Thursday, December 2, 2021

Geach on original sin

Recently we dipped into Peter Geach’s book Providence and Evil.  Let’s do so again, looking this time at what he has to say about the doctrine of original sin.  Geach says that the doctrine holds that human beings have “inherited… [a] flawed nature,” and indeed that:

The traditional doctrine is that since the sin of our first parents, men have been conceived and born different in nature from what they would have been had our first parents stood firm under trial.  As C. S. Lewis puts it, a new species, not made by God, sinned itself into existence. (pp. 89-90)

Needless to say, this is a very arresting way of putting things, but (as Geach would no doubt agree) it is hardly precise and it is potentially misleading.  Human beings are (as we Thomists would say) by nature rational animals.  What does it mean, then, to say that a “new species” existed after the sin of our first parents?  Does that entail that they were rational animals by nature but we are not?  Or that we are rational animals by nature but they were not?  Neither of those things is true, so that it cannot literally be the case that a “new species” existed after the Fall.  That remark is best understood as just a colorful way of saying that while we have the same nature that our first parents had prior to original sin (namely a human nature, the nature of a rational animal), there is now a flaw in that nature that did not then exist.

Flawed nature

So far so good.  But what exactly does it mean to speak of a “flawed nature”?  Consider a triangle, which is a closed plane figure with three straight sides.  That is its nature; it is what makes it a thing of the kind it is.  Suppose I draw a triangle, but badly, so that the sides are not perfectly straight.  Have I somehow changed the nature of triangles?  No.  Does the particular triangle I have drawn have a “flawed nature”?  It seems more correct to say that the triangle is flawed than that its nature is. 

Similarly, if a dog suffers a serious permanent injury to one of its legs, it would not be correct to say that the dog has a different nature from a dog that has four healthy legs.  They have the same nature – they would not both be dogs otherwise – but the injured dog does not manifest all the properties that would ordinarily flow from that nature (in the Scholastic sense of “properties”).  But it would also be a bit odd to speak of the injured dog as having a “flawed nature.”  Here too, it isn’t the nature that is flawed; rather, it is the individual that has the nature that is flawed. 

Having said that, there is a loose sense in which you might say that such a dog has a flawed nature.  After all, unless the deformation is somehow remedied, the dog will never again walk as well as a dog with four healthy legs can.  It will develop an unusual gait, and this will become “second nature” to it.  Indeed, it may get so used to walking and running in this unusual way that if you were suddenly to restore the injured leg to perfect health, the dog might be at least temporarily disoriented and still not be able to walk normally.

Now, we are all familiar from everyday experience with the way in which a habit of action can become “second nature.”  This could involve something innocuous or even good, such as the ability to play a musical instrument or to speak a new language.  You might get so good at such things that you are able to do them without thinking about it.  It is as if they were part of your very nature, even though in fact they are not (since you still would have existed, and thus had the same nature, if you’d never acquired these abilities).

Of course, something that we do by “second nature” in this sense could also be bad, such as a neurotic habitual way of thinking, feeling, or acting, or a habitual sin.  Such a habit or tendency would in an obvious sense be contrary to our nature, which is precisely why we judge it to be bad.  For example, people sometimes have odd addictions, such as eating kitchen cleanser, which can damage the teeth and the lining of the throat.  Obviously, people also often become addicted to drugs or to excessive alcohol use, with the familiar bad consequences.  It is in one sense hardly natural to human beings to do these things, precisely because our nature makes it bad for us to do them.  But these tendencies can nevertheless become so deeply habituated that they become something like a “second nature” superimposed on our nature and frustrating its fulfillment.

One way to interpret the notion of the “flawed nature” entailed by original sin, then, is as a “second nature” that is superimposed on and frustrates the fulfilment of human nature – but, in this case, a “second nature” that is in some sense inherited from our first parents rather than acquired after birth.  (I add that this is not what Geach himself says, but rather one possible way of interpreting what Geach says.)

Bad will

In the case of original sin, Geach says, the defect in our nature concerns the will.  He writes:

Will is not simply, and not primitively, a matter of choice.  There is, presupposed to all choosing, a movement of the will towards some things that are wanted naturally; to live, to think, and the like, in short to be a man.  If man were as he ought to be, there would be nothing wrong with this natural willing, voluntas ut natura as the scholastics called it.  But if the nature a man has inherited is flawed, then a will that acquiesces in this flawed nature is perverse from the start; and from this perverse start actual wrong choices will certainly proceed, given time. (p. 90)

Go back to my analogy of natural versus acquired habits.  Every normal human being has a natural inclination to drink water.  You might say that the human will aims at doing so even before a particular conscious choice to drink it.  Similarly, the person who has developed a strange addiction to eating kitchen cleanser thereby has, by “second nature” as it were, a will that is aimed at eating it, even before a particular conscious choice to eat it.  The person’s will has to that extent been deformed.

Original sin, as Geach (as I am interpreting him) expounds it, can be seen as a matter of having in some sense inherited a “second nature” that aims one’s will at the wrong things, even before one makes particular conscious choices to pursue those things. 

Geach opines that Schopenhauer (who we also had reason to look at recently), despite his hostility to Christianity, was closer to the Christian view about this particular matter than most other non-Christians are, and closer than he himself realized.  The Eastern religions that influenced Schopenhauer, says Geach, locate the source of our misery in ignorance, and prescribe enlightenment as the cure.  But for Christianity, the true source is sin or evil will, and the remedy is conversion.  Schopenhauer, with his emphasis on malign will as the source of human suffering, was in Geach’s estimation at least approximating the doctrine of original sin.

Geach says that the disordered orientation of the will that has become our second nature after the Fall “holds… in particular for two sorts of desire: erotic and combative” (p. 96).  In both cases, fallen man has a tendency to indulge desire to excess, and to aim it at the wrong things, thereby becoming lecherous, perverse, quarrelsome, violent, and vengeful.  People often characterize such human beings as beastly or animal-like, but as Geach notes, this is not quite right:

The great apes, our alleged cousins, rarely kill one another; war, as opposed to individual fights, is an unknown thing for them; and men are enormously more lustful than apes.  It is not that desires shared with lower animals corrupt man’s will; his already corrupt will corrupts his animal instincts, and makes them assume forms of monstrous excess and perversity unknown in the animal world. (pp. 96-97)

We might in this connection recall the old saying that the corruption of the best is the worst.  The same rationality and free choice that make possible marriage and family, religion and morality, science and philosophy, the arts and literature, sports, etc. also make possible the extreme sexual depravity into which the Western world has now sunk, the mass slaughter of our own children via abortion, endless and pointless wars, mass apostasy, vapid consumerism, gluttony and drug addiction, etc.  Non-human animals are not capable of the former, but neither are they capable of the latter.

In an important insight, Geach says the following about the disorder in our desires that has become second nature after the Fall:

For our first parents, this rebellion in the house of life will have been unspeakably grievous.  To find a hand striking in anger, or legs running away in fear, before the rational mind had time to act; to learn by painful self-discipline to restrain these irregular movements; this will have seemed to them no less pathological than when (as occasionally happens) a mental patient’s hand ceases to be under his conscious voluntary control but, for example, writes automatically words for which he is not consciously responsible.  To us, their fallen posterity, such irregular motions are all too natural.  For the root of evil is not in the disorderly passions, but in the will, perverse from our infancy up, that readily accepts the way we are as the way we ought to be.  The will does not merely yield in the struggle or get taken by surprise: it positively identifies itself with perverse desires, and thereby makes them still more perverse. (pp. 95-96)

Suppose you are not an alcoholic and indeed have never been all that interested in drinking, but that you wake up one day with a sudden, irresistible and insatiable craving for whisky, and that this craving persists indefinitely and becomes the focus of everyday attention.  What had once been easy (resisting the impulse to imbibe) now becomes so difficult that resistance is exhausting and routinely ends in failure.  You would no doubt find this extremely disorienting and upsetting.  This, as Geach’s remarks suggest, is analogous to the condition of our first parents after the Fall, when what I have called the “second nature” of disordered will immediately became superimposed on and began frustrating human nature.

