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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Thérèse-Anne Druart Al-Fârâbî: An Arabic Account of the Origin of Language and of Philosophical Vocabulary
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The paper first presents the necessary background to appreciate al-Fârâbî’s views and his originality. It explains the issues Anicent philosophers faced: the natural vs. the conventional origin of language, the problem of ambiguous words, and the difficulty to express Greek thought into Latin. It then sketches andcontrasts the views of Christianity and Islam on the origin of language and the diversity of idioms. It argues that al-Fârâbî follows the philosophical tradition butdevelops it in sophisticated and original manner by telling the story of the origin and development of language and giving little place to the Islamic tradition. Foral-Fârâbî language emerges naturally but develops by convention in three phases: (1) The constitution of utterances and crafts to ensure basic necessities; (2) The development of rhetoric, poetry, memorizing, writing, and the language arts; (3) the development of dialectic, sophistical reasoning and demonstration that leads to philosophy reaching its perfection with with Aristotle. Religion for him is posterior to philosophy and derives form it. As for al-Fârâbî philosophy in Islamic lands was imported from Greece, he includes rules to translate technical philosophical terms from one language into another.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Mark C. Murphy Introduction of the Aquinas Medalist Alasdair MacIntyre
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Alasdair MacIntyre On Being a Theistic Philosopher in a Secularized Culture
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Daniel O. Dahlstrom Towards an Explanation of Language
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After reviewing basic features of language, this paper reviews a central debate among twentieth-century philosophers over the proper analysis of linguisticmeaning. While some center the analysis of meaning in language’s capacity to be true, others locate meaning in the communicative intentions of the users of thelanguage. As a means of addressing this impasse and suggesting its unfounded character, the paper draws on recent studies of language acquisition and relates them to existential dimensions of language.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Ann Hartle Language and Philosophy in the Essays of Montaigne
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Montaigne chooses to write the Essays in French, the vulgar language, rather than in Latin, the language of the learned. He uses only the words that areheard in the streets, markets, and taverns of France. And he speaks about the body and the sexual in a manner that goes beyond the limits of propriety. The language of the Essays perfectly reflects Montaigne’s philosophical project, the re-ordering of philosophy to the lowest rather than the highest, to the ordinary rather than the extraordinary. By bringing the private into the public, he frees the private from shame and creates the new, modern public space, i.e., society. The invention of the essay is the invention of society.
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Stephen F. Brown William of Ockham and St. Augustine on Proper and Improper Statements
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William of Ockham discussed the fallacy of amphiboly twice in his writings. The first treatment was in his Expositio super libros Elenchorum, where he simply presents Aristotle’s treatment, updates it with some Latin examples, and tells us it is not too important, since we do not often run into cases of ambiguity of thiskind. Later, in his Summa logicae, however, he extends his treatment appreciably. He here includes under ambiguous statements philosophical and theological sentences which are improperly stated. Led by Aristotle, Augustine and Anselm, Ockham finds that in their writings they give us instances of improper statements which need to be restated properly before they can be evaluated as true or false. These leads provide for Ockham a key to unlocking the teaching treasures of the Ancients.
session i: hylomorphism and contemporary thought
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Paul Blaschko Resurrection and Hylomorphism: Moving Toward a Theory of Post-Mortem Survival Compatible with Catholic Doctrine
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My paper raises the question whether there are any tenable hylomorphic theories of post-mortem survival and resurrection compatible with Catholic Churchdoctrine. After considering what it would mean for such a theory to be compatible with Church doctrine, I raise three objections to which a hylomorphic theory would need to successfully respond in order to be considered tenable. In the final section of the paper, I argue affirmatively, that there are tenable hylomorphic theories. I then consider two contemporary theories and offer reasons to prefer an alternative, non-reassemblist theory to others that are currently equally or more popular.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
James J. Delaney Catholicism, the Human Form, and Genetic Engineering
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In September of 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Dignitas Personae, which addresses several newly emerging topics in thearea of biomedical ethics. One of these topics is genetic engineering, which we can define as the intentional manipulation of genetic material so as to produce some desired trait or characteristic. Genetic engineering is discussed in Dignitas Personae, but is done so relatively briefly. In this paper, I explore some of the metaphysical and ethical questions that are key in assessing the morality of this practice by examining other Church documents as well as philosophical literature. Ultimately, I will argue that aside from some instrumental restrictions, questions about the moral permissibility of genetic engineering, the distinction between therapy and enhancement, and what it means to be human are not as easily answered from a Catholic perspective as one might think.
session ii: thomistic political philosophy
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Michael Baur The Language of Rights: Towards an Aristotelian-Thomistic Analysis
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Alasdair MacIntyre has argued that our contemporary discourse about “rights,” and “natural rights” or “human rights,” is alien to the thought of Aristotleand Aquinas. His worry, it seems, is that our contemporary language of rights is often taken to imply that individuals may possess certain entitlement-conferringproperties or powers (typically called “rights”) entirely in isolation from other individuals, and outside the context of any community or common good. In thispaper, I accept MacIntyre’s worries about our contemporary language of “rights”; however, I seek to show that some of our contemporary language or discourseabout “justice” and “rights” is not altogether misguided, but does—in fact—reflect a properly critical (Aristotelian-Thomistic) understanding of what is meant by“justice” and “rights.”
