Saturday, March 03, 2007

Malebranche on Knowledge of the Soul

Of all our knowledge, the first is of the existence of our soul; all our thoughts are incontestable demonstrations of this, since there is nothing more obvious than that what actually things, is actually something. But if it is easy to know the exisence of our soul, it is not so easy to know its essence and nature.

Malebranche, The Search after Truth, Book VI, Part II, Chapter 6 (LO 480)

And Am I Born to Die?

My favorite Sacred Harp song, hands down, is 47, "Idumea":

And am I born to die?
To lay this body down!
And must my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown?

A land of deepest shade,
Unpierced by human thought;
The dreary regions of the dead,
Where all things are forgot!

Soon as from earth I go,
What will become of me?
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my portion be!

Waked by the trumpet sound,
I from my grave shall rise;
And see the Judge with glory crowned,
And see the flaming skies!

The lyrics are by Charles Wesley, the tune is by Ananias Davisson. The tune is "Idumea" in the proper sense; Sacred Harp singing is tune-singing, and the words are just there to go with it. Thus, instead of singing "Amazing Grace" you are singing "New Britain," its tune; even if you, in fact, sing the words of "Amazing Grace" to that tune. Any other words would do, although those are the standard ones. "Idumea" really needs to be heard in proper fasola style. Fortunately, since it is one of the most popular Sacred Harp songs, there are a lot of recordings online. Start here for a taste of it and many others.

Of course, since we are talking about fasola, it also really needs to be sung -- belted out fearlessly. Sacred Harp singing is less about the prettiness of the sound than the experience of the singing -- singers' music, as they say. I want some day to sing Idumea in a real Sacred Harp singing. Until then, it's humming and singing it on my own.

Body and Bride IIIb

(B) Bates suggests that I have not addressed the following point:

[E]ven if an individual were not the right type of entity to enter into the eschatological relation with Christ constituting salvation--only the Church could do that--still individuals could take the Church/Christ relation as normative here below for relations like marriage between persons. The fact the Church is many is no bar to one individual modelling behavior here below on the Church in the hereafter.

But the reason I have not addressed it is that it is irrelevant to the argument, even on its own terms. The argument was supposed to present a set of premises grounded in Scripture qua canonical narrative; it is thus irrelevant whether individuals can modeling behavior in this way. What the argument needs is for this to be actually grounded in Scripture qua canonical narrative in such a way that it supports the premises of the argument without generating an equivocation; and Bates continues to evade the point that a conservative Anglican can simply point out that it does not appear to be so, and that assuming that one can directly move from the Christ-Body to the Christ-member relation without equivocation is the fallacy of division.

Bates notes that there can be properties of wholes that are shared by its parts; I never suggested otherwise. It still doesn't get him out of the charge, which might be made by a conservative Anglican, that he appears to be committing a fallacy of division, since a fallacy of division occurs when the attempt is made to move from property of the whole to property of the part without a bridge principle, i.e., a warrant for doing so. This is so even when the inference is accidentally correct. For instance, the following inference, taken strictly, commits the fallacy of division:

A wall of bricks is material; therefore each of the bricks is material.

Now, the inference is accidentally correct in this case; but it's the same fallacious type of inference as:

A fleet of ships is spread out over the whole bay; therefore each of the ships is spread out over the whole bay.

In ordinary discourse, we would take the first to be an enthymematic representation of an argument of different form, one which does not commit the fallacy of division because it has additional premises about the nature of material composition. What Bates needs are such additional premises; only these can show that the apparent fallacy was merely apparent -- that the appearance of committing the fallacy of division was due not to the argument itself but to how it was stated. What is more, if the argument is to do what Bates has already said it is supposed to do, it must give premises that are "grounded in the Bible qua canonical narrative". It is unclear what these premises are supposed to be. Bates claims in the response that he has given them, but I don't see them anywhere. What I do see is a passage that's difficult to make any sense of. He starts out with this:

In response, I suggest that Christ will never marry a city. Jerusalem is figurative for the Church, as I think Siris would agree. Revelation 21 is referring with Jerusalem to what Ephesians 5 calls the Body, meaning there the Church. Revelation is speaking, therefore, of an eschatological union between the Church and Christ, something begun here below rather imprefectly and consummated hereafter. But note Revelation pictures the consummated relation a marriage relation. Again, marriage is referred to figuratively, as I take it Jesus in the Gospel narrative was serious in saying that there is no marriage in heaven. The point though is at least in part that here below we can understand something of the meaning of the consummated relation between the Church and Christ in terms of something we are familiar with, namely marriage here below: the consummated relation will be like that. Thus, the Revelation 21 text is rather favorable to my cause, which requires seeing the eschatological relation between the Church and Christ as a model for marriage here below. In fact, Revelation 21 almost settles the issue. For as I have already mentioned, I see no reason why a relation between individuals cannot be modelled on a relation between a group and an individual.

Nothing in this line of reasoning shows that "Revelation 21 almost settles the issue". All Bates has pointed out here is that Revelation uses symbols, and that one of these symbols is marriage; and that Christian marriage is modeled on the relation between Christ and the Body. This, I take it, is agreed on by all parties. He then goes on to say:

Here is what I take to be the clinching point. In both cases, the salvific relation involves unity with Christ: that is, the achievement of a unitive purpose. That unity is pictured between Christ and the corporate Church when marriage is referred to in Revelation 21; indeed, it seems to me that the use of marriage as figuative in Revelation 21 is licensed at least in part by common knowledge of the normative achievement of a unitive purpose in marriage here below. Just so, the unity between the individual member and Christ achieved by Christ in the giving of salvation would license the use of marriage as descriptive, figurative language. It follows that the eschatological salvific unity between the member and Christ could serve meaningfully to model marriage here below in one's relation to a spouse.

