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The Modern Schoolman

Volume 88, Issue 3/4, July/October 2011
Theological Themes in Modern Philosophy

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Displaying: 1-8 of 8 documents

1. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Thomas M. Lennon Volition: Malebranche’s Thomist Inclination
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Malebranche’s doctrine of the will can be illuminated by consideration of the views both of Aquinas and early modern would-be Thomists. Three Malebranchian themes are considered here: his conception of the will as an inclination toward general and indeterminate good, his intellectualism (the view that that the locusof morality lies ultimately with the intellect), and his attempt to avoid the extreme views of Jansenism and Quietism, both condemned in the period as theologically unacceptable. Two little-known Thomists in particular are examined: Antonin Massoulié, whose work helps to explain why Malebranche rejected Quietism and the libertarian view of the will typical of it, and Laurent-François Boursier, whom Malebranche criticized for failing to provide a conception of the will and its freedom that avoids Jansenism.
2. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Kristen Irwin Amyraut on Reason and Religious Belief
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Moses Amyraut’s 1640 work On the Elevation of Faith and the Humbling of Reason is often misread as advocating the position suggested by its title. In fact, Amyraut constructs a tripartite classification of religious beliefs according to their relation to reason, such that he can affirm truths that are incomprehensible toreason, while maintaining that reason is the ultimate ground of their truth. He divides religious truths into those delivered by reason, those consistent with reason, and those incomprehensible to reason, as against religious beliefs contrary to reason, which cannot be true; the rationality of each class of truths depends on the rationality of those in the previous class. This classification helps to make sense of the seventeenth-century debate between those (such as Leibniz) who argue that incomprehensible religious beliefs are simply above reason, and those (such as Bayle) who argue that incomprehensible religious beliefs are actually contrary to reason.
3. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Michael W. Hickson Reductio ad Malum: Bayle’s Early Skepticism about Theodicy
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Pierre Bayle is perhaps most well-known for arguing in his Dictionary (1697) that the problem of evil cannot be solved by reason alone. This skepticism about theodicy is usually credited to a religious crisis suffered by Bayle in 1685 following the unjust imprisonment and death of his brother, the death of his father, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. But in this paper I argue that Bayle was skeptical about theodicy a decade earlier than these events, from at least the time of his Sedan philosophy course (1675–77). I then argue that both the Various Thoughts on the Comet (1683) and Philosophical Commentary on Luke 4:23 (1686–88), which are usually read as treatments of superstition and toleration respectively, are works that also closely engage the problem of evil and demonstratethe skepticism of Bayle toward theodicy.
4. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Rico Vitz Thomas More and the Christian ‘Superstition’: A Puzzle for Hume’s Psychology of Religious Belief
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In this paper, I examine one particular element of Hume’s psychology of religious belief. More specifically, I attempt to elucidate his account of what I call the sustaining causes of religious belief—that is, those causes that keep religious beliefs alive in modern human societies. In attempting to make some progress at clarifying this element of Hume’s psychology, I examine one particular ‘experiment’— namely, the case of Thomas More, a man who is, by Hume’s own admission, a person of remarkable virtue. I contend that the most salient Humean explanations of More’s religious convictions are implausible but that Humehas at his disposal three more plausible hypotheses to account for More’s faith. I conclude, however, by suggesting that these hypotheses alone are insufficient to solve the puzzle More poses for this particular element of Hume’s psychology of religious belief.
5. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Marcy P. Lascano Damaris Masham and “The Law of Reason or Nature”
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Emphasis on reason is pervasive in Damaris Masham’s writings. However, her various assertions regarding the use and importance of reason sometimes seem in tension with her emphasis on its limitations and weaknesses. In this paper, I examine Masham’s views concerning the role of reason in knowledge of the existence and nature of God, moral duty, and human happiness. First, I show one way in which Masham uses reason in her works—in her argument for the existence of God. Here, we see that Masham’s proof makes use of the notion of the “law of reason or nature.” After discussing Masham’s general account of reason, I turn to the role that reason plays in our knowledge more generally, in morality, and in providing for human happiness. Finally, I address Masham’s contention that human reason is weak by looking at the ways our reason is limited and perverted.
6. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Julia von Bodelschwingh Leibniz on Concurrence, Spontaneity, and Authorship
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Leibniz holds that creatures require divine concurrence for all their actions, and that this concurrence is ‘special,’ that is, directed at the particular qualities of each action. This gives rise to two potential problems. The first is the problem of explaining why special concurrence does not make God a co-author of creaturelyactions. Second, divine concurrence may seem incompatible with the central Leibnizian doctrine that substances must act spontaneously, or independently of other substances. Concurrence, in other words, may appear to jeopardize creaturely substancehood. I argue that Leibniz can solve both of these problems by invoking final and formal causation. The creature is the sole author of its actions because it alone contributes the formal and final cause to these actions. Similarly, because it contributes the formal and final cause, the creature possesses what I call explanatory spontaneity. Leibniz, I contend, considers this type of spontaneity sufficient for substancehood.
7. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Liz Goodnick Cleanthes’s Propensity and Intelligent Design
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A persuasive argument that theism is a Humean “natural belief” relies on the assertion that belief in intelligent design is caused by “Cleanthes’s propensity,” introduced in Hume’s Dialogues—a universal propensity to believe in a designer triggered by the observation of apparent telos in nature. But Hume neverclaims in his own voice that religious belief is founded on anything like Cleanthes’s propensity. Instead, in the Natural History, he argues that the belief in invisible intelligent power is caused by the psychological propensity to anthropomorphize triggered by the observation of disorder. I argue that religious belief is among theHumean natural beliefs only if this propensity is relevantly similar to the propensity responsible for inductive beliefs—the paradigmatic case of natural belief. Evidence from the Natural History and Treatise confirm that this is not the case. I conclude that belief in intelligent design is not, for Hume, a natural belief.
8. The Modern Schoolman: Volume > 88 > Issue: 3/4
Ryan Nichols, Robert Callergård Thomas Reid on Reidian Religious Belief Forming Faculties
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The role of epistemology in philosophy of religion has transformed the discipline by diverting questions away from traditional metaphysical issues and toward concerns about justification and warrant. Leaders responsible for these changes, including Plantinga, Alston and Draper, use methods and arguments fromScottish Enlightenment figures. In general theists use and cite techniques pioneered by Reid and non-theists use and cite techniques pioneered by Hume, a split reduplicated among cognitive scientists of religion, with Justin Barrett and Scott Atran respectively framing their results in Reid’s and in Hume’s language and argument. This state of affairs sets our agenda. First we identify Reid’s use in the epistemology of religion and in the cognitive science of religion. Then we turn to Reid’s texts in an effort to assess the interpretations and extrapolations of Reid given by participants in these debates. The answers to our research questions shed light on what Reid would believe today, were he apprised of the latest research in epistemology of and cognitive science of religion.