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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
J. L. A. Garcia From Neighbor-Love to Utilitarianism, and Back: Uncovering Some Structures and Dynamics for Ethical Theory
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Contrasting loving our neighbors with utilitarians’ demand to maximize good reveals important metatheoretic structures and dynamics that I call virtues- basing, input drive, role centering, and patient focus. First, love (good will) is a virtue; such virtues are foundational to both moral obligations and the impersonally valuable. Second, part of loving is acting lovingly. Whether and how I act lovingly, and how loving it is, is a matter of motivation; this input-driven account contrasts with highlighting actions’ outcome. Third, in regarding someone as our neighbor we view her in relation to ourselves; a role-centered perspective shows that a wide range of person-to-person role-relationships constitute moral life. Fourth, if our moral task is loving each person, the moral question is how we respond to each person’s relevant welfare and needs, focusing on those toward someone acts (moral patients), not on maximizing good across persons or producing an optimal world.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Thérèse-Anne Druart Introduction of Rémi Brague, 2015 Aquinas Medal Recipient
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Rémi Brague On the Need for a Philosophy of Nature and on Aquinas’s Help in Sketching One
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A philosophy of nature is an urgent need if we want to avoid falling back into the Gnostic view of the world and of man’s place in it that modern science can’t help fostering. The medieval idea of the world as the creation of stable natures by a rational and benevolent God should provide us with useful guidelines. In particular, Aquinas gives us valuable hints about how our scientific knowledge of nature might help us to get a correct appreciation of our own worth.
plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Brian Leftow Divine Simplicity and Divine Freedom
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I explain the doctrine of divine simplicity, and reject what is now the standard way to explicate it in analytic philosophy. I show that divine simplicity imperils the claim that God is free, and argue against a popular proposal for dealing with the problem.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Thomas D. Sullivan World-Maker, Mind-Maker, Revealer
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Is religion “noxious rubbish to be buried as deeply, as thoroughly, and as quickly as possible”? Philip Kitcher tells us that’s the dominant idea among atheists. In this paper I take a step back from the minutiae of standard journal articles to dispute the broad atheistic claim, and in the process suggest there is in fact a great deal to be said for religious belief. I argue that: (1) It’s not highly implausible that there is a cause of the universe distinct from the universe—a World-Maker; (2) Because the act of cognizing instantiables is not purely a physical action, Christian teachings on the nature and status of humans are defensible against common claims to the contrary based on neo-Darwinism, and there’s reason to think the World-Maker is a Mind-Maker; (3) Kitcher’s case that there is no true religion is vulnerable to myriad objections, and since it’s been lauded as the best attack on the credibility of religion to date, it’s entirely reasonable not to abandon all religion, and in particular Christianity: there’s good reason for thinking the World-Maker and Mind-Maker is also a Revealer.
session i: philosophy of religion
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Robert A. Elisher Molinist Divine Complicity: A Response to Neal Judisch
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I argue here that God, as Molinism conceives Him, is complicit in moral evil. This is of course a problem because complicity in evil undermines divine perfection. I argue, however, that it is a problem that Open Theism, as a theory of “general” (as opposed to “meticulous”) providence, avoids. This claim opposes that of Neal Judisch, who has recently (2012) argued that theories of general providence (e.g., Open Theism) are in no better position to answer the problem of gratuitous evil (i.e., the evidential problem of evil) than theories of meticulous providence (e.g., Molinism or Calvinism). Here, Judisch draws on important insights about just what these theories involve in terms of gratuitous evil to diffuse what he calls “the argument for divine complicity.” In response, I offer a reformulation of this argument that is immaterial to the question of gratuitous evil. I then explain why my argument does not convict an Open Theist God and, in the course of doing so, I consider whether an application of the doctrine of double effect exonerates a Molinist God as well.
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Matthew Kent Siebert Aquinas on Believing God
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Aquinas says that faith is belief about things one does not “see” for oneself. But if you do not see it for yourself, what makes your belief reasonable? Recent interpreters have missed a key part of Aquinas’s answer, namely, that faith is believing God (credere Deo). In other words, they have not given sufficient attention to the formal object of faith. As a result, they overemphasize other parts of his answer. Drawing partly on recent epistemology of testimony, I explain how the formal object of faith contributes to the justification of one’s faith.
session ii: metaphysics
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Joshua Lee Harris Transcendental Multitude in Thomas Aquinas
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In this study, I consider the viability of what is perhaps one of the more “obscure” transcendentals in Aquinas’s work—that is, the concept of multitudo transcendens. This strange notion is mentioned explicitly (as a member of the transcendentia, that is) on four occasions in Aquinas’s oeuvre. Despite its apparent difficulties, i.e., the clear difficulties associated with claiming that ens is really convertible with both unum and multitudo, I suggest that Aquinas’s affirmation of multitudo as a transcendental is a conceptually coherent way of providing a compelling answer to a perennial problem in both ancient and modern philosophy: namely, the logical and metaphysical problem of doing justice to the seemingly equiprimordial notions of “the one” and “the many”—as harmonious perfections rather than competitive notions.
