Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quaeritur: Do Angels Undergo Motion?


Quaeritur: If by motion we understand the passing from potency to act, what does the motion of the angels consist in?  It is probably not locomotion, which is circumscribed within space.  I know that in angels there is a distinction between potency and act (because otherwise they would be Pure Act, that is, God, or pure potency, prime matter, which is an ens rationis, if I’m not mistaken).  But what would the actualization of their potencies consist in?  Can an angel learn?  On the other hand, with respect to local motion, as far as I understand there seem to be testimonies in Scripture and in the writings of the saints where angels seem to be have a certain trajectory in space when they interact with corporeal beings.  How is this possible?

Respondeo: First of all, as you say, in angels there is in fact a composition of potency and act.  They are not pure act, as is God, or pure potency, as is prime matter (see St. Thomas, De ente et essentia, Ch. 4).  A separate issue is whether they can move from potency to act.

Further, motion can occur per se within three genera or categories: quality, quantity, and place.  Properly speaking, only mobile being (i.e., material being) is the subject of motion.  But motion can also be understood analogically in reference to incorporeal beings where there is a composition of potency and act.  This applies to both angels and souls. 

However, angels, being incorporeal, do not have quantiative parts, so they can only undergo motion qualitatively (as you say, if they learn), or in place, by assuming different places.  But all this is true only analogically, as compared to the way we ascribe motion to bodies.

St. Thomas, in fact, explicitly ascribes place, and hence motion, to angels, but does so ‘equivocally’:

Summa theologiae Ia, q. 56, a. 1:

Whether an angel can be moved locally?

Ad primum sic proceditur. Videtur quod Angelus non possit moveri localiter. Ut enim probat philosophus in VI Physic., nullum impartibile movetur, quia dum aliquid est in termino a quo, non movetur; nec etiam dum est in termino ad quem, sed tunc mutatum est, unde relinquitur quod omne quod movetur, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem. Sed Angelus est impartibilis. Ergo Angelus non potest moveri localiter.  Objection 1: It seems that an angel cannot be moved locally. For, as the Philosopher proves (Phys. vi, text 32,86) "nothing which is devoid of parts is moved"; because, while it is in the term "wherefrom," it is not moved; nor while it is in the term "whereto," for it is then already moved; consequently it remains that everything which is moved, while it is being moved, is partly in the term "wherefrom" and partly in the term "whereto." But an angel is without parts. Therefore an angel cannot be moved locally.
Praeterea, motus est actus imperfecti, ut dicitur in III Physic. Sed Angelus beatus non est imperfectus. Ergo Angelus beatus non movetur localiter.  Objection 2: Further, movement is "the act of an imperfect being," as the Philosopher says (Phys. iii, text 14). But a beatified angel is not imperfect. Consequently a beatified angel is not moved locally.
Praeterea, motus non est nisi propter indigentiam. Sed sanctorum Angelorum nulla est indigentia. Ergo sancti Angeli localiter non moventur.  Objection 3: Further, movement is simply because of want. But the holy angels have no want. Therefore the holy angels are not moved locally.
Sed contra, eiusdem rationis est Angelum beatum moveri, et animam beatam moveri. Sed necesse est dicere animam beatam localiter moveri, cum sit articulus fidei quod Christus secundum animam, descendit ad Inferos. Ergo Angelus beatus movetur localiter.  On the contrary, It is the same thing for a beatified angel to be moved as for a beatified soul to be moved. But it must necessarily be said that a blessed soul is moved locally, because it is an article of faith that Christ's soul descended into Hell. Therefore a beatified angel is moved locally.
Respondeo dicendum quod Angelus beatus potest moveri localiter. Sed sicut esse in loco aequivoce convenit corpori et Angelo, ita etiam et moveri secundum locum. Corpus enim est in loco, inquantum continetur sub loco, et commensuratur loco. Unde oportet quod etiam motus corporis secundum locum, commensuretur loco, et sit secundum exigentiam eius. Et inde est quod secundum continuitatem magnitudinis est continuitas motus; et secundum prius et posterius in magnitudine, est prius et posterius in motu locali corporis, ut dicitur in IV Physic. Sed Angelus non est in loco ut commensuratus et contentus, sed magis ut continens. Unde motus Angeli in loco, non oportet quod commensuretur loco, nec quod sit secundum exigentiam eius, ut habeat continuitatem ex loco; sed est motus non continuus. Quia enim Angelus non est in loco nisi secundum contactum virtutis, ut dictum est, necesse est quod motus Angeli in loco nihil aliud sit quam diversi contactus diversorum locorum successive et non simul, quia Angelus non potest simul esse in pluribus locis, ut supra dictum est. Huiusmodi autem contactus non est necessarium esse continuos. Potest tamen in huiusmodi contactibus continuitas quaedam inveniri. Quia, ut dictum est, nihil prohibet Angelo assignare locum divisibilem, per contactum suae virtutis; sicut corpori assignatur locus divisibilis, per contactum suae magnitudinis. Unde sicut corpus successive, et non simul, dimittit locum in quo prius erat, et ex hoc causatur continuitas in motu locali eius; ita etiam Angelus potest dimittere successive locum divisibilem in quo prius erat, et sic motus eius erit continuus. Et potest etiam totum locum simul dimittere, et toti alteri loco simul se applicare, et sic motus eius non erit continuus.  I answer that, A beatified angel can be moved locally. As, however, to be in a place belongs equivocally to a body and to an angel, so likewise does local movement. For a body is in a place in so far as it is contained under the place, and is commensurate with the place. Hence it is necessary for local movement of a body to be commensurate with the place, and according to its exigency. Hence it is that the continuity of movement is according to the continuity of magnitude; and according to priority and posteriority of local movement, as the Philosopher says (Phys. iv, text 99). But an angel is not in a place as commensurate and contained, but rather as containing it. Hence it is not necessary for the local movement of an angel to be commensurate with the place, nor for it to be according to the exigency of the place, so as to have continuity therefrom; but it is a non-continuous movement. For since the angel is in a place only by virtual contact, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), it follows necessarily that the movement of an angel in a place is nothing else than the various contacts of various places successively, and not at once; because an angel cannot be in several places at one time, as was said above (Question [52]Article [2]). Nor is it necessary for these contacts to be continuous. Nevertheless a certain kind of continuity can be found in such contacts. Because, as was said above (Question [52]Article [1]), there is nothing to hinder us from assigning a divisible place to an angel according to virtual contact; just as a divisible place is assigned to a body by contact of magnitude. Hence as a body successively, and not all at once, quits the place in which it was before, and thence arises continuity in its local movement; so likewise an angel can successively quit the divisible place in which he was before, and so his movement will be continuous. And he can all at once quit the whole place, and in the same instant apply himself to the whole of another place, and thus his movement will not be continuous.
Ad primum ergo dicendum quod illa ratio dupliciter deficit in proposito. Primo quidem, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de indivisibili secundum quantitatem, cui respondet locus de necessitate indivisibilis. Quod non potest dici de Angelo.  Reply to Objection 1: This argument fails of its purpose for a twofold reason. First of all, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with what is indivisible according to quantity, to which responds a place necessarily indivisible. And this cannot be said of an angel.
Secundo, quia demonstratio Aristotelis procedit de motu continuo. Si enim motus non esset continuus, posset dici quod aliquid movetur dum est in termino a quo, et dum est in termino ad quem, quia ipsa successio diversorum ubi circa eandem rem, motus diceretur; unde in quolibet illorum ubi res esset, illa posset dici moveri. Sed continuitas motus hoc impedit, quia nullum continuum est in termino suo, ut patet, quia linea non est in puncto. Et ideo oportet quod illud quod movetur, non sit totaliter in altero terminorum, dum movetur; sed partim in uno, et partim in altero. Secundum ergo quod motus Angeli non est continuus, demonstratio Aristotelis non procedit in proposito. Sed secundum quod motus Angeli ponitur continuus, sic concedi potest quod Angelus, dum movetur, partim est in termino a quo, et partim in termino ad quem (ut tamen partialitas non referatur ad substantiam Angeli, sed ad locum), quia in principio sui motus continui, Angelus est in toto loco divisibili a quo incipit moveri; sed dum est in ipso moveri, est in parte primi loci quem deserit, et in parte secundi loci quem occupat. Et hoc quidem quod possit occupare partes duorum locorum, competit Angelo ex hoc quod potest occupare locum divisibilem per applicationem suae virtutis sicut corpus per applicationem magnitudinis. Unde sequitur de corpore mobili secundum locum, quod sit divisibile secundum magnitudinem de Angelo autem, quod virtus eius possit applicari alicui divisibili.Secondly, because Aristotle's demonstration deals with movement which is continuous. For if the movement were not continuous, it might be said that a thing is moved where it is in the term "wherefrom," and while it is in the term "whereto": because the very succession of "wheres," regarding the same thing, would be called movement: hence, in whichever of those "wheres" the thing might be, it could be said to be moved. But the continuity of movement prevents this; because nothing which is continuous is in its term, as is clear, because the line is not in the point. Therefore it is necessary for the thing moved to be not totally in either of the terms while it is being moved; but partly in the one, and partly in the other. Therefore, according as the angel's movement is not continuous, Aristotle's demonstration does not hold good. But according as the angel's movement is held to be continuous, it can be so granted, that, while an angel is in movement, he is partly in the term "wherefrom," and partly in the term "whereto" (yet so that such partiality be not referred to the angel's substance, but to the place); because at the outset of his continuous movement the angel is in the whole divisible place from which he begins to be moved; but while he is actually in movement, he is in part of the first place which he quits, and in part of the second place which he occupies. This very fact that he can occupy the parts of two places appertains to the angel from this, that he can occupy a divisible place by applying his power; as a body does by application of magnitude. Hence it follows regarding a body which is movable according to place, that it is divisible according to magnitude; but regarding an angel, that his power can be applied to something which is divisible.
Ad secundum dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est actus imperfecti. Sed motus qui est secundum applicationem virtutis, est existentis in actu, quia virtus rei est secundum quod actu est.  Reply to Objection 2: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect agent. But the movement which is by application of energy is the act of one in act: because energy implies actuality.
Ad tertium dicendum quod motus existentis in potentia, est propter indigentiam suam, sed motus existentis in actu, non est propter indigentiam suam, sed propter indigentiam alterius. Et hoc modo Angelus, propter indigentiam nostram, localiter movetur, secundum illud Heb. I, omnes sunt administratorii spiritus, in ministerium missi propter eos qui haereditatem capiunt salutis.  Reply to Objection 3: The movement of that which is in potentiality is the act of an imperfect but the movement of what is in act is not for any need of its own, but for another's need. In this way, because of our need, the angel is moved locally, according to Heb. 1:14: "They are all [*Vulg.: 'Are they not all . . . ?'] ministering spirits, sent to minister for them who receive the inheritance of salvation."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quaeritur: Difference Between Formal and Total Abstraction


Quaeritur: What is the difference between so-called ‘total abstraction’ and ‘formal abstraction?  If total abstraction consists in abstracting the universal from the particular (e.g., abstracting from a concrete man the universal ‘man’), and formal abstraction consists in abstracting the form from the matter-form composite (e.g., I suppose that from a concrete man, we could abstract his formal ontological structure, that is, his substantial form ‘man’), which places a given being in its species, and which would be similar to the universal---or am I mistaken?  Aren’t they ultimately the same thing?

Respondeo: The difference between these lies in that total abstraction consists, as you say, in abstracting the complete nature of the individual in question (e.g., if we look at a particular tree and abstract the nature of ‘treeness’, or the tree’s proximate genus ‘plant’, or its ultimate genus ‘substance’), whereas formal abstraction consists in isolating, not the whole nature, but merely some partial aspect of the individual, prescinding from its sensible qualities that depend on matter for their definition (as for example, taking the same tree, we can abstractly conceive its geometric shape or figure).  These two types of abstraction, according to modern scholasticism, correspond to natural science and to mathematics, respectively.

Here is a nice explanation from Klubertanz’s Introduction to the Philosophy of Being (2nd Ed.):

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Our Lady's Breasts, Pope Francis' Comment, and the Iceberg of Catholic Culture


First of all, I'd like to apologize for this post, which is really just a rant.  It's not on a speculative theological matter, so I cannot just rely on the scholastic method to deduce a solution to the problem.  It's a faith-based reflection on a real life problem that I have encountered in my journey as a traditional Catholic.  Most of my conversations with traditional Catholics, or with people who are just beginning their love affair with the traditional Mass, naturally tend to focus on doctrinal and liturgical matters.  Sadly, many 'trads' understand the concept of being a traditional Catholic in doctrinal and liturgical terms, and never see that, in the end, becoming a traditional Catholic is so much more than that, and has to do with culture.  As a philosopher, theologian, and scholar, I am used to deductive, demonstrative reasoning and I therefore often struggle to communicate this non-scholarly, existential idea in a convincing way to people.  

But a recent papal comment and the ensuing discussion in social media became an occasion for me to address this problem among traditional Catholics.  I must say that from time to time Pope Francis says or 'tweets' something that does resonate with me.  If this ever happens, it is usually on some very practical matter, not a doctrinal issue.  One example is his recent remark during a baptism on breastfeeding in church: "[S]ince the ceremony is a bit long, [and] someone cries because they are hungry... if so, you moms go ahead and breast-feed them without fear and as usual, just like Our Lady breast-fed Jesus."  

Granted, this is not a serious moral issue, like that having to do with the reception of Holy Communion by those in adulterous unions.  But to me, it is symptomatic of a much deeper problem.

Moreover, I must also admit that it is a prudential and culturally-contingent issue, so it is not easily settled through the science of ethics or moral theology. Although I stand firmly as a defender of traditional morality, the natural law, and moral objectivity---both in my teaching and in everyday conversation---I do think, with Aristotle and Aquinas, that not all concrete moral situations are settled by the first principles of practical reasoning.  There are some cultural and prudential matters that can only be decided on by letting the various circumstances, even cultural circumstances, seriously inform your choice.

So, this issue will inevitably be seen differently by people in different countries, and in different circles within the same country.  And because in practial matters there may be many correct ways of acting, even opposing views on the issue may be found to be reasonable.  

In this case, in Latin America for example there is a very strong sense among the general Catholic population---even many traditional Catholics---that breastfeeding is completely out of place in Church, that it is disrespectful, even indecent; whereas for example among traditional Catholics in the US, especially large families attending a TLM, no one would bat an eye over a mom nursing her baby, especially if done with a nursing cover.  Non-traditional Catholics in the US and Europe tend to lie somewhere in the middle.

Social media is abuzz over this issue, with lots of people, notably from Latin America, disapproving the practice as well as the Pope's remark.  Why would some Catholics, especially in some cultures, be so strongly opposed to this statement of the Pope, and generally opposed to the practice of nursing a baby in church? I think ultimately it is because they have let an anti-Catholic culture dominate their minds, perhaps without realizing it.  Culturally they have become unaccustomed to life, to the natural family, to the growing family.  

We often do that: we allow a new way of thinking creep into our minds, and unconsciously let it dictate how we think; not necessarily at the level of dogma, or at the level of first moral principles, but we let it influence our unexamined attitudes and sensibilities.  I have noticed this happen in other areas of life.  For example, in the last twenty years it is easily noticeable there has been a profound shift in the way people think about homosexuality.  I'm not talking about people who now are pro-homosexual marriage.  I'm talking about faithful Catholics who are against it, but who have nonetheless allowed the surrounding culture (or lack thereof) transform their attitude towards homosexuals.  They reject homosexual marriage, but their attitude towards homosexuals is now entirely different from the way it was twenty years ago: before, they thought of homosexuals as mentally-ill, perverted, and even dangerous people---nearly everybody did.  But now that homosexuals have fully revealed their social revolutionary agenda, and the media has campaigned in their favor, these people now have passively agreed to think of homosexuals in entirely different, primarily positive terms.  They drank the Kool Aid without realizing it.  

Yet homosexuality is just another issue among many that are symptomatic of a crisis in the Western view of marriage and the family.  It is an important issue, a grave problem to be sure, but it is by no means the only one.

The deeper crisis is that the culture (or lack thereof) that we have been imbibing in the West since at least the mid-20th century is against every natural aspect of the family as God intended it to be, especially as it concerns the nature of womanhood. Feminism has pressured the West to think that women flourish only by emancipating themselves from the chains of motherhood and engaging in professional work.  Feminism has forced us to believe that women are to have at most two children, and thus having a child is an exceptional event in an adult woman's life.  Feminism has made us think that once a woman has given birth, it is her duty to detach her baby from herself as soon as possible, so that she may return to 'normal' life, i.e., professional work.  This often means either weaning the baby as soon as possible or not breastfeeding at all; it means switching to formula and bottle-feeding so that others can care for the baby and she can leave to work.  

And this brings with it other problems.  Because fertility returns soon after the baby is weaned, this creates a false urgency for contraception.  Recall that nursing on demand usually is a natural way of spacing births.  Not all women are like this, but it does work in most cases. It is the way God intended for mothers to be able to focus on their babies and bond with them without having to deal with the discomfort of another pregnancy while their baby is still very young.  In the case of many women, they become infertile for a year or two while the baby is exclusively fed mother's milk, directly from the breast, and strictly on demand.  But this natural order is disturbed when the baby is not nursed on demand, but nursed on a schedule, or bottle-fed, or given formula, etc.  So weaning, formula and bottle-feeding, women in the workplace, contraception: it all goes hand-in-hand. 

Because this way of seeing things is so ingrained in the minds of some Catholics, especially in some cultures like Europe and Latin America, a child being nursed has become a rare event.  In Europe especially, even just seeing children is rare; let alone a child being nursed in public.  Most children are fed formula from a very young age, so people in general have grown completely unaccustomed to seeing children being nursed in public.  Not just in church, but anywhere.  

Because they don't use them, these people have strangely forgotten what breasts are for. And as a result they have by default attached an exclusively sexual meaning to them. Hence the perceived indecency of nursing in public.

If, on the other hand, a woman decides to be so counter-cultural that she chooses to rear her child in a thoroughly natural way, the way God designed things, she has no option but to do things that people around her will consider odd.  She cannot choose when the child will want to eat.  The baby cries and whines when he wants milk, and it is at that moment that she must feed him---both for the baby's sake and her own, and those who are around her.  It is greatly inconvenient for her to leave the church to do this, especially if there is no cry-room (a very American phenomenon, by the way, which is relatively rare in other countries).  In some cases, not being able to nurse at church means she cannot attend Mass.

This sort of cultural clash can be violent.  It is not at the level of dogma, so there is no clear-cut way for the traditionally-minded woman to be vindicated by Church teaching.  And even though the issue touches on Catholic morality, the immediate issue of where a woman may nurse her baby is a prudential matter that is not dictated by Catholic moral principles.  Despite feminist pressures she is heroically embracing her femininity and following her maternal instinct in feeding her baby when he needs it, even if this means subjecting herself to the criticism of others.  It is sad to see these valiant mothers have to suffer through this.

These painful experiences are a sign that a good number of Catholics drank the cultural Kool Aid of the West and see the human body, especially the female body, in a hyper-sexualized way, so that they think of women exclusively as sexual symbols and can no longer admire and respect the beauty of motherhood.  Breasts inevitably mean sex.  They are not for children, because children drink formula.  They are just sexual play things.  As a result, we have lost sight of the beauty of a nursing mother, and have no other way of looking at nursing but as something indecent, disrespectful, or demeaning, which is definitely not a Catholic attitude.

In order to illustrate this last statement in a powerful way, I have included in this post several pictures of the Blessed Mother nursing the divine Child.  If any of the images I have shared here disturb you, then very likely you have been the victim of non-Catholic (or anti-Catholic) cultural sensibilities creeping into the way you see reality.  You may be thinking that because it is the Blessed Mother, it is very different from the case of an ordinary mother nursing her child in church.  But I think that if Our Lady can be so portrayed without damaging her purity, then a fortiori an ordinary mother nursing her child should not shock us.  They did not portray her nursing the Child because of some supernatural privilege that she had over all other women to show her breasts.  On the contrary, she is the supreme model of feminine modesty and purity.  That is, if the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose purity sacred art has taken such great pains to defend, is portrayed in this way, it is only because traditionally Catholic artists in past ages have seen nursing as just a natural, motherly act, and the Blessed Mother doing it will not be seen as anything immodest, indecent, or demeaning.

In fact, not only are Catholic artists traditionally comfortable with pictorially portraying the Blessed Virgin's breasts. Catholics throughout the ages have constantly celebrated the "blessed... paps that gave Thee suck" (Luke 11:27) in liturgical texts and song.  

For example, in the pre-1960 Roman Divine Office, every day, every priest and cleric had to praise the breasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of every one of the liturgical hours:

VBeata viscera Mariae Virginis, quae portaverunt aeterni Patris Filium. 
REt beata ubera, quæ lactaverunt Christum Dominum. 


V. Blessed is the womb of the Virgin Mary, that bore the son of the everlasting Father.
R. And blessed are the breasts which gave suck to Christ the Lord.

This text and its variants have become part of the corpus of our sacred music. 

You may be wondering by now where I am going with all this.  The moral of the story is this: Being a traditional Catholic is not just about the Latin Mass, or just about upholding traditional dogma.  It is about Catholic culture as well.  It's about not drinking the cultural Kool Aid, and instead finding a way of immersing oneself as much as possible in the Catholic culture that we did not naturally receive through our upbringing.  It is not enough to know the old Mass by heart, to be able to quote Denzinger from memory, and to recite the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary faithfully throughout the week.  Being a traditional Catholic means letting Catholic culture thoroughly influence us.

And culture influences us deeply indeed. It permeates every aspect of our minds, from our religious beliefs, to the way we talk, dress, and interact with others, including our assessment of aesthetic values and our affective responses to the world.  It especially has a way of affecting our unexamined beliefs, attitudes, and sensibilities.  That is to say, our beliefs as Catholics are not just in the Trinity and the Incarnation.  Or in pastoral practices concerning the relationship between marriage and the reception of Holy Communion.  All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.  Our Catholic culture permeates our psyches somewhat like this: 

Our Catholic formation goes much deeper than doctrine and morals, and reaches down to our human formation, to our unquestioned, unexamined attitudes, sensibilities, dispositions, behaviors.  

If you are deeply immersed in a non-Catholic (or anti-Catholic) culture, chances are that even if you persevere and keep the faith, some of your unexamined sensibilities will suffer alterations in ways that run afoul of Catholic tradition.  You may make it to heaven, and you may even become a great saint, but you will not be able to understand or appreciate other, often more Catholic perspectives on certain things.  Even if you have a superior theological, moral, and liturgical formation, you will perhaps not be as Catholic (or Catholic-minded) as people in other traditionally Catholic countries or in other more thoroughly Catholic ages when the social Kingship of Christ was in place.  Concretely, if you live in one of many English-speaking countries, which are historically or demographically Protestant, such as the United States, England, Australia, etc., this will inevitably happen, even if you are unaware of it.  You become aware of it only when you suddenly encounter a Catholic practice, custom, or perspective which---though hallowed by time and by the endorsement of centuries of Catholics, of saints, and popes---is deeply contrary to your unexamined sensibilities. 

You are a traditional Catholic to the extent that you strive to immerse yourself in traditional Catholic culture in all its aspects.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tip on Writing Academic Papers #23: Writing Your Introduction


In recent years I've been asked by a number of younger scholars and advanced graduate students to offer them advice regarding how to publish academic papers in journals.  Not just physically how to submit a paper, but advice on anything from how to plan/write/structure a paper, to how to present at a conference, from selecting the best journals to promoting one's academic work in the academic community.  Offering this kind of feedback is a regular part of my work as a scholar.  (So we philosophers don't just philosophize all day; we spend a good deal of time strategizing about how we carry out our profession.)  I am ok with it, and actually enjoy it, because it is another way in which I can relate to my colleagues, beyond whether or not we share views on philosophical issues.  And since much of the advice I've given my younger peers is of general interest to anyone writing academic papers, I figured I'd share it with a more general audience here on my blog.

When writing an academic paper, avoid writing simply a 'reflection', that is, vaguely discoursing on some topic in a general way, without a clear aim or methodology.  Not only that: avoid also giving the reader the impression that this is what you are going to do, by including these three things in your introduction.

1. Status Quaestionis. In your introduction (which is normally labled as such) you are expected to formulate explicitly the specific question or issue that you are going to deal with in the paper.  A common temptation is to offer a general historical context without explaining clearly what the problem consists in.  There is nothing wrong with giving historical context, but it should be the immediate context and only when it is directly relevant to the question.  No need to offer 'grand narratives', such as "from the dawn of time mankind has wondered at the meaning of existence..." or any such nonesense.  A paper should be direct and address a very concrete issue or problem.  A good way to do this is to start with actual questions, such as: What is legal justice?  Is it a virtue?  If so, is it a general virtue?  Etc. You could also add what are some of the possible answers to these questions, or the actual answers that you are going to study/evaluate in the body of the paper.  This is known as the status quaestionis, the state of the quaestion.

2. Thesis.  Moreover, it is extremely important for you to express your thesis explicitly in the introduction.  This is the point where you tell the reader explicitly how you are going to answer the question/problem above.  Tell them what you are going to argue, preferably in a single sentence: for example, "In this paper I shall argue that, for Aquinas, legal justice is a general virtue," etc.  Or, if you cannot do it in a single sentence, express your theses in a group of short sentences (preferably as a list, numbered or in bullet points).

3. Divisio Textus.  Finally, your introduction must present a division of the text (divisio textus), where you explain what you are going to do in the rest of the paper.  Your divisio textus should number, in paragraph form, each of the sections and subsections of the paper. The idea is to give the reader a mental map of what you are going to do.  For example: 

This paper will consist of four sections. I shall first (I) present the context of the virtues in Aquinas' Summa theologiae.  Then (II), I shall trace his understanding of justice to his sources, primarily Aristotle and Cicero.  Subsequently (III), I shall present Aquinas' distinction between general and particular virtues.  Finally (IV), I shall argue for my main thesis, namely, that legal justice is a general virtue.  In the conclusion, I shall offer a few remarks concerning Aquinas' application of this doctrine to theological issues. 
All of this will help your reader, especially those who are not familiar with the topic or who are not so committed to reading your paper, to have a clear idea from the begining what they are going to find in it, and therefore follow it more intelligently.  The reader should grasp the main claim and structure of the piece before proceeding to read the body of the article.  The more clarity and sturcture your paper can have, the better (within reason). This is true both in the eyes of professors who will evaluate your course papers and in the eyes of journal referees who will decide whether or not your academic paper will get published.  As a college professor and journal referee, I personally consider these indispensable requirements for a term paper or published article.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Edouard Hugon on Composite and Simple Being (Exerpt)


Exerpt from Edouard Hugon, Cursus Philosophiae Thomisticae, IIIae-IIa, Metaphysica Ontologica I (Paris: Lethielleux, 1935), pp. 434-6. Translated by Dr. Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo.  Draft version, Copyright © Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo, Ite ad Thomam, 2017.

On Simple and Composite Ens [...] [1]
I. – The Notion of Simple Ens. Etymologically, the ‘simple’ means that which is ‘without fold’ (sine plica), or without parts.  Hence, ‘simple ens altogether excludes plurality and distinction of parts within itself.  For this reason, ‘simple ens’ is defined as “that which does not in itself consist of many beings” (id quod in se ex pluribus entibus non constat).

But because there are many different kinds of parts, so there are many different kinds of simple things: the physically simple, the mathematically simple, the metaphysically simple, and the logically simple. 

The physically simple is that which does not consist of physical parts, or essential parts, such as matter and form, or of integral parts, or of accidental parts.  The mathematically simple is what which is indivisible in the genus of quantity because it is the last terminus of quantity, though it be otherwise physically composite: thus, the point is mathematically simple, but physically it is something composed of matter and form.  The metaphysically simple is that which excludes real composition of essence and existence, namely, God.  Finally, the logically simple is that which excludes composition of genus and difference.  There is also a distinction between the negatively simple, the abstractly simple, and the positively simple.  The negatively simple is that which lacks parts due to the paucity and imperfection of its own entity, as the mathematical point, or a substance that is conceived as stripped of its accidents.  The abstractly simple (praecisive simplex) is that which is abstracted from its parts on account of its indeterminateness, in the way in which ens in general is most simple, since it cannot be resolved into other concepts.  The positively simple is that which excludes parts on account of the perfection of its own entity.

The simplicity that belongs to the ens a se, which is necessary and infinite, is not negative, mathematical, or abstract, for these kinds of simplicity involve imperfection.  Rather, the simplicity that belongs to it is essentially positive simplicity. Moreover, it is physical, metaphysical, and logical: that is, it excludes the composition of physical parts, integral parts, accidental parts, the composition of essence and existence, and the composition of genus and difference.

Now, logical simplicity does not belong to creatures, even spiritual creatures; for by their genus and difference beings are restricted to a certain species.  Nor does metaphysical simplicity belong to them, for their esse differs from their quiddity.  Now, they may possess physical simplicity, which excludes essential or integral parts, but not that simplicity which removes all composition of accidents: for in no created ens is the essence an operative faculty, nor is the faculty identical to the operation itself.

II. – Notion of Composite Ens.  By opposition to the simple, the composite is that which admits in itself plurality and distinction of parts, or which in itself consists of many beings.  The composite, therefore, taken together in all its parts, is the whole itself, and is divided as a whole.  Hence, we must make a distinction between (1) real composites, which are subdivided into (a) essential composites, whether metaphysical or physical and (b) integral and accidental composites; (2) logical composites, which are subdivided into definable and potential; and (3) potestative composites.[2]

Now, all species of composites can be appropriately reduced to five: (1) essential composites, composed of matter and form; (2) entitative composites, composed of essence and esse; (3) integral composites, composed of integral parts; (4) accidental wholes, composed of many accidents, or of substance and accidents; (5) numerical composites, composed of many complete substances which join into a unity of order or of collection.[3]

III. – Positive simplicity of itself implies perfection; hence, an absolutely simple ens is a pure act, or ens per essentiam.

Proof of the 1st PartPositive simplicity of its own concept excludes whatever is opposed to unity and undividedness, and has the function of containing the thing in unity.  But to conserve something in unity is to contain it in esse and in perfection, for one and ens are interchangeable.  Therefore, positive simplicity of its own concept imply esse and perfection.  Therefore, that which excels in simplicity is greater in perfection; thus plants are more perfect than minerals, animals more perfect than plants, man more perfect than animals, and angels more perfect than man.

Proof of the 2nd Part.  The ens per essentiam, or pure act, is an unreceived and unreceptive act.  But an absolutely simple ens is an unreceived and unreceptive act, for it does not consist of receptive potency and received act.  Therefore, an absolutely simple ens is a pure act and an ens per essentiam.

Now, negative or abstractive simplicity do not imply perfection, either because they abstract from perfection or only deny imperfection.

Therefore, simplicity in the abstract, insofar as it prescinds from positive simplicity, is not a simpliciter simple perfection, as St. Thomas[4] and Cajetan[5] explain.

IV. – Composition of its own concept implies imperfection; hence, every composite is a secondary ens, a caused and contingent ens

Proof of the 1st Part.  Whatever is potential involves imperfection.  But a composite, under the ratio of composite, is potential: for either one of its parts is in potency with respect to another, or at least all of its parts are in potency with respect to the whole.

Proof of the 2nd Part.  Whatever is the result of something else is a secondary ens, for it is posterior to those things of which it is made up.  But the composite is the result of its parts.  Therefore, it is a secondary ens

Moreover, every composite consists of diverse things which of themselves and of their own power do not come together to form something that is one.  But those things which of themselves do not come together to form something that is one require a cause to unite them.  Therefore, every composite requires a cause, and therefore is a contingent ens and an ens ab alio.

[1] On this point one may consult St. Thomas, ST I.3 and 9, and his commentators on those questions: Cajetan, Báñez, Sylvius, Gonet, Billuart, Buonpensiere, Satolli, Janssens, Pègues, etc.
[2] See Hugon, Logic.
[3] All of these compositions are found in our world, Cf. Hugon, Cosmology.
[4] Cf. St. Thomas, In IV Sent. dist. 11, q. 2, a. 1, ad 1.
[5] Cf. Cajetan, Comment. in De Ente et Essentia, c. 2, q. 3.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Quaeritur: Can Circumstances Change the Species of a Human Act? (Part 2)


(Continued from Part 1.)

Quaeritur: The more I delve into the issue of the moral determinants of a human act, the more mind-racking it seems to get.  I ask you to please answer these questions in your kindness.

- Respondeo per partes.

1)  Is the following proposition true or false? "Moral philosophers/theologians in the scholastic tradition teach that what makes a human act intrinsically evil is the object of the human act because it is the object of the human act that gives the human act its species."

- The proposition is true.

2) What does it mean that an act is intrinsically evil?  What acts are some examples of intrinsically evil acts?

- It means that the object is evil, and therefore, because the object of an act is what gives the act its species, it follows that the act is evil in its species.  Examples of acts that are evil due to their object: any act of murder, theft, lying, etc.

3) Is an intrinsically evil act identical to an act that is “bad in itself”?

- Yes.

4) Is the object of an evil human act ALWAYS "intrinsically" evil?  In other words, can the object of a human act be such that it is evil, but not intrinsically evil?  If so, we then have a human act that is intrinsically evil, but which has an object that is not intrinsically evil, but only evil extrinsically.

- Technically, when we say that an act is intrinsically evil, we mean its object is evil (as opposed to its end or circumstances).  It means the act is evil in its species, i.e., due to its object.  It wouldn't be precise to say that the object of the act is intrinsically evil.  

5) It is said that you can have a human act where the object and end that are good, but the circumstances are evil, thereby making the human act evil.  I cannot think of a case that shows this.  Rather, I am under the impression (based on your first post) that if the circumstance is evil, then it is truly not a circumstance, but a condition of the object.  Therefore, there can never be true circumstances that are evil in and of themselves.  If I am wrong, please provide me with an example.

- Yes, you can have circumstances that render evil an act that is otherwise good (that is, if it is good in its object and its end).  The act would not be intrinsically evil, just evil accidentally.  St. Thomas teaches this, but doesn't seem to give examples in Ia-IIae, q. 18. However, we can easily come up with some examples: pursuing legitimate, pleasurable activities in excess (eating, sex, sleeping, vacationing, etc.); or doing any of these, or anything else, really, at the wrong time, or in the wrong place.  In this case, the act would not be evil in its species, or essentially evil, but only accidentally so.  Still, it would be evil.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

"Aquinas' Reception of Albert the Great's Account of the Virtue of Religion"

Sts. Albert and Thomas
by Alonso Antonio Villamor (1661-1729)

Today I'd like to share with you, in the video below, something I'm currently working on.  As part of my ongoing project on the philosophical account of religious worship in St. Thomas and his sources (which derives from my doctoral dissertation), I wrote the following paper titled "Aquinas' Reception of Albert the Great's Account of the Virtue of Religion." It was delivered at the 2015 Aquinas and the 'Arabs' Fall North American Workshop, which was held at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico City, October 2015.  For work-related reasons I was unable to attend the conference physically, so I presented it remotely, via video.  You can download a hard copy of the paper from Academia.edu.  It is not-yet published, so I would appreciate your feedback, so I can polish it up and send it to a journal for publication.

NB: It is not a lecture or discussion but an academic paper, which I read in its entirety for an expert audience.  Please do not expect a flashy presentation with engaging voice inflections or even a catchy PowerPoint or images at all.  The audience consisted primarily of philosophy professors and scholars, who mostly work in the field of the history of medieval philosophy; and this is the style in which we present our work in scholarly conferences. However, the paper is, I think, greatly relevant to a non-expert, traditional Catholic audience.  It will be of special interest to those who wish to acquire a more solid, profound, and coherent philosophical (and indirectly theological) understanding of the nature of Catholic liturgy, and of divine worship in general.  Given that the paper seeks to elucidate the Angelic Doctor's teachings on the matter, particularly as compared to that of another great Doctor of the Church, St. Albert the Great.

Abstract: Recent studies have focused on diverse aspects of Aquinas’ philosophical account of natural religion. Few, however, have delved into Aquinas’ use of his sources, especially his more immediate predecessors, in dealing with this topic. This paper seeks to make a contribution in this regard by showing how Albert, his teacher, addressed these questions and prepared the way for Aquinas’ more sophisticated account. The paper aims to shed light on some of the decisions that Aquinas had to make when faced with Albert’s account of latria. Aquinas seems to think that Albert’s arguments settle some issues; but surprisingly he often disagrees with Albert and offers alternative approaches. In particular, we see that for Thomas, Albert settled definitively the question on how religio or latria is to be entirely categorized under the virtue of justice, following the authority of Cicero, and not under the theological virtues, as earlier predecessors had suggested in light of Augustine’s teachings—an issue that has important ramifications for the very possibility of a philosophical account of religious worship. But we also see how, for example, in Aquinas’ mind Albert does not quite offer a satisfactory account of the range of action of the virtue of religion: whereas for Albert there are many virtuous acts that are entirely outside of the virtue of latria, for Aquinas any act of a moral virtue can become also a ‘commanded’ act of the virtue of religio. Ultimately, the paper highlights both the originality of Aquinas’ account of religion and his debt to his master Albert on this issue.

Download a hard copy of the paper and handout (among other things) from my Academia.edu page.