Thursday, September 30, 2010

The measure of a man…

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In college I took a course on existentialism, so, naturally, we read a fair share of Sartre. I don't recall in which text I read it, but I do recall Sartre made an argument against essence along the following lines. Imagine a famous author that died too young. Perhaps David Foster Wallace, or Franz Kafka, etc. It is a common sentiment, Sartre notes, that "he surely had one more great novel/story left in him, if only…." Yet, Sartre says, this is folly, for as a matter of existential fact, all that so-and-so had in him was what he actually wrote. When his time was up, his "essential" abilities were gone too. Wallace had no great work left in him, since he died having written only as much as he in fact wrote, and, thus, only as much as he could have written. Likewise, Heath Ledger had no future glory in him, since he died having performed only as much as his actual nature allowed him. There is no essence which grounds human potential, Sartre argues, but only the existential exigencies of what each of us does here and now, et puis c'est fini. This view I shall call existential actualism.

Something about this reasoning has always bothered me. Imagine for instance a wine glass falling from a table that is caught in midair by the waiter. Presumably, Sartre would say that the wine glass could not have fallen any further than it did, since it did not fall any further than it fell. But this is not only a truism but also undermines reasoning and physical science. If nothing can fall farther than it in fact fell, then we have no basis for conceiving of what "fall" is, since only what is understood to have traversed from point x to point y is understood to fall. And if something can be understood to traverse the distance from x to y, then it can just as meaningfully be understood to traverse the distance from y to z. Further, if every time an experimenter declared the subject of his study could not in principle have acted differently than it did in fact act, then there would be no basis for inquiring how anything else acts. Hence, there would be no reason for Sartre to look at "humanity" on a case by case basis, since knowing what Human #XYZ did is just to know what "human nature" itself can or cannot do. If human #XXYYZZ can, upon "concrete" investigation" do other than what #XYZ did, then the ascription of "humanness" to #XYZ and #XXYYZZ is equivocal, and Sartre's theory has proved nothing about human nature, much less about the nature of #XYZ. At most he has proved that #XYZ cannot do -P when #XYZ did P. A truism of existential proportions.

An even more fundamental problem with Sartre's position, however, is that it undermines his own theory of existential action, since, if at any time t, agent A could not in principle do otherwise than he is doing, then there is no grounds for saying that A at t+1 could do something different. If A is defined existentially by the concrete actuality of his existence at t, then only an essence which persists from t to t+1 grounds any changes which might be meaningfully ascribed to A. Hence, despite all his passionate exhortations to political, sexual, aesthetic, etc. action, Sartre's existential actualism amounts to a paralyzing form of fatalism that strait-jackets the will inside its immediate existential accidents. In this light, it is even more apt to consider David Foster Wallace vis-à-vis Sartre's argument, since, apparently, as an undergraduate at Amherst, Wallace wrote a paper to refute Richard Taylor's doctrine of fatalism.

In any event, I want to propose a novel scenario which I think further highlights the absurdity (irony alert!) of Sartre's existential actualism. Consider a man, named Jack the Bear, with an incorrigible desire to slap women in the face (if not much else worse besides). Cue the soundtrack of A Clockwork Orange! After a few tragic cases, the authorities realize Jack the Bear is incorrigible and take steps to sequester him from society. In jail, however, it proposed that an electrical device be inserted in Jack's inguinal region, a device which electrocutes him every time a conjunction of various "violent" motor actions and "lustful" intentions occur. (Presumably, neuroscience is advanced at this point to "map" the brain so precisely.) After many trials, the Jack is set free and, lo and behold, every time he gets reaches to fulfil his sadistic-misogynistic urges, Jack is crippled by a shock to the groin. And so he spends his days, never again harming a woman. At his funeral, it is said of Jack that he was a good man, since he never again harmed a woman after some sad earlier moral failures. Yet, would Jack the Bear really be good just because he had not hurt any women after his operation? I should say not. I gope yo agree. A rabid dog on a leash is still rabid, not healthy. Yet, Sartre would have to say Jack the Bear died a virtuous man, since, objectively, he never again committed any violence, nor even rose to half the stature of lashing out. He was a pleasure to live with, in fact (once one learned to ignore his agonized screams and flailing). The absurdity of Jack's case underscores the fact that goodness resides more in the (rational) will than in the (behavioral) effects of the will. Hence, a person, like Jack, is more than his existential actualities. Anything more than what it is in concrete actualities, however, has an essence which dynamically "overflows" anything it does existentially. Hence, anything a man does never fully exhausts what he is essentially.

So, let me ask you: Is it a capacity given by your human nature (or, your essential humanity) to read any farther than the following asterisk? *

I thought so.

The test of a great band…

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An awful band sounds worse live than it sounds in the studio.

A bad band sounds as bad live as it sounds in the studio.

A good band sounds as good live as it sounds in the studio.

A great band sounds better live than it sounds in the studio.

Fugazi is a great band. (So are The Roots.)

Creed is a good band.

311 is a bad band.

Insane Clown Posse may be the most awful band ever.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gym regimen - September 2010

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28 September 2010
Ur-Workout, 60 mins
91kg, BMI 25.5

0. Warmup: Stretching, curls, flyes, dips, squats

1. Bench press: 12, 9, 6 @ 65kg, 75kg, 85kg

2. Lat pulldown: 12, 9, 6 @ 65kg, 75kg, 85kg

3. Dumbbell curl (per hand): 10, 8, 6 @ 17–27kg
[Something about these weights––as I've written them––seems off. I mean to tell me that I curled 59lb for 6 reps per hand on my last set?! Or, then again, that I curled the equivalent of 54kg for two hands?! I guess dumbbell curls are just easier. Admittedly, I alternated hands, which gave the opposite hand a slight rest every rep. I will have to confirm the weights next time I am at the gym. Maybe I've been using kilograms so long now that I've lost my sense of how many pounds I should be able to do, but 60lb curls sounds, well… either sadly inaccurate or… totally awesome!]

4. Barbell military press (seated): 10, 8, 6 @ 40–45kg

5. Dips: 10, 11, 12

6. Squat: 12, 9, 6 @ 70kg, 77.5kg, 85kg

7. Stiff-leg deadlift (EZ bar): 12, 9, 6 @ 57kg, 67kg, 77kg

+ + +

I went lighter on the bench press today and did dips for my triceps. Dips! Holy tricep, Batman! It was the first time I have done dips in a very long time, so I wasn't sure about my form, and don't even have a recollection of it now, since I just wanted to do what I could on a diagnostic test run. I definitely felt stronger when I crossed my feet and the dips gave me an awesome pump. According to this page, the benefits of dips fall out like so: "Push-ups have your feet planted. Dips move your whole body through space. Dips are harder and thus superior to Push-ups because you have to balance your body. Other benefits of Dips: Build Strength. Dips build lockout strength: straightening your elbows. This helps the Bench Press & the Overhead Press. Build Muscle. Dips will develop your triceps & chest muscles." You can say that again.

I'll work traps and abs tomorrow. I need to sleep better.

Had a great confessor last Sunday. I love the Mass. I love the Mass. I love the Mass!

I've got a good number of posts I hope I can get out in the next few weeks but I've got a lot of teaching hours and I'm collaborating to author an ESL textbook, among other things.

I recently saw Miami Blues and Glengarry Glen Ross, the former which stars Alec Baldwin and the latter which features him in a seven-minute quasi-monologue––and then not again––, for which he nearly won an Oscar. I have a new found respect for Alec Baldwin as a phenomenal actor. A true screen "presence." And very versatile: tender, comical, wounded, sadistic, innocuous.

I also recently got around to watching City of God, the award-winning 2002 Brazilian film about life in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It's a searing depiction of even more searing realities. Well worth more than one viewing. It is the film that Slumdog Millionaire tried to be. (Tried to be, mind you.) The director, Fernando Meirelles, has been likened to Martin Scorsese, and City of God would be an interesting film to watch in conjunction with Mean Streets.

