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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Jean De Groot The Significance of Hylomorphism
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Hylomorphism is a word for Aristotle’s belief that matter and form constitute a unity in natural things. Engaging with the work of Rémi Brague on the cosmos, I propose hylomorphism as central to the contemporary philosophy of nature that Brague seeks. Between the pre-philosophical standpoint and philosophy, there is an intermediate cognitive stage of making initial distinctions that ground philosophical truths. Philosophy of nature is the home of many of these initial distinctions. A key theme introduced in Physics 2.2 is the thinking of things in the way they are capable of existing. Analyses of Physics 2.2. and De Anima 2.3 exhibit the recognition of being as something different from the sheer existing of things. Aristotle points out mistakes in thinking about form and elucidates ontological dependencies. There are implications for the understanding of human disability.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Daniel D. De Haan Rollen Edward Houser ACPA Aquinas Medal 2019
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
R. E. Houser Aquinas the Avicennian: Prologue to the Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
James Mattingly Empiricism and Natural Philosophy
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5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Joseph W. Koterski, S. J. Nature and Ethics
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6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Anselm Ramelow A Perennial Theology of Nature
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However much scientific paradigms shift, the shifts are not so arbitrary that we would relinquish without need the simpler, more economic and elegant theories for more complicated ones. This is not just a matter of convenience but implies an objective fact about the universe, namely a reliable perfection that can only be assumed on the basis of the intelligent design of a benevolent creator God. Earlier thinkers may have been more aware that this is an assumption (e.g., Kant) and presupposes God’s benevolent intentions (Leibniz). This assumption of a unified order of reality in general constitutes itself a perennial consensus through the ages, whether in Aquinas, Leibniz, the German Idealists or American Transcendentalists. Dissenters such as William James or Nietzsche serve to highlight the assumption as theological—an assumption that is fortunately confirmed by our best available evidence, as well as by the way we do science and live our lives.
session 1: natural place and rest
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Thomas McLaughlin A Defense of Natural Place in a Contemporary Scientific Context
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8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Christopher Frey Aristotle on Activity as a Variety of Rest
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Aristotle employs three distinct but interrelated concepts of rest: kinetic rest, energic rest, and telic rest. The third variety, telic rest, is crucial to Aristotle’s natural philosophy. Anything that moves or acts by nature does so in part for the sake of realizing its form more completely. There is, in the fullest attainment of this good, a kind of rest without cessation or destruction. The peace that telic rest affords is not a kind of stasis; it consists in perfect and complete activity. By clarifying the varieties of rest Aristotle employs, I aim to provide a richer understanding of Aristotelian natures. By emphasizing the role of telic rest, I aim to illuminate a universal and perennial aspect of the human condition, an aspect that both drives us to gain knowledge of the natural world and unites us with that world’s divine cause.
session 2: aristotle’s cosmology today
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Ryan Michael Miller Perennial Symmetry Arguments: Aristotle’s Heavenly Cosmology and Noether’s First Theorem
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Attempts to find perennial elements in Aristotle’s cosmology are doomed to failure because his distinction of sub- and supra-lunary realms no longer holds. More fruitful approaches to the contemporary importance of Aristotelian cosmology must focus on parities of reasoning rather than content. This paper highlights the striking parallels between Aristotle’s use of symmetry arguments in cosmology and instances of Noether’s First Theorem in contemporary physics. Both observe simple motion, find symmetries in that motion, argue from those symmetries to notions of conservation, and then conclude to cosmological structure. These parallels reveal an enduring relevance for Aristotelian cosmology that does not depend on positing an enduring content to his cosmological claims.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
John G. Brungardt Is Aristotelian-Thomistic Natural Philosophy Still Relevant to Cosmology?
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Do advances in the natural sciences leave the followers of Aristotle and Aquinas without a cosmos? Is their natural philosophy irrelevant to modern cosmology and its Big Bang theory? The following essay answers these questions and argues that natural philosophy is perennially relevant to cosmology. It defends the idea that Aristotelian-Thomistic natural philosophy reaches a true, general definition of the universe: the unity of order of all mobile beings according to place, duration, and agent causality. The essay defends this conclusion while answering three opposing views, those of Jonathan Schaffer, Peter Simons, and Immanuel Kant. The true account is attained through reasoning about the nature of place, duration, and agent causality. Objections against these lines of argument are answered to clarify their continued relevance. Since it provides even our modern scientific cosmology with the necessarily assumed notion of the universe, Aristotelian-Thomistic natural philosophy is perennially relevant to cosmology.