Perhaps; but I can't say because I don't know what clinching point Bates is intending here. The reasoning seems to be [this is reconstruction, not quotation]:

The salvific relation between Christ and Church involves unity with Christ.
The salvific relation between Christ and individual involves unity with Christ.
They therefore exhibit a unitive purpose.
Marriage exhibits a unitive purpose.
Thus, to that extent, both salvific relations can be described figuratively as marriage.

Which is wholly true. It doesn't move the argument forward, though. I pointed out in my original response that there is a long tradition of using marriage in this figurative way. It does not follow that the conservative Anglican has to accept the original argument, because it still looks like the argument is engaging in a fairly straightforward equivocation. The argument, you will recall, is as follows:

1. Christ was resurrected in the flesh, and will exist in the world to come.
2. In the world to come, members of the Church will be resurrected, male and female, in the flesh.
3. In the world to come, the members of the Church will bear a new real, reciprocal relation to Christ; call it R.
4. Here below, marriage should be modeled on R.
5. R obtains between males: for instance, Christ and each blessed male.
6. As R obtains between males (from 5), and marriage is to be modeled on R (from 4), marriage may obtain between males.

This is supposed to be grounded in the Bible qua canonical narrative. But Bates has provided nothing to show that in these terms the conservative Anglican has to accept premise 4 for both relations. It is one thing to say, "This is grounded in the Bible as a canonical narrative: that marriage should be modeled on the relation between Christ and His individuals members." This Bates nowhere proves, although it is what the argument requires. It is another thing to say, "Because they both involve unitive purpose of some sort or other, we can use marriage as a metaphor for the relation between Christ and His individual members." Which is true, but doesn't support anything in the argument. Basically what's being pointed to here is that we can reasonably call the Christ-Church relation marriage and the Christ-individual relation marriage. It is true. It doesn't follow that any other properties transfer. I can call the sea foamy and your latte foamy; that doesn't mean I can sail in your coffee cup.

The problem is even worse when you consider that the language is metaphorical, and explicitly recognized to be so. A metaphor is simply not enough. Bates has been clear enough about the reasoning behind the metaphor; but this reasoning doesn't meet up with the requirements of the argument at any point. In particular, it doesn't give, or even suggest a Biblical grounding for the claim that the same relation on which marriage is modeled is a relation obtaining between Christ and males. (It should be noted that I seem to have accidentally mislead Bates about what the 'same relation' here means, since he takes it in his response as numerical identity; whereas I was taking it as sameness in kind.) It is this Bates has not shown, and it is this that he needs to show if the argument is to be saved from the charge of equivocation. And, indeed, Bates's strongest argument so far has suggested otherwise: for it has suggested nothing more than that we can draw metaphors for two different kinds of relation from the same domain. But this is hardly surprising. This commonality of having a common source domain for metaphorical purposes, however, is not enough to remove suspicion of equivocation, which requires that the terms be of the same kind, in this case that the R obtaining between males is the R on which marriage should be modeled. That's one R; if there are really two different meanings given to R, the argument is simply equivocal and fails. The conservative Anglican will point out that the R on which marriage should be modeled is a relation between Christ and the Church; and that the R obtaining between males is a relation between Christ and the individual. Thus the argument equivocates and should be rejected. Bates needs to show that the relation between Christ and the Church, then, is the same as the relation between Christ and the individual, not merely in the sense that we can use the same metaphor to speak of them, but in the sense that they really are the same.

(Also, as a side note with regard to Bates's last paragraph, as I pointed out before, the conservative Anglican is not committed to denying that the Church is nothing over and above its members. The same questions of division, equivocation, and Biblical grounding arise whether he does or not. The real issue is that Bates continues to attribute properties of the Christ-Church relation to the Christ-individual relation in a way, it would seem, no conservative Anglican need grant, even according to the standards Bates himself intends his argument to meet.)

Body and Bride IIIa

Bates has a response to my response to his response to my response to his original argument.

The two basic issues that have fallen out are (A) the (relatively minor) question of whether the Christ-Church relation Scripture tells us is a model for marriage is eschatological; and (B) the question of whether a conservative Anglican can reject the argument on form alone. After considering Bates's latest response, I think my points still stand whole and entire, although Bates is on stronger ground with regard to (A) than to (B). Here are my responses to the newer parts of the argument. To keep the size down, in this post I'll consider only (A).

(A) Bates thinks I am forgetting the wife-husband direction of the marriage analogue in the threefold analogy. The reason I have not focused on it is rather different. For one thing, Paul elaborates rather more in the husband-wife direction. But taking it explicitly into account does not yield the conclusion Bates thinks it does.

