Friday, July 26, 2019

"a cybernetic destiny requiring the devaluation and revaluation of all values"

"When we represent technology to ourselves as an array of neutral instruments, invented by human beings and under human control, we are expressing a kind of common sense, but it is a common sense from within the very technology we are attempting to represent.  The novelness of our novelties is being minimized.  We are led to forget that the modern destiny permeates our representations of the world and ourselves.  The coming to be of technology has required changes in what we think is good, what we think good is, how we conceive sanity and madness, justice and injustice, rationality and irrationality, beauty and ugliness.
     ". . . To put the matter crudely:  when we represent technology to ourselves through its own common sense we think of ourselves as picking and choosing in a supermarket, rather than within the analogy of the package deal.  We have bought a package deal of far more substantial novelness than simply a set of instruments under our control.  It is a destiny which enfolds us in its own conceptions of instrumentality, neutrality and purposiveness. . . . Unless we comprehend the package deal we obscure from ourselves the central difficulty in our present destiny:  we apprehend our destiny by forms of thought which are themselves the very core of that destiny.
     "The result of this is that when we are deliberating in any practical situation our judgment acts rather like a mirror, which throws back the very metaphysic of the technology which we are supposed to be deliberating about in detail.  The outcome is almost inevitably a decision for further technological development."

     George Grant, "Thinking about technology," in Technology and justice (Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 1986), 32-33.  I was put onto this by Brent Waters, Christian moral theology in the emerging technoculture, Ashgate science and religion series (Burlington, VT:  Ashgate Publishing Company, 2014), 43-44.  The heading is from Waters himself, at the top of p. 44.  For "Grant . . . at his bleakest", according to Waters, "The fate of late modernity may, after all, prove to be an inevitable, inescapable, and recurring nihilism."

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"Aquinas's three-layered lore of the passions" considered as, in fact, "the touchstone of all morality"

"To begin to see what the gifts of the Holy Spirit are and something of the way in which Aquinas's ethical theory is meant to work, take, for example, courage. On Aquinas's theory, courage can be considered as [1] an Aristotelian virtue, as [2] an infused virtue, or as [3] a gift of the Holy Spirit. Courage as [1] an Aristotelian virtue is a disposition which an agent acquires for himself and which facilitates reason's governing that agent in such a way as to make him a good citizen of an earthly community. Considered in this way, courage can fail to be a moral disposition; and it can be had even by those who are not moral people. Courage considered as [2] an infused virtue is a disposition which is infused into a person by God and which makes that person suitable for the community of heaven. Considered in this way, courage is a real virtue, but it is not courage in its full form. For courage in its full form, one needs courage as [3] a gift of the Holy Spirit. Considered as a gift, however, courage is very different even from courage as an infused virtue. Taken as a gift, courage manifests itself in a disposition to act on the settled conviction that one is united to God now and will be united to God in heaven when one dies."

"For Aquinas, then, the contribution of the fruits of the Holy Spirit to the moral life is not a matter of the passions being governed by reason, any more than it is in the case of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Rather, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are a matter of having emotions, spiritual analogues to the passions, transformed in second-personal connection to God. This is a far cry from Robert George's view of Aquinas as basing the moral life in reason's having the whip hand over emotion."

     Eleanor Stump, "The non-Aristotelian character of Aquinas's ethics," in Faith, rationality, and the passions, ed. Sarah Coakley (Malden, MA:  Wiley, 2012), 97, 103 (91-106).  The phrase "the touchstone of all morality" comes from p. 104.  This can also be listened to here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"abstract 'values' having no unique, historical referent"

"If we take human historicity seriously, then we must concede that the historical origin of the sacraments has determined these universals symbols [(and in particular the sacrament of orders)] in a unique way. . . . .  Indeed, it can be argued that every sacrament is rooted in revelatory events which are unique and unrepeatable.  Therefore, biblical and sacramental symbolism cannot be essentially altered without losing its character as anamnesis. . . ."

     Benedict M. Ashley, O.P., "Gender and the priesthood of Christ:  a theological reflection," The Thomist:  a speculative quarterly review 57, no. 3 (July 1993):  350 (343-379), underscoring mine.

