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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Thomas Hibbs LAUDATO SI, Modernity, and Catholic Aesthetics
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presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
William A. Frank Linda Trinkhaus Zagzebski, 2017 Aquinas Medalist
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Linda Zagzebski The Two Greatest Ideas
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Bishop Daniel E. Flores Belonging to the WORD Made Flesh
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5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
John Haldane Learning from Art and History: The Limits of Philosophy
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session 1: philosophy of nature—1
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Christopher O. Blum Nature and Modernity: Can One Philosophize about Nature Today?
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A conspicuous feature of modernity has been the rejection of nature as an authoritative ground of intelligibility and value, a position once defended by nearly all Catholic philosophers. Since Fr. Ernan McMullin’s 1969 article, “Philosophies of Nature,” however, the philosophy of nature has been eclipsed by the philosophy of science in mainstream Catholic philosophy. After examining McMullin’s reasons for setting aside the philosophy of nature and Thomas Nagel’s recent re-affirmation of the possibility of a philosophical reflection upon nature prior to the claims of empirical science, this article responds to McMullin’s critique and defends the viability of an Aristotelian understanding of nature today.
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Robert Verrill, OP Elementary Particles are not Substances
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The doctrine of the salvation of souls is obviously central to our Christian faith. Yet one of the challenges of communicating this truth is that many people have ontological commitments that don’t even allow for the existence of souls. Therefore, a philosophical understanding of physical reality which is compatible with a Christian understanding of the human person is especially important if we are to preach the Gospel effectively in the modern age. Like many Christian philosophers, I believe that St. Thomas Aquinas provides us with such a philosophical understanding of physical reality. Nevertheless, we need to be careful in how we map Aquinas’s philosophical concepts onto physical phenomena. It is with this concern in mind that I will argue that elementary particles are not substances.
session 2: epistemology
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Christopher Tomaszewski A Geachian Cure for Morally Paralyzed Skeptical Theists
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Skeptical theism is a popular response to the evidential problem of evil, but it has recently been accused of proving too much. If skeptical theism is true, its detractors claim, then we not only have no good reason for thinking that God’s reasons for action should be available to creatures like us, but we also have no good reason for thinking that the reasons which govern how we ought to act should be available to creatures like us. And given this ignorance, we would be morally paralyzed, unable to decide what we ought to do in ordinary situations that call for a moral decision. In this paper, I present a simple solution to this problem of moral paralysis by drawing on Peter Geach’s now famous argument for the attributivity of “good.”
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Joseph Gamache Doxastic Involuntarism and Evidentialism: A Curious Modern Conjunction
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It is a curious feature of early modern (specifically empiricist) epistemology and its contemporary heirs in analytic philosophy that belief is held both to be involuntary (doxastic involuntarism), and to be subject to a prescriptive norm of evidence (evidentialism). I begin by laying out these theses, pointing out the tension that exists between them, as well as discussing how they put pressure on religious faith. I then ask why the first thesis—doxastic involuntarism—has come to be so dominant. Following my diagnosis, I advance reasons to think that the thin concept of belief presupposed by doxastic involuntarism is not faithful to our ordinary and more substantial concept of belief. I conclude by outlining an alternative understanding of what it means to believe that p, based on insights of St. Thomas Aquinas and Gabriel Marcel regarding belief and opinion, as well as the relationship between persons and their beliefs.
session 3: metaphysics
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Karl Hahn “The Mystical is Everything Speculative”: Natural Theology in Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion
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Hegel is a towering figure in modern philosophy, and he is interestingly a thinker for whom philosophical modernity and traditional religion are necessary partners in the pursuit of shared truth. In this paper, I use Hegel’s unique rendition on natural theology as a test-case for examining the intersection of traditional Christian religion and Idealist reason in Hegel’s philosophical modernity. Specifically, I raise the question of whether Hegel’s philosophy of religion is faithful to what philosopher William Desmond has called the “religious between,” within which God exists as superior, transcendent other to the finite human being existing in created dependence on Him. I argue that Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion contain a German idealist conception of natural theology that counterfeits this “between” by subordinating it to a pseudo-mystical quest for noetic union with God that obliterates what should be the irreducible difference between the human and the divine essence.