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Benjamin Smith Political Theology and Thomas Aquinas: A Reading of the De Regno
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Political life is and ought to be entirely autonomous from theology; religion belongs to the private sphere and political community is ruled by the sovereign power of the state in accordance with “secular reasons.” This is commonly referred to as the modern settlement over the vexed relationship between politics and religious faith, and many have characterized it as one of the greatest legacies of the Enlightenment. Against this positive assessment, I shall argue that in hisearly De Regno, Thomas Aquinas offers compelling theological and philosophical reasons to doubt the coherence of the modern settlement and its compatibility with Christian tradition. According to this view, political practice must be reinterpreted according to a distinctly Christian understanding of the human person. Political life is not autonomous; rather it essentially requires theological reorientation.
session iii: language about god
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
R.E. Houser The Language of Being and the Nature of God in the Aristotelian Tradition
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Appropriate philosophical language for describing the nature of God took almost two millennia to develop. Parmenides first discovered the language of being. Plato then distinguished the world of changing beings from the world of true being and also from the good “beyond being.” He refused to use being language for the Olympic gods. Aristotle understood a god as a substance (oujsiva). Avicenna described God, not as a substance but as “being,” which transcends thecategories, including substance. For Br. Thomas of Aquino, God was no longer an Aristotelian substance, nor even an Avicennian “necessary being,” but is bestdescribed as “subsistent being itself ” (ipsum esse subsistens). Here the Christian disciple brought to an even higher level of perfection the achievements of his Islamic master, achievements that far surpassed their beginnings in Parmenidean monism.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Paul Symington The Aristotelian Epistemic Principle and the Problem of Divine Naming in Aquinas
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In this paper, I engage in a preliminary discussion to the thorny problem of analogous naming in Aquinas; namely, the Maimonidean problem of how ourconceptual content can relate to us any knowledge of God. I identify this problem as the First Semantic/Epistemic Problem (FSEP) of religious language. Theprimary determination of semantic content for Aquinas is what I call the Aristotelian Epistemic Principle (AEP). This principle holds that a belief is related tosome experience in order to be known. I show how an examination of the extent the AEP engenders the problem and allows us to find a way out of the FSEP. Forexample, through such an analysis, we can see how the AEP relates to Aquinas’s use of the distinction between the res significata and the modus significandi; the latter which includes the intension of being a created being where the former does not.
session iv: late scholastic views of abstraction
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Daniel Heider Bartholomew Mastrius (1602–1673) and John Punch (1599 or 1603–1661) on the Common Nature and Universal Unity
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The paper deals with the issue of the common nature (extramental universal) and universal unity (logical universal) in the theories of two of the foremostScotists in the Baroque Era, the Italian Conventual Bartholomew Mastrius and the Irish Observant John Punch. They are in the scholarly community well-known for their antagonistic interpretations of the teaching of Duns Scotus. On the basis of the exposition of two representative places from Scotus’s Ordinatio and Questions on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, I claim that it is Mastrius’s theory, which follows Scotus’s model more tightly. Punch’s theories are doctrines which are syncretically inspired by un-Scotist’s sources (above all “Suarezian,” “Thomistic,” and “Ockhamistic”). The hermeneutical advantage of Punch’s theory is that it remarkably mirrors the “Zeitgeist” of early modern academic philosophy, substantially determined by the Jesuit’s exposition of Aquinas.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Joseph Hill, S.J. Is Buridan’s Theory of Abstraction Incompatible with His Nominalist Semantics? An Evaluation of Klima’s Charge against Buridan
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This paper addresses Klima’s charge of inconsistancy against John Buridan in a book recently published on the subject. Klima argues that Buridan’s theoryof abstraction commits him to the aspectuality of substantial concepts. However, his semantics of absolute terms and concepts prevents him from accepting anyaspectuality of substantial concepts. In light of this problem, the paper gives a detailed reconstruction of Buridan’s account of abstraction, beginning with sensoryperception and singular cognition and ending with the formation of substantial concepts that have a universal signification. Then, from this reconstruction, someBuridanian responses are given to Klima’s critique, which explain at least why Buridan did not see the problem himself. Finally, the conclusion comes down in favor of Klima and, in light of the discussion, highlights some fundamental problems with the nominalist project.