The thought that persists most vividly for me is, "What sense can the Christian Gospel make of the antagonist, Li'l Zé?" He is a sadist from childhood and grows up to become, for a time, the lord of crime in Rio de Janeiro. From that perspective, he is a disturbingly vivid instance of the truth of original sin. On the other hand, I can't fathom what it would be like trying to evangelize and convert someone like him. (I should mention that Li'l Zé is merely one token of a more pervasive type in the favela, which only amplifies my discomfiture.) To say that life is cheap in the favelas is a truism, and to say life is cheap in Li'l Zé's eyes is virtually a tautology. I can't imagine what would move him, on a purely human, psychological level, to repent and pursue anything like a chaste life of humble piety. Warning him of Hell would, I fear, do nothing: he would either say, "Bring it," or simply be unable to imagine a difference between Hell and life as he's known it. Conversely, enticing him with the prospect of Heaven would, I suspect, only fuel his incorrigible lust for power––"What will my take be when we get there, how big will my turf be?"

Hence, I suppose the only "sense" Christianity can make of someone like Li'l Zé, or the only way the Gospel can "handle" the Li'l Zé's of the world is by truly supernatural means. Only the Holy Spirit can, or would, change a heart like Li'l Zé's. Unfortunately, he so consistently hardens his heart against natural goodness––and has been so deeply hardened by life––that it may be just as much an act of God's glory, as a just God, to release Li'l Zé to a perpetual insensibility to supernatural goodness. This is an important truth: if you can't love anything natural, the supernatural has that much less ability to generate divine love in such a craggy heart. If you don't have a natural affection for animals, you lack one step in the ladder that rises to loving the Maker of animals. Perhaps because Li'l Zé insists the world be as bleak and mercenary as he feels it is, he ends up with exactly the world he deserves, that is, the world of his own making. Getting a whole world all to yourself, all by yourself––that is, in a sense, all that the doctrine of Hell means: you get to wallow in your own delusions and fears forever since you chose to wallow in them, and make others wallow with you, before dying.

It dawns on me, of course, that a secular ethic has an even harder time making sense of Li'l Zé, since, on that ethic, life is about maximizing your own human potential without causing inordinate suffering in others. And while Li'l Zé certainly caused plenty of suffering in others, it is arguably impossible to say he caused inordinate suffering, since he instinctively followed a fiercely self-authentic "inner compass" and a socially regulated ethic that can only be judged from within the very milieu in which it functions. To deny the reality of absolute good and evil is to allow for two absurdities: first, that nothing Li'l Zé, or someone like him, does is intrinsically evil, and, second, that there is no truly greater good for which Li'l Zé, or any other person, could live and be called simply good. Goodness resides in an execution of one's will, as the power of affection, to gravitate towards that which is good. If, however, that-which-is-good simpliciter does not exist, there is nothing toward which the will can gravitate in principle, and thus, no one is good. Consequently, if no one is good, no one is bad, and Li'l Zé is not evil or mean or villainous: he's simply amoral in a different way. Which is of course just more bullshit to be shoveled out by secularist ethics.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gym regimen - September 2010

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25 September 2010
Ur-Workout, 60 mins
90kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Stretching, curls, tricep extensions, squats

1. Bench press: 12, 8, 4 @ 65kg, 75kg, 90kg
[New all-time PR!]

2. Pullups: 14, 14/1*, 16/1*
[The 1* rep was a negative, about a 15 count.]

3. Hammer-grip curls (H-bar): 10, 8, 5 @ 35kg, 40kg, 55kg
[I accidentally threaded 10kg plates instead of 5kg plates and was too lazy to switch it back to 45kg, so I did 5 not very tight reps at 55kg. Meh.]

4. EZ Barbell military press (seated): 10, 8, 8 @ 40–50kg

5. Elbows-out extensions (per hand): 10, 8, 8 @ 19–22kg

6. Squat: 12, 9, 6 @ 65–90kg

7. Stiff-leg deadlift: 15, 12, 9 @ 60–75kg

8. Dumbbell pullovers: 10 @ 22kg

+ + +

An annoying day in some respects. I was late to a meeting at my first school, since I tried a new route to work. Then I took an awesome nap after lunch but overslept and was late to my second school, missed an entire class and was in the doghouse. I can't find my cellphone charger so my phone was dead and I didn't get the call from the second school. I know I set my alarm but must have shut it off in a semi-conscious state. At least I had a good workout and God loves me.

That's right, God loves me. Oh, and, yes, I achieved one of my basic BB goals: tonight I cracked my bench press APR from college, when I benched 200+ pounds once or twice. Tonight I was "feeling lucky, punk" so I went for 90kg (198lbs) and managed to crank out 4 reps, which means I could have easily done 200+lbs once or twice. So, there. I did it. Now I'm out to keep making gains.

Nonetheless, I think I will go lighter on the bench next week and add a set of dips. Squatting felt very good and I even did a small set of calf presses on a machine, so my left foot is pretty much all healed up. I think I'll also try weighted pullups next week.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Gym regimen - September 2010

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22 September 2010
20 mins

Ab roller: 25, 25

Hindu squats: 100

Pushups: 60

Curls: 30, 30 @ 15kg (?)

23 September 2010
20 mins

Dumbbell shrugs (per hand): 40, 45, 50 @ 20kg

Dumbbell grips (per hand): 60 sec, 90 sec, 105 sec, 90 sec @ 12kg

Ab roller: 15, 15, 15

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Readings from...

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AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (354-430): Preaching is sharing

Many people seek to discover God's mercy and faithfulness from the sacred books, and yet, when their learning is done, they live for their own sakes and not for God's. They are intent on their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. They preach mercy and faithfulness without practicing them. Their preaching proves that they know their subject, for they would not preach without knowledge. But ... someone who loves God and Christ ... preaches God's mercy and faithfulness ... to make them known for God's sake, not his own. This means that he is not out to gain temporal benefits from his preaching; his desire is to help Christ's members, that is, those who believe in him, by faithfully sharing with them the knowledge he himself possesses, so that the living may no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for all.
-- Expositions of the Psalms 60, 9: CCL 39, 771.

ST AUGUSTINE: For You I Am the Bishop

Believe me, brothers and sisters, if what I am for you frightens me, what I am with you reassures me. For you I am the bishop; with you I am a Christian. "Bishop," this is the title of an office one has accepted to discharge; "Christian," that is the name of the grace one receives. Dangerous title! Salutary name!
-- Sermon 340, 1

Prayer. Lord, whether prosperity smiles or adversity frowns, let your praise be ever in my mouth.
-- Commentary on Psalm 138, 16


The glorious Saint Augustine, in speaking of effective love, said a sentence that we should engrave on the doors of our rooms, or better still in our hearts: "My God, if we were to love You alone - You in all things and all things in You - how wonderful that would be!" Oh glorious saint, do you wish that we should love nothing but God? Should we not also love our neighbor, friend and enemy? Yes, but in God and for God ... indeed this is true Christian love! Now this is something that should be preached publicly!
-- Sermons 33; O. IX, p. 337


WITH any recovery from morbidity there must go a certain healthy humiliation. There comes a certain point in such conditions when only three things are possible first, a perpetuation of Satanic pride; secondly, tears; and third, laughter.
-- 'The Man Who Was Thursday.'


Martyrs and mores and More the martyr...

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Anthony Lusvardi, SJ, in "A Jesuit shout-out from the Pope", writes:

...I’ve always gotten a special thrill from the martyrs of the British Isles. ... [T]he Pope mentioned one of those Jesuits, St. John Ogilvie, as an example for the Scottish clergy.

John Ogilvie (1579-1615), was raised a Calvinist but converted to Catholicism at the age of seventeen. This meant he had to leave Britain to study on the Continent, first in Belgium and then in Germany and what is today the Czech Republic. There he studied in a Jesuit college and joined the Austrian province of the Society of Jesus.

He went through the usual lengthy formation process, was ordained in 1610, and wanted immediately to return to Scotland. His superiors thought Scotland too dangerous at first (and they were proven right), but he was finally able to sneak into his homeland in 1613 disguised as a horse dealer. ...

