Sunday, April 29, 2012

St. Josemaria Escriva's Reaction to Slander



Initially he wouldn't hear of it. His followers would send him notes about rumors they were hearing, grumblings from those who did not understand his methods and aims. In response, he tore up the notes and threw them away. But as time went on, the talk became harder to ignore. So St. Josemaría sent the notes to his bishop, having no fear because he knew the accusations against him were false. He directly told his bishop of the slander but did not judge anyone’s motives or complain about them. He was concerned with the good of the apostolate and those who followed him. In order to stem the tide of rumors and innuendo, his confessor suggested that he talk directly with another priest, Fr. Carillo, S.J., who had very likely been spreading them.

“He did so. He told Father Carillo of the rumors being attributed to him, and explained to the best of his ability the work being done with students . . . And then he tactfully gave the priest a way to save face. He proposed an agreement: if either of them heard any pejorative criticism in the future [about their respective apostolates] he would tell the other as soon as possible” (De Prada, Founder of Opus Dei vol. II, 318).

The passionate, Spanish saint would then repeat a verse to himself: “Many waters cannot quench love” (Song of Songs 8:7). This meant two things for him: “One, that the multitude of my past sins cannot separate me from the Love of my God; and the other, that the waters of the persecution we are now undergoing will not impede the apostolate” (ibid., 322). Here is a good summary of his manner.
Father Josemaría’s reaction to the persecution was both very human and deeply supernatural. At first he refused to believe people do such evil things. Later, when forced to acknowledge the facts, he tried to put a good face on their intentions. (“I know his intention isn’t bad,” he said of one of the rumormongers, “but he doesn’t understand anything about our spirit, and he gets everything confused and mixed up.”) And as a last resort, in the face of irrefutable evidence, he could only forgive and forget. “Although I don’t want to mention this,” he writes, “I will just say that it is hard to believe in the good faith of those who systematically spread calumnies. I forgive them with all my heart.”

One day he ran into Fr. Carillo, the one whose loose tongue instigated much suffering.
With no rancor and perfect naturalness he shook Father Carillo’s hand and said, “I’m pleased to see you, Father. God bless you!” Aware that Father Carillo, instead of keeping their pact to communicate criticisms, was going around calling him “either crazy or evil,” he added, “Don’t you remember our gentleman’s agreement?”
“I already spoke about all that last night, at nine, with the vicar general,” Father Carillo answered hurriedly, breaking away.
On the next day the founder wrote in his journal:
Nov. 15 . . . In the afternoon, I found myself experiencing a deep interior joy on account of that tribulation. And I feel a greater love for the blessed Society of Jesus, and sympathy and even affection for the religious causing this whole mess. Besides, I understand that he is a very likeable man, and certainly a very good person. May God bless and prosper him! (Ibid., 322-3).

Nearly a year later, the slander continued, this time from different quarters. Opus Dei was accused of being “Masonic”, “devilish”, “demented”, etc. In response, Josemaría wrote a letter to his early community:
            My dear children:

The Lord has permitted that people, very dear to my heart, are slandering us and doing us harm. Should you also find yourselves affected by the storm of persecution—a divine seal authenticating supernatural undertakings—I give you these instructions, that are so in keeping with the spirit of Opus Dei:
(1)   Always heed the directives of the ecclesiastical authority, i.e., the archbishop and his vicar general;
(2)   Never say anything to anyone outside the house about such events, if they take place;
(3)   Be very charitable, never on any pretext saying one word against the persecutors;
(4)   Much joy and much peace;
(5)   Much prayer, much study, and many small mortifications.

Everything is going very well. I didn’t know that the Lord love us this much. . .  (ibid., 343-4).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John Punch on the Eternal Being of Creatures

In my efforts to determine the influence, if any, of Peter Thomae's questions on intelligible being, I have begun leafing through the voluminous pages of the baroque Scotists.  In this post I am just going to list a series of conclusions that the Irishman Punch defends (for bio, see the 'Franciscan authors' website).