If the original argument is to work, and if Ephesians 5 is to justify premise 4, the relation R must be the actual relation Paul mentions in Ephesians 5. Certainly it must be so if it is to be taken on its own original terms as "grounded in the Bible qua canonical narrative." But there is no hint in this passage of an eschatological relation. The pattern of the passage, I take it, is roughly as follows:

be filled with the Holy Spirit
(among other things) being mutually subject to each other,
wives to their husbands as to the Lord,
for the husband is the head of the wife
as Christ is the Head of the Church (=the Body)
as Savior of the Body;
as the Church is subject to Christ
so wives should be subject to their husbands

and then on to the question of the role of husbands. Now, since Christ is Head qua Savior (that this is the intent is made very clear when he goes on to talk about husbands), then the subjection or subordination that is the reciprocal complement to the Headship of Christ -- the only relation that can be in view here -- can only be eschatological in this passage if Christ's Headship and salvation are eschatological. However, Paul throughout Ephesians talks of our salvation and our incorporation as things that have already been done in Christ; and his exhortations (including the exhortation to be filled with the Spirit that starts him off on this topic) are exhortations for individuals to live worthily of their call to grow into Christ as parts of his body. The relation that Paul considers in the wife passage is the Body's subordination to its Head (understood as the source of its life); this exists now. What does not exist now is perfect incorporation of the parts of the Body, i.e., us. If it were merely a matter of saying that in the eschatological case, in which the Church is presented to Christ in splendor, were useful because it is the pure case, one in which a number of distracting issues are eliminated, there would be nothing to disagree with here. But Bates seems to want to make a stronger claim that the relation itself is eschatological; and there is nothing in this passage that suggests this. Bates wants to argue that in particular "the Church here below in its relation to Christ does not present an edifying or morally suitable model that might serve as an ideal for marriage"; but this seems explicitly contradicted by the passage in question.

It seems to me that here as elsewhere Bates keeps sliding between the Body and its parts indiscriminately; for the Body's subjection to Christ is the reciprocal complement to Christ's Headship, and there is no reason to think that this relation as it currently exists is not an edifying or morally suitable model. What certainly does not present an edifying or morally suitable model is the relation of individual parts to the Head of the Body; for in this case Paul has clearly implied that we individually can fail to live in a manner worthy of the call we have received to grow into Christ, who is the source of life for the whole Body. Paul, however, clearly ties the subjection of the Body to Christ's Headship over it; there is not only nothing to indicate that the two cannot be pried apart, the argument of the passage seems to preclude this entirely. For as the argument presents the matter, the wife's submission is analogous to the Church's submission in that, or because, the husband's headship is analogous to Christ's Headship as Savior. So again, Paul still focuses on Christ's Headship in discussing the Church's relation to Christ (which is the relation to Christ as Head).

Contrary to what Bates suggests later, my point in all this is not to ask "what that eschatological relation has to do with marriage"; this is to confuse (A) and (B). I can perfectly well see what the eschatological relation has to do with marriage, since on the principles of my criticism it has exactly the same relevance to marriage in the eschaton that it has now. My point is that moving to the eschaton contributes nothing whatsoever to the strength or weakness of the argument. The Pauline passages suggest that the relation is not exclusive to the eschaton, so emphasis on the eschatological can be nothing more than a matter of convenience -- a pure case, as I say above. So the whole issue of eschatology is simply beside the point unless Bates can show that it is necessary to interpret Paul as confining the relevant relation to the eschaton. It does exhibit, however, the continual confusion between Body and parts of the Body that pervades the argument.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wherein I (Sort of) Defend Hume's Argument Against Miracles

I am reading with great interest Alan Hajek's paper on Hume's argument on miracles (PDF; ht: OPP). It's a good paper, and rightly criticizes a number of faulty views; but I think it is faulty for different reasons. So here are a few thoughts.

(1) I'm a little puzzled at Hajek's puzzlement over Hume's apparent qualification of his argument:

I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, that a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of proof from human testimony....(SBN 99 (p. 127)

Hume seems to explain himself pretty well, I think, since the claim is summarizing the argument in the previous paragraph, which in turn is summarizing the argument as a whole. There he gives a quick overview of his balancing view of contrary probabilities, notes that on his arguments "all popular religions" are balanced against such probabilities that there is a total "annihilation" even at best assessment. Thus, he concludes, "no human testimony can have such a force as to prove a miracle, and make it a just foundation for any such system of religion." Or in other words: because of psychological issues that arise in the case of popular religions, there is no testimony that can give such grounding to a miracle that we can base a religion on it.

After making the above qualification, he gives examples to clarify his point, by considering three hypothetical scenarios.

(1) The Eight Days of Total Darkness. In this case, the testimony is assumed to be unanimous, or nearly so, and the event is supposed to be analogous to things that happen in nature. Thus it almost comes within reach of human testimony on its own; with solid testimony one might well believe it.

(2) An Apparent Resurrection of Queen Elizabeth. In this case, the testimony is universal among historians, who record a curious confluence of circumstances suggesting that Elizabeth died and then was later alive. Such a strong evidence for such an event would be very surprising, says Hume, but even very surprising things are more plausible than such a radical violation of nature.

(3) This miracle ascribed to a system of religion. The introduction of religion introduces such a mix of knavery and gullibility that we can reject it out of hand.(I'm sure you catch the hint here, of an apparent resurrection ascribed to a system of religion.)

