Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Henry of Ghent: The First Scotist

Or I might have titled this, in an homage to our Cambridge 'friends', "Henry, the first univocal ontologist". But, since I see all of philosophy before Scotus as laying the ground for Scotus, and therefore people like Aristotle, Aquinas, and Henry are all early "Scotists," I went with the latter title. Today's selection is a passage in Henry where he more or less brings up univocity of the Scotistic type. To be sure, he rejects it, but this is a minor irrelevance. Note that the context is whether God understands by many acts of knowing or one.

Henricus de Gandavo, Summa quaestionum ordinarium, a.40 q.5 (ed. Badius 1, f. 248v):

"ubi igitur est una simplex ratio formalis intelligendi plurium, et unus simplex intuitus quo illa intelliguntur. Et ubi sunt diversae rationes intelligendi plura, necesse est quod pluribus actibus intelligendi intelligantur. Aliter enim sequeretur quod idem intellectus simul esset plures secundum unum genus entis quia omne intelligibile inquantum intelligibile, habet rationem unius generis entis in intellectu, licet extra sit sub diversis generibus entis et illud est impossibile, sicut est impossible quod idem sit informatum pluribus albendinibus. Unde cum multa in re extra habent unam rationem formalem intellectu in illa, simul unico intuitu intelliguntur ut partes totius continui, et diversae unitates unius numeri"

Translation for the Latin disinclined:

Where there is one simple means of understanding many things, there is one simple intuition by which they are understood. And where there are diverse means of understanding many things, it is necessary that they be understood by many acts of understanding. For otherwise it would follow that the same understanding would be of many according to one genus of being because every intelligible, insofar as it is intelligible, has the notion of one genus of being in the intellect, although outside it is under diverse genera of being. And that is impossible, just as it is impossible that the same thing be informed by many whitenesses. Hence since many things in the thing outside have one formal ratio in that intellect, they are understood simultaneously by a single intuition, as parts of a continuum and diverse unities of one number.

Friday, March 26, 2010

First Principles

Last weekend I met up with an old college friend to play Go and hang out. We ended up playing less than planned and instead arguing philosophy for five hours or so. In the ten years I've known him his opinions and lifestyle have undergone a radical shift: he's gone from being a Washington State conservative creationist evangelical to an enthusiastic but temporary Episcopalian to a Washington D.C. liberal materialist atheist. This particular night the discussion began when he casually mentioned that he wished it had been made clear in our undergraduate program that pretty much all of pre-20th century philosophy had been decisively refuted by modern science. After this a lot of conversation was spent with him simply delineating his new positions and with me trying to find some first principles we could agree on which could constitute a starting-point for a real debate. In the end I couldn't find any.

This was rather disturbing and I had a very odd feeling throughout the conversation. Here was an old and close friend telling me that he couldn't admit it as true in any strong sense that there was a tree outside the window, or that the conventional notion of a 'tree' had any extramental correlate, since what we called a tree was simply an arbitrary bundling together of those aspects of sensible phenomena which happened to interest us at a given moment; that there was no unity in the object itself, since there was no object itself, since all self-identity was an illusion; that there was no true identity of any kind, and that every single aspect of the world was simply in constant flux, and so we couldn't identify the unity of an object by the unity or continuity of its operations, since these were also illusory; that therefore the continuity of motion and the unity or identity of any act also had to be abandoned; and, finally, that he knew all this beyond any doubt because it had been established by "Science".

I tried to suggest that if all this were true then the foundations of science would themselves be undermined, and with them all his confidence in what "Science" supposedly teaches, but he didn't bite. Sure, science is just a series of useful stories we tell ourselves in order to render the world more functional - so what? They're the best stories we have, and they work just fine. I suggested that his picture of the world reduced literally everything to absurdity, including the meaningfulness of calling something an illusion when there is no "me" from moment to moment to have the illusion and no definite and intelligible reality for me to have illusion about: nowhere to see through the illusion to. He was unfazed. Yes, that's the way things are. Since what we call "thought" is simply an algorithm executed by our brains for maximum consciousness-efficiency, why should we expect it to have some correspondence to reality?