Ioannes Poncius, Cursus philosophiae, disp. 2 q. 5 (p. 902ff.)

'De esse creaturarum ab aeterno'

Conclusio I: Creatures have no real being simpliciter from eternity.

Conclusio II: All creatures have some being from eternity

This can scarcely be denied, because they were understood by God from eternity and they terminate the act of divine cognition; therefore they had some being according to which they terminate that cognition, whether they terminate it primarily or secondarily.

Conclusio III: That being which they had from eternity, for example a man, does not consist in extrinsic denomination taken from the omnipotence of God, nor in non-repugnance, nor in some ratio, whether real or rational or actual or aptitudinal.

This is of the Doctor [=Scotus] above, and commonly against some Thomists, who seem to say that that being is nothing other than possibile being and that that possible being comes about from  denomination taken from divine omnipotence.

Conclusio IV: That being, which creatures have from eternity, is diminished being, a quasi medium between being of reason and being simply real.

Conclusio V: That diminished being is not produced by the act of the divine intellect. [Both Petrus Thomae and William of Alnwick would agree with this].

This is against many Scotists and it seems to be against Scotus, above, but it is not, as will be proved.

It is proved first, because an object of speculative knowledge is not made by that [divine act] but rather is presupposed to it; but the knowledge, by which God knows creatures from eternity, is speculative; therefore it does not give that being to creatures according to which it knows them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Leonine Edition of Thomas's Summa - In Print


As many are already aware, the Internet Archive has posted electronic scans of the Leonine Edition of St. Thomas's Summa theologiae (except for volume 5) and his Summa contra gentiles. A friend has prepared hardcover print editions of these volumes for his own use some months ago, but because of the Internet Archive's Terms of Service was unable to share these publicly. 

Now, however, he has happily received permission from Internet Archive to reprint these volumes publicly. For those of you who may be interested, therefore, please find below links to where the individual volumes are available. 

Summa theologiae, with the Commentary of Cajetan

Summa contra gentiles, with the Commentary of Franciscus de Sylvestris Ferrara

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Franciscus de Mayronis on Analogy

Franciscus de Mayronis, Conflatus, Prologus q. 12 (ed. Venezia f. 8rb):

Whether being is said analogically of those things of which it is said.

I say that there are four ways of speaking. Some [people] say that it is said univocally because according to one notion [rationem]. Others say that equivocally because according to diverse notions. Others say that analogically because per prius of one and per posterius of others. Others say that [it is said] ambiguously. They distinguish this, however, from analogy because a certain thing is something according to one notion is said of two, nevertheless more perfectly of one than the other. For the other kind of analogy is what is said of one proprerly and of others by attribution to it. And that is reduced to equivocal.

With this premised, it is said that every term either is equivocal or univocal because when the definitions of some things are given by immediate contraries, they are immediately contrary; but equivocals and univocals are of this kind; therefore, etc.  But this is one definition, if being is said equally or unequally of its inferiors.

To this [argument] [we answer/respondetur] with four conclusiones. The first is that being is not predicated according to more and less. The second is that it is not predicated according to prior and posterior. Third that it is not predicated inequally. Fourth that it is not predicated dissimilarly.

They prove all those conclusions with one argument:  because when there is some essential predication, it cannot be varied per posterius; but quantitity of power is attended to according to more and less, prior and posterior, equal and unequal, similar and dissimilar.  All these are posterior to being and also those of which being is predicated; therefore they do not vary the predication of being which is essential. When therefore something is said to be more perfect than being, it is by something posterior to being and consequently in that prior in which the predication of being is made, it will be uniform.

[that's all, folks. It turned out to be less exciting than I had hoped when I initially saw the question title.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review of John W. Carlson's "Word's of Wisdom": "Evil"


 In my previous entry, I asked, “Given the plethora of dictionaries, one might wonder: do we really need another? Why purchase John W. Carlson's Words of Wisdom?” I examined some of the cognitive narrowness that underlies the bibliography. See also this entry. Here I look at the content of Carlson’s book by examining how he defines one of the terms. In order to give the reader an idea of what he may be missing, I try to be fairly thorough below.