John Ogilvie is an interesting saint for the Pope to hold up as an example to the Scottish clergy. Most of his short life was spent training for mere months of ministry. And yet, as the witness of martyrs testifies again and again, what seems failure in the world’s eyes can be, in God’s hands, the foundation of the heavenly kingdom. The Pope’s first speech in the United Kingdom, his gracious address to the Queen, made mention of the intolerant secularism which is growing in influence in Britain, Europe, and the United States, and perhaps the recognition of these strong forces set against the Church in our day is the reason the Pope singled out St. John Ogilvie as an example. Ours, too, are times that call for John Ogilvie’s courage and fidelity.

I would also recommend you read the Pope's Westminster Hall address. Excerpt:

[England’s] Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good. ...

The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade ... [which] was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law....

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. ...

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. ...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gym regimen - September 2010

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20 September 2010
Ur-Workout, 60 mins
90kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Stretching, ski machine, lat pulldowns, curls, squats

1. Bench press: 12, 8, 6 @ 60kg, 70kg, 85kg
[New PR!]

2. Pullups: 14, 15, 16
[Used power straps on the 3rd set.]

3. Hammer-grip curls (H-bar): 10, 8, 6 @ 35kg, 40kg, 45kg
[With a squeeze and high tuck at the top, a trick I recently learned, and very slow on the eccentric (downward) motion.]

4. Barbell military press (seated) : 10, 8, 5/1 @ 40–50kg
[I think my "50kg" with the EZ barbell in a few previous workouts might not have really been 50kg, since 50kg––heck, even 45kg–– tonight with the barbell was a killer. On the 3rd set, I did 5 hard reps and one rep in which I stood to try to complete the concentric (upward) motion. I could also feel my mid-back arched more than in the past workouts, so I was either tired this workout, or I need to keep building that ol' stren'th. Or, yea, both!]

5. Elbows-out extensions (per hand): 10, 8, 6 @ 19–22kg

6. Squat: 12, 9, 6 @ 50kg, 60kg, 70kg

7. Stiff-leg deadlift: 15, 12, 9 @ 50kg, 60kg, 70kg

8. Kneeling ab pulldowns: 15, 30 @ 35kg, 30kg
[Plus a set of 30 crunches when I got home.]

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gym regimen - September 2010

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17 September 2010
90kg, BMI 25

0. Warmup: Stretching, barbell flyes, lat pulldowns, curls, squats

1. Dumbbell flyes (per hand): 10, 10, 8 @ 18kg, 22kg, 27kg

2. Lat pulldowns: 12, 10, 8 @ 60kg, 70kg, 80kg

3. Hammer-grip curls (H-bar): 10, 8, 6 @ 35kg, 40kg, 45kg

4. Delt flyes (per hand): 10, 8, 6 @ 15–20kg
[I also did 6, 4, 2 reps of military press at the end of each set of these.]

5. Tricep pulldowns: 10, 8, 6 @ 25–35kg
[Good form, good pump. Could have done a few more reps, perhaps.]

6. Incline bench press: 10, 8, 6 @ 50kg, 60kg, 70kg

7. Decline leg press: 16, 13, 11* @ 170kg, 180kg, 190kg
[My 11th rep on the 2rd set was a bottoms-up rep. Felt good!]

8. Barbell stiff-leg deadlifts: 10, 8, 6 @ 50kg, 60kg, 70kg

9. Ab-wheel crunches (kneeling): 15, 15, 15

10. Standing ab pulldowns: 12, 12, 15 @ 35kg, 35kg, 40kg


My body is not entirely looking forward to resuming my three-day Ur-Workout next week, but that's just because I gave it a break this week and it's had to adjust to a full-time work schedule.


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In his website article on Luís Molina Alfred Freddoso provides some historical context:

The most famous and controversial of Molina's three published works was the Liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis, divina praescientia, providentia, praedestinatione et reprobatione concordia (A Reconciliation of Free Choice with the Gifts of Grace, Divine Foreknowledge, Providence, Predestination and Reprobation) (first edition, Lisbon 1588; second edition, Antwerp 1595). Popularly known simply as the Concordia, this work was in large part extracted from the Commentaria in primam divi Thomae partem (Commentaries on the First Part of St Thomas's Summa Theologiae), which was subsequently published at Cuenca in 1592. Molina also authored a five-volume work on political philosophy, De Justitia et Jure (On Justice and Law), the first complete edition of which appeared only posthumously (Venice, 1614). Although there are also modern editions of a few unpublished pieces, most of Molina's shorter tracts and commentaries survive only in manuscript form.

The publication of the first edition of the Concordia ignited a fierce controversy about grace and human freedom that had already been smoldering for two decades between the youthful Society of Jesus (founded in 1540) and its theological opponents. At Louvain, the Jesuit Leonard Lessius had been assailed by the followers of Michael Baius for harboring views on grace and freedom allegedly contrary to those of St Augustine. In Spain and Portugal, the Jesuits were accused of doctrinal novelty by theologians of the more established religious orders, especially the Dominicans, led by the redoubtable Bañez.

When the dispute began to jeopardize civil as well as ecclesiastical harmony, political and religious leaders in Iberia implored the Vatican to intervene. In 1597 Pope Clement VIII established the Congregatio de Auxiliis (Commission on Grace) in Rome, thus initiating a ten-year period of intense investigation--including eighty-five hearings and forty-seven debates--that rendered the Concordia one of the most carefully scrutinized books in Western intellectual history. At first, things did not go well for the Jesuits; … [h]owever, due to the efforts of Cardinals Robert Bellarmine and Jacques du Perron, Molina's views emerged unscathed in the end. In 1607 Pope Paul V issued a decree allowing both parties to defend their own positions but enjoining them not to call one another's views heretical.

In a shorter article about "Molinism" itself, Freddoso writes:

[God's grace] is rendered efficacious not only by Peter's free consent but also, and indeed more principally, by God's antecedent predetermination to confer a "congruous" grace that will guarantee Peter's acting well in [the circumstances involving that grace]. This model, which brings Molinism more into line with Bañezianism, is known as Congruism and was worked out in detail by Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suárez. In 1613 Congruism was mandated for all Jesuit theologians by the Father General Claude Aquiviva. …

Other Molinists, including Molina himself, vigorously reject any … antecedent absolute election of Peter to salvation. They insist instead that God simply chooses to create a world in which he infallibly foresees Peter's good use of the supernatural graces afforded him, and only then does he accept Peter among the elect in light of his free consent to those graces." (emphasis added)

God's election of Peter to salvation is not "controlled" by Peter's response to His grace, since the world in which Peter responds to God's grace unto salvation depends in the first place on God's willing to actualize the world that contains that particular good. As for why God has not actualized the world in which all persons responded well to His grace, I suspect it may be the case that there are some persons who reject all possible graces in every conceivable world. I believe Alvin Plantinga refers to this as "transworld depravity." It's conceivable and therefore at least a sound initial premise. Aside from that notion, however, the very meaning of grace is that it is gratuitous: a gift, not an obligation. Hence, in seeing Peter willing to sin, God is not obliged to provide him with grace sufficient that forestalls his desire to sin, since leaving Peter to his own devices is much a mode of God's intrinsic and complete goodness as delivering otherwise saving graces. A good God is a just God is a gracious God. As Walter McDonald says in his article, "Congruism", in The Catholic Encyclopedia:

…grace which proves efficacious is given by God to one who, He foresees, will use it freely; whereas He foresees no less surely, when giving a grace which remains merely sufficient, that it will not last in the recipient beyond the initial or necessary stage of its duration. Congruism further insists that the motion passes into the free stage when the circumstances are comparatively favourable (congruous) to it; but when they are comparatively adverse (not congruous), it will not continue, at least as a rule. The circumstances are to be deemed favourable or unfavourable not absolutely, but comparatively, that is, in proportion to the intensity of thegrace; for it is plain that, no matter how adverse they may be, God can overcome them by a strong impulse of grace such as would not be needed in other less stubborn cases; and, vice versa, very powerful Divine impulses may fail where the temptation to sin is very great. Not that in the necessary stage of the motion there is not sufficient energy, as we may say, to continue, always supposing freedom; or that it is not within the competence of thewill, when the crucial point has been reached, to discontinue the motion which is congruous or to continue that which is not so. … The will is likely to be drawn, and almost invariably is drawn, by the stronger, i.e. more congruous, motive; it is not, however, drawn ofnecessity, nor even quite invariably, if Molinism is true. In this, which is the only psychologically intelligible sense of Congruism, Molina, Lessius, and all their followers were Congruists just as much as Francisco Suárez or Bellarmine.

