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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ Reason in an Age of Anxiety: On the Vocation of Philosophy
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In response both to the current age of anxiety and the recent call of Caritas in Veritate, I argue for a re-framed understanding of rationality, based upon the insights of Franciscan John Duns Scotus. For Scotus, “rational” means capable of self-movement. Consequently, the will (not the intellect) is the rational potency. Re-casting the contemporary fundamentalist “suspicion of reason” as a “suspicion of the intellect,” my central argument advocates a return to a more complete understanding of the rational. In this effort, I draw upon spiritual insights to contextualize and explain the Franciscan attention to the will (as source of love). Scotus’s use of Anselm in his analysis of the will’s affections is an effort to expand the concept of rationality to include ordered loving and conversion, key Franciscan values. Two important implications of this shift in perspective are the recovery of beauty and harmony as significant moral categories, and the capacityof the rational will for restrained use (usus pauper). This latter point is able to ground an ethics of sustainability and justice, opening up space for interculturaland interfaith dialogue.
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
David Twetten Presentation of the Aquinas Medal
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Roland J. Teske, S.J. An Augustinian Enigma
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In book eight of De trinitate Augustine of Hippo proposes two ways of coming to a vision of God, which have baffled me all my years of teaching Augustine.In the second of these he tells us to take “this good” and “that good” and to set aside “this” and “that” and promises that in doing so one will see God. Scholarlyliterature proved quite unhelpful in understanding what Augustine had in mind, especially since this procedure seems to presuppose that God, the subsistent good, is present in particular good things and merely has to be unwrapped or unveiled in order for one to see the Good itself that is God. A clue to understanding what the bishop of Hippo had in mind can be found in his inversion of John’s claim in 1 John 4:8 to “Love is God.” Other Latin Fathers follow Augustine in this inversion, and Prosper of Aquitaine generalizes it for all the virtues or excellences. If one bears in mind the Plotinian doctrine of the integral omnipresence of suchvirtues or excellences, each of which is God, the sort of abstraction of the Good itself from individual good things, as Augustine proposed, becomes intelligible,and Henry of Ghent illustrates this sort of abstraction in his metaphysical argument for the existence of God.
plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Eric D. Perl The Good of the Intellect
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Recent continental philosophy often seeks to retrieve Neoplatonic transcendence, or the Good, while ignoring the place of intellect in classical and medieval Neoplatonism. Instead, it attempts to articulate an encounter with radical transcendence in the immediacy of temporality, individuality, and affectivity.On the assumption that there is no intellectual intuition (Kant), intellectual consciousness is reduced to ratiocination and is taken to be “poor in intuition” (Marion). In this context, the present paper expounds Plotinus’ phenomenology of intellectual experience to show how intellect, for Plotinus, is rather the richest mode of intuition, coinciding with the intelligible content of reality. This content, however, cannot be ultimate, but is the manifestation and apprehension of the transcendent Good as the condition of intelligibility. The Good, therefore, can be encountered only through the ascent to intellectual apprehension, and the visionof the Good is a transcendent moment within the intellectual apprehension of being, not a repudiation of or alternative to it.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Deborah L. Black Reason Reflecting on Reason: Philosophy, Rationality, and the Intellect in the Medieval Islamic and Christian Traditions
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6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
John Greco Religious Knowledge in the Context of Conflicting Testimony
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An adequate account of testimonial knowledge in general explains how religious knowledge can be grounded in testimony, and even in the context of conflicting testimonial traditions. Three emerging trends in epistemology help to make that case. The first is to make a distinction between two projects of epistemology: “the project of explanation” and “the project of vindication.” The second is to emphasize a distinction between knowledge and understanding. The third is to ask what role the concept of knowledge plays in our conceptual-linguistic economy. Each of these trends, it is argued, helps us to make progress in the epistemology of testimony, and by application in the epistemology of religious belief.
session 1: ethics applied
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
David B. Hershenov, Rose Hershenov The ‘I’m Personally Opposed to Abortion But . . .’ Argument
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One often hears Catholic and non-Catholic politicians and private citizens claim “I am personally opposed to abortion . . . ” but add that it is morally permissible for others to accept abortion. We consider a Rawlsian defense of this position based on the recognition that one’s opposition to abortion stems from acomprehensive doctrine which is incompatible with Public Reason. We examine a second defense of this position based upon respecting the autonomy of others and a third grounded in the harm to the unwilling mother overriding that to the aborted fetus. We look at a fourth and fifth defense based upon our epistemic ignorance regarding the burdens on others of unwanted pregnancies and the ontological and moral status of embryo. We find most versions of these defenses to be wanting and conclude that only if the proponents of the position are subjectivist about morals, which few are, can they offer a coherent defense.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Peter Koch An Alternative to an Alternative to Brain Death
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In this paper I will provide a hylomorphic critique of Jeff McMahan’s “An Alternative to Brain Death.” I will evaluate three puzzles—the dicephalus, the braintransplant, and the split-brain phenomenon—proposed by McMahan which allow him to deny that a human being is identical to an organism. I will contend thatMcMahan’s solution entails counterintuitive consequences that pose problems to organ transplant cases. A Thomistic hylomorphic metaphysics not only avoids these unwelcome consequences and provides solutions to the three puzzles but in doing so allows for an alternative definition of death. Since McMahan has constructed his definition of death around his own metaphysics, alternative metaphysics, in this case a hylomorphic metaphysics, allow for an alternative definition of death.