So I have to admit that I'm not a good enough Socrates to get anywhere beyond this. What do you do when your interlocutor doesn't mind if his position is, by any reasonable standard, absurd? After hours of argument I couldn't find a single thing we could both agree was true. Not even "I am thinking this thought" or "The people having this conversation now are the same people who were having it an hour ago." I'm tempted to say that at this point there is simply a philosophical breakdown, that there is nowhere to go from here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Shocker from Ignatius Press

I got an Ignatius Press catalogue in the mail yesterday, and was quite surprised at what I found. Normally I only leaf through them quickly and don't buy, as while they are traditional orthodox catholic publishers for them this means they publish books on the fathers, Aquinas, and nouvelle theologie and not much else. Surely no mention of other scholastics to break down their picture of the golden medieval unity that existed prior to protestantism. But the surprise: they are carrying a book from Ave Maria press (surely a bastion of the most tedious kind of thomism: ecstatic participatory exegisis), on Aquinas' view of the natural desire for God (an issue long a battleground between Scotist and Thomist), and actually mention Scotus in the book description. I know nothing of the book, and so cannot say how accurate it depicts Scotus, but perhaps that renewal of theology I've heard so much about is actually starting to happen, and maybe it will mean more than swinging the pendulum back to authoritarian thomism after all. So here is the book information, and kudos to the author!

Faith and Reason: Studies in Catholic Theology and Philosophy

The Natural Desire to See God according to St. Thomas Aquinas and his Interpreters, by Lawrence Feingold. paperback, 528 pages, $34.95.

"The work examines the argument of St. Thomas Aquinas that the desire to see God is naturally formed by the human mind when we consider the existence of a First Cause. It examines the thought of St. Thomas and some of his most prominent interpreters, including Scotus, Cajetan, Suarez, and Henri de Lubac."

Odd, that. It makes Scotus sound like a member of the thomist school. But, as Fr. Z. says, "brick by brick."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Francis of Meyronnes on Kinds of Distinctions

Here is the Biographical note on Francis from the "Franciscan authors" website:

"Born in Meyronnes (Alpes de Haute-Provence). His family had close contacts with Charles I of Anjou (Count of the Provence). Became friar in the Digne convent (Provence province). Probably followed a lectorate course at the Paris studium (Fall 1304-July 1307), where he became acquainted with the theology of Scotus. After his lectorate studies, he taught the Sentences in various Franciscan studia of France and Italy, and for sometime was custodian of the Sisteron custody. Went up for his theology degree course and read the Sentences pro gradu magisterii at Paris 1320-21. The lengthy Sentences commentary deriving from these baccalaureate lecture have survived in various redactions. Francis completed the obligatory post-Sentential exercises (a.o. the Disputatio Collativa with Pierre Roger OSB (the future Clement VI), andquaestiones in which he defended mendicant rights and theological positions), and finished several other works (a.o. his commentaries on Augustine). In the summer of 1323, he became master of theology in Paris (with strong support of Pope John XXII and King Robert of Naples), where he proved himself to be an able and rather independent follower of Scotus, who differed from Scotus esp. in his speculations on the potentia absoluta of God. He defended, like Scotus, the distinctio formalis, the univocity of being, the haeccitas, the absolute predestination of Christ and the immaculate conception. During his regency, Francis also assisted Elzéar of Sabran at his deathbed (27 September 1323), and gave his funerary laudation. In Spring 1324, he was elected provincial minister of the Provence province, and went to the pontifical court at Avignon. At Avignon, he was active as a preacher (witness his Sermo de Indulgentiis and his Sermo de Eucharistia), and as a counsellor in the process against William of Ockham (cf. Mayronis’ Determinatio Paupertatis, which argues along the same lines as the position expressed by preacher-king Robert of Anjou). For his friend-protector Robert of Anjou, Francis wrote in this period several commentaries on Pseudo-Dyonisius and an additional series of Quaestiones. He also wrote a verdict on the Apocalypse commentary of Peter John Olivi in the context of the process against Olivi's works (Although I do not know about the whereabouts of that verdict, a lengthy reaction to it has just surfaced, namely the newly rediscovered Sexdequiloquium by John of Rupescissa/Jean de Roquetaillade). Later, Francis was sent on an ambassadorial mission in Gascoigne by pope John XXII. Francis of Mayronis died in Piacenza, between 1326 and 1328. He left behind a large literary legacy. Aside from hisSentences commentary, and several philosophical works (Treatises on Aristotelian logical, physical, and metaphysical issues), he composedQuodlibeta, Quaestiones super Pater Noster, a Tractatus de Octo Beatitudinibus, several ‘political’ and moral treatises (some of which defended a strong interpretation of papal plenitudo potestatis), and commentaries on, or rather florilegia of Augustine and Dionysius (not unlike Kilwardby?), such as the Flores ex Libris S. Augustini super Genesim. He also produced several series of sermons, at times on meditative, ascetical and contemplative issues (some are more and some less tied up with his high-brow speculative theology, but they became at the same time very popular exemplary sermon collections that can be found in many Franciscan libraries and that later also inspired the Observant preaching revival) and several Bible commentaries (he would have produced the so-called Annotationes postillarum in totam s.Scripturam; several MSS of his Apocalypse and Genesis commentaries have survived>>to be cont.)."