But suppose instead that your parents had from your childhood onward encouraged you to drink, and that by young adulthood you had gotten so used to a general background buzz and regular episodes of outright drunkenness that you could not imagine any other way of living.  The idea of not drinking has become unthinkable, or at least seemingly hopelessly unrealistic.  This is just the way I naturally am!” you think, and you might even enjoy being that way.  Precisely because you do, though, your alcoholism is worse than that of the alcoholic who struggles with his addiction, not better.  This, Geach’s remarks suggest, is our condition many generations after the sin of our first parents.  We identify ourselves with our disordered desires, taking them to be natural to us rather than reflective of damage to our nature.

For this reason, says Geach, “there was some truth in the insulting description used by Pagan Romans for Christians, ‘enemies of the human race’” (p. 99).  For Christianity is indeed the enemy of what human beings have become as a result of original sin.  Christianity opposes what people falsely assume is “natural” to them, but which is in fact only a corrupt “second nature” that has gotten superimposed on, and frustrates the realization of, their true nature.  As a result, says Geach, “authentic Christianity must then at bottom be odious to the worldly man” (p. 100).  Geach contrasts this “authentic Christianity” with the false kind that “urges[s] Christians to work loyally” for, and indeed to “advance,” the ideals of the worldly man – namely, the modernist Christianity that we saw Geach attack in a previous post.

(As I’ve discussed in posts like this one and this one, Aquinas has a lot to say about the self-deception, irrationality, and general breakdown in moral understanding to which those in thrall to sins of the flesh are especially prone.  In another post I discussed the similar effects of the sin of wrath.  Part of Geach’s point is that these particular kinds of disconnect with reality are not merely the result of actual sin, but have their roots in original sin.)

No collective salvation

Geach emphasizes that the doctrine of original sin is not a thesis of collective responsibility for individual sins, and that Christianity in fact rejects the idea of such collective responsibility.  You and I and everyone else may have together inherited from our first parents a tendency toward disordered desire, but if I act on such desire in a particular case, I alone am guilty of that action and I alone must answer for it.  But by the same token, says Geach:

It must always be remembered that salvation is individual.  Just as there is a fashionable doctrine of collective guilt, so there is a doctrine that men have been collectively redeemed.  But that is equally false with the other doctrine.  (p. 100)

If the human race descended from our first parents is like a tree, then there is, Geach says, “no hope at all” for that tree as a whole.  There is hope only for whatever individual branches from that tree can be grafted onto the new tree that begins with Christ.  Switching to another biblical metaphor, that of the narrow gate to eternal life, Geach writes:

Though entering the gate leads you to the glorious company of Christ and the Saints and Angels, you must enter alone.  If you want the pleasures of following a leader in a crowd, there is a broad and easy road for you, but it leads to destruction; solidarity with mankind at large is something a Christian must renounce once for all. (p. 101)

This suggests the following analogy (mine, not Geach’s).  We are by nature social animals, and have a duty to assist each other in acquiring the material necessities of life.  But that does not entail that anyone is entitled to be provided for by others utterly regardless of desert or willingness to make an effort.  “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  Similarly, the counsel and prayers of fellow Christians and the saints’ treasury of merit assist us in finding salvation, but they do not guarantee that we will find it.  There will be no spiritual freeloaders in heaven, no one who squeaks by because someone else repented for him.  “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

Related posts:

Geach’s argument against modernism

Geach on worshipping the right God

Modern biology and original sin, Part II

Overestimating human responsibility

101 comments:

  1. Dr. Feser, I liked this discussion of original sin. What do you think of "necessary accident in humans after the fall", as description of original sin? I've heard it put that way.

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    1. @ Miguel Cervantes ,

      Are you calling the fall itself a "necessary accident" What do you mean "_after_ the fall"?

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. The consequences of original sin in the descendants of Adam is the subject here.

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    3. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      I asked you to clarify your question, not to tell me what the subject is.

      Tom Cohoe

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  2. Excellent idea, dear Edward, to come back on these topics: the whole modernist deviation of the Catholic Magisterium is rooted in the misunderstanding of what the Original Sin and its consequences really are.

    As Catholic, indeed, I would definitely and firmly reject any notion itself of flawed nature and restrict this expression to just a poetical license.

    Indeed, the human nature inasmuch it is defined by its likeliness with its Creator cannot be flawed: it would be the case the Incarnation which is the hypostatical union of both the human nature and the divine one could not be possible per definition.

    As you have very well pointed out which fits with what the Church has always taught the Original Sin is a personal sin committed by two individuals, our progenitors Adam and Eve: it does not affect the human nature as such, it affects these two individuals only and the specific people they generated among which we must count ourselves.

    That the Original Sin is NOT connatural to the human nature but is assumed "only" by specific humans from Adam's and Eve lineage is shown by the existence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, immaculately conceived, and of Her Son Jesus, the Christ.

    Remembering that allows us to better recall that the Sacrifice of our Savior on the Holy Cross and His further Resurrection has redeemed humanity in the singular Person herself of the Christ and not in all single human persons descending from Adam and Eve.

    This allows us to correctly understand why the Death and the Sin have been won by our Savior but that we still die and sin. It is paramount to understand that if we want to avoid the erroneous modernist gibberish about having all humanity, intended as the sum of all particular human beings, being already saved and ready for God's Face contemplation.

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  3. "The great apes, our alleged cousins, rarely kill one another; war, as opposed to individual fights, is an unknown thing for them"

    What about the Gombe Chimpanzee War?

    They, too, engage in infanticide. And cannibalism.

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  4. How exactly does thé Original Sin of Adam and Eve have any effect on me?

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    1. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "How exactly does the Original Sin of Adam and Eve have any effect on me?"

      How does the failure of a parent have an effect on his child? How could a father's drunkenness have an effect on his child?

      Are you serious? How could it not? As for _exactly_ how original sin has an effect on you, that depends on you. It is not your doom.

      I suspect that you can make sense of that.

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. Tom

      It's not about my parents. it's about my great-great...parents who lived thousands or even millions of years ago.

      The choices I make are my choices and they do not depend in any way on what Adam or Eve happened to choose.

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    3. It's because of Adam's position as the primordial father of the human race. He was humanity's head. Since he fell, it affected all of humanity.

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    4. @ Walter Van den Acker

      So if your parents and you got sent on a rocket that would be expended to a habitible planet, that would not affect future generations?

      It would, of course.

      Tom Cohoe

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    5. Mr Geocon

      My question was how it affected all humanity.

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    6. @Walter,

      I see that you have ignored my point about being sent away by rocket, an analogy of the fall, to a planet, difficult to live on, guarded from return as angels with flashing swords guard against migration back to Eden in the narrative about the fall.

      Ignore, dismiss ... rhetorical technique avoiding defeat of an indefensible and therefore unstated conclusion.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. You don't have the grace necessary to enter heaven (this one can be regained through Christ), you suffer concupiscence, and you're left completely vulnerable to the effects of bodily corruption to the point where death is inevitable

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    8. It's less about how their choice affects you and more about what their choice took away that you could have had.

      Technically, the Fall isn't something given to us from our forefather, it was something taken from us that they had.

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  5. "This suggests the following analogy (mine, not Geach’s). We are by nature social animals, and have a duty to assist each other in acquiring the material necessities of life. But that does not entail that anyone is entitled to be provided for by others utterly regardless of desert or willingness to make an effort. “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)."

    Yes - a Christian who is working out his salvation in fear and trembling will naturally want to do corporal works of mercy, such as feeding the poor, clothing the naked, etc... and yes, that does not translate into an entitlement, like a legal responsibility. But there is certainly a moral responsibility that God imposes on believers to care for the poor. So much so that it appears to be a key criteria for our own personal salvation - the level of generosity towards the poor and the sick and the helpless, such as widows and orphans. These are works he wants the believers to be involved in to such an extent that he identifies himself with the poor.