To see the relative value of Carlson's entries, we can turn to an example -- "evil," for instance. Carlson uses a similar method in his introduction, n. 11, where he demonstrates the inadequacies of various modern dictionaries by analyzing their definition of “being”. Here I will compare Carlson’s entry to that of other dictionaries in the same genre (unmentioned in his introduction or bibliography): Wuellner's Dictionary of Scholastic Philosophy (1956), and Signoriello's Lexicon Peripateticum Philosophico-Theologicum (1931); this is more than a dictionary because of the helpful “Effata” section, which I will describe below. For additional interest, I will briefly look at Peter of Bergamo's Tabula Aurea (1484); because of its scope, it is both more and less than a dictionary. Less, because it provides only Thomas's definitions and uses of terms; these may be too narrow for other scholastic traditions to agree with. More, because it provides many references for Thomas's various uses of a term; this is far more than one can expect from even a good dictionary.

1. Carlson: evil:
Not merely the lack of good, but the absence of a good that ought to be present -- e.g., blindness in an eye. Evil is commonly distinguished into "natural" or "physical" evil and "moral" evil, the latter involving bad personal acts, which result specifically from defective uses of the will. In Scholastic terminology, moral evil is sometimes called "evil of fault" (Latin malum culpae) or "evil done."

2. Wuellner: evil:
The privation or lack of a good which naturally belongs to a nature; the absence of a good which is natural and due to a being.

[Wuellner divides “evil” into six categories (I will not provide the definitions he gives for each)]
  • metaphysical evil: anything finite, because lacking in complete goodness; any limitation even though it is natural to a being (Leibniz; but not accepted  in scholasticism as a correct description of evil).
  • moral evil: privation of rectitude in human acts; a sin. [Moral evil has three species: formally evil, intrinsically evil, and materially evil.]
  • Occasion of evil
  • Physical evil
  • Principle of evil
  • Supreme evil

Wuellner also provides his usual concise references: “St. Augustine, Confessions, passim. S.T., I, 48, aa 1-3; 49, a. 1; I-II, 18, a. 1; 19, a. 5; C.G. III, cc 6-8. De Malo.”

3. Signoriello: malum (my translation):

[First entry directs the reader to Defectus-Malum-Peccatum-Culpa

 Defectus (defect) simply signifies the negation of some good. But malum (evil) signifies privation, or a defect of being in the thing, of something which it naturally ought to have; e.g., “the lack of life in a stone can be called a defect but not evil; but for man death is a defect and evil” (In lib. II Sent. , d. 30, q. 1, a. 2). The evil that is vulgarly called metaphysical, or the defect of every mode of perfection in a created being, is not properly evil because any created being excludes perfection, still less calls for it. Peccatum (sin) consists in action, “insofar as what is not upright as the end demands; for example a grammarian not writing well, or a doctor not preparing a medicine well” (ibid). Culpa (fault) “adds to sin, since it is an act of the will”; for “sin is in things which exist according to some art; but fault cannot exist unless it is in things that exist through the will; for reason cannot obtain fault except in what is condemnable, nor condemnation should be given on account of an inordinate act unless that act was under the subject’s dominion; but to have dominion over one’s acts, such as able to do something or not to do something, is characteristic of the will” (In lib. II Sent., d. 35, q. 1., a. 1).

