Saturday, December 31, 2016

"draw[ing] near to God on the same path that he opened in order to draw near to us."

     "When we said that prayer is a path, we wanted to draw attention to the fact that it makes us draw near to God on the same path that he opened in order to draw near to us.  The Father approached us by sending his Son and his Spirit.  It is, then, in the Holy Spirit and through the mediation of the Son that we can make our way toward him.  In this regard, it would contradict the very logic of communion with God if our prayer ended in the Spirit or the Son:  its final goal is always the Father.
     "Nevertheless, this fact was obscured in the history of the Church by the shock waves resulting from the struggle with Arianism.  The Arians, who denied the divinity of the Son and the Spirit, first obliged the Church to formulate dogmatically the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father in the first Council of Nicea (325), and the divinity of the Spirit in the first Council of Constantinople (381).  But these necessary dogmatic formulations could not but affect Christian practices that had been peaceably observed until then, and that suddenly became suspect in the eyes of the defenders of Nicene orthodoxy as a result of the use to which the Arians had put them.  A good example of this evolution is the progressive disappearance of the ancient doxology of the Psalms, 'Glory to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit,' which ended up being substituted by the formula, 'Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.'  [(Footnote:  'For more ample developments, see J. A. Jungmann, Tradition liturgique et problèmes actuels de pastorale (Le Puy, 1962), 51-57 ("Fides Trinitas").'  This came from the original German (Liturgisches Erbe und pastorale Gegenwart) into English as Pastoral liturgy.)]  It is clear that the first formula is no less orthodox than the second, but ever since the Arians used it to corroborate their claim of a difference in nature between the Father and the two other Persons, the second became doctrinally preferable.  Unfortunately, this allowed us to lose sight of the dynamism proper to the glorification of the Father that passes through the Son and is realized in the Spirit, just as we risk losing sight of the dynamism of petition that, always through the mediation of the Son in the Spirit, re-ascends to the Father.
     "It is a sign of this loss that many people have a hard time knowing and articulating to whom they are supposed to pray.  A large number of the faithful admit that they are incapable of clearly distinguishing the worship of God from the cult of Mary or the saints.  But even prayer to God himself (which is the only prayer in the strict sense) is often just as confused in praxis.  Separated from the Son and the Spirit, prayer to the Father becomes absolutely inconceivable, and in spite of appearances, it is often abandoned; [(Footnote:  'The fact that people continue to say the "Our Father" is not enough to prove the contrary:  many of the baptized are convinced that the "Our Father" is addressed to God, but not specifically to the [P]erson of the Father.')] separated from the Father and the Spirit, prayer to Christ risks becoming denatured and sentimental; separated from the Father and the Son, prayer to the Holy Spirit is detached from invocation (the 'come!' that introduces practically all prayers to the Spirit) and degenerates into a potentially Joachimite illuminism.  These serious distortions of Christian prayer have, moreover, been in the history of the Church the epiphenomenon of the degeneration of faith in the Trinity, which is often reduced to an abstract deism in which trinitarian theology, or what remains of it, is viewed as nothing but a technical appendix accessible only to specialists.  [(Footnote:  an appendix 'more scholastic than mystical.')]  The logical result of this had to be the celebrated affirmation of Kant:  'From the doctrine of the Trinity, taken literally, we can draw absolutely nothing for praxis.'  For praxis, and thus for prayer.  Who will be surprised, after this, if the impersonal religiosity of the many contemporary versions of Gnosticism, or of Islam, is seducing the whole world?"

     Jean-Pierre Batut, "Praying to the Father through the Son in the Spirit: reflections on the specificity of Christian prayer," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: the international Catholic review 36, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 637-639 (623-642).

"Christian prayer is . . . much more than the imitation of a model: it is the fruit of a configuration."

     "In both these texts [(Gal 4:6 and Rom 8:14-17)], the invocation Abba, which has up till now been a prerogative of Jesus, appears from now on as our own property.  What made this transformation possible is not a method of prayer that Jesus revealed to us in secret, but the gift of the Holy Spirit who prays to the Father in us just as he prays in Jesus.  Christian prayer is thus much more than the imitation of a model:  it is the fruit of a configuration.  We do not only pray 'as Jesus'; it is Jesus who prays in us.  He prays in us in the Holy Spirit, who is the soul of our prayer.  And this action of the Holy Spirit does not dispossess us of any part of ourselves or our freedom, since the Spirit of God 'bears witness to our spirit' that we are his children:  he does not take the place of the created spirit, but gives it the capacity at last to realize that for which it was made."

     Jean-Pierre Batut, "Praying to the Father through the Son in the Spirit: reflections on the specificity of Christian prayer," trans. Michelle K. Borras, Communio: the international Catholic review 36, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 634-635 (623-642).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"look not on our sins, but on the fidelity of your Church"

Ecclesia. From an
Ecclesia et Synagoga.
"Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles:  Peace I leave you, my peace I give you; look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.  Who live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen."

"Domine Iesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis:  Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis:  ne respicias peccata nostra, sed fidem ecclesiae tuae; eamque secundum voluntatem tuam pacificare et coadunare digneris.  Qui vivis et regnas in saecula saeculorum.  Amen."

     Prayer for peace articulated by the priest on behalf of the entire congregation in the plural, Missale Romanum.  This derives from the prayer articulated by the celebrant on his own behalf in the singular at the head of an intraclerical and strictly hierarchical exchange of the peace in the Tridentine missal of Pius V (1570):

"Domine Iesu Christe, qui dixisti Apostolis tuis:  Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem meam do vobis:  ne respicias peccata mea, sed fidem ecclesiae tuae; eamque secundum voluntatem tuam pacificare et coadunare digneris.  Qui vivis et regnas Deus per omnia saecula saeculorum.  Amen."

     According to Robert Cabié, "Donnez-vous la paix," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 103 (2002):  275-276 (269-280), this prayer appeared first in early 11th-century Germany, and was only later incorporated into the Tridentine Missale Romanum.  See also Robert Cabié, “Le rite de la paix,” in Les combats de la paix:  Mélanges offerts à René Coste (Toulouse:  Institut Catholique de Toulouse-Bayard éditions/Centurion,1996), 67 (47-71).
     But according to Eligius Dekkers, an early 11th century priest would not have been offering the faith (fides) of the Church (whether objective or even subjective) in place of his own infidelities, but rather its fidelity (fides).  Contrary to the universal ("sans aucune exception") tendency of the various nations to render fides as "faith" ("foi, faith, fede fe, f
é, Glaube, geloof, feiz, Wiara", etc.) since at least 1751, fides here would have meant, in the context of early 11th-century German feudalism, not "faith" but "faithfulness" or "fidelity" ("Une erreur de traduction dans l'ordinaire de la messe?", Memoriam sanctorum venerantes:  Miscelleanea in onore di Monsignor Victor Saxer, Studi di Antichità cristiana 48 (Città del Vaticano:  Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, 1992), 245-250).   Though I have not yet looked for a counter-argument published in the wake of this article by Dekkers, and though I have always loved (unsuspectingly) the standard translation (as opposed to, say, the lack of "faith" (or "faith"-lessness) that lies at the root of personal sin (as distinguished from the Holiness of the Church)), this makes a lot of sense to me.
     See also Marie-Thérèse Nadeau, Foi de l'église: évolution et sens d'une formule (Paris:  Beauchesne, 1988), which I have not yet read, and esp. pp. 103 ff.  For section X.8 of the Ritus servandus, see this English translation for 1962, that same section in a Latin missal of 1920, and so on.

