Saturday, June 04, 2022

The Mystery of Piety 1.4.1&2

Fourth Part of the First Question

1.4.1 On Divine Uniqueness

It is a grave error to think that beings are wholly disparate and unconnected. There are ways in which being is linked to being, and by considering three of these, to wit, potentiality, participation, and tendency, we kept coming to the conclusion that there was some first that a reasonable person would consider divine. This suffices for the question of whether anything divine actually is. However, it is worth pausing to consider, since long historical experience has shown it to be the first question that is asked, and because it is useful for consolidating the argument, whether we are in each of these cases reaching the same divine.

We have seen, then, that there is reason to conclude, from change, that there is a prime mover; from composition, that there is a first efficient cause; and from what we have called limited ability, that there is a cause with unlimited ability to be. In each of these ways, we are considering potentiality in a different context of thought, and in each of these ways, the potentiality of beings requires actuality from another, which cannot infinitely regress and thus must ultimately be due to something that is pure act. 

We have seen likewise, that when we begin with things that have present in them something shared or in common, in such a way that they are graded, that this indicates participation in some way in something primary that communicates what is in common. There are, however, things that are attributed in the manner of a transcendental, so that they are in some way presupposed for those things to be classifiable at all. First of these is being, which, shared in a graded way, involves participation in what communicates being, which is that which is unparticipating, subsistent being itself. There are other transcendental attributions that are convertible with being, however, and therefore, each traces back to being itself under some convertible aspect. Thus there is gradation of unity, which must be due to the one itself, which must be being itself; there is gradation of truth, which is due to the true itself, which must be being itself; there is gradation of goodness, which is due to the good itself, which must be being itself; there is gradation of beauty, which is due to the beauty itself, which must be being itself; there is gradation of nobility, which is due to the noble itself, which must be being itself; and there is gradation of order, which is due to what is first in order, which must be being itself. Without doubt, there are many others that could be chosen. None of these transcendental terms are synonymous with being, and each has its own quirks that must be navigated, but they are all convertible with being when properly understood, and therefore they all are communicated by subsistent being itself. 

We could, in fact, give additional arguments to this same conclusion in each case, based on the particular aspects of each. For instance, actual being is the good of each being; but God not only has actual being, He is subsistent being itself, and therefore is also goodness itself. Likewise, we could give additional arguments for the same conclusion based on considering the disjunctive transcendental terms related to each convertible transcendental. But by considering the matter in terms of participation of convertible transcendentals, we see immediately that subsistent being itself must be subsistent good itself, and so forth.

And finally, we considered the nature of causing, which ultimately depends on the final cause, and therefore we considered the tendency to an end in the three narrowing bands of nature, intellect, and love of wisdom as the natural expression of our intellectual nature. As there are natural ends, we can identify for a given chain of ends an ultimate superordinate end; this is true as well of the natural end, whose end is the infinite intelligible; this infinite intelligible is the architectonic wisdom that sets all things in order.

From everything that has been said, we can connect more of these conclusions and recognize that pure act must be subsistent being itself, and vice versa. Nothing is more properly called being than what is actual, so nothing more properly called being itself or subsistent than what is purely actual and thus not dependent on anything else. Likewise, what involves potentiality participates actual being; and all actual being with potentiality thus participates what is purely actual, which is that which has in pure form what is shared by participation by everything else. Thus pure act is being itself. And on the other side, being itself must be purely actual, because if it had potential being this would indicate that it participates something that more purely is, which is absurd.

Likewise we can see that pure act must be supremely architectonic wisdom, and vice versa. It can be argued that since God is pure act and any material cause is, as such, potential, that God is immaterial spirit; but immaterial act is the ground of intellectual operation, because it is able to take universals as objects. Further, being a first mover seem to be an intellectual property, because we find nothing so capable as intellect of using all other things directly or indirectly as instruments, and thus as moved movers. The prime mover is a universal source of change; every source of change aims at some form in its act of changing something else, so it would seem that the prime mover would aim at some universal form, but direction to universal rather than particular form is something distinctive of intelligence. It seems there can be nothing more architectonic than pure act, on which all other act depends, and therefore pure act must be wisdom, that is, architectonic intelligence, and it is first in its order, so it is supremely so. Similarly, as act it must be intelligible; but act is only limited by potential, so pure act must be infinite. Therefore pure act must be an infinite intelligible. On the other side, what is an infinite intelligible must be actual to be intelligible, since nothing is intelligible except insofar as it relates to what is actual, and to be infinitely so, nothing can limit it, so it must not be restricted by potentiality, and therefore is pure act.  

And, of course, for similar reasons, subsistent being itself must be supremely architectonic wisdom, and vice versa. Since being itself is good itself, it must be ultimate end, and therefore all things both depend on it and are ordered by it. Likewise, an ultimate end would need to be good per se, without limitation by another end, and therefore would be coextensive or convertible with being itself. Furthermore, it seems that to be an end in some way is itself a transcendental, since everything actual is an end of some actual thing, either itself or another, and therefore by the argument noted above, end itself is being itself. Likewise, everything is intelligible insofar as it is, and many things are intelligible in various gradations. Thus they participate what is more intelligible, and indeed, what is most intelligible, that is, what is intelligible infinitely or without limit, and as everything is intelligible insofar as it is, this infinite intelligible must be being itself, and vice versa, and the infinite intelligible, as we have seen, is architectonic wisdom. 

A good thing that is not its own good is good by participation, and derives its goodness from some more complete goodness. Good, however, has the nature of an end, so the more complete goodness is the end of the participating goodness; and there cannot be an infinite regress among final causes, so there must be some first and most complete goodness, which will also be the superordinate end of all things that are good. But everything that is good is so insofar as it is, and therefore it will also be being itself. Therefore being itself must be a superordinate end for all of nature, including intellectual nature. Likewise, anything can be something to which another tends only insofar as it is an end; but goodness has the nature of being with this character of tendency -- we call good most properly things that have the nature of end or more broadly things that are ordered to an end. Thus the most superordinate end will be that from which all things will have the fact that they are good, and therefore it will be, as St. Augustine says (DT 8.3) the good of every good.

Given this, we can note that pure act, subsistent being itself, and supremely architectonic wisdom must be that than which no greater can be thought, and also that that than which no greater can be thought is not multiplied into different instances. As Bonaventure says (Sent, God, or the highest truth, is being itself, than which nothing greater can be conceived.  Considered simply in itself, being is infinite, since there are finite and infinite modes in which being can be had. Thus if some being is finite, it must be limited by something other that is somehow its cause; but if there is uncaused being, there is nothing to limit it. But if there is nothing to limit it, there can be nothing greater. Since we cannot conceive the unintelligible, we cannot conceive anything greater than the infinite intelligible, and what is supremely architectonic has no superior. That than which no greater can be conceived, however, cannot be multiplied, because all multiplication requires that there be some limitation to the divided individuals, which there cannot be in that than which no greater can be thought. It would, of course, make no sense to say that there could be many different instances of being itself, or to say that there is not merely truth itself but also another truth itself.

Therefore, given any of these divine titles, we can reach the others.

All of this is as one would expect; if there are many divines, then they share divinity in common, which seems to require that there be some divinity itself which all these different and differently divine things participate. We would also expect this on other, dialectical grounds. The divine would seem to be something that has especially full of being; from which we would expect, as Stein notes (PA 38), that the divine essence, encompassing all fullness, cannot exist in more than one instance. It also seems that multiple partial causes cannot by themselves be disposed to one effect unless either there is some unifying higher cause, or they are intelligent. If there are many intelligent first causes working cooperatively, either each of these causes is incapable of producing the whole universe without the help of others, or, if they could, they have nonetheless agreed to divide the effect among themselves. If the first, it follows that each cause is limited; but in that case it could not have as its effect actual being. And if there were a multiplicity of first causes, they would seem to be defective and inadequate even in the aggregate, because what is due to aggregation is to that extent limited and defective.  Further, the world seems unified, and people have often concluded from this that there must be a unifier for it, because things that are diverse only combine in a unity when there is a unifying cause of order. It seems likewise that positing many things that are divine is something that should not be done without reason; as Aquinas says (SCG 1.42.4), What is accomplished adequately through one supposition is better done through one than through many, and (In Phys 1075), Finitely many principles are better than infinitely many, and one is better than many

The primary dialectical reason why one might not expect a unique primary divine is that this is not immediately obvious when one reflects on various purported experiences of the divine. These purported experiences are often very different, so it can be difficult to see in what way they could be one thing. This objection is correct in recognizing that there are many 'divine things' as far as experience is concerned. But even if one assumes that there are many different divine things, it would not follow from this that there was no primary divine thing on which all other divine things depended. Thus, given the above arguments, even if we assume polytheism, there must be something supremely divine. We can think of it in this way. Just as, in approaching metaphysics, it is reasonable and natural to begin with the material cause, so it is reasonable and natural in first approaching religion by reason to begin materially, and in this way one would not immediately assume that all divine objects of experience are the same. In this way, and to this extent, we can recognize polytheism as having a kind of dialectical priority, an immediacy of salience in inquiry analogous to that of the material cause. However, just as it becomes clear that material causes alone cannot be a fully adequate explanation of what we find in the world, so too it is clear that polytheism cannot be a fully adequate explanation. If there are many gods, they share divinity in various ways; this communion requires participation in that which is divinity itself. But divinity itself is that than which nothing more divine can be conceived. Very much the same reasoning applies if we appeal to diversity of sects rather than diversity of experiences.