McDonald notes a lasting theological dispute in all this:

Difference of opinion among Molinists is manifested only when they proceed to inquire into the cause of the Divine selection: whether it is due to any antecedent decree of predestination which God means to carry out at all costs, selecting purposely to this end only such graces as He foresees to prove efficacious, and passing over or omitting to select, no less purposely, such as he foresees would be without result if given. Francisco Suárez holds that the selection of graces which are foreseen to prove efficacious is consequent on and necessitated by such an antecedent decree, whereby all, and only, those who will actually be saved were infallibly predestined to salvation, and this antecedently to any foreknowledge, whether of their actual or merely conditional correspondence with the graces they may receive. The great body of the theologians of the Society of Jesus, as well as of other followers of Molina, while admitting that individuals, such as St. Paul, may be, and have been, predestined in that way, do not regard it as the only, or even the ordinary, course of Divine Providence.

Joseph Pohle, in "Molinism" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, writes:

Whereas Molinism tries to clear up the mysterious relation between grace and free will by starting from the rather clear concept of freedom, the Thomists, in their attempt to explain the attitude of the will towards grace, begin with the obscure idea of efficacious grace. The question which both schools set themselves to answer is this: Whence does efficacious grace (gratia efficax), which includes in its very concept the actual free consent of the will, derive its infallible effect; and how is it that, in spite of the infallible efficacy of grace, the freedom of the will is not impaired? It is evident that, in every attempt to solve this difficult problem, Catholic theologians must safeguard two principles: first, the supremacy and causality of grace (against Pelagianism and Semipelagianism), and second, the unimpaired freedom of consent in the will (against early Protestantism and Jansenism). For both these principles are dogmas of the Church, clearly and emphatically defined by the Council of Trent. Now, whilst Thomism lays chief stress on the infallible efficacy of grace, without denying the existence and necessity of the free cooperation of the will, Molinism emphasizes the unrestrained freedom of the will, without detracting in any way from the efficacy, priority, and dignity of grace. As in the tunnelling of a mountain, galleries started by skilful engineers from opposite sides meet to form but one tunnel, thus it might have been expected that, in spite of different and opposite starting-points, the two schools would finally meet and reach one and the same scientific solution of the important problem. If we find, however, that this is not the case, and that they passed each other along parallel lines, we are inclined to attribute this failure to the intricatenature of the subject in question, rather than to the inefficiency of the scholars. The problem seems to lie so far beyond the horizon of the human mind, that man will never be able fully to penetrate its mystery.

Pohle continues:

Freedom of the will is a consequence of intelligence, and as such the most precious gift of man, an endowment which he can never lose without annihilating his own nature. Man must of necessity be free in every state of life, actual or possible, whether that state be the purely natural (status purœ naturœ), or the state of original justice in paradise (status justitiœ originalis), or the state of fallen nature (status naturœ lapsœ), or the state of regeneration (status naturœ reparatœ). Were man to be deprived of freedom of will, he would necessarily degenerate in his nature and sink to the level of the animal.

Pohle then notes that:

Molinism escaped every suspicion of Pelagianism by laying down at the outset that the soul with its faculties (the intellect and will) must be first constituted by prevenient grace a supernatural principle of operation in actu primo, before it can, in conjunction with the help of the supernatural concursus of God, elicit a salutary act in actu secundo. Thus, the salutary act is itself an act of grace rather than of the will; it is the common work of God and man, because and in so far as the supernatural element of the act is due to God and its vitality and freedom to man. It must not be imagined, however, that the will has such an influence on grace that its consent conditions or strengthens the power of grace; the fact is rather that the supernatural power of grace is first transformed into the vital energy of the will, and then, as a supernatural concursus, excites and accompanies the free and salutary act. In other words, as a helping or co-operating grace (gratia adiuvans seu cooperans), it produces the act conjointly with the will. According to this explanation, not only does Divine grace make a supernatural act possible, but the act itself, though free, is wholly dependent on grace, because it is grace which makes the salutary act possible and which stimulates and assists in producing it. …

It is rather the will itself which by its consent, under the restrictions mentioned above, renders the prevenient grace (gratia prœveniens) co-operative and the completely sufficient grace (gratia vere sufficiens) efficacious; for, to produce the salutary act, the free will need only consent to the prevenient and sufficient grace, which it has received from God. This theory reveals forthwith two characteristic features of Molinism, which stand in direct opposition to the principles of Thomism. The first consists in this, that the actus primus (i.e. the power to elicit a supernatural act) is, according to Molinism, due to a determining influx of grace previous to the salutary act (influxus prœvius, gratia prœveniens), but that God enters into the salutary act itself (actus secundus) only by means of a concomitant supernatural concursus (concursus simultaneus, gratia cooperans). The act, in so far as it is free, must come from the will; but the concursus prœvius of the Thomists, which is ultimately identical with God's predestination of the free act, makes illusory the free self-determination of the will, whether in giving or withholding its consent to the grace.

The second characteristic difference between the two systems of grace lies in the radically different conception of the nature of merely sufficient grace (gratia sufficiens) and of efficacious grace (gratia efficax). Whereas Thomism derives the infallible success of efficacious grace from the very nature of this grace, and assumes consequently the grace to be efficacious intrinsically (gratia efficax ab intrinseco), Molinism ascribes the efficacy of grace to the free co-operation of the will and consequently admits a grace which is merely extrinsically efficacious (gratia efficax ab extrinseco). It is the free will that by the extrinsic circumstance of its consent makes efficacious the grace offered by God. If the will gives its consent, the grace which in itself is sufficient becomes efficacious; if it withholds its consent, the grace remains inefficacious (gratia inefficax), and it is due — not to God, but — solely to the will that the grace it reduced to one which is merely sufficient (gratia mere sufficiens).

Pohle goes on to argue that:

This explanation gave the Molinists an advantage over the Thomists, not only in that they safeguarded thereby the freedom of the will under the influence of grace, but especially because they offered a clearer account of the important truth that the grace, which is merely sufficient and therefore remains inefficacious, is nevertheless always really sufficient (gratia vere sufficiens), so that it would undoubtedly produce the salutary act for which it was given, if only the will would give its consent. Thomism, on the other hand, is confronted by the following dilemma: Either the grace which is merely sufficient (gratia mere sufficiens) is able by its own nature and without the help of an entirely different and new grace to produce the salutary act for which it was given, or it is not: if it is not able, then this sufficient grace is in reality insufficient (gratia insufficiens), since it must be supplemented by another; if it is able to produce the act by itself, then sufficient and efficacious grace do not differ in nature, but by reason of something extrinsic, namely in that the will gives its consent in one case and withholds it in the other.

None the less, Pohle adds, "At this stage of the controversy the Thomists urge with great emphasis the grave accusation that the Molinists, by their undue exaltation of man's freedom of will, seriously circumscribe and diminish the supremacy of the Creator over His creatures, so that they destroy the efficacy and predominance of grace and make impossible in the hands of God the infallible result of efficacious grace." He then argues that "The consideration of these serious difficulties leads us to the very heart of Molina's system, and reveals the real Gordian knot of the whole controversy. For Molinism attempts to meet the objections just mentioned by the doctrine of the Divine scientia media." Pohle elaborates on scientia media:

If, for example, He foresees by means of the scientia media that St. Peter, after his denial of Christ, shall freely co-operate with a certain grace, He decrees to give him this particular grace and none other; the grace thus conferred becomes efficacious in bringing about his repentance. In the case of Judas, on the other hand, God, foreseeing the future resistance of this Apostle to a certain grace of conversion, decreed to allow it, and consequently bestowed upon him a grace which in itself was really sufficient, but remained inefficacious solely on account of the refractory disposition of the Apostle's will. Guided by this scientia media God is left entirely free in the disposition and distribution of grace. On His good pleasure alone it depends to whom He will give the supreme grace of final perseverance, to whom He will refuse it; whom He will receive into Heaven, whom He will exclude from His sight for ever. This doctrine is in perfect harmony with the dogmas of the gratuity of grace, the unequal distribution of efficacious grace, the wise and inscrutable operations of Divine Providence, the absolute impossibility to merit final perseverance, and lastly the immutable predestination to glory or rejection; nay more, it brings these very dogmas into harmony, not only with the infallible foreknowledge of God, but also with the freedom of the created will. The scientia media is thus in reality the cardinal point of Molinism; with it Molinism stands or falls. This doctrine of the scientia media is the battlefield of the two theological schools; the Jesuits were striving to maintain and fortify it, while the Dominicans are ever putting forth their best efforts to capture or turn the position.