Hate the sin but love the sinner

Give us, [O] Lord our God, by preserving the peace, to guard what you give and entrust to us, and thus to conform ourselves in all things to that peace which you ordain and grant in charity, to the end that we may learn to hate in others their faults and not their souls and to hope that they will turn away from sin and not from salvation.  [And] that to all concord in love may thus be [given], in order that discord may not proceed from anyone nor affect anyone.  Through [our] Lord.

Dona nobis, Domine Deus noster, in custodienda pace tuum donum, tuumque depositum custodire, et sic in hominibus sequi quam ipse jubes et tribuis caritatem, ut in aliquibus culpas noverimus odisse, non animas; finem optare crimini, non saluti:  si cunctis concordia, sit amori; ut discordiam nec inferred ulli liceat, nec referre.  Per Domininum.

     Collect "ad pacem" from the 6th- or even 5th- (?) century Libellus Missae (the so-called Missale Richenovense) discovered by the German scholar Franz Joseph Mone on a palimpset in the Abbey of Reichenau (Mohlberg, below; PL 138, cols. 863-882; and, originally, Lateinische und Griechische Messen aus dem zweiten bis sechsten Jahrhundert (Frankfurt am Main:  Lizius, 1850), 23).  This collect is no. 326 (60) on pp. 61-94 of the critical 1958 edition of the Missale Gallicanum vetus (Vat. Pal. lat.493) ed. Mohlberg, but is taken here from The ancient liturgies of the Gallican Church:  now first collected, with an introductory dissertation, notes, and various readings, together with parallel passages from the Roman, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic rites, by J. M. Neale and G. H. Forbes (Burntisland:  Pitsligo Press, 1855-[67]), vol. 1, p. 10 (cf. PL 138, col. 870).  My English follows the French translation supplied in Robert Cabié in "Donnez-vousla paix," Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique 103 (2002):  279 (269-280) rather than the Latin (above) directly:
Donne-nous, Seigneur notre Dieu, en gardant la paix, de garder ce que tu nous donnes et nous confies et ainsi de nous conformer en toutes choses à cette paix que tu ordonnes et accordes dans la charité, afin que nous apprenions à haïr chez les autres leurs fautes et non leurs âmes et à souhaiter qu’ils se détournent du péché et non du salut.  Qu’à tous ainsi soit [donnée] la concorde dans l’amour, pour que la discorde ne provienne de personne ni n’atteigne personne.  Par [notre] Seigneur.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Modernism as a recurring annihilation of both past and future

RFIEA
"According to the modernists, whether in the seventeenth century or the twentieth, innovation means tearing down the old—literally, in the case of cities—in order to make room for the new.  Modernism revises everything, fundamentally.  Foundations is a word borrowed from the modernists' own vocabulary:  Because the old has been obliterated, the new must be built upon its own, carefully laid foundations.  Modernists are not bricoleurs.
     "Nor do they believe in organic growth—or, indeed, organic anything.  Modernists negate the slow accretions of history:  They do not want to learn from the past; they want to break with it.  This is why the scientific and aesthetic dreams of modernists are so relentlessly radical, whatever their century.  For those who want to start afresh, the only possible stance toward the past is rejection.  Or, to recur to Descartes's urban planning metaphor, the only way to build the new city is to raze the old one to the ground.  But modernist radicalism doesn't stop there.  In its purest form, it seeks to annihilate not only the past but the future as well.  The new city erected on the smoldering ruins of the old one is intended to stand for all time, perfect and therefore ageless.  This is why it is so difficult to locate modernism along the political spectrum of the reactionary right and the progressive left.  Both right and left define themselves in relation to an unsatisfactory present:  The right wants to return to a better past; the left wants to move on to a better future.  The modernists may seem progressive as compared with the right, but they often look reactionary as compared to the left.  In truth, they belong to neither party, because the aspire to be the architects of an eternal present.  Once modernists have fulfilled their vision, time stops—until the next wave of modernist fervor.
     "But modernism cannot live with the vision that it comes in recurrent waves.  Nothing is more fatal to a movement that seeks to remake art or science or politics from the ground up than to repeat itself.  Once-and-for-all is thrilling; twice-and-for-all, embarrassing; thrice-and-for-all, simply ludicrous.  Modernity cannot begin in the seventeenth, the nineteenth, and the twentieth century without becoming something like a joke told once too often.  This is why the three modernities of the history of science cannot peacefully coexist.  There would be no difficulty in characterizing all three as moments of epoch-making change, as indeed all three undoubtedly were.  But change, no matter how transformative, falls short of the accolade 'modernity.'  Modernity aims to be the only change that is so vehement, so thorough, so fundamental, that no further change thereafter is conceivable.  There is thus always a simmering argument among the proponents of each of the three modernities in the history of science as to which one is the real one, the implication being that the others are imposters, mere revolutions masquerading as the one and only modernity."

     Lorraine Daston, "When science went modern," The Hedgehog review:  critical reflections on contemporary culture 18, no. 3 (Fall 2016):  27-28 (18-32).

"Should we love the Church?"

     "It is because we love [the Church], in a mimesis of the Lord's own love for his Bride [(Eph 5:25-27)], that we submit ourselves to work for the fullest realization of her marks:  not only the mark of holiness, which we enhance every time we emerge victorious in the spiritual warfare with the world, the flesh, and the Devil, but the others as well.
     "Every time I shape my understanding to the mould found in her dogmatic consciousness or submit myself to the authority of her forms of worship or seek to serve her members in practical ways, I intensify the mark of unity.  Whenever I support her missionary activity, by whatever means, or try to bring the culture I have acquired or inherited into symbiotic relation with her life and faith, understanding the latter as fully as my resources will allow, I extend her catholicity.  And if in showing others, in word and deed, how I value what has been transmitted to me, in Scripture and Tradition, from the apostles by, for example, kissing the ring—or, if I am a Catholic of the Eastern rites, the hand—of a bishop, I venerate the apostolic hierarchy which joins us in one direction to Pentecost and in another to the Parousia, then on those occasions I enlarge the scope of apostolicity in the Church."