[Second entry on malum: malum naturae and malum culpae]

The malum naturae (evil of nature) is an entiative privation to something due; its kind in man is the privation of an eye or a foot, etc. This evil of nature “whenever it arises from natural causes, then it is called an evil of nature not only because a good of nature is lacking, but also because it is an effect of nature, such as natural death, and other similar defects: but other times an evil of nature proceeds from a non-natural cause, such as death which is violently inflicted in persecution” (I-II, q. 42, a. 2). The malum culpae or morale (evil of fault or moral evil) consists in a discrepancy between one’s actions and right reason.
[Effata: scholastic philosophic axioms. I list only the axiom, not the rather helpful explanations for each]

Evil is the contrary to both good and evil.
Evil in some way follows from good.
Evil is praeter intentionem (other than the intention) in the thing.
Evil is in the many, good is in the few, or, evil more than the good is found in the many.
Evil is not some nature. From this axiom follows others:
            Nothing is able to be per se evil.
            Evil is in some good.
            The supreme evil simpliciter is not able to be.
            Evil does not wholly devour (consumit) good.
            Evil has some sort of cause.

4. Bergamo: malum

[Bergamo’s analysis of Thomas’s use of malum is so extensive that I can provide only an outline of his entry. He provides categories of analysis. I will provide a couple of examples for each category.]
Quid: 1 Evil is something, and it is a being of reason, but not a real being. 2 Evil is not a pure negation, but the privation of a good. 3 Nothing is evil essentially, nor through participation, but through the privation of participation.
Comparatio: 15 It is impossible for a greatest evil to exist. 16 Thus there is no greatest evil. . . . 18 It is impossible for evil to be a first principle.
Causa: 23 Evil is not a cause, except per accidens. 24 Evil is a cause per accidens in two ways: as a deficient good, or doing evil aside from one’s intention.
Effectus: 30 From evil good arises, and the converse; nevertheless, occasionally and not directly.
Divisio: 31 Evil is twofold: evil in itself and partaking of evil. . . . 40 The evil of pain is opposed to the good of the creature, but the evil of fault is opposed to the uncreated good, not as it is in us, but as it is in itself.
Naturae: 43 In natural things, the evil of the agent arises from the evil of the actions, but in voluntary things the converse is the case. [e.g., a tree is called “bad” because it bears rotten fruit, but a person’s actions are called “bad” when the person who performs them is rotten morally]
Mali: 59 Evil persons are worse than beasts are like to them, for they follow passions like beasts, for they love bestial things. 60 Evil people pretending to be innocent are worse than public sinners. . . . 63 The company of the evil is to be avoided for many reasons, and the company of the good is to be desired for many reasons.

Here, then, are some thoughts on Carlson’s Words of Wisdom:
A)    His definition of “evil” is poorly worded. He begins, “Not merely the lack of good . . .”Definitions should always state positive content and not mere negations of something else. 

B)    His definition does not explain why good “ought” to be present. The other scholastic dictionaries note that it is a lack of something due to the nature of the thing

C)    His definition is breezy and thin. He divides evil into two categories (natural/physical evil and moral evil) but discusses only moral evil. And his definition of moral evil (“involving bad moral acts” [redundant] “which result specifically from defective uses of the will”) leaves out the crucial matter. Why are moral evils defective? Because, as Signoriello points out, it diverges from right reason. But, as Wuellner shows, this counts only for formally evil moral acts; other evil moral acts are such intrinsically, that is, aside from the intention of the person. Oddly, Carlson has an entry instrinsic(ally) evil that is not linked to the main entry on evil; he defines intrinsically evil according to its object, which is more precise than Wuellner’s focus on deviation from “the norms of morals . . . and eternal law”. 