What this all means is fairly simple. Hume's balancing account does not of itself rule out accepting the occurrence of a miraculous event; it merely sets the bar for accepting one very, very high. And in particular, the psychological conditions have to be just right, so that we can accept that the people giving the testimony were not foolish, and were not liars, and are testifying to something that is not utterly incredible. Hume rejects religion-founding miracles because the psychological conditions in such cases are not just right and on his account cannot be. There is nothing mystifying about Hume's concession to the hypothetical eight days of darkness. Hajek makes a distinction between extraordinary events and miracles that is superficially similar to the distinction Hume makes between them; but only superficially so. What distinguishes the two for Hume is that we can't say that events violate the laws of nature if we are ignorant of the circumstances in which the events occur; an extraordinary event differs from an ordinary event by occurring under very different circumstances, whereas a miracle differs from an ordinary event by being very different under the same circumstances. Campbell and some others argue that this is actually giving away the whole store; but whether it is so or not, it is clear that the eight days of darkness occur under normal circumstances. Indeed, they occur under circumstances as normal and ordinary as one could wish, the astronomical facts of the earth's revolution and rotation and the meteorological facts of the world's standard weather patterns. To file the eight days under the label 'extraordinary event' Hajek would have to show that they did not occur under the ordinary circumstances. Since it's a purely hypothetical example, and Hume himself doesn't suggest otherwise, this is impossible.

(2) Hajek thinks that Hume's concession of arguments for contrary propositions, each of which leaves no room for doubt or argumentation, is a slip. I think this is fatal to his interpretation. As Fogelin has pointed, there is nothing inconceivable about having two arguments of completely different kinds, neither of whose general forms you can reject, concluding to propositions that can't both be true from starting points that can't be rejected. It's a tragic situation, but it's possible. And even if this weren't true, it is very, very clear from what Hume says elsewhere that on his account this not only is possible but happens all the time. It's his repeated point in Part IV of Book I of the Treatise. What is more, it is clear that Hume is not committed to the claim that all arguments leaving no room for doubt and opposition are equal; because he is not committed to the claim that they are all equally vivid or forceful. (Indeed, many things he says require us to say he is committed to the claim that they are not all equally vivid or forceful, even if they are all genuinely indubitable.)

(3) From what I've said so far you can probably guess that I think Hajek's premise 6 is rejected by Hume; he doesn't merely say that uniform experience is a direct and full proof against a miracle; he says it can't be destroyed (so as to render the miracle credible) except by a superior opposing proof. And the reason for this is not hard to find. In Hume the force of a proof is not something intrinsic to it; the force of the proof is the psychological force with which it strikes on the mind. What he envisions in Part I of the essay on miracles is a scenario in which two proofs, each of which is forceful enough that we can't reject it, oppose each other. They each make the other incredible (in a straightforward psychological sense), while at the same time making a psychological demand on us, one that cannot be rejected, that we believe its conclusion. But it doesn't follow that they each make the other equally incredible, or that they each serve to make their own conclusion equally credible. Since on Hume's balancing account in every case of opposing evidences we subtract the force of the weaker from the force of the stronger to get the resultant force of belief in the stronger, so we, unable to reject either argument on its merits, can nonetheless be compelled by sheer psychological force to believe one over the other, if one strikes the mind more strongly than the other. Our own belief will be recognized by us as absurd, given an argument that we cannot reject; but the fact will remain: we believe it (although under the recognized qualification that we have to, for other reasons, regard it as an absurd belief, probably the result of our psychological makeup more than any absolute rational foundations). Hume is, in fact, very clear about this point; in a note to Blair on Campbell's criticism of him at this point, he says that the kind of argument against a miracle is a full proof; but that there are weaker and stronger instances of this kind of proof.

Thus Hume's argument in the essay has the following general form:

Part I: Even given that the testimony for a miracle amounts to a full proof, it is counterbalanced by another full proof, the full proof we all undoubtedly have of the uniformity of nature; as a matter of inevitable psychology, if the two proofs are opposed to each other, we could only believe the proof for the miracle if it overbalanced the proof for the uniformity of nature in terms of psychological force.

Part II: Due to psychological issues associated with religions, no testimony for a miracle in religious cases can amount to a full proof. (But Hume explicitly denies that he is committed to saying that no testimony for a miracle can amount to a full proof in other cases, if the psychological issues don't arise in those cases.)

There are many things that may be said against both parts; but it must be admitted that it's a clean and straightforward argument. It does yield exactly the conclusion Hume claims it does. There is no slip in Hume's concession; it is a deliberate and strategic move in one of Hume's best-designed arguments.

So Hajek's basic claim in refuting Hume's argument is wrong. Hume does not require the probability for a miracle to be vanishingly small; he does not assume this; in fact, he explicitly denies that it has to be.

Nonetheless much of what Hajek says in the paper is still of interest in considering the argument. He does somewhat misleadingly make it sound as if Butler were giving an argument against Hume -- which would, it must be pointed out, be attributing a miracle to Butler, namely, prophecy. Butler, of course, is not considering anything like Hume's balancing principle. The criticism of 'Butler-style counterexamples' doesn't work against Campbell's 'Butler-style counterexample' because Campbell's isn't supposed to be a counterexample to balancing but to something it presupposes, namely, that we can reduce all classes of evidence to the same class. Hajek's defense of Hume's balancing principle simply assumes this reduction.