     Adrian Nichols, O.P., Figuring out the Church:  her marks, and her masters (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2013), 176.

"The Virgin is in the Church. She is, within the Church, the place towards which the Church, in her other members, tends ceaselessly to draw near, as the curve to its asymptotic goal and the polygon towards the circle."

     Charles Journet, L'Eglise du Verbe incarné 2:393, as quoted by Adrian Nichols, O.P., Figuring out the Church:  her marks, and her masters (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2013), 176.

"there are some souls that carry others, as a planet its moons."

Fondation Charles Journet
"In Mary the Church becomes co-redemptory [sic] namely, of all men, whether they know it or not. . . . The redemptive mediation of Christ carries the universal co-redemption of the Virgin, who in turn carries the corporate co-redemptive mediation of the Church and the particular co-redemptive mediations of Christians, for there are some souls that carry others, as a planet its moons."

     Charles Journet, L'Eglise du Verbe incarné 2:386, as quoted by Adrian Nichols, O.P., Figuring out the Church:  her marks, and her masters (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 2013), 175.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"the politics of wish-fulfillment"

"Alongside the political commitment to multiculturalism, honourable in intention though profoundly problematic in practice, we must also acknowledge a powerful fantasy, the fantasy that we can remake the world in any way we choose, and, equally powerful, the fantasy that no one can tell us that what we are trying to do can never be done.  Multiculturalist politics had a real referent in post-colonialism and immigration.  But postmodernist epistemology also has a fantasy referent in what we may call the politics of wish-fulfillment, according to which there are no obstacles to our remaking the world as we choose, apart from the ideas in our minds.  The world can be anything we want it to be, because thinking makes it so.  When Shapin and Schaffer say 'it is ourselves . . . that is responsible for what we know' they seem to imply that knowledge can be whatever we choose to make it; and if we do not like science as we find it, then all we need do is wish for it to be otherwise.
     "Concealed within relativism there thus lies a dream of omnipotence, a fantasy recompense, perhaps, for the impotence and irrelevance of academic life."

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 555.

Friday, December 23, 2016

O Rex gentium

Ultimate source unknown
"O Rex gentium et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:  veni et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti."

O King of the nations and their Desideratus and Cornerstone, [you] who make [us] both one:  Come and save the Man (הָֽאָדָם, ha-adam) Whom you formed of the slime [of the earth].

     O-Antiphon to the Magnificat, Vespers, 22 December, Liturgia horarum.  The ICEL version present in the Liturgy of the hours is powerful, but takes a number of liberties:

"O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust."

Sources:
  • Jer 10:7:  "quis non timebit te o rex gentium tuum est enim decus"
  • Hag 2:8:  "et movebo omnes gentes et veniet desideratus cunctis gentibus"
  • Isa 28:16:  "ecce ego mittam in fundamentis Sion lapidem lapidem probatum angularem pretiosum in fundamento fundatum qui crediderit non festinet" | Eph 2:20:  "superaedificati super fundamentum apostolorum et prophetarum ipso summo angulari lapide Christo Iesu" | 1 Pet 2:5:  "ecce pono in Sion lapidem summum angularem electum pretiosum et qui crediderit in eo non confundetur"
  • Eph 2:14:  "ipse est enim pax nostra qui fecit utraque unum"
  • Gen 2:7:  "formavit igitur Dominus Deus hominem de limo terrae"


Sunday, December 18, 2016

A somewhat counter-cultural take on "the attitude of the Pharisee" (Lk 18:9-14)

"All people must take great care not to allow themselves to be tainted by the attitude of the Pharisee. . . . In our own day this attitude is expressed particularly in the attempt to adapt the moral norm to one's own capacities and personal interests, and even in the rejection of the very idea of a norm."

     Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (6 August 1993) 105.  According to John Paul II at least here, the problem with the Pharisee is not that he is (as according to the culture at large) an inflexible absolutist, a merciless stickler-for-the-law, but quite the reverse.  The problem with the Pharisee is that the (even legitimate and actually exculpatory) subjective excuses he is able to give for failing to live up to "the objectivity of the moral law in general and . . . the absoluteness of moral prohibitions regarding specific human acts" (104) are self-justificatory in the sense that they absolve him of responsibility for keeping the whole law in all of its hard-nosed inflexibility, thus reducing the law to the sort of thing a man can keep without grace (since "Only in the mystery of Christ's Redemption do we discover the 'concrete' possibilities of man", "the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being" (103)).  Whereas the Publican, by contrast, cuts himself no breaks.  See the whole of this section, beginning with par. 102.  I was put onto this by John Finnis and Germain Grisez, "The misuse of Amoris Laetitia to support errors against the Catholic faith", 21 November 2016, p. 12.  Cf. Edward Feser, "Denial flows into the Tiber":  "Yet as a matter of historical fact it was the Pharisees who championed a very lax and 'merciful' attitude vis-à-vis divorce and remarriage, and Christ who insisted on a doctrine that was so austere and 'rigid' that even the apostles wondered if it might be better not to marry."  Cf. also Edward Peters, "Conscience can't be the final arbiter on who gets communion," Crux, January 8, 2017:  "Aside: why are critics of Amoris always being labelled ‘Pharisees’? Weren’t the Pharisees the ones trying to allow for divorce and remarriage?"

Saturday, December 17, 2016

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, who have proceeded out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching (always) from end (all the way) to end, powerfully and [yet per]suasively disposing all things:  Come for the purpose of instructing us in the way of prudence.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:  veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

Sources (selected):  Wis 8:1 above all, but also Dt 8:3, Is 40:14, etc.

Friday, December 16, 2016

"the [deepest] desire of your heart is itself your [unceasing] prayer"

"'All my desire is before you, Lord.  Not before human beings, who cannot see my heart, but before you is my desire.'  Let your desire too be before him, and there your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.  This very desire is your prayer, and if your desire is continuous, your prayer is continuous too.  The apostle meant what he said, Pray without ceasing (1 Thes 5:17)."

     St. Augustine, Ennarationes in Psalmos 37.14 (v. 10), trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., WSA III/16 (Hyde Park, NY:  New City Press, 2000), 156-157.  Heading from the translation in the Liturgy of the hours (Office of readings, Friday, Third Week of Advent).

