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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Daniel O. Dahlstrom The Status of Dispositions
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This paper addresses puzzling issues concerning the ontological status of dispositions. Following review of debates about a traditional conditional analysis as well as Lewis’s “reformed conditional analysis” of dispositions, the paper analyzes attempts to solve the problem of what makes the relevant conditional true. Reasons are presented for rejecting attempts to locate the relevant truth-maker in a causal basis that allegedly dispenses with dispositions or in properties that are universally dispositional. In this way the paper argues that neither “eliminativism” nor “pandispositionalism” provides a successful account of dispositions’ ontological status, and that ontology must find a way to countenance the reality of both dispositional and non-dispositional properties.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
John C. McCarthy Introduction of John M. Rist, 2014 Aquinas Medal Recipient
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
John Rist Philosophers and Sophists: Then and Now
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I attempt here to draw parallels between ancient and modern sophistry —and ancient and modern philosophy. Plato at one point identified a sophist as a paid hunter of rich young men who ‘lurks’ in non-being: that is, has no concern for truth. In more modern times Elizabeth Anscombe, when asked what her philosophical colleagues did, remarked (note the ironic Platonic echo) that they spend most of their time corrupting the youth. And the present situation in many liberal universities encourages them to do so—and in the humanities more generally, not only in philosophy. By the time a PhD candidate has completed his doctorate, joined a department and eventually got tenure, he will in many cases have become a practised sophist, equipped with what often amounts to a PhD in rationalizing, that is, in sophistry. I wonder whether we ought not to do something to change some of that.
plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Susan Haack Credulity and Circumspection: Epistemological Character and the Ethics of Belief
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The purpose of this paper is, first, to get clear about what credulity is, and why it’s an epistemological vice (§ 1); then, to explore the various forms this vice takes, including its perhaps surprising manifestation as a form of scientism (§ 2); next, to suggest why credulity poses dangers not only to individuals, but also to society at large—including, specifically, the legal system and the academy (§ 3); and, finally, to sketch some ways to curb credulity and foster circumspection in ourselves and others, especially our students (§ 4). In the process it will take up issues about the nature of belief, the determinants of the quality of evidence, synechism, science, scientism, testimony, expertise, and evidence-sharing as well as questions about the ethics of belief and the demands of education.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Timothy B. Noone Habitual Intellectual Knowledge in Medieval Philosophy: A Complex Theme
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This lecture treats the theme of habitual cognition in both its commonplace and unusual senses in the tradition of ancient and medieval philosophy. Beginning with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and its teaching on habits, it traces how the ancient and medieval Peripatetic tradition received and developed the idea of habitual knowledge. The lecture then turns to three case-studies in which the notion of habitual knowledge is used in unusual senses: Aquinas’s treatment of self-knowledge; Scotus’s account of human awareness of the concept of being; and Peter Auriol’s observations regarding memory and subconscious awareness in ordinary reptitive acts. Aquinas and Scotus seem to identify habitual knowledge in its unusual sense with the presence of an intelligible in the mind prior to actual cognition of that object. Auriol extends habitual knowledge to cover the cognitive state of someone performing an act without any conscious attention. The uses by both Aquinas and Scotus seem somewhat parallel to the use of habit or pre-conscious knowledge in Hume and Kant.
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Marilyn McCord Adams Scotus on the Metaphysics of Habits
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Aristotelian method accounts for essential functional regularities in terms of powers rooted in the substantial form of the functioning thing. Habits are posited to explain new and acquired functional regularities (such as the ability to speak Chinese or control one’s temper). Because Aquinas sees habits as rendering potentiae more determinate, he finds it natural to account for post-mortem supernatural functioning in terms of infused habits or qualities that build on nature with further determinations. By contrast, Scotus begins with the natural priority of receiving subjects over what they receive, and how what they determinately are fixes which habits would be formally compatible and which incompatible with it. This leads him to reject the “new infused habit or quality” account of the soul’s post-mortem ability to see God, the will’s capacity to love God above all, and the body’s supposed post-mortem impassibility, subtlety, and brightness.
session i: dispositions in contemporary metaphysics
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Errin D. Clark How Aristotelian is Contemporary Dispositionalist Metaphysics? A Tale of Two Distinctions
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Exciting and important work on the metaphysics of causal powers and dispositions is currently under way. Much of it has been branded as a return to Aristotelian metaphysics, as it seems to put agents and their actions back as ultimate principles of reality. Philosophers involved in this work often speak of a ‘categorical—dispositional’ distinction. And sometimes it is suggested that the distinction is, or is similar to, Aristotle’s distinction between act and potency. The aim of this paper is to assess the legitimacy of that suggestion by explicating both distinctions. I argue that in many recent ‘neo-Aristotelian’ accounts of dispositions a certain idea that lies at the heart of Aristotle’s metaphysics of act and potency is largely absent. This situation is unfortunate, for Aristotle’s idea suggests a surprising relationship between being and power and it flips a certain assumption, still made by many metaphysicians, on its head.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Travis Dumsday Dispositionalism, Categoricalism, and Metaphysical Naturalism
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In contemporary analytic metaphysics there are five theories concerning the reality (or unreality) of dispositional and categorical properties and their relationship: mixed view dispositionalism (also the dominant view in Scholastic philosophy of nature), pan-dispositionalism, categoricalism, identity theory, and neutral monism. Here I outline briefly a novel argument against metaphysical naturalism, one based on the idea that none of these five theories is compatible with it.
