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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Patrick L. Bourgeois Philosophy at the Boundary of Reason: A Call for a Catholic Philosophical Pluralistic Community
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The thesis of this paper, that the contemporary Catholic philosopher needs to be critical in an expanded Kantian sense of the boundary of reason, while still maintaining a strict biblical and Christian faith, is developed in four parts. First, the nature of a Catholic philosophical pluralistic community will be explored. In keeping with this pluralism, a first sense of boundary as that between philosophical reason and Christian faith will be considered. Then, a second sense of boundary as the Kantian context of critical philosophy in which reason sets the limit on the human claims to objective knowledge will be considered. A twofold expansion of this Kantian sense of the boundary-limit of reason is seen to be necessary. Finally, part four focuses on the place of Catholic faith for such a philosopher, suggests ways to overcome certain extremes, and proposes a possible path for thinking the Transcendent.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
John J. Drummond Presentation of the Aquinas Medal to Robert Sokolowski
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aquinas medalist's address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Robert Sokolowski Language, the Human Person, and Christian Faith
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Jean-Luc Marion, Arianne Conty The Unspoken: Apophasis and the Discourse of Love
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That which we call “negative theology” inspires within us both fascination and unease. We can either challenge all “negative theology” as a language game that is both impractical and contradictory, as many contemporaries do, or we can explore the question in light of the recent arguments of Derrida. The primary thesis in this paper is that we should reject “negative theology” as a descriptor and replace it, following the nomenclature of the Dionysian corpus, with “mystical theology.” In doing this, we will come to realize that “mystical theology” no longer has the ambition to make constative use of language; its ambition is rather to be freed from such use. Thus, we move from a constative (and predicative) use of language toward a strictly pragmatic usage. This movement has yet to be proved, and what follows is an attempt to do just that.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
James L. Marsh Justice, Difference, and the Possibility of Metaphysics: Towards a North American Philosophy of Liberation
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What happened in New York City on September 11, 2001, creates an urgent need for a turn to practical reason, to ethics, to critique, and to a radical,transformative theory and praxis. Contemplation, speculation, pure theory, and contemplative metaphysics in philosophy, while necessary and valuable, are notsufficient in dealing with such an infamous crime against humanity. The central idea running through this paper and much of my work is that there is an essentiallink between rationality and radicalism. The aim of this paper is to explore this link in an argument sketched in three parts: self-appropriation as the pearl of great price in philosophy; a critical theory of society; and a metaphysics and philosophy of religion that are both contemplative and political — a threefold radicality, if you like. This argument seeks to show negatively how the postmodern critique of rationality misfires, and positively how a post-imperial phenomenology, critical theory, and metaphysics/philosophy of religion can do justice to and recognize difference and the otherness of nature, other human beings (especially the exploited and marginalized), being itself, and God.Because in Vietnam the vision of a burning Babeis multiplied, multiplied, the flesh on firenot Christ’s, as Southwell saw it, prefiguringthe Passion upon the Eve of Christmas,but wholly human and repeated, repeated,infant after infant, their names forgotten,their sex unknown in the ashesset alight, flaming but not vanishingnot vanishing as his vision but lingering,cinders upon the earth or living onmoaning and stinking in hospitals three abed;because of this my strong sight,my clear caressive sight, my poet’s sight I was giventhat it might stir me to songis blurredWhy do men then not wreck his rod?Generations have trod, have trod, have trodAnd all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toilAnd wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell, the soilIs bare now, nor can foot feel, being
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Adriaan Peperzak The Catholicity of a Catholic Philosopher
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This paper explores the mode of thinking that should characterize philosophers who happen to be Catholic or Catholics who also are philosophers. How does and how should a “Catholic philosopher” relate to the human — i.e., the earthly, interpersonal, social, religious, historical — world in which he or she practices what, for more than 2,500 years and notwithstanding several transformations, has been called “philosophy”? In trying to prepare an answer to this question, this paper focusses on the universality or Catholicity of the truth that orients and dominates the philosophical search, but without ignoring the fact that at least certain aspects of that same truth are also sought along non-philosophical paths.