As many of you know, I have been studying the development of theories of identity and distinction in scholastic thought. Many of the thirteenth century theologians contain only a few remarks in the context of other more pressing issues. In the fourteenth century this changes, and there is a more detailed discussion of these issues, by the likes of Petrus Thomae, and as we shall see below, Francis of Meyronnes, known as the "master of the formalities" and possibly is to be identified with the "master of abstractions" who haunted 14th century english thought. Here below I have typed up some of his remarks on the different kinds of distinctions. Eventually I may translate PT's similar derivation (albeit into 7 modes of identity and distinction). If any analytical experts read this blog, I would appreciate recommendations from contemporary thought on these issues.

Franciscus de Mayronis, Conflatus, I d.8 a.2 (ed. Venezia 1520, f. 43v):

"Secundo videndum est quot sunt modi distinctionum, quod fuit secundum declarandum. Ad quod dico quod sunt quatuor gradus distincionum non fabricati ab intellectu sive ab anima.

Prima est distinctio essentialis, eo modo quo distinguitur deus a creatura et ista proprie accipiendo est quando quidditas cum sua existentia est distincta ab alia quidditate cum sua existentia.

Secunda est realis eo modo quo est distinctio inter patrem et filium. Unde distinctio realis est illa que est inter rem et rem.

Tertia est formalis et ista est inter quidditatem et quidditatem; sic dicimus quod homo et asinus in potentia obiectiva distinguuntur et ista distinctio proprie est rationum distinctarum.

Quarta est distinctio non quidditatis et quidditatis sed quidditatis et modi intrinseci, sicut est inter quidditatem hominis et eius finitatem et quidditatem albedinis et eius remissionem et intensionem.

Iste distinctiones sunt essentialiter ordinate quia maxima est essentialis et ideo que essentialiter distinguuntur omnibus aliis distinctionibus distnguuntur. Secunda post essentialem maior est realis. Post illam est tertia, scilicet quidditativa vel formalis. Quarta est minor omnibus, scilicet quidditatis et modi intrinseci. Nam minor est distinctio ubi statur intra eadem rationem specificam et formalem quam ubi est exitus. Non est autem exitus a ratione formali per modum eius, quia ad rationem formalem et non ad aliam reducitur quia modus adveniens non variat rationem formalem."


Second we must ask how many kinds of distinctions there are, which was the second thing to be discussed. To which I say there are four grades of distinctions not fabricated by the intellect or the soul. The first is an essential distinction, in the way in which God is distinguished from a creature, and that taken properly is when a quiddity with its existence is distinct from another quiddity and its existence. The second is real, in the way in which there is a distinction between a father and a son. Whence a real distinction is that which is between thing and thing. The third is formal, and that is between a quiddity and a quiddity. So we say that man and ass are distinguished in objective potency, and that distinction is properly of distinct definitions (rationes). The fourth is a distinction not of quiddity and quiddity but of quiddity and intrinsic mode, just as there between the quiddity of a man and his finitude, and the quiddity of whiteness and its intention and remission [ie. degrees of intensity]. These distinctions are essentially ordered, because the essential distinction is maximal, and therefore those things which are essentially distinguished are distinguished in all modes of distinctions. The second greatest after the essential distinction is the real distinction. After that is the third, namely the quidditative or formal distinction. The fourth is less than all, namely of quiddity and intrinsic mode. For a distinction is less when one remains within the same specific and formal definition than when one is outside it. But there is no departure from the formal definition through its mode, because it is reduced to the formal definition and not to another[?], because an advening[adveniens] mode does not vary the formal definition.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Self Portrait?