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Maria Fedoryka “God is Love”: Personal Plurality as the Completion of Aristotle’s Notion of Substance and Love as the Absolute Ground of the Divine Being
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These reflections will, firstly, propose a philosophical solution to the Trinitarian problem of the “three-in-one,” and secondly, show how love is foundational to the divine being. Beginning with the Aristotelian notion of substance, I will show how substance undergoes a first modification in the consideration that substance finds its fullest realization in a person existing in a love-relation with another person. The highest instance of this, in turn, will prove to be found in persons whose very essences are constituted by such relationality and the communion resulting from it. This will force a second modification of substance: the unity of substance will turn out to have its highest instance in the moral unity of a plurality of persons existing in love—which leads to the solution of the “three-in-one” problem. I will end by reflecting on the foundational role of love with respect to absolute being.
session 4: philosophy, faith, and modernity
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Matthew Pietropaoli A Fruitful Crisis of Belief: Hans Jonas on a Proper Mode of Faith within the Context of Modernity
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The philosopher Hans Jonas penned several essays illustrating how modern thought represents a revolutionary overturning of previously held religious beliefs. The new paradigms of thought toppled prior worldviews of Christianity. Thus, modernity represents a crisis for religious belief. Yet, Jonas contends that modern thought may paradoxically provide the occasion for a deeper encounter with God. This paper will examine Jonas’s discussions on both the challenge and opportunity which modern thought presents to Christianity. First, I will address Jonas’s understanding of how modern science transformed the Christian, God-centered view of the universe, showing, instead, a world following from impersonal laws. Second, I look briefly at Jonas’s understanding of how Rudolph Bultmann responded to this crisis by attempting to “de-mythologize” belief. Third, I will show how Jonas argues that the challenge of modern science to Christian cosmology allows the believer the opportunity for a closer connection to God, moving beyond beliefs and into relationship.
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Mark K. Spencer Grace, Natura Pura, and the Metaphysics of Status: Personalism and Thomism on the Historicity of the Human Person and the Genealogy of Modernity
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Christian Personalists (such as Balthasar and Yannaras) have objected to Thomism’s claim that humans could have existed in a state (status) of pure nature, on the grounds that this claim entails that historical states like grace do not give fundamental meaning to us, that these states are merely accidental, and that it led to modern secularism. I show that Thomism can affirm its traditional claims regarding grace and pure nature, while denying the first two implications, by developing the Thomistic metaphysics of status. In Thomism rightly understood persons develop historically through status in non-accidental ways and grace gives fundamental meaning to our lives. But I also argue that modern secular experiences (such as experiences of secularity, anxiety, and absurdity described by Heidegger, Camus, and Taylor) are natural to the human person, not merely the result of sin, and that this is rightly supported by the theory of pure nature.
session 5: philosophy of nature—2
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Marco Stango Understanding Hylomorphic Dualism
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In this paper I will claim that the standard interpretation of Aquinas’s philosophy of mind is not satisfactory. A better reading is possible, which I will call strong hylomorphic dualism. Thus, I intend to do three things: first, I introduce strong hylomorphic dualism by highlighting the shortcomings of the standard reading, to which I will refer as weak hylomorphic dualism; second, I reconstruct two arguments provided by Aquinas to prove that his position is in fact best understood as strong hylomorphic dualism. Finally, I suggest that Aquinas thinks of the relationship between intellect and phantasms in terms of what could be called diagrammatic causality, as exemplified by his theory of abstraction and attention to the phantasms.
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Chad Engelland Dispositive Causality and the Art of Medicine
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For many philosophers, the relation of medicine to health is exemplary for understanding the relation of human power to nature in general. Drawing on Heidegger and Aquinas, this paper examines the relation of art to nature as it emerges in the second book of Aristotle’s Physics, and it does so by articulating the duality of efficient causality. The art of medicine operates as a dispositive cause rather than as a perfective cause; it removes obstacles to the achievement of health, but it does not impose health. Medicine, on this conception, aids the efficient causality of the natural body rather than substituting for it. The loss of dispositive causality makes efficient causality an imposition of force that bypasses the natural power to achieve natural goods. The paper concludes, with Plato, by arguing that dispositive causality offers a way to understand not only medicine but also governing, teaching, and parenting.
