also an infinite act? And if so, then why is a finite being obligated to perform an infinite act?

Rather our natural acts don’t infinitely please God nor can they. But act done in Grace are "God working in us to will and do his good pleasure” to quote St Paul so God who is infinite makes them so in that way.

Carry on.

*PS Full discloser I don’t believe in Limbo of the Infants I believe God does employ extra-ordinary sacramental Grace to save unbaptized infants an opinion I hold with the usual restrictions placed by the Church which I am happy to obey.

dguller said...

Tony:

But even more definitively: God made man that he could eventually enjoy the Beatific Vision. It is certain that if Adam had not sinned, eventually (even without death) Adam would have been raised up to the Beatific Vision, from which state temptation and sin are impossible. So, no, it just doesn't work to say that Adam would have been subject to temptations forever.

I think this point deals with my objection nicely. I assumed that Adam would remain in the same state of vulnerability to disobedience indefinitely, but you are correct that Adam could live indefinitely, but not necessarily in the same state, and if his state changes to one that eliminates the vulnerability to disobedience itself, then my objection fails.

Remember, some of the things Christ said were to show forth truths to us, that we would not have considered had he remained silent.

I think that would open a Pandora’s box of hermeneutics, though. How do you decide when Christ was being seriously honest, and when he was being deliberately obtuse to prove a point? Did he really mean that he was the way and the life, or was he ironically lampooning narcissists as a lesson to be humble?

In Gethsemane, Jesus was not showing doubt as to whether this death was what God willed for him - after all, he had already rebuked Peter for even suggesting the possibility - he was showing us something about situations where WE LEGITIMATELY are unsure whether something is God's will for us, especially when we feel abandoned by Him even though in our faith we are in another sense sure that He has not.

So, he was putting on a show for his disciples’ benefit? When he was “sorrowful and troubled” (Matthew 26:37), and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew, 26:38), and then “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed” (Matthew 26:39), then he was just acting? And even worse, he did the performance for people who were asleep for all three performances (Matthew 26:40-45). The whole thing doesn’t seem plausible at all.

Also, that’s like saying that a preacher caught in an adultery scandal did not really mean to commit adultery, but only did so to serve as a warning to his congregation. I don’t think that religious leaders need to model misbehavior to teach their followers. They can be more direct. For example, Christ could have just told his disciples, “I have no doubt that this is the correct path for me to follow, but YOU may find yourselves doubtful. In that situation, you should …”. That would not require such an elaborate ruse and deception at all, and the message would have been perfectly clear.

dguller said...

Tony:

And just to add to my last point.

You say that Christ acted a performance for the benefit of his disciples, which means that he did not actually believe what he said, but put on a show to teach them a lesson.

Say that God commands that S must do X, and the following conditions apply:

(a) S is not even sure they understand X correctly
(b) S thinks that X could possibly be wrong, because there could be another way to accomplish the goals of X
(c) S desperately wants to avoid doing X, because doing X would result in substantial pain and suffering to S

In that case, is the lesson that S must do X anyway?

Georgy Mancz said...

>So, he was putting on a show for his disciples’ benefit? When he was “sorrowful and troubled” (Matthew 26:37), and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew, 26:38), and then “he fell with his face to the ground and prayed” (Matthew 26:39), then he was just acting? And even worse, he did the performance for people who were asleep for all three performances (Matthew 26:40-45). The whole thing doesn’t seem plausible at all.


Why would say Christ was "putting on a show"?.. One has to keep in mind that Our Lord was both God and man.
Garrigou-Lagrange covered the issue of the Gethsemane prayer in "Christ the Saviour". Answering the objection asserting that joy (flowing from the love of God)is incompatible with sorrow:


On the one hand, from the plenitude of consummated grace there resulted the light of glory, the beatific vision, the highest degree of love of God, and supreme joy. On the other hand, from this plenitude of Christ's grace as wayfarer, and from His utmost love for God and for us, there resulted the utmost of supernatural grief for the sins of men, inasmuch as they are an offense against God and bring supernatural death to our souls. Morever, because of His utmost love for God and us, Christ willed as priest and voluntary victim to offer himself as a most perfect holocaust; and for this reaso, in virtue of his love, He most freely delivered Himself up to grief, by preventing the overflow of glory from the higher part of His mind into the lower parts and allowed Himself to be overwhelmed by all manner of grief in His sensitive nature."

G-L then quotes the Summa IIIa q.46, a.6. ad.4:

Christ grieved not only over the loss of His own bodily life, but also over the sins of all others. And this grief in Christ surpassed all grief of every contrite heart, both because it flowed from a greater wisdom and charity, by which the pang of contrition is intensified, and because He grieved at the one time for all sins, according to Isaiah 53:4: "Surely He hath carried our sorrows." But such was the dignity of Christ's life in the body, especially on account of the Godhead united with it, that its loss, even for one hour, would be a matter of greater grief than the loss of another man's life for howsoever long a time. Hence the Philosopher says (Ethic. iii) that the man of virtue loves his life all the more in proportion as he knows it to be better; and yet he exposes it for virtue's sake. And in like fashion Christ laid down His most beloved life for the good of charity, according to Jeremiah 12:7: "I have given My dear soul into the hands of her enemies."