A clerk ther was of Oxenford also,
That un-to logik hadde longe y-go.
As lene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake;
But loked holwe, and ther-to soberly.
Ful thredbar was his overest courtepy;
For he had geten him yet no benefyce,
Ne was so worldly for to have offyce.
For his was lever have at his beddes heed
Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophye,
Than robes ryche, or fithele, or gay sautrye.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he mighte of his freendes hente,
On bokes and on lerninge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf him wher-with to scoleye.
Of studie took he most cure and most hede.
Noght o word spak he more than was nede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quik, and ful of hy sentence.
Souninge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Duns Scotus on the Universal

The following snippets are from Scotus' QQ. super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis, Bk. VII q. 18 (opera philosophica IV, p. 348-49, 351). They are of interest to me at the moment because they have an obvious bearing on the issues related to intelligible being; indeed, Petrus Thomae paraphrases the first quotation in his QQ. de esse intelligibli q.1.

"...universale restat videre primo an sit in intellectu. Et distinguo quod dupliciter potest aliquid esse in intellectu obiective, sicut modo loquimur de 'esse in'. Uno modo habitualiter, et alio modo actualiter; sive in actu primo et secundo. Primo modo est ibi quando est ibi ut immediate motivum ad intellectionem, secundo modo quando actualiter intelligitur. Ista esse secundum positionem Avicennae, simul sunt tempore, licet primum prius natura.


Ergo cum experiamur quod est aliquis intellectus in nobis quo est universale fieri, hoc est, cui insit aliquid per quod obiectum est praesens ut universale, necesse est aliquid esse activum illius. Et non extra, ut argutum est, ergo intra. Intellectus igitur agens, concurrens cum natura aliquo modo indeterminata ex se, est causa integra factiva obiecti in intellectu possibili secundum esse primum, et hoc secundum completam indeterminationem universalis. Nec est alia causa quare intellectus agens cum natura facit obiectum sic esse nisi quia est talis potentia, sicut nec quare calidum calefacit. Est ergo natura in potentia remota ad determinationem singularitatis et ad indeterminationem universalis; et sicut a producente coniungitur singularitati, ita a re agente et simul ab intellectu agente coniungitur universalitati."

Translation: remains to see whether the univesal is first in the intellect. And I distinguish that something can be in the intellect objectively [ie., is an object of thought] in two ways, just as we speak now of 'being in'. In one way habitually, and in the other actually, whether in first act or second. The first way is there when it is there as immediately moving to intellection, the second way when it is actually understood. Those kinds of being, according to Avicenna, are simultaneous in time, although the first is prior in nature.


Therefore when we experience that there is some intellect in us by which the universal is made, that is, something present inside through which the object is present and universal, it is necessary that there be something that activates it. And not from outside, as has been argued, therefore from within. Therefore the agent intellect, concurring with a nature in some way indeterminate of itself, is the complete, "making" cause of the object in the possible intellect according to first being, and this according to the complete indetermination of the universal. Nor is there another cause whereby the agent intellect with a nature makes an object to be so unless because there is such a power/potency, as neither is there a reason why heat heats. The nature is therefore in remote potency to the determination of singularity and to the indetermination of the universal; and as by the producer it is joined to singularity, so from the agency of the thing and with the agent intellect it is joined to universality.


After a pretty good run I've fallen down on the regular posting lately. I was out of town (enjoying the hospitality of Faber and his new wife) for a while putting the finishing touches on my dissertation. I'm back now, but haven't gotten into the swing of blogging again. I'm not sure I should, either, rather than preparing for my defense and thinking about the future. I'll try to do better, however.

By the way, my defense date has been set for April 23, which is a lot later than I'd hoped for a year ago; still, barring any catastrophes and Deo volente, I should graduate with my PhD in May.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Note from Ioannes Bremer

Ioannes Bremer was a 15th c. franciscan theologian working at the studium generale at Erfurt. Here is a comment from the prologue of his commentary on the Sentences, which I just had to share (cited. by L. Meier, "De schola Franciscana Erfordiensi saeculi XV" in Antonianum 5 p.72):

"Sicut sunt quatuor sensus Sacrae Scripturae, ut iam dictum est, ita sunt quatuor scriptores eam scribentes ac quatuor Evangelistae; et sunt quatuor antiqui Sancti Doctores Ecclesiae, eam exponentes, scilicet Hieronymus, Ambrosius, Gregorius, Augustinus. Et quatuor sunt etiam moderni fideles Doctores legis divinae, eam cordibus imprimentes, scilicet Nicolaus de Lyra et Franciscus de Maronis, Bonaventura et Ioannes Scotus."