session 3: philosophy of nature, metaphysics, and theology
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Michael Rauschenbach Theistic Moral Realism, Evolutionary Debunking Arguments, and a Catholic Philosophy of Nature
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Evolutionary debunking arguments, whether defended by Street (2006), Joyce (2006), or others against moral realism, or by Plantinga (1993, 2011) and others against atheism, seek to determine the implications of the still-dominant worldview of naturalism. Examining these arguments is thus a critical component of any defense of a theistic philosophy of nature. Recently, several authors have explored the connection between evolutionary debunking arguments against moral realism (hence: EDAs) and Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalistic atheism (hence: EAAN). Typically, responses in this vein have been critical of EDAs, arguing that they are in some way self-undermining. Different critics have argued that, in the course of defending the EAAN, the theist loses her best response to the probabilistic argument from evil for atheism. Here, I provide the first systematic comparison of all three arguments—EDAs, the EAAN, and the problem of evil—and suggest that the first charge succeeds while the second fails.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Christopher V. Mirus Relation is not a Category: A Sketch of Relation as a Transcendental
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Working within the Aristotelian tradition, I argue that relation is not a category but a transcendental property of being. By this I mean that all substances are actualized, and hence defined, relationally: all actuality is interactuality.Interactuality is the locus for the relational categories of substance, action, being-affected, number, and most types of quality. The interactuality of corporeal beings is further conditioned by relations of setting; here we find the relational categories of place (where), quantity in the sense of size, quality in the sense of shape, and time (when). In offering a relational account of substance, I distinguish between external relata (physical environment, objects of sensation and knowledge as external) and internal relata (one’s body, objects of sensation and knowledge as internal). This distinction between external and internal relata is transcended in the case of the Trinity, insofar as the divine persons are both perfectly distinct and perfectly united.
session 4: aristotelian natural philosophy
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
John H. Boyer, Daniel C. Wagner Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas on What is “Better-Known” in Natural Science
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Aristotelian commenters have long noted an apparent contradiction between what Aristotle’s says in Posterior Analytics I.2 and Physics I.1 about how we obtain first principles of a science. At Posterior 71b35–72a6, Aristotle states that what is most universal (καθόλου) is better-known by nature and initially less-known to us, while the particular (καθ’ ἕκαστον) is initially better-known to us, but less-known by nature. At Physics 184a21-30, however, Aristotle states that we move from what is better-known to us, which is universal (καθόλου), to what is better-known absolutely, which is particular (καθ’ ἕκαστον). This paper turns to two of Aristotle’s most notable medieval commentators—Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas—to resolve this apparent contradiction. The key to Thomas and Albert’s solutions, we will argue, is a twofold distinction between a sense-perceptive and scientific universal, and the particulars as sensed individuals and as differentiating attributes. Our Synthetic treatment of these distinctions contributes to the ongoing scholarly effort to understand the Stagyrite’s complex theory of knowledge.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Ignacio De Ribera-Martin Generation and Homonymy in Aristotle’s Generation of Animals
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Discussions on Aristotle’s account of homonymy in natural philosophy have not paid attention to its distinct use in the Generation of animals. I show that Aristotle’s use of homonymy in this treatise is relevant to the question of how to name living substances in the process of generation. In the GA, Aristotle uses homonymy to argue that embryos must have soul. These embryos, when the heart has been distinctly set apart, satisfy the criterion set in Metaph. IX.7 to be an animal in dunamis. In the GA, Aristotle refers to this embryo as an animal—albeit incomplete, because it cannot yet carry out all the functions signified by the name—and not as a homonym. The phenomenon of generation thus calls for a refinement of the principle of Functional Determination, according to which something is what its names signifies only if it can carry out the functions signified by the name.
session 5: virtue
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Allison Postell The Nature of Virtue Ethics
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In Dependent Rational Animals, Alasdair MacIntyre claims that human beings need the virtues. This attempt to claim that human nature is the source and standard of living well does not fully meet John McDowell’s challenge to those who would claim that human nature is ethically normative. A being with practical reason, McDowell explains, can step back from and judge natural impulses. Why, then, should nature have any normative authority over a practically rational being? While MacIntyre’s descriptions of why human beings need the virtues are largely correct, I contend that his position can be fully vindicated by supplementing his account with an Aristotelian value-laden metaphysics. By exploring why Aristotle maintains that goodness is coextensive with “that for the sake of which” and a being’s nature, it is possible to see why virtues are proper objects of practical reason and why it is normatively better for humans to contribute to communal networks of care.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
M. T. Lu Is Piety a Natural Virtue?
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Notwithstanding Aristotle’s own relative silence on the matter, in this paper I argue that piety is a natural (not supernatural) virtue of the Aristotelian kind. I begin with St. Thomas’s discussion of the virtues of religion and piety in which he shows how they both involve a recognition of human contingency and our radically dependent nature. Building off of this Thomistic analysis, I offer both an account of Aristotelian virtue in general and a phenomenological analysis of piety in particular, in which I situate piety with respect to the other Aristotelian virtues. Finally, I close with a discussion of a few natural objections, including questions about the limits of natural reason as well as considering why Aristotle himself did not explicitly treat piety as a moral virtue.