    "Similarly, the counsel and prayers of fellow Christians and the saints’ treasury of merit assist us in finding salvation, but they do not guarantee that we will find it. There will be no spiritual freeloaders in heaven, no one who squeaks by because someone else repented for him. “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)."

    Salvation is a gift, that requires us to make use of it, to work out our salvation, so to speak, in fear and trembling. Forgiveness of sins is the bottom floor of salvation, and works must be done in the context of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love and regular use of the sacraments as the ordinary means of grace that constitutes a living relationship with God, that produce the fruits of righteousness.

    I would suggest that our obligation to the poor is analogous to God's obligation to sinners. As God gives us the gift of forgiveness freely, out of his love, regardless of our merit, so are we called to give to the poor freely, out of our love and abundance, regardless of the merit of the poor to whom we give. We are called to feel a solidarity with the poor because, in relation to God, we are all poor. We are all beggars.

    But attempts to collectively solve the problem of poverty through forced collective action have a tendency to violate the spirit of generosity that God wants to foster in each other, I think. Jesus praises those who willingly give of their resources to feed the poor. He does not coerce them into doing so. That freedom of the giver is an important element. If the giver does not give freely, then there isn't that character of merit or of virtue in their act.

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  6. Not sure what, if anything, it means for Geach's argument, but he is wrong about apes. Chimpanzee troops do war over food and territory, and it is hard to imagine human sexuality is much more indulged or polymorphous than that of bonobos.

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  7. "...solidarity with mankind at large is something a Christian must renounce once for all."

    Reminds me of my therapist who told me that it is perfectly fine to masturbate but that believing in Thomistic philosophy or believing that the Devil is real is now "deviant".

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    1. Bizarre, but not unexpected. Secular liberals tend to have those kinds of beliefs.

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  8. This a very rich topic and loads of possible questions and comments come to mind.

    But I want to start with one which I ask in good faith. If God, being omniscient, foresaw the horrific consequences that would result from original sin why did he create man in the first place?

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    1. Do you ever wish you didn’t exist even under original sin? If you believe it’s good for you to exist, why do you ask this question?

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    2. I think your answer is in your question, at least in part. God must, being all-knowing and all-good, have seen that a greater overall good is brought forth by allowing (but not causing) Man to fall and then be redeemed. God has allowed evil, but His goodness is not tainted because he has not caused it and has proportional reasons for allowing evil.

      We just are not in the epistemic position to know the whole picture. So I think we need to humble about the answers we can expect to come to, in this life.

      The problem of evil is no small problem, but I do think the metaphysical demonstrations for God's existence and goodness are compelling enough to put us in this position of needing to trust that God must have his reasons, for allowing evil.

      It's not that I can't give a decent account of what those reasons might be, many philosophers and theologians have done precisely that, and quite well. Yet it remains a mystery that we can only somewhat intelligibly penetrate.

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    3. Journey 516

      I gather you believe that God has created every possible creature, then

      Kyle

      If God is truly omnipotent, He could establish this greater good without allowing evil

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    4. Sorry Walter there is no such thing as The Best of All Possible Worlds.

      Any World God chooses to create He could always make a better one. Omnipotence doesn't mean God can make 2+2=5. It means all powers and there is no power to make such a world.

      PS Before you say "Heaven" note that Heaven is the soul looking upon the Uncreated Good that is God. Sorry no Moral Agent Gods exist. Yer problem of evil is a non problem.

      Try the wee Baptists.

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    5. Walter,

      How do you know that an omnipotent could establish this greater good without allowing evil?

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    6. @ Walter,

      "I gather you believe that God has created every possible creature, then"

      Don't be obtuse. Your existence is a personal benefit graciously willed by God. But possible creations that do not exist are not, au contraire, the recipients of an evil ... non-existence ... because they do not exist and cannot be the recipients of anything.

      I can multiply 1 (you) by 1,000,000 million and you get 1,000,000 (existence), but multiplying 0 by -1,000,000 is still just 0, not -1,000,000.

      You can understand this if you let yourself.

      "He could establish this greater good without allowing evil"

      You mean the way Stalin did? God draws a greater good from the many evil consequences of our first parent's freely willed bad choice. Stalin could not. Neither can you.

      But you do have the opportunity of accepting that greater good graciously held out to you by God.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. Mr Geocon

      Because he is omnipotent. Unless we have very good reasons to think X is impossible, the default position is that God can do X.

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    8. Son

      I am not talking about th best of all possible worlds. I am talking about a world with no evil.
      That is a subtle distinction but a profound one.

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    9. Thank you to all who answered my question. I'm here to grow not to argue.

      If one accepts the inherent goodness of God which is the natural conclusion of believing in a purely actualized actualizer then there can be no contradiction between the goodness of God and the existence of evil. "A" cannot be "B."

      Yet, to me the world seems best described as Manichaean.

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    10. Unknown and Journey 516. Certainly there are people who find existence simply unbearable.

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    11. In the responses and the initial question the wrong assumption is being made that God knew the decisions of the creature before creating them. This, however, is false. Prior to coming to be, it makes no sense to ask how Adam would have acted, since there was no Adam this question could be applied to. There's no such thing as haeccity properties, so there's nothing to be known about an individual prior to its creation.

      Individual is not limited to humans or animals by the way but to every specific set of properties, meaning every object there is. The supposition that God knew or could have created a world without evil wrongly assumes that there is something to be known about a possible world unless it actually exists.

      I'll be so free to quote myself in a discussion with a friend to further illustrate my point:

      Knowing a possible world the way God would do (or so the assumption goes) involves knowing every fact in it. The way the argument is framed presupposes however that all these facts are known to God before he creates, enabling him to discern which kind of world is worthy of being created or is the best. However without the reality of haeccity properties, individuals, who contribute to the sum of all facts, are unknowable prior to their creation/actualization of a world in which they eventually will come to be. This means however that at least for the moral evil committed by those individuals, God can't be blamed for creating a world in which they occur, at least not in the way Watkins wants to tell us, because God doesn't know a priori the evils that John will commit, not because he isn't omniscient, but because without the individual John actually existing, there are just no facts to be known about him, thus it just makes no sense to ask what John would do. There's no individual the noun, or rather name, "John" applies to. Thus we can conclude that it is consistent to demand that God creates humans, but only those that will necessarily good behave. Unless he creates puppets that mimic human behavior, instead of real individuals, there's no way to have a created world like this and perfect behavior.

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    12. @Walter

      So simple minded a response.

      >I am not talking about th best of all possible worlds. I am talking about a world with no evil.

      Then it would be a world without rational beings with free will and it would not be a material world ergo it would not be our world.

      Also it ignores the fact God is not obligated to create any world at all no matter how good or bad. No world is so Good that God should create it and none so bad as long as it partakes in being God should refrain from creating it.

      Evil is privation of being. God is not obligated to create any being at all. So technically God doesn't create evil since there is nothing to create.

      That is a true subtle distinction and a truly profound one.

      >That is a subtle distinction but a profound one.

      Not at all since God is not obligated to create any sort of world whatsoever.

      Yer obsessed with a Moral Agent "god" who does not exist. We are all "atheists" toward that god. At least for the Catholics and Classic Theists among us.

      Again try the wee Baptists. Yer objections have no meaning here.

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    13. I know you believe in an a-moral automaton, Son.
      You might just as well worship a golden calf.

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    14. A world with no evil is a world without change, since the simple act of breathing already corrupts the O2 atom while creating a new one, the initial destruction however is a kind of evil.

      If we're talking about pain or sentient evil, then, once again, God doesn't know the particular world he creates before actually creating it. And furthermore even if we affirm that pain is a positive entity, it's good in so far as it flourishes in being experienced. What exists is good in so far that it exists, a sentiment prominent in David Oderberg and Brian Davies.

      So it isn't sufficient to just talk of a wort with no evil, there are serious metaphysical issues here that could make the initial assumption of what evil is, incoherent. I suspect that this is what's going on, it's very similar to what happens within Ben Watkins' argument against God from an imperfect world

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    15. @Walter

      Actually I believe in a Transcendentally Moral God. You are complaining about an overly anthropomorphic entity that has nothing to do with God as He is classically understood.