Thus we may say of God, uniquely divine, that God is incomparable. Divine incomparability is indeed the primary thrust of Scriptural claims about divine unity; that is to say, the primary interest is authority as divine, not on counting. Even in Scripture we find things sometimes described as divine in looser senses than that which applies to the one Lord God; this does not, however, in any way make God comparable to other things. We see this very clearly when we look at, say, Baruch, which argues against idolatry on the ground that it is beneath us; that is to say, we have, in at least some indirect way, a proportion to the ultimate divine, so that to worship in the full and proper sense to lesser things is to denigrate ourselves.

1.4.2 On Arguments Against the Existence of God

In arguing that something does not exist, one argues by identifying an impediment to any conclusion that it is, which will involve some defect or lack of what would be required for it to be. Such a defect might be a defect of internal coherence or intelligibility, so that it involves a contradiction or intrinsic compatibility; or it might be a defect of external coherence, so that features of what is otherwise known to be are recognized to be incompatible with its actual being; or it might be a defect of needfulness, so that nothing requires it to be. People have attempted to argue in each of these ways against the claim that God actually is, and indeed atheistic arguments in general will fall into these three families. Each of the supposed kinds of impediment are worth considering.

I. The Supposed Impediment of Defect of Intelligibility. One way in which one may object to the conclusion that God exists is by arguing that such a conclusion is unintelligible. We may regard something as unintelligible in several different ways. One way a thing is unintelligible is due to a lack of intellectual ability for understanding it, either simply or due to lack of the relevant training or skill. This kind of unintelligibility may be set aside here, since an atheist will want to argue that the defect is on the side of the claim that God exists, not on the side of his own mind.

The most common family of arguments based on this supposed impediment of unintelligibility in the claim that God exists, is the family of arguments that are sometimes called incompatible properties arguments. These arguments attempt to derive a contradiction from some definition or description of God. There are potentially endlessly many of these, because, given any two properties of a thing, one may with appropriate additional assumptions derive a contradiction. Thus attempts are made to derive contradictions from virtually all combinations. One will try to argue that immutability is incompatible with omniscience, another that it is incompatible with omnipotence, another that it is incompatible with divine freedom; and so it will go in every combination of all things attributed to the divine.

There is initial reason to doubt that this kind of argument is viable, in that it requires that one say that many intelligent people, reasoning actively on these matters, have not found this supposed conceptual dissonance. This at least raises the question of whether arguments like these may simply involve misunderstanding of the concepts involved. This is particularly true given that any argument of this kind would need to rely on additional assumptions beyond the concepts themselves, from which there follows the possibility that any incompatibility may actually be imported by a flawed assumption. But looking closer, we may find a more serious problem that would need to be surmounted. 

It is pointless to say that something is impossible if we are talking about the cause of a known effect. When once one recognizes that we reach the divine rationally by causal inference, incompatible properties arguments run into the problem that they seem to depend on arbitrary attribution. In reality, when we attribute anything to a cause, we do so on the basis of the causal inference, and whatever is inconsistent with such an attribution, assuming that the causal inference is good, is simply incorrect and to be discarded. However, all arguments that something divine actually is are causal arguments of some kind. The most common attempt to avoid this conclusion is to claim that causation is in some way confined to the purely empirical. As this is clearly not obvious to most people, and is inconsistent with our usual ways of speaking, this claim necessarily depends on the account of causation being assumed In particular, it requires an account of causation that understands cause and effect to apply to sensible appearances, taken as objects of the sensory powers, and not further, the usual form of which is to say that causation is just a regular relation between sensible appearances. This is implausible for a number of reasons, not least that it does not seem to make sense to speak of 'sensible appearances' except as effects of something that is not merely a sensible appearance. Most fundamentally, however, such an account of causation is simply incorrect; causation is fundamentally an action, which is why we most commonly find causation discussed in active terms. Sensible appearances, for instance, are due to actions of things in the world on the sense organs insofar as they are capable of sensing, which lets us conclude that things are not merely sensible appearances.

The most general problem with incompatible properties arguments is that people falsely assume that the divine attributes are arbitrarily chosen -- that, for instance, people have agglomerated independently understood properties together. But this is not true; we attribute things to God on the basis of His effects, whether this be the natural world or revelation, and this causal inference constrains what can be attributed to God, as well as how it is to be understood. When we are determining what to attribute to the cause we recognize to exist on the basis of the effect, the causal inference guarantees the compatibility of the attributions. The only way in which an incompatibility could enter is if we are mistaken about what our causal inference implies; but this does not affect the existence of the cause that we reach by causal inference.

Some people give an argument that is related to the incompatible properties arguments but is not quite the same, and this is the argument that talk about the divine is in itself already meaningless or unintelligible. This runs into the difficulty of what is meant by saying it is meaningless or unintelligible. When we call something unintelligible, it might be relatively so or properly so. An example of the relatively unintelligible would be something that a particular person cannot understand, due to failures of their intelligence, even though some other intellect could find it intelligible. This obviously cannot be what is meant here. In properly unintelligible things, we typically mean either (1) it is inconsistent with the conventions of language; or (2) it is inconsistent conceptually; or (3) it is beyond the bounds of what we can understand.

 It is clear, however, that talk of the divine is not unintelligible with respect to linguistic conventions, in the sense that it is inconsistent with how people actually use language, for there are many words in many languages that are used apparently to describe divine things. Thus the person who argues in this way must argue that the appearance of meaningful language is an illusory appearance, and that words like 'God' are meaningless in some way that makes it easy to mistake them as meaningful. Since words express and are signs of concepts, this can only be either if such words actually gather together inconsistent concepts, or if, since human concepts are formed on the basis of experience, there is no possible way to conceive anything beyond some boundary, and that boundary is one beyond which alone divine things may be found. Thus one finds arguments taking each of these paths. Both argue that there is contradiction in talk of divine things, but the first argues that there is a contradiction in the talk itself, while the second argues that there is a contradiction between the use of language in this way and the conditions of any meaningful language use.

It is clear enough that neither suggestion is plausible here. The words in which we talk about the divine are common words; they belong to kinds of words found throughout the world, and endless numbers of intelligent people not only use them but reason with them, discuss them, and closely analyze them without noticing anything indicative of the first path. When we speak of the meanings of words, there is a consensus of people that, at the very least, our languages and our capacities to use them meaningfully extend far beyond what the second path suggests. Thus any argument of this sort would need not only to give reasons for its claim, but also explain how so many intelligent and competent language users, of so many diverse backgrounds that mere cultural prejudice or ideological bias cannot easily be blamed, can be so confused. Consensus gentium therefore establishes that talk of the divine is neither meaningless nor unintelligible.

 Nor is it reasonable to respond by rejecting consensus gentium entirely, for it is clear that the general consent of people is relevant to any field that either depends on consent or relative to which general consent can be an effect or sign and therefore evidence. For instance, if someone were to deny that a mathematical principle were self-evident, it would be irrational to reject the response that almost everyone thinks it obviously so, simply on the basis that self-evidence is not a matter of vote. For while it is true that self-evidence or its lack is not a matter of vote, nor is itself affected by how many people note it, the general consent is real evidence that the principle can be taken as self-evident; and where this is wrong, it would require independent argument and an explanation of the error to show it. This is clearly the case here, for the fact that nearly everyone uses it as meaningful is, in the absence of proof showing that this is illusory due to a contradiction, itself evidence that it is meaningful. 

Further, the words that are used to talk about the divine are not used in abstraction from all experience. Since experience itself cannot be inconsistent, and anything that can be experienced can at least somewhat be understood, it is clear that religious experience establishes that talk about the divine is neither meaningless nor unintelligible. 

On all these grounds we can recognize that meaningless arguments fail; there is no relevant account of meaninglessness or unintelligibility that can apply to all talk about the divine. Further, as we have noted, if anything is intelligible, there must be something divine, because if anything is intelligible, there must be intelligibility as such, which must be being itself, which all call God.