Carnival of Citizens IV

The newest Carnival of Citizens is up at "Positive Liberty";it's on the theme, Church and State (although there are other things). There's an excellent selection of posts. An especially interesting post at "Movement of Existence" looks at Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Yesterday was the Feast of George Herbert in the Anglican calendar; I think that deserves something to mark it. So I post one of my favorite Herbert poems:

The Agonie

Philosophers have measur’d mountains,
Fathom’d the depths of seas, of states, and kings,
Walk’d with a staffe to heav’n, and traced fountains:
But there are two vast, spacious things,
The which to measure it doth more behove:
Yet few there are that sound them; Sinne and Love.

Who would know Sinne, let him repair
Unto mount Olivet; there shall he see
A man so wrung with pains, that all his hair,
His skinne, his garments bloudie be.
Sinne is that presse and vice, which forceth pain
To hunt his cruell food through ev’ry vein.

Who knows not Love, let him assay
And taste that juice, which on the crosse a pike
Did set again abroach; then let him say
If ever he did taste the like.
Love in that liquour sweet and most divine,
Which my God feels as bloud; but I, as wine.

Wisdom from St. Anthony

Kevin Edgecomb is translating the sayings of the Desert Fathers. From the second post on Anthony (#35):

Abba Anthony said, Whoever strikes a lump of iron, first considers the thought of what he intends to make, a scythe, a sword, an axe. So also we ought to consider what kind of excellence we should pursue, so that we do not toil in vain.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Aquinas on Theological Method

This is from I Sent pr. q. 1 a. 1. Standard caveats about roughness of translation apply. The Latin is here. The article is a bit more messy than what you get in the Summa, but there are some interesting things here.

To the fifth we proceed in this way.

It seems that the mode of proceeding is not artful. For the most noble science ought to have the most noble mode. But by how much more a mode is artful, by so much it is more noble. Therefore, as this science is the most noble, its mode ought to be the most artful.

(2) Further, the mode of a science ought to be proportionate to the science itself. But this is maximally one, as was proven. Therefore also its mode ought to be maximally unitary. But the contrary seems to be the case, for sometimes it proceeds by warning, sometimes by legislating, and sometimes by some other mode.

(3) Further, sciences maximally differing ought not to have one mode. But poetics, which contains the minimum of truth, maximally differs from this science, which is most true. Therefore, as the former proceeds by metaphorical locutions, the latter's mode of science ought not to be like it (non debet esse talis).

(4) Further, Ambrose: "Away with arguments where faith is sought." But in the sacred science faith is most sought (maxime quaeritur). Therefore its mode ought in no way to be argumentative.

Against this. 1 Pet. 3:15: Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you. But this without argument ceases to avail (fieri non valet). Therefore it ought sometimes to use arguments.

The same is found in that which is said in Tit. 1:9: That he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to argue against those who contradict it.

I respond that it must be said, that one should inquire into the mode of any science according to the conditions of its matter, as says Boethius, and also the Philosopher. The principles of this science are accepted by revelation; and thus the mode of accepting these principles ought to be revelatory on the part of the one infusing, as in the revelations of the Prophets, and prayerful on the part of those receiving it, as is clear in the Psalms. But because, apart from infused light, it is fitting that the habit of faith be disinguished into determinate beliefs by the doctrine of the preacher, as is said in Rom. 10:14 (How will they believe who have not heard?) just as the understanding of principles instilled naturally is determined by accepted sensibles, so the truth of the preacher is confirmed by miracles, as says Mark 16:20 (But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the preaching by the signs that followed.), it is fitting then for the mode of this science to be narrative of signs, which are done for the confirmation of the faith; and, because these principles are not proportioned to human reason according to its state in life, which is accustomed to accept things from sensibles, it is thus fitting that the cognition of these things be drawn out by way of sensible similitude; wherefore it is fitting that the mode of this science be metaphorical, or symbolic or parabolic.

In sacred Scripture proceeding from these principles leads to three things: first to the destruction of errors, which cannot be done without arguments, and thus it is fitting that the mode of this science be sometimes argumentative, both through authorities and also through reasons or natural similitudes.

It also proceeds to the instruction in morals: wherefore its mode ought to be preceptive, as in the Law; admonitory and promissory, as in the Prophets; and narrative of examples, as in the Historical Books.

It proceeds in a third way to the contemplation of truth in the questions of sacred Scripture; and to this end it is fitting that its mode also be argumentative, which is especially contained in the original saints and in this book [i.e., Lombard's Sentences], which as it were conjoins them.

And according to this there likewise can be accepted a fourfold mode of expounding sacred Scripture: because according as the truth of faith is accepted, it is the historical sense; according as it is that which proceeds to instruction in morals, it is the moral sense; according as it proceeds to the contemplation of the truth of things on the way, it is the allegorical sense; and according as it proceeds to the contemplation of those things to which we are destined (quae sunt patriae), it is the anagogical sense. But to the the destruction of error one does not proceed save through the literal sense, in that the other senses are through accepted similitudes, and from similitudes of speech argumentation cannot be drawn; wherefore Dionysius says (in the epistle to Titus, in the beginning) that symbolic theology is not argumentative.

To the first it must therefore be said that a mode is said to be artful which agrees with the matter; wherefore the mode that is artful in geometry is not artful in ethics: and according to this the mode of this science is maximally artful, because it is maximally congruent to its matter.

To the second it must be said, that although this science is one, nonetheless it is of many things and avails for many things (ad multa valet), according to which it is fitting for its modes to be multiplied, as is already clear.