session 1
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Bernardo J. Canteñs Peirce and the Spontaneous Conjectures of Instinctive Reason: A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God
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In this paper, I will analyze Charles S. Peirce’s “A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God.” I want to argue for two conclusions: 1) that Peirce’s conception of spontaneous conjectures of instinctive reason allows for a rationally justified belief in the reality of God; and 2) that this belief is not the result of a sound argument or even a complete argument and thus is not a secure belief. This paper is divided into three parts. First, I will explain some Peircean philosophical notions that are essential background information for a genuine understanding of the neglected argument. Second, I will present a sketch of Peirce’s three stages of inquiry and explain each stage’s relevance to the neglected argument. Finally, I will analyze Peirce’s first stage of inquiry, also known as the humble argument for the reality of God, and show how this incomplete argument can provide a rationally justified belief in the reality of God.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Myron A. Penner The Quest for Natural Attitudes within Ontological Limits
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In “The Natural Ontological Attitude,” Arthur Fine attempts to provide a way out of the realist/antirealist dichotomy in philosophy of science. Says Fine, the natural way of treating the ontological status of theoretical entities is not to form speculative metaphysical theories, be they realist or antirealist, but instead is to apply a homely version of Tarskian semantics. I argue that Fine’s position depends on two deficient maxims, and therefore does not provide a compelling way out of the realist/antirealist dichotomy. Fine’s Maxim (FM) prohibits the possibility of inferring justified metaphysical theses from the truth-value of existence claims. Hilbert’s Maxim (HM) asserts that metatheoretic arguments are cogent only if they adhere to stricter standards than their constituent theories. I argue that (FM) is likely false, but even if true cannot be rationally believed. I further argue that (HM) is a deficient standard for theory justification due to the problem of infinite regress.
session 2
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
John J. Conley The Limits of Metaphysical Reason: Re-reading John Paul II
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Based on a close reading of Fides et Ratio and Salvifici Doloris, this paper argues that John Paul II challenges the power and range of metaphysical reason in certain neglected passages. Such challenges include the critique of the idolatry of philosophical systems, the emphasis on the irreducible mystery of God, and the rejection of efforts to construct a theodicy in the face of human suffering. The challenge especially emerges in John Paul II’s emphasis on the Cross as a stumbling block to metaphysical affirmation. Against certain rationalistic interpretations of the Pope, this paper attempts to excavate the critique of metaphysical reason embedded in John Paul II’s arguments on the limits of philosophical speculation.
session 3
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Martin DeNys The Paradox at Reason’s Boundary
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Central to Kierkegaard’s account of religious existence is his critique of speculative reason. This critique begins with the distinction between subjective and objective reflection. Its most radical aspects appear in Kierkegaard’s discussions of the paradox. In spite of Kierkegaard’s frequent comments on this notion, it is not readily understood. I want to argue against a common reading of this notion and propose an alternative reading. This alternative reading allows for a conceptually quite plausible account of the manner in which the paradox presents reason with a boundary, in virtue of its relation to objective reflection and to subjective reflection as well. Because of this boundary, reason points beyond its own achievements to a domain of contemplation and appropriation. This is a domain that reason itself identifies in connection with the paradox. It both surpasses rational achievements and integrates them into itself.