II. The Supposed Impediment of Defective Explanation. A different line of argument is that God is fundamentally defective qua explanation, and therefore there is no point in positing the existence of anything divine. The primary argument for this is what might be called the argument from superfluity. For instance, one might argue that everything that could be explained by God is explained by other things, and as there is no point in positing what is not needed, there is no point in positing the existence of God. 

This kind of argument is less straightforward than it might seem. We start with an explanandum; we then recognize that we have an adequate explanans for the explanandum. Let us assume for a moment that it is so for absolutely anything on which one might base an argument for the existence of God. This is not, however, the whole story. The explanans itself might be regarded as in need of an explanation; that is to say, to be an adequate explanans is not necessarily to be a first or primary explanans. Thus this argument could only work if everything to which we appealed as an explanans in these cases were such that it had no features in need of explanation. This is not easy to establish, and, indeed, when people make this argument it seems clear that they are at least usually just guessing that their proposed explanans would be in no need of further explanation.

Further, at least many of these explanations will be causal. But if anything is caused, God exists, as we have argued before, since he is the primary final cause all other causation presupposes. As St. Thomas says (ST 1.2.3 ad2), Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle. Therefore if anything can be explained by any kind of causal explanation, God must exist.

III. The Supposed Impediment of Defect of Good. Another family of arguments against God's existence is that which attempts to base the rejection on the lack of some good, nobility, or perfection that is taken to be required if God exists, of which the most common forms are known as arguments from evil. There are at least four typical forms, based on four imperfections or failings: moral evil, suffering, unbelief or obscurity of divine existence, and diversity of sects or confusion about divine being. Thus one may argue that, if there were a God, there would be no moral evil, because moral evil is a failing that would not be allowed by God; but there is moral evil, therefore no God. And we can make versions for the other kinds of imperfection or failing, as well.

There are at least three initial reasons to doubt whether these arguments are viable, based on the limited nature of each argument, on their tendency to appeal to things that would require omniscience fully to understand, and the fact that the path of proof is often not clear. 

First, each argument seems to be of a very limited nature, and therefore unable to rule out anything that might be considered divine. Even if we assumed the arguments to be sound, they would just rule out something divine that was simply and purely inconsistent with that specific failing or imperfection existing in the world. It does not on its own give us any reason to think that this is the only thing that could be considered divine.

Second, it seems we would need to be omniscient to know that these arguments were sound. We know that things may seem imperfect from one perspective and not from another in cases in which the one perspective is missing something relevant. We know that we cannot consider all the different lights in which everything can be considered. Yet the argument seems to require us to say that the failing is such that even omniscience could not think of a good reason for it. As we do not have omniscience, this must either be a mere guess or must be based on some demonstrated contradiction. But there seems to be no contradiction. People will accuse theists of believing that God exists solely for consolation or wishful thinking; this in itself establishes that they, at least, do not think it is self-evident that imperfections imply that God does not exist, because there is no way that God's existence could be a consolation for an imperfection to any number of intelligent people if the imperfection obviously excluded God's existence. What is more, we find moral arguments for God's existence, which again seem to indicate that intelligent people are often not inclined to think that moral failures and imperfections imply divine nonexistence. Thus one cannot merely assume that the one excludes the other; it would need to be established.

A more serious problem can be seen if we consider that all arguments in this family depend on the assumption that some good, being fragile, is not worthy of being. Imperfections and failings arise because the goods of the world are not always able to guarantee their best state; they are fragile and subject to fail. However, it is an error to conclude that because a good is fragile that it is not a good at all. Nor can it be said that it is an imperfection for the world to have fragile goods; fragile goods are good, and they can contribute to the world as such. A flower that dies swiftly does not, from its death, cease to contribute something valuable, and if something were simply incapable of dying, it would not be the same kind of good, and could not contribute to the goodness of the world in the same way. Of some goods it may be said that it is better to have them even if they can fail. Certainly if one wishes to hold otherwise, one must establish otherwise.

A related problem is that arguments in this family generally assume that bad or evil is in some way the contrary of good, whereas in reality bad or evil is opposed to goodness by privation. Failings and imperfections arise from a lack of being, or a lack of order, or a lack of proportion, or some mix of the three. But privation of good in such-and-such way does not affect inferences drawn directly from actual good in such-and-such other way. But the latter is sufficient to argue for the existence of good itself; and since evil or failing is a privation, it is explained by that in which it is a privation, and there is not corresponding evil itself. These arguments that a defect excludes divine existence seem generally to assume a symmetry between good and bad, or perfection and imperfection, that does not exist.

In general we can recognize that the structure of the argument is such that it is difficult to see how it could work. Consider the essential argument:

(1) If God is, this good is.
(2) This good is not.
Therefore God is not.

For this to be sound, the first premise must indicate a necessary connection. A mere probability would not rule out divine existence when combined with (2), and if (1) were a material implication that was not based on a more fundamental necessary connection, it seems it could not be established without already knowing whether God exists; it tells us what goes with God existing, but if it's not doing so on necessary grounds, it must do so on grounds of what actually always happens, which would require knowing what happens in actual cases in which God exists. Thus we either must have experience of what happens in actual cases when there is a divine, or we must have necessary knowledge of what would happen if God exists. The first is useless for arguing against God's existence. The second seems to require that we have a profound understanding of God that we could only have if God existed. It is rare to find any arguments on grounds of evil or defect that even attempt to address these issues properly.

And indeed, if any failure, error, or evil exists, God exists, for reasons that we have previously noted: failure, error, and evil presuppose final causes, from which we can conclude that there is an ultimate end, which all call God. As St. Thomas says (SCG 3.71.10), There would be no evil if the order of good were taken away, since evil is its privation; but this order would not exist if there were no God.

When reasonable people accept arguments that lead to wrong conclusions, there are usually two reasons why people are persuaded. The first arises from human failing, as human assessment of arguments is affected by prior judgments and passions We may, however, set aside this for the moment. The second, and more important for our purposes, is that they each are related to a truth, although either they use this truth in an inappropriate way or they do not quite attain to it, but only to a false semblance of it. When intelligent people go wrong in the pursuit of truth, it is most commonly because they reach for a falsehood that in some way mimics a truth, or they accept a truth in an inadequate way that mingles it with falsehood. In each of the three kinds of arguments mentioned above, we find some truth that sometimes serves as a mask for the error.

There is, for instance, a proper sense in which divine things are beyond human reason and capacity to understand, but the reason is due to the abundance and not lack of intelligibility. As Milton says in Paradise Lost, "Dark with excess of bright thy skirts appear." We are more easily able to say what God is not than what God is, because divine being exceeds our intellectual capacity, but from this it does not follow that talk about God is unintelligible. First, when we are talking about being, we may either denote the act of being itself, or we may indicate the intellectual composition of predicate and subject into an enunciation or proposition. In the first sense our intellect cannot reach to divine being; we have no direct intellectual grasp of God. In the second, however, we may form on the basis of causal reasoning meaningful propositions, such as "God exists." These latter we may refine by removal of anything that would be inconsistent with divine being as it is known from its effects. 

Likewise, there is a legitimate sense in which natural things are adequately explained by natural things. If one wishes to explain the bare movement of a ball, it is generally adequate to explain it by its being hit with a stick; this can be true even if the whole movement of stick-and-ball is to be explained as part of the action of another cause, like an athlete. Causes are not necessarily exclusive of each other, and one cause may be instrumental to or subordinate to the causal action of another, in such a way that for many purposes the subordinate cause is all that needs to be considered. When there is a primary cause that makes a secondary cause to cause an effect, as we often start with the effect, we will then move from there to the secondary cause, and only after, and sometimes through a chain of many causes, to a primary cause. Likewise, for most explanations of the natural world, we will be able easily to identify the most immediate secondary causes from the effects, and from this understand a great deal; but we can then push our explanation back further, without detriment to our original explanation in terms of the immediate secondary causes. As we go further back the chain, it becomes harder to gather the evidence required to identify and specify the higher cause. However, as we have already argued, we know, from the very nature of the causation, that there must be a primary cause, regardless of how many intermediaries there might be. Thus for many things identifying the primary cause will in many kinds of inquiry be superfluous to our explanatory needs; but the primary cause is not superfluous simply speaking, because it is a necessary condition for all other causes.

In addition, there is a genuine sense in which defect has a kind of opposition to the divine. But the error, as noted above, is to think that it is contrary to divine goodness rather than a privation in a derivative and more fragile good. As a privation, it presupposes the positive; and the positive requires the divine, as we have seen with truth, with beauty, with goodness, and others.