To the third it must be said, that the poetic science is of things that according to a defect of truth are not able to be grasped rationally; wherefore it is fitting that reason be as it were seduced by similitudes: but theology is of things that are above reason; and thus the symbolic mode is common to them both, for neither is proportionate to reason.

To the fourth it must be said, that arguments for proving the articles of faith are destroyed; but for the defense of the faith and the discovery of truth in questions from the principles of faith, it is fitting for arguments to be used: and so the apostle does, 1 Corinth. 15:16: if Christ is resurrected, so also the dead rise.

Update (28 Feb): I've done a bit of tweaking here and there.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Notes and Links

* Dale Jamieson, When Utilitarians Should Be Virtue Theorists. The opening paragraph:

The contrast typically drawn between utilitarianism and virtue theory is overdrawn. Utilitarianism is a universal emulator: it implies that we should lie, cheat, steal, even appropriate Aristotle, when that is what brings about the best outcomes. In some cases and in some worlds it is best for us to focus as precisely as possible on individual acts. In other cases and worlds it is best for us to be concerned with character traits. Global environmental change leads to concerns about character because the best results will be produced by generally uncoupling my behavior from that of others. Thus, in this case and in this case and in this world, utilitarians should be virtue theorists.

* Jean Paul Serre lectures on How to Write Mathematics Badly.

* Benedict XVI discusses natural law.

* A fictional church-sign dialogue on Lent.

* This chimpanzees with weapons things has been going around. I was a little surprised at the reactions, since we have known that certain primates use tools for quite a while now; the only thing new here is the formation of hunting tools. A number of people have claimed that this shows that people who want to say that our distinctively human feature is tool use are wrong. This is, of course, a non sequitur. People who identify tool use as distinctively human aren't committed to there being no other animals that occasionally use tools, but there are no other animals whose lives involve pervasive tool use. That was never a particularly good defining characteristic, anyway; but it was hardly so crude and primitive that it can't handle a few non-human primates with jabbing spears. The reasoning seems to be based on the false view that a uniqueness characteristic cannot be approximated. Of course, it can, and virtually any such characteristic will be, since it will always be a characteristic differentiating from similar things. What makes it a uniqueness characteristic is not that others can't have things like it, but that they don't have that very same characteristic.

* Also reading John Hutchinson & Gerd Gigerenzer, Simple heuristics and rules of thumb: Where psychologists and behavioural biologists might meet (PDF); and George Landow, Typology in Victorian Non-Fiction. (hat-tip to The Little Professor for the latter)

* Since this is in some ways the Year of William Wilberforce, I thought that it might be worthwhile to make clear exactly what we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of. In great measure through Wilberforce's perseverance over several decades, the Slave Trade Act finally passed its second reading and became law in February and March of 1807. This outlawed the slave trade in British dominions. It is important to note that the abolition of the slave trade is not the same as the abolition of slavery. Over the next decade or so Wilberforce and others worked to extend this abolition of the slave trade worldwide -- largely through treaties. One of the means of enforcing the ban on slave trading which Wilberforce worked for was the creation of a Slave Registry, which would make a clear distinction between slaves bred and slaves bought, and allow the government the means to guarantee there were none of the latter. In the course of fighting for this it became clear to Wilberforce that the abolition of the slave trade was simply not enough to handle the sorts of abuses he was trying to stop. It was only in 1818, if we go by the judgment of his two sons in their Life of William Wilberforce, that he began actively working not merely for what he called Abolition -- the elimination of slavery as a trade -- but what was called Emancipation -- the elimination of slavery as a status. This is not actually surprising. We tend to lump these things all together, but Abolition alone was a massive task that had taken quite literally decades of continual pressing and organizing even to accomplish; and when it was done, there was still required similar ceaseless work over many years to consolidate and extend this victory. The elimination of slavery was not a matter of a flick of a pen; the whole nature of society had to be reconsidered and transformed, against considerable resistance. Despite the pressing importance of the matter -- and we only have to read the writings Wilberforce has left to see how clearly he recognized its urgent necessity -- everything had to be done in slow, ponderous steps. What is remarkable is not that Wilberforce advocated the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Many people did that. What is remarkable about Wilberforce is that he never stopped advocating it, despite defeat after defeat; when he had finally done it, he did not rest on his laurels but continued the long, hard work of consolidating it; and when consolidation was proceeding apace he took the next step to start what was a completely new stage of the fight. And all this while doing many other things relevant to his parliamentary work and social action with a more than common diligence. Not bad for a man whose diaries show him regularly reprimanding himself for wasting time, failing to do as much as he thought he should do, and failing to be as Christian in his actions and words as he should. The work of progress is never easy work; if you find it easy to progress you should immediately become suspicious, and investigate whether you are really progressing at all. For the genuine work of progress is the work of reordering civilization itself; and this is never easy.

Thought for the Day

From a passage in William Wilberforce's diary for 1812:

Miss E. now going on admirably. Her health and spirits improved, and she very active amongst the cottagers, doing them good. A most useful lesson taught by this; that the best course when any one is low-spirited and distressed with anxieties, is to set them to action in doing good to others. Trust thou in the Lord, and be doing good.

Quoted in Wilberforce & Wilberforce, The Life of William Wilberforce, vol. IV, p. 53

Various Poem Drafts

These are just various recent scribblings of varying quality. The second is my half-serious, half-sarcastic musing on the 'liturgy wars' that plague Catholics, but also others; it occurred to me that what some people on both sides are always looking for is not better liturgy but that Unicorn Rite that will make everything good and put everything to right. That's a lovely idea, worth working for. And also an absurd thing to expect or demand prior to Kingdom come.