Pohle then adds some meta-theological considerations:

As long as there is an historical development of dogma, it is natural that, in the course of time and under the supernatural guidance of the Holy Ghost, new ideas and new terms should gain currency. The deposit of faith, which is unchangeable in substance but admits of development, contains these ideas from the beginning, and they are brought to their full development by the tireless labours of the theological schools. The idea of the scientia media Molina had borrowed from his celebrated professor, Pedro da Fonseca, S.J. ("Commentar. in Metaphys. Aristotelis", Cologne, 1615, III), who called it scientia mixta. The justification for this name Molina found in the consideration that, in addition to the Divine knowledge of the purely possible (scientia simplicis intelligentiœ) and the knowledge of the actually existing (scientia visionis), there must be a third kind of "intermediate knowledge", which embraces all objects that are found neither in the region of pure possibility nor strictly in that of actuality, but partake equally of both extremes and in some sort belong to both kinds of knowledge. In this class are numbered especially those free actions, which, though never destined to be realized in historical fact, would come into existence if certain conditions were fulfilled. A hypothetical occurrence of this kind the theologians call a conditional future occurrence (actus liber conditionate futurus seu futuribilis).

Pohle remarks that for

…the very purpose of securing the freedom of the will and in no way to do violence to it by a physical premotion of any sort, the Molinists insisted all along that the knowledge of God precedes the decrees of His will. They thus kept this knowledge free and uninfluenced by any antecedent absolute or conditioned decree of God's will. Molinism is pledged to the following principle: The knowledge of God precedes as a guiding light the decree of His will, and His will is in no way the source of His knowledge. It was because by their scientia media they understood a knowledge independent of any decrees, that they were most sharply assailed by the Thomists.

I don't have much to add at this time. Just posting what I've been reading. I would like to note, however, that if God's actual decrees "metaphysically precede" His knowledge of that which He can decree, then He is not free: for His actions would be infallibly known by Himself before He committed them. How His existence outside time ties into all this, I am not certain. Suffice to say I am a Thomist by "Leonine" default, not by ideological indefatigability. [I can't believe I typed indefatigability correctly in one burst of key strokes! {Or did I?}] After all, I felt called to the Jesuits before I felt called to Thomas, so Molinism has always figured in there somewhere.

Stay tuned.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Google translate?

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The opening section of book 1 of Summa contra gentiles, in Latin:

Multitudinis usus, quem in rebus nominandis sequendum philosophus censet, communiter obtinuit ut sapientes dicantur qui res directe ordinant et eas bene gubernant. Unde inter alia quae homines de sapiente concipiunt, a philosopho ponitur quod sapientis est ordinare. Omnium autem ordinatorum ad finem, gubernationis et ordinis regulam ex fine sumi necesse est: tunc enim unaquaeque res optime disponitur cum ad suum finem convenienter ordinatur; finis enim est bonum uniuscuiusque. Unde videmus in artibus unam alterius esse gubernativam et quasi principem, ad quam pertinet eius finis: sicut medicinalis ars pigmentariae principatur et eam ordinat, propter hoc quod sanitas, circa quam medicinalis versatur, finis est omnium pigmentorum, quae arte pigmentaria conficiuntur. Et simile apparet in arte gubernatoria respectu navifactivae; et in militari respectu equestris et omnis bellici apparatus. Quae quidem artes aliis principantes architectonicae nominantur, quasi principales artes: unde et earum artifices, qui architectores vocantur, nomen sibi vindicant sapientum.

The same passage translated into English as Italian by Google translate:

Multitudinis usus, quem in rebus nominandis sequendum philosophus censet, communiter obtinuit sapientes dicantur here ut res et directe payer gubernant eas well. Unde inter alia quae homines de concipiunt wise, a philosophi ponitur sapientis quod est order. Omnium autem ordinatorum in finem, et ordinis gubernationis regulam former east end sumi needful: tunc enim res unaquaeque optime disponitur to cum suum finem convenienter ordinatur; finis est enim bonum uniuscuiusque. Unde in videmus artibus unam et alterius gubernativam they almost principem, ad quam eius finis pertinet: sicut ars medicinalis pigmentariae principatur et eam neatly, propter hoc quod sanitas about quam Versature medicinalis, pigmentorum omnium finis est, quae conficiuntur art pigment. And like in art apparet gubernator respectu navifactivae, et omnis et equestris in military respectu war apparatus. Artes quae quidem aliis principantes architectonicae nominantur almost principales artes: unde et earum artifices, here architectores vocantur, sibi nomen vindicant sapientum.

And again, translated into English as Spanish:

Multitudinis usus, quem in rebus nominandis sequendum philosophus censet, sapient dicantur communites obtinuit ut qui eas res bene et directe ordinant gubernant. Unde inter alia quae homines concipiunt Sapient, a philosophe ponitur Sapientis quod est ordinare. Ordinatorum Omnium autem ad finem, et ordinis regulam gubernationis fine sumi ex necesse est: tunc enim res unaquaeque optime disponitur ad suum finem cum ordinatur convenient; finis est enim bonum uniuscuiusque. Unde videmus in artibus unam esse alterius et quasi gubernativam principem, ad quam eius finis pertinet: sicut ars medicinalis pigmentariae principatur et eam ordinate, propter hoc quod sanitas, circa quam versatur medicinalis, pigmentorum omnium finis est, quae conficiuntur pigment art. Et simile in art gubernatoria apparet navifactivae respectful, respectful militari et in omnis et equestris bellici apparatus. Quae quidem ALIIS arts nominantur architectonicae beginners, quasi major arts: unde et earum artifices, qui architectores vocantur, nomen sibi vindicant sapientum.
And again, as from French to English:

Multitudinism usus, quem in rebus nominandis sequendum philosophus censet, Communities obtinuit ut res sapientes dicantur that ordaining direct and eas bene Guberna. Unde inter alia quae homines by Sapient concipiunt has philosophico ponitur quod sapientes is ordinare. Omnium autem ordinatorum ad finem, and gubernationis ordinis ex regulam fine sumi necesse is: tunc enim res unaquaeque optime ad suum finem cum disponitur conveniente ordinatur; is finished enim bonum uniuscuiusque. Unde in Videmus artibus unam esse alterius gubernativam and quasi principem, ad quam eius pertinet finished: sicut ars medicinalis pigmentariae principatur ordinate and eam, propter hoc quod sanitas, circa quam versatur medicinalis, is finished pigmentorum omnium, quae arte pigmentaria conficiuntur. And simile in apparet arte gubernatoria navifactivae friendly, and respectful in militari equestris and omnis Bellici apparatus. Artes quae quidem aliis architectonicae nominantur principles, almost leading edges: unde earum and artifices, which architectores vocantur, nomen sibi Vindice sapientum.

An official English translation reads:

The usage of the multitude, which according to the Philosopher is to be followed in giving names to things, has commonly held that they are to be called wise who order things rightly and govern them well. Hence, among other things that men have conceived about the wise man, the Philosopher includes the notion that “it belongs to the wise man to order.” Now, the rule of government and order for all things directed to an end must be taken from the end. For, since the end of each thing is its good, a thing is then best disposed when it is fittingly ordered to its end. And so we see among the arts that one functions as the governor and the ruler of another because it controls its end. Thus, the art of medicine rules and orders the art of the chemist because health, with which medicine is concerned, is the end of all the medications prepared by the art of the chemist. A similar situation obtains in the art of ship navigation in relation to shipbuilding, and in the military art with respect to the equestrian art and the equipment of war. The arts that rule other arts are called architectonic, as being the ruling arts. That is why the artisans devoted to these arts, who are called master artisans, appropriate to themselves the name of wise men. But, since these artisans are concerned, in each case, with the ends of certain particular things, they do not reach to the universal end of all things. They are therefore said to be wise with respect to this or that thing; in which sense it is said that “as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation” (1 Cor. 3:10). The name of the absolutely wise man, however, is reserved for him whose consideration is directed to the end of the universe, which is also the origin of the universe. That is why, according to the Philosopher, it belongs to the wise man to consider the highest causes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A church with a crescent on top?