I think if we keep the "teleology of grief" in mind along with the fact that Christ was both human and divine, it would be evident that it would be indeed fitting for Christ to grieve over the all the sins.

Georgy Mancz said...

@dguller

Sorry, I do realise you're not the one who asserted that Christ was putting up a show. Apologies.

I think it's obvious that the Church teaches that the act of salvation couldn't be accomplished by a man though, so what happenen in Gethsemane makes sense: knowing all the sin of the world would be just "too much" for a man.

Again, sorry if my two cents are somewhat banal.

dguller said...

Georgy:

I think if we keep the "teleology of grief" in mind along with the fact that Christ was both human and divine, it would be evident that it would be indeed fitting for Christ to grieve over the all the sins.

I agree that your interpretation is a possible one, but what evidence is there in the text itself that supports it? The text just refers to Christ’s prayer to God to have his upcoming burden lifted, and if not possible, then he would submit to God’s command. There is nothing there about what the subject of his emotional distress is supposed to be. And why he was distressed is not really relevant to my overall point. The only reason why I brought Gethsemane up is that I take it as an example of imperfect obedience. The very fact that Christ wanted to avoid performing the activity that was commanded by God, even if he had perfectly good reasons, according to him (and us), to have such hesitation, means that he did not have perfect obedience. To me, perfect obedience is a total trust in the command that is given, without doubt, without hesitation, and without any wish for matters to be otherwise. Sure, such obedience may be impossible for a person, but that does not change the fact that it is the standard by which obedience is measured.

BenYachov said...

>I agree that your interpretation is a possible one, but what evidence is there in the text itself that supports it?

dguller Catholics (& Eastern Orthodox BTW) don't believe in the Reformation doctrine of "Scripture Alone".

We have Tradition and the authoritative judgement of the Church.

So it is not necessary Scripture be absolutely plain or exhaustive in it's explanations for us.

>The very fact that Christ wanted to avoid performing the activity that was commanded by God, even if he had perfectly good reasons, according to him (and us), to have such hesitation, means that he did not have perfect obedience.

If he didn't have perfect obedience he would not have ended his prayer with the words "but not my will but thy will be done".

If you have authority over me and command me to do A & I tell you no matter what I will absolutely do A but if you could find a way for me to not do A I would appreciate it, how is that a lack of obedience?

It simply isn't & I don't see how it can be?

God if He wanted too could have brought about our salvation without Christ taking up the Cross.

What Christ asked the Father for was neither unreasonable, impossible nor disobedient but the point is Christ asked having resolved in his human will to do whatever the Father asked of him unconditionally.

For Christ to be disobedient here he would have to say "I will do this only if there is no other way".


Georgy Mancz said...

@dguller

>The very fact that Christ wanted to avoid performing the activity that was commanded by God, even if he had perfectly good reasons, according to him (and us), to have such hesitation, means that he did not have perfect obedience.

I don't think that the scene described by St. Matthew warrants a reading that would state that Christ willed something contrary to the will of God the Father. I think we need to distinguish willing and wanting, as in feeling (!!!) a desire to. The Vulgate and, say, the KJV uses the verb "volo"/"to will" rather then desire, but, say, my Russian bible uses "want/desire", and the Latin verb allows for such a reading. Too bad I'm not a Greek scholar. And "wanting" (or the verb "to will" being used loosely) can refer to a natural desire/ inclination, not an act of the will.

At any rate, that what I take G-L to mean, when he says:

"Concerning these words uttered by our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane it is generally agreed that they are an expression of His sensible will and are conditional, but that they are not an expression of His rational and absolute will. They manifest, as will be stated in the next question in treating of Christ's sadness (I think I refered to just that earlier), that he completely gave Himself up to grief, even extreme sadness, so as to make His sacrifice more perfect and more meritorious."

The reason I think distress matters is that Christ did obey perfectly, because this supposed desire to avoid doing God's will is irrelevant when discussing Christ's obedience (Him willing the will of God), because it wasn't voluntary in the proper sense at all.

Georgy Mancz said...

@BenYachov

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

That's very elegant, though I do think that the position maintained by G-L is fine.
The relevant point you've brought up is that God could've redeemed us in another way, so the this question can, I think, be interpreted as to be concerned with the means of salvation, not salvation as such.

BenYachov said...

Thanks dude.

Additional:

If God had from all eternity willed to answer Christ's prayer & not let Him die on the Cross and bring about our redemption by some other means well Christ would still be doing the Father's will.

To go against God Will if God wills A the disobedient one has to will Not-A.

Christ resolved absolutely to will and do A unconditionally.

Asking God to Will Not-A if he graciously would is not any form of disobedience.

Unless someone can show me where the Father commanded Christ never to ask such a question?

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