      You have nothing intelligent to say to us.

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    16. I find it funny when readers of a popular Thomist writers blog act as if Thomism just slapped them in the face for the first time when they get here. What do people expect to see on this thread? Anyways, it makes for an interesting lunch hour read.

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    17. @ Dominik Kowalski,

      "the simple act of breathing already corrupts the O2 atom while creating a new one"

      Huh ...? Where do you get this?

      "the initial destruction however is a kind of evil."

      It is the nature of O2, in this world, to be contingently consumed. That is not evil.

      "[...] God doesn't know the particular world he creates before actually creating it."

      What do you mean by "before"? There is no order of time in eternity.

      Tom Cohoe

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    18. @ Walter,

      Hi,


      "That is a subtle distinction but a profound one."

      From your massive circularity it wrongly seems to you to be appropriate to mock ... because you being you you wrongly think that it follows that you are right about things and that it therefore is appropriate to mock those you wrongly suppose are your intellectual inferiors.

      "I know you believe in an a-moral automaton, Son."

      He believes in what you cannot understand, because your massive circularity prevents understanding anything that does not depend on the assumption that what you think is what is.

      Nothing but you requires you to be an arrogant twit.

      Tom Cohoe

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    19. Mr Cohoe

      Can we expect any substance from you are you just going to repeat your assertions and straw men?

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    20. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      I cannot say what one whose reason is massively circular could 'expect' (I note the pretentiously royal 'we' from a mere schoolmarmish pretender).

      What I expect is that, unless you change, you will continue to use dismissal and ignoring and mockery, as methods of avoiding what you have no good answer for ... the 'treatment' from Walter Van den Acker.

      Pfft.

      Tom Cohoe

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    21. Funny, that is my question to you?

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    22. Mr Cohoe

      I gather that's a no, then?

      Son

      If you read my posts with An open mond and drop the arrogant 'we Thomist Knox everything and all others are stupi attitude, you would know thé answer.


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    23. Guys,

      This exchange is degenerating into a mere trading of insults, the last few of which I have deleted. No more of that sort of stuff, please.

      Delete
    24. @ Edward Feser,

      "Guys ..."

      But you left him with a brilliant last word!

      No, but seriously, thanks for giving it the coup de grâce.

      Tom Cohoe

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    25. The God of the Bible and the Catholic Church and Classical Theism in general is not a moral agent in the univocal way a virtuous rational creature is a moral agent. Thus moral evaluation of God without taking this distinction into account is a red herring.

      It is that simple. If some cannot grasp that well the wee Theistic Personalists are over there mate. Have at them

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    26. Son

      I agree that moral evaluation of God without taking this distinction into account is a red herring, but that doesn't mean any moral evaluation of God is impossible, and it certainly doesn't mean one can simply dismiss the Problem of Evil by throwing in the slogan that God is not a moral agent.

      Delete
    27. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      Slogan?

      You cannot morally evaluate God without dismissing Him as beneath you.

      Circular again.

      Dismissing what you do not like will not raise you up.

      Tom Cohoe

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    28. @Walter

      Yer doubling down on yer wee fallacy of equivocation. I canny believe yer this obtuse?

      >that doesn't mean any moral evaluation of God is impossible,

      Sorry but you canny evaluate Beckham's competence as a good or bad footballer based on his wee batting average.

      In a like manner you cannot treat God as if He was a virtuous rational creature with obligations to His fellow creatures imposed on Him from above.

      Ye can stomp yer foot all day claiming you can but you look as silly as wee silly person who think's Beckham's batting average in baseball can be used to measure his skill as a footballer. It is daft, so it is.

      >and it certainly doesn't mean one can simply dismiss the Problem of Evil by throwing in the slogan that God is not a moral agent.

      Pretty much one can. One cannot say Beckham is a bad footballer if he had a bad batting average.

      God is not a moral agent etc etc therefore evaluating God in the same univocal way you would a virtuous rational creature failure to observe his obligations is just you being stubborn and irrational even if there are no gods.

      Now off ye pop.

      God would only be "immoral" if God failed to fulfill His Obligations to Himself and it is quite impossible for God to do that just like it is impossible for him to make 2+2=5.

      Delete
    29. Yes, might makes right.
      A very sophisticated moral theory.

      Delete
    30. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "Might makes right."

      Sarcasm will not get you anywhere. Mighty Jesus demonstrated meekness and humility during his life on Earth.

      Tom Cohoe

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    31. Well, I guess it's impossible to have a decent discussion with people who have An immutable mind.

      Delete
    32. "Sarcasm will not get you anywhere."

      It is not sarcasm, it is slander.

      Delete
    33. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "Well, I guess it's impossible to have a decent discussion with people who have An immutable mind"

      That's self referential. How could you conclude from your self referential system that we do not have the truth?

      You can't. That's the flaw which leads you to insult instead of use reason.

      Improve!

      Tom Cohoe

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    34. @Walter,

      Maybe yer right? Maybe there really is no God? Maybe Classic Theism is wrong and maybe, just maybe, yer arguments against Classic Theism are just pure crap?

      It is possible to be right threw sheer dumb luck having made a lucky guess and still give stupid and rationally invalid/incoherent reasons for it? (See Galileo).

      Because to date yer arguments against Classic Theism are blithering nonsense and based on argumentative fallacies. Till you offer us better that will always be the case.

      Unless yer just here to troll?

      God is not a moral agent etc etc etc. Yer arguments therefore are non-starters. Like launching in a tirade on how the Cosmos isn't 5000 to 10000 years old to a Theistic Evolutionist. None starter buddy.

      As Tom said Improve. I would welcome it.

      Delete
    35. And maybe you simply fail to understand my arguments against Classic theism, and instead of actually trying to deal with them, simply assert that they are blithering nonsense and repeat your favourite slogans?
      I am sure you think you are correct and if that makes you happy, so be it.

      Delete
    36. >And maybe you simply fail to understand my arguments against Classic theism...

      Or maybe they are incoherent non-starters? Which they clearly are IMHO.

      I submit it is self evident to all Classic Theists here you haven't been arguing against "Classic Theism" but against a "god" who is a moral agent subject to moral evaluation & who has obligations to his creatures.

      You said it yerself "but that doesn't mean any moral evaluation of God is impossible." It pretty much is impossible. That is the point.

      It is like saying it is possible to evaluate Beckham's skill as a footballer based on his baseball bating average. No it is not. Ye have no answer sir. God is transcendently moral. Ye cannot evaluate Him like you would a virtuous rational creature. God would only fail morally if He failed to fulfill His obligations to Himself.

      If you have anything new to add I would like to hear it? Surprise me.

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    37. I have already explained this to you, but you chose to ignore what I wrote and insult me.
      But if you are really Willing Yo have An open minder discussion about this, I Will try to be a bit more clear. It's really up to you, Son.



      Delete
    38. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      He did not insult you.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    39. You have explained nothing. You merely assert God is subject to moral evaluation ad hoc.
      You are contrary but not coherent.

      This is a classic Theist blog so the locals are all familiar with Brian Davies' arguments and Dr. Feser's papers on the subject matter as to why it is incoherent to claim God, as He is understood in Classic Theism, is subject to moral evaluation in the univocal sense you would evaluate a rational & virtuous creature.

      My suggestion is you bring yerself up to speed and give us good reasons as to why Davies is wrong. We are not seeing that.

      > you chose to ignore what I wrote and insult me.

      Yer arguments such as they are happen to be appallingly bad. Indeed if we strap a thermonuclear bomb to any one of them they could not vaporize anything worth saving.

      God is not obligated to create anything and no world is so good God is obligated to make it and none so bad that as long as it partakes of being God should refrain from making it.

      I am sorry if you feel insulted but I would slag off the arguments of a Young Earth Creationist who started to wax eloquent on how "the Second Law of Thermodynamics make Evolution impossible" or some such nonsense.

      Yer arguments are as bad as that. All who interact with you know this. A reading of more Joe Schmid and Gram Oppy on your part is in order.

