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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Francis J. Beckwith Faith, Reason, and the Liberal Order
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Claims of religious conscience that run counter to prevailing cultural trends are increasingly met with bewilderment and disbelief. The author argues that this should not surprise us given the ways in which the rational and liturgical status of religious beliefs and practices (especially those tightly tethered to the Christian faith) are widely misunderstood and misrepresented by jurists and legal philosophers. To make this point the author discusses some recent arguments found in court cases as well as in legal scholarship on religion. He encourages Catholic philosophers—who typically do not work in this area--to enter the fray by contributing to the jurisprudential literature that touches on issues of faith, reason, and religious liberty.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Chad Engelland Introducing Robert E. Wood, 2018 Aquinas Medal Recipient
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Robert E. Wood The Undestructible Foundations of Human Existence
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Christopher Kaczor A Defense of Conscientious Objection in Health Care: A Reply to Recent Objections
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In this essay, I defend rights of conscientious objection against various objections raised on deontological grounds of rights and entitlements as well as on consequentialist, utilitarian grounds. Udo Schuklenk and Ricardo Smalling in their article, “Why Medical Professionals Have No Moral Claim to Conscientious Objection Accommodation in Liberal Democracies” raise various objections, including the Objection from the Rights of Patients, the Objection from Monopoly, the Objection from Religion, the Objection from Untestability, and the Objection from Inconsistency. This article also responds to the concern about “unconstrained conscientious objection.” It suggests that we can distinguish legitimate from illegitimate conscientious objection in part by means of distinguishing objection to particular kinds of procedures from objection to treating particular kinds of persons. Perhaps the most promising way of differentiating legitimate from illegitimate conscientious objection in healthcare is by means of the goal of the medical art understood as the promotion of health.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
J. L. A. Garcia A Volitional Account of Racist Beliefs, Contamination, and Objects: Engaging Dr. Urquidez
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Prof. Alberto Urquidez, in an important recent article that appears in different form in his book, Redefining Racism, offers an informed, sustained, careful, multi-pronged, and sometimes original critique of the volitional analysis of racism (VAR), which I have proposed in a series of articles over the past two dozen years. Here I expand and improve VAR’s analysis of paternalistic racists and their beliefs, clarify its ‘infection’-model’s explanation of racism’s spread and variety, and lay out what it is for something to be ‘characteristically’ racist, an understanding that I then use to offer a unified account of the way in which both certain physical objects and certain abstract objects can properly be called racist. Identifying and engaging some presuppositions behind Urquidez’s social, political, and moral criticisms of VAR, I respond to complaints from him and others, showing that VAR’s content is neither politically conservative nor dependent on religious doctrine, and point out that race theory would in fact profit from taking more seriously and internalizing the Christian morality of most African-Americans.
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Meghan Sullivan Public Conversion, Private Reason, and Institutional Crisis
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Following the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which detailed the sexual abuse of clergy members, many have questioned the value of personal institutional commitment to the Catholic Church, preferring instead more individualistic expressions of faith. Alongside the sex abuse crisis, the age of free information makes the Church’s epistemology appear antiquated. This article explores the individualistic versus community-based practice of Catholicism, drawing a distinction between private conversion versus public conversion. The article offers a defense of public conversion, arguing it explains the rationality of conversion and offers a solution to the problem of divine hiddenness. Using details from her own faith journey, Sullivan explores why God graces us with less perspicuous knowledge, causing subluminous conversions, as opposed to the more glaring, which leads to luminous conversions. Sullivan suggests that we obtain knowledge of God by loving one another, which takes place in the framework of the institutional Church. She subsequently uses this Church-making theodicy to offer five ideas about how we might engage the Church institutionally as Catholic philosophers.
session 1: epistemology
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Joshua Yanhan Lo The Road from ἔνδοξα to ἐπιστήμη: The Place of Dialectic in Aristotelian Epistemology
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The purpose of this paper is to argue for the necessity of dialectic in Aristotelian philosophy—dialectic defined as the art of arguing from probable opinions to contradictory conclusions (100a30; 101b4; 164b3–4). In particular, I will argue that dialectic is necessary for definition. In the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle identifies three principles of scientific demonstration: axioms, un-middled premises, and definitions. In showing the need for dialectic to define, I also show scientific knowledge’s dependence on dialectic.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Fr. James Dominic Rooney, OP Believing the Incomprehensible God: Aquinas on Understanding God’s Testimony
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There has been recent epistemological interest as to whether knowledge is “transmitted” by testimony from the testifier to the hearer, where a hearer acquires knowledge “second-hand.” Yet there is a related area in epistemology of testimony which raises a distinct epistemological problem: the relation of understanding to testimony. In what follows, I am interested in one facet of this relation: whether/how a hearer can receive testimonial knowledge without fully understanding the content of the testimony? I use Thomas Aquinas to motivate a case where, in principle, the content of received testimony cannot be understood but nevertheless constitutes knowledge. Aquinas not only argues that we can receive testimonial knowledge without understanding the content of that testimony, but that we have duties to do so in certain cases.