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Travis Dumsday A New Argument for the Incompatibility of Hylomorphism and Metaphysical Naturalism
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Within the substance ontology literature in recent analytic metaphysics, four principal theories are in competition: substratum theory, bundle theory, primitive substance theory, and hylomorphism. This paper is part of a larger project attempting to show that each of these four theories is incompatible with metaphysical naturalism (which of course creates a problem for that view, if indeed these four theories are the only potentially workable options). To that end, I explicate and defend the following argument: Premise 1: Prime matter either can exist on its own (unactualized by substantial form) or it cannot. Premise 2: If prime matter can exist on its own (unactualized by substantial form) then metaphysical naturalism is false. Premise 3: If prime matter cannot exist on its own (unactualized by substantial form) then metaphysical naturalism is false. Conclusion: Therefore, either way, metaphysical naturalism is false.
session iii: ethics
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Alexander Schimpf Robert Spaemann’s Approach to Ethical Analysis
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The essay identifies and explains four prominent features of Robert Spaemann’s approach to applied ethical analysis: recollection of the origins of ethical dilemmas, assignment of the burden of proof, appeals to shared ethical intuitions, and references to the reality of the human person. The article concludes with a brief assessment of the potential merits and demerits of Spaemann’s approach.
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Heidi M. Giebel The Limits of Double Effect
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In the decades since Anscombe re-introduced the distinction between intention and foresight into philosophical ethics, supporters and critics of the related principle of double effect (PDE) have displayed disagreement and confusion about its application and scope. The key to correct interpretation and application of PDE, I argue, is recognition of its limits: (1) the principle does not include an account of the goodness or badness of effects; (2) it does not include an account of intention; (3) PDE does not specify a particular action as right or obligatory; and (4) the privacy of intention limits its application in interpersonal and legal contexts. While all four of these features are “limits” in the sense that they are things PDE does not do, I argue that (a) only the fourth is a real limitation or disadvantage of the principle—and (b) none of the limits implies that the principle should be rejected.
session iv: philosophy of knowledge
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
John Skalko Catholics and Hugo Grotius’s Definition of Lying: A Critique
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Among Catholic philosophers, Saint Augustine was the first boldly to propose and defend the absolute view that all lies are wrong. Under no circumstances can a lie be licit. This absolute view held sway among Catholics until the sixteenth century with the introduction of the doctrine of mental reservation. In the seventeenth century, Hugo Grotius introduced another way to uphold the absolute view by changing the definition of lying: If the right of another is not violated, then there is no lie. One could thus tell the murderer at the door “Nobody is home” without lying, as he has no right to know the whereabouts of his potential victim. By the late nineteenth century, Grotius’s definition of lying began gaining a following among Catholic philosophers and theologians, and continues to be held today by some Catholic philosophers. This article argues that adopting the Grotian definition of lying is a mistake.
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Timothy Pawl Truthmaking and Christian Theology
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This paper analyzes Catholic philosophy by investigating the parameters that Catholic dogmatic claims set for theories of truthmaking. First I argue that two well-known truthmaker views—the view that properties alone are the truthmakers for contingent predications, and the view that all truths need truthmakers—are precluded by Catholic dogma. In particular, the doctrine of transubstantiation precludes the first, and the doctrines of divine causality and divine freedom together preclude the second. Next, I argue that the doctrine of the Incarnation, together with an admittedly-contested theological premise, requires a vast and sweeping revision to the standard view of truthmakers for predicative truths.
session v: thomism
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
John F. X. Knasas Existential Thomist Reflections on Kenny: The Incompatibility of the Phoenix and Subsistent Existence
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My target is Kenny’s claim that if God can be thought not to be in the same manner as men or phoenixes, then God too is an essence/existence composite. I argue that our ignorance about the existence of the phoenix and our ignorance about God do not have the same bases and so they do not lead to the same conclusion, namely, a distinction between thing and existence in both cases. The notion of the phoenix is existence neutral because it is reflective of conceptual notes that have to be existence neutral in order to be in existential multiplicities. Our notion of subsistent existence is not existence neutral but it is composed of a formed intention of existence that gives it an independence from the context of the second operation in which it was formed. The first case leads to a situation involving a distinction between essence and existence. Knowledge of the existence of the phoenix adds something over and beyond the essence of the phoenix. In the second case, knowledge of the existence of subsistent existence does not do that because existence is what the formed intention here is of. What knowledge of subsistent existence adds does not belong to it. It belongs to us. It adds our second operation knowledge of the esse of sensible things and our reasoning from that to subsistent existence.