      >But if you are really Willing Yo have An open minder discussion about this,

      I am not open to arguments that claim 2+2 can equal 5. I will take a position of skepticism till you make a good positive argument that moves me.

      I will not grant you a priori the benefit yer view is correct. I am not here to convince you of anything. I dinny care what you believe. You must convince me otherwise well ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over there mate. Have at 'em! I am rooting fur ye.

      >I Will try to be a bit more clear. It's really up to you, Son.

      No sir it is up to you. Yer the one who has to show me God is a moral agent. Good Luck convincing this Classic Theist "Atheist" that yer moral agent "god" exists.

      I don't believe in him.

      The Classic Theist God of Abraham and Aquinas is the only true God.

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    40. Son

      I have never claimed that God is a moral agent. What I do claim is that it is possible to evaluate God's alleged actions, because His "obligations to himself" are not arbitrary.
      God is obligated to Himself not to do something that is intrinsically (or objectively) evil.
      If there is an action that is intrinsically evil, then it is clear that either God did not perform this action or that your God does not exist.
      You have already claimed that God "simply allows" some things and I have argued why that is not possible in at least some cases.
      So, if it's possible to identify some actions as intrinsically evil and it can be shown that, if God exists, those actions are actively created and sustained by God, that is a very good ground to conclude that your God does not exist.

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    41. @Walter

      Like I said yer arguments are rationally incoherent and merely contrary for it's own sake.

      exhibit a

      >I have never claimed that God is a moral agent. What I do claim is that it is possible to evaluate God's alleged actions,

      Which is incoherent since ONLY moral agents can be morally evaluated by definition. Trees are not moral agents therefore they cannot be morally condemned if they fall on you. Animals are not moral agents. Only humans and angels. God is not a moral agent thought not in the univocal way trees and animals are.
      Yer just typing word salads for its own sake.


      >God is obligated to Himself not to do something that is intrinsically (or objectively) evil.

      Without a proper philosophical definition of evil or metaphysical description of the same this is a meaningless platitude.

      Evil is privation. God cannot give evil as a final cause in itself but God can allow privation or moved by His Justice cause privation.

      Moral evil is a rational entity's failure to do his duty. God has no duties to creatures thus this principle of yours does not apply.

      Let us face it. Yer ad hoc claiming God must be a moral agent in the univocal way a rational creature is a moral agent and you are clearly claiming God does have duties to creatures. No such "god" exists for classic Theists. My argument stands and yer's falls.

      >If there is an action that is intrinsically evil, then it is clear that either God did not perform this action or that your God does not exist.

      The only action of evil that God cannot do is make evil a final cause in and of itself for its own sake.

      I already gave the example of a super nova burning up a water planet killing the fish vs making fish and putting them on a waterless planet.

      You have no answer but I notice as Tom pointed out to you several times you never do.

      >You have already claimed that God "simply allows" some things and I have argued why that is not possible in at least some cases.

      No you just ad hoc claim God can do no "evil" and you offer no definition of what you mean by "evil" other than yer own preferences as Tom told you repeatedly.

      Also in spite of yer incoherent denials it is clear you are simply ad hoc demanding that God must be a moral agent. Yer sophistry is not convincing.

      >So, if it's possible to identify some actions as intrinsically evil

      From a Classic Theist perspective an "intrinsic evil" is something that is evil in and of itself. Like murder. It is always wrong for a rational creature to unlawfully take life. So if I kill Tom for no reason other than my own amusement that is evil. God is the author of life however and thus it is never wrong for Him to take any life for any reason at will. It is not treason for Her Majesty to wear the Imperial Crown of State because She is the Queen. It is if I do it.

      So by definition no act of evil God allows or does can be intrinsically evil. God cannot make an evil a final cause that is His ONLY limitation.

      > and it can be shown that, if God exists, those actions are actively created and sustained by God, that is a very good ground to conclude that your God does not exist.

      In other words you ad hoc make God a moral agent while pretending the definition does not apply (which it clearly does) to do some linguistic mischief?

      Sorry but such sophistry does not move me.

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    42. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "His 'obligations to himself' are not arbitrary."

      They are unknowable to you as you deny His existence and set yourself up as an authority above Him.

      Tom Cohoe

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    43. Son

      This will be my final reply on this subject.

      If God can create a world without evil and god chooses to create world with evil, then evil is a final cause. And since God is omnipotent, the default position is that He can create a world without evil.
      The fact that evil is a privation does not mean that God does not actively create and sustain evil. If I build a wall and leave out some bricks, then I am the creator of the hole, although, technically, the hole is a privation.
      The rest of your post is a defense of a very primitive might makes right morality, so there is nothing more I can say.
      Now, at least you have attempted to engage with my actual arguments, so I thank you for that.
      You can have the last word if you so wish.

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    44. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "the default position"

      How so except by your own authority?

      "a very primitive might makes right morality"

      Putting down what the other guy has to say and otherwise ignoring it is not primitive?

      Funny irony that is.

      Well, best of luck Walter, and I do hope you find the truth insofar as it is accessible to us. Infinite simplicity can never be wholly accessible to us, as everything else, including what we hold in our minds, is a lesser image of that truth.

      Tom Cohoe

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    45. @Walter

      More incoherent word salads from somebody who clearly is not even remotely familiar with any Scholastic Philosophy or metaphysics or Classic Theism in general.

      Everybody here sees you don't know what yer talking about and I will be the first in line to pile on. Really Walter I mean this sincerely.
      DO YER HOMEWORK before posting. Ok?

      >If God can create a world without evil and god chooses to create world with evil, then evil is a final cause.

      No a final cause is the the purpose or aim of an action or the end toward which a thing naturally develops. If God creates a world with evil in it then the evil is by definition an accidental negative property of the thing. Not the goal of the thing itself. God cannot create being with the goal of privation of being in and of itself. God can create being which if it is deprived of being can be the object of some other being having being.

      It is part of the goodness of God that He allows evil to bring good out of it.

      At this point yer making nonsense up because the standard problem of evil argument cannot in principle be used against Classic Theism anymore than polemics against the validity of the Book of Mormon can be used to undermine Islam.

      Category mistakes abound.

      >And since God is omnipotent, the default position is that He can create a world without evil.

      God could always make a better world then the one He made and one still better than that if He did, but God is still not obligated to create any world.

      Like I said and you ignored me (& repeated yerself without addressing it). A world without privations would not be a world with free beings like us nor a material world ergo it would not be our world. He could not put us in that world. Yeh God can do what He wants but I would prefer to exist.

      >The fact that evil is a privation does not mean that God does not actively create and sustain evil.

      Let me help you out since you refuse to learn the topic or the philosophy or the metaphysics. God is the formal cause of evil by virtue of Him creating free beings He foreknows will freely choose moral evil and or creating a material world which by nature has things competing with other things for their perfection(as Brian Davies noted in his writing which you clearly have not read or are able to respond to).

      But God is not obligated to make any world at all. Not a moral agent remember?

      >If I build a wall and leave out some bricks, then I am the creator of the hole, although, technically, the hole is a privation.

      Bad analogy since you are making this imperfection and making evil a final cause. This is like creating a world without water then creating fish to put on it and after creating the fish watching them die.

      No, a better analogy is building a functional wall and then later allowing it to be bulldozed. Like the Supernova burning up the water world.

      Again God is not obligated to make any world and God is not obligated to make you and God is not obligated to put you in any particular world. God cannot make evil a final cause in and of itself.

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    46. part II

      >The rest of your post is a defense of a very primitive might makes right morality,

      Here you prove me right again. Yer argument is essentially "Boo hoo! No Fair! God is not a moral agent."

      Well buddy that is what I have been trying to tell you but rather then own it you have been trying to bring in all these sophistries. Sorry but yer nor the first Gnu to do this to me and you will not be the last and I will still be vastly unimpressed with New Atheism in general and most critics of classic theism specifically.