All these things will be discussed more fully in their appropriate places, but this shall suffice for our current purposes, which is to consider more fully what has been demonstrated in demonstrating that God actually is. Here we have looked at how it leads us to regard arguments against that conclusion; we now must return to what this demonstration lets us know and, since names are instruments of inquiry, how we name what we know.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Dashed Off XIII

 sauces méres
the standard list is from Auguste Escoffier, La guide culinaire (1907)
(1) Béchamel (white)
(2) Espagnole (brown)
(3) Tomato (red)
(4) Velouté (clear)
(5) Hollandaise
[(5) is only in the English-language edition; but in the French editions mayonnaise is described as a mother sauce for cold sauces]
-- Carême ni L'art de la cuisine française au XIXe siècle (1833), gives as 'grandes sauces': Espagnole,, Allemande,  Velouté, Béchamel. He identifies tomato, Hollandaise, mayonnaise, Poivrade, and Suprême as 'petite sauces'. (But keep in mind name shifts -- Allemande and Béchamel in Carême's terminology are adaptations of Velouté, and use different recipes than would be used today.)

A common problem in politics is treating things that are approximately true as if they were strictly true.

(1) Episcopal authority must respect the dignity of the members of the flock over which the bishop has authority.
(2) Episcopal authority cannot undo sacraments of character.
(3) Episcopal authority cannot require blasphemy, sacrilege, or anything similar.
(4) Episcopal authority must apply penalties and excommunication with regard to the orderly good of the Church.
(5) Episcopal authority can do what is appropriate and necessary for the orderly good of the Church.

Performative compassion in the long run chokes out real compassion.

"part of the pleasure we feel [at an argument] is at our own intelligent anticipation" Aristotle (Rhetoric 1400b)

pervasion in Nyaya syllogism and infallible signs in Aristotle's Rhetoric 1402b-1403a

"metaphors imply riddles" Rhetoric 1405b

All sacramental ceremonies involve peripeties. (Transubstantiation is the most drastic.)

Benedictus Deus (1336) links the Ascension and enjoying the Beatific Vision in heaven.

Christian Scripture is a text of inspired sense handed down in the Church so as to be a canonical rule of faith.

We tend to trust people more if they agree with us a lot, even on irrelevant issues.

(1) We know (from infant baptism) that vicarious intention suffices for infants in Baptism of water.
(2) We know from the Holy Innocents that infants can have baptism of blood, and thus can receive the effect of baptism without the sign of water.
(3) We know that parents, godparents, etc., can have vicarious intention even where the infant's death prevents the actual Baptism of water.
(4) By analogy, it seems that if actual intention can have baptismal effect in Baptism of desire, the vicarious intention for infant baptism can have baptismal effect if the actual baptism is rendered moot by the infant's death,
(5) Thus baptism of vicarious desire.

Kant's Critique of Judgment as a theory of inquiry

plays as fictional rituals

category theory as a picture of mathematical abstraction

God is named from the procession of perfections from God into existents.

"nonexistents have something of good insofar as they are potential to actual being" Aquinas (Div Nom)

labor theory of value as Benthamism of labor

airvery highvery highvery lowfree access
waterhighvery highlowutility
food in scarce conditionslowvery highhighration
diamond ringlowmoderate/lowhighluxury
paperback booksmoderate/lowmoderate/lowmoderate/lowcommon

In the long run, the convenient way tends to become the only way it can be done.

If you do not train people, you select for people who are good at displaying merely superficial signs of competence.

The proper proof of demonstrability is demonstration.

Political policies will always only approximately solve problems, even at their most successful.

The schizophrenia of much political discourse is due to, on some particular point, insisting that progress is inevitable (and opposition to it futile) and yet also continually threatened (and support of it necessary).

As pleasure is cognizance of harmony, pleasures are of different kinds, qualities, and relations.

things that are moved movers incidentally vs things that are designed to be moved movers

the verse of the clock

Such are human beings that we enjoy being around even the rumor and ruin of greatness.

No form of democracy with any stability is purely majoritarian.

rights as due qua juridical goods

being patient, finding common ground, focusing on actual problems, considering the whole community

instituted rights & insinuated rights

To live virtuously is to live according to the whole goodness of good.

There are always people who treat morality as a rhetorical system of excuse-making.

matrimony as the sacrament of salvation history

Matrimony is like baptism, penance, and unction in being remedial; it is like confirmation, eucharist, and unction in being confirmatory; it is like baptism, confirmation, and ordination in being the foundation for a Christian state of life; it is like confirmation and ordination in being a sacrament of social service. It looks back to paradise, it represents the Passion, and it looks forward to the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb.

Hosea 2:16 is a pun: One day you will call me 'my husband' (ish = man) and will no longer call me 'my husband' (ba'al = lord).

being civilized as both art and wisdom

metaphysic the science of science, logic the art of arts
which raises the question of the prudence of prudences

Scripture imitates Christ in its combination of greatness and humbleness.

law-rights vs officium-rights

We only learn autonomy in the school of loving, whether loving a cause or loving others or both; everything else is a form of fake autonomy.

All moral terms tend to get poisoned in extensive use and need periodically to be purified.

civil theology & maintaining the pax deorum

natural theology : metaphysics :: civil theology : politics

rite as visible order

sacrament & sacration

the Ascension as an ascension into sacramental and supersacramental presence (cp. Eph 4:10)

Peter and the apostles are given not the key but the keys.

In every Christological mystery there are aspects that can only be known by triplex via.

Montevideo statehood: defined territory, permanent population, government, capacity to enter into relations with other states.

international law as intergroup private law

respublica Christianorum

natural vs juridical state

States are composite creatures and their rights are composite rights, some deriving from control of territory, some from representation of population, some from agreements with other states, etc.

sovereign territories created by treaty error: Indian Stream, Cospaia Republic
sovereign territory created by feudal accident: Couto Misto

Natural rights being inalienable, we can violate our own natural rights.

analogy as first method

Nations grow old not with time but with laziness.

Peace is not a state of things but a tradition.

Sometimes we freely choose because we must.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood itself follows the understanding - deconstruction - reconstruction pattern.

Compatibilism seems to encourage people to confuse freely choosing to do something and freely doing it.

(1) Adam's sin as a type of our sin
(2) Our sin as in part an inheritance from Adam
(3) Adam's sin as losing our likeness to God (Irenaeus, Didymus)
(4) Adam's sin as loss of divinization (Justin)
(5) We are linked to Adam as contained in what contains (Tertullian, Ambrose, Ambrosiaster)
(6) From Adam's sin we have received "the contagion of ancient death" (Cyprian)

Morality has become for us an impoverished phenomenon due to Adam's sin.

Scripture as retraining us for spiritual perception.

Human life is situated, but there is a distortion in our situation. Thus our baptism is an initiation into a new situation.

freedom of virtue and slavery to sin a better frame than autonomy and heteronomy

Sin is not, properly speaking, the 'privation of total loving' because love as virtue is not the positive opposite of sin and vice but something far greater and more divine.

The purpose of music during a movie scene is to bridge between the viewer and the screen, putting the viewer into the scene, allowing the viewer to be participant, at least somewhat, in what would ordinarily be only seen with distance.

Today's carefully argued conclusion is tomorrow's slogan and the day after tomorrow's overextended cliche.

It is always easier to redistribute injustice than to cultivate justice; the latter requires patience, persistence, and discipline over an extended period of time.

In Mass we begin with objective Christ (Scripture) and continue to substantive Christ (Eucharist) by which we become sacramental Christ (Church). In the Scripture we begin with fundamental signs (the book) which are made formal signs (the reading); in Eucharist we begin with symbolic Body and Blood (the elements) which are made substantive Body and Blood; thus we who are figuratively the Body of Christ (Church as society) are made sacramentally the Body of Christ (Church as mystery).

activity as public actuality, actuality as other things may be related to it

Probability is always relative to assumed causal structure.

To focus only on harms and benefits inevitably leads to dishonesty.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Logres II

 Book I continued

Chapter 4

In Britain in those days there was a leader among those families of Roman extraction who still lived on the island. His name was Constans, and he was generally recognized as the Dux Britanniorum, or Duke of Britain. He had three sons: Constans, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and Uther. He also had a steward named Vortigern, a clever man on whom he greatly relied. When he died, the young Constans succeeded his father, but he was still quite young. Therefore the lords and barons chose Vortigern to be his regent, and Vortigern did all his will in the land as if he were himself the Duke. And being a competent men, he calculated very well how to gain the support of the people. However, the cities and towns soon began to be harried by Saxon raiders, and when Constans came to him begging that Vortigern should defend the Roman people of Britain, Vortigern put him off with delaying words. The young Constans, a valiant young man by then, attempted to organize a defense, but it failed completely, as if the Saxons knew beforehand what he would do, and the people began to grumble against the Duke, saying that if Vortigern had led them, they would not have been defeated. Then the lords and barons, whispering in secret, came to Vortigern and offered to recognize him as Duke of Britain.