session 2: moderns
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Mark J. Thomas In Search of Ground: Schelling on God, Freedom, and the Existence of Evil
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This paper is a reading of Schelling’s 1809 treatise Of Human Freedom in light of its relationship to the question why? and the principle of sufficient reason.This “principle of ground” defines the limits of rational inquiry and poses substantial difficulties for the three central themes of Schelling’s text: God, freedom,and the reality of evil. God and freedom go beyond the principle by requiring an absolute beginning—a ground that is not itself grounded. Evil defies rationalexplanation, deriving its existence from a specifically human freedom to do evil. Schelling’s text traces God, freedom, and evil back to their origin at the momentwhen God’s existence and its ground “sprung forth” from the non-ground. Here at the origins of ground the principle of reason no longer applies.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Bernard G. Prusak Whither the “Offices of Nature”?: Kant and the Obligation to Love
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Since Kant, the standard response to the commandment to love has been that our affections are not ours to command, and so an obligation to feel lovefor another cannot reasonably be demanded. On this account, we must say that a parent who fails to love his or her child, in the sense of feeling affection for himor her, has not violated any obligation toward that child. Maybe we could say still that the parent is deficient somehow, but we could not characterize this deficiency as a moral failing. Here, then, is the subject of this paper: In the specific context of the parent-child relationship, is the commandment to love reasonable? Are we warranted in saying that the “offices of nature” include an officium caritatis, in a sense exceeding benevolence? My answer is yes, but it is necessary then to come to terms with Kant’s reasons for answering no.
session 3: medieval metaphysics
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Peter Furlong The Latin Avicenna and Aquinas on the Relationship between God and the Subject of Metaphysics
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This paper examines and compares the ways in which the Latin Avicenna, that is the Persian thinker’s work as known in Latin translation to medieval Christianthinkers, and Aquinas alter Aristotle’s conception of the breadth and scope of the subject of metaphysics. These two medieval philosophers inherited the problem that Aristotle posed in the Metaphysics concerning the relationship between the study of being as being and the natural study of God. Both thinkers reject the idea that God is the subject of metaphysics and maintain that the one subject of this science is being qua being. They differ, however, in their analysis of the relationship between this subject and God. Avicenna does not directly address this problem, but certain passages from the Liber de prima philosophia seem to suggest, and were interpreted during the middle ages as suggesting, that God falls within the scope of being qua being. Aquinas, on the other hand, analyzes this relationship in detail and firmly denies that God falls within the scope of the subject of metaphysics.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Colin Connors Scotus and Ockham: Individuation and the Formal Distinction
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This paper is a defense of John Duns Scotus’s theory of individuation against one of William of Ockham’s objections. In the Ordinatio II. D.3. P. 1, John Duns Scotus argues for the existence of haecceity, a positive, indivisible distinction which makes an individual an individual rather than a kind of thing. He argues for the existence of haecceity by arguing for a form which is a “real less than numerical unity” and is neither universal nor singular. In the Summa Logicae, William of Ockham objects to Scotus’s theory of haecceity by attacking his theory of universals, claiming that the same thing would be proper and common simultaneously. The basis of Ockham’s objections is that only a real distinction is possible: if things are distinct, then they can exist separately. Without universals, a principle of individuation is unnecessary. To defend Scotus’s principle of individuation, an account and defense of the formal distinction is necessary. Without the formal distinction, metaphysical categories, such as being and one, are incoherent or contradictory. The formal distinction gives rise to a new law of contradiction:two or more entities are formally distinct if and only if contradiction or non-being results from their separation and the properties of one being do not match theproperties of the other being(s)