Is there really anything new under the sun?

"we have heard to our annoyance that divine affairs have come to such a low state that women are encouraged to officiate at the sacred altars, and to take part in all [(cuncta)] matters imputed to the offices of the male sex, to which they do not belong."

"Nihilominus impatienter audivimus, tantum divinarum rerum subisse despectum, ut feminae sacris altaribus ministrare firmentur, cunctaque non nisi virorum famulatui deputata sexum, cui non competent, exhibere."

     I have not properly digested this article by Rossi-Otranto, or made any attempt to find out what the consensus on this passage in this epistle now is, though clearly circumvented by Rossi-Otranto (Fr. Benedict Ashley, O.P., The Thomist 57, no. 3 (July 1993), 3:  "Otranto tries to support this document with ambiguous epigraphic data and thus interpret these practices as valid ordinations (to the priesthood, not to the diaconate as other scholars have done). Prof. Mary Collins, O.S.B., of The Catholic University of America, in the same symposium, commenting favorably on Otranto's theory, raised the question whether a local bishop can validly ordain a women even if the Bishop of Rome condemns the action (!)").
     A recent translation of these letters, to which SPU has e-access, is Bronwen Neil and Pauline Allen, The Letters of Gelasius I (492-496), pastor and micro-manager of the church of Rome, Adnotationes 1 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2014), 145, 155:
[Title:]  That it is unlawful for women to minister at the sacred altars, or to take on themselves any of those duties allotted to men. 
[Body:]  No less have we heard with impatience that such a disregard has come upon divine affairs that women are encouraged to minister at the sacred altars, and that they openly perform everything that has been assigned only to the service of the male sex, to which they do not correspond. . . .

The Procrustean bed of the modern theology of religious language

"How far is it possible, in the words of the Good News Bible, ‘to use language that is natural, clear, simple, and unambiguous,’ when the Bible is not about things that are natural, clear, simple, and unambiguous?"

     Stephen Prickett, Words and the word:  language, poetics, and biblical interpretation (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1986), 10, as quoted by Benedict Ashley, O.P., “Gender and the priesthood of Christ:  a theological reflection,” The Thomist:  a speculative quarterly 57, no. 3 (July 1993):  345n5 (343-379).

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s grief; it takes away today’s strength."

". . . worrying is carrying tomorrow’s burden with today’s strength.  It’s carrying two days at once. . . .
     "I read somewhere, '. . . Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s grief; it takes away today’s strength.  It does not enable us to avoid evil, but it makes us incapable of dealing with it when it comes.'"

     Corrie Ten Boom, Reflections of God's glory:  newly discovered meditations by the author of The hiding place, [trans. Claire L. Rothrock] (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1999), 36-37.
     This is the closest I've come so far to the following, which I was asked to trace back to an actual source in Ten Boom herself.  Note that though very widely attributed to her without a citation of any kind, it is something that she claims here (at least) to have "read somewhere":
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.
     My thanks to Kendall Harmon, who was the one to notice that though I had supplied this as the source of the first two sentences (often associated with the third), I had missed the presence of the third later on (though I would stress again that she is quoting someone else here:  whom, she does not remember).
     The shift back and forth between "sorrow" and "grief" (not to mention "empty . . . of" and "take away") on the Internet could have something to do with how many times she repeated lines like these (her father's comments on worry as reported already in, I think, The hiding place, are justly famous), or they could be due to the varying choices of translators.  The copyright to the content of Reflections of God's glory is, after all, owned by Stichting Trans World Radio voor Nederland en BelgiĆ«.  According to the prefatory material, TWR published a book of these (delivered from 1966) in Dutch in or before 1996, though Reflections of God's glory was based on a translation of the manuscripts.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

"the simple expedient of building"

"Rules and exhortations do help, but physical means are far more fundamental.  It is hard to see that a church which is cold, hard and uninviting can be [a] space which arouses in a monk a prayer which is fervent and full of feeling.  I have known communities in which the monasticity of daily life has been improved by the simple expedient of building."

     Michael Casey, "The dialectic of solitude and communion in Cistercian communities," Cistercian studies 23, no. 4 (1988): 305-306 (273–309).