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Institute for St. Anselm Studies

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Abstracts (Fall 2003)

Anselm on God's Perfect Freedom
Katherin A. Rogers
University of Delaware

According to the Catechism, "...God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom, and goodness" (section 295). Anselm and Thomas Aquinas offer significantly different analyses of divine freedom, especially freedom to create. Anselm holds that God "must" do the best. From the perspective of divine creation, setting aside the impact of creaturely free choices, ours is the best and only world God could actualize. Thomas holds that God might have made other, better or worse worlds, or he might not have created at all. I argue that Anselm's position accords better with the Catechism and is a more philosophically and religiously adequate analysis of divine freedom.

God's Personal Freedom: A Response to Katherin Rogers
Kevin M. Staley
Saint Anselm College

This paper defends the thesis that God need not have created this world and could have created some other world. God's freedom, as it pertains to creating, is the freedom of indifference. Many object that such freedom is incompatible with God's goodness, wisdom, and perfect love. They argue that the freedom of indifference implies arbitrariness and a lack of a genuine concern for His creation on God's part. I respond by showing that even if the notion of "the best possible world" were philosophically coherent, God's goodness, wisdom, and love would not be compromised were he to have created a world that is less than best.

Anselm's Proslogion: The Desire for the Word
Eileen C. Sweeney
Boston College

The paper confronts an important tension in Anselm's project in the Proslogion that mirrors a conflict in how the Proslogion has been read. Some readers see the Proslogion as the successful search for necessary and indubitable arguments, while others read the work as expressing pious incapacity to understand God. Historians of philosophy tend to do the first, historians of religion and spirituality, the second. The paper argues that Anselm's project in the Proslogion, is one that Anselm himself views as both necessary and paradoxical. The paper examines the way in which "faith seeking understanding," the ontological argument, and the derivation of the divine attributes from the original formula in the Proslogion repeat this pattern of yielding conclusions which are both necessary and paradoxical.

Creation as Existential Contingency
Donald J. Keefe, S.J.
Fordham University (Emeritus)

This article criticizes St. Thomas' reliance upon "contingency" as the basis for his postulate of the prior possibility of a natural creation, whether creation be understood actively as a divine ac-tion independent of the Father's Missions of the Son and the Spirit or passively, as an ungraced natural order of finite being whose intrinsic intelligibility is governed by the Aristotelian act-potency metaphysical analysis, and is thus reducible to the necessary causes, i.e., the transcen-dental relations, of matter-form and substance-accident, which together provide the essential in-telligibility of material substance. Under this determinist metaphysical analysis, these causes cannot but include its necessary existence as a proper accident integral to its essential form: i.e., existence is already inherent in the Aristotelian essence. Because the Aristotelian essence pos-sesses no potentiality for existential actuation ab extra, i.e., by a Creator, St. Thomas' use of "contingency" to describe the non-necessary existence of an Aristotelian essence can only be ab-stract, consequently, it represents an appeal to unreason. At best, his attribution of contingent existence to the essentially uncreatable world of Aristotelian essences amounts to an illegitimate passage from the ideal order of purely logical possibility (mere abstract contingency) to that of metaphysical possibility (essential potentiality), and can provide for no more than a nominal creator or creation.

Creation as Existential Contingency: A Response
Earl Muller, S.J.
Sacred Heart Seminary (Detroit)

Donald Keefe has consistently provided a trenchant critique of traditional Thomism. His paper for this conference focuses this critique on the question of contingency in Thomas's thought and the necessity ingredient in the Aristotelianism on which it is built. There are more resources in the thought of Thomas himself that is supportive of Keefe's project than is generally recognized. I would also agree with Keefe's observation that Thomas's system is an incomplete transformation of Aristotelianism.
Thomas's act-potency understanding of Christ is isolated from the rest of his Aristotelian-based system. It is awkwardly understood in terms of the classic Thomistic correlations: form-matter, accident-substance, existence-essence. Thomas is silent on this point as well as on the freedom required of the act-potency correlation of divinity and humanity in Christ. This brings us back to the question that Keefe has raised with regard to the issue of contingency, necessity, and freedom.

A Philosophical Response to Donald Keefe's Creation as Existential Contingency
Roger Duncan
Fairfield University

In "Creation as Existential Contingency" Fr. Donald Keefe offers a précis of some of his most important theological contentions, claims that have renewing potential for metaphysics in our time. Philosophical objections to his paper might be raised chiefly around his neglect of analogy and consequent disregard for the subtle dialectic between philosophy and theology. Of a piece with this tendency is his summary dismissal of cosmological argumentation for the existence of God. Philosophical contributions outweigh these objections, however, opposing difference and relation to the monotony and cosmic pessimism of classical monistic visions of ultimate Being, insisting on freedom as a transcendental, and pointing toward a resolution of the time-eternity dichotomy.

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