The day will come
when I'll be free
and, like an airborne gull,
sail above the lonely sea;
I'll fly so high
into blue sky,
so far above all sorrow
no darkness could ever follow.

Into the sun
I'll soar so free,
away from this prison-isle
and its hard captivity;
I'll fly so high
into the sky
with wings of light and flame,
renowned above all names.

No more cold sand,
no more cold sea,
only sky and light forever,
glorious and ceasing never,
away from chains and sorrow;
I'll fly so high
into bright sky
no darkness can ever follow.

Catholics of the Unicorn Rite

The Unicorn Rite Catholics are singing their Mass,
lifting their voices to the God of creation,
singing the introit and collect of the day,
today, this day, that the Lord has made,
today, this day, on which they all hearken.
Antiphons rise in a fountain of prayer,
glorias lift up in heartfelt rejoicing;
blessed like balm is the holy union,
like great grace their deep communion;
and every credo is hale and holy
and every word bears the kiss of peace.

Chaos Dreams of Order

Chaos dreams of Order;
Order dreams of God;
God dreams up the borders
that limit human thought;
liminal with glimmer
gleams the twilight of the sky,
but the light grows never dimmer
from the Joyous and Most High.


Superessential Trinity, glorious in Unity,
grant us your mercy for the praise of your glory;
grant us a spirit of wisdom of revelation;
enlighten our hearts with the hope of vocation;
that we may inherit the fullness of Christ,
that we may be part of the One who fills all.

Just Before Nightfall

The clouds write joyous poems with the gleaming of the sun
as mountains break the glory into a radiant crown
and rivers all catch fire in the aura of the West
to pour like flowing gold, to ripple in the light.
Can dreamers hate a darkness that has heralds so holy-bright?

Body and Bride II

The Anglican Scotist has a partial response to my criticism of his theological argument for the blessing of same-sex union. It's well worth reading, since it's a fairly good response. My original purpose in my previous post was to point out that there was no reason why the conservative Anglican would find the argument convincing, because it seems to be intrinsically flawed. I'm not an Anglican myself, so the issue is a little abstracted from my own vantage point, and I don't know if any conservative Anglicans would actually argue in the way I suggested. I still think, though, that the conservative Anglican can be on very strong ground in rejecting the argument, so I did want to say a thing or two about the response.

(1) With regard to the reply to (A) (for which, see the post), on the eschaton issue, it seems to me that there's a bit of a slide between taking the relation between Church and Christ as its savior as a model of marriage and taking the Church as a model of marriage. And that's an important difference; because none of the reasons for rejecting the latter carry over to the former. This is because the model that is put forward in Ephesians 5 is heavy on Christ's activity, not on the Church's. This is not surprising because the threefold analogy in the passage is characterized in terms of (1) love: Christ's unitive love for the Church, the self's unitive love for the body, the husband's unitive love for his wife; (2) caring service (i.e., serving out of love rather than servility): Christ's service to the Church (in 'handing himself over for her'), our natural service to our bodies, and a husband's service to his wife. Seen this way, the model proposed is one in which marriage is the middle analogue; it's analogous to a union below it (our union with our bodies) and to a union above it (Christ's union with the Church). However many flaws there may be in the Church's relation to Christ, no such flaws arise in Christ's relation to the Church, and it is that relation that is directly proposed as the model for marriage.

(2) There seems to be some confusion on the part of at least one of us with regard to (B). We are told by Paul himself in this very passage that one of the analogues is between self and body. The problem is that argument in question seems to require that the analogue be between self and body-part, because this is the only way we can defend the premise that Christ is in relation R to individuals of the Church, where R is the relation on which marriage is modeled. This premise was emphasized more than once in the original argument. The problem is that the conservative Anglican will be able to point out immediately that Christ is not in relation R to any individuals of the Church, but to the Church, because relation R, on which marriage is modeled, also has to be analogous to the relation between self and body. R is the relation between Christ and His Body. But it's a fallacy of division to assume that because Christ has relation R to His Body that he has relation R to every (or even any) individual in the Body. Now, Bates's response seems to me to start out right (with the point about distributive and collective properties) and then go wrong in the paragraph starting, "At any rate, I take it that (ii) is in fact false: that at the eschaton Christ does enter into a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer." Because, I take it, no one disagrees with this. In fact, I suspect no one would disagree with the claim that Christ is now in a real, reciprocal relation with each individual believer, however imperfect it may be from the believer's side. What's in dispute is whether there is anything in the text requiring us to regard this relation as the model of marriage. And there is not. In Revelation, the Lamb's Bride is the New Jerusalem; in Ephesians it is the Body, the Church; in neither of these is it the individual. The fact that there is a salvific relation between Christ and individual seems very much like a red herring, because the conservative Anglican can simply deny that this is relevant to the discussion, and it isn't clear why anything said would lead us to conclude otherwise. If by R we meam, "whatever relation on which marriage is supposed to be modeled", we cannot direclty conclude from