session 6: esse in st. thomas aquinas
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Elliot Polsky “In As Many Ways As Something Is Predicated . . . in That Many Ways Is Something Signified to Be”: The Logic behind Thomas Aquinas’s Predication Thesis, Esse Substantiale, and Esse in Rerum Natura
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Thomistic commentators agree that Thomas Aquinas at least nominally allows for “to be” (esse) to signify not only an act contrasted with essence in creatures, but also the essence itself of those creatures. Nevertheless, it is almost unheard of for any author to interpret Thomas’s use of the word “esse” as referring to essence. Against this tendency, this paper argues that Thomas’s In V Metaphysics argument that every predication signifies esse provides an important instance of Thomas using “esse” to signify essence. This reading of In V Metaphysics, which this paper defends against Gyula Klima’s alternative interpretation, suggests significant reinterpretations of Thomas’s technical terms “esse substantiale” and “esse in rerum natura” as well as Thomas’s use of “is,” both as a copula and as a principal predicate.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Jameson Cockerell Divine Esse Without Ontological Significance: Jean-Luc Marion’s Challenge to Aquinas
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In God Without Being, Jean-Luc Marion infamously argues that Thomas Aquinas is the progenitor of modern onto-theology and thus conceptual idolatry. Yet in 1995, Marion published an intensive study of Aquinas arguing he cannot be called an onto-theologian. Nevertheless, he reiterates a suspicion about the identification of God and Esse—in particular, how it has been understood by those following Aquinas. He ends with a challenge for Thomism as a living tradition: Divine Esse will not be onto-theological to the extent that it avoids ontological significance. We will argue that Aquinas would reject the exigency of speaking Divine Esse without ontological significance precisely because it is through it that he articulates God’s transcendence and incomprehensibility. Despite this opposition, there is a surprising and deeper complementarity to be seen: ontological significance for Aquinas carries its own veil of darkness which makes it more amenable to Marion’s demand than might be suspected.
session 7: aristotle and modern science
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Timothy Kearns Substantial Form in Modern Physics and the Other Sciences—and a New Picture of the Cosmos
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Beginning from the apparent failure of Aristotelian natural philosophy in the last centuries, I propose key questions internal to that tradition, most importantly this: Are the central theses of Aristotelian natural philosophy true and do they continue to contribute to our knowledge of the natural world in light of modern discoveries in the sciences? In this paper, I answer this question affirmatively by drawing on the most general mathematical theory used in the sciences to study natural change. I propose an Aristotelian extension of that theory to include substantial change. With such an extension, it becomes possible to see the physical aspect of substantial form, the role that each natural thing plays in making the cosmos what it is. Understood this way, substantial form allows the cosmos itself to be seen in a new way, one that integrates modern scientific discoveries with an Aristotelian approach to nature.
session 8: a perennial philosophy of nature
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 93
Daniel D. De Haan Is Philosophy of Nature Irrelevant?
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I contend that the classical approach of Thomists to internecine Thomist debates about the requirements for initiating the enquiries of natural philosophy and metaphysics generates an epistemological crisis which this classical approach cannot overcome on its own terms. Furthermore, the failure of this classical approach to resolve these intractable debates has all too often distracted and stymied Thomists from contributing to the real enquiries of philosophy of nature. This explains, in part, why the most cogent and influential defenders of a return to Aristotelian ideas concerning nature and their relevance to modern science, has come from analytic philosophers unconcerned with these classical Thomist debates. But Thomism need not render itself irrelevant to the philosophy of nature; or so I argue in this essay. I first present a surview of how a classical interpretation of Aristotle’s division of theoretical sciences generated these debates about the relationship between the subjects of metaphysics and natural philosophy. I then argue neither Wippel’s ingenious efforts to secure the autonomy of metaphysics from natural philosophy nor the arguments for the existence of an immaterial being of the natural philosophy first proponents succeed. Hence, the intractable stalemate between these Thomists. Drawing upon the insights of Alasdair MacIntyre I argue for an alternative approach that overcomes this epistemological crisis and helps to secure the relevance of Thomism to the enquiries of philosophy of nature.