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Domenic D’Ettore A Thomist Re-consideration of the Subject Matter of Metaphysics: Chrysostom Iavelli on What is Included in Being as Being
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Catholic Philosophy has long acknowledged the primary place of Metaphysics, and a primary question of metaphysicians is “what is Metaphysics about?” This paper engages this primary metaphysical question through the lens of Scholastic dispute over the adequate subject matter of Metaphysics. Chrysostom Iavelli defended the position that the subject of Metaphysics is real being common to God and creatures against the position of his predecessor Dominic Flandrensis who had argued that it is categorical being to the exclusion of uncreated being. I find Flandrensis’s position represented in the writings of notable contemporary Thomists, but not Iavelli’s. This paper, offers a sixteenth-century Thomist’s position on the subject matter of Metaphysics as a challenge to current Thomist consensus. It attempts to prompt a re-investigation of the reasons behind the current consensus both as a philosophical position and as an interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas.
session vi: philosophy of the human person
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Mark K. Spencer Created Persons are Subsistent Relations: A Scholastic-Phenomenological Synthesis
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The recent Catholic philosophical tradition on the human person has tried to articulate the irreducibility of the human person to anything non-personal, and to synthesize all of the best of what has been said on the human person. Recently, a debate has arisen regarding the concrete existence and relationality of persons. I analyze these debates, and show how both sides of these debates can be synthesized into a view on which human persons are both subsistent beings and identical to certain relations. First, I examine those strands of recent Catholic tradition that defend the concreteness and relationality of the person, drawing on some Existential Thomists and phenomenologists; in connection with this, I consider the ideas of the beauty and mysterium of persons. Second, I examine the opposing view, drawing on some traditional Thomists and personalists. Finally, I show how the scholastic notion of transcendental relations can reconcile these views.
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Chad Engelland How Must We Be for the Resurrection to Be Good News?
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While the promise of the resurrection appears wonderful, it is also perplexing: How can the person raised be one and the same person as the one that dies? And if the raised person is not the same, why should any of us mortals regard the promise of the resurrection as good news? In this paper, I articulate the part-whole structure of human nature that supports belief in the sameness of the resurrected person’s identity and the desirability of the resurrection: (1) the immaterial core of the person must survive the destruction of the body; (2) the person must nonetheless be incomplete apart from the body; and (3) the personal core must be the source for the personal identity of the resurrected body. In light of these criteria, I conclude by arguing that survivalism rather than corruptionism is the more compelling account of death and resurrection present in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
session vii: ethics and politics
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Shawn Floyd Violence and the Obligations of Charity
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According to one interpretive strand of the Christian moral tradition, charity requires complete renunciation of violence in all its forms. One should not summarily dismiss this view as extreme or unrepresentative of Christian teaching. After all, sacred Scripture urges us to love our neighbors (including our enemies) and repudiate wanton aggression, hatred, and personal reprisals. Yet while charity would have us disavow all varieties of malicious acts and urges, it is not obvious that it forbids using potentially lethal force. Relying on insights from Aquinas, I argue that charity may not only permit but require such force in order to combat the cruelty and aggression directed at our beloved or those in our care.
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Peter Karl Koritansky A Thomistic Analysis of the Hart-Fuller Debate
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In 1958, the Harvard Law Review published a now-famous debate between H. L. A. Hart and Lon Fuller regarding the proposed connection between law and morality. Whereas Hart defended a broadly positivist conception of law, Fuller advanced a kind of natural law theory that has greatly influenced judicial interpretation in the United States. This paper examines the debate and provides a commentary in light of the natural law theory of Thomas Aquinas. Whereas it is not surprising that Aquinas would reject the central tenets of Hart’s positivism, it also appears he would have deep misgivings about the position defended by Professor Fuller, and particularly Fuller’s understanding of how laws should be interpreted in light of morality.
session viii: catholic philosophy and education
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 89
Steven Baldner Descartes as Catholic Philosopher and Natural Philosopher
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A Catholic philosophy requires an account of God as the first cause of all being. Descartes provides this, but he does so at a high price, for his Creator of ontologically and causally independent moments of creaturely existence precludes all secondary causes. Descartes’s philosophy thus results in occasionalism, which I try to show is the unhappy result of errors in natural philosophy concerning material forms and duration. Suarez provides a contrasting scholastic account of creation, showing how novel, and problematic, Descartes’s position is.