But Vortigern was not a fool, and with a pious folding of hands, he replied, "My lords, there is already a Duke, whom you yourselves have set me to serve, and I will serve him with honor and devotion for as long as he shall live. Being a man who respects the law, I would not accept the Duchy from you unless our good Constans had died." The barons knew what he was about, and took thought for how Constans might be killed, for they considered among themselves that those who gave to Vortigern the office of Duke would be forever his friends indeed.

Then twelve of them came together to slay the Duke, and few there were who even resisted them. The blood had not yet dried upon the floor when they came to Vortigern saying, "Duke Constans has died; be now our Duke."

Vortigern, however, knowing well how to gauge the moods of the people, responded to them with simulated anger, saying, "You have done a great evil and violated your oaths; flee now lest the people have you put to death."

The cunning Vortigern then gathered an assembly of the people and told them of all this in fair and seemly words. The people were greatly affected by the tale, so that the remaining lords and barons proposed that Vortigern be made Duke of Britain, and this suggestion was made to joyful acclamation by the people. Thus did Vortigern usurp the office with the support of the barons and the people. 

There were two noblemen who watched all these happenings with shrewd eye, the elder of whom was named Kyner or Cunerius. To them had been chiefly entrusted the educations of Ambrosius and Uther, whom they had come to love greatly. They suspected that the two boys were in danger, so as soon as Vortigern was acclaimed Duke they fled with them to Gaul, to a place called Benoit. There Ambrosius and Uther would grow to be strong and valiant young men. There too would Kyner have a son of his own, whom he called Ector.

After Vortigern had seized the Duchy, the slayers of Constans came before him in public and accused him of ingratitude. Vortigern, however, feigned that he had never met them before, and as they had confessed with their own mouths to the slaying, ordered that they be executed by being drawn and quartered.

"For," said Vortigern, "it is not for any of us to lay an unkind hand on those who are our superiors. Nor can any man be trusted who will slay his lord; having done it once you would surely do it again."

The men had many powerful friends, and war broke out. The friends of the executed barons raised a great host, but Vortigern fought with cunning and after some time drove them all from the island. When he had done so, he attempted to consolidate his rule. His means of doing so were so harsh that there were many uprisings against him, some of which were able to gain the support of other tribes in the island. Vortigern, however, responded by making peace with the Saxons and the Jutes, whom he offered lands in Britain and generous mercenary pay as soldiers. The Saxons landed in Britain at the Isle of Thanet, in Kent, which was separated from the main island by a very narrow channel; they came in three ships, and their leaders were named Horsa and Hengist, great warriors among their people. They fought for Vortigern, but the numbers of Vortigern's enemies were multiplying, so Hengist and Horsa sent word to their peoples, speaking in bold terms of the worthlessness of the British and the beauty of their lands. The Saxon host began to swell.

Vortigern then began to be afraid for their strength. He went to the British tribes he had defeated with their help, raising them to fight the Saxons, and he also hired bands of Picts from Alba. They fought well, slaying Horsa in battle, but the Saxons waxed daily, so that Vortigern had to buy off Hengist with even more land, and he withdrew northward toward Cambria.

Chapter 5

Vortigern, recognizing that he had lost the love of the people and not trusting the Saxons to be appeased, conceived a plan to build a mighty fortress, a castle that could not be taken. He gathered together all the masons and builders in the land and set them to building a mighty tower. But after the tower had begun to rise, there was a great shaking of the earth and the tower fell down. Vortigern had them rebuild it again, but again it collapsed. Again he had them rebuild it, and yet again it collapsed. Then Vortigern thought to himself that there was some cause of this, and being a clever man knew that if he could discover and remove that cause, he could build his castle. He gathered together the wisest men in the land, but no one could tell him the reason for the tower's falling until he threatened them with death if they did not discover it. 

Then they, afraid, took counsel among themselves, saying, "This thing is a great marvel; surely it must be resolved by another great marvel."

But one of them said, "I have heard of no marvel on this order, except stories of a boy, seven years of age, who was born without a human father."

Then the wise men came to Vortigern and said, "Lord, in ancient times people would solve these problems with blood. But a great problem requires a commensurate solution. If you wish your tower to stand, you must place in its foundation the blood of a seven-year-old child without a human father."

Vortigern sent out twelve men to search his realm, two by two, for such a child, to bring back the child's blood. They searched high and low, and it happened one day that two of the pairs met together and journeyed on the road together for a while. They soon came to a town in which many children were playing the fields.

One of these children was Merlin, who at that time was seven years old. Merlin's mother and Blaise had deemed it wise to move from Brittany because of the attention that Merlin drew; however wise he might be, the child was prone to mischief. He delighted in illusion and trick, and loved to startle people and make them marvel. Thus they had crossed the water and come to Britain.

Seeing the four knights approach and knowing immediately their aim, Merlin took a stick in his hand and, going up to the child who was closest to them, hit the child on the shoulder, knocking him to the ground, and ran away. The child Merlin had hit began to cry and called him many names, saying among other things that he was misbegotten and fatherless. This caught the attention of the knights and they asked the weeping boy who had hit him. He told them what he knew, which was only that nobody knew who Merlin's father was. 

Then Merlin came running up again, laughing, and said, "I am the child you seek, whose blood you are to bring Vortigern."

"Then you must come with us," they said.

"No," said Merlin, "for you might well kill me. But if you will give me your word that you will instead take me to Vortigern, I will tell him the true reason why his tower falls whenever he tries to build it. Let me only take leave of my mother and my teacher." To this they agreed, and Merlin brought them to his house to be fed, and had them tell all the story to Blaise.

As they set out to see Vortigern, Blaise offered Merlin to go with him for safety's sake, but Merlin said, "This is not the best way. Instead, look to find a land north of the River Humber, and I will meet you again there. Do not fear for my sake. This petty chieftain has no power over me, for I am destined to raise up the greatest of all the kings of Britain."

And Merlin said to his mother, "Fair mother, I commend you to Christ, for I am summoned to court and must leave you. And I fear our teacher Blaise must also leave you."

"Fair son," she replied, "surely it would be better if Blaise would stay."

"Alas, no," he said. "It would be much worse; he must go." And she knew him well enough to see that he was earnest, and she gave her leave. Thus Merlin and Blaise both set out, but they went separate ways.

Chapter 6

As Merlin journeyed on the road with the four knights, they overtook a peasant with his cart, and on seeing it, Merlin laughed. When they asked why the boy laughed, he replied, "I laugh because it is funny. This man has bought new shoes, and takes such great pains with his cart, but he will be dead before he reaches home and, although he will wear the shoes, he will never wear them on his feet."

The four knights wondered at this, and decided to test it; two followed the carl as he turned down a different road and two remained with Merlin. The two who followed the peasant had hardly done gone half a mile when they found him dead on the road. His cart had been ransacked and his new shoes were hung around his neck, for he had been strangled with the leather thongs used to tie them up. They swiftly rode back to their companions and told what they had seen. 

Then one of the knights, a young half-Saxon warrior whose name was Ulf or Ulfius, said, "Surely the men who recommended that this child be slain were not wise, but great fools."

He said this quietly to his companions so that Merlin might hear, but Merlin said, "I thank you, Ulfius, for your good will. Because of it, you shall play a greater part in these matters than you know."

Some time later, they came across a funeral procession carrying a dead child to church to be buried in the cemetery. Priests went before it singing psalms, and the people who followed it wept with sorrow. When Merlin saw the funeral, he laughed again and said to his companions, "This is truly a wonder."

"What do you mean?" asked Ulfius.

"Do you see the man who follows behind the bier, weeping that he has lost his son?"

"Yes," they said.

"Do you see the priest at the head of the procession?"

"Yes," they said.

"Then know this. The child was not the son of the weeping man but of the singing priest. Go to the mother and ask her why she weeps. When she says that she does so for her son, tell her that it is not her son but the son of the priest, and hear what she has to say." 

Two of the knights took the woman aside and did as Merlin had said to do, and the woman, frightened, begged them not to tell her husband of it. They went back and reported the result, and the four knights were astonished.

So they came to Vortigern. Then two of the knights said, "We will go before you to inform Vortigern that we have brought you; but Vortigern had commanded that we bring back your blood, and he may not take it well that we have brought you back alive. We beg you, give us counsel as to what we may say to him."

Merlin replied, "Speak as I tell you and you need have no fear. Tell him that you have found me, but that I claim to know the true reason why his tower falls, and more than that, show him how to make it stand enduringly. Moreover, I shall tell him the true motive of his wise men, who are lying." 

The knights then did all that he asked and, returning, brought him to Vortigern. For Vortigern, being a man of schemes, easily believed that others were scheming against him, and, being a cunning man, was forever afraid that others might make a fool of him, and would not put Merlin to death before he had heard what he had to say.