"Et ante te est omne desiderium meum.  Non enim ante homines, qui cor videre non possunt:  sed ante te est omne desiderium meum.  Sit desiderium tuum ante illum; et Pater qui videt in occult, reddet tibi (Matth. vi, 6).  Ipsum enim desiderium tuum, oratio tua est:  et si continuum desiderium, continua oratio.  Non enim frustra dixit Apostolous, Sine intermissione orantes (1 Thess. V, 17)."

     PL 36, col. 404.  Cf. the new critical edition in CSEL 93, ed. Clemens Weidmann (2003- ), as well as CCSL 39, ed. Eligius Dekkers and Iohannes Fraipont (1956).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

"An American will endure almost any insult except the charge that he is not progressive."

     Walter Lippmann, Public opinion (New York:  Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), 108 (chap. 8, "Blind spots and their value").  But progressivism (an obsession with material progress) is here one of those "stereotypes" that creates "blind spots", and blind spots cover "up some fact, which if . . . taken into account, would check the vital movement that the stereotype provokes."  Their value is that they "keep away distracting images, which, with their attendant emotions, might cause hesitation and infirmity of purpose.  Consequently the stereotype not only saves time in a busy life and is a defense of our position in society, but [unfortunately] tends [also] to preserve us from all the bewildering effect of trying to see the world whole steadily and see it whole" (114).
     I was put onto this by Thomas C. Leonard, Illilberal reformers:  race, eugenics & American economics in the Progressive Era (Princeton and Oxford:  Princeton University Press, 2016), 194n23.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

"Either that is true, or it is not."

     "There is only one reason why the Evangelists' christological interpretation of the Old Testament is not a matter of stealing or twisting Israel's sacred texts:  the God to whom the Gospels bear witness, the God incarnate in Jesus, is the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Either that is true, or it is not.  If it is not, the Gospels are a delusional and pernicious distortion of Israel's story.  If it is true, then the figural literary unity of Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament together, is nothing other than the climactic fruition of that one God's self-revelation.  As readers, we are forced to choose which of those hermeneutical forks in the road we will take."

     Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Waco, TX:  Baylor University Press, 2016), 364-365.  I have read only this Conclusion.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Hate the sin but love the sinner

"We can indeed say that God hates sin but does not cease to love the sinner [(Gott zwar die Sünde haßt, den Sünder zu lieben aber nicht aufhört)]. But it is only as we see God in Jesus Christ that we can really say this. The faithfulness of God alone is the guarantee that in spite of that alienation and failure and aberration, man does not perish and is not destroyed. The grace of God alone is the power which can bring him back out of that alienation and aberration and failure. What man himself does is totally and exclusively a contradiction of the faithfulness and grace of God. This is the truth of sin which we cannot compass in its frightfulness. Man is the good creature of God, and nothing can change the fact that he is this and that God is faithful and gracious to him as such. But he has made himself this alien and stranger, he himself, within the limits set for him, who is not a second god, by the faithfulness and grace of God. So, then, there is no place for any distinction between himself as the neutral doer of sin, and sin as his evil deed [(jener Unterscheidung zwischen sich selbst als einem neutralen Täter der Sünde und der Sünde als seiner bösen Tat)]. It was for him that Jesus Christ entered the lists, for him as the creature that God had not forgotten or abandoned or given up or lost, but for him himself who in sin as his own deed and therefore as the doer of it does everything [(ihn selbst, der in der Sünde als seiner Tat und also als ihr Täter Alles tut)] to bring about his own destruction. He came to take up that case which without Him, without the faithfulness and grace of God, would be lost, to liberate the one who is altogether guilty before God from his guilt and its consequences, to maintain God's right against the one who is wholly in the wrong and in so doing to restore the human right which he had forfeited. Man himself is 'in his sins.' What help to him is their forgiveness if he himself is not helped? He himself needs renewal. He himself—this is how he is helped—is the new man who has appeared in the obedience of Jesus Christ. But for this very reason he himself is also the old man who has been judged and put to death and removed, who has disappeared in the death of Jesus Christ; he himself is the one who contradicts and opposes God; he himself is the one who thinks and speaks and acts against his Creator and therefore his own creatureliness; he himself is the one who by himself has estranged himself from himself. This is the truth of sin. It does not consist only in the accusation: Thou hast done this, but in the disclosure which comes to every man and points to the most inward and proper being of every man: Thou art the man. We can, of course, evade the accusation. The tissue of lies which enables us to do so can be sustained. And where man is measured, or measures himself, by some other law, then even in the best of cases the only result will be the accusation which he can and certainly will evade. But this disclosure is something that we cannot evade. Now that Jesus Christ has come, to represent the person of man in His own person, to restore and renew the person of man and therefore man himself in His own person, we are all of us disclosed as the man who in his own person is the man of sin [(derjenige, der in seiner eigenen Person der Mensch der Sünde ist)]."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 406-407 =KD IV/1, 450-451.  This occurs in the first subsection of §60, i.e. "1. The man of sin in the light of the [(im Spiegel des)] obedience of the Son of God", and the context is Barth’s long-running insistence that the fact that "man is evil, that he is at odds with God and his neighbor, and therefore with himself" (359-360) can be known "from the Word of God" (361) alone, from "the death of Jesus Christ on the cross" (360) and ultimately nowhere else.  All other sources of the knowledge of sin issue in a self-justifying attempt to absolve the man of the sins he commits.  Only from the Word of God on the cross is it possible to learn that the man is a sinner.  And so the effect of Barth’s approach is actually to lay much greater stress than wielders of the maxim typically do on the sin so profoundly characteristic of both poles of the distinction:  2) the sinful acts we must abominate, to be sure, but also 1) the sinfulness of the being or person (and also metaphysical and collective "man") we must love, the "man of sin", the one who is, to the very core of his being (and therefore inescapably), a sinner.  The fact that he was created in the image of God must never become one of those "great truths" "behind" which "man usually conceals the truth, or rather conceals himself from the truth" (403), which is that he doesn’t just commit sins; he is "the man of sin".  Again, "the truth of sin. . . . does not consist only in the accusation:  Thou hast done this, but in the disclosure which comes to every man and points to the most inward and proper being of every man:  Thou are the man" (407, italics mine).  To take refuge in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (which stresses rightly that the maxim is not an offensive weapon to be directed primarily at others) is to miss this point.  For the Publican recognizes what the Pharisee does not:  that "actions are not merely external and accidental and isolated.  They are not, as it were, derailments.  A man is what he does. . . .  They are his wicked works and by them he is judged.  As the one who does them, who produces these wicked thoughts and words and works, he is the man of sin" (405, italics mine).  In all of these ways and more, Barth, it seems to me, actually radicalizes the maxim.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Levin on the progressive alternative

"The alternative to working through the middle layers of society to address our problems is working through synthetic and artificial social structures created by brute exercises of technical expertise empowered with state authority."

