Friday, July 30, 2021

Anaximander and natural theology

The idea of natural theology is the idea of knowledge of God’s existence and nature that is attainable through purely philosophical arguments, entirely independently of any special divine revelation.  (This is usually contrasted with revealed theology, which is knowledge of God’s existence and nature attainable through some special divine revelation – for example, through a prophet sent by God whose veracity is backed by miracles.)  In Western philosophy, natural theology goes back to the very beginning, to the Greeks – and not just to Plato and Aristotle, but to the Pre-Socratics.  Arguably it begins with the second of them, Anaximander of Miletus (610 – 546 B.C.).

Friday, July 23, 2021

Pope Francis’s scarlet letter

Consider two groups of Catholics:  First, divorced Catholics who disobey the Church’s teaching by forming a “new union” in which they are sexually active, thereby committing adultery.  And second, traditionalist Catholics attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (i.e. the “Latin Mass”), some of whom (but by no means all) hold erroneous theological opinions about the Second Vatican Council and related matters.  In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis radically altered the Church’s liturgical practice in order to accommodate the former group.  And in Traditionis Custodes, he has now radically altered the Church’s liturgical practice in order to punish the latter group. 

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Pope Victor redux?

The Quartodeciman controversy of the second century A.D. had to do with the date on which the resurrection of Christ ought to be observed.  Churches in Asia Minor preserved the custom of tying this observance to the date of the Passover, whatever day of the week that happened to fall on.  The Roman practice was instead to observe it on a Sunday, since that was the day Christ was resurrected.  The eastern practice was defended by St. Polycarp, who appealed to the authority of none other than his teacher St. John the Apostle.  Pope St. Anicetus tried unsuccessfully to convince Polycarp to adopt the Roman practice, and they agreed to disagree.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Aquinas on bad prelates

What attitude should a Catholic take toward cruel and arbitrary prelates – for example, those who endlessly stir up division and then shamelessly blame the division on those who note and bemoan the fact?  In Quodlibet VIII, Aquinas makes some relevant remarks when addressing the question whether “evil prelates” should be honored.  You can find the passage in the Nevitt and Davies translation of Thomas Aquinas’s Quodlibetal Questions, from which I quote:

Monday, July 12, 2021

The metaphysical presuppositions of formal logic

By “logic” we might mean (a) the rules that determine the difference between good and bad reasoning, or (b) some formal system that codifies these rules in a specific way, such as the systems of propositional and predicate logic that contemporary students of analytic philosophy learn as a routine part of their education.  These are not the same thing, and it is fallacious to confuse them. 

Most philosophers have at least a vague awareness of this.  For instance, they know from standard textbooks that traditional and modern logic differ in their interpretation of categorical propositions, the repercussions this has for their understanding of the square of opposition, and so forth.  They know that there has been much debate in contemporary philosophy over the status of modal logic, not to mention even more exotic systems like quantum logic.  They may be at least dimly aware that systems of logic were developed in the history of Indian philosophy that differ from those familiar to Western thinkers.  And so on.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Schmid on existential inertia

At his blog, Joseph Schmid has replied to my recent post about his criticisms of the Aristotelian proof.  The reply is extremely long.  Now, I often write long blog posts myself.  Indeed, my previous post on Schmid was, at over 5,000 words, pretty long.  But by my count (via cutting and pasting into MS Word), Schmid’s reply clocks in at almost 40,000 words – all written up and posted within just two days after my post!  And even the cursory look I gave it shows that it raises a variety of issues that go well beyond anything I talk about in my post.  Into the bargain, it also summarizes and links to myriad other blog posts, articles, and YouTube videos of Schmid’s which, he indicates, we ought to check out if we want to have a better idea of his views about the matters under discussion! 

Friday, July 2, 2021

Schmid on the Aristotelian proof

A fellow named Joseph Schmid has written a number of articles and blog posts critical of various ideas and arguments of mine, such as the Aristotelian proof defended in chapter 1 of my book Five Proofs of the Existence of God.  Until this week, I hadn’t read any of this material, though for some time now I’ve been getting an increasing number of requests that I comment on it.  Many of these have been anonymous and weirdly insistent or adulatory toward Schmid, which made me suspect sock puppetry rather than genuine widespread interest.  My attention in recent months has, in any event, been focused on the book on the soul that I am working on and which is way behind schedule (as well as on other existing writing commitments, most of which have deadlines).  I also have an article forthcoming in Religious Studies responding to Graham Oppy’s objections to the Aristotelian proof, and after working on that I was inclined to give the topic a rest for a while.  Hence my neglect of Schmid.  But the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  So, in hopes of appeasing the Schmid enthusiasts, this week I read his recent article “Stage One of the Aristotelian Proof: A Critical Appraisal.”  Let’s take a look at it.