      Sorry no. There is a species of Divine Volunteerism (especially among Muslims and hyper Calvinists) that says God can create a world with evil as the final cause and Command us to hate Him and that would be "good" but Classic Theistic Catholics do not accept God can make Evil a final cause. Evil can be allowed as the accidents of a thing (I hope I am using the right term here? Maybe Tony will jump in and correct me?). But not the final cause.

      >Now, at least you have attempted to engage with my actual arguments, so I thank you for that.

      Yer argument was badly put and you rooked yerself not owning yer unstated premises.

      Here I will make a better argument for you short but sweet & in bold.

      You find a God who is not a moral agent or who does not have obligations to His creatures aesthetically unpleasing.

      Fine, but who cares? It is not my God and I take the God natural reason and divine revelation has shown me to exist. Not the one I wish existed knowing my wishes are limited and finite and imperfect so why would I give a fig about them?

      God owes me nothing and I owe Him everything. That is the natural state of reality and I am pretty cool with it.

      I could never love a "moral agent" so called "god". I mean what a ponce such an entity would be? Bugger the white bearded bastard!

      No thanks.

      Peace be with you Walter. Work on that bad argument and learn the proper terms of art if only to not get me blood pressure up.

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  9. insane—like all dreams: a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice and invented hell—mouths

    Read Mark Twain " Mysterious Stranger" to learn God and the "Fall."

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    1. You have described an army of straw men

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    2. "Read Mark Twain ' Mysterious Stranger' to learn God and the 'Fall.' "

      Mark Twain? He's the guy who supported the Russian revolution, the uprising for "freedom" that led, after Twain's death, to the mass murder of many many millions of pacific people unfortunate enough to having been living in territory controlled by the revolutionaries. Twain's grasp of the complexity of reality in his earlier life was similarly so poor that he lost _all_ of his money investing in a crazy typesetting machine that couldn't possibly work.

      No, he was good at making up funny fiction, but he is not an example to follow because his "wisdom" was deeply flawed.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. It seems that Twain is conflicted in his own quote and cannot pull out a consistent idea. Not one person is happy yet we prize our lives? We are all bad yet can earn eternal happiness? Salvation is by our own merits yet hell is unjust? Heck he’s actually making up doctrines more easy to understand and reconcile than actual Christian ones and still complaining about it! And yet everything from that quote is completely inaccurate. Man was created good. God makes many many people happy even on earth. He gives us unending life. A third of angels are in hell by their own choice just like humans. And man doesn’t earn his salvation, by the very term “salvation” it should be obvious you can’t do it yourself! I hope you can find a better source in your path to truth. Best to consult actual Christian teachers in learning about Christianity.

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    4. Mark Twain sounds like a New Atheist.

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  10. I'm not sure if this is compatible with other thomist positions on the will (at least interpreted one way).

    Reading Steven Jensen's book on the human person, in the chapter on the will he notes that we inherit predispositions from our parents (such as a temper or patience) but that these are bodily - we inherit passions. Jensen is clear that we do not inherit predispositions in the will from our parents but develop them ourselves through choices.

    I dont see then how this is consistent with this post. It sounds as though you are saying that through the first sin we so inherit predispositions in the will from Adam and Eve?

    In past posts on original sin I have read you saying that our current nature is what Adam and Eve had though they were offered the grace not to sin. They rejected this sin which entails the absence of the beatific vision etc. This seems to dovetail nicely with thomist positions on the distinction between nature and grace. On this view, we don't inherit predispositions to evil from the will from our parents, it's our nature to have these predispositions.

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    1. My sense is that this represents two different views of "the Fall". On one view, Adam and Eve had a gift of Original Justice which elevated their internal order so that their passions and desires were obedient to the will, which was obedient to God, and when they sinned they fell into the state that they would have had if God had made them without Original Justice. In that state, we simply have nothing that orders the passions and desires into the orderly, upright human pattern of moral goodness.

      On the other view, by the Fall they fell into a worse state than that of merely what they would have been in if they had never had Original Justice. This worse state is a state in which there is a constant war of desires, combat of the body against the spiritual, and of desires of the different spiritual goods against each other. And in addition a moral weakness by which we cannot readily choose something and then adhere to that choice.

      I don't know what the official doctrinal position is, so I am just making a guess here, but anyway: my guess is that these to views effectively collapse into a single view if you rightly adjust the lens to say that there simply IS NO PATTERN of "what man would have been like without God making man with the gift of Original Justice", because the proper human pattern is constituted of Man with supernatural grace, and every condition of Man without such grace is a condition of man damaged. There is no "normal" condition of man rightly ordered in a "natural" way without man's rational soul ordered to love of God supernaturally, and so the only alternative condition of man - without that due ordering - is a man all out of sorts with his own self.

      Thus, BOTH views are correct, in a sense. Through sin, Adam did fall farther down than the animals - i.e. he came to a condition worse than that of the animals in terms of being (un)able to fulfill his nature by living according to reason. But that condition is not worse than the "condition of Man without Original Justice" by falling from Original Justice, it JUST IS the disorderly internal war that is inherently implied by a rational being made to be the seat of sanctifying grace properly ordering his soul.

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    2. Tony, I don’t think the two views collapse in one, even if we look at it from the angle of man falling from the state of justice. St. Thomas distinguishes them in the ST and this post follows him in this (“the condition of our first parents after the Fall, when what I have called the “second nature” of disordered will immediately became superimposed on and began frustrating human nature). St Thomas says that in a state of pure nature men would have been able to do what was ordered to their natural ends without the help of grace, “… But in the state of corrupt nature man needs grace to heal his nature in order that he may entirely abstain from sin". The two views have a very different idea of the state of pure nature.

      St Thomas insists on a double aspect to the legacy of original sin: “Hence original sin is concupiscence, materially, but privation of original justice, formally…”. He says that even without the benefit of original justice, pure nature could have turned away from God, leaving a corrupted nature. As this post makes clear, man’s present condition of being born with a disordered will frustrates human nature, even considered without the benefit of original justice, and is therefore not a state of pure nature.
      This is not merely an academic question because if one follows the first view you mention (that man is in a state of nature now – original sin being merely the privation of original justice), how the state of nature is viewed is of huge importance to religious and social questions; if one believes that man is in a benign state of nature now, all evils simply the accumulation of bad personal and social choices and habits, utopia is just a matter of limiting bad influences: man will naturally do the right thing. Of course this is false. Church teaching does emphasise the core of the problem to be something inseparable from humans from the start of their existence. I have heard the description “necessary accident” of the relation of what St. Thomas calls corruption, to human nature.

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    3. @ Miguel Cervantes,

      "He says that even without the benefit of original justice, pure nature could have turned away from God, leaving a corrupted nature."

      Aquinas says, in Article 9, Question 8, from which you draw one of your quotations, "Nevertheless he could not have done it without God's help to uphold him in good, since if this had been withdrawn, even his nature would have fallen back into _nothingness._"

      All he is saying here, which he says everywhere, is that without God neither man (nor the rest of creation) would ever have existed, so in that sense our moral behaviour was always dependent upon God. I emphasised the word _nothingness_ in the quotation. It is not a statement about a change in our nature before versus after the fall. It is about what could have happened did God not sustain our nature at all times as He sustains the nature of everything at all times. It is a Thomistic aside, introduced in the translation by the word "Nevertheless", and does not bear directly on his answer.

      Such asides and even little jokes have to be recognized in order to avoid being led to think that Aquinas is saying something that he is not saying. Sometimes, even, to a ridiculous question, he gives a ridiculous answer. This kind of thing can really stall one in making sense of Aquinas.

      " [...] original justice", from Question 82, Article 3, is not a state of man's nature which he lost through original sin. It is the just order of material creation which was upset by original sin. This is the privation.

      So Aquinas does not have two views in these examples. But there are many "legacies" of original sin, which is another topic.

      This at least is how I see it.

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. "Sometimes, even, to a ridiculous question, he gives a ridiculous answer"

      Sorry, I must correct this.

      What I meant was that sometimes to a ridiculous _objection_ he gives a ridiculous _reply_. I don't think the questions are ridiculous.