session ii: habits in illuminative cognition
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Andrew Jacob Cuff Man’s “Very Special Habit” and God’s Agency in the Illumination Epistemology and Volition Theory of Bonaventure and Aquinas
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It is commonly taken for granted that Thomas Aquinas employed Aristotelian principles in his philosophical system to promote a “program” of Christianizing the Stagyrite. However, the question of why Thomas used Aristotle on a particular point can help uncover the goals of his scholastic project. The case of divine illumination theory is especially enlightening in this regard. From the zenith of Augustinian illumination epistemology as expressed in Bonaventure to its disappearance in Scotus, the influence of Aristotle’s notion of active intellect can be clearly traced throughout the thirteenth century. Thomas is especially important in this chronology, because he “internalizes” Bonaventure’s illumination theory and encapsulates it in man’s innate power of abstraction. In determining his motivation for doing so, this study explores the connection between epistemology and volition in both Bonaventure and Thomas, and postulates that Thomas adopted Aristotelian principles to safeguard a doctrine of free will in his volition theory.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Samuel A. Pomeroy Accommodating Avicenna, Appropriating Augustine: Assessing the Sources for Thomas Aquinas’s Doctrine of Prophecy
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In this paper I argue that Aquinas’s doctrine of prophecy develops from the early period (De uer. q. 12, a. 1, prophecy is a habit) to his more mature articulation (ST IIa-IIae q. 171, a. 2, prophecy is not a habit) as a result of his complex handling of the metaphysical thought of Avicenna. Aquinas subtly distances himself from the implication of Avicenna’s emanationist framework for prophecy, namely that prophetic knowledge is acquired through perfected natural intellectual habit. Yet at the same time he accommodates this aspect insofar as it aligns with Augustine’s biblical neo-Platonism. He does so, as I shall demonstrate, with Augustine’s notion of prayer (orandi) as a kind of inquiry (disputatio) that disposes the soul to aptly receive the prophetic light by the extension of divine grace. In this, Aquinas incorporates Avicenna’s notion of prophetic habit without committing to the emanationist model from which it arises.
session iii: virtue and politics
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Michael P. Krom Civic Virtue: Aquinas on Piety, Observance, and Religion
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This paper articulates Aquinas’s account of the duties citizens have toward the nation, focused specifically on the virtues of piety and observance. In the first section, I discuss justice as the foundation of good citizenship. In the second, I delineate the acts of justice which primarily orient citizens toward serving the nation, focusing specifically on piety and observance. Finally, in the third section I reflect on how religion, or the virtue by which humans render proper worship to God, has a moderating effect on what we owe to the nation. Reverence for political authorities easily becomes state idolatry unless a strong religious commitment to loving God first and neighbor second is present among the citizenry. Thus, religion is shown to be a bulwark of freedom from tyranny.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Mary Elizabeth Tetzlaff The Peculiar Virtues of the Rulers and the Ruled in Politics III.4
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At the end of Book III, chapter 4 of Aristotle’s Politics, Aristotle identifies the virtue peculiar to the excellent ruler as prudence. The ruled’s complementary virtue is true opinion. All the other virtues are held in common, albeit in different forms. Why these habits? The answer to this question lies in Aristotle’s discussion of the good man and the serious citizen in III.4, and of the rule of law in III.16.
session iv: history of philosophy
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Mark K. Spencer Habits, Potencies, and Obedience: Experiential Evidence for Thomistic Hylomorphism
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Thomistic hylomorphism holds that human persons are composed of matter and a form that is also a subsistent entity. Some object that nothing can be both a form and a subsistent entity, and some proponents of Thomistic hylomorphism respond that our experience, as described by phenomenology, provides us with evidence that this theory is true. Some might object that that would be more easily seen to be a good way to defend Thomistic hylomorphism if the scholastics themselves had provided such evidence. I show how some scholastics do give evidence for Thomistic hylomorphism from their descriptions of our experience of forming and using habits. I consider their account of experiences of different acts of habit formation and exercise, and of experiences founded upon different kinds of potencies and obedience to reason that underlie their habits. Then I show that these experiences, when reasoned about in an effect to cause manner, provide evidence for Thomistic hylomorphism, and that the objection fails.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
M. V. Dougherty Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Concordia, and the Canon Law Tradition: On the Habits and Dispositions of Renaissance Exegetes
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Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) is best known for his Oratio, one of many works containing his promise to prove that the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle are in agreement. Pico never fulfilled this promise, however, and commentators have at times derided Pico’s concordist project. The present paper argues that Pico’s notion of concordia was at least partly inspired by a jurisprudential habit derived from his early training in canon law. After examining Pico’s explicit but dispersed statements on concordia, I then consider the circumstantial evidence for a jurisprudential origin to Pico’s project. As the habits and dispositions of Renaissance exegetes differed significantly from those of present-day interpreters of the history of philosophy, there is merit in looking beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to understand Pico’s attempted concordia of Plato and Aristotle. An appreciation of this context mitigates the negative assessments of his enterprise.