Then Merlin said to Vortigern, "If you give me leave to speak to the wise men, I will show you the truth so that it cannot be doubted."

"If you do as you say," said Vortigern, "I give them to your power; you may do as you wish with them."

Then Merlin spoke to the wise men, asking them why the tower fell.

"We cannot say why the tower fell; we can only tell by divination what will secure it," they said.

But Merlin said, "You think to make the Duke a fool. You knew that you had no answer, and if you did not provide one, he would kill you. You thought instead to delay him, and hoped that I might kill him to prevent him from killing me."

Vortigern, watching all the wise men closely, could tell from their reactions that what Merlin said was true. "Then what is the reason for the falling of the tower?"

"Sir," said Merlin, "beneath the earth here there is a great mass of water and in the darkness beneath it are two great stones. Beneath the stones are two dragons. One is white, the other is red. As you build the tower, it presses downward into the earth, and the stones begin to weigh heavily on the dragons, at which they rise up against the stones, creating a wave in the water and shaking the earth until the tower falls."

"This seems unlikely," said Vortigern drily.

"You may see it for yourself," said Merlin. "Bring forth your laborers and let them dig deeply."

Then there was a great earth-working, and soon enough the laborers came to the water and could not dig farther. Vortigern was astonished and asked how the water was to be moved.

The child replied, "Make deep  ditches all around and draw it off by gutter." And he drew on the ground to show them how this was best done.

They followed the child's plan, and as the water ran out, Merlin said, "When the dragons are uncovered, they will fight a great battle and one will slay the other. For safety's sake, bring your men, and summon people from all over your realm to come. Many should see this wonder, for it is a sign of great things."

Thus Vortigern did, and as the water was drained, they saw the stones.

"We shall solve the problem of the dragons easily," said Merlin. "As soon as they feel each other, the two great worms will fight until one dies."

"Which shall slay the other?" asked Vortigern.

"This is a great secret," said Merlin, "but in secret I will tell you and the four knights who brought me to you." When Vortigern had withdrawn with the four knights and Merlin to a private chamber, Merlin continued, saying, "That you may know that all that I say is the truth, know that the white worm will slay the red worm, but shall be gravely wounded. As for the rest, it must be seen."

Then they pulled up the stones in the early morning, and the people saw the dragons and were afraid, because they seemed fierce and deadly. The dragons sprang up and fought together tooth and claw, scraping and biting in a great noise, until midday. At that time, it seemed that perhaps the red dragon would win, but the white breathed out such a terror flame that the red dragon, screaming, was burned up. The white dragon lay down to rest, but its wounds were so terrible that it died within three days.

"Now you may build your tower, and be assured that it will not fall," said Merlin.

"Tell me the meaning of all this," Vortigern said.

"I will gladly do so, if you honor your promise to give the wise men into my power, and further promise your protection of me before all the people, and guarantee me that no one shall do me harm throughout your realm."

When Vortigern had done this, Merlin pardoned the wise men who had sought his death, on condition that they would do penance for it, and said to all who were assembled, "Hear now the meaning of the dragons. You, O Duke, are the red dragon, and the sons of Constans are the white dragon. You have taken their heritage wrongfully, and thus one of you, the red or the white, must die. You seem to have the upper hand, but by their power they shall burn you. Your tower shall not be finished before you fall."

Then Vortigern was afraid and, being afraid, grew angry. "Where are these children now?"

And Merlin said, "They are even now at sea, with a great host. They will arrive in vengeance within three months."

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Iustinus Martyr

 Today is the feast of St. Justin Martyr, one of the patron saints of the blog. A Middle Platonist philosopher from Syria, he converted to Christianity and was martyred in the anti-Christian persecutions under Marcus Aurelius. From the Second Apology, Chapter XIII:

For I myself, when I discovered the wicked disguise which the evil spirits had thrown around the divine doctrines of the Christians, to turn aside others from joining them, laughed both at those who framed these falsehoods, and at the disguise itself, and at popular opinion; and I confess that I both boast and with all my strength strive to be found a Christian; not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not in all respects similar, as neither are those of the others, Stoics, and poets, and historians. For each man spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it. But they who contradict themselves on the more important points appear not to have possessed the heavenly wisdom, and the knowledge which cannot be spoken against. Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians. For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them. For the seed and imitation imparted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him.

'Word', of course, is logos, which also means 'reason'.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Two Poem Drafts

 The World Is Washed by Seas

The world is washed by seas; the lands emerge
in greens and browns that bear a living crest.
From shore to shore the salted sea-waves surge
as winds in spirals wander east and west.
In every realm the lovers take their rest
beneath a leafy roof of woven trees
or near a languid pool refreshed by breeze;
they read perhaps some verse like this you read,
and in the poem's words they find love's keys
to lands as vast as worlds for those who heed.

The Lachrymose and Melancholy Storm

The lachrymose and melancholy storm
on far horizon blooms. The scent of rain
is strong as clouds unwind and then reform.

Some memories will hold a hint of pain,
though joyful; they are clouds of distant gloom,
a sweet beauty in which grief may remain.

I sit beside a window in my room;
the distant storming clouds for me perform
while lightnings here and there my thoughts illume.

The lachrymose and melancholy storm
on far horizon blooms. The scent of rain
is strong as clouds unwind and then reform,
like memories unwind and then reform.


 DARET Jacques Visitation

[Jacques Daret, The Visitation, from the Arras Altarpiece. The man on the left is a portrait of the donor.]

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”... And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.

[Luke 1:39-45, 56 NRSVCE]

Luke tells us that after she learned that she was pregnant with John, Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months and that the Annunciation to Mary occurred in the six month, after which Mary visits Elizabeth "with haste", so this indicates that at the Visitation Jesus would have been early in his first trimester and John at least early in his third, which, of course, is why Mary stays for "about three months".

Monday, May 30, 2022

The Tribunal of Conscience

 It has been common to talk about conscience in judicial terms for many centuries now. It is spoken of as a court; it summons us to the bar; it judges our case and convicts or absolves us as guilty or innocent. Such is the way we commonly speak of it, and people will go well out of their way to talk about it in these terms. Clearly, something about this way of talking seems to fit very well with our actual experience of conscience.

A natural idea would be that all this tribunal talk is a loose metaphor. Conscience has certain internal features, and, looking around, we happen to find courts in the external world, and our experience with such courts, formed for entirely different reasons, reminds us vaguely of our experience of conscientious struggle, thus giving warrant to the metaphor. But I think this is wrong. In fact, the reverse is true. The reason why we talk about conscience in judicial terms is that judicial terms get their meaning from conscience. In calling conscience a tribunal, we are not applying court terms to conscience in a metaphor; we are recognizing that what is done in a court is an extension of, and an imitation of, conscience. We think of courts as considering guilt and innocence because this is what conscience does; because acts of conscience are judgments, we think of courts as judging. We have a judiciary because human life is conscientious, and conscience is judicial.

This is much less paradoxical than it might seem, because in fact courts in history have often been seen as expressing conscience. This is obscured in modern times because when we think of tribunals, we tend to think of courts of law. Modern courts of law have many obvious affinities with conscience, but for a strict court of law they are often rather abstract. However, there are kinds of courts, and some of them are such that the analogy is not only very strong, but they themselves were explicitly conceived of in terms of conscience. This is very obviously the case with courts of equity, like Chancery. One of the old names for an equity court is 'court of conscience', and judges in equity courts were charged with deciding cases in a manner appropriate to conscience. This conscience was not supposed to be the private conscience of the judge but a sort of public conscience, that is to say, the shared conscience of reasonable men, or else the conscience of the King qua the one who is supposed to care for all of his subjects (the two ways of looking at it were not generally distinguished very precisely). Chancery existed in part because there were cases in which direct application of the law without anything else would give results that would violate public conscience, so remedy was needed for this defect, but also in part because there were many cases that were important, and indeed, important for law, where conscientious action was not negotiable. The obvious case, always associated with Chancery, was the cases of trusts. If I entrust you with something, all honorable people of conscience would act in certain ways with regard to it, and if you failed to act in this way, even if you did not break the letter of the law, you would still have violated trust. So Chancery, as an expression of public conscience would serve as a guideline for your own action and would supply any defects arising from your lack of honorable conscience.* 

Nor was this conception of the acts of courts as acts of public conscience confined to Chancery; Chancery was simply the highest of court of conscience. And while the English development of this idea was very explicit, you find hints of at least broadly similar conceptions in other contexts. Courts arise because people appeal to the consciences of Kings to judge cases, and as this becomes too complicated for a single person to handle, the same structure, the structure of conscience, becomes formalized in external procedures of various kinds so that people who are not the King can serve the same function of being the determinative conscience for society.

