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Abstracts (spring 2005)

Analogy and the Transcendental Properties of Being as the Key to Metaphysical Science
Oliva Blanchette
Boston College
ABSTRACT

Metaphysics, as it was first thought of by Aristotle, has to be conceived as a science, but as one that distinguishes itself from all the particular sciences, first by raising the question of the first and most universal causes and secondly by taking as its subject of consideration being simply as being in its most universal and in its most concrete sense as present in experience. This implies that being must be taken as analogous from the very beginning of the investigation, not in the sense that it would diffuse the unity of this science into a mere difference of differences, but in the sense that it would raise this science to a higher kind of unity according to an order of different degrees of being as they relate to a primary analogate as the one to which all relate more or less distantly. To enter more deeply into this analogous subject of consideration one must further distinguish transcendental properties that follow being in its analogous and transcendental sense. In the end, when the question of a first, universal cause of being as being, or of a summit of being that would be totally transcendent, is finally raised, all of this a priori conception of being as analogous according to different degrees with its corresponding degrees of oneness, activity, truth and goodness must be brought into play in relation to things as they come under sense experience as moved, caused, contingent and exhibiting different degrees of perfection in being such as living, sensing and rational consciousness, in order to conclude to the truth of the proposition "God is." 

 

Human Being as Primary Analogate of Being: Reflections on Blanchette's "Key to Metaphysical Science"
Jeremy D. Wilkins
School of Theology at St. Mary's Seminary
University of St. Thomas
ABSTRACT

Professor Blanchette proposes taking human being as the primary analogate for metaphysics. I would modify this by taking, as primary analogate, the pattern of operations by which human persons are related to the totality of being. In this way the primary analogate in metaphysics is sublated in what theology names the imago Dei, and forms the basis for analogically conceiving God as an infinite act of understanding love, and the Trinitarian processions as the immanent terms of those operations. The continuity between metaphysical and theological inquiry is thus secured not only by a shared analogical procedure but also by a common analogate.

 

Having Our Cake and Eating It, Metaphysically Speaking: Analogy as the Key to the Unity of Metaphysics as a Science of Being qua Being
A Response to Oliva Blanchette
Gavin T. Colvert
Assumption College
ABSTRACT

This paper responds to Oliva Blanchette's essay, "Analogy and the Transcendental Properties of Being as the Key to Metaphysical Science." The author raises some critical questions, while agreeing with Blanchette's thesis that the doctrine of analogy is central to the resolution of problems in contemporary metaphysics. The response takes it starting point from Blanchette's assertion that 'analytical philosophy' fails to engage in genuinely metaphysical inquiry because it attempts to reduce all predications to univocal terms. The paper argues that 'analytical philosophy' is itself an analogous term and that some analysts have rejected this attempted reduction. Wittgenstein's later work is offered as an example. These observations about analytical philosophy are relevant to the central concerns of Blanchette's paper because the internal debate among analytical philosophers mirrors a perennial tension between the attempt to preserve the unitary character of metaphysics and the desire to have a science of the real. Analysts who reject analogous predication often do so because they think that non-univocal discourse will violate the truth-conditions for scientific inferences, because it will require repudiation of the principle of non-contradiction. This position has tended to predominate in analytical philosophy. Wittgenstein attempts to preserve the unity of philosophical reflection by recognizing the analogous nature of language. The price for Wittgenstein, however, is that we must reject philosophy's pretensions to be a science of the real. The response argues that this tension clarifies some of the challenges faced by Blanchette's proposal to recover the unity of metaphysics as a science of being qua being in the doctrine of analogy.