      Tom Cohoe

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    5. @Miguel.
      Can you give the ST references for your citations?

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    6. Ia IIae 109, art iii. The account of original sin in the ST was the most mature, detailed and explicit by St. Thomas.

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    7. @ Anonymous,

      The first quotation: "But in the state of corrupt nature man needs grace to heal his nature in order that he may entirely abstain from sin", is found here:

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/2109.htm#article8

      Just search for the quotation.

      The second quotation: "Hence original sin is concupiscence, materially, but privation of original justice, formally", is found here:

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/2082.htm#article3

      Search for the quotation.

      Sorry, I didn't give the citations properly, but left out the part, forgetting that the questions begin at question 1 for each part. Follow the links and you will be able to find both of Miguel's picks.

      Tom Cohoe

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    8. Thank you Miguel.

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    9. St. Thomas puts his view more clearly in Ia IIae q 109 art iii “Without grace, can man love God above all things?” “As some maintain, man was first made with only natural endowments; and in this state it is manifest that he loved God to some extent. But he did not love God equally with himself, or less than himself, otherwise he would have sinned. Therefore he loved God above himself. Therefore man, by his natural powers alone, can love God more than himself and above all things. I answer that, As was said above (I:60:5), where the various opinions concerning the natural love of the angels were set forth, man in a state of perfect nature, could by his natural power, do the good natural to him without the addition of any gratuitous gift… But in the state of corrupt nature man falls short of this in the appetite of his rational will, which, unless it is cured by God's grace, follows its private good, on account of the corruption of nature. And hence we must say that in the state of perfect nature man did not need the gift of grace added to his natural endowments, in order to love God above all things naturally, although he needed God's help to move him to it; but in the state of corrupt nature man needs, even for this, the help of grace to heal his nature.

      Here, he was speaking of a natural love of God He argues against the creation of our first parents in a state of nature elsewhere. It’s used here for the purposes of argument. On the point I made above, in Q 100, art. I St. Thomas seems to allocate to original sin the character of “an accident pertaining to the nature of the species”.

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    10. I advise to meditate Ia IIa Q81 art 1.
      In particular reflecting on this sentence and the following: "omnes homines qui nascuntur ex Adam, possum considerari ut unus homo, inquantum conveniunt in natura, quam a primo parente accipiunt; secundum quod in civilibus omns qui sunt unius communitatis, reputantur quasi unum corpus, et tota communitas quasi unus homo."

      It is hence part of the definition of human nature that all humans are like the limbs of their race's fathers: the act of will which is committed by Adam, and which is accidental to the human nature as such , is hence also committed by each and every human who descends from him.

      Same causes generating same consequences, the accidental possibility of refusing God's love which is part of the definition of human nature, foundation of his freedom and grounded in his dignity of being created in God's likeliness, is enacted in Adam and in all his descendent.

      Once again the terminology "corrupt nature" is only a poetical license to express actually the enactment of a possible accident, which possibility is totally part of the same human nature and of his dignity.

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    11. This is original. I'm not sure if any authority maintains that the capacity of using human freedom to choose right or wrong, which existed in Adam, constitutes the consequence of original in his descendants.

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    12. I thank Miguel for his clarifications. However, I note that one point he made is unfortunately expressed:

      St Thomas says that in a state of pure nature men would have been able to do what was ordered to their natural ends without the help of grace, “… But in the state of corrupt nature man needs grace to heal his nature in order that he may entirely abstain from sin".

      St. Thomas DOES say that man, in a state of pure nature (unfallen) and without grace, man would be able to love God above all things. Good. Yet he DOES NOT thereby say that man in such state would be able to (a) avoid sin, or (b) "do what was ordered to their natural ends". And this is the difficulty I was trying to elucidate.

      Man doesn't have TRUE, PROPER natural last end. He has one properly speaking: It is impossible for one man's will to be directed at the same time to diverse things, as last ends. Three reasons may be assigned for this. First, because, since everything desires its own perfection, a man desires for his ultimate end, that which he desires as his perfect and crowning good. (Ia IIae, Q1, A5). And "Man must, of necessity, desire all, whatsoever he desires, for the last end" (A6). And finally: "Final and perfect happiness can consist in nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence."

      He allows, however, that there is an SORT of end, a quasi-end, that we can speak of for this life: "Imperfect happiness that can be had in this life, can be acquired by man by his natural powers,... But man's perfect Happiness, as stated above (I-II:3:8), consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now the vision of God's Essence surpasses the nature not only of man, but also of every creature, as was shown in I:12:4... But every knowledge that is according to the mode of created substance, falls short of the vision of the Divine Essence, which infinitely surpasses all created substance. Consequently neither man, nor any creature, can attain final Happiness by his natural powers." (Q 5, A5.) (For this latter comment he means by "happiness" only that sort of end that can be had by rational beings.)

      He clarifies in the response to Obj. 3: "Just as nature does not fail man in necessaries, although it has not provided him with weapons and clothing, as it provided other animals, because it gave him reason and hands, with which he is able to get these things for himself; so neither did it fail man in things necessary, although it gave him not the wherewithal to attain Happiness: since this it could not do. But it did give him free-will, with which he can turn to God, that He may make him happy. "For what we do by means of our friends, is done, in a sense, by ourselves" (Ethic. iii, 3). " So, man cannot by his OWN powers achieve it, but can through the supernatural assistance from God, which is sanctifying grace, which inherently above our natures because it consists in a participation in Divine life.

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    13. And further: "Rectitude of the will, as stated above (I-II:4:4), is necessary for Happiness; since it is nothing else than the right order of the will to the last end; and it is therefore necessary for obtaining the end, just as the right disposition of matter, in order to receive the form… Now since Happiness surpasses every created nature, no pure creature can becomingly gain Happiness, without the movement of operation, whereby it tends thereto. But the angel, who is above man in the natural order, obtained it, according to the order of Divine wisdom, by one movement of a meritorious work, as was explained in I:62:5; whereas man obtains it by many movements of works which are called merits. Wherefore also according to the Philosopher (Ethic. i, 9), happiness is the reward of works of virtue. " (A 7)

      Hence man cannot have true, proper rectitude of will without the due orientation to man's true, proper final end, which is seeing God supernaturally, and thus requires grace.

      Therefore, the kind of act where Thomas indicates man can love God above all things in a state of nature without grace, is an act that is due only in one (qualified) sense, in that any rational being should love God insofar as he knows God; yet it is UNDUE in an absolute sense, as being as yet inadequate to what is called for by man's proper end: loving God as known under the natural light of reason is good-as-far-as-it-goes but insufficient, because loving God supernaturally is possible and called for, and ONLY that is meritorious. The (only) proper, true act of love called for is a supernatural act of love of God, which exceeds that "love of God above all things" which man can do without grace. Hence in a state of nature without grace, man's BEST act is deficient as regards his true end. And it is deficient also in that even at its best, it implies the man has not "turned to God" to receive that grace whereby he may properly and with rectitude love God supernaturally. And God grants that grace wherever a man turns to Him for it, so his will is deficient in his not turning to God.

      Hence while it is hypothetically possible to consider the state of a man who is without grace as being in a state of “pure nature”, in reality all such men have exactly ONE proper act before them: to call on God for assistance so that they may love him supernaturally. Without that operation, the kind of love such a man can do so as to love God above all things is only “right” in a qualified sense, and is unrectified in an absolute sense because it FAILS in the due ordering to man’s last end. In this the man’s will is in sin, and the act of love is sinful. It is not sinful in that it puts God above all created good, but it is sinful in his not turning to God as much as in him lies to obtain what he cannot do of his own powers.

      So, while Thomas allows that man can, without grace, recognize God as the greatest of all goods, and naturally love Him above all things, he does not thereby mean that such a love is due and rectified and free of sin. He makes clear that any love without the proper ordering of charity is undue and sinful. Thus a true “state of nature” that has no corruption of sin could only ever mean that one moment of freedom before man’s first fully willed act, where his only proper due act is to turn to God for the grace needed so as to love Him supernaturally. Thus any following condition after that immediate obligation would be either in a state of grace or in a state of sin as such - there is no room for a REAL condition of man going on in life in a state of nature without grace and without corruption, even under a supposition that the gift of Original Justice had never been given. Any hypotheses apart from this are ratiocinations of only PART of the picture, which exclude other (necessary) parts.

