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Institute for St. Anselm Studies

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Abstracts (fall 2005)

What's the Difference? On the Metaphysics of Participation in a Christian Context
David C. Schindler
Villlanova University

The metaphysical notion of participation expresses the ontological dependence of things in the world on spiritual/intellectual realities, and ultimately on God. While the notion brings clearly to light God's presence in things, it tends, for the same reason, either to collapse into pantheism or, what amounts to the same, to deprive the world of any substantial reality of its own. This essay evaluates the place of this notion in Christian thought by exploring the question of difference in the structure of participation as it is found in Plato, Plotinus, and Aquinas.


Participation and Kenosis: A List for Schindler
Merold Westphal
Fordham University

Metaphysics is dangerous, for it easily lapses into onto-theology, subordinating our God-talk into a philosophical project that eliminates mystery, or tries to, and in the process renders our God-talk religiously useless. This is not necessary if, with Aquinas, we do metaphysics as ancilla theologiae and don't confuse fides quaerens intellectum with a demand for transparency. Schindler's paper "What's the Difference?" is evaluated from this perspective. It is questioned whether and why we need the principle he seeks; it is suggested that only theology and not metaphysics can provide it; and the hope is expressed that Schindler will expand his reflection on our participation in our own being to consider our participation in God's being.


Participation and Theology: A Response to Schindler's "What's The Difference?"
Christopher J. Malloy
University of Dallas

Schindler raises a compelling question: How can we uphold the goodness of creatures as creatures, the goodness of difference as difference, in a monotheistic context? Specifically, Christian philosophy asks whether in God there may be difference such that the difference of creatures from God might receive ultimate justification. In this paper, I note the strengths of Schindler's proposal, attempt to further his core concern by reference to Christ's theandric action, and present four criticisms. Chiefly, I ask whether Schindler observes with sufficient care the distinction between analogy and metaphor and whether, in the end, his solution begs the question.


Iris Murdoch, Spiritual Exercises, and Anselm's Proslogion and Prayers
Thomas S. Hibbs
Baylor University

In a number of philosophical essays, the novelist Iris Murdoch argued that modern ethics had become an abstract and arid affair, detached from a) the concrete conditions of human action, b) any overarching conception of the good, and c) from the sort of spiritual exercises that make moral transformation possible. In this essay, I argue that Anselm's writings provide a neglected resource for recovering what Murdoch thinks contemporary ethics has lost. It is not surprising that Anselm situates all human reasoning within an overarching account of the good, but what has been less obvious to readers is the way, not just in his prayers but even in his speculative writings, he never loses sight of the concrete conditions of the individual human soul, its virtues and vices. In Anselm's writings, we can discern patterns or practices that amount to spiritual exercises designed to bring about the moral transformation of the reader.

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