D)    His historical analysis is somewhat convoluted and thereby unhelpful. He says, “Historically, questions have been raised about the ‘real existence’ of evil. Here the perennial tradition follows and clarifies the position of St. Augustine: evils are ‘real’ as privations, but they do not ‘exist’ in the sense of being themselves metaphysical subjects of being.” First, as throughout the dictionary, he does not explain which voice in the “perennial tradition” makes the claim that he does. Apparently he knows the “perennial tradition” so well that he can confidently be its voice. He then nods to St. Augustine without providing any citation, leaving one unconvinced that the Church Father would have nodded back and agreed that Carlson accurately summarized what he meant. Finally, Carlson’s understanding of “real” and “subject” is confused. Peter of Bergamo claims that, according to St. Thomas, “Evil is something, and it is a being of reason, but not a real being.” Bergamo’s citation is I, q. 48, a. 2, the relevant section of which reads, “evil is neither a being nor a good,” and Thomas gives the example of an morally evil end which deviates from the order of reason. Hence, one could conclude that evil is a being of reason (i.e., a privation of right reason and an acceptance of specious reasoning). Thus, contrary to Carlson, a privation is not “real” being. Furthermore, Carlson’s use of the word “subject” implies that being is an accident that inheres in a thing. But this is a controverted philosophical claim, one discussed in detail by the scholastics. If he wanted to follow Thomas, it would have been preferable to say, as Bergamo says, “Nothing is evil essentially, nor through participation, but through the privation of participation.” Whether or not one accepts Thomas’s understanding of participation, this at least does not presume that the “perennial tradition” agrees that a subject is “something that exercises being or existence,” itself a problematic definition (I leave it to my fellow bloggers to discuss it).

Against my critiques, one might say that Carlson is doing the best he can, that his work is better than nothing, and that at least it is in print. But I wonder if he wouldn’t have helped himself out much more by translating an older scholastic dictionary, or by re-working Wuellner’s dictionary (which is both more accurate and less than half the length) in light of contemporary developments and concerns. As it is, Carlson’s Words of Wisdom: A Philosophical Dictionary for the Perennial Tradition bites off more than he can chew. There is as much theology as there is philosophy in it, which is another indication of the dictionary’s over-reaching nature. I am sad to say that what could have been very valuable is only minimally so.

"Evil words corrupt good manners," says the old proverb, variously attributed to St. Paul (1 Cor 15:33), Menander, and Aeschylus. This much one can derive from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Proverbs. That information, combined with nuggets gleaned from a Biblical commentary and Wikipedia, reminds me that a variant on the translation -- "Bad company corrupts good morals" -- was the inspiration of the name of a 1970's rock band. My point here is that there are so many sources of information available that another dictionary needs to be pretty remarkable to justify its existence. Being in print does not count as being remarkable, unless you happen to be the publisher. If a dictionary does not serve its purpose and clarify the meanings of words, it is attaching vague ideas to terms that the student will later use to the detriment of authentic learning and conversation. "Vague words are bad manners," one might say. Or, "Muddy terms pollute the stream of conversation." Thus, regarding the entries in Words of Wisdom themselves, their usefulness lies mostly in a) reminding a reasonably well-read student of philosophy or theology of what he already knows, b) suggesting descriptions of a term that often cohere with more accurate definitions found in truly scholastic and Thomistic works, and c) hinting to the reasonably well-read student that he turn elsewhere for a more careful analysis of the term in question.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

John W. Carlson's "Words of Wisdom": Bibliography

Samuel Johnson inaugurated the age of the English dictionary, or "word-book" as he would say, and as it becomes easier and easier to mechanically reproduce texts, there are more dictionaries now than ever. There's nothing like a computer to help the book industry, right?

Given the plethora of dictionaries, one might wonder: do we really need another? Why purchase John W. Carlson's Words of Wisdom? Perhaps the publisher was hoping a catchy title would signal the book's pretensions: "This is no ordinary philosophic dictionary," the title seems to say, "rather, this dictionary cares about wisdom and tries to foster it."  Ambitious. Does it succeed?