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    14. Tony, I agree St. Thomas insists at all times that man needs grace to love God supernaturally; that in a state of nature the body and soul are not quite adapted to each other and, as St. Thomas states, God made up for this “defect of nature” by creating man in the state of justice. You extrapolate that man couldn’t have proper rectitude of will in a state of nature, but St. Thomas doesn’t seem to say it in so many words. He does say (in q 109): “… to love God above all things is natural to man and to every nature, not only rational but irrational, and even to inanimate nature according to the manner of love which can belong to each creature…” and that in the state of fallen nature man needs grace even for this.

      My point is that St. Thomas holds man to be in worse off in the fallen state than in a notional state of nature, and that the consequences of original sin are not pure privation with respect to the state of justice. The fallen state, understood as a corruption of nature, a state of human nature that is passed on, as the state of justice could have been, is the Thomistic position and no Catholic would ever have been surprised to hear it put that way.
      The natural states that matter of course, are the ones that have existed and the state of nature isn’t one of them. Even in a Platonic universe one wouldn’t find the perfect form of “the rational animal”, only man. Impossible as they are, smart Martians or Brontosauri would not be men because they would not be descendants of Adam, even if they were rational animals. In this sense, it is proper to compare the state of fallen nature mainly with that of original justice, the only other state men had known.

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  11. Mark Twain is good with the emotional arguments but his reasoning is shite.

    >who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned.

    According to which religion? Catholic Tradition tells us the Angels who sided with God during the War in Heaven where rewarded with the Beatific Vision and the rebel Angels earned Hell. Unearned Happiness? Ah no!

    Of course this nonsense all assumes a God with obligations to His Creatures and every good Classic Theist rejects that nonsense.

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    1. Son

      If objective goodness exist, it does entails that God has 'obligations' , not on the sense that someone can tell God what to do, but in that God cannot do that which isn't inherently good.


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    2. @ Walter,

      " 'obligations' "

      You have the tail wagging the dog. God is the principle of all good rather than that God is obliged to do what you personally hold to be good. You are not and cannot be the principle of goodness. God has no obligations to you or anyone else, yet your finite mind is still capable of understanding, if you will it to think logically and not evasively, that any good you can perceive or even conceive, is an image of God.

      "If objective goodness exist[s]"

      You have air to breathe do you not? That is objectively good. So why do you start with the dodge, "If", rather than "Since"?

      Whatever you are trying to say, you are making a muddy mess of it.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. @Walter

      Tom Cohoe stole my thunder. :D Ground of Being bless 'em.:D Good man!:D

      I would add.

      The limit God's Goodness puts on Him is God cannot make evil a final cause in itself. God could create a water planet with fish and allow a Nearby Supernova to vaporize it. But God cannot create a planet with Fish and no water for them to breath.

      It is a subtle distinction but a profound one.

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    4. @ Son of Ya'Kov,

      Thanks for the gracious comment, but I have to acknowledge that I really did steal your fire on your '2+2=5' analogy, because I posted the 1×1,000,000=1,000,000 comment, but 0×-1,000,000=0 _after_ reading your comment, even though it was really the same thing. Oh what a thief! But bonking the guy twice increases the possibility of sense getting into his head, so I stole and posted.

      Forgive me my trespasses.

      Tom Cohoe

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    5. Tom

      Nothing in your reply has anything to do with the point I was making.

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    6. Son

      Under Thomism, supernovas are not 'allowed', they are, just as everything else, actively created and sustained by God.

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    7. @Walter,

      "Nothing in your reply has anything to do with the point I was making"

      Your mysterious hash of words doesn't make a point. But as you dismiss me, so you dismiss whatever, without error, leads away from where you want to go. It is illustrative of your massive circularity, from which you mistakenly think you can make valid points.

      Tom Cohoe

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    8. @ Walter,

      "Under Thomism, supernovas are not 'allowed', they are, just as everything else, actively created and sustained by God."

      I see. Is it only 'under Thomism' that imagination and reality differ, whereas under 'Ackerism', whatever Walter imagines to have existence is real? That supernovas exist leads to nothing relevant. That God creates and sustains them leads to nothing relevant. You elide your conclusion here, because it doesn't follow.

      Tom Cohoe

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  12. "The great apes, our alleged cousins, rarely kill one another; war, as opposed to individual fights, is an unknown thing for them; and men are enormously more lustful than apes."

    I believe this has been proven wrong in the case of chimpanzees, which can be very savage toward one another.

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  13. Hey Dr. Feser,

    I'm an avid reader of your work, you've helped me greatly in understanding the Catholic responses to the major modernist philosophers that I've encountered in my classes. One question regarding your last point though, where you said "There will be no spiritual freeloaders in heaven, no one who squeaks by because someone else repented for him." How does that square with the account of St. Therese of Lisieux's Carmelite sisters who offered their lives to the Divine Justice on account of those who were unrepentant. Assuming that any of them made it to Heaven, they might have been spared because of another's efforts, although, of course, we can't know for sure.

    There's also the case of St. Louis de Montfort's consecration to Mary, where he explicitly states that we take Mary's spiritual merits while she takes ours, which, while again it doesn't imply that one can just sit around and not pursue Heaven, does bring to mind the idea that someone else has done a greater part of the work.

    I think my final example would be Jesus Himself on the cross. I think that Church teaching says that He provided the sacrifice and repentance to God for us, having been made sin who was not sin. If it's just the case that I'm not giving enough credit to the idea that nobody else can repent for you, then I will happily acquiesce, but it just seems like strange phrasing to me.

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    1. Certainly in the case of St. Therese and her Carmelite sisters, the idea is that their sacrifices merited from God that God would grant to sinners the grace to repent and seek forgiveness. So, the sinner himself does repent.

      In the case of the consecration to Mary, I do not recall it including "taking Mary's spiritual merits", but it does offering to Mary whatever merits you have earned for her to apply in whatever way she deems best. But in ALL such cases, such "merit" only ever exists downstream from Christ's merits, by which he purchased all possibility of merit, and so our merit is derivative of His. And since - like with salvation itself - Christ will not impose such merit on us against our will, it requires our cooperation.

      And in any case, I have always suspected that when we offer our meritorious acts on behalf of another, this inherently implies a kind of a double action of merit, and what we are offering is the SECOND of the two actions. When we do (an meritorious) act out of love of God and apply it for the good of another person X, there is no way that the good act does not in some sense ALSO perfect our own selves, while being "used" by God in raising up that other person.

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  14. @ Mister Geocon

    It wouldn't be as big a deal if this were a private therapist. But we're talking about a state-governed, tax-funded mental institution that hospitalized me against my will and then held me there for 7 weeks.

    I would hope for more philosophical sense in people who have that much power and authority. But I guess that's the kind of world we live in now.

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  15. Original sin is poorly attested to in scripture. In order to have any faith in the particular details of this doctrine, you actually need faith in Augustine.
    The problem is Augustine spends most of his life thinking out loud and committing it to paper. At times it seems he doesn't even know what he believes. Such is the problem with people who go beyond what is written. They have ideas, they get challenged, then because of pride, competition or the like- they harden up as if they've always had a firm concrete truth to defend. (many other churches and teachers as well)
    The Catholic church is filled with such teachings. Teachings that are presented as if the Apostles themselves declared them.

    Augustine overreaching brings forth all manner of doctrine concerning Infants, the seeds of Calvinism, and most egregious the doctrine that Mary never sinned which would be absolutely *Plastered all over the New Testament if true. The fact that it is not - completely matches everything that contradicts it in scripture, and fits perfectly in line with the dangers of going beyond what is written.

    All we can really say is *Death followed Adam & Eve's sin and all die.

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