 

Augustine on Freedom and God
Montague Brown
Saint Anselm College
ABSTRACT

Augustine wrote much about the relationship between God's activity and human freedom. Early and late in his career, he insists on two truths: God is the cause of every activity and we have freedom of choice. He does not mean that our actions are both determined and free. If this is what compatibilism means, then Augustine is not a compatibilist. He simply insists on human freedom and denies that God's providence takes it away. But neither does he mean that our free actions are not caused by God. This would be a metaphysical impossibility as well as heretical. If being free from God is what libertarianism means, then Augustine is not a libertarian. The best we can do philosophically to explain how both propositions are true is negative: we can show that it is not possible to deny either one. We cannot deny that everything comes from God, for from any exercise of our reason thinking about the world, we come to the knowledge of the existence of God the creator, source of all that is. Nor can we to deny that we have free choice, for without it "we" cannot act at all. The only possible positive explanation is theological. In Christ are both divine activity and human freedom. We live and act in grace by freely entering into a covenant freely offered by God.

 

Anselm on Grace and Free Will
Katherin A. Rogers
University of Delaware
ABSTRACT

Anselm is the first philosopher to attempt a systematic analysis of libertarian freedom. Regarding grace, he embrace's the position that grace is necessary for salvation and unmerited, while preserving a role for human freedom that is not in the least Pelagian. This paper sketches the problems with Augustine's compatibilism and with Pelagianism, and shows how Anselm reconciles human choice with classical theism, which entails that God is the source of everything that has ontological status. The paper concludes with an argument that, although Anselm holds that God does not offer grace to everyone, he could and should have done so.

 

Aquinas: Compatibilist or Libertarian?
Kevin M. Staley
Saint Anselm College

ABSTRACT
Both compatibilist and libertarian models of human freedom suffer from certain deficiencies. The former, in which an agent's actions are determined by intrinsic causes, seems to undermine moral responsibility. The latter, in which an agent's actions are not determined, seems to flout the principle of sufficient reason. In this essay I endeavor to show that Aquinas' theory of human freedom, which is grounded in the disproportion between the formal object of the human will (goodness as such) and the finite goods that are the objects of human choices, skirts the difficulties of both compatibilism and libertarianism.

 

Substitution and the Biblical Background to Cur Deus Homo
David Neelands
Trinity College, Toronto School of Theology
ABSTRACT

Anselm and others have frequently been criticized for one consequence of the notion of substitution implied in the theory of satisfaction: it appears to make the saving work of Christ a remote matter, alien from the human subject of salvation and appropriated remotely by that subject. Anselm is often blamed for introducing this notion into Christian theology. When the biblical background of Anselm's theory is considered and it is noted that substitution is a relatively accidental feature of Biblical models of human salvation through Christ, this criticism may appear to be mistaken. This paper will examine briefly several biblical images for salvation, identifying the relevance of substitution to each of them, as a preparation for a consideration of the relevance of substitution for Anselm's account. It will be argued that substitution is an inevitable feature of the model of satisfaction, which Anselm took from sources ultimately biblical, and it conveys an important truth about salvation in Christ. It does not necessarily become, however, on that basis, an inevitable feature of the theological account of Christ's saving work and is not unduly emphasized by Anselm, at least in comparison with some of his successors. This argument will involve a revisiting of the older position of Jean Rivière on the satisfaction of Christ.

 

The Ontological Proof, the Option, and the Unique Necessaire: Maurice Blondel's Examination of the Proof in Anselm, Descartes, and Malebranche
Gregory B. Sadler
Ball State University
ABSTRACT

Maurice Blondel makes reference to and use of the ontological argument both in his early L'action (1893) and his later metaphysical Trilogy. This paper examines Blondel's interpretation of the argument as a central part of his philosophy and Blondel's discussions of the argument in his interpretation of Anselm, Descartes, and Malebranche. The first part of the paper discusses Blondel's reinterpretation of the argument in L'action (1893) and the second part discusses his further reinterpretation in La Pensée. The third part discusses Blondel's interpretation of the ontological argument in Anselm, Descartes, and Malebranche in relation to broader themes motivating their work, which he discusses in articles in the Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale and the Rivista di filosofia neoscolastica. I argue that Blondel gives Descartes a priority over Anselm, and Malebranche over Descartes. In the fourth part, I argue that the priority Blondel assigns to Descartes over Anselm ought to be minimized, and discuss two similarities between Blondel's position and Anselm's position.