Just as there are four senses of Sacred Scripture, as has now been said, so there are four writers writing it and four evangelists; and there are four ancient holy doctors of the Church expositing it, namely Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory and Augustine. And there are also four modern faithful teachers of the divine law, impressing it in their hearts, namely Nicholas de Lyra and Francis of Meyronnes, Bonaventure, and John Scotus.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Medieval Logical Manuscripts

For our many readers who work on medieval logical manuscripts, this link should be useful: L. M. De Rijk's archives of mss. info he has compiled throughout his career. I am a bit late on this one, but hey, everytime I visited it before the site was down.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Scotus contra Henry's Negotiating Intellect

Here is a follow-up on my previous quote of Henry on movement of the divine intellect as it knows itself and distinguishes the divine attributes. Scotus exploits the feature of Henry's explanation that allowed a "quasi" potency to precede the operation the divine intellect to posit a formal non-identity. The following text is from the section of the question on the formal distinction in which Scotus quotes Henry's arguments and objects against the general position (as opposed to citing arguments and criticizing them directly).

A bit of background: Scotus has two types of cognition, abstractive and intuitive. The commonly accepted way of distinguishing them is that intuitive cognition is of the thing qua existing and present, while abstractive cognition prescinds from the existence or non existence and pertains to the essence of the thing. This latter kind of cognition was the more controversial, for Scotus allowed that there could be abstractive cognition of the divine essence in this life.

Ordinatio I d. 8 pt. 1 q. 4 n.187 (ed. Vat. 257):

"Praeterea, intellectus intuitivus nullam habet distinctionem in obiecto nisi secundum quod exsistens est, quia sicut non cognoscit aliquod obiectum nisi ut exsistens, ita non cognoscit aliqua distincta formaliter in obiecto nisi ut exsistens est. Cum ergo intellectus divinus non cognoscat essentiam suam nisi intellectione intuitiva, quaecumque distinctio ponatur ibi in obiecto -- sive sit distinctorum obiectorum formalium, sive ut rationum causatarum per actum intellectus -- sequitur quod ista distinctio erit in obiecto ut actu exsistens est: et ita si ista est obiectorum formalium distinctorum in obiecto, erunt ista distincta formaliter (et tunc sequitur propositum, quod talis distinctio obiectorum formalium praecedit actum intellectus), si autem sit rationum causatarum peractum intelligendi, ergo intellectus divnus causabit aliquam intellectionem in essentia 'ut relationem rationis', ut est exsistens, quod videtur absurdum."

Furthermore, the intellect understanding intuitively has no distinction in the object except according as it is existing, because just as it does not know some object unless as existing, so it does not know things formally distinct in the object unless as it is existing. Since therefore the divine intellect does not know its own essence save by intuitive cognition, whatever distinction is posited there in the object -- whether it is of distinct formal objects or as notions caused by the act of the intellect -- it follows that that distinction will be in the object as it is existing in act: and so if that is of distinct formal objects in the object, they will be formally distinct (and then follows what is being argued, that such a distinction of formal objects precedes the act of the intellect). If however it is of notions caused by the act of understanding, therefore the divine intellect will cause some intellection in the essence as a relation of reason, as it is existing, which is false."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chesterton and the Sanity of Christianity

As I read and re-read all the non-Christian or anti-Christian accounts of the faith, from Huxley to Bradlaugh, a slow and awful impression grew gradually but graphically upon my mind — the impression that Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. No sooner had one rationalist demonstrated that it was too far to the east than another demonstrated with equal clearness that it was much too far to the west. No sooner had my indignation died down at its angular and aggressive squareness than I was called up again to notice and condemn its enervating and sensual roundness. In case any reader has not come across the thing I mean, I will give such instances as I remember at random of this self-contradiction in the sceptical attack. I give four or five of them; there are fifty more.