     Yuval Levin, The fractured republic:  renewing America's social contract in the age of individualism (New York:  Basic Books, 2016), 209-210.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I shall expect the Lord my Savior, and stand at the ready for him when he is near.

Exspectabo Dominum salvatorem meum, et praestolabor eum dum prope est.  Alleluia.

(Judges 6:18 ((the angel of) the Lord to Gideon):  . . . qui respondit ego praestolabor adventum tuum, And he answered:  I will await thy coming.)
Isaiah 8:17:  et expectabo Dominum qui abscondit faciem suam a domo Iacob et praestolabor eum, And I will wait for the Lord, who hath hid his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.
Isaiah 55:6:  quaerite Dominum dum inveniri potest invocate eum dum prope est, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found:  call upon him, while he is near.
Micah 7:7:  ego autem ad Dominum aspiciam expectabo Deum salvatorem meum audiet me Deus meus, But I will look towards the Lord, I will wait for God my Saviour:  my God will hear me.

I shall wait (etymologically, look out) for the Lord my Savior, and stand ready for him when he is near.  Alleluia.

     Antiphon to the Benedictus, Morning Prayer, Thursday of the First Week of Advent, Liturgy of the hours:

I shall wait for my Lord and Saviour and point him out when he is near, alleluia.

Image from Sankt Gallen,Stiftsbibliothek, 390, p. 21 (c. 980 or later), the fourth oldest occurrence of this antiphon in the database CANTUS (the oldest being Albi, Bibliothèque municipale Rochegude, 44 (c. 890)).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gregory of Nazianzus: the Word has approached and assumed "his own [defaced] image"

"What is the wealth of his goodness?  What is this mystery concerning me?  I participated in the [divine] image, and I did not keep it; he participates in my flesh both to save the image and to make the flesh immortal.  He shares with us a second communion, much more paradoxical than the first; then he gave us a share in what is superior, now he shares in what is inferior.  This is more godlike than the first; this, to those who can understand, is more exalted."

Τίς ὁ πλοῦτος τῆς ἀγαθότητος;  τί τὸ περὶ ἐμὲ τοῦτο μυστήριον;  Μετέλαβον τῆς εἰκόνος, καὶ οὐκ ἐφύλαξα·  μεταλαμβάνει τῆς ἐμῆς σαρκὸς, ἵνα καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα σώσῃ, καὶ τὴν σάρκα ἀθανατίσῃ.  Δευτέραν κοινωνεῖ κοινωνίαν, πολὺ τῆς προτέρας παραδοξοτέραν·  ὅσῳ τότε μὲν τοῦ κρείττονος μετέδωκε, νῦν δὲ μεταλαμβάνει τοῦ χείρονος.  Τοῦτο τοῦ προτέρου θεοειδέστερον·  τοῦτο τοῖς νοῦν ἔχουσιν ὑψηλότερον.

     St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45.9, On Holy Pascha, trans. Nonna Verna Harrison (Festal orations:  Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Popular patristics series 36 (Crestwood, NY:  St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2008), 169).  PG 36, col. 633.  Office of readings, Tuesday of the First Week of Advent, Liturgy of the hours:  "What is this wealth of goodness? What is this mystery that surrounds me? I received the likeness of God, but failed to keep it. He takes on my flesh, to bring salvation to the image, immortality to the flesh. He enters into a second union with us, a union far more wonderful than the first. . . ."

Monday, November 28, 2016

"Access to the knowledge that he is a sinner is lacking to man because he is a sinner."

"That man is evil, that he is at odds with God and his neighbour, and therefore with himself, is something which he cannot know of himself, by communing with himself, or by conversation with his fellow-men, any more than he can know in this way that he is justified and comforted by God. . . . Access to the knowledge that he is a sinner is lacking to man because he is a sinner. . . .
". . . He sees and thinks and knows crookedly even in relation to his crookedness."

"Daß der Mensch böse ist, d. h. daß er sich im Widerspruch zu Gott und zu seinem Nächsten und darum und von daher auch zu sich selbst befindet, das kann er nicht aus sich selbst wissen, das kann er also aus keinem Selbstgespräch, das kann er aber auch aus keinem Gespräch mit seinem Mitmenschen erfahren: das so wenig, wie daß er von Gott gerechtfertigt und getröstet ist. . . . Der Zugang zu der Erkenntnis, daß er ein Sünder ist, fehlt ihm gerade deshalb, weil er ein Sünder ist. . . .
". . . Er sieht und denkt und erkennt eben verkehrt auch in Sachen seiner Verkehrtheit."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 359-361 =KD IV/1, 397-398.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Conviction and love as "motives of Faith"

"That Divine Revelation is infallible, is an acknowledg'd Principle by all Men: for natural Reason dictates that unerring Wisdom, and infinite Goodness, are essential perfections of God; so that he cannot be deceived, nor deceive those that trust in his Word.  The proofs of the truth of Christian Religion are of a moral nature; and though not of equal clearness with the testimonies of Sense, or a Mathematical Demonstration, yet are so pregnant and convincing, that the considering dispassionate spirit fully acquiesces in them.  A Mathematical Demonstration brings so strong a Light that the Mind cannot suspend its assent, but is presently overcome by the naked propounding of the Object:  And hence it is that in Mathematical matters, there are neither Infidels nor Hereticks.  But the motives of Faith are such, that although the Object be most certain, yet the Evidence is not so clear and irresistible, as that which flows from Sense, or a Demonstration.  And 'tis the excellent observation of Grotius, God has wisely appointed this way of perswading Men the truth of the Gospel, that Faith might be accepted as an act of Obedience from the reasonable Creature.  For the Arguments to induce belief, though of sufficient certainty, yet do not so constrain the mind to give its assent, but there is prudence and choice in it.  Not that the Will can make a direct impression upon the Mind, that it should comply with its desire, and see what it does not see. It cannot make an obscure Object to be clear to its perception, no more than it can change the colour of visible things, and make what appears green to the Eye to seem red. But the mind enlightned by sufficient Reasons that the Christian Religion is from God, represents it so to the Will, and the Will, if sincere and unbiast by carnal affections, commands the Mind not to disguise the Truth, to make it less credible, nor to palliate with specions colours the pretences of Infidelity. And thus the belief of it results from conviction and love."

     William Bates, The divinity of the Christian religion (London:  JD, 1677), 41-43, as quoted by David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 422, and supplemented on both ends by the TCP, above.