This has not gone completely unnoticed; Kant has some discussions of conscience as a tribunal, and it is clear that he takes this to be more than a metaphor. Kant's argument is that in the experience of conscience we find ourselves being in a sense two people -- obviously not two natural people, but two moral persons. Conscience is an experience of multiple perspectives: we are accuser and advocate and judge, all simultaneously -- but distinctly. In conscience, we think of ourselves socially, splitting our point of view, in order to judge our own maxims, and our experience of conscience is of an inner court.** And I think Kant is right, as far as this goes.

We see this further in the fact that all of the problems that can arise with conscience, and that can be pinpointed without expressing them in judicial problems, are nonetheless also problems that you can find in a judiciary. There are several kinds of erroneous conscience: the scrupulous conscience (overinclined to think things are wrong or bad), the perplexed conscience (finding sin in both omission and performance of an action), the lax conscience (overinclined to think things are innocent, or else that bad things are not very bad), the trivial conscience (treating little matters as if they were great matters). All of these are ways courts can go wrong, as well, and in fact, you can identify features in our court systems that clearly are attempts to reduce the chance that our court will be scrupulous, or perplexed, or lax, or trivial in its judgments. We can all recognize that the hanging judge in some way violates the purpose of a court; and we can recognize it as such because the scrupulous conscience in much the same way violates the ends of conscience. But we also have the same deontic paradox with courts that we have with conscience, namely that they have authority even when wrong and in need of correction, which can create situations of conflicting obligations.


* There is a fascinating discussion of these things in Dennis R. Klinck's Conscience, Equity and the Court of Chancery in Early Modern England, Routledge (New York: 2010).

** Allen Wood has a nice discussion of this in his article, "Kant on Conscience".

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Renaissance Popes XVI: Paulus IV

Birth Name: Gian Pietro Carafa

Lived: 1476-1559

Regnal Name: Paul IV, in honor of Pope Paul III, who had made him cardinal.

Regnal Life: 1555-1559

Gian Pietro Carafa was born in Capriglia Irpina in the Kingdom of Naples. He would eventually do diplomatic work for the Holy See under Leo X, At one point he was made papal nuncio to Spain and absolutely detested it, an experience that would color his entire career. In 1524, with the permission of Clement VII, he gave up all of his benefices and joined the Congregation of Clerks Regular, most commonly known as the Theatines. He was actually one of the founders, along with St. Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene (usually known as St. Cajetan), Paolo Consiglieri, and Bonifacio da Colle. While it was founded by St. Cajetan, Carafa was its first general superior. They were dedicated to the cross, and their mission was to encourage moral life among both priests and laity. They had restrictions on what property could be owned by members, which meant in practice that only the aristocracy could afford to join, so they only grew slowly, but they would eventually become quite important. Carafa was made cardinal in 1536 and was chosen by Paul III to be on his commission for reform. From then, on Cardinal Carafa would be a central pillar of the curial reform party, and it was he who seems to have convinced Paul III to expand the powers and function of the Roman Inquisition.

At the death of Marcellus II, the general feeling seems to have been that everyone could expect yet another long conclave. However, the French faction was at a weak point in comparison with the Imperial faction, so the primary decision would be with the swing voters, mostly Italian, who were in neither group. There was a strong inclination toward Cardinal Pole, but a number of things stood in the way of such a choice; the cardinals were reluctant to elect someone absent, and Pole was still in England, and there was a fair amount of opposition to his candidacy on the part of the Imperial faction. Cardinal Carafa in previous enclaves had consistently opposed Pole, whom he suspected of Protestant sympathies. The Spanish cardinals, in the Imperial faction, opposed Carafa, with whom they had had bad history, and very few of the cardinals liked him, but it was difficult to work around the fact that he was a very obvious candidate, and could certainly pull a fair number of votes as a major leader in church reform. Cardinal Puteo was the other major candidate, and could guarantee both some votes from the neutrals and strong support from the Imperials, but the French were strongly against him, and the Imperial faction alienated Cardinal Farnese, who was the major influence on the Italian vote. Thus the conclave elected Carafa, who became Paul IV.

The election of Paul IV would have extensive consequences for the course of church reform. From Leo X up to Paul IV, the popes had opposed Protestantism, but had taken reconciliation as the primary goal. Paul IV was not a reconciler, by temperament or wish. Thus with Paul we get the first actively anti-Protestant pope. Not only did Paul refuse to compromise with Protestants in any way, his opposition would be aggressive, and would spill over to his interaction with Catholics, because Paul's anti-Protestantism was such that he not only attacked Protestants, he tended to attack any Catholic who attempted to find common ground with them. In papal conclaves, including the one that eventually elected him, he had worked to block any candidates he thought were even soft on Protestantism, and becoming pope would not moderate his attitude.

He was a prickly character at the best of times. He contracted prejudices easily and held grudges more easily. (His prejudice against the Spanish was almost legendary, and from the beginning of his papacy he was scheming to eliminate Spanish from Italy.) He did not like to be disturbed in the morning, when he was praying and reading. He kept strict rules of fasting, and so did not often eat with others when he could avoid it. He hated being contradiction, and he became famous for his stubbornness, having the reputation of someone who, once he has decided something, becomes more and more obstinately resistant the more anyone begged him to do otherwise. Cardinal Morone at one point remarked to Cardinal Pole that he had such a high conception of the dignity of the pope that he took offences against his dignity as if they were insults against God. When dealing with others, he generally did not ask; he commanded, and it did not matter to him if you were a king or an emperor -- indeed, since one of his goals was to eliminate the dependency of the Church on the kings, this might make him more likely to give orders, as it certainly made him more likely to invest in princely magnificence. He had always been frank and abrupt, sometimes to the point of tactlessness, and the papacy simply aggravated the condition. He was notorious for his explosive temper. He seems to have feared nothing, which frightened everybody else. And he was a zealot for reform.

Paul's reforms began with those that Marcellus had not had the time to carry out. He reappointed the cardinals that Marcellus had appointed to a commission on reform. On July 17, 1555 he published an encyclical, Cum nimis absurdum, that carried out another reform planned by Marcellus, but on a scale that Marcellus had never remotely suggested. Marcellus had proposed, for reasons that are unclear, to require Jews in Rome to wear a distinguishing mark -- a yellow hat; Paul imposed this requirement, and imposed extensive restrictions on Jewish buying and selling, and created the notorious Jewish ghetto in Rome, banishing all the Jews in Rome to it. We are very far from the days of Alexander VI, when the relations between the pope and the Jews of Rome were so friendly that the pope's enemies accused him of literally being a secret Jew. This reform gives us a good example of the typical characteristics of Paul's approach to reformation. The bare distinguishing of Jew and Christian was not a plausible end of church reform; but to what significant end could it possibly be a means? It was not a reasonable means of evangelism; it could do nothing to improve morals in the priesthood and the religious orders; it would not encourage peace among Christian nations; it would not address the Ottoman Empire in the east; it would not reconcile the Protestants or undo the schisms that were crackling through Europe; it would not increase the independence of the Holy See. I suspect -- and I can only suspect -- that Marcellus had had the idea that there was some kind of Marrano problem fomenting heresy, but even if we set aside the fact that the number of Marranos who had immigrated to Rome could not have been large, it would simply seem to be bad priorities, because there is no possible problem the Jews could have been causing that would even approach being on the scale of the problems with Protestants, or indeed, most of the problems faced by the Holy See. It may have been just virtue-signaling, as a very visible thing one could do to show seriousness. But Paul took up this dubious reform as if it were a major matter, and to a degree that would have been immoderate even if it had been a reasonable reform in the first place. This characterizes Paul's entire papal tenure. He was zealous for reform, yes, but his ideas of things to do for reform seem to have been patchwork, sometimes with only the vaguest relation to any actual reforming, and yet they were pursued as if they were not means but fundamental ends. The Jewish community pooled its resources and offered Paul a very large amount of money if he would withdraw the bull, but naturally Paul refused, and probably was offended by the suggestion that he could be bought.

Unsurprisingly, Carafa also further extended the scope and powers of the Roman Inquisition, even giving it powers to handle nonreligious matters. Relatively small infractions, like failing to fast on a fast day, were, in typical Pauline fashion, now attached to severe penalties. Inevitably, the result of this was that the Roman Inquisition was so overloaded with cases that it could not handle them all properly. He also established the first Index of Forbidden Books, which restricted access to and publication of the works of something like 550 authors. It was not a popular move in Europe generally, and much less so in Renaissance Italy; Michele Cardinal Ghisleri, the head of the Roman Inquisition, who largely went along with what Paul asked, wrote a letter of protest over the lack of moderation in the list, arguing that many of the works on the list, like those of Ariosto, were absurd choices for such an register. Paul also made the laws of Rome against public immorality much more strict and made hunting and dancing illegal in the region around the city.