Thus, for instance, I was much moved by the eloquent attack on Christianity as a thing of inhuman gloom; for I thought (and still think) sincere pessimism the unpardonable sin. Insincere pessimism is a social accomplishment, rather agreeable than otherwise; and fortunately nearly all pessimism is insincere. But if Christianity was, as these people said, a thing purely pessimistic and opposed to life, then I was quite prepared to blow up St. Paul’s Cathedral. But the extraordinary thing is this. They did prove to me in Chapter I. (to my complete satisfaction) that Christianity was too pessimistic; and then, in Chapter II., they began to prove to me that it was a great deal too optimistic. One accusation against Christianity was that it prevented men, by morbid tears and terrors, from seeking joy and liberty in the bosom of Nature. But another accusation was that it comforted men with a fictitious providence, and put them in a pink-and-white nursery. One great agnostic asked why Nature was not beautiful enough, and why it was hard to be free. Another great agnostic objected that Christian optimism, “the garment of make-believe woven by pious hands,” hid from us the fact that Nature was ugly, and that it was impossible to be free. One rationalist had hardly done calling Christianity a nightmare before another began to call it a fool’s paradise. This puzzled me; the charges seemed inconsistent. Christianity could not at once be the black mask on a white world, and also the white mask on a black world. The state of the Christian could not be at once so comfortable that he was a coward to cling to it, and so uncomfortable that he was a fool to stand it. If it falsified human vision it must falsify it one way or another; it could not wear both green and rose-coloured spectacles. I rolled on my tongue with a terrible joy, as did all young men of that time, the taunts which Swinburne hurled at the dreariness of the creed —

“Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean, the world has grown gray with Thy breath.”
But when I read the same poet’s accounts of paganism (as in “Atalanta”), I gathered that the world was, if possible, more gray before the Galilean breathed on it than afterwards. The poet maintained, indeed, in the abstract, that life itself was pitch dark. And yet, somehow, Christianity had darkened it. The very man who denounced Christianity for pessimism was himself a pessimist. I thought there must be something wrong. And it did for one wild moment cross my mind that, perhaps, those might not be the very best judges of the relation of religion to happiness who, by their own account, had neither one nor the other.

It must be understood that I did not conclude hastily that the accusations were false or the accusers fools. I simply deduced that Christianity must be something even weirder and wickeder than they made out. A thing might have these two opposite vices; but it must be a rather queer thing if it did. A man might be too fat in one place and too thin in another; but he would be an odd shape. At this point my thoughts were only of the odd shape of the Christian religion; I did not allege any odd shape in the rationalistic mind.

Here is another case of the same kind. I felt that a strong case against Christianity lay in the charge that there is something timid, monkish, and unmanly about all that is called “Christian,” especially in its attitude towards resistance and fighting. The great sceptics of the nineteenth century were largely virile. Bradlaugh in an expansive way, Huxley, in a reticent way, were decidedly men. In comparison, it did seem tenable that there was something weak and over patient about Christian counsels. The Gospel paradox about the other cheek, the fact that priests never fought, a hundred things made plausible the accusation that Christianity was an attempt to make a man too like a sheep. I read it and believed it, and if I had read nothing different, I should have gone on believing it. But I read something very different. I turned the next page in my agnostic manual, and my brain turned up-side down. Now I found that I was to hate Christianity not for fighting too little, but for fighting too much. Christianity, it seemed, was the mother of wars. Christianity had deluged the world with blood. I had got thoroughly angry with the Christian, because he never was angry. And now I was told to be angry with him because his anger had been the most huge and horrible thing in human history; because his anger had soaked the earth and smoked to the sun. The very people who reproached Christianity with the meekness and non-resistance of the monasteries were the very people who reproached it also with the violence and valour of the Crusades. It was the fault of poor old Christianity (somehow or other) both that Edward the Confessor did not fight and that Richard Coeur de Leon did. The Quakers (we were told) were the only characteristic Christians; and yet the massacres of Cromwell and Alva were characteristic Christian crimes. What could it all mean? What was this Christianity which always forbade war and always produced wars? What could be the nature of the thing which one could abuse first because it would not fight, and second because it was always fighting? In what world of riddles was born this monstrous murder and this monstrous meekness? The shape of Christianity grew a queerer shape every instant.