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Phillip Stambovsky Mythemically Figuring the Limits of Ethical Reason: The Prelude of Fear and Trembling
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This paper considers how Kierkegaard self-reflexively portrays the tension between the boundary limit of discursive reason and mythic imagination in his classic analysis of Abrahamic faith. Following some reflections on the nature and philosophical implications of that tension, I examine its salient delineation in the Prelude of Fear and Trembling. Through four non-canonical renderings of the biblical Aqedah myth featured in the Prelude, Kierkegaard depicts the limits of ethical reasoning in the drama of Johannes de Silentio’s struggle to figure-forth Abraham’s “movements” in ethically intelligible terms. I conclude that, as dramatized by Kierkegaard, the tension between mythemic figuration and discursively articulated critical reasoning sets in relief one of the formative aporiai of modern Western culture, namely the conflictive interplay of vision and discourse.
session 4
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
M.V. Dougherty Thomas Aquinas and Divine Command Theory
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Nearly all attempts to include Aquinas among the class of divine command theorists have focused on two kinds of texts: those exhibiting Aquinas’s treatment of the apparent immoralities of the patriarchs (e.g., Abraham’s intention to kill Isaac), and those pertaining to Aquinas’s discussion of the divine will. In the present paper, I lay out a third approach unrelated to these two. I argue that Aquinas’s explicit endorsement of one ethical proposition as self-evident throughout his writings is sufficient justification to include Aquinas among the class of divine command theorists. I examine Aquinas’s persistent contention that the proposition “the commands of God are to be obeyed” is a self-evident or per se nota proposition of ethical reasoning, and I then trace Aquinas’s appeals to it in the Sentences commentary, De Veritate, and Quodlibet 3. I conclude with a discussion of passages where Aquinas argues that the experience of moral necessity or obligation requires reference to divine commands.
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Jonathan J. Sanford Scheler on Feeling and Values
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Max Scheler argues that there is much to learn about reality through faculties that lie beyond the boundary of reason. In his Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, Scheler explores values (Werte), awareness of which depends primarily on affective receptivity rather than rational perceptionof the world. This essay explores the possibility of affective insight in light of Scheler’s analysis of values. Scheler’s notion of values as moral facts is first examined, next consideration is given to how we learn of values, and then Scheler’s account of how the preference we feel for a given value yields insight into its relative rank is considered. In conclusion, I discuss some reasons for being wary of Scheler’s account, as well as other reasons for being open to it.
session 5
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Alexander J. Doherty Aquinas on Scriptural Metaphor and Allegory
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This paper attempts to situate Thomas Aquinas with respect to philosophical discussions of the nature of metaphorical language. I consider Aquinas’s comments in the Summa Theologiae on Scriptural metaphor and allegory in the light of two theses in current discussions of metaphor: the substitution thesis and the dual-meaning thesis. I compare Aquinas’s view to those of Aristotle and Donald Davidson. The substitution thesis asserts that figurative expressions can be replaced by semantically equivalent literal expressions. The dual-meaning thesis asserts that, in addition to a literal meaning (or sense), metaphorical language possesses another meaning, viz. a figurative one. I claim that Aquinas’s view is complex. He affirms the dual-meaning thesis with regard to Scriptural allegory. Yet he rejects the dual-meaning thesis and affirms the substitution thesis with regard to predicates ascribed metaphorically to God.
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Christine O’Connell Baur Dante As Philosopher at the Boundary of Reason
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In this paper I argue that the interpretation of a text by a reader involves a dialectical process that simultaneously perfects both reader and text. The issue of the dialectical relation between text and reader is beautifully embodied in Dante’s Commedia, a text that includes both an account of its subject matter as it develops (in the story of the pilgrim), as well as an account of its own coming-to-be as an interpreted, meaningful account (in the narrative of the poet). Thus there is a necessary relation, though not an identity, between the content of Dante’s text (as shown in the journey of the pilgrim) and the meaningful interpretation of the content of Dante’s text (as shown in the recollective narrative of the poet). The issue of the dialectical relation between interpreter and text is dramatized by the fact that, in his account of the realms of the afterlife, Dante the poet is not merely describing realms that have meaning apart from his own hermeneutic activity. Rather, he is demonstrating that the pilgrim’s journey of interpreting the world within which he finds himself always involves his own self-interpretation, and viceversa. Thus, as the pilgrim/poet’s ability to interpret himself becomes more refined, his very world changes. Dante illustrates this process as a movementthrough the three realms of the afterlife, from the inferno, through purgatory, to paradise.