session v: perception and language in thomas aquinas
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Daniel D. De Haan Linguistic Apprehension as Incidental Sensation in Thomas Aquinas
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In this paper I will delineate the psychological operations and faculties required for linguistic apprehension within a Thomistic psychology. This will require first identifying the proper object of linguistic apprehension, which will then allow me to specify the distinct operations and faculties necessary for linguisticapprehension. I will argue that the semantic value of any linguistic term is a type of incidental sensible and that its cognitive apprehension is a type of incidentalsensation. Hence, the faculties necessary for the apprehension of any linguistic term’s semantic value will be the cogitative power and the intellect. The cogitativepower, because it is the faculty of particular intentions, and the intellect, because it is the faculty of universal intentions.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Alfred Leo White, Ph.D. Perception, Language, and Concept Formation in St. Thomas
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According to St. Thomas, animals (both rational and non-rational) perceive objects in terms of goal-directed interactions. Repeated interactions give riseto consuetudo (translated custom or practice), a habit of sense memory that enables one to act skillfully. The interactive component of perception enables animals and humans to communicate. In humans, these perceptions are instrumental to the formation of concepts pertaining to life in society (such as law and liturgy) as well as to the understanding of human nature. But perception is able to perform this role only because it has been elevated by rational appetite. This elevation occurs in the context of practical reasoning, through which a kind of sortal awareness called “experience” (experientia or experimentum) is generated. Experience serves as the basis not only for our formation of concepts of things pertaining to life in society and human nature, but of other entities as well. In this way, the perceptual awareness of objects in terms of goal-directed interactions serves as the basis for the formation of all concepts.
session vi: ethics and moral psychology
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Alexander R. Pruss Lies and Dishonest Endorsements
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I shall discuss the problem of the definition of lying and the formulation of the duty of truthtelling. I shall argue that the morality of assertion is a special case of the morality of endorsement, and that a criterion of adequacy for an account of lying is that it handles certain cases of dishonest endorsement as well. Standardviews of lying fail to do so. I shall offer an account of the duty of honest endorsement in terms of the intention to avoid falsehood. But, in the end, we may simplyhave reason to go back to the naïve view that lying is saying falsehoods.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Jessy E. G. Jordan The Indispensability of Tradition in the Philosophical Activity of Socrates
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In this paper I argue that narratives concerning Periclean Athens have mistakenly imposed modern conceptions of enlightenment onto the Greek world,and have therefore been blinded to crucial aspects of Socrates’s practice of moral reason giving. In contrast to the Kantian conception of enlightenment, which puts forth an image of the ideally enlightened person as an autonomous reasoner, one who refuses to be guided by another and who has the courage to throw off the chains of tradition and “think for oneself,” I argue that Socrates provides us with a much different picture of the enlightened individual. Socrates’s practice of moral reasoning does not take the form of autonomous rationality that is antithetical to tradition, but rather his practice recognizes the rightful authority of tradition and custom in moral reason giving. Thus, rather than characterizing Socrates through a Kantian enlightenment reading, this paper argues that we should study Socrates through the lens of the sensus communis, a humanist concept articulated well by Giambattista Vico and Hans Georg-Gadamer.
session vii: plato and christian neoplatonism
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Gene Fendt Plato’s Mimetic Art: The Power of the Mimetic and Complexity of Reading Plato
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Plato’s dialogues are self-defined as works of mimetic art, and the ancients clearly consider mimesis as working naturally before reason and beneath it. Such aview connects with two contemporary ideas—Rene Girard’s idea of the mimetic basis of culture and neurophysiological research into mirror neurons. Individualityarises out of, and can collapse back into our mimetic origin. This para-rational notion of mimesis as that in which and by which all our knowledge is framed requires we not only concern ourselves with Socrates’s arguments and distinctions, but also see how the dramatic interaction of the characters is working (or not) on/in the characters, and consider how watching the interaction, hearing the parables and myths, and thinking through the arguments and interactions is meant to effect us. That Plato creates mimeses means he aims at passional conversion not merely argumentative worth, since mimesis aims to (and does) work on the passions.
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 84
Michael Wiitala It Depends on What One Means by “Eternal”: Why Boethius Is Not an Eternalist
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Objections to the traditional view that God knows all of time eternally stand or fall on what one means by “eternally.” The widely held supposition, shared by both eternalists and those who oppose them, such as Open Theists, is that to say God knows all of time eternally entails that he cannot know all of time from atemporal perspective. In this paper I show that Boethius’s characterization of God’s eternal knowledge employs a different meaning of “eternal,” which is incompatible with this supposition. I argue that Boethius’s claim that “the most excellent knowledge is that which by its own nature knows not only its own proper object but also the objects of all lower kinds of knowledge” entails that God is not limited by perspective and so eternally and simultaneously knows every temporal event from a temporal as well as a timeless perspective.