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presidential address
1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Richard C. Taylor A Common Negotiation: The Abrahamic Traditions and Philosophy in the Middle Ages
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Classical and Post-Classical Philosophy in the Greek tradition played powerful roles in the formation of philosophical, scientific and theological thought by thinkers in the religious and cultural milieux of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Yet the scriptures, theologies, and fundamental concerns of these Abrahamic religious traditions reciprocally enriched the development of religious thought and secular philosophy and science by prompting ethical, metaphysical, and epistemological questions that have continued to challenge philosophers and theologians up to the present day. While political conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have led to a public emphasis on distinctions and differences between these faiths, the history of philosophy shows that thinkers of each tradition over the centuries share in the common purpose of seeking to conciliate in a variety of ways the principles and insights of religious beliefs with the truths of secular natural reason into a coherent worldview.
presentation of the aquinas medal
2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
James Hanink Introduction of the Aquinas Medalist Robert Spaemann
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aquinas medalist’s address
3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Robert Spaemann Why There Is No Law without Natural Law
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plenary sessions
4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Ayman Shihadeh Aspects of the Reception of Avicenna’s Theory of Prophecy in Islamic Theology
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This paper explores an aspect of the ‘religious’ turn in medieval Arabic philosophy, and how this development culminated in a philosophical turn in medieval Islamic theology. The figure central to both developments is Avicenna (d. 1037), the first philosopher to have a major impact on sections of the mainstream theological scene, thanks in large part to the compelling philosophical system he developed and the fact that he theorised within that system various typically theological subjects using characteristically Islamic language. One such theme is prophecy. The paper shows how Avicenna’s psychological and socio-political theory of prophecy, which clashed with various mainstream theological tenets and hence faced much opposition, was later modified by the influential philosopher and theologian Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210), who made this theory much more palatable to theologians. Razi’s innovation was later criticised by Ibn Kammuna (d. 1284), a Jewish member of the Arabic philosophical tradition, since it clashed with traditional Jewish prophetology.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
R. E. Houser Why the Christian Magistri Turned to Arabic and Jewish Falāsifa: Aquinas and Avicