Papist Orthodoxy

November 30, 2009

Analogy in St. Thomas’ Philosophy

Filed under: Philosophy, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 1:55 am

Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is a general title covering many particular disciplines which should lead its practitioners to the knowledge of the highest things from a human perspective. From the proper Christian perspective, it should culminate in and serve as a handmaid to theology for true knowledge and wisdom culminates in its highest, first, and final cause which is God. One difficulty man encounters is that he cannot know God as He knows Himself. Man must proceed from God’s effects, viz. the created material order. Even with divine revelation, that same revelation is put in the words of human language, the tongues of men. Thus it was also for the Incarnation of the Word and His redemption of mankind. Christ spoke by similitude, using analogy and parables to instruct man about God. But the infinite God is beyond the powers of the finite intellects of men. Therefore we can only get to God by a likening of Him to His effects. As all men are meant to know God in some way, to philosophize in a meaningful manner requires man to use analogy, likening the highest object of our inquiries, God, to His effects, the sensible order. Thus it was for the Common Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas rooted his philosophy in the common, sensible, and named experiences of men rendering it accessible to everyone, and by use of analogy, unified his philosophy into an integrated whole which brought man from the his common, sensible experiences to the highest considerations of things divine.

Aristotle distinguishes between things named equivocally and univocally.1 Equivocal terms are terms which have more than one meaning, these meanings themselves having no apparent relation to each other. Univocal terms carry its meaning throughout its various uses. St. Thomas, in view of the end for which he wrote, refined Aristotle’s distinctions by employing analogous terms, terms which have more than one meaning, those meanings having some sort of relation to each other by way of comparison. D.Q. McInerny sums it up well when he says:

An analogous term might be described as a hybrid between a univocal term and an equivocal term. Analogous terminology, and behind that analogous thinking, is based upon the act of comparison, which is one of the most elemental movements in human reasoning.2

So it was that the Common Doctor, in seeking to keep an accessible consistency in his philosophy, employed analogous terms drawing comparisons between the sensible order, that order which is first known to man, and its cause – God. In order to illustrate this claim more clearly, let us look at St. Thomas’ considerations of “act” and “potency”.

In the De Potentia of the Disputed Questions, St. Thomas first asserts that one cannot consider act apart from potency for the terms are correlated. By way of a similitude, it would be difficult to consider “up” apart from “down”. Then, Thomas considers act as twofold: 1) as form, and 2) as operation. The first is first absolutely, but the second is first by our sensible experience:

I answer that to make the point at issue clear we must observe that we speak of power in relation to act. Now act is twofold; the first act which is a form, and the second act which is operation. Seemingly the word ‘act’ was first universally employed in the sense of operation, and then, secondly, transferred to indicate the form, inasmuch as the form is the principle and end of operation.3

So he begins with the sense experience wherein man sees ‘act’ as an operation – something doing something. The formal aspect of ‘act’ received its nomenclature from the operation even though the form as the principle of the operation is the cause of that operation. St. Thomas asserts that the term was literally “carried over” or “transferred” (translatum). Thus the first meaning or understanding of the term ‘act’, viz. its operation, was stretched, as it were, to encompass the cause of the operation, viz. the form, for the cause is related to the effect, the form is related to the operation. Now we have a term that has multiple but related meanings as we proceed “up”.

But before Thomas proceeds up, he proceeds “across”, for his next consideration is potency or power. He draw a similitude (similiter) with act and asserts that potentia is twofold as well drawing a direct relation with the respective twofold consideration of actus. Immediately following upon the above quotation, St. Thomas goes on to say:

Wherefore in like manner power is twofold: active power corresponding to that act which is operation—and seemingly it was in this sense that the word ‘power’ was first employed:— and passive power, corresponding to the first act or the form,—to which seemingly the name of power was subsequently given.4

Thus what was first attributed to actus by experience was similarly first attributed to potentia. If a thing acts, it follows that it has the power to act. This potency, to distinguish it, was give the appellation, “active potency” (potentia activa). Likewise, as the term, actus, was ‘transfered’ to encompass the cause which is the form, so the term, potentia, was transferred to encompass that sufferable or perfectible aspect of the form and was entitled, “passive potency” (potentia passiva). Whence it is that, by way of example, Orville the pianist can become the better pianist.5 Therefore, that which is prior absolutely received its name from its effect or operation.

This series of ‘stretching’ or ‘transferring’ from the action to the principle of action by way of analogy must find a termination; and so it does in the first act. However, as St. Thomas ascends he must begin a series of negations by which those things which cannot be attributed to God’s nature must be sloughed. As we see in Thomas’ arguments for the existence of God, that which is “able to be” must be brought into being by that which is (in act) already.6 And as God cannot suffer change and as He must be perfect, He cannot admit of a passive potency. We see how he argues this in the second part of his corpus of the same question we have been treating thus far:

Now, just as nothing suffers save by reason of a passive power, so nothing acts except by reason of the first act, namely the form. For it has been stated that this first act is so called from action. Now God is act both pure and primary, wherefore it is most befitting to him to act and communicate his likeness to other things: and consequently active power is most becoming to him: since power is called active forasmuch as it is a principle of action.7

An operation can only occur because of the form, i.e. an act can only be performed by something in act. But as we ascend up the material order to God, we must negate that passive power, for God cannot suffer or be perfected because He is perfect in Himself. Therefore, God has not passive potency but active potency, for though He cannot suffer, He is able to perform or not perform operations as He is the first principle of action.

Thomas explores this consideration of negation further to solidify and unify his argument, and he also takes the time to note the human need for analogous terminology:

We must also observe that our mind strives to describe God as a most perfect being. And seeing that it is unable to get at him save by likening him to his effects, while it fails to find any creature so supremely perfect as to be wholly devoid of imperfection, consequently it endeavours to describe him as possessing the various perfections it discovers in creatures, although each of those perfections is in some way at fault, yet so as to remove, from God whatever imperfection is connected with them.8

In short, we can only know God through his effects and name him analogously. As we believe and endeavor to describe Him as perfect, our attributions are imperfect, for no human term can adequately describe God; even our positive assertions ultimately fail. To illustrate this, the Common Doctor goes on the give the example of “being”, “substance”, and “subsistence”. “Being” describes something as complete but without the notion of “subsistence”. The term, “substance”, denotes subsistence but as also the subject of something else. Yet we still ascribe “being” and “substance” to God. We do this because our first experience with beings and substance are in the sensible order of creation. As we proceed up and as we carry over or transfer terms, we negate aspects that would be erroneous to attribute to God. Thus, though we see being as simple but inhering in something, when we speak of God, we keep the notion of simplicity as we slough the notion of inherence. Likewise, when we speak of substance as attributed to God, we keep the notion of that continuing or persisting existence while sloughing the notion of “standing under” as individual of a species or as species of a genus.9 With this illustration, St. Thomas goes on to conclude his arguments regarding act and potency in respects to God thusly:

In like manner we ascribe to God operation by reason of its being the ultimate perfection, not by reason of that into which operation passes. And we attribute power to God by reason of that which is permanent and is the principle of power, and not by reason of that which is made complete by operation.

To restate, after we have seen His effects in the created order, we ascribe operation and power, act and (active) potency, to God but not as they are exhibited in His effects, but by abstracting from the material order and negating any imperfections associated with the terms. Thus, by way of analogous naming, St. Thomas has taken us from our sensible experiences and our common usage of terms and, while preserving and expanding those terms, brought us to a better understanding of God, however indirect.

This is just one illustration of many of how the Common Doctor proceeds from effect to cause using fundamental knowledge of the material order to considerations of divine things. St. Thomas uses analogy throughout his whole philosophical system, and in so doing, unites it together into an integrated whole that proceeds from common experience and nomenclature. Truly, he could not do otherwise. Equivocal terminology would not advance knowledge as various definitions of one term are unrelated. Univocal terminology would be just as unsuccessful, for the one-to-one relation of definition to term could not apply in every circumstance, especially when treating of God. God and nature are not a computer programs which can be discerned by way of language bricks, those univocal terms which seem only to work as technical terminology in the mechanical arts. The relation cannot be one-to-one, lest we say that God is being without subsistence, or that He is a substance that is the subject of something else. Nonetheless, if philosophy is properly undertaken, it should lead us to God as from effect to cause. St. Thomas’ use of analogous terminology in his philosophy allows us to do this. The Common Doctor gives an example of the veracity of St. Paul’s declaration:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.10

ADDENDUM

The text in Latin of the De Potentia used for this essay.

From Question 1, article 1, corpus.

Respondeo. Ad huius quaestionis evidentiam sciendum, quod potentia dicitur ab actu: actus autem est duplex: scilicet primus, qui est forma; et secundus, qui est operatio: et sicut videtur ex communi hominum intellectu, nomen actus primo fuit attributum operationi: sic enim quasi omnes intelligunt actum; secundo autem exinde fuit translatum ad formam, in quantum forma est principium operationis et finis. Unde et similiter duplex est potentia: una activa cui respondet actus, qui est operatio; et huic primo nomen potentiae videtur fuisse attributum: alia est potentia passiva, cui respondet actus primus, qui est forma, ad quam similiter videtur secundario nomen potentiae devolutum. Sicut autem nihil patitur nisi ratione potentiae passivae, ita nihil agit nisi ratione actus primi, qui est forma. Dictum est enim, quod ad ipsum primo nomen actus ex actione devenit. Deo autem convenit esse actum purum et primum; unde ipsi convenit maxime agere, et suam similitudinem in alias diffundere, et ideo ei maxime convenit potentia activa; nam potentia activa dicitur secundum quod est principium actionis. Sed et sciendum, quod intellectus noster Deum exprimere nititur sicut aliquid perfectissimum. Et quia in ipsum devenire non potest nisi ex effectuum similitudine; neque in creaturis invenit aliquid summe perfectum quod omnino imperfectione careat: ideo ex diversis perfectionibus in creaturis repertis, ipsum nititur designare, quamvis cuilibet illarum perfectionum aliquid desit; ita tamen quod quidquid alicui istarum perfectionum imperfectionis adiungitur, totum a Deo amoveatur. Verbi gratia esse significat aliquid completum et simplex sed non subsistens; substantia autem aliquid subsistens significat sed alii subiectum. Ponimus ergo in Deo substantiam et esse, sed substantiam ratione subsistentiae non ratione substandi; esse vero ratione simplicitatis et complementi, non ratione inhaerentiae, qua alteri inhaeret. Et similiter attribuimus Deo operationem ratione ultimi complementi, non ratione eius in quod operatio transit. Potentiam vero attribuimus ratione eius quod permanet et quod est principium eius, non ratione eius quod per operationem completur.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aquinas, St. Thomas. Quaestiones disputatae de potentia dei. Corpus Thomisticum, Universidad de Navarra, Fundación Tomás de Aquino. 2006

http://www.corpusthomisticum.org/qdp1.html

_______. Quaestiones disputatae de potentia dei. translated by the English Dominican Fathers, Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952, reprint of 1932, Html edition by Joseph Kenny, O.P.

http://www.op-stjoseph.org/Students/study/thomas/QDdePotentia.htm#1:1

Aristotle. Categories. H.P. Cooke (translator), Loeb Classical Library, Campbridge, Massachusetts; London, England: Harvard University Press, 1949 & 1996.

McInerny, D.Q. The Philosophy of Nature. Lincoln, Nebraska: Alquin Press, 2001.

McInerny, Ralph. “Analogy”. The third lecture for the course, “Introduction to Thomas Aquinas”, given by Dr. McInerny for the International Catholic University (Notre Dame, Indiana) working in conjunction with Holy Apostles College & Seminary (Cromwell, Connecticut), 2002.

1Aristotle. Categories, 1a, 1-10

2D.Q. McInerny. The Philosophy of Nature, chapter 3, p. 80.

3St. Thomas Aquinas. De Potentia, q.1, a.1, co.

4ibid.

5Dr. Ralph McInerny. “Analogy”. The third lecture for the course, “Introduction to Thomas Aquinas”, given by Dr. McInerny for the International Catholic University working in conjunction with Holy Apostles College & Seminary (2002).

6St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologiae, I, q.2, a.3, co.

7St. Thomas Aquinas. De Potentia, q.1, a.1, co.

8ibid.

9ibid.

10Romans. 1:19-20

Advertisements

November 5, 2009

The American Way of Abandonment

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 1:06 am

by Patrick Buchanan

from Chronicles Magazine

When America is about to throw an ally to the wolves, we follow an established ritual. We discover that the man we supported was never really morally fit to be a friend or partner of the United States.

When Chiang Kai-shek, who fought the Japanese for four years before Pearl Harbor, began losing to Mao’s Communists, we did not blame ourselves for being a faithless ally, we blamed him. He was incompetent; he was corrupt.

We did not lose China. He did.

When Buddhist monks began immolating themselves in South Vietnam, the cry went up: President Diem, once hailed as the “George Washington of his country,” was a dictator, a Catholic autocrat in a Buddhist nation, who had lost touch with his people.

And so, word went out from the White House to the generals. Get rid of Diem, and you get his power and U.S. support. Three weeks before JFK was assassinated, Diem and his brother met the same fate.

When the establishment wished to be rid of a war into which it had plunged this country, suddenly it was “the corrupt and dictatorial Thieu-Ky regime” in Saigon that was simply not worth defending.

Lon Nol, our man in Phnom Penh, got the same treatment.

“In this world it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but to be a friend is fatal,” said Henry Kissinger.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

Newt, Sarah, and a New GOP

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 12:58 am

by Pat Buchanan

from Chronicles Magazine

“Sometimes party loyalty asks too much,” said JFK.

For Sarah Palin, party loyalty in New York’s 23rd congressional district asks too much. Going rogue, Palin endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over Republican Dede Scozzafava.

On Oct. 1, Scozzafava was leading. Today, she trails Democrat Bill Owens and is only a few points ahead of Hoffman, as Empire State conservatives defect to vote their principles, not their party.

Newt Gingrich stayed on the reservation, endorsing Scozzafava, who is pro-choice and pro-gay rights, and hauls water for the unions.

Scourged by the right, Newt accused conservatives of going over the hill in the battle to save the republic, just to get a buzz on. “If we are in the business about feeling good about ourselves while our country gets crushed, then I probably made the wrong decision.” How Scozzafava would prevent America’s being “crushed” was unexplained.

The 23rd recalls a famous Senate race 40 years ago. Rep. Charles Goodell was picked by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to fill the seat of Robert Kennedy in 1968. To hold onto it, Goodell swerved sharp left, emerging as an upstate Xerox copy of Jacob Javits, the most liberal Republican in the Senate.

In 1970, Goodell got both the GOP and Liberal Party nominations, and faced liberal Democrat Richard Ottinger. This left a huge vacuum into which Conservative Party candidate James Buckley, brother of William F., smartly moved.

Assessing the field, the Nixon White House concluded that, with liberals split, Goodell could not win. But Buckley might. Signals were flashed north that loyalty to the president was not inconsistent with voting for Buckley. To send the signal in the clear, Vice President Agnew described Charlie Goodell to a New Orleans newspaper as “the Christine Jorgensen of the Republican Party.”

The former George Jorgensen, Christine had undergone the most radical sex-change operation in recorded history.

Liberals went berserk, calling on New Yorkers to rally to Goodell, who began surging, at Ottinger’s expense. Buckley scooted between them both to win. Hoffman may also. But even if he does not, Palin, a conservative of the heart, did the right thing.

And the GOP has been sent a necessary message.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

October 29, 2009

YOUR CHILDREN ARE NOT EDUCATED (PART 1): WHY IT IS SO

Filed under: Education, Philosophy — Tags: — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:48 pm

The following article, though not very scholarly itself,  is on the current model of education used as the standard in public and private school systems at the primary, grammar, and secondary levels. If you are parents of children that are enrolled in a school, unless that school explicitly states that it operates with some sort of alternative method (e.g. “classical liberal arts”, “trivium & quadrivium”, “montessori” [no, I am not necessarily endorsing montessori], etc.) then your child, more likely than not, is involved with the Horace Mann/John Dewey method of education which was modeled on the Prussian and Soviet systems for the purpose of producing compliant, dumbed-down, soldiers and “citizens”. Even private schools, Catholic or otherwise, employ this system, just with a Catholic or Christian varnish, albeit without malice. This is why even in private high schools, students might graduate with piety but also with an inability to think themselves out of a paper bag.

–Antiochian-Thomist

The Public School Nightmare:

Why fix a system designed to destroy individual thought?

by John Taylor Gatto  [Two time New York State “Teacher of the Year”]

I want you to consider the frightening possibility that we are spending far too much money on schooling, not too little. I want you to consider that we have too many people employed in interfering with the way children grow up — and that all this money and all these people, all the time we take out of children’s lives and away from their homes and families and neighborhoods and private explorations — gets in the way of education.

That seems radical, I know.  Surely in modern technological society it is the quantity of schooling and the amount of money you spend on it that buys value.

And yet last year in St. Louis, I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that in his opinion this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools.  He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computer use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy.

Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces.  It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that.

Then what do you make of the fact that you can’t go to school in Sweden until you are 7 years old?  The reason the unsentimental Swedes have wiped out what would be first and seconds grades here is that they don’t want to pay the large social bill that quickly comes due when boys and girls are ripped away from their best teachers at home too early.  It just isn’t worth the price, say the Swedes, to provide jobs for teachers and therapists if the result is sick, incomplete kids who can’t be put back together again very easily. [Sweden is considered to have the best educated populace in the developed world. –Antiochian-Thomist]

The entire Swedish school sequence isn’t 12 years, either — it’s nine.  Less schooling, not more.  The direct savings of such a step in the US would be $75-100 billion, a lot of unforeclosed home mortgages, a lot of time freed up with which to seek an education.

Who was it that decided to force your attention onto Japan instead of Sweden?  Japan with its long school year and state compulsion, instead of Sweden with its short school year, short school sequence, and free choice where your kid is schooled?   Who decided you should know about Japan and not Hong Kong, an Asian neighbor with a short school year that outperforms [emphasis added] Japan across the board in math and science?  Whose interests are served by hiding that from you? [not yours, let me tell you…]

One of the principal reasons we got into the mess we’re in is that we allowed schooling to become a very profitable monopoly, guaranteed its customers by the police power of the state.  Systematic schooling attracts increased investment only when it does poorly, and since there are no penalties at all for such performance, the temptation not to do well is overwhelming.  That’s because school staffs, both line and management, are involved in a guild system.  And in that ancient form of association no single member is allowed to outperform any other member, none are allowed to advertise or to introduce new technology or improvise without the advance consent of the guild.  Violation of these precepts is severely sanctioned–as Marva Collins, Jaime Escalante and a large number of once-brilliant teachers found out.

The guild reality cannot be broken without returning primary decision-making to parents, letting them buy what they want to buy in schooling, and encouraging the entrepreneurial reality that existed until 1852. That is why I urge any business to think twice before entering a cooperative relationship with the schools we currently have.  Cooperating with these places will only make them worse.

The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon’s amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena.  When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous “Address to the German Nation” which became one of the most influential documents in modern history.

In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders. [emphases added]

So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver: [yes, make the comparisons]

1. Obedient soldiers to the army;

2. Obedient workers to the mines;

3. Well subordinated civil servants to government;

4. Well subordinated clerks to industry

5. Citizens who thought alike about major issues.

Schools should create an artificial national consensus on matters that had been worked out in advance by leading German families and the head of institutions.  Schools should create unity among all the German states, eventually unifying them into Greater Prussia.

Prussian industry boomed from the beginning.  She was successful in warfare and her reputation in international affairs was very high.  Twenty-six years after this form of schooling began, the King of Prussia was invited to North America to determine the boundary between the United States and Canada.  Thirty-three years after that fateful invention of the central school institution, at the behest of Horace Mann and many other leading citizens, we borrowed the style of Prussian schooling as our own. [emphases added]

You need to know this because over the first 50 years, our school’s Prussian design — which was to create a form of state socialism — gradually forced out our traditional American design, which in most minds was to prepare the individual to be self-reliant.

In Prussia the purpose of the Volksshule [work school], which educated 92 percent of the children, was not intellectual development at all, but socialization in obedience and subordination [emphasis added]. Thinking was left to the Real Schulen, [Real School] in which 8 percent of the kids participated.  But for the great mass, intellectual development was regarded with managerial horror, as something that caused armies to lose battles.

Prussia concocted a method based on complex fragmentation to ensure that its school products would fit the grand social design.  Some of this method involved dividing whole ideas into school subjects, each further divisible, some of it involved short periods punctuated by a horn so that self-motivation in study would be muted by ceaseless interruptions. [I knew there was a reason I hated those darn school horns/buzzers.]

There were many more techniques of training, but all were built around the premise that isolation from first-hand information, and fragmentation of the abstract information presented by teachers, would result in obedient and subordinate graduates, properly respectful of arbitrary orders.

“Lesser” men would be unable to interfere with policy makers because, while they could still complain, they could not manage sustained or comprehensive thought.  Well-schooled children cannot think critically, cannot argue effectively. [Oh boy, is this ever true.]

One of the most interesting by-products of Prussian schooling turned out to be the two most devastating wars of modern history.

Erich Maria Ramarque, in his classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, tells us that the First World War was caused by the tricks of schoolmasters, and the famous Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that the Second World War was the inevitable product of good schooling.

It’s important to underline that Bonhoeffer meant that literally, not metaphorically — schooling after the Prussian fashion removes the ability of the mind to think for itself.   It teaches people to wait for a teacher to tell them what to do and if what they have done is good or bad.  Prussian teaching paralyses the moral will as well as the intellect.  It’s true that sometimes well-schooled students sound smart, because they memorize many opinions of great thinkers, but they actually are badly damaged because their own ability to think is left rudimentary and undeveloped.

We got from the United States to Prussia and back because a small number of very passionate ideological leaders visited Prussia in the first half of the 19th century, and fell in love with the order, obedience and efficiency of its system and relentlessly proselytized for a translation of Prussian vision onto these shores.

If Prussia’s ultimate goal was the unification of Germany, our major goal, so these men thought, was the unification of hordes of immigrant Catholics into a national consensus based on a northern European cultural model.  To do that children would have to be removed from their parents and from inappropriate cultural influence.

In this fashion, compulsion schooling, a bad idea that had been around at least since Plato’s Republic, a bad idea that New England had tried to enforce in 1650 without any success, was finally rammed through the Massachusetts legislature in 1852.

It was, of course, the famous “Know-Nothing” [which was one of the most anti-Catholic political parties in America] legislature that passed this law, a legislature that was the leading edge of a famous secret society which flourished at that time known as “The Order of the Star Spangled Banner,” whose password was the simple sentence, “I know nothing” — hence the popular label attached to the secret society’s political arm, “The American Party.”

Over the next 50 years state after state followed suit, ending schools of choice and ceding the field to a new government monopoly.  There was one powerful exception to this — the children who could afford to be privately educated. (Although it may be relevant that not ALL private schools are geared to a “real” education, but are simply more of the same as the public schools, but are promoted as being for the elite.)

It’s important to note that the underlying premise of Prussian schooling is that the government is the true parent of children — the State is sovereign over the family.  At the most extreme pole of this notion is the idea that biological parents are really the enemies of their own children, not to be trusted.

How did a Prussian system of dumbing children down take hold in American schools?

Thousands and thousands of young men from prominent American families journeyed to Prussia and other parts of Germany during the 19th century and brought home the Ph. D. degree to a nation in which such a credential was unknown.   These men pre-empted the top positions in the academic world, in corporate research, and in government, to the point where opportunity was almost closed to those who had not studied in Germany, or who were not the direct disciples of a German PhD, as John Dewey was the disciple of G. Stanley Hall at Johns Hopkins.  Virtually every single one of the founders of American schooling had made the pilgrimage to Germany, and many of these men wrote widely circulated reports praising the Teutonic methods.  Horace Mann‘s [the father of the American public school system] famous 7th Report of 1844, still available in large libraries, was perhaps the most important of these.

By 1889, a little more than 100 years ago, the crop was ready for harvest.  It that year the US Commissioner of Education, William Torrey Harris, assured a railroad magnate, Collis Huntington, that American schools were “scientifically designed” to prevent “over-education” from happening.   The average American would be content with his humble role in life, said the commissioner, because he would not be tempted to think about any other role. [emphases added]

My guess is that Harris meant he would not be able to think about any other role.

In 1896 the famous John Dewey, then at the University of Chicago, said that independent, self-reliant people were a counter-productive anachronism in the collective society of the future.   In modern society, said Dewey, people would be defined by their associations –not by their own individual accomplishments.  In such a world people who read too well or too early are dangerous because they become privately empowered, they know too much, and know how to find out what they don’t know by themselves, without consulting experts. [emphases added]

Dewey said the great mistake of traditional pedagogy was to make reading and writing constitute the bulk of early schoolwork.  He advocated the phonics method of teaching reading be abandoned and replaced by the whole word method, not because the latter was more efficient (he admitted that it was less efficient), but because independent thinkers were produced by hard books, thinkers who cannot be socialized very easily.

By socialization Dewey meant a program of social objectives administered by the best social thinkers in government.  This was a giant step on the road to state socialism, the form pioneered in Prussia, and it is a vision radically disconnected with the American past, its historic hopes and dreams.

Dewey’s former professor and close friend, G. Stanley Hall, said this at about the same time, “Reading should no longer be a fetish.  Little attention should be paid to reading.”

Hall was one of the three men most responsible for building a gigantic administrative infrastructure over the classroom.  How enormous that structure really became can only be understood by comparisons: New York State, for instance, employs more school administrators than all of the European Economic Community nations combined.

Once you think that the control of conduct is what schools are about, the word “reform” takes on a very particular meaning.  It means making adjustments to the machine so that young subjects will not twist and turn so, while their minds and bodies are being scientifically controlled.  Helping kids to use their minds better is beside the point. [emphases added]

Bertrand Russell once said that American schooling was among the most radical experiments in human history, that America was deliberately denying its children the tools of critical thinking.

When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning.  That’s if you want to teach them to think.  There is no evidence that this has been a State purpose since the start of compulsion schooling.

When Frederich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten in 19th century Germany, fashioned his idea he did not have a “garden for children” in mind, but a metaphor of teachers as gardeners and children as the vegetables.

Kindergarten was created to be a way to break the influence of mothers on their children [Take note of this]. I note with interest the growth of daycare in the US and the repeated urgings to extend school downward to include 4-year-olds.  The movement toward state socialism is not some historical curiosity, but a powerful dynamic force in the world around us.

The state socialism movement is fighting for its life against those forces which would, through vouchers or tax credits, deprive it of financial lifeblood, and it has countered this thrust with a demand for even more control over children’s lives, and even more money to pay for the extended school day and year that this control requires.  A movement as visibly destructive to individuality, family and community as government-system schooling has been, might be expected to collapse in the face of its dismal record, coupled with an increasingly aggressive shake down of the taxpayer, but this has not happened.

The explanation is largely found in the transformation of schooling from a simple service to families and towns to an enormous, centralized corporate enterprise.  While this development has had a markedly adverse effect on people and on our democratic traditions, it has made schooling the single largest employer in the United States, and the largest grantor of contracts next to the Defense Department.

Both of these low-visibility phenomena provide monopoly schooling with powerful political friends, publicists, advocates and other useful allies.  This is a large part of the explanation why no amount of failure ever changes things in schools, or changes them for very long.  School people are in a position to outlast any storm and to keep short-attention-span public scrutiny thoroughly confused.

An overview of the short history of this institution reveals a pattern marked by intervals of public outrage, followed by enlargement of the monopoly in every case.  After nearly 30 years spent inside a number of public schools, some considered good, some bad, I feel certain that management cannot clean its own house.  It relentlessly marginalizes all significant change.

There are no incentives for the “owners” of the structure to reform it, nor can there be without outside competition.  What is needed for several decades is the kind of wildly-swinging free market we had at the beginning of our national history.

It cannot be overemphasized that no body of theory exists to accurately define the way children learn, or which learning is of most worth.  By pretending the existence of such we have cut ourselves off from the information and innovation that only a real market can provide.  Fortunately our national situation has been so favorable, so dominant through most of our history, that the margin of error afforded has been vast.

But the future is not so clear. Violence, narcotic addictions, divorce, alcoholism, loneliness… all these are but tangible measures of a poverty in education.   Surely schools, as the institutions monopolizing the daytimes of childhood, can be called to account for this.  In a democracy the final judges cannot be experts, but only the people.

Trust the people, give them choices, and the school nightmare will vanish in a generation.

THE SEVEN LIBERAL ARTS

Filed under: Education, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 8:36 pm

From the Original Catholic Encyclopedia.

Arts, the SEVEN LIBERAL. —The expression artes liberales, chiefly used during the Middle Ages, does not mean arts as we understand the word at the present day, but those branches of knowledge which were taught in the schools of that time. They are called liberal (Lat. liter, free), because they serve the purpose of training the free man, in contrast with the artes illiberales, which are pursued for economic purposes; their aim is to prepare the student not for gaining a livelihood, but for the pursuit of science in the strict sense of the term, i.e. the combination of philosophy and theology known as scholasticism. They are seven in number and may be arranged in two groups, the first embracing grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic, in other words, the sciences of language, of oratory, and of logic, better known as the artes sermocinales, or language studies; the second group comprises arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, i.e. the mathematico-physical disciplines, known as the artes reales, or physiccs. The first group is considered to be the elementary group, whence these branches are also called artes triviales, or trivium, i.e. a well-beaten ground like the junction of three roads, or a crossroads open to all. Contrasted with them we find the mathematical disciplines as artes quadriviales, or quadrivium, or a road with four branches. The seven liberal arts are thus the members of a system of studies which embraces language branches as the lower, the mathematical branches as the intermediate, and science properly so called as the uppermost and terminal grade. Though this system did not receive the distinct development connoted by its name until the Middle Ages, still it extends in the history of pedagogy both backwards and forwards; for while, on the one hand, we meet with it among the classical nations, the Greeks and Romans, and even discover analogous forms as forerunners in the educational system of the ancient Orientals, its influence, on the other hand, has lasted far beyond the Middle Ages, up to the present time.

It is desirable, for several reasons, to treat the system of the seven liberal arts from this point of view, and this we propose to do in the present article. The subject possesses a special interest for the historian, because an evolution, extending through more than two thousand years and still in active operation, here challenges our attention as surpassing both in its duration and its local ramifications all other phases of pedagogy. But it is equally instructive for the philosopher because thinkers like Pythagoras, Plato, and St. Augustine collaborated in the framing of the system, and because in general much thought and, we may say, much pedagogical wisdom have been embodied in it. Hence, also, it is of importance to the practical teacher, because among the comments of so many schoolmen on this subject may be found many suggestions which are of the greatest utility.

The Oriental system of study, which exhibits an instructive analogy with the one here treated, is that of the ancient Hindus still in vogue among the Brahmins. In this, the highest object is the study of the Veda, i.e. the science or doctrine of divine things, the summary of their speculative and religious writings for the understanding of which ten auxiliary sciences were pressed into service, four of which, viz. phonology, grammar, exegesis, and logic, are of a linguistico-logical nature, and can thus be compared with the Trivium; while two, viz. astronomy and metrics, belong to the domain of mathematics, and therefore to the Quadrivium. The remainder, viz. law, ceremonial lore, legendary lore, and dogma, belong to theology. Among the Greeks the place of the Veda is taken by philosophy, i.e. the study of wisdom, the science of ultimate causes which in one point of view is identical with theology. “Natural Theology”, i.e. the doctrine of the nature of the Godhead and of Divine things, was considered as the domain of the philosopher, just as “political theology” was that of the priest; and “mystical theology” of the poet. [See O. Willmann, Geschichte des Idealismus (Brunswick, 1894), I, -§ 10.] Pythagoras (who flourished between 540 B.C. and 510 B.C.) first called himself a philosopher, but was also esteemed as the greatest Greek theologian. The curriculum which he arranged for his pupils led up to the ieros logos, i.e. the sacred teaching, the preparation for which the students received as mathematikoi, i.e. learners, or persons occupied with the—mathemata, the “science of learning”—that, in fact, now known as mathematics. The preparation for this was that which the disciples underwent as akousmatikoi, “hearers”, after which preparation they were introduced to what was then current among the Greeks as mousike paideia, “musical education”, consisting of reading, writing, lessons from the poets, exercises in memorizing, and the technique of music. The intermediate position of mathematics is attested by the ancient expression of the Pythagoreans metaichmon, i, e. “spear-distance”; properly, the space between the combatants; in this case, between the elementary and the strictly scientific education. Pythagoras is more over renowned for having converted geometrical, i.e. mathematical, investigation into a form of education for freemen. (Proclus, Commentary on Euclid, I, p. 19, ten peri ten geometrian pholosophianeis schema paideias eleutherou metestesen.) “He discovered a mean or intermediate stage between the mathematics of the temple and the mathematics of practical life, such as that used by surveyors and business people; he preserves the high aims of the former, at the same time making it the palaestra of intellect; he presses a religious discipline into the’ service of secular life without, however, robbing it of its sacred character, just as he previously transformed physical theology into natural philosophy without alienating it from its hallowed origin” (Geschichte des Idealismus, I, 19 at the end). An extension of the elementary studies was brought about by the active, though somewhat unsettled, mental life which developed after the Persian wars in the fifth century B.C. From the plain study of reading and writing they advanced to the art of speaking and its theory (rhetoric), with which was combined dialectic, properly the art of alternate discourse, or the discussion of the pro and con. This change was brought about by the sophists, particularly by Gorgias of Leontium. They also attached much importance to manysidedness in their theoretical and practical knowledge. Of Hippias of Elis it is related that he boasted of having made his mantle, his tunic, and his footgear (Cicero, De Oratore, iii, 32, 127). In this way, current language gradually began to designate the whole body of educational knowledge as encyclical, i.e. as universal, or all-embracing (egkuklia paideumata, or mathemata; egkuklios paideia). The expression indicated originally the current knowledge common to all, but later assumed the above-mentioned meaning, which has also passed into our word encyclopedia.

Socrates having already strongly emphasized the moral aims of education, Plato (429-347 B.C.) protested against its degeneration from an effort to acquire culture into a heaping-up of multifarious information (polupragmosune). In the “Republic” he proposes a course of education which appears to be the Pythagorean course perfected. It begins with musico-gymnastic culture, by means of which he aims to impress upon the senses the fundamental forms of the beautiful and the good, i.e. rhythm and form (aisthesis). The intermediate course embraces the mathematical branches, viz. arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, which are calculated to put into action the powers of reflection (dianoia), and to enable the student to progress by degrees from sensuous to intellectual perception, as he successively masters the theory of numbers, of forms, of the kinetic laws of bodies, and of the laws of (musical) sounds. This leads to the highest grade of the educational system, its pinnacle (thrigkos) so to speak, i.e. philosophy, which Plato calls dialectic, thereby elevating the word from its current meaning to signify the science of the Eternal as ground and prototype of the world of sense. This progress to dialectic (dialektike poreia) is the work of our highest cognitive faculty, the intuitive intellect (nous). In this manner Plato secures a psychological, or noetic, basis for the sequence in his studies, namely: sense-perception, reflection, and intellectual insight. During the Alexandrine period, which begins with the closing years of the fourth century before Christ, the encyclical studies assume scholastic forms. Grammar, as the science of language (technical grammar) and explanation of the classics (exegetical grammar), takes the lead; rhetoric becomes an elementary course in speaking and writing. By dialectic they understood, in accordance with the teaching of Aristotle, directions enabling the student to present acceptable and valid views on a given subect; thus dialectic became elementary practical logic. The mathematical studies retained their Platonic order; by means of astronomical poems, the science of the stars, and by means of works on geography, the science of the globe became parts of popular education (Strabo, Geographica, I, 1, 21-23). Philosophy remained the culmination of the encyclical studies, which bore to it the relation interfere with the search for the truth which they contain. The choicest gift of bright minds is the love of truth, not of the words expressing it. “For what avails a golden key if it cannot give access to the object which we wish to reach, and why find first to obtain a firm foothold; culture was by them identified with eloquence, as the art of speaking and the mastery of the spoken word based upon a manifold knowledge of things. In his “Institutiones Oratorise” Quintilian, the first professor eloquentue at Rome in Vespasian’s time, begins his instruction with grammar, or, to speak precisely, with Latin and Greek Grammar, proceeds to mathematics and music, and concludes with rhetoric, which comprises not only elocution and a knowledge of literature, but also logical—in other words dialectical—instruction. However, the encyclical system as the system of the liberal arts, or Artes Bonce, i.e. the learning of the vir bonus, or patriot, was also represented in special handbooks. The “Libri IX Disciplinarum” of the learned M. Terentius Varro of Reate, an earlier contemporary of Cicero, treats of the seven liberal arts adding to them medicine and architectonics. How the latter science came to be connected with the general studies is shown in the book “De Architecture.”, by M. Vitruvius Pollio, a writer of the time of Augustus, in which excellent remarks are made on the organic connection existing between all studies. “The inexperienced”, he says, “may wonder at the fact that so many various things can be retained in the memory; but as soon as they observe that all branches of learning have a real connection with, and a reciprocal action upon, each other, the matter will seem very simple; for universal science (egkuklios, disciplina) is composed of the special sciences as a body is composed of members, and those who from their earliest youth have been instructed in the different branches of knowledge (variis eruditionibus) recognize in all the same fundamental features (notas) and the mutual relations of all branches, and therefore grasp everything more easily” (Vitr., De Architecture, I, 1, 12). In these views the Platonic conception is still operative, and the Romans always retained the conviction that in philosophy alone was to be found the perfection of education. Cicero enumerates the following as the elements of a liberal education: geometry, literature, poetry, natural science, ethics, and politics. (Artes quibus liberales doctrins atque ingenuse continentur; geometria, litterarum cognitio et poetarum, atque ills quae de naturis rerum, quae de hominum moribus, quae de rebus publicis dicuntur.)

(more…)

October 22, 2009

“Oath-Keepers”: Alienated & Radicalized?

Filed under: Politics — Antiochian-Thomist @ 7:52 pm

The following is an excerpt of an article composed by Pat Buchanan for Chronicles Magazine.

Alienated & Radicalized

by Patrick J. Buchanan

October 20th, 2009

In the brief age of Obama, we have had “truthers,” “birthers,” Tea Party activists and town-hall dissenters.

Comes now, the “Oath Keepers.” And who might they be?

Writes Alan Maimon in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oath Keepers, depending on where one stands, are “either strident defenders of liberty or dangerous peddlers of paranoia.”

Formed in March, they are ex-military and police who repledge themselves to defend the Constitution, even if it means disobeying orders. If the U.S. government ordered law enforcement agencies to violate Second Amendment rights by disarming the people, Oath Keepers will not obey.

“The whole point of Oath Keepers is to stop a dictatorship from ever happening here,” says founding father Stewart Rhodes, an ex-Army paratrooper and Yale-trained lawyer. “My focus is on the guys with the guns, because they can’t do it without them.

“We say if the American people decide it’s time for a revolution, we’ll fight with you.”

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

October 14, 2009

Gregory Palamas: Knowledge, Prayer, and Vision

by M.C. Steenberg

from Monachos.net.

Three foundational aspects of the Theology of St Gregory Palamas

The theology of St Gregory Palamas, as expressed during the Palamite Controversy of the mid-14th century, is far too extensive to be addressed in its full breadth in a paper such as this. Rather than attempt a manifestly impossible task, then, we will limit the focus of this essay to three central points in that theology: first, the idea of knowledge as expressed in the conflict between Gregory and Barlaam; second, the matter of prayer and the body; and third, the notion of the divine vision, which will lead naturally into a discussion of the energies and the essence of God.

A Knowledge Beyond Knowing: Barlaam’s Objection to Apodictic Theology

One of the first objections raised against St Gregory Palamas’ theology was brought forth by Barlaam of Calabria, and dealt specifically with the issue of knowledge. Two fundamentally different views on knowledge were involved in this dispute: first was that which Barlaam and others held, and which might broadly be termed, following Meyendorff, as the Dialectic Method of knowing God.1 This was a largely philosophical view, based upon the position that knowledge of God might be gained by the use of discursive reason, dialectic, and rational investigation. As this very fact would suggest, the dialectic approach involved a strong element of kataphaticism. Yet, following the course of the great philosophers, it also readily admitted of the incapability of affirmative theology to truly apprehend the divine truths of God; and thus there was a strong, if not consuming trend towards apophatic theology present in this view. Barlaam himself seems to have based his own severe apophaticism on the model and example of Pseudo-Dionysius, with which he was quite familiar; yet his understanding of that writer was incomplete: where Dionysius was to stress certain positive elements of his apophatic reasoning (such as the positive experience of the divine darkness), Barlaam’s model seems to have been almost wholly negative—to the point of bordering on a certain agnosticism. God is transcendent, he taught, and thus to ascend to purer knowledge we must espouse negative theology and transcend our own perceptive reason; yet ultimately the Transcendent cannot be truly known, even with apophaticism used to its utmost. At the heart of Barlaam’s teaching is the significant idea that God cannot truly be perceived by man; that God the Transcendent can never be wholly known by man the created and finite.

Gregory, on the other hand, taught something quite different. This second conception of knowledge of God brought it out of the realm of mere dialectic—whether positive or negative, kataphatic or apophatic—and into the arena of demonstration; what Meyendorff terms Apodictic Knowledge of God.2 Natural knowledge, believed Gregory, is one aspect of man’s relationship to his Creator; and yet it is quite a different thing to know about God, than it is to actually know Him. The great divergence between this view and that of Barlaam, was that Gregory believed the latter aspect to be not only a hypothetical possibility (which Barlaam would have denied), but a fully attainable reality. It was not a question of whether or not man could know God by direct, immediate knowledge, but whether or not he would, given the life he was leading.

Gregory’s view should not be seen to undermine a positive view of philosophical thought as a whole, which was a continual accusation made by Barlaam. Taken as a tool for the progression of the human person towards a state receptive to divine grace, Gregory saw philosophy and discursive knowledge as a perfectly reasonable set of aids for the Christian. It was only when philosophy, whose created end is the furtherance of knowledge of God,3 was misused by the philosophers and turned, in effect, into God, that Gregory raised his voice in ardent opposition. This was the ‘fallen’ state of knowledge, which did not betray an evil inherent in knowledge itself, but simply the misuse made of it by certain philosophical schools. Gregory understood natural knowledge within the metaphor of the natural world revealing aspects of God; to which revelation God Himself would add the grace to know Him intimately. He writes:

There is a knowledge about God and His doctrines. (…) The use and activity of the natural powers of the soul and of the body do shape the rational image of man, but that is not the same as the perfect beauty of the noble state which comes from above; that is by no means the supernatural union with the more than resplendent light, which is the sole source of sure theology.4

Thus Gregory viewed natural knowledge, in all its philosophical forms, as a tool leading to something greater, yet every bit as real as that very knowledge: the divine grace which brings about union, the true source of contemplative knowing.

But this conception clashed harshly with that of Barlaam, who seems firmly to have espoused the neo-Platonic tradition as he interpreted it from Dionysius, and could not find common ground between his own rationalist views and those of Gregory. Much of the earlier arguments in the Palamite conflict centred in this very issue of knowledge, and apart from being an interesting debate in its own right, this dispute led Gregory into the formative stages of the theological conceptions he would bring forth later in the controversy. The relationship of apophaticism to human knowledge, and that to God’s nature as transcendent Being, would come into play with great importance a short time later, and, as we shall see, would have direct bearing on Gregory’s famous argument for the distinction of energies and essence.
(more…)

October 13, 2009

The Metaphysical & Theological Implications in the Difference Between Ens Simpliciter & Ens Moblile

Filed under: Cosmology -- Philosophical Physics, Metaphysics, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 6:49 pm

Through the natural light of reason by which we come to know the causes of things and through divine revelation gratuitously given for the benefit of corrupted man we know that we composite creatures are not our own existence. However, man sees things even in the material order darkly and dimly, and his powers of perception beyond the material order are feeble at best. Further to work past the material order is a struggle most tedious and tiresome leaving many an individual holding such exercises as distasteful with the result that many resist such attempts to come to understand anything beyond the natural order of things. We are often like the poor souls in Plato’s cave analogy:

And if, said I, someone should drag him thence by force up the ascent which is rough and steep, and not let him go before he had drawn him out into the light of the sun, do you not think that he would find it painful to be so haled along, and would chafe at it..?1

But as distasteful as this exercise can be, it is worth it. What we can know is perhaps little, but what we can know is also certain when understood within their (and our) proper limitations. We exist -this we know. We need not undergo a Cartesian meditation to achieve certitude in this claim. We change -this we also know. Experience shows this to be the fact. But what implications are there in the consideration that existence is not the same as material being, or that there is existence apart from material being? What implications come with the consideration of motion/change? The consequences are literally beyond measure that forces an intellectual concession of a perennial truth accompanied by a moral consequence that necessarily follows upon such an intellectual concession. The fact that ‘to be’ (ens simpliciter) and ‘to be changeable’ (ens mobile) are not the same leads to the metaphysical and theological implication that there is an unchangeable being which we call God and that He is our last end for which we must act. Let us proceed, then, in this exercise by considering changeable being, motion, and then unchangeable being.

Changeable Being.

To maintain any solidity in the endeavor, let us proceed in ways more secure and assured for our purposes by considering first the things we know and then moving to the the things that we either know not, or know very little, or know with less certainty. For as is the common experience of a man when faced with a problem that he must solve and who will analyze the object as a general whole and work back through more particulars until he ultimately reaches that which he was investigating, so let us also proceed from those things more generally known to us to those things more known by nature. As Aristotle says:

The natural way of doing this is to start from the things which are more knowable and obvious to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more knowable by nature; for the same things are not ‘knowable relatively to us’ and ‘knowable’ without qualification.2

Proceeding thusly we first come to know those things which present themselves to the five senses, for it is through the senses that the soul is informed. Those things that we perceive are first those things which are in some way whole and therefore general in a qualified sense, for it is not usually the case that we first experience the constituent parts of things before we come to know the whole, but that we first have a general perception of the whole and then work toward the constituent parts. In those instances where we encounter parts before the whole, we often walk confusedly until the general whole has been assembled in the mind before we rest in any certitude. Therefore, the wisdom of the Philosopher’s counsels are manifest:

Thus we must advance from generalities to particulars; for it is a whole that is best known to sense perception, and a generality is a kind of a whole, comprehending many things within it, like parts.3

But those general/whole things that we encounter are, quite frankly, things, which is to say that we encounter beings that exist, whether it be ‘man’, ‘dog’, ‘rock’, ‘cup’, etc. The first thing present to the mind via the senses is not so much the ‘thisness’ of the thing as it is the thing itself. Thus the first thing we know is not the existence of the thing but the existent thing. Therefore, we perceive a whole being without necessarily an initial and immediate consideration of the existence of the thing apart from the thing itself, for we could know it otherwise lest somehow we come first know things apart from senses. Furthermore, it can be added that what is first known is known without distinction between the material being and its act of existence. This, then, is our first understanding of being, viz. material being, which can only be known if its is real and is sensed. Thus the Common Doctor asserts that, “nothing can be called a being unless it is something positive in reality.”4

After the first experiences of material beings, we come to know them through the experiences of the senses as changeable or movable. We observe growth and diminution, coming to be and passing from existence, but we are still left with the concept of existence long after the material things’ existence has changed. For example, long after a subject has passed from being, as in death, we can still consider the subject and its act of existence, not only as the subject it was, but as the kind of subject it was, as when we consider Socrates, not as dead or as Socrates, but as man. Further, we notice not only substantial changes but accidental ones as well where the subject persists after the change. An example of this is the man who at one point is ignorant of geometry and later comes to know geometry. The man, as the subject, persists after the change from ignorance to knowledge, but his existence is now of a different quality, viz. that of the geometer. Another example of this is when we consider locomotion. A subject was once at A and is now at B; but after the subject is at B, its previous existence at A can still be considered and ruminated upon, not only as once being at A but as potentially being at A in the future. Finally, where it is that with sense perception also comes imagination whereby sensible things are brought to the intellect via phantasms, man has the ability to contrive things in the imagination that have no substantial existence in physical reality. Such is the case with Aristotle’s famous ‘goat-stag’ or the architect’s future cathedral. It is not real or not yet real; but its existence can be imagined. In these and in nigh-to-innumerable experiences like these, consideration of the experiences themselves and through themselves reveal that existence can be considered apart from material beings, that ‘to be’ is not the same as ‘to be changeable’.

Motion.

To be a changeable being is to be a being in potency under a certain aspect. In short, it is to be a movable being. But what is motion? Aristotle defines motion as “the fulfillment of what exists potentially, insofar as it exists potentially.”5 St. Thomas states more simply that “motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.”6 By these definitions, motion encompasses all change and is not merely reduced to locomotion. Therefore, insofar as a being has the potentiality of being something else (qualitatively, substantially, or otherwise), and insofar as that same being is in the process of becoming that something else, it is in motion. Examples of this are easy to come by. The block of marble being carved into a statue, the man walking across the room, the tree that starts as a sapling but is growing into a full oak -these are all examples of motion as each are in potency to what it is becoming and is in the process of being actualized. In short, they are being reduced from potentiality to actuality.

To consider change or motion, one must consider not just the act of motion, which is a coming to be, nor just the thing moved, but one must also consider the mover, for to be a material being, which is to say a changeable or movable being, is to be a moved being. It is therefore clear and manifest that there are things in the world that are moved, either by a mover or, apparently, by itself. However, Aristotle and St. Thomas both assert that whatever is moved is moved by another. Certainly this is clear in the cases of material beings which do not possess a principle of motion in themselves. However, what of those beings that do possess a principle of motion in themselves? Are they moved by another? In short: yes.

In his cogent and concise summation of Aristotle’s Physics, St. Thomas points out a pithy and packed reality pregnant with meaning and implication in his question on the existence of God. The Common Doctor says:

Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again.7

So as stated before, those things which have not a principle of motion in itself are obviously moved by another. But in the quotation above, St. Thomas includes all movables, both those which have a principle of motion in themselves and those which have not, as being subject to a mover apart from the moved. This is better understood when one considers that whatever is moved must itself be divisible.8 In short, those things that are called self-moving are not primarily self moving because they must move in virtue of their parts, for they cannot move through themselves simply. If these self movers could move themselves through themselves primarily, their motion would not be dependent upon the motion of another. But movables are divisible and the moved are so moved through their parts. So, in movable beings, if the part is moved, so is the whole. If the part is at rest, so is the whole. If a man moves by virtue of his feet and legs, the whole man is moving. If the man is to be truly at rest, all of his parts must truly be at rest. But his motion and rest depend on his parts. Thus he moves himself secondarily, as it were, and not through himself primarily. His motion, then, must primarily come from another. Therefore, whatever is moved is moved by another.9

This can be illustrated by an example most pertinent to our designs. Coming to be is a motion for artificial and natural material beings alike. In the case of an artifice such as a cathedral, its motion is received from the architect and the workers. Similarly, the coming into existence of a man and his sustainment therein is not a motion found in the man, for the man does not exist nor is he his own existence. The primary motion is therefore from another.

Though whatever is moved is moved by another, we cannot go on to infinity lest we have that infinite regress by which we would never have the moved. Thus St. Thomas says in the Summa Contra Gentiles:

If it is moved, it is moved by another mover. We must, consequently, either proceed to infinity, or we must arrive at some unmoved mover. Now, it is not possible to proceed to infinity. Hence, we must posit some prime unmoved mover.10

He further states in the Summa Theologica:

But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.11

With the understanding that whatever is moved is moved by another, we rapidly come to the unmoved mover, the cause of all motion.

The Unchangeable Being.

As stated earlier, Aristotle’s use of the term motion encompasses all change. But we have come to the unmoved mover. If the mover is Himself unmoved, we have then come to a being that does not admit of change. If He does not admit of change, then He does not admit of potentiality. A potentiality in material beings is that they potentially could ‘not be’ for they are not the same as their existence. As the unmoved mover does not admit of potentiality in any respect, non-existence is therefore impossible for Him. St. Thomas confirms this:

…The first being must of necessity be in act, and in no way in potentiality. For although in any single thing that passes from potentiality to actuality, the potentiality is prior in time to the actuality; nevertheless, absolutely speaking, actuality is prior to potentiality; for whatever is in potentiality can be reduced into actuality only by some being in actuality. Now it has been already proved that God is the First Being. It is therefore impossible that in God there should be any potentiality.12

However, it was also stated that ‘to be’ is not the same as ‘to be changeable’. For God, the unmoved mover, to be the first cause of motion, He must of necessity be. But in all other cases, coming to be as a motion must be caused by another. In God there is no motion which is to say, as above, He admits of no potentiality. Therefore, God does not differ from His existence. The Common Doctor demonstrates this well:

Existence is that which makes every form or nature actual; for goodness and humanity are spoken of as actual, only because they are spoken of as existing. Therefore existence must be compared to essence, if the latter is a distinct reality, as actuality to potentiality. Therefore, since in God there is no potentiality, as shown above (S.T. I, Q.3, a.1), it follows that in Him essence does not differ from existence. Therefore His essence is His existence.13

There are more necessary conclusions to be drawn about the existence of God, and those relate to the response of rational material creatures to this sublime reality of His existence. In other words, there are moral consequences that necessarily follow upon the recognition of the existence of God. For if God exists -and He does of necessity- and if God is the cause of all things -and He is- then it follows that God is the proper and final end of the entire material order, including that of man. For as all nature acts for an end14 so too does the rational nature of man15 and this he does by the operation of his will. Therefore, as all creatures have their existence by way of a participation, and as the highest object of the intellect of man is the unmoved mover, the first being, God, so too the highest object of the will of man and that for the sake of which man must act must be God. For, as St. Thomas asserts:

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man’s appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Psalm 102:5: “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things.” Therefore God alone constitutes man’s happiness.16

Conclusion.

This exercise provides just the briefest of sketches into the implications of existence as apart from material being from the philosophical perspective and serves as merely the rudimentary summation of a few concepts whose profundity has filled countless volumes of works by intellects of the highest of calibers. It is enough to show that differences between what it is ‘to be’ and ‘to be changeable’ have profound implications that can be knowable from the natural progression of philosophical reasoning which leaves man with little room for excuses. Further, considering the end for the sake of which these considerations show, it makes that steep climb out of Plato’s cave every bit worthwhile, for we can now see the prophetic truth in Plato’s words about the one who escapes the cave:

Well then, if he recalled to mind his first habitation and what passed for wisdom there, and his fellow bondsmen, do you not think that he would count himself happy in the change and pity them?17

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aquinas, St. Thomas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Notre Dame, Indiana: Dumb Ox Books, 1999.

_______. On Being and Essence. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1968.

_______. Summa Contra Gentiles. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975.

_______. Summa Theologica (in English, 5 vols., Notre Dame, Indiana: Christian Classics,

1981).

Aristotle. Physics. (Richard McKeon, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle, New York: Random

House, 1941.

Plato. Republic. (Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, eds., The Collected Dialogues of Plato,

Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989.

1Plato. Republic, VII, 515e.

2Aristotle. Physics, I, 184a15.

3Aristotle. Physics, I, 184a25.

4St. Thomas Aquinas. De Ente et Essentia, Chapter 1, paragraph 2.

5Aristotle. Physics, III, 1, 201 a10.

6St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q.2, a.3.

7St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q.2, a.3.

8Aristotle. Physics, VI, 4.

9St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Contra Gentiles, Book I, Chapter 13.

10 ibid.

11 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q.2, a.3.

12 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I, Q.3, a.1.

13 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I, Q.3, a.4.

14 Aristotle. Physics, II, 5.

15 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I-II, Q.1, a.2.

16 St. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, I-II, Q.1, a.8.

17 Plato. Republic, VII, 516 c.

October 8, 2009

Wartime Jews Praise the Italians Who Saved Them

Filed under: Ethics & Epistemology, Morality — Tags: — Antiochian-Thomist @ 6:31 pm

Last of the Holocaust Survivors Share Their Stories

By Edward Pentin

ROME, OCT. 8, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Largely thanks to the movie “Schindler’s List,” most people know about its eponymous hero Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who saved 1,200 Jews during World War II.

Yet other untold stories of similar acts of wartime heroism took place all over Europe, many of them in Italy. And although not always on the scale of Schindler’s valiant rescue, they were nonetheless remarkable acts of selfless courage.

Now a new book reveals the true extent of how much ordinary Italians, many of whom were priests and religious, helped save Jews from the Holocaust. Titled “It Happened in Italy,” author Elizabeth Bettina, an Italian-American New Yorker, records fascinating testimonies from survivors whose lives were saved by Italians from all walks of life.

Her search began when, during summer trips to her grandmother’s house in a remote Italian village in Campagna, southern Italy, she saw a picture of a rabbi in a church. She learned that a number of Jews from outside Italy had lived in the area and, having grown up with many American Jews in New York, she was naturally curious to know why. Later, Bettina was to discover that the village was the location for an internment camp for Jews during the war, one of many others in Italy.

So after receiving encouragement from a friend, she decided to look further into how so many Jewish lives were saved in Italy — as many as 32,000 out of a population of 39,000, according to some historians.

It’s interesting to note that the survival rate for Jews who lived in wartime Italy is one of the highest in Europe, and among the most heroic Italians was Giovanni Palatucci, who is estimated to have saved as many as 5,000 Jewish lives. But unlike Schindler, who survived the war, Palatucci died in Dachau at the age of 36.

Helping neighbors

Bettina stresses that not all Italians risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors, but the extent of the heroism was nevertheless impressive. “I can’t tell you how many times I heard: ‘The whole village knew we were Jewish and nobody turned us in,'” she says.

Italy’s policy during the war was that Jews born in the country were allowed to stay in their own homes, while those who had arrived before the war were interned. The camps, however, were largely very humane: The book shows Jews dressed casually, smiling and playing musical instruments. It wasn’t until Italy sided with the allies toward the end of the war and Germany invaded the country that their lives were put in real danger.

A number were deported to concentration camps, along with their relatives who were living at the time elsewhere in Europe. “Some bad things happened and I acknowledge them in the book,” says Bettina. “Either someone betrayed you, they didn’t help even if they could, or you were just unlucky — there was no one to try to help because they were someplace else.” But she adds there are “many, many reasons why so many survived in Italy, and the bottom line is that somebody helped them.”

She explains that those who saved Jews at risk of losing their lives (they would undoubtedly have been shot had they been discovered, according to survivors) fell into five groups of individuals: The first was a simple, ordinary Italian who refused to notify the authorities or hid them. The second was a police officer who would perhaps warn that he would come back to arrest them the next day, thereby giving them time to seek refuge. The third was a person working for the civic authorities who would fake identity documents. The fourth was a local priest or nun who gave them refuge or helped issue a false baptismal certificate.

“Did they get an official order? I don’t know,” she says when asked if perhaps Pope Pius XII might have instructed them to save their Jewish neighbors. “But many people I interviewed said there was a priest or a nun who was involved in helping them.” Finally, there were the people working in the internment camps who tried to make life as humane as possible for them (so humane that those interned were free to do as they pleased, resulting in many not knowing the camps even existed).

Out of the woodwork

But what also gives added interest to this story is that “It Happened in Italy” is the result of countless coincidences — of people somehow providentially coming into contact with Bettina and telling remarkable stories out of sheer gratitude to the Italians who saved them — or a close relative — during the war. A series of further coincidences also enabled her to bring a group of survivors to the Vatican to have a special audience with the Pope. “Everyone who comes into contact with this book has a funny way of ending up in it,” she says with a laugh.

Yet the project never started as a book; rather it took on a life of its own as more and more people came forward with testimonies from all over the world. “We had no clue this story would be so vast, and it just kept going,” Bettina says. She also insists there is no hidden purpose behind the project. “I have no agenda except to make sure these stories stay honest and true,” she explains. “I want these people who told me the stories to be listened to. I want them to get the satisfaction.”

A lingering question remains, however: Why has it taken so long for these Jews to come forward and express their gratitude? Bettina believes many Jewish survivors were just so overwhelmed by what happened that initially they just wanted to put it behind them. She says that it was only when films such as “Schindler’s List” came out that they started thinking: “And what about me and my story?” Others believe it’s because some Jews want nothing good to be associated with the Holocaust.

Catalyst

At a Rome press conference to launch the book last month, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, Mordechay Lewy, said he also didn’t know the reason, but that perhaps all they needed was someone like Elizabeth Bettina to trigger their gratitude.

He also said he was puzzled why Italian Jews, who have their roots in Italy and were also saved during the war, are “not always very keen” to express their thanks. He said it might have something to do with a history of difficult relations between Roman Jews and the Vatican, but he highlighted the “very strange phenomenon” of Jews who were saved in monasteries, yet are “still expressing quite anti-clerical expressions.”

Bettina says her book could be made into a movie, although she stresses that was never her intention. “I’m not a writer, I’ve never written a book before and I […] have never made a movie or a documentary,” she says. Rather one of her main motivations is she’s mindful that time is running out for these stories to be told. “They’ve all said that after us, there’s nobody,” she explains. “These are the last of the generation.”

The objective, she added, wasn’t to make Italy look great, just to show there can be good people who do the right thing, and to convey an important teaching: that if you’re not indifferent, things can be different. “Someone wasn’t indifferent,” she says. “They helped, and these people lived.”

* * *

Edward Pentin is a freelance writer living in Rome. He can be reached at: epentin@zenit.org.

October 4, 2009

Nature and Convention in the Linguistic Arts

Filed under: Education, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 10:25 am

by Antiochian-Thomist

With language, as with society, we have to hold that there is both a natural and a conventional aspect to it. It is not without significance that Adam’s naming of the beasts follows immediately upon the notice of the social nature of man. “And the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone.”i What Aristotle noted about the state holds also for language. Man is social by nature, and yet he who founded the state was the greatest of benefactors. Man is a talking animal as much if not more so than he is a breathing and walking animal. And in this sense language is natural to him.ii

-Otto Bird, PhD.

Sacred Scripture, Aristotleiii, St. Thomas Aquinasiv, the above-quoted Dr. Bird, and a plethora of other intellects of worthy reputation assert that man is a social creature. Let us accept that as an established fact. It is also therefore the case that man with his natural tendency to seek out and live in a societal environment must have necessary and corollary natural gifts if that social nature is to be properly fulfilled. But what are these “natural gifts” to which we allude? In ways not entirely dissimilar to man, we see brutes who, to use the term loosely, live in “society” such as herds, prides, packs, flocks, and so forth. What does experience show us these creatures –man and beast alike– have in common in regards to the successful functioning of their “society”? Communication or the ability to communicate should be an obvious answer. However, man’s primary mode of communication is language, and that is learned. Further, the reality that there are a multiplicity of languages gives evidence to the fact that languages are themselves conventional. Did we men forsake our natural mode of communication for the sake of an artifice? Hardly. Rather, it was the nature of man to verbally communicate and to contrive that caused him to fashion the particular, conventional languages –the linguistic arts– so that he may fulfill his societal nature.

Society requires a cooperation among its members for it to be called society at all. Thus, whatever the framework of that society, its ordering necessitates the communication of its members. Therefore, as the end is a cause, the end of society is the cause of communication in general for society.

Though animals communicate, and do so vocally, man alone among the composite creatures is rational and has the capacity to formulate and communicate both concrete and abstract concepts. This he does in various and sundry modes, but history shows his preference for the spoken word and later the written word, which is nothing more than the visual symbols of the spoken wordv. Why this preference? Why does he not prefer to normatively use flags and standards, drum beats, or interpretive dance instead of language? St. Augustine gives us a glimpse of a possible explanation:

The signs that address themselves to the ear are, as I have said, more numerous, and for the most part consist of words. For though the bugle and the flute and the lyre frequently give not only a sweet but significant sound, yet all theses signs are very few in number compared with words [emphasis added]. For among men words have obtained far and away the chief place in indicating the thoughts of the mind.vi

Augustine argues for the sheer number of auditory possibilities that the spoken word offers above and beyond the noise-making devices than man can contrive. Here we implicitly see an argument for efficiency of expression that can more completely communicate the nigh-to-innumerable experiences, concepts, imaginings, and desires of man. Further, it can be noted, that since nature acts for an endvii, and since nature has supplied man with vocal chords with the possibility of a greater or more subtle sound variety which is more proportionate to his multitudinous experiences, it is proper than man employ his voice and the use of words for communication.

Particular language, however, is still an art and thus conventional. But art is produced from reason as the likes of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas assert frequently; and reason specifically differentiates man from brute. Thus, art comes not from nature generally, but from rational nature specifically, for “the human race lives also by art and reasonings.”viii More particularly, art is produced from the reasoned considerations of experiences and is thus a universal in man, not to be lost upon any one exercise of the art. This is why Aristotle says, “art arises when from many notions gained by experience one universal judgement about a class of objects is produced.”ix Moreover, man is expected to make reasoned judgments from his gathered experiences for it is in his nature as rational to do so. Art, then, resides primarily in the intellect, and that part of the intellect which is “productive”.x

But neither art nor Aristotle stop there. The Philosopher also says:

…art is identical with a state of capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning. All art is concerned with coming into being, i.e. with contriving and considering how something may come into being which is capable of either being or not being, and whose origin is in the maker and not the thing made […].xi

This “state of capacity” of which Aristotle speaks is discussed in the context of the treatment of the intellectual virtues in his sixth book of the Nicomachean Ethics. In short, art is a rational, productive habit, an acquired disposition, which resides in the man himself and not the thing produced. But man is not born with this art. Rather, he is born (under normal circumstances) with the ability or potentiality of acquiring this art or habit. This forces the conclusion that this capacity in man comes from at least two principles: one which is intrinsic to the man –which is natural, and one which is extrinsic to him –which is learned or acquired. Otherwise, if this capacity was entirely intrinsic, and all men were born with the acquired habit of language, it would stand to reason that all men would speak the same language. Of course, experience shows that there are more languages than there are nations in the world. This notion of the two-fold principle is clearly drawn out by St. Thomas Aquinas:

There are, therefore, in man certain natural habits, owing their existence, partly to nature, and partly to some extrinsic principle: in one way, indeed, in the apprehensive powers; in another way, in the appetitive powers. For in the apprehensive powers there may be a natural habit by way of a beginning, both in respect of the specific nature, and in respect of the individual nature. This happens with regard to the specific nature, on the part of the soul itself: thus the understanding of first principles is called a natural habit. For it is owing to the very nature of the intellectual soul that man, having once grasped what is a whole and what is a part, should at once perceive that every whole is larger than its part: and in like manner with regard to other such principles. Yet what is a whole, and what is a part–this he cannot know except through the intelligible species which he has received from phantasms: and for this reason, the Philosopher at the end of the Posterior Analytics shows that knowledge of principles comes to us from the senses.xii

This explanation bears out with man’s capacity for language. For it is owing to the very nature of the productive part of the intellect, which is common to the species, that man has by nature the inclination towards and the general ability to acquire and produce language. This potentiality and potency resides in the man, and is thus of his specific nature, though it might admit of degree in the individual natures, and is therefore an intrinsic principle. The experiences men encounter, such as hearing parents, friends, and teachers speaking, which are external to the man, form the extrinsic principles and are taken in via the senses, ruminated upon by the intellect, and are subsequently judged and acted upon. The latter portion of this process, i.e. the judgment and action, can only occur if the intrinsic principle is in place. With both present, the conventional art of language is produced and resides in the soul. Therefore, the intrinsic principle is universal and common to all men, but of itself not productive of language or the linguistic arts. The variety of languages, then, comes from the extrinsic principle, for those experiences and customs are varied depending upon where the individual man finds himself. Thus we see the truth in Dr. Bird’s statement:

Through usage and customs certain sounds have come to be selected out of a whole range of human sounds and organized in certain significant patterns. The resulting conventional construct is a specific language, English or Chinese. Conventional as so used to characterize a language can be opposed to natural. It then describes not the origin of the language but the modality and signification between the pattern of sounds and the experience they are associated with. How, for example, the expression “man” in English means “a man”.xiii

We have been told that originally all men spoke one language, and that multiplicity of languages owes its existence “to the sin of discord among men, which springs from every man trying to snatch the chief place for himself”xiv when we in the earlier part of our history tried to build that infamous tower.xv This we do not dispute. Nor, however, does it weaken our claim for what was imprinted on us originally now must be gained through nature and convention.

Nature, therefore, under a certain aspect, is a cause of convention insofar as convention is art. For man has by his nature those organs requisite for spoken language which give the material cause for the linguistic arts. Man is a social animal by nature, and society provides the final cause of his communicative abilities. Further, man is by nature rational, and reasoned intent provides the efficient cause for his linguistic artxvi which works in conjunction with and serves the final cause. Man’s nature receives the intelligible forms of things via the senses and his intellectual nature formulates concepts which together provide the formal cause of language. The linguistic arts, though conventional, are habits which find their seat in the soul of a man and arise from an intrinsic principle which is found in all men of sound and whole nature, and when combined with the extrinsic principles of experience give rise to the celebrated and necessary convention by which we have all benefited and will continue to benefit.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

iGenesis, 2:18

ii“Learning and the Liberal Arts”, Dr. Otto Bird, first lecture for the course, Liberal Arts: Their History and Philosophy, given by the International Catholic University through Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, CT.

iii Politics, 1253a; Nicomachean Ethics, VII, 1155a5

ivSumma Theologiae, I-II, 72.4

vAristotle, On Interpretation, 16a 5

viDe Doctrina Christiana, Book II, Chapter 3

viiSt. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, Lecture 13 [198b34-199a33]

viiiAristotle, Metaphysics, 980b25

ixibid., 981a5

xNicomachean Ethics, VI,1139b

xiibid., VI, 1040a10-13

xiiSumma Theologiae, I-II, 51.1

xiii“Learning and the Liberal Arts”, Dr. Otto Bird, first lecture for the course, Liberal Arts: Their History and Philosophy, given by the International Catholic University through Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, CT.

xivSt. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, Book II, Chapter 4

xvGenesis, 11

xviAristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, VI 1139a31-32

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Aquinas, St. Thomas. Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics. Notre Dame, Indiana: Dumb Ox Books, 1999.

_______. Summa Theologica (in English, 5 vols., Notre Dame, Indiana: Christian Classics, 1981)

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics (Richard McKeon, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle, New York: Random House, 1941).

_______. Metaphysics (McKeon, Basic Works of Aristotle)

_______. On Interpretation (McKeon, Basic Works of Aristotle)

_______. Politics (McKeon, Basic Works of Aristotle)

_______. Physics (McKeon, Basic Works of Aristotle)

Augustine, St. De Doctrina Christiana (Philip Schaff, ed., The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Volume II, Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eeardmans, 1993).

Bird, Otto, Ph.D. “Learning and the Liberal Arts”, International Catholic University, 1996/2005.

September 27, 2009

St. Thomas Aquinas by Jacques Maritain

Filed under: Doctrine, Philosophy — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 9:28 am

The entire treatise, including the chapter shown below, can be found here.

IV. The Common Doctor

Because Thomas illuminated the Church more than all
the other Doctors
. — John XXII (1318).

The Church declared Thomas’ doctrine to be her own.
— Benedict XV (1921).

I would wish that no one misunderstand the intention of this chapter, in which, considering the philosophy of Saint Thomas in abstraction from the theology, which latter maintains an intrinsic and essential relationship with faith, I try to characterize the attitude of the Catholic Church in regard to this philosophy. In publishing it I am fully aware that it would be absurd to try to replace by the argument from authority or by a kind of constraint the reasons of intrinsic evidence which alone can motivate scientific adherence to a system of philosophy. It is not in religious faith nor in the authority of the Church that Thomist philosophy has its principles and its raison d’être, and one would be greatly deceived if he were to see in it a doctrine reserved for clerics and for sacred offices. It is a philosophy, it is founded on evidence alone, it lives by reason alone. Of itself it belongs to the same secular cycle as the liberal arts. I even think that the time has come for it to spread into every order of secular speculative activity, to leave the walls of the school, the seminary or the college in order to assume in the whole world of culture the role that befits a wisdom of the natural order: its place is among its sister sciences, it must converse with politics and anthropology, history and poetry; formed in the open air, in the free conversations of peripateticism, it desires, though all the while remaining apart from the traffic of men, to take an interest in everything that concerns the life of men, it is essential for it to keep contact with sensible experience; to maintain its own vitality it needs a vast breathing space and incessant exchanges.

But the body politic, with all its secular culture, is enveloped by the Church as the earth is enveloped by the heavens; the Christian lay is part of the Church. The more lay it becomes, and the more it advances boldly toward the most exposed frontiers, the more will the perennial philosophy, to preserve its integrity, have to remain in continuity with the superhuman sources without which the human weakens, with the sacred wisdom which transcends it and whose native land is the contemplative activity of the Church. This is why it was normal and consonant with the eternal order that, venturing into the universe, it should first be commissioned by the Papacy.

This predilection of the Church, these recommendations, these exhortations of the Popes, do not constitute and do not claim to constitute an intrinsic demonstration of the truth of Thomism. They are extrinsic arguments and guarantees, signs which induce in the intelligence of the believer a well-founded confidence. Unbelievers, no doubt, are unmoved by them; nay more, such recommendations rather render suspect to them a philosophy thus patronized. For all that, the Church does not lower her voice; she does not mind compromising philosophers with her company and that of Jesus Christ; she doubtless considers that if these unbelievers do not listen to First Truth, they would listen still less to metaphysical reasonings, because their hearts are prejudiced; let them take scandal at seeing a science honored by faith, she regards their scandal as pharisaical. In any event, it would be ridiculous to present before them evidence based on the feeling of the Church in favor of one philosophy.

(more…)

September 26, 2009

A Would-be Muslim Head-Hunter of Coptic Christians…

Filed under: Ethics & Epistemology, Morality — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 10:16 pm

From Coptreal.

By BosNewsLife Middle East Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (BosNewsLife)– Egyptian police have detained a Muslim man who allegedly killed a Coptic Christian and seriously injured two other Copts in two different villages, north of the capital Cairo, Christians said Wednesday September 23. Galal Nasr el-Dardiri, 35, attacked 63-year-old Abdu Georgy in front of the victim’s shop in Behnay village late September 16, news reports said.

Christians said El-Dardiri stabbed Georgy several times, disemboweled him, slit his throat and began sawing off his head. El-Dardiri then allegedly went to a nearby town and stabbed Coptic shopkeeper Boils Eid Messiha, 40, and then went to Mit Afif and attacked another Copt, identified as Hany Barsom Soliman.

Messiha reportedly remained in intensive care and Soliman suffered lacerations to his arms. On Thursday, September 17, about 1,000 people gathered at Georgy’s funeral to protest the killing and assaults on Coptic Christians.

“BLOOD NOT IN VAIN”

Protestors reportedly chanted that Georgy’s “blood was not [spilled] in vain” as they carried signs that read, “Where are you, government? The terrorists are going to kill us.” [Personally, I think this horrendous incident is a good apologetic for the necessity of the religious military orders. –Antiochian-Thomist]

El-Dardiri was arrested also September 17 and charged with murder, church sources said.

The latest attack underscored international concerns about growing tensions between minority Christians and majority Muslims in Egypt. There have been several violent attacks against Coptic Christians in recently in the mainly Islamic nation.

For the full article, go here.

September 25, 2009

Kathleen Sebelius: Communion Prohibition “Painful”; Archbishop Naumann Responds

Filed under: Ethics & Epistemology, Morality, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 6:59 pm

An article has appeared on Life Site News discussing Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s prohibition of pro-abort, Kathleen Sebelius, from receiving the Sacred Mysteries due to her publicly known moral stances which run contrary to Church teachings and the Natural Law. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Sebelius claims the prohibition to be “painful”, appealing to the erroneous notions of the “separation of church and state.”

Excerpts of the article follow with selected responses from Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

From LifeSiteNews.com.

By Peter J. Smith and Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 23, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Over a year after Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann publicly prohibited the pro-abortion U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from receiving Communion, Sebelius has broken her silence on the matter.  Appealing to the “separation of church and state,” Sebelius said the episcopal order was “one of the most painful things I have ever experienced” and implied that her pro-abortion position was part and parcel of upholding the rights of an inter-faith constituency.  In a response given to LifeSiteNews.com, Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City said the secretary’s argument “misrepresents the issue” to make it appear that “she was the victim of merely upholding the law.”

Former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius proved her bona fides to the pro-abortion movement time and again through close associations with now-slain abortionist George Tiller and Planned Parenthood, and through numerous vetoes of pro-life legislation and common-sense regulations on the abortion-industry.

But the former governor described by the late-columnist Bob Novak “the national pro-choice poster girl” is far from being a Catholic in good-standing with the Catholic Church – a status that rankles the HHS Secretary and for good reason: Sebelius has the distinction of being one of the highest ranking Catholics in the Obama Administration, who is forbidden to receive Holy Communion – a Church sacrament that also symbolizes spiritual unity with the rest of the Church’s members.

Back in May 2008, Archbishop Naumann publicly directed Sebelius to refrain from presenting herself for Holy Communion until she takes “the necessary steps for amendment of her life which would include a public repudiation of her previous efforts and actions in support of laws and policies sanctioning abortion.”

KathleenSibelius2

Excerpts From interview Dialogue

Sebelius: Well, the Archbishop in the Kansas City area did not approve of my conduct as a public official and asked that I not present myself for communion.

Washington Post: What did you think about that?

Sebelius: Well, it was one of the most painful things I have ever experienced in my life, and I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state, and I feel that my actions as a parishioner are different than my actions as a public official and that the people who elected me in Kansas had a right to expect me to uphold their rights and their beliefs even if they did not have the same religious beliefs that I had. And that’s what I did: I took an oath of office and I have taken an oath of office in this job and will uphold the law.

Washington Post: Do you continue to take communion?

Sebelius: I really would prefer not to discuss that with you. That’s really a personal-thank you.

ArchbishopNaumann200

Arcbhishop Naumann Responds to LifeSiteNews

However the Catholic Church views abortion and as first and foremost a moral issue – not a religious or faith issue – because the sacredness of human life pertains to the natural law, which reveals the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of human acts through reason.

In response to Sebelius’ statements to the Post, Archbishop Nauman told LifeSiteNews.com that he issued the request “to motivate her to recognize the serious error of her past support and advocacy for legalized abortion, and to protect other Catholics from being misled by the Governor’s actions into thinking that abortion is not a grave moral evil.”

“Secretary Sebelius misrepresents the issue by her attempt to invoke separation of church and state,” wrote Naumann.  “At no time did I ask her not to execute her oath of office.

“Secretary Sebelius makes it appear that she was asked not to receive Holy Communion because she was the victim of merely upholding the law.  In reality, Secretary Sebelius opposed even such modest restrictions on abortion as parental notification of minors, required waiting periods before an abortion, as well as meaningful regulation of abortion clinics to protect, at least, the mother’s health.”

Naumann said it was “very painful” to ask Sebelius not to receive Communion.  “However, I had exhausted every reasonable means to convince her to change her position,” he said.  “I also had a serious obligation to uphold the integrity of the Eucharist and to protect other Catholics from being misled by the former Governor’s support for legalized abortion.

“I continue to pray for Secretary Sebelius that she will accept the grace to acknowledge the grave evil in which she has been involved and will have the courage to take the necessary steps to correct the scandal created by her past actions.”

For the full article, go here.

September 24, 2009

Anselm’s Three Stages of Theology

Filed under: Doctrine, Philosophy, Sacred Scripture and Theology — Tags: , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 7:57 pm

From Zenit.org.

Pope Benedict XVI notes St. Anselm’s three stages of theology.

Excerpts follow:

‘VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- St. Anselm is one of the eminent personalities of the Middle Ages, but his teaching continues to be pertinent today, 900 years after his death, according to Benedict XVI.

‘The Pope reflected today during the general audience in Paul VI Hall on the life of the “magnificent doctor” (1033-1109), claimed by the cities of Aosta, Bec and Canterbury. […]

‘The Pope said that the “clarity and logical rigor” of Anselm’s thought always sought to “raise the mind to the contemplation of God.”

“He states clearly that whoever attempts to theologize cannot just count on his intelligence, but must cultivate at the same time a profound experience of faith,” the Holy Father noted. “According to St. Anselm, the activity of a theologian, therefore, develops in three stages: faith, free gift of God that must be received with humility; experience, which consists in the incarnation of the word of God in one’s daily life; and lastly true knowledge, which is never the fruit of aseptic thoughts, but of a contemplative intuition.’

Read the full article here.

Cardinal Mahoney: Abortion in Health Bill ‘Beyond My Field’

Filed under: Doctrine, Ethics & Epistemology, Morality, Politics — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 6:51 pm

http://www.cnsnews.com/public/cnsnewstv/video.aspx?v=GdkUnz6UqG

What exactly is your field your ‘Eminence’? Clown Masses? Moral scandals? — Antiochian-Thomist

“COMPULSORY Abortion Backed by Constitution” Says Obama Czar

Filed under: Doctrine, Ethics & Epistemology, Morality, Politics — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 5:31 pm

According to the article linked, Obama’s Science ‘Czar’ thinks that compulsory abortion can be backed by the U.S. Constitution. Supposedly large families are contributing to the impending environmental catastrophe.

You can’t put numbers to the moral catastrophe we are facing. — Antiochian-Thomist

Excerpts follow.

‘Obama science czar John Holdren stated in a college textbook he co-authored that in conditions of emergency, compulsory abortion would be sustainable under the U.S. Constitution, even with Supreme Court review.

‘….A series of papers recently published by the Royal Society in Great Britain and by the United Nations have made a direct link between global population growth and anthropomorphic, or man-made global warming.

‘….The Economist magazine summed up the current argument Monday, stating, “A world with fewer people would emit less greenhouse gas.”

‘….The authors of “Ecoscience” argued that a “legal restriction on the right to have more than a given number of children” could be crafted under the U.S. Constitution in crisis situations under the standard that “law has as its proper function the protection of each person and each group of persons.”

‘On page 838, the authors argued, “The law could properly say to a mother that, in order to protect the children she already has, she could have no more.”

‘To justify the point, the authors commented “differential rates of reproduction between ethnic, racial, religious, or economic groups might result in increased competition for resources and political power and thereby undermine social order.”

‘The authors continued their constitutional analysis of government-mandated population control measures by writing: “If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children, and if the need is compelling, they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility in their resource-consumption patterns – provided they are not denied equal protection.” (Italics in the original text.)’

Find the full article here.

September 21, 2009

The Ground of Union: Deification in Aquinas and Palamas. By A.N. Williams

I’ve been asserting this for years. Now someone has done a scholarly work supporting it. God bless A.N. Williams! — Antiochian-Thomist

From AccessMyLibrary.com.

THE GROUND OF UNION: DEIFICATION IN AQUINAS AND PALAMAS. By A.N. Williams. New York: Oxford University, 1999. Pp. 222.

(Partial Review)

Any effort toward understanding and union between Christian Churches of the East and the West involves an objective examination of the central issues and theological concepts. Williams explores the main writings of two representative medieval thinkers and theological spokesmen whose image and method have generally been misinterpreted or misused, whether out of sincere ignorance or deliberate polemics. Conventional academic scholarship and ecumenical dialogue have sharply differentiated between the “Palamite” and “Scholastic” ways.

From an Orthodox perspective, it is improper that certain authors employ the term “heart” as a stick to brandish against the allegedly “rationalistic” West. Aquinas contrasts “cordis affectus” with “intellectus,” but it would be unfair to attribute to him a narrow use of “affectus.” Furthermore his use of “intellectus” implies the Greek “noesis,” which is certainly not identical with discursive reasoning. Whether the heart is or is not neglected in the West, it should not be used as an antonym for “reason.” The charge of “rationalism” leveled against Western theology, in contrast to the alleged “heartfulness” of Eastern theology, is as tenuous as it is paradoxical. Any simplistic condemnation or justification of one theological method over or against another will invariably reveal deeper complexities and essential exceptions.

W. obliges both Orthodox and Western theologians to review their critical attitude and apologetic approach toward one another’s methodology. She offers a sharp criticism of contemporary writers whose tone is negative, even “bitter,” often “determined to misread the texts and authors [they] purport to analyze” (14). She is even critical of “more nuanced and sophisticated [theologians, who are] no less hostile to what they suppose to be Western theological method” (18). She has read and researched numerous monographs and articles by modern theologians, and her access to more remote writers and publications is admirable.

W.’s purpose is to address in a comparative fashion, even to challenge “the charges of opposition of East and West in the doctrine of deification” (33). She has selected one or more major texts from each of her authors: the Summa theologiae of Aquinas, and the Triads and Capita physica of Palamas. Though aware of the dangers of a selective …

From Amazon.com.

414GCoHuHqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_

Review
“Williams makes a significant contribution [towards] enabling [. . .] a recognition of the extent to which the theme and sometimes the language of deification recur throughout the history of Christian theology. [This] could prove to be a major step in overcoming misunderstanding between East and West, [. . .] an invaluable service [. . .] well worth the effort of careful reading.”–St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly

Product Description
This book attempts to resolve one of the oldest and bitterest controversies between the Eastern and Western Christian churches: namely, the dispute about the doctrine of deification. A. N. Williams examines two key thinkers, each of whom is championed as the authentic spokesman of his own tradition and reviled by the other. Taking Aquinas as representative of the West and Gregory Palamas for the East, she presents fresh readings of their work that both reinterpret each thinker and sho an area of commonality between them much greater than has previously been acknowledged.

September 20, 2009

A Good Opportunity for a Good Education

Filed under: Philosophy, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 11:35 pm

This is an unadulterated plug for an online program dedicated to the study of the traditional scholastic philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Common Doctor of the Church. Be aware that I receive no material compensation for this advertisement. The program is “Sapientis est Ordinare“.   I encourage everyone to have a look at this organization and the educational opportunity they are offering.  — Antiochian-Thomist

The Society of Scholastics (from their website):

We are an intellectual association committed to restoring the philosophic doctrines, didactic principles, and scientific synthesis of the great masters of the classical universities, the Scholastics. We hold Thomas of Aquin to be the paradigm of Scholastic scholars and we apply ourselves to renewing the great scientific tradition forged by his Commentators throughout the centuries.

With a strong emphasis on Logic, the division and subordination of the sciences, and strict methodology, we defend our attention to detail with the axiom:
‘A small error in principle is a large error in conclusion.’

Sapientis est Ordinare (from the website):

Sapientis is an online course of studies based entirely on the principles of Aristotelian Thomism. Its goal is to lead students to the complete grasp of the natural and artificial orders in the universe and of our moral duties resulting from this order.

The Relevance of St. Thomas Aquinas

Filed under: Doctrine, Philosophy, Sacred Scripture and Theology — Tags: , , , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 7:42 pm

From the website: latin-mass-society.org.

Pope John Paul II wrote: “‘Let us follow the example of the Angelic Doctor’ is what Leo XIII advises [Aeterni Patris]. That is what I also repeat.” Any solution to the crisis of faith and thought in the Church must involve a rediscovery of Thomas Aquinas. Tim Kelly provides an authoritative introduction to the thought of Thomas of Aquino.

When one listens carefully to what the Church teaches about St Thomas Aquinas, consistently throughout eight centuries, one can be forgiven for being alarmed. She has done something more radical, more far-reaching and serious, than simply commend him. This is summed up by Pope John XXII: “His doctrine could only be described as miraculous…because he has enlightened the Church more than all of the other doctors. By the use of his works a man could profit more in one year than if he studies the doctrine of others for his whole life“.

The Church has effectively set aside for all times a single holy doctor and saint from all the other teachers in the Church’s history. But could not this breed a dangerously restricted, one-dimensional understanding of her teaching tradition? Might there not be perhaps a hint of exaggeration, an unusual lack of sobriety, in her magisterial declarations regarding Thomas? Does not the mediation of the splendour of Catholic Truth require a chorus of many voices, a synchronisation that is polyphonic and varied in its expression? After all, besides St Thomas Aquinas, we have thirty-two other doctors, thirty-two other holy teachers with eminens doctrina, insignis vitae sanctitas, et Ecclesiae declaratio (i.e. eminent doctrine, a high degree of sanctity, and official proclamation by the Church). Is it not right, therefore, and not more truly Catholic, to attend to the great harmony of the whole? Is not the Church alerting us to precisely this when it elevates to the rank of doctor the likes of the fourth century poet St Ephraem the Syrian, or little Thérèse of Lisieux, to stand alongside the mighty scholarship of Ambrose, Gregory the Great, Jerome and Augustine?

Furthermore, since grace perfects human nature and does not replace it, does not the communion of saints contain the most wondrously varied and diverse human natures imaginable, all of them proclaiming in a most eminent manner the unique and unrepeatable character of every human soul? Therefore, does not each saint, and among them each holy doctor, make a contribution to theology that is correspondingly unique and unrepeatable, and which therefore commands our attention? And so, is there not, perhaps, something a little crass in John XXII’s pronouncement that we will profit more in a year of studying St Thomas’s works than a lifetime studying the others?

The the rest of the article here.

September 6, 2009

A Latin's Lament Over Gennadios Scholarios

Filed under: Doctrine, Philosophy — Tags: , , , — Antiochian-Thomist @ 6:47 pm

The following article was reproduced from the weblog, Eirenikon.

The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies

“Overcoming the Schism,” Chicago, May 8-10, 1998

THE SCHISM: GROUNDS FOR DIVISION, GROUNDS FOR UNITY
“A LATIN’S LAMENTATION OVER GENNADIOS SCHOLARIOS”
Fr. Hugh Barbour, O. Praem.

In August of 1994, I was happy to be one of the many Latin clerics who over the years, in divisa or in borghese, have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain of Athos, the Garden of the Mother of God. On the feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration I was able to set foot on that peninsula where souls and bodies hidden from the world, but known to God and His angels, share still in the bright glory of that mystery narrated in the Holy Gospels. I made this pilgrimage with the blessing of my abbot after attending an international meeting of some clergy. On Athos I expected to be refreshed and edified, and I was, after having had to breathe deeply the “schismatic” atmosphere of a sadly typical postconciliar gathering of ecclesiastics, some of whom were merely juridically Roman Catholic, for whom God and the things of God could scarcely be said to hold the primacy, and the Pope not at all.

In a shop by the docks at the little western port of the Mountain I found a postcard representation of an icon depicting a touching and curious scene: “The Lamentation over Constantine Palaiologos” written at the Old Calendarist hesychasterion of the Mother of God of the Myrtle Tree in Attica. In the icon the emperor reposes on a bier with a candle as two women mourn on either side, one kneeling, written as “Orthodoxy” and the other, “Hellas”, standing with her hand to her mouth in a gesture of reverence, calling to mind the original sense of the imperial Roman adoratio. A touching scene, I say, because it brings to mind the magnificent “courage born of despair,” as even the malicious Gibbon puts it, with which the last of the Roman emperors died leading the defense of his New Rome, yet still a curious one, since this Constantine XII died in communion with the see of Old Rome, having received the Eucharistic viaticum on the morning of the halosis at a uniate liturgy, the last to be served in the Church of Holy Wisdom.

Even more curious was the figure “Hellas” for nothing could be less Byzantine, less Orthodox, less imperial, than the use of this term to name the nation of Greek-speaking Romaioi. To Orthodox Byzantium “hellenic” meant secular, pagan, something worse than heterodox, to be anathematized in the synodikon on the first Sunday of Great Lent. At the time of the fall of the City a “hellene” was one who exceeded even the utilitarian impiety of the Florentine latinophrones by promoting the Florentine Platonic revival.

The figure of Orthodoxy, undoubtedly the most important in the image, was in very strange company indeed, with anomalies more than anachronistic. That this icon was the work of Old Calendarists who clearly intended it to be the expression of a rigorously Orthodox historical sensibility indicates a fact, more relevant than ever, which those of us – inter quos ego – who sympathize with the zealots, Catholic and Orthodox, must keep in mind. It is this: We must be vigilant to ensure that in our understanding and defense of right belief and right worship we do not adopt the ideological preoccupations of political and philosophical movements, sometimes those of our friends and allies, which are foreign to our faith and its tradition, lest we undermine the very thing we are striving to preserve. We must examine carefully the understanding and instincts of the best representatives of our twin tradition, Eastern and Western, especially at the points in history when they are explicitly opposing each other or together combating the same contemporary errors. The happy result of this can be a genuine ecumenism, an ecumenism of the “anti-ecumenical,” innocent of ideology or indifferentism. Dom Gerard Calvet, abbot of the traditional Benedictine abbey of the Madeleine, Le Barroux in Provence has said: “The true ecumenism is that of Tradition… the more I deepen my understanding of Tradition, the more I rediscover other men.” [1]

After the pilgrimage to the Holy Mountain, I went to Serres in Macedonia near the Bulgarian border, to the monastery of the Holy Forerunner, to the tomb of Gennadios Scholarios, first Patriarch of Constantinople under Turkish domination, to pay a debt of gratitude to him by praying for the repose of his soul, just having completed in 1993 a study of his thought for a doctorate at a Roman university. The monastery which was the place of his retirement, from which he hoped (and hopes still!) to rise in the parousia, is now flourishing after many years without a monastic community. There are nuns there, the spiritual daughters of the great Father Ephraim, abbot of Philotheou on Athos, who has founded a number of observant communities in Greece and most recently in Arizona at a desert town ominously – for the Orthodox at least – named Florence.

Two kind nuns accompanied me to the katholikon where they were amazed and a bit reluctant to see me venerate the relics of the monastery, and stood by with a certain sceptical vigilance as I prayed a rosary more romano at the epitaph of the patriarch, one on each side, as I knelt there. They simply did not know what to expect from a Latin priest, but they were willing and charitable enough in their watchfulness. Here was another touching and curious scene. Yet it was a scene more truly indicative of the state of things past and present and future than that written on the postcard icon. This was a living icon of the clarity about Tradition just commended, with the tense, but kind-hearted akrivia which ought to characterize the relations between Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. No one of us had made a compromise, but something true had really brought us together.

The nuns represented the living tradition of Orthodoxy, the kneeling priest, the faith of the Roman Catholic Thomist. What did the patriarch lying in death, surrounded by his modern mourners represent? We will now see. The rest of my conference will draw out the implications of this brief act of piety on behalf of the departed patriarch. Let it be a kind of historical-theological “Lamentation over Gennadios Scholarios,” a threnos which may not only move us at the thought of the beauty and the possibilities that once were, but also shed light on our duties at the present hour.

(more…)