session 2: philosophy and public life
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Scott J. Roniger Philosophy, Freedom, and Public Life: Plato’s Gorgias as a Protreptic
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I argue that one of the fundamental conflicts between Socrates and his interlocutors (Gorgias, Polus, and Callicles) in the Gorgias concerns the nature of human freedom. Against the increasingly grandiose and aggressive claims of his interlocutors, Socrates sees true freedom as requiring discipline in speech and deed. Plato has Socrates argue for a concept of human freedom that finds its fulfillment in happiness only by being channeled through the funnels of philosophy and justice. Central to this Platonic understanding of freedom is the role of eros and imitation. Socrates’s love of truth is the foundation for freedom because it motivates the search for a vision of the true good and therefore provides a formation in justice, creating the space for friendship in community life, that is, for civilization. By contrast, Callicles’s love of the dēmos is an extension of disordered self-love, impelling him to seek the means to placate the masses so that he can enlarge his appetites and continually fill them. Such love enslaves Callicles, corrupts political life, and vitiates the possibility of friendship. Finally, I connect these Platonic insights to central themes in Catholic Social Teaching.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
David McPherson Humane Philosophy as Public Philosophy: A Path for Religious Engagement in Public Life
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Public philosophy is typically conceived as philosophical engagement with contemporary social and political issues in the public sphere. I argue that public philosophy should also aim to engage with existential issues that arise from the human condition. In other words, we should engage in “humane philosophy.” In the first section I fill out and show the attractions of this humane conception of philosophy by contrasting it with a rival scientistic conception. In the second section I demonstrate how the practice of humane philosophy is important for engaging with contemporary social and political issues and how it offers the best path for religious engagement with these issues. Contra John Rawls and other liberal political philosophers, I argue that public engagement with controversial issues such as abortion, assisted suicide, and genetic engineering requires engaging competing existential stances and I show how this can be done.
session 3: ethics
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Alexander R. Pruss Counseling Lesser and Proportionate Evils: A Principled Defense
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It is widely thought that it can be permissible to persuade someone set on a greater evil to commit a lesser evil instead, though the question is not without controversy. I argue that a version of this kind of Principle of Counseling Lesser Evil can be derived from the Principle of Double Effect and some considerations about the way human choices work. As an application, I argue that giving bribes to officials who otherwise would not do their job might be considered a special case of this counseling principle.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Jason T. Eberl, Christopher Ostertag Conscience, Compromise, and Complicity
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Debate over whether health care institutions or individual providers should have a legally protected right to conscientiously refuse to offer legal services to patients who request them has grown exponentially due to the increasing legalization of morally contested services. This debate is particularly acute for Catholic health care providers. We elucidate Catholic teaching regarding the nature of conscience and the intrinsic value of being free to act in accord with one’s conscience. We then outline the primary positions defended in this debate and respond to critics of Catholic teaching. In so doing, we show how Catholic health care providers’ claims to conscientiously refuse to offer specific health care services are not essentially faith-based, but are founded upon publicly defensible reasons. We also address the question of whether conscientiously refusing health care providers may become complicit in moral wrongdoing or potentially cause scandal by means of disclosure or referral to another provider.
session 4: natural law
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
J. W. Schulz Is Purely Practical Agreement Possible? Maritain’s Mexico City Thesis Answers Some MacIntyrian Challenges
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In 1947, Jacques Maritain argued before the UN that “men mutually opposed in their theoretical conceptions can come to a merely practical agreement regarding a list of human rights.” Maritain justified this thesis using a progressive theory of the natural law which rests on a distinction between the natural law as operative in human nature and the natural law as known and articulated. Drawing on Maritain’s 1951 Man and the State, this essay defends a MacIntyrian reading of Maritain’s thesis and its plausibility against four objections from Ralph McInerny, Charles Taylor, and Alasdair MacIntyre himself.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Francis Feingold Is the Institution of Private Property Part of the Natural Law? Ius gentium and ius naturale in Aquinas’s Account of the Right to “Steal” When in Urgent Need
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Is the institution of private property part of the natural law? Leo XIII seems to say simply that it is, and many modern Catholic thinkers have followed suit. Aquinas presents a more nuanced view. On the one hand, he denies that the institution of private property is “natural” in the strict sense—unlike the ordering of physical goods to general human use. On the other hand, he maintains that private property does belong to the ius gentium, which is founded directly upon natural law in the strict sense. I argue that this relegation of private property to the ius gentium is necessary in order for Aquinas to coherently maintain that it is licit to “steal” when in dire need, but that this relegation nonetheless does not deprive private property of the kind of “natural” character which Leo XIII ascribes to it.