(Christ)R(individual member of the Church)

any more than we can, for any relation S, directly conclude from




that would be a fallacy of division. So there seems to be a dilemma: the argument (as a response to the conservative Anglican) seems either to commit the fallacy of division or to require an argument for saying that the relevant relation between Christ and the Church is the very same with a relation between Christ and a member of the Church. The conservative Anglican is not simply going to concede the latter; he has no reason to do so given the texts at hand. And Bates rightly recognizes this; he addresses the issue. But his response only gives us two distinct relations (R and S in the original post, salvation1 and salvation2 in the second), and thus does not give us one relation on which marriage is to be modeled. Given that, the conservative Anglican can easily just take one of the relations to be the model of marriage and deny that the other has anything to do with the matter. What is needed is either an argument that shows that salvation1 and salvation2 are fundamentally the same exact relation (and thus if one is a model for marriage the other is as well) or an argument that Scripture in fact recognizes not just salvation1 but also salvation2 as a model for marriage. Otherwise, we seem to have an equivocation in the original argument: we are not to be able to get from premise 3, which would seem (given its justification) to require that R be something like salvation1, to the key premise 5, since premise 4 requires that R be something like salvation2. If the two aren't the same relation, we have an equivocation; if they are, we need a bridge argument to link premises 3 and 4 in such a way that they yield premise 5.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Robert Isaac Wilberforce on the Eucharist

Now it is obvious that a gift bestowed by one party upon another may be important either in consequence of the value of the gift itself, or by reason of considerations derived from the parties concerned in the giving and receiving. The ordinary food, which sustains us, is an instance of the first kind: it has its value in itself; it is the physical instrument of our support. We may find examples of the other sort in the Old Testament. The "ribbon of blue," which the Israelites received as an article of dress by God's appointment, was of no value in itself : its effect was derived solely from the associations to which it gave rise in the minds of the wearers. Here then was a gift, which was only rendered important by the state of the receiver. Again, when it pleased God to put His Bow in the cloud, here was a thing which neither was of value in itself, nor yet derived it from the disposition of the spectator. The Bow had no tendency to prevent a deluge; it only expressed the intention of Him who put it there. So that we have three different ways in which a gift may be important; first, from its own value; secondly, from the state of the receiver; thirdly, as expressive of the intention of the giver.

Robert Isaac Wilberforce, The Doctrine of the Eucharist, pp. 32-33.

Wilberforce, at this point in time an Anglo-Catholic, notes that theories of the Eucharist tend to divide precisely along these lines. He later notes that you can get the same division in another way. Take the general statement, "This is X." I could be intending to identify this as X; or mark the fact the fact that this is X by representation. An example of the first is to say "This is Caesar" while introducing someone to Caesar. If we are not talking identity, we are talking representation, and there are two ways that occurs: either their is a naturally rooted likeness, or there is a fiat or intention of authority. For instance, I could say "This is Caesar" of a statue of a Caesar; or I could say "This is Caesar" of a book that Caesar wrote. So it is when we think about "This is My Body":

Thus, then, we have three senses in which the expression, "This is" might be employed. First, it may imply identity ; secondly, it may imply that kind of representation which derives its force merely from the effect produced upon the spectator or receiver; thirdly, it may imply that kind of representation which is dependent only upon the intention of the author or giver. Now, when we proceed to apply this to the case before us, and ask which of these three relations was intended by Our Lord, when He said, "This is My Body"; we are met at once by the fact that these arc the three alternatives, which we have already had before us in the second chapter (p. 34), as the theories, respectively, of the ancient Church, of Zuinglius, and Calvin. The principle of identity is coincident with that of the ancient Church, which supposed that the Holy Eucharist derived its value from the reality of the gift bestowed: that principle of representation which depends upon the opinion of the spectator, is plainly the theory of Zuinglius, who maintained that the Holy Eucharist derived its efficacy solely from the disposition of the receiver: lastly, that principle of representation which depends upon the intention of the author, agrees exactly with the system of Calvin, by whom the decree of Almighty God was affirmed to be its sole consecrating principle.

Robert Isaac Wilberforce, The Doctrine of the Eucharist, p. 115.

The Amazing Change

The Amazing Change is part of a modern abolition campaign designed to raise to consciousness the fact that slavery still occurs in this world -- that, in fact, there are more slaves now than there have ever been -- and that there are things that can be done to address this problem.

The Amazing Change has several partner organizations. One of them is the International Justice Mission, an international human rights organization devoted to rescuing victims of slavery and violence. Another organization is Free the Slaves, which takes a more indirect route by trying to reduce the vulnerability of the poor to slavery by establishing ways they can meet their basic needs. A third is ChildVoice International. A fourth is RugMark, which is devoted to ending illegal child labor.

This then provides a number of possible venues for giving.

(1) You can donate to the Amazing Change Fund.
(2) You can donate a dollar to ChildVoice to buy a brick to help put up a ChildVoice center in Uganda. Or you can donate to ChildVoice's general activities through their PayPal page.
(3) You can donate to Free the Slaves.
(4) You can donate to International Justice Mission.
(5) You can donate to RugMark, and also make sure that if you buy any rugs, you buy rugs that have been certified by RugMark not to have been produced with illegal child labor.

All of these things are fairly easy to do; so there's a good set of choices here.

Previous posts in this series

Sunday of Orthodoxy

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion;
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem.
Rejoice and be glad with all your heart.
The Lord has taken away from you
the oppression of your adversaries;
you are redeemed from the hand of your enemies.
The Lord is a King in the midst of you;
you shall not see evil any more,
and peace be unto you forever.