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"My basic disagreement with [the blog post in question] is not with its call for greater religious knowledge and understanding, including knowledge and understanding of Islam; it’s with the implicit assumption that once we come to know Islam we’ll find that it really teaches the same sorts of things we all believe anyway, that a mosque is basically just a church with a crescent instead of a cross on top."

–– Anthony Lusvardi, SJ, "Islam, Ignorance, and Diversity" via the blog, Whoseover Desires

A very interesting post by Lusvardi about some "on the ground" experiences of Islam in the Middle East and how "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" figures into contemporary religious indifferentism.

Sentire cum Ecclesia: Albertus Magnus: "De adhaerendo Dei"

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Chapter 2: How can one cling to and seek Christ alone, disdaining everything else? [Qualiter quis, omnibus aliis spretis, soli Christo inhaereat et intendat?]

Certainly, anyone who desires and aims to arrive at and remain in such a state must needs above all have eyes and senses closed and not be inwardly involved or worried about anything [opus est omnino, ut velut clausis oculis et sensibus, de nulla re se penitus implicet aut perturbet], nor concerned or occupied with anything, but should completely reject all such things as irrelevant, harmful and dangerous. Then he should withdraw himself totally within himself and not pay any attention to any object entering the mind except Jesus Christ, the wounded one, alone, and so he should turn his attention with care and determination through him into him –– that is, through the man into God, through the wounds of his humanity into the inmost reality of his divinity [nec aliud umquam objectum inibi mente attendat, quam solum Jesum Christum vulneratum: sicque per eum in eum, id est, per hominem in Deum, per vulnera humanitatis ad intima divinitatis suae].

Here he can commit himself and all that he has, individually and as a whole, promptly, securely and without discussion, to God’s unwearying providence, in accordance with the words of Peter, cast all your care upon him (1 Peter 5.7), who can do everything. And again, In nothing be anxious (Philippians 4.6), or what is more, Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. (Psalm 55.22) Or again, It is good for me to hold fast to God, (Ps. 73.28) and I have always set up God before me. (Psalm 16.8) The bride too in the Song of Songs says, I have found him whom my soul loves [Inveni quem diligit anima mea], (Canticle 3.4) and again, All good things came to me along with her. (Wisdom 7.11)

This, after all, is the hidden heavenly treasure, none other than the pearl of great price, which must be sought with resolution, esteeming it in humble faithfulness, eager diligence, and calm silence before all things [taciturnitate tranquilla, etiam usque ad corporalis commodi], and preferring it even above physical comfort, or honour and renown. For what good does it do a religious if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? Or what is the benefit of his state of life, the holiness of his profession, the virtue of his habit and tonsure, or the outer circumstances of his way of life if he is without a life of spiritual humility and truth in which Christ abides through a faith created by love? [Aut quid relevat status, professionis sanctitas, perfectionis habitus, tonsura, et exterioris dispositio conversationis, sine vita in spiritu humilitatis et veritatis, ubi Christus habitat per fidem charitate formatam?] This is what Luke means by, the Kingdom of God (that is, Jesus Christ) is within you. (Luke 17.21)

Remember, of course, that, according to the recieved history of the Middle Ages, as it was largely propagated by Protestant and Enlightenment historians, and as it took deep root in the collective consciousness of Protestant and post-Reformation nations (such as the United States and England), medieval Catholicism was all about "works salvation" and senseless mortification. Only with the rise of Luther and the magisterial Reformers did Christendom, after centuries of papist corruption and myriad Romish perversions, get a taste once more of the authentic streams of Christian spiritual devotion. And yet we plainly see how "self-conscious" Albertus is of the vanity of mere religious profession if it lacks a vital inner devotion to and delight in Jesus. Albertus wrote in the heart of the Middle Ages and his influence can hardly be overstated. Hence, the myth of a hyper-ritualized, mechanical, "works-based faith" in the Catholic Church is compromised even where it should be most blatant.

Reading the Summa contra gentiles

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Book I, Chapter 24:

THAT THE DIVINE BEING CANNOT BE DETERMINED BY THE ADDITION OF SOME SUBSTANTIAL DIFFERENCE [Quod divinum esse non potest designari per additionem alicuius differentiae substantialis]

The online annotated edition states, "This and the next chapter go to show that the logical arrangement is inapplicable to God, by which genus and differentia together constitute the species or definition, as animal and rational make up man."

[1] We can likewise show from what we have said [viz., that God's essence is His own existence and that no incidental attributes exist in Him] that nothing can be added to the divine being to determine it with an essential determination, as a genus is determined by its differences.

[2] Nothing can be in act unless everything that determines its substantial act of being exists [Impossibile est enim aliquid esse in actu nisi omnibus existentibus quibus esse substantiale designatur]. Thus, there cannot be an actual animal unless it be a rational or an irrational animal. Hence, the Platonists themselves, in positing the Ideas, did not posit self-existing Ideas of genera, which are determined to the being of their species through essential differences; rather, they posited self-existing Ideas solely of species, which for their determination need no essential differences. If, then, the divine being is determined essentially through something else superadded to it, it will be in act only if what is superadded is present. But the divine being, as we have shown, is the divine substance itself. Therefore the divine substance cannot be in act without the presence of something added; from which it can be concluded that it is not through itself a necessary being. But, we have proved the contrary of this proposition above.

The online annotated edition explains, "There is an ideal or typical man in the Platonic scale, but no ideal animal. The former is specific in reference to Socrates, the latter would be generic. The type stops at the species. This piece of Platonism is not formulated in the writings of Plato."

… [4] Again, that through which a thing derives being in act and is intrinsic to it is either the whole essence of that thing or a part of the essence. But that which determines something in an essential way makes that thing to be in act and is intrinsic to the determined thing [Quod autem designat aliquid designatione essentiali, facit rem esse actu et est intrinsecum rei designatae: alias per id designari non posset substantialiter]; otherwise, the thing could not be determined substantially by it. It must therefore be either the essence itself or a part of the essence. But, if something is added to the divine being, this cannot be the whole essence of God, since it has already been shown that God’s being is not other than His essence. It must, then, be a part of the essence, which means that God will be composed of essential parts. But, we have proved the contrary of this above.

[5] Furthermore, what is added to a thing to give it a certain essential determination does not constitute its nature but only its being in act [Quod additur alicui ad designationem alicuius designatione essentiali, non constituit eius rationem, sed solum esse in actu]. For rational added to animal gains for animal being in act, but it does not constitute the nature of animal as animal, since the difference does not enter the definition of the genus [nam differentia non intrat definitionem generis]. But, if something is added in God by which He is determined in His essence, that addition must constitute for the being to which it is added the nature of its own quiddity or essence, since what is thus added gains for a thing its being in act. But in God this “being in act” is the divine essence itself, as we have shown above [hoc autem, scilicet esse in actu, est ipsa divina essentia, ut supra ostensum est]. It remains, then, that to the divine being nothing can be added that determines it in an essential way, as the difference determines the genus.

Book I, Chapter 25:

THAT GOD IS NOT IN SOME GENUS [Quod Deus non est in aliquo genere]

[1] From this we infer necessarily that God is not in some genus.

[2] Every thing in a genus has something within it by which the nature of the genus is determined to its species; for nothing is in a genus that is not in some species of that genus [nihil enim est in genere quod non sit in aliqua eius specie]. But, as we have shown, this determination cannot take place in God. God cannot, then, be in some genus.