session 6: philosophy of human person
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Michael Potts Catholic Hylomorphism, Disembodied Consciousness, and Temporary Bodies
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This paper considers the possibility of a disembodied conscious soul, arguing that a great deal of current research converges in a direction that denies the possibility of a bodiless consciousness for human beings. Contemporary attacks on Cartesianism also serve as attacks on the view of some hylomorphist Catholics, such as Thomas Aquinas, that there can be a disembodied consciousness between death and resurrection, a view that violates the Catechism of the Catholic Church. However, there may be a way out for the Catholic hylomorphist which was suggested by Dante—the possibility of a temporary body. The first section of the paper will summarize the contemporary attack against both the Cartesian soul and physicalist systems that reduce the mind to the brain. The alternative position proposed is that the human being is a psychosomatic unity at the level of the organism as a whole, and that both mind-body and brain-body dualism should be avoided. Such a position, I will argue, supports the notion that a disembodied soul, including a disembodied consciousness, is not possible for human beings. Finally, I will discuss Dante’s views on temporary bodies and explore three ways of understanding a temporary body, any of which can preserve a conscious intermediate state between death and resurrection.
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Jeremy W. Skrzypek Complex Survivalism, or: How to Lose Your Essence and Live to Tell About It
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Of those who defend a Thomistic hylomorphic account of human persons, “survivalists” hold that the persistence of the human person’s rational soul between death and the resurrection is sufficient to maintain the persistence of the human person herself throughout that interim. (“Corruptionists” deny this.) According to survivalists, at death, and until the resurrection, a human person comes to be temporarily composed of, but not identical to, her rational soul. One of the major objections to survivalism is that it is committed to a rejection of a widely accepted mereological principle called the weak-supplementation principle, according to which any composite whole must, at any moment of its existence, possess more than one proper part. In this paper, I argue that by recognizing the existence of certain other metaphysical parts of a human person beyond her prime matter and her rational soul, hylomorphists can adhere to survivalism without violating the weak-supplementation principle.
session 7: ethics
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Hilary Yancey Frontiers of Analogous Justice: A Thomistic Approach to Martha Nussbaum’s Justice for Animals
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In this paper I argue for a Thomistic alternative to Martha Nussbaum’s justice for animals as outlined in Frontiers of Justice (2007). I argue that an account of analogous justice between humans and animals can generate real and robust obligations towards animals. I first show how Aquinas’s treatment of nonhuman animals in the questions on law evince a wider, shared community between humans and animals by which we see animals and humans as equally under divine providence. I then argue that while Aquinas’s definition of justice excludes animals in its proper sense, his treatment of animals (or irrational creatures) in questions such as those on theft and charity prove that there is room to understand at least an analogous or metaphorical sense by which we can see them as recipients of justice. Finally, I examine Nussbaum’s own account and illustrate key similarities between her view and that of Aquinas.
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Gregory M. Reichberg Restrictive versus Permissive Double Effect: Interpreting Aquinas
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The doctrine of double effect (DDE) can have two different functions, permissive and restrictive. According to the first function, agents are exculpated from the negative consequences of their actions, consequences that would be deemed illicit were they intentionally chosen. According to the second, agents are reminded that they are responsible, albeit in a distinctive manner, for the foreseeable damages that flow from their chosen actions. Aquinas has standardly been credited with a permissive version of DDE. I argue by contrast (drawing on the treatment of this issue in my Thomas Aquinas on War and Peace, Cambridge University Press, 2017) that the permissive version results from a misreading of Sum. theol. II-II, q. 64, a. 7. Other texts in the same work indicate that he embraced a restrictive version of DDE.
session 8: mereology
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 91
Joshua Lee Harris Things within Things? Toward an Ontology of the Firm
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The burgeoning analytic literature on “social ontology”—that is, the properly ontological status of “social” phenomena, such asinstitutions, firms and nation-states—has yielded some promising avenues of research for economists interested in the economic agency of groups as opposed to individual persons. Following M. D. Ryall, in this paper I offer a preliminary sketch of an ontology of social entities inspired by the work of Bernard Lonergan and the Aristotelian metaphysical tradition.