I take a third case; the strangest of all, because it involves the one real objection to the faith. The one real objection to the Christian religion is simply that it is one religion. The world is a big place, full of very different kinds of people. Christianity (it may reasonably be said) is one thing confined to one kind of people; it began in Palestine, it has practically stopped with Europe. I was duly impressed with this argument in my youth, and I was much drawn towards the doctrine often preached in Ethical Societies — I mean the doctrine that there is one great unconscious church of all humanity rounded on the omnipresence of the human conscience. Creeds, it was said, divided men; but at least morals united them. The soul might seek the strangest and most remote lands and ages and still find essential ethical common sense. It might find Confucius under Eastern trees, and he would be writing “Thou shalt not steal.” It might decipher the darkest hieroglyphic on the most primeval desert, and the meaning when deciphered would be “Little boys should tell the truth.” I believed this doctrine of the brotherhood of all men in the possession of a moral sense, and I believe it still — with other things. And I was thoroughly annoyed with Christianity for suggesting (as I supposed) that whole ages and empires of men had utterly escaped this light of justice and reason. But then I found an astonishing thing. I found that the very people who said that mankind was one church from Plato to Emerson were the very people who said that morality had changed altogether, and that what was right in one age was wrong in another. If I asked, say, for an altar, I was told that we needed none, for men our brothers gave us clear oracles and one creed in their universal customs and ideals. But if I mildly pointed out that one of men’s universal customs was to have an altar, then my agnostic teachers turned clean round and told me that men had always been in darkness and the superstitions of savages. I found it was their daily taunt against Christianity that it was the light of one people and had left all others to die in the dark. But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves that science and progress were the discovery of one people, and that all other peoples had died in the dark. Their chief insult to Christianity was actually their chief compliment to themselves, and there seemed to be a strange unfairness about all their relative insistence on the two things. When considering some pagan or agnostic, we were to remember that all men had one religion; when considering some mystic or spiritualist, we were only to consider what absurd religions some men had. We could trust the ethics of Epictetus, because ethics had never changed. We must not trust the ethics of Bossuet, because ethics had changed. They changed in two hundred years, but not in two thousand.

This began to be alarming. It looked not so much as if Christianity was bad enough to include any vices, but rather as if any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with. What again could this astonishing thing be like which people were so anxious to contradict, that in doing so they did not mind contradicting themselves? I saw the same thing on every side. I can give no further space to this discussion of it in detail; but lest any one supposes that I have unfairly selected three accidental cases I will run briefly through a few others. Thus, certain sceptics wrote that the great crime of Christianity had been its attack on the family; it had dragged women to the loneliness and contemplation of the cloister, away from their homes and their children. But, then, other sceptics (slightly more advanced) said that the great crime of Christianity was forcing the family and marriage upon us; that it doomed women to the drudgery of their homes and children, and forbade them loneliness and contemplation. The charge was actually reversed. Or, again, certain phrases in the Epistles or the marriage service, were said by the anti-Christians to show contempt for woman’s intellect. But I found that the anti-Christians themselves had a contempt for woman’s intellect; for it was their great sneer at the Church on the Continent that “only women” went to it. Or again, Christianity was reproached with its naked and hungry habits; with its sackcloth and dried peas. But the next minute Christianity was being reproached with its pomp and its ritualism; its shrines of porphyry and its robes of gold. It was abused for being too plain and for being too coloured. Again Christianity had always been accused of restraining sexuality too much, when Bradlaugh the Malthusian discovered that it restrained it too little. It is often accused in the same breath of prim respectability and of religious extravagance. Between the covers of the same atheistic pamphlet I have found the faith rebuked for its disunion, “One thinks one thing, and one another,” and rebuked also for its union, “It is difference of opinion that prevents the world from going to the dogs.” In the same conversation a free-thinker, a friend of mine, blamed Christianity for despising Jews, and then despised it himself for being Jewish.

I wished to be quite fair then, and I wish to be quite fair now; and I did not conclude that the attack on Christianity was all wrong. I only concluded that if Christianity was wrong, it was very wrong indeed. Such hostile horrors might be combined in one thing, but that thing must be very strange and solitary. There are men who are misers, and also spendthrifts; but they are rare. There are men sensual and also ascetic; but they are rare. But if this mass of mad contradictions really existed, quakerish and bloodthirsty, too gorgeous and too thread-bare, austere, yet pandering preposterously to the lust of the eye, the enemy of women and their foolish refuge, a solemn pessimist and a silly optimist, if this evil existed, then there was in this evil something quite supreme and unique. For I found in my rationalist teachers no explanation of such exceptional corruption. Christianity (theoretically speaking) was in their eyes only one of the ordinary myths and errors of mortals. They gave me no key to this twisted and unnatural badness. Such a paradox of evil rose to the stature of the supernatural. It was, indeed, almost as supernatural as the infallibility of the Pope. An historic institution, which never went right, is really quite as much of a miracle as an institution that cannot go wrong. The only explanation which immediately occurred to my mind was that Christianity did not come from heaven, but from hell. Really, if Jesus of Nazareth was not Christ, He must have been Antichrist.