… [4] Again, whatever is in a genus differs in being from the other things in that genus; otherwise, the genus would not be predicated of many things [Quicquid est in genere secundum esse differt ab aliis quae in eodem genere sunt. Alias genus de pluribus non praedicaretur]. But all the things that are in the same genus must agree in the quiddity of the genus, since the genus is predicated of all things in it in terms of what they are. In other words, the being of each thing found in a genus is outside the quiddity of the genus [Esse igitur cuiuslibet in genere existentis est praeter generis quidditatem]. This is impossible in God. God, therefore, is not in a genus.

[5] Then, too, each thing is placed in a genus through the nature of its quiddity, for the genus is a predicate expressing what a thing is [Unumquodque collocatur in genere per rationem suae quidditatis: genus enim praedicatur in quid est]. But the quiddity of God is His very being. Accordingly, God is not located in a genus, because then being, which signifies the act of being, would be a genus. Therefore, God is not in a genus.

If being were a genus, we could presumably classify some things as belonging to the class of "existent beings" (i.e. in the genus of being) and others to the class of "nonexistent beings." But this is nonsense: a nonexistent being is not a being at all.

[6] Now, that being cannot be a genus is proved by the Philosopher in the following way [Metaphysics III, 3]. If being were a genus we should have to find a difference through which to contract it to a species. But no difference shares in the genus in such a way that the genus is included in the notion of the difference, for thus the genus would be included twice in the definition of the species. [The annotated edition remarks: "As if we took 'living' for a differentia attachable to the genus 'animal,' and so formed a species 'living animal.'"] Rather, the difference is outside what is understood in the nature of the genus. But there can be nothing that is outside that which is understood by being [Nihil autem potest esse quod sit praeter id quod intelligitur per ens], if being is included in the concept of the things of which it is predicated. Thus, being cannot be contracted by any difference. Being is, therefore, not a genus. From this we conclude necessarily that God is not in a genus.

For insofar as God is Being Itself, and as Being is not in a genus, God's essence cannot fall in the so-called genus of being. There is no genus of Being of which God partakes as one member of the class among others. Rather, His substance, and His alone, is to exist: all else partakes of Him in analogous modes of likeness and intrinsic perfection. As Thomas said in chapter 21, §4, "the divine essence exists through itself as a singular existent and individuated through itself."

The annotated edition has an interesting note: "There is always an ambiguity in this term of 'mere existence,' ipsum esse, auto to einai. Either it means ens abstractissimum, the thinnest and shallowest of concepts, denoting the barest removal from nothingness: or it is ens plenissimum, being that includes (virtually at least) all other being, as the Platonic auto to kalon virtually includes all beauty. In this latter sense the term is predicable of God alone. In God 'mere existence' means pure actuality."

And again: "God is mere and sheer existence, not existence modelled upon some quiddity…. In this study it should be borne in mind that 'essence' represents the ideal order: 'existence' the actual. God is the unity of essence and existence, of the ideal and the actual; the point at which the potential finally vanishes into the actual. In every existent being, under God, there is an admixture of potentiality. This is to be kept steadily in view in bringing St Thomas to bear upon Kant and Hegel."

[7] From this it is likewise evident that God cannot be defined [Ex quo etiam patet quod Deus definiri non potest], for every definition is constituted from the genus and the differences.

[8] It is also clear that no demonstration is possible about God, except through an effect [Patet etiam quod non potest demonstratio de ipso fieri, nisi per effectum]; for the principle of demonstration is the definition of that of which the demonstration is made.

Sections 7 and 8 here are an astounding recollection of the argumentation in chapters 10 and 11, in which Thomas refuted Anselm's ontological argument, basically by saying that while God's self-evident existence is true intrinsically––given that "what God is" = "that God is"––, yet it is not self-evident to us in our current mode of existence. Thomas' point in these sections is that, since God is not a member of any genus, He cannot be defined by any number of predicates. A dog can be defined, roughly speaking, as a smallish, four-legged, carnivorous mammal. This definition can then be used in a demonstration of further claims about dogs. Something that cannot be defined, however, cannot be used in a demonstration of its existence. Since God cannot be defined, His "definition" cannot be used to prove His existence in the way St Anselm thinks. So the only way to demonstrate God's existence is by tracing effects of His power back to His being as cause of all things.

[9] Now it can seem to someone that, although the name substance cannot properly apply to God because God does not substand accidents [quia Deus non substat accidentibus; cf. chapter 23], yet the thing signified by the name is appropriate and thus God is in the genus of substance. For a substance is a being through itself [Nam substantia est ens per se]. Now, this is appropriate to God, since we have proved that He is not an accident.

[10] To this contention we must reply, in accord with what we have said, that being through itself is not included in the definition of substance [in definitione substantiae non est ens per se]. For, if something is called being, it cannot be a genus, since we have already proved that being does not have the nature of a genus. … A substance is a thing to which it belongs to be not in a subject [quod substantia sit res cui conveniat esse non in subiecto]. The name 'thing' takes its origin from the quiddity, just as the name 'being' comes from to be [nomen autem rei a quidditate imponitur, sicut nomen entis ab esse]. In this way, the definition of substance is understood as that which has a quiddity to which it belongs to be not in another [et sic in ratione substantiae intelligitur quod habeat quidditatem cui conveniat esse non in alio]. Now, this is not appropriate to God, for He has no quiddity save His being [Hoc autem Deo non convenit: nam non habet quidditatem nisi suum esse]. In no way, then, is God in the genus of substance. Thus, He is in no genus, since we have shown that He is not in the genus of accident.

The annotated edition has a closing note for this chapter: "Being means anything and everything that in any way is, and can at all be said to be removed from the merest nothing. There is being in thought, conceptual, or ideal being; and there is being of thing, -- actually existent being. Being in this latter sense of what actually exists cannot be a genus, because the whole apparatus of genus, species and differentia belongs to the business of definition; and definition does not lay down actual existence (esse), but ideal being (essentia. It is no part of the definition of a triangle to state that any such things as triangles do actually exist. Therefore we read in this chapter (n. 3): "The existence of each thing that exists in a genus is something over and above the quiddity of the genus." In other words, 'existence' lies outside every possible generic notion. Nor again can being in the sense of what is in thought be a genus, because such conceptual being penetrates and pervades the whole ideal order, to which genus, species and differentia belong: it is the fundamental notion of the order, and appears everywhere, and therefore cannot be screened off as a genus."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Subsidized paranoia...

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This Yahoo news story discusses how the Puli government is considering developing a microchip wristwatch for swimmers to wear next year at the Sun Moon Lake Swimming Carnival. This year, as I mentioned before, a swimmer disappeared. This story reports that his body has been found. He was a 27-year-old Malaysian engineer working in Miaoli. He is the fourth casualty in the 28 years the Carnival has taken place. I feel pity for the man and his family and I have prayed for his soul. At the same time, I find myself peeved at the "technophilic" anxiety generated by his death. Presumably, making swimmers wear a locating device will prevent future deaths. But there's no such thing as guaranteed safety. Swimming is inherently dangerous and swimming with thousands of other people in large open water--you shouldn't get in the water if you're not prepared not to come out of it. I understand that the "research" into the safety devices is a political action, since the government has to show its concern, and nothing says concern better than a new gizmo. I also understand that no one may really think such devices totally prevent casualties; they lower the odds of casualties, which is all the government can be expected to do.

But then the question arises as to just how low the government is obliged to make the odds. If everyone admits the best we can do is lower the odds of death, then why not just accept the odds as they stand? Already the event planners have set up safety buoys every 50 meters, dispatched rescue boats to troll the waters, assigned rescue swimmers to swim among the masses, and required all entrants to wear a safety bob and bright, insulated swim cap. How much safer do the measures have to be? Presumably, "so safe" as to prevent death, which is where the gizmos come in. But what if the device fails and a swimmer still ends up missing? Do we then need to attach a locating device to each locating device? Or what if the device falls off someone's wrist and they go missing? Any number of things can go wrong, so the only rational way to prevent every possible death is to call the whole thing off.