Regarding the bibliography, the cut-and-paste powers of the computer were well-employed here. There is little one couldn't find in the bibliography of a contemporary Thomistic-oriented dissertation. Furthermore, as was pointed out earlier in this blog, the perspective of these bibliographies is rather limited. Here are the divisions with my thoughts on them.
  • Section I, Works by St. Thomas Aquinas in English. This confirms what the title of the book implies: that the target buyer-peruser of this work is an under-educated student or professor of philosophy or theology -- the sort who skims a book in order to have more time to mention it while discussing politics over a couple of beers. When a bibliography lists the works of an author only in translation, it implies that the reader would not or could not make use of the author's works in their original language. In other words, it assumes that scholars will probably not find the bibliography (implied: the dictionary) valuable.
  • Section II, Recent Commentaries and Elaborations on Perennial Themes. This section could also be entitled, "Books I Like That You Should Consider Reading." The books in this section are mostly by Thomists from 1940 onward (e.g., Maritian, Lonergan, Giles Emery), along with personalists (e.g., Wojtyla, von Hildebrand), and a handful of others who, for some reason, count as the lucky few (e.g., Henri de Lubac, John Milbank). There is at least one notable exception to what I have said. This section, as a good dictionary shouldn't, stretches the meaning of a term. How could the works of John [Poinsot] of St. Thomas (included here) count as "contemporary" and on perennial themes, but the works of Friedrich Nietzsche (included below) counted as either not contemporary or not on perennial themes? A single explanation suggests itself: Carlson misuses words to fit his own purposes: he includes John of St. Thomas in Section II because he agrees with that way of thinking, while he sticks Nietzsche in Section III because the German fellow is disagreeable. Thus, a brief dictionary of Carlson's language would be as follows. "Perennial theme" = "Whatever Carlson thinks is true" = an amalgam of Poinsotian Thomism mixed with personalism and other contemporary (mostly-) Catholic thought for good measure.
  • Section III, Works by Other Authors Cited in This Dictionary. One of the chief jobs of a good dictionary is to make clear distinctions. If a dictionary of flora and fauna does not clarify the difference between an apple and an Adam's apple, then it is better used to prop up my desk rather than to raise my understanding. In this case, Carlson makes a division in his bibliography that manifests what books are worthwhile in his judgment. They are, in descending order: 1st, the works of Thomas in English. 2nd, the works of people who agree with or expound on Thomas, or who are pretty much good chaps whose books are still in print. 3rd, everyone else. Since they are neither contemporary nor Thomists, they count as "other." This implies they are lesser (otherwise, why not include studies on them in the Section II?). Although Carlson gestures toward Albert the Great, Aristotle, Augustine, Cicero, Plato, Scotus, and Suarez, among others, his entries rely far more on the authors in Section II of his bibliography than the authors in Section III.
In sum, the bibliography gives evidence of what the title implies: this is not a scholarly dictionary. It seems to me that the best feature of Carlson's dictionary is its bibliographic introduction. This helps readers find other dictionaries that will probably be more helpful.

My next post on this book will examine the dictionary entries themselves.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

What Plato Couldn't Know About Christ

As Easter is almost upon us, this is a good time to consider what Plato predicted about Christ--and what he could not have predicted. Whether or not the early Church Fathers were correct in saying that Plato borrowed from the Hebrews, the Greek philosopher had a partial glimpse into what the prophets foretold.

First, what he did predict. Having experienced some of the depths of the wickedness of men, Plato understood that an absolutely just man would have suffered absolutely at the hands of his neighbors. He says through Glaucon:
Though he do no wrong he must have the repute of the greatest injustice, so that he may be put to the test. ... But let him hold on  his course unchangeable even unto death, seeming all his life to be unjust though being just. ... Such being his disposition the just man will have to endure the lash, the rack, chains, the branding iron in his eyes, and finally, after every extremity of suffering, he will be crucified. (Republic II, 361c-e passim)
Here Plato's  account is practically a prophecy. Although its precision is astonishing, it remains in the natural order, since inspiration is not required to see the logical conclusions of sin.

What Plato did not predict, what he could not have predicted, was that the absolutely just man would live again after his crucifixion and death. St. Justin Martyr points out that there are pagan analogues to Christ's resurrection -- Odysseus coming back from the underworld, the rising of the phoenix -- but the Greeks did not imagine that a Jewish man could physically rise from the dead by his own power (see First Apology  chs. 18-20). Once again we find that the two central mysteries of Christian faith are the Incarnation and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.