session v: habit and ethics
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Mathew. T. Lu Hexis within Aristotelian Virtue Ethics
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In Book II, Chapter 5 of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle famously identifies the virtues as hexeis (sing. hexis). Like so many Greek philosophical terms of art, hexis admits of many translations; recent scholarly choices have included “habit,” “disposition,” “state,” “active condition.” In this paper, I argue that some of these translations have tended to obscure the active and causal role that hexeis play in Aristotle’s theory of moral action. This, in turn, has led at least some critics to misunderstand the Aristotelian virtue ethics tradition and mischaracterize virtue ethics as not properly action guiding. Ultimately, seeing the true significance of Aristotle’s claim that the virtues, both moral and intellectual, are hexeis helps us recognize just how radically different the Aristotelian conceptions of practical reason and moral action are from with those typically held by adherents of the alternative theories of normative ethics.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Paul Kucharski On the Habit of Seeing Persons
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In Existence and the Existent, Jacques Maritain speaks about the difficulty of knowing persons as subjects. Typically we know persons as objects, or “from without,” and this explains why we describe people as instantiations of various qualities that can be shared in common with others. But according to Maritain, “To be known as object . . . is to be severed from oneself and wounded in one’s identity. It is to always be unjustly known.” In this paper, I consider the epistemological means by which knowing persons as subjects is possible. I argue that we can find parallels between knowing persons and what Maritain refers to as the “intuition of being” (the appreciation of existence as a distinct metaphysical principle), and that reflecting on these parallels can help us to see a solution to the problem of knowing persons—just as the act of existence (or esse) is not known through a concept, but through a judgment that separates what a thing is from the act by which it exists, so too, I argue, one’s subjectivity is known not through a concept but through a judgment that separates one’s shareable qualities from the self/person underlying these qualities.
session vi: passions in morality
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Elizabeth A. Murray Compunction and Passion: Two Moments of Moral Conversion
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This paper is a critical examination of Lonergan’s notion of moral conversion. Conversion in general is described as a mode of self-transcendence and distinguished from development. Then moral conversion is contrasted with the two other basic forms of conversion, intellectual and religious. Next, I propose that there are two distinct moments of moral conversion: a negative moment of rational compunction, which is more Kantian in nature, and a positive moment of passionate transcendence, which is consonant with Scheler’s value ethics. I draw on philosophical accounts of the initial awakening of moral consciousness, and argue that it is possible to make this first movement yet fail to make the second movement.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Leonard Ferry Sorting Out Reason’s Relation to the Passions in the Moral Theory of Aquinas
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This essay challenges a growing consensus among Aquinas scholars who attribute to him a pro-passion attitude, linking his virtue theory to accounts of emotion that see the emotions in a primarily positive light. There are good reasons for thinking Aquinas far more skeptical of the role to be played by emotion in the virtuous life—indeed, one can safely argue, in agreement with Aquinas, that the emotions are often threats to and so in need of control by the virtues (rather than as merely their supports). I focus on the ideal of reason’s control (IRC) over the emotions in the essay in contrast with the work of Robert Miner whose understanding of Aquinas on the passions and virtues tends to downplay the dominating role that reason plays in the moral theory of Aquinas. For Aquinas IRC is central to the normativity of the virtues that relate to the emotions. In contrast, Miner appears to minimize the need for the emotions to be controlled, which entails a certain elevation of the emotions to a nearly co-equal status with reason in Aquinas’s moral theory. Miner adopts two argumentative strategies to achieve this valorization of emotion in Aquinas, but I find both exegetically inaccurate and experientially deficient.
session vii: two defenses of virtue
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Justin Matchulat Defending Virtue against the Situationist Challenge: Aristotle, Aquinas, and Contemporary Metaphysicians on Degreed Traits
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My essay addresses the situationist critique of virtue ethics. I defend a rarity of virtue response to this critique, but blunt its tip by developing an account of degrees of virtue. On this account, full virtue will indeed be a statistical rarity, but lesser degrees of virtue more common. I argue for this degreed conception of virtue both on historical and systematic grounds: historically, I show that Aristotle and especially Aquinas thought of virtue as being the sort of property that admits of degrees; and systematically, I draw from recent work in metaphysics on dispositions that challenges a simple counterfactual account of dispositions, and allows for gradable dispositions.
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 88
Lindsay K. Cleveland A Defense of Aristotelian Magnanimity against the Pride Objection with the Help of Aquinas
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I defend a broadly Aristotelian account of the virtue of magnanimity against the objection that Aristotelian magnanimity is an expression of the vice of pride and so cannot be a virtue. I identify the essential features of magnanimity on Aristotle’s account and argue that Aquinas preserves these essential features while identifying additional necessary conditions of the virtue of magnanimity that illuminate the virtue and show it to be incompatible with pride. I also show where two other attempts to defend Aquinas’s development of Aristotelian magnanimity against the pride objection fail.