And then in a quiet hour a strange thought struck me like a still thunderbolt. There had suddenly come into my mind another explanation. Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance. Perhaps Swedes (who have pale hair like tow) called him a dark man, while negroes considered him distinctly blonde. Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre. Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad — in various ways. I tested this idea by asking myself whether there was about any of the accusers anything morbid that might explain the accusation. I was startled to find that this key fitted a lock. For instance, it was certainly odd that the modern world charged Christianity at once with bodily austerity and with artistic pomp. But then it was also odd, very odd, that the modern world itself combined extreme bodily luxury with an extreme absence of artistic pomp. The modern man thought Becket’s robes too rich and his meals too poor. But then the modern man was really exceptional in history; no man before ever ate such elaborate dinners in such ugly clothes. The modern man found the church too simple exactly where modern life is too complex; he found the church too gorgeous exactly where modern life is too dingy. The man who disliked the plain fasts and feasts was mad on entrées. The man who disliked vestments wore a pair of preposterous trousers. And surely if there was any insanity involved in the matter at all it was in the trousers, not in the simply falling robe. If there was any insanity at all, it was in the extravagant entrées, not in the bread and wine.

I went over all the cases, and I found the key fitted so far. The fact that Swinburne was irritated at the unhappiness of Christians and yet more irritated at their happiness was easily explained. It was no longer a complication of diseases in Christianity, but a complication of diseases in Swinburne. The restraints of Christians saddened him simply because he was more hedonist than a healthy man should be. The faith of Christians angered him because he was more pessimist than a healthy man should be. In the same way the Malthusians by instinct attacked Christianity; not because there is anything especially anti-Malthusian about Christianity, but because there is something a little anti-human about Malthusianism.

Nevertheless it could not, I felt, be quite true that Christianity was merely sensible and stood in the middle. There was really an element in it of emphasis and even frenzy which had justified the secularists in their superficial criticism. It might be wise, I began more and more to think that it was wise, but it was not merely worldly wise; it was not merely temperate and respectable. Its fierce crusaders and meek saints might balance each other; still, the crusaders were very fierce and the saints were very meek, meek beyond all decency. Now, it was just at this point of the speculation that I remembered my thoughts about the martyr and the suicide. In that matter there had been this combination between two almost insane positions which yet somehow amounted to sanity. This was just such another contradiction; and this I had already found to be true. This was exactly one of the paradoxes in which sceptics found the creed wrong; and in this I had found it right. Madly as Christians might love the martyr or hate the suicide, they never felt these passions more madly than I had felt them long before I dreamed of Christianity. Then the most difficult and interesting part of the mental process opened, and I began to trace this idea darkly through all the enormous thoughts of our theology. The idea was that which I had outlined touching the optimist and the pessimist; that we want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy; love and wrath both burning. Here I shall only trace it in relation to ethics. But I need not remind the reader that the idea of this combination is indeed central in orthodox theology. For orthodox theology has specially insisted that Christ was not a being apart from God and man, like an elf, nor yet a being half human and half not, like a centaur, but both things at once and both things thoroughly, very man and very God. Now let me trace this notion as I found it.

All sane men can see that sanity is some kind of equilibrium; that one may be mad and eat too much, or mad and eat too little. Some moderns have indeed appeared with vague versions of progress and evolution which seeks to destroy the u[[epsilon]][[sigma]][[omicron]][[nu]] or balance of Aristotle. They seem to suggest that we are meant to starve progressively, or to go on eating larger and larger breakfasts every morning for ever. But the great truism of the u[[epsilon]][[sigma]][[omicron]][[nu]] remains for all thinking men, and these people have not upset any balance except their own. But granted that we have all to keep a balance, the real interest comes in with the question of how that balance can be kept. That was the problem which Paganism tried to solve: that was the problem which I think Christianity solved and solved in a very strange way.