session 6
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Joseph G. Trabbic Aquinas and Continental Philosophy of Religion: Finding a Way Out of Ontotheology
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In this paper I consider how Aquinas has been interpreted by continental philosophers of religion and particularly in relation to the problem of ontotheology. A patient examination of the texts of those who have dealt with Aquinas reveals two basic problems. First, there is an underestimation of the radicality of Aquinas’s negative theology. Second, no account is taken of the way Aquinas understands the relationship between reason and revelation. Aquinas’s position on this relationship is even more crucial for the overcoming of onto-theology than is his negative theology. From a Christian perspective, what is at stake in overcoming onto-theology is the issue of keeping philosophical theology from overstepping its bounds and intruding on the domain of revelation. Revelation is the final standard when it comes to God-talk. If negative theology is to be done properly, it must be integrated into a theological position like Aquinas’s that, while granting reason and revelation each their legitimate “autonomy,” gives priority to the latter in questions of theology.
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Danilo Marcondes de Souza Filho The Maker’s Knowledge Principle and the Limits of Science
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This paper starts with an analysis of the maker’s knowledge principle as one of the main characteristics of Modern epistemology. We start by showing that maker’s knowledge can be understood in two ways: 1) a negative sense, as a way of establishing limits to human knowledge: we can only know what we create; and 2) a positive sense, as legitimizing human knowledge: we effectively know what we create. We proceed then to examine the roots of the maker’s knowledge principle in the context of the transition from Greek philosophy to early Christian thought, seeing Philo of Alexandria as perhaps the first to formulate an early version of the principle. We conclude that it is the Christian conception of God as creator that makes possible a redefinition of the relation between knowing and creating, opening the way to the Modern formulation of the principle.
session 7
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Avery Goldman The Metaphysics of Kantian Epistemology
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In this paper I make use of Heidegger’s late essay, “Kant’s Thesis About Being,” in order to examine the structure of Kantian critique, the elusive transcendental method. Heidegger investigates the underlying reflective act that restricts “the use of the understanding to experience,” what Kant describes in an Appendix to the “Transcendental Analytic” of the Critique of Pure Reason as “transcendental reflection.” What is clear from Kant’s brief description is that prior to the analysis of the conditions of the possibility of experience, critical inquiry has designated the boundary of possible experience. While neither Kant nor Heidegger explicitly develops the account of the transcendental method that follows from this initial orienting act, doing so will offer a response to the charge, leveled at Kant since thepublication of the first Critique, that he was blind to the metaphysical presuppositions of transcendental idealism.
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Lawrence Masek Why Kant’s Project Did Not Have to Fail
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This paper argues that Kant identifies what is morally good as what allows people to fulfill their essential purpose. In After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre contends that the Enlightenment project of justifying morality had to fail because Enlightenment thinkers did not treat moral judgments as teleological judgments. However, Kant claims in his Critique of Judgment that judging something to be good always refers to a purpose. I reconcile this claim with some passages from Kant’s writings that seem to contradict it, including passages about a good will, the categorical imperative, and the boundary of human knowledge. I also explain how following the moral law allows humans to fulfill their essential purpose of becoming worthy of happiness.
session 8
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 76
Lisa Bellantoni What Are Persons Made Of?
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Many current debates between Catholic and secular bioethicists stalemate upon one central dispute: whether human dignity is a property persons bear at conception, or a product of social engagement, i.e., whether persons are born, or made. We need not resolve that dispute, however, to affirm two points that the prospect of human cloning should teach us. First, whether persons are born or made, whether we affirm a creationist, traducian, or even reincarnational view of the soul, the prospect of cloning highlights the inescapably communitarian dimensions of human dignity. Second, within a pluralist moral culture, we’re best advised to conceive human dignity not only as a property ascribed to us through divine grace, but also as an ethical imperative to be inscribed, by us, in the dignifying social practices by which we bear and raise persons.