session 5: man and the cosmos
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Steven Baldner Thomas Aquinas and Natural Inclination in Non-Living Nature
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Thomas Aquinas recognizes natural inclination to be present everywhere in nature, and this inclination is always toward what is good both for the natural thing itself and also for the universe as a whole. Thomas’s primary example of natural inclination is found in the four simple elements, which have natural inclinations to their natural places. The inclination of these non-living elements is then the basis for understanding that natural human inclinations are towards goods for the human person and that the whole world shows a universal intelligent ordering toward what is good. I argue, however, that the natural inclination of non-living, natural bodies to ends that are good for the elements themselves makes good sense in Thomas’s cosmology, but not in ours. Natural substances still show finality in our cosmos, but in a more restricted way than what Thomas was able to find.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
John G. Brungardt Is Personal Dignity Possible Only If We Live in a Cosmos?
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The Catholic Church has increasingly invoked the principle of human dignity as a way to spread the message of the Gospel in the modern world. Catholic philosophers must therefore defend this principle in service to Catholic theology. One aspect of this defense is how the human person relates to the universe. Is human dignity of a piece with the material universe in which we find ourselves? Or is our dignity alien in kind to such a whole? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between? The metaphysics of creation properly locates the human being in the universe as a part, ordered to the universe’s common good of order and ultimately to God. Human dignity is possible only in a cosmos; that this is concordant with modern scientific cosmology is briefly defended in the conclusion.
session 6: the common good
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Leonard Ferry Bound by the Good: The Common Good as Ground of Political Obligation in Aquinas’s Political Theory
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Political authority is not eliminable, even if in a globalizing world order the particulars of its exercise might be undergoing a transformation. What matters to political philosophy is whether or not its existence and exercise can be justified. In this paper I begin by contrasting two paradigmatic approaches to justifications of political authority and political obligation: political naturalism and political voluntarism. Having set the stage for the debate, I connect Aquinas’s account of political authority with the former—though one will not find a full-fledged version of that account in this paper (it appears elsewhere). More importantly, I connect Aquinas’s naturalist defense of political obligation to a non-instrumental account of the common good, though the bulk of the paper deals with what I argue are failed attempts to offer non-naturalist accounts of the common good as alternative natural law defenses of political authority.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
V. Bradley Lewis Is the Common Good Obsolete?
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The idea of the common good has been a signature feature of Catholic social teaching and so of modern Catholic engagement in public affairs. It has recently been suggested that the notion is now obsolete due to changes in the culture and politics of the West. In keeping with this suggestion, some argue that Catholics should abandon it in favor of an appeal based on lower intermediate goods in a manner more related to Augustine’s engagement with the largely pagan culture of his time than to Aquinas’s categories tailored to an integrally Christian society. I argue that such a solution misreads aspects of the tradition and of the present political and cultural situation and I suggest some alternative grounds on which Catholic engagement with contemporary public life should proceed and that thinking again about the common good is a necessary part of such engagement.
session 7: objectivity of the good
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Jonathan Fuqua Metaethical Mooreanism and Evolutionary Debunking
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In this paper I will apply the Moorean response to external world skepticism to moral skepticism, specifically to the evolutionary debunking argument against morality. I begin, in section 1, with a discussion of Mooreanism. In section 2, I proceed to a discussion of metaethical Mooreanism, which is the view that some moral facts are Moorean facts. In section 3 I apply metaethical Mooreanism to the evolutionary debunking argument against morality. If the arguments of the paper hold up it will turn out that it is no more rational to abandon the existence of moral facts than it is to deny that one knows that one has hands.
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 92
Catherine Peters The Objective Relativity of Goodness: A Rapprochement between Peter Geach and Thomas Aquinas
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Peter Geach claims in Good and Evil that there can never be “just good or bad, there is only being a good or bad so-and-so” and thereby denies that goodness can ever be used in a non-relative sense. Although his rejection of absolute goodness might initially seem to be a startling and mistaken departure from the Thomistic understanding, I argue that an examination of Thomas’s texts reveal a strong agreement between them, one grounded in a common rejection of univocal goodness. For both, “good” is relative to the nature of a being. To defend the relativity of goodness, I consider two objections: first, that relativizing goodness leads to subjectivism. Second, that divine goodness is absolute and non-relative. In answering these objections, I show that in both Thomas’s medieval and Geach’s modern accounts “good” is an analogical perfection relative to a nature. In this way, then, goodness is objectively relative.