Intellectual vice

"There are some men, who have sufficient abilities to discern betwixt the true difference of things; but what through their vicious affections and voluntary prejudices, making them unwilling that some things should be true; what through their inadvertency or neglect to consider and compare things together, they are not to be convinced by plain Arguments; not through any insufficiency in the evidence, but by reason of some defect or corruption in the faculty that should judg of it.  Now the neglect of keeping our minds in such an equal frame, the not applying of our thoughts to consider of such matters of moment, as do highly concern a man to be rightly informed in, must needs be a vice."

     John Wilkins, Of the principles and duties of natural religion (London:  T. Basset, 1675), 35-36 (5th ed., 1704), as quoted by David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 423.

Caught in the act

     "Freedwoman Martha Hendricks found herself in a similar situation when she fled her husband's attackers, baby in arms, to take shelter in the home of her white neighbors, the Grogans.  Mrs. Grogan at first discouraged Hendricks from entering, but when Hendricks plead that it was cold and there was nowhere else to go, Mrs. Grogan begrudgingly offered hospitality.  Hendricks and her baby sat in a room with Mrs. Grogan and her toddler son to await news.  The cause of Mrs. Grogan's reluctance to admit Hendricks became apparent when her son inadvertently revealed to Hendricks that Mr. Grogan was among her husband's attackers.  Both women pretended not to have noticed the slip and continued to spend what must have been an unimaginably painful evening.  When Grogan returned, after a hushed conversation with his wife, he assumed a casual and protective role to Hendricks, assuring her that he had heard that her husband had escaped his pursuers (as indeed he had).  Perhaps Mrs. Grogan and Jeter's attacker's wife acted more kindly than their husbands would have wanted.  Perhaps the white men had joined the attacks reluctantly, or even intervened to spare Hendricks's and Jeter's lives.  It seems most likely, however, that the white men were attempting, through their use of disguise, to have two parallel relationships with Hendricks and Jeter."

     Elaine Frantz Parsons, Ku-Klux:  the birth of the Klan during Reconstruction (Chapel Hll:  The University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 98.  "The Ku-Klux's performance enabled southern men to shed the antebellum manhood they had come to idealize for a more starkly, explicitly violent postbellum version.  The Ku-Klux's brief reign marked a transition space between distinct regimes of violence:  the threshold between the patriarchal violence of the antebellum years and the chivalric violence of the war, on the one hand, and the public lynchings of the Progressive Era.  If performance is a way of figuring loss, representing that which is passing away and may be forgotten, the Ku-Klux's histrionics marked and mourned the fall of antebellum white southern manhood and erected a new modern southern manhood in its place" (100-101).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Rusty Reno on public theology

"We should speak boldly in the prophetic mode, trenchantly in the critic mode, but tentatively in the political.  And we should speak with generosity to those who draw different conclusions about what course of action, here and now, in our always compromised circumstances, best serve God's purposes in public life."

     Rusty Reno, "Public theology," First things no. 268 (December 2016): 6 (4-6).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"If only we had one example in the Bible of God creating a faith out of nothing in this way!"


"Wenn wir nur in der biblischen Literatur irgend ein Beispiel eines solchen von Gott aus dem Nichts geschaffenen Glaubens hätten!"

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 340 =KD IV/1, 375, on the belief in a "parthenogenesis of faith without any external cause" (339) required of those who would deny that the subjective faith of the disciples was grounded in an objective Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pity for "the blindness of those who advance authority alone as proof in physics instead of reason or experiment, and . . . horror at the wickedness of others who use reason alone in theology instead of the authority of Scripture and the Fathers."

"Authority alone can give us light on such matters.  But it is in theology that authority has its chief weight because there it is inseparable from truth, which we know only through it; so that to give absolute certainty to things which reason can least grasp, it is sufficient to point them out in Holy Scripture (as, to show the uncertainty of the most probable things, we need only point out that they are not included there); because the principles of theology are above nature and reason, and the mind of man, too feeble to reach them by its own efforts, can arrive at this highest knowledge only if carried there by an all-powerful and supernatural force.
     "It is quite otherwise with subjects accessible to sense or reasoning:  here authority is useless, only reason can know them.  Authority and reason have their separate rights:  a moment ago one had all the advantage; here the other is queen in her turn.  But since subjects of this kind are suited to the mind's reach, it has perfect freedom to concern itself with them; its inexhaustible fertility produces continually, and its discoveries can be at once without end and without interruption...

     "The clearing up of this difference should make us pity the blindness of those who advance authority alone as proof in physics instead of reason or experiment, and should fill us with horror at the wickedness of others who use reason alone in theology instead of the authority of Scripture and the Fathers.  We must strengthen the courage of those timid souls who dare to discover nothing in physics, and confound the insolence of that temerity which introduces novelty into theology.  Meanwhile the misfortune of the age is such that we see many new opinions in theology altogether unknown to antiquity maintained with obstinacy and received with applause; whereas those put forward in physics, though few in number, must be convicted of error, it seems, as soon as they shock, however little, received opinions. . . ."

     "C'est l'autorité seule qui nous en peut éclaircir. Mais où cette autorité a la principale force, c'est dans la théologie, parce qu'elle y est inséparable de la vérité, et que nous ne la connaissons que par elle : de sorte que pour donner la certitude entière des matières les plus incompréhensibles à la raison, il suffit de les faire voir dans les livres sacrés, comme pour montrer l'incertitude des choses les plus vraisemblables, il faut seulement faire voir qu'elles n'y sont pas comprises; parce que ses principes sont au-dessus de la nature et de la raison, et que, l'esprit de l'homme étant trop faible pour y arriver par ses propres efforts, il ne peut parvenir à ces hautes intelligences s'il n'y est porté par une force toute-puissante et surnaturelle.
     "Il n'en est pas de même des sujets qui tombent sous le sens ou sous le raisonnement: l'autorité y est inutile; la raison seule a lieu d'en connaître. Elles ont leurs droits séparés:  l'une avait tantôt tout l'avantage; ici l'autre règne à son tour. Mais comme les sujets de cette sorte sont proportionnés à la portée de l'esprit, il trouve une liberté tout entière de s'y étendre:  sa fécondité inépuisable produit continuellement, et ses inventions peuvent être tout ensemble sans fin et sans interruption...


     "L'éclaircissement de cette différence doit nous faire plaindre l'aveuglement de ceux qui apportent la seule autorité pour preuve dans les matières physiques, au lieu du raisonnement ou des expériences, et nous donner de l'horreur pour la malice des autres, qui emploient le raisonnement seul dans la théologie au lieu de l'autorité de l'Écriture et des Pères. Il faut relever le courage de ces timides qui n'osent rien inventer en physique, et confondre l'insolence de ces téméraires qui produisent des nouveautés en théologie. Cependant le malheur du siècle est tel, qu'on voit beaucoup d'opinions nouvelles en théologie, inconnues à toute l'Antiquité, soutenues avec obstination et reçues avec applaudissement; au lieu que celles qu'on produit dans la physique, quoique en petit nombre, semblent devoir être convaincues de fausseté dès qu'elles choquent tant soit peu les opinions reçues. . . ."