session 4: eudaimonistic ethics
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
R. Mary Hayden Lemmons Does Suffering Defeat Eudaimonic Practical Reasoning?
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This paper seeks to counter the argument that since Aquinas’s natural law obligations necessarily presuppose the ability of practical reason to prescribeand proscribe for the sake of eudaimonia, it is irrational in cases of inescapable suffering to characterize any natural law obligation as indefeasible. Four possiblerebuttals of this argument from suffering are examined; but only three are judged successful. Their key premises are that, as Aristotle and Aquinas pointed out, this life’s eudaimonia is defined in terms of human nature and not in terms of individual psychological conditions, e.g., suffering; that suffering does not negate the rationality of hoping for attaining eudaimonia in the future; and that suffering necessarily precludes neither the virtuous acts that per se constitute this life’s eudaimonia nor the love that enables one to experience eudaimonic joy.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Michael Wiitala Contemplation and Action within the Context of the Kalon: A Reading of the Nicomachean Ethics
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In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle seems to take it for granted that the contemplative man is morally virtuous. Yet in certain passages he suggests that morally virtuous actions can impede contemplation (theōria). In this paper I examine the relationship between contemplation and morally virtuous action in Aristotle’s ethics. I argue that, when understood within the context of the motivating power of the kalon, contemplation and morally virtuous action are related to one another in such a way that one cannot be contemplative without being morally virtuous and vice versa. I begin by showing how eudaimonia is used in the Nicomachean Ethics to interpret the erga kai ho bios, that is, lived experience, and to bring to light the kalon as the motive for morally virtuous actions. I argue that since the kalon is also the motive for contemplation, morally virtuous action and contemplation imply one another.
session 5: anselm
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Alice Ramos Anselm on Truth
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St. Anselm provides us with a metaphysics of the Logos, whereby things are true in relation to the Divine Intellect, or by the one first truth. Anselm will, as Aquinas after him, consider whether things are more true in the Divine Word than they are in themselves. This question seems to be closely related to the human person’s desire for God, a desire which makes possible the person’s return to God and which involves not only being created true but also doing the truth, or being as the person ought to be. The questions I will treat in this paper will show that Anselm’s metaphysical and ethical thought is heavily indebted to Neoplatonic themes such as measure and order.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Catherine Nolan Ratio, Intelligere, and Cogitare in Anselm’s Ontological Argument
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Throughout Anselm’s writings one can trace what seems to be a paradoxical inconsistency in his treatment of reason (ratio), understanding (intelligere) andthought (cogitare). The Monologion begins by proposing that even an unbeliever can convince himself of truths about God, “simply by reason alone,” while in theProslogion Anselm claims, to the contrary, “I believe so that I may understand.” Much of this confusion can be resolved by clarifying Anselm’s distinctions betweenreason, understanding and thought. Thought follows reason, but reason can surpass understanding; one need not understand a conclusion reached through reason. Ultimately, one must understand what God is—‘that-than-which-a-greater-cannotbe-thought’—in order to prove through reason that one cannot think of God as non-existent, but the deeper understanding that God exists must come, not from reason, but through God’s illumination of one’s soul.
session 6: teleological arguments
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Marie I. George On the Occasion of Darwin’s Bicentennial: Finally Time to Retire the Fifth Way?
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If Aquinas lived today, he would accept that Darwin was correct, at leastas to the broad lines of his theory, namely, that the unfit are differentially eliminatedand chance is involved in the origin of new species. Aquinas in fact offered a similarexplanation for what he believed were spontaneously generated organisms. I intendto show that extending this sort of explanation to all species in no way affects thekey steps in the Fifth Way (e.g., “those things which lack cognition do not tendto an end unless directed by someone knowing and intelligent”). Thomas himselfprovides us with the crucial points for bringing evolution by natural selectioninto accord with the Fifth Way, including the distinction between a maker anda designer (builder vs. architect), an explanation for organisms’ imperfections interms of material necessity and secondary causality, and an account of the role ofchance in the world.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
James Dominic Rooney, OP Reconsidering the Place of Teleological Arguments for the Existence of God in the Light of the ID/Evolution Controversy
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Prompted by questions raised in the public arena concerning the validity of arguments for the existence of God based on “design” in the universe, I exploretraditional teleological argument for the existence of God. Using the arguments offered by Thomas Aquinas as fairly representative of this classical line of argumentation going back to Aristotle, I attempt to uncover the hidden premises and construct arguments for the existence of God which are deductive in nature. To justify the premises of Aquinas’s argument, I begin by presenting an argument to justify the existence of “final causes,” with a focus on answering questions about the biological implications of these causes for evolutionary theory. Then, I attempt to construct two teleological proofs for the existence of God. Finally, I offer some implications of this reasoning for the contemporary disputes over ID/evolution in education.
session 7: knowledge
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Douglas Kries Augustine as Defender and Critic of Leo Strauss’s Esotericism Thesis
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20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 83
Danielle A. Layne In Praise of the Mere Presence of Ignorance
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With regard to the theme “Reason in context,” the following stimulates a discussion on both Plato’s Socrates and the culpability of ignorance. By focusingon Plato’s Lysis, Alcibiades I, Philebus, and the Laws, I debunk the typical interpretation of Socratic moral intellectualism by evidencing that though there are various forms of ignorance in the Platonic dialogues, only one leads to shame-worthy error. Furthermore, in this endeavour to understand the “hierarchy” of ignorance in Plato, I take an unusual path and jump from Antiquity to the Renaissance by connecting Plato’s Socrates to Erasmus’s Folly. By comparing these characters I show how both only condemn double ignorance, i.e., ignorance of ignorance joined with the pretence to knowledge. Ultimately, by analyzing this particularly heinous form of ignorance, I question whether in all periods and circumstances feigned wisdom more than “mere ignorance” leads to shame and disrepute.