On May 31, 1557, Paul IV had Giovanni Cardinal Morone arrested on suspicion of heresy. Morone was a very popular cardinal, a major supporter of the Jesuits, and, despite being in some ways an old-style Renaissance cardinal, an active reformer. Cardinal Morone was tried by the Roman Inquisition; it's clear from context that Paul also wanted to try Cardinal Pole, but Pole was still in England. He had to defend himself from the charge of reading and circulating forbidden books (he noted that as a papal nuncio he was sometimes required to read them in order to assess other books, and that the examples of circulating were prior to the more recent restrictions), holding the Lutheran doctrine of justification (he noted that his attempts to find an acceptable compromise with Lutheranism were long in the past and that he accepted the Tridentine decree), his association with Cardinal Pole (a good Catholic, Morone insisted), his generosity to Lutherans (good policy at the time, he insisted), refusing to venerate icons (he noted that this was outright false). He also noted that most of the events for which he was criticized were over ten years old, and, indeed, search of all of his papers and books turned up nothing objectionable. But Morone stayed in prison and, given the pope's vehemence on the matter, very few outside the Society of Jesus were brave enough to defend him. Paul brought before the cardinals the draft of a bull that would strip any cardinal who was brought before Inquisition proceedings of all passive and active rights of the cardinalate, including the right to vote in conclave. The cardinals naturally pointed out the obvious problems with this: anyone can be accused of anything by anyone, and it made no sense to exclude cardinals who had not actually been convicted. Whatever Paul might have thought of this, he had no good immediate response to it, so redrafted it to say that if anyone had lapsed from the faith at any time, their election was invalid; the cardinals were willing to accept this, but Paul issued a decree on his own authority under which anyone accused of heresy could not become pope. It was clear that he was afraid that Morone would be the next pope. Paul then offered Morone pardon if he would confess. Morone of course insisted that he was innocent, so his trial started up again. And so it went until Paul IV died.

One of the curious things about Paul is his nepotism. One might have thought his rigidity would exclude it, but in fact it worked the other way. As Cardinal Carafa, he had tangled with most of the cardinals, he suspected a significant number of them of being crypto-Protestants, and he was well aware that many of them had only very reluctantly voted for him. He didn't trust them. So he had almost immediately (only two weeks after he became pope) made his nephew, Carlo Carafa, cardinal. Carlo Carafa was a mercenary soldier who in 1545 had been banished from Naples for the crimes of murder and banditry. He was later accused of other murder attempts and of massacring a group of wounded Spanish soldiers in a hospital. As cardinal-nephew he was effectively given full authority over the States of the Church, which he ruled with greed, violence, and aggression. He also had a widespread reputation for homosexuality that seems to go beyond the usual Renaissance mudslinging. Paul, of course, generally refused to listen to criticisms, but eventually could not ignore the evidence himself. In 1559, he removed Carlo, in typical Paul IV fashion criticizing his other cardinals for not doing more to bring the problems to his attention. He replaced him with his nineteen-year-old grand-nephew, Alfonso Carafa, whom he had made a cardinal in 1557. Another nephew, Giovanni Carafa, was made Captain General of the Church, and was removed from the position at the same time as Carlo. One thing that is particularly remarkable about the incident is that he actually publicly apologized for having appointed them to positions of power; something in what he learned about their activities must have really shaken him.

Given Paul's desire to remove Spanish influence from Italy, his general prejudice against the Spanish, and having his hotheaded nephews as advisers, it is perhaps inevitable that he got into war with Spain. When Paul came to the papal throne, the Last Italian War, an immensely expensive war between France and the Holy Roman Empire, had been going on, and would last until 1559. In 1556, the French signed a temporary truce with the Spanish, and Paul became very angry at this, egged on by Carlo. He went on to try to persuade the French to join the Papal States in invading Spanish-controlled Naples.  Philip II of Spain got wind of this, and naturally responded with a preemptive invasion of the Papal States. The French sent help, but it was defeated. The papal army was simply not robust enough to take on the 12000 men sent by Philip under the Duke of Alba, and so, as the Spanish approached Rome, Paul, out of fear of a second Sack of Rome, hastily made a peace in which the Spanish would withdraw and the Papal States would declare neutrality. All in all, the Spanish were remarkably sporting about it, they could have demanded much more, and they gave the pope the most generous possible treaty (so generous that Emperor Charles criticized it for conceding too much). Paul had accomplished nothing, but he had lucked out from the fact that the Spanish were willing to bill him so little for his warmongering. Ironically, one of the reasons for this seems to have been Cardinal Morone, who provided suggestions to the Spanish ambassador as to how to navigate Paul's touchy irascibility.

With regard to the issue of Protestantism, Paul accomplished remarkably little. He could not stop the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which gave Protestant princes in the Empire the right to be Lutheran. The situation in England was deteriorating gravely, but he did nothing at all to shore up Cardinal Pole. With the accession of Elizabeth I, diplomatic relations were broken off completely, although in fairness Paul for once seems to have at least tried moderation, refusing to condemn Elizabeth before he had actual evidence of her opposition to the Church.

Nonetheless, Paul's reformation activity was not wholly without good result. Naturally, he gave the Theatines a considerable amount of support, and he did the same with a number of similar groups, like the Barnabites. (Others did not do so well, however. It is said that when St. Ignatius of Loyola heard that Carafa had become pope, his heart sank, and indeed, relations between the Society of Jesus and Paul were occasionally rocky. As Cardinal Carafa, he had always disliked the Jesuit approach to things; he had argued with Ignatius before, and, as he often did, had developed a deep prejudice against him. The Jesuits, however, made an effort to work with him, even if he didn't do much to be easy to work with. After Ignatius's death, with his typical tactlessness Paul would criticize him to Jesuits for being excessively controlling, and the Jesuits spent the last year or two of his papacy worried that he would strip the Society of its distinctive constitution, and he almost certainly did intend to do it at some point.) He was vehemently against simony, and enforced the laws against it vigorously, and in this, at least, used the Roman Inquisition very successfully. He pushed through reforms to require bishops to be resident in their sees. He also worked extensively on reform of the monasteries, although he mixed in with reasonable reforms more typically Pauline solutions like mass arrests of vagrant monks. He was one of the popes to recognize that it was not enough simply to implement reforms; they had to be reviewed for success, as well, and he created a commission to this end. Likewise, he recognized that while practicality pressured reform to be patchwork, there needed to be something to unify the whole, and so spent the last part of his papal administration working on a general reform bull.

His health declined toward the end of his reign, and in 1559, a combination of fasting and summer heat broke it entirely. On August 18, he died, still working on a whole pile of reforms. Before he had even died, the Romans, who hated him and his severity, broke into a large-scale riot. They put the yellow hat he had imposed on the Jews on his statue, then decapitated it and threw it into the river. They broke into the jails and freed the prisoners. They broke into the offices of the Inquisition, murdered an inquisitor, and then set the building on fire,  and were only barely talked out of doing the same to the nearby church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Wherever the Carafa family arms could be found on buildings or monuments, they were torn down. So great was the rioting that when Carlo Carafa came into Rome to bury his uncle, they did the funeral in secret so that it would not be disrupted.

If we were going to determine who the worst pope of the entire Renaissance was, my vote would be solidly for the infinitely self-righteous Paul IV. The man was a mass of bigotries, prejudices, and grudges. He could never distinguish means and ends properly. His sense of priorities was completely corrupted, treating minor matters on the same level as major ones. He certainly did a great deal for reforming activities, most of which were disasters, and he actively stood in the way of many genuine reforms by his intransigence. If any kind of reform deviated from his idea of reform, he attacked it. If any Catholic tried to find a peaceful solution to the Protestant schism, he attacked them. If anyone protested his severity, he insisted that lack of severity was the reason for the problems of the Church. His treatment of Cardinal Morone and Cardinal Pole, both men greatly his superior in character, goes beyond just zeal and borders on unreasoning hatred, and during his administration entirely innocent Catholics found themselves hauled before a Roman Inquisition. Almost nothing he ever did was moderate or properly reasoned, and so almost every reform he did, even if it had a seed of a good idea in it, was spoiled from the beginning. He did terrible things, and justified it to himself as being part of church reform. Paul IV was a disaster. Four solid years of disaster. I think he can be credited with essentially breaking the Renaissance approach to reform in ways from which it would never recover. 

Fortunately, a new kind of reform had already been building, and Paul's successor would be man who, though far from perfect, was far more generous-minded and reasonable, and would do a great deal to smooth the transition from the Renaissance reformation movement to the reformation movement we usually call the Counter-Reformation.