     Blaise Pascal, Preface to the treatise on the vacuum, trans. Richard Scofield.  GBWW, 2nd ed. (1990), vol. 30, p. 355-356.  French from here, as checked against pp. 453-454 (452-458) of the Pléiade edition of the complete works ed. Michel le Guern (Paris, Gallimard, 1998).

St. Thomas Aquinas on alchemy approximately four centuries before Boyle and Newton were still actively (if somewhat surreptitiously) pursuing it

     The following represents my halting preliminary attempt to follow up on the unfootnoted claim that "The other side [Boyle collaborator George Starkey] refused to hear were those who dismissed alchemy as a deception, a delusion, a fantasy.  Yet among scholastic philosophers these were the majority, from Aquinas and Albertus Magnus on" (David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 354-355).  Below are three of the several hits on lemmas #04023, #04023e, and #04023j in Corpus Thomisticum (which is not to say that passages without these terms are irrelevant).  The passage from the later Summa seems to my inexpert eye more tentative than the one from the much earlier Commentary on the Sentences.  I have not read any of the scholarship on the treatise on alchemy mistakenly (?) attributed to Aquinas, or any of the scholarship on medieval alchemy.

"Demons do not operate except by the mode of art.  But art cannot confer substantial form.  Hence it is said in the chap[ter] on numbers, ‘proponents [(auctores)] of alchemy cannot change the substantial form.’  Therefore neither can demons produce substantial forms."

"Art cannot by its [own] power confer substantial form.  This can [only] be done by the power of a natural agent, as is clear in this, that by art the [substantial] form of fire [(a natural agent)] is introduced into firewood.  But there are certain substantial forms which art can in no way introduce, because it cannot devise active and passive propria, though it can produce something similar in these [substantial forms? active and passive propria?], as [when] alchemists produce something similar to gold with respect to exterior accidents, but yet do not make true gold.  For the substantial form of gold is [induced] not by the heat of the fire which alchemists use, but by the heat of the sun [(a natural agent)] in [that] determinate place in which the mineral power [(a natural agent)] is vigorous.  And therefore such gold lacks the operation consequent upon the species; and similarly in other things which are produced by the operation of [alchemists]."

     Thomas Aquinas, Super Sent. lib. 2, d. 7, q. 3, a. 1, arg and ad 5, trans. Perisho.  (I have not examined Super Sent. lib. 4, d. 11, q. 3, a. 4, qc 3, expos.)  Latin from Corpus Thomisticum:

"Daemones non operantur nisi per modum artis. Sed ars non potest dare formam substantialem; unde dicitur in cap. de numeris: sciant auctores alchimiae, species transformari non posse. Ergo nec Daemones formas substantiales inducere possunt."

"ars virtute sua non potest formam substantialem conferre, quod tamen potest virtute naturalis agentis; sicut patet in hoc quod per artem inducitur forma ignis in lignis. Sed quaedam formae substantiales sunt quas nullo modo ars inducere potest, quia propria activa et passiva invenire non potest, sed in his potest aliquid simile facere; sicut alchimistae faciunt aliquid simile auro quantum ad accidentia exteriora; sed tamen non faciunt verum aurum: quia forma substantialis auri non est per calorem ignis quo utuntur alchimistae, sed per calorem solis in loco determinato, ubi viget virtus mineralis: et ideo tale aurum non habet operationem consequentem speciem; et similiter in aliis quae eorum operatione fiunt."


"Gold and silver are costly not only on account of the usefulness of the vessels and other like things made from them, but also on account of the excellence and purity of their substance. Hence if the gold or silver produced by alchemists has not the true specific nature of gold and silver, the sale thereof is fraudulent and unjust, especially as real gold and silver can produce certain results by their natural action, which the counterfeit gold and silver of alchemists cannot produce. Thus the true metal has the property of making people joyful, and is helpful medicinally against certain maladies. Moreover real gold can be employed more frequently, and lasts longer in its condition of purity than counterfeit gold. If however real gold were to be produced by alchemy, it would not be unlawful to sell it for the genuine article, for nothing prevents art from employing certain natural causes for the production of natural and true effects [(effectus)], as Augustine says (De Trin. iii, 8) of things produced by the art of the demons."


     Thomas Aquinas, ST II-II.77.2.ad 1, trans. FEDP.  Latin from Corpus Thomisticum:


"aurum et argentum non solum cara sunt propter utilitatem vasorum quae ex eis fabricantur, aut aliorum huiusmodi, sed etiam propter dignitatem et puritatem substantiae ipsorum. Et ideo si aurum vel argentum ab alchimicis factum veram speciem non habeat auri et argenti, est fraudulenta et iniusta venditio. Praesertim cum sint aliquae utilitates auri et argenti veri, secundum naturalem operationem ipsorum, quae non conveniunt auro per alchimiam sophisticato, sicut quod habet proprietatem laetificandi, et contra quasdam infirmitates medicinaliter iuvat. Frequentius etiam potest poni in operatione, et diutius in sua puritate permanet aurum verum quam aurum sophisticatum. Si autem per alchimiam fieret aurum verum, non esset illicitum ipsum pro vero vendere, quia nihil prohibet artem uti aliquibus naturalibus causis ad producendum naturales et veros effectus; sicut Augustinus dicit, in III de Trin., de his quae arte Daemonum fiunt."

Friday, November 11, 2016

"Esther is a biblical text that purposely sets all talk of God aside so that we may think clearly about the proper place of political initiative and action in relation to God's larger purposes".

"the more fully Esther inhabits her capacity as an independent political agent capable of influencing human affairs, the more fully God's will is brought to bear in history."

     "A common misreading of Hebrew Scriptures assumes that God's power and human initiative are at odds with each other."

     Yoram Hazony, "The miracle of Esther," First things no. 261 (March 2016):  26 (23-28).

"Every language is an old growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an entire ecosystem of spiritual possibilities."

     Wade Davis, in Alex Chadwick, "An interview with anthropologist Wade Davis," On the edge of Timbuktu, Radio Expeditions, National Public Radio and the National Geographic Society, May 2003.  Mr. Davis has used this in other settings as well, so this may not be the first.

