Tuesday, November 23, 2021

MacIntyre on human dignity

Recently, Alasdair MacIntyre presented a talk on the theme “Human Dignity: A Puzzling and Possibly Dangerous Idea?” at the Fall Conference of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame.  You can watch it on YouTube.  It has gotten a lot of attention even beyond academic circles, which is not surprising given MacIntyre’s stature together with the question he raises in the title.  What follows is a summary of the talk followed by my own comments.  I’m only going to cover MacIntyre’s main themes; there are various details (such as MacIntyre’s comments on specific historical examples) for which you’ll have to listen to his talk.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Feast of Christ the King

Today Catholics celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, which makes it an appropriate time to remind ourselves of what the Church teaches the faithful about their duty to bring their religion to bear on political matters.  “But wait,” you might ask, “hasn’t the Church since Vatican II adopted the American attitude of keeping religion out of politics, and making of it a purely private affair?”  Absolutely not.  Even Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II’s famous declaration on religious freedom, insists that it “leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ” (emphasis added). 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Geach’s argument against modernism

Catholic philosopher Peter Geach’s book Providence and Evil is interesting not only for what it says about the topics referred to in the title, but also for its many insights and arguments concerning other matters that Geach treats along the way.  Among these passing remarks is a brief but trenchant critique of those who propose a “denatured” brand of Christianity in the name of “man’s evolution and progress” (p. 85).  Theirs is the view that Christian tradition is “mutable,” so that “with the progress of knowledge a doctrine hitherto continuously taught in one sense now needs to be construed in another sense” (pp. 86-87).  Geach doesn’t use the label “modernism,” but that is what he is talking about.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Aquinas on the relative importance of pastors and theologians

In his book Thomas Aquinas: His Personality and Thought, Martin Grabmann notes:

In a passage of his… [Aquinas] touches upon the question, whether the pastors of souls or the professors of theology have a more important position in the life of the Church, and he decides in favor of the latter.  He gives the following reason for his view: In the construction of a building the architect, who conceives the plan and directs the construction, stands above the workmen who actually put up the building.  In the construction of the divine edifice of the Church and the care of souls, the position of architect is held by the bishops, but also by the theology professors, who study and teach the manner in which the care of souls is to be conducted. (p. 5)

Thursday, November 4, 2021

The politics of chastity

Chastity is the virtue governing the proper use of sexuality.  My article “The Politics of Chastity” appears in the Fall 2021 issue of Nova et Vetera.  It is part of a symposium on Reinhard Hütter’s book Bound for Beatitude: A Thomistic Study in Eschatology and Ethics, which includes an essay on the subject of chastity and pornography that inspired my own article.  The article addresses the nature of chastity, vices contrary to chastity, the effect such vices (and in particular pornography) have on society at large, and the implications all of this has for political philosophy and in particular for the question of integralism. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Neo-Aristotelian Metaphysics and the Theology of Nature

Routledge has just published the new anthology Neo-Aristotelian Metaphysics and the Theology of Nature, edited By William M. R. Simpson, Robert C. Koons, and James Orr.  My article “Natural and Supernatural” appears in the volume.  Here is the abstract for the article:

The “supernatural,” as that term is traditionally used in theology, is that which is beyond the power of the natural order to produce on its own.  Hence it can be produced only by what has causal power superior to that of anything in the natural order, namely the divine cause of the natural order.  Insofar as the natural order depends on this supernatural cause, the supernatural is metaphysically prior to the natural.  However, the natural is epistemologically prior to the supernatural, insofar as we cannot form a conception of the supernatural except by contrast with the natural, and cannot know whether there is such a thing as the supernatural unless we can reason to its existence from the existence of the natural order.  A proper understanding of the supernatural thus presupposes a proper understanding of the natural order and of the causal relation between that order and its cause.  This chapter offers an account of these matters and of their implications for theological issues concerning causal arguments for God’s existence, divine conservation and concurrence, miracles, nature and grace, faith and reason, and the notion of a theological mystery (viz. what is beyond the power of the intellect to discover on its own).