I think what bothers me about this news is that it signals a typical (liberal?) shallowness that stems from a more fundamentally secular fear of death in a world without eternal life. Can you imagine if runners in Pamplona were required to wear tracking devices or body armor, so as to prevent injury and death? I certainly can't. The mortality of the running of the bulls is very much what makes it so alluring. If it were non-lethal, it would be a non-event. Let's each of us get inside a giant, bullet-proof hamster ball, secured by ropes and soft cushions inside, and bounce along as the bulls run through the alleys. How pathetic. Sounds like a dreary missing scene from The Sun Also Rises. More taxpayer money spent on hot air and "making the people feel secure."

Jacques Maritain makes an interesting point (I may find a citation when I get home) that the transcendental reason people are, historically, so careless and adventurous--so reckless with their lives--, is because they instinctively know they are immortal by the life of their soul. But I wonder if it's that simple. After all, it doesn't take faith to try Jackass stunts and do city drag racing, or even drink yourself to death, for that matter. That kind of self-destructiveness may stem from the opposite "faith," namely, that which induces our culture instinctively to sense that we are all just meaningless effluvia of the endless evolutionary chaos. And yet I think there is a difference, and that Maritain's point stands in a qualified sense. People of Christian faith will (and sometimes do) "waste their lives" in the eyes of others, because they believe a life poured out at the altar of divine love ultimately finds itself again at the throne of theandric immortality. People without such faith can be just as reckless and profligate with themselves, I suppose, but in fact they are just sublimating the divine nisus with a desire to "live on in glory" or "live on in the memory of others" or "live on in the benefits reaped for future generations." I think persons devoid of a sense of glory--which is an icon of immortality--would be stingy with themselves. Insofar as our world is seeing a progressive evaporation of glory--for example, in the nauseatingly commonplace intellectual device that recalls how Kepler, Darwin, Marx, Freud, et al. "knocked human nature off its pedestal" by showing "we are not so special after all"--, our world is seeing an increase in paranoia and pettiness. People are obsessed with public safety because they are secretly obsessed with their own triviality and baffling contingency. "How dare they not take better safety measures!" Yet, we might just as well ask, "How dare anyone take such risks if they think pain is the worst possible fate and death is the end of existence?"

Public service is predicated on a traditional belief in the good of propagating the human species and in allowing for the flourishing of a range of natural human goods. Yet, such a belief is rife with finality and teleology, neither of which has any place in contemporary discourse de jure. If we acted in accord with our reigning dogmas, such as that all social behavior is just an historical accident, intrinsically meaningless and aimless, and that "this life is all the life we get," then I see no coherent reason to campaign for public safety. If there is no essential human nature, there are natural human goods, and therefore no natural reason to protect those goods as a way of developing that essential nature. If there is nothing intrinsically valuable in the security of the biologically and spiritually procreative family, or in the health of the body and calmness of mind, then each of us is obliged by our evolutionary make-up--which is the only "natural conscience" to which our cultural ringleaders say we may adhere--to take whatever we can get before our time is up.

I suppose my basic dissatisfaction is that hand-wringing and finger-wagging about GPS devices and the like puts the cart before the horse. Or perhaps it is trying to put the cart up the horse's ass in a confused effort to make it go faster. People need to have a sense of immortality and peace of soul before they try to find a doodad that will take away all their fears. Once again we see technology being stroked like a talisman to soothe public unrest. Technology is undeniably a social good, but this incident has me wondering afresh what the longterm effects of technology might be on other social goods, such as vigilance and fraternity. For, if everyone in the lake knows that everyone else is safe in the hands of Our GPS in Heaven, and that "professionals" will rescue anyone who goes missing, then no swimmer has any reason to watch out for anyone else. As things currently stand, swimmers still need to be at least peripherally aware of signs of distress; little things, like flailing and screaming, or a mass of bubbles as a swimmer sinks, or a totally motionless face-down body drifting to the side. Hence, as things stand, there is a normative motive for the social good of vigilant fraternization (or fraternal vigilance). Once, however, Titan Technology intervenes, there is a normative motive to relax, to ignore others (benignly, of course), and, above all, to fixate at all times on how securely one's own microchip is attached.

Technology is man's great security blankey. And while it is often argued that God is just a social crutch--a security blanket in the heavens--, at least the Gospel has always woven its bloody thorns into the fabric of that blanket by saying both that all who would touch the hem of that garment are themselves individual bases for why the world needs the blanket and that they must die before they may rest in the blanket. Technology, by contrast, is barbless--Science is for Everybody and no one has to suffer anymore; being barbless, alas, also makes "Science" toothless; or perhaps makes it a Savior that denies there is anything from which to be saved. The only real security against death is life and the only guarantee of life is in the death and resurrection of Christ, not in technology or public safety measures or anything else. If human life is not seen as an arena in which people can and should develop their essential potentialities in a way ordered to their highest goal--to God, as their origin--then fiddling with safety measures is akin to fiddling while the Titanic sinks, or, worse yet, like drawing up plans for the Titanic without believing the ocean exists.

In any event, my practical suggestions for the Sun Moon Lake swim are 1) to limit entrants to 25,000 people and 2) to make every entrant sign a waiver.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sentire cum Ecclesia: Albertus Magnus: "De adhaerendo Dei"

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[I'd like to think this post marks the inauguration of a semi-new feature of FCA. I have posted quotations from Saints and Doctors and other notable Catholics for a few years now, and have lately taken to reading/posting the Summa contra gentiles chapter by chapter. I decided I'd also occasionally like to post readings from other works in the Tradition, which allows me and readers "sentire cum Ecclesia" (to think with the Church). The first work is by St Thomas Aquinas' master, Albert the Great (1193/1206–1280). It is probably the shortest work of his and is available online, so I thought it would be a good place to start. Albertus Magnus is one of the Church's 33 Doctor's (so far), which means he is one of the few figures deemed by the Church worthy of a universal authority as a teacher of the faith. Indeed, one of his monickers is "Doctor Universalis." (He was a German, too!) According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Ulrich Engelbert, a contemporary, calls him the wonder and the miracle of his age: 'Vir in omni scientia adeo divinus, ut nostri temporis stupor et miraculum congrue vocari possit' (De summo bono, tr. III, iv)."]

On Cleaving to God (De adhaerendo Deo)

Chapter 1: On the highest and supreme perfection of man, in so far as it is possible in this life (De ultima et summa perfectione hominis, quantum in hac vita possibile est)

I have had the idea of writing something for myself on and about the state of complete and full abstraction from everything and of cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly and firmly to God alone [ab omnibus plena et possibili abstractione, et cum solo Domino Deo expedita, secura, et nuda firmaque adhaesione], so as to describe it fully (in so far as it is possible in this abode of exile and pilgrimage), especially since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God. In fact everyone is obligated, to this loving cleaving to God as necessary for salvation [ipsius Christianae perfectionis finis sit charitas, qua Domino Deo adhaeretur. Ad quam quidem adhaesionem charitativam omnis homo de necessitate salutis tenetur], in the form of observing the commandments and conforming to the divine will, and the observation of the commandments excludes everything that is contrary to the nature and habit of love, including mortal sin.

Members of religious orders have committed themselves in addition to evangelical perfection, and to the things that constitute a voluntary and counselled perfection by means of which one may arrive more quickly to the supreme goal which is God. The observation of these additional commitments excludes as well the things that hinder the working and fervour of love, and without which one can come to God, and these include the renunciation of all things, of both body and mind, exactly as one’s vow of profession entails.

Since indeed the Lord God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth, in other words, by knowledge and love, that is, understanding and desire, stripped of all images. This is what is referred to in Matthew 6.6, ‘When you pray, enter into your inner chamber,’ that is, your inner heart, ‘and having closed the door,’ that is of your senses, and there with a pure heart and a clear conscience, and with faith unfeigned, ‘pray to your Father,’ in spirit and in truth, ‘in secret.’ This can be done best when a man is disengaged and removed from everything else, and completely recollected within himself. There, in the presence of Jesus Christ, with everything, in general and individually, excluded and wiped out, the mind alone turns in security confidently to the Lord its God with its desire [ubi universis et singulis exclusis et oblitis, coram Jesu Christo, tacito ore, sola mens desideria sua secure Domino Deo suo fiducialiter pandit]. In this way it pours itself forth into him in full sincerity with its whole heart and the yearning of its love, in the most inward part of all its faculties, and is plunged, enlarged, set on fire and dissolved into him.