Budziszewski on Social justice

     "It is a trifle for the upper strata to promote sexual liberation; those who have money can shield themselves (to a degree, and for a while) from at least some of the consequences of loose sexuality.  The working classes do not have that luxury.  In a country like this one, serial cohabitation and childbearing outside of marriage contribute more to poverty, dependency, and inequality than a million greedy capitalists do.
     "Do you really want to raise up the poor?  Then do as the English Methodists did in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries:  First live the Commandments.  Then go among the people and preach them.  Start with the ones about marriage and family.
     I do not say this is all you should do, but if you won't even do so much as this, then the rest of your social justice talk is hypocritical.  You may as well admit that it is all about you."

     J. Budziszewski, "Social justice," The Underground Thomist, 12 April 2016.

Schulman on Marilynne Robinson

     "Why is it that the most graceful writer of our day, who offers such a beautiful defense of charity and intellectual humility in her novels, is so often flippant and uncharitable in her essays?  If Marilynne Robinson so habitually 'violates her own poetics,' as Paul Seaton has put it, is she misunderstanding her vision, or are we?"

     Ari Schulman, "Conversing with Ether," a review of The givenness of things:  essays, by Marilynne Robinson, First things no. 264 (June/July 2016):  57 (57-59).
     My long-standing thought exactly.

The more of God, the more of me

"the language of the instrumentum signifies no limitation of human flourishing or freedom (liberum arbitrium), but rather the action of God in Christ fulfills and realizes the integrity of 'an instrument animated by a rational soul,' such that being the instrumentum Divinitatis ensures that in this human being, human nature and freedom flourish to the fullest extent.  In other words, the divine action of the Logos in the humanity of Christ is noncompetitive with the action of his human nature; it is acted upon so as to act (ita agit quod etiam agitur)that is, to be reduced to act and so flourish at the highest pitch of integral human activity.  This means that the more God acts in the human nature of Christ, the more this humanity in turn realizes an action that is integrally human."

     Aaron Riches, "Theandric humanism:  Constantinople III in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas," Pro ecclesia 23, no. 2 (Spring 2014):  203-204 (195-218).  Old hat, of course.  But it's always nice to see this acknowledged.  And this one occurs in the context of a discussion of Gethsemane and the cross, such that "the most fundamental aspect of willing in Christ involves drawing into divine unio every natural inclination of the fallen state through the liberum arbitrium of human ascent now perfectly united with the 'I' of the divine Son" (203, underscoring mine) "'in Christ's peculiar state as both comprehensor and wayfarer'" (Corey L. Barnes, as quoted on p. 210).  Cf. this entry.

"'to die well' is to locate what is good somewhere outside of our control"

     Ephraim Radner, "Whistling past the grave," First things no. 267 (November 2016):  43 (39-44).

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lord willing

"The epistemological sloppiness that, in Western culture, characterizes references to experience before the Scientific Revolution is not a necessary characteristic of pre-scientific societies.  The Matses, an Amazonian tribe, are obliged to specify, whenever they use a verb, 'exactly how they come to know about the facts they are reporting . . . There are separate verbal forms depending on whether you are reporting direct experience (you saw someone passing by with your own eyes), something inferred from evidence (you saw footprints on the sand), conjecture (people always pass by at that time of day) or hearsay (your neighbor told you he had seen someone passing by).  If a statement is reported with the incorrect evidentiality form, it is considered a lie.  So if, for instance, you ask a Matses man how many wives he has, unless he can actually see his wives at that very moment, he would answer in the past tense and would say something like . . . "There were two the last time I checked."'"

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishing, 2015), 281nxi, quoting Guy Deutscher, Through the language glass:  why the world looks different in other languages (New York:  Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Co., 2010), 153.
     Of course, this would itself be an eminent example of a claim crying out for accompaniment by just such an epistemological "note".

"Honest mistakes must be clearly distinguished from a failure to take pains."

". . . when vain Writers, to get themselves a name, have presum'd to obtrude upon the credulous World such things, under the Notion of Experimental Truths, or even great Mysteries, as neither themselves ever took the pains to make tryal of, nor receiv'd from any credible Persons that profess'd themselves to have try'd them; in such cases, I see not how we are oblig'd to treat Writers that took no pains to keep themselves from mistaking or deceiving, nay, that car'd not how they abuse us to win themselves a name, with the same respect that we owe to those, who though they have miss'd of the Truth, believ'd they had found it, and both intended to deliver It, and took some (though not prosperous) pains that they might convey nothing else to us."

     Robert Boyle, Certain physiological essays and other tracts written at distant times, and on several occasions . . . (1669), 29, as reproduced by the EEBO Text Creation Partnership, underscoring mine.  I was put onto this by David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishing, 2015), 280, to whom I owe the headline.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

David Wootton contra Thomas Kuhn

     "In these last two chapters we have been looking at the ways in which intellectual change has knock-on consequences.  The discovery of America killed off the two-spheres theory of the Earth.  Copernicanism led to the idea that the planets shine by reflected light, which was confirmed by the discovery of the phases of Venus; and this killed off the Ptolemaic system.  There was nothing arbitrary or contingent about these changes; they were as inevitable as the discovery of America once Columbus had set sail.  These were intellectual transformations of fundamental importance, yet historians of science barely discuss them.  They have become dark stars themselveseffectively invisible.
     "Why?  Since Kuhn's Structure history of science has focused on controversy between scientists, the assumption has been that every major new theory is contentious, and that there is nothing inevitable about the process by which one theory supplants another.  This approach has been extraordinarily illuminating.  But, in shining a light on controversy, it has left in the shadows all those changes which took place almost silently and were inevitableindeed, could be seen to be inevitable at the time.  Nobody (or, rather, only a few confused and ill-informed individuals) sprang to the defence of the two-spheres system after 1511. . . . By 1624, eleven years after he had made public his discovery that Venus had a full set of phases, Galileo could take it for granted that no competent person would defend the Ptolemaic system. . . . The evidence is clear:  Ptolemaic astronomy was unaffected by Copernicus; it went into crisis with the new star of 1572, but by the end of the sixteenth century it had fully recovered.  The telescope, on the other hand, brought about its immediate and irreversible collapse.
     "Sometimes there are real, live, enduring controversies in science.  In the seventeenth century such conflicts took place between those who believed in the possibility of a vacuum and those who did not, between those who believed in the possibility of a moving Earth and those (after 1613, supporters of Brahe rather than Ptolemy) who did not.  Sometimes the outcome really does teeter and hang in the balance.  But, at other times, vast, well-constructed, apparently robust intellectual edifices are swept away with barely a murmur because, to paraphrase Vadianus, experience really can be demonstrative."

     David Wootton, The invention of science:  a new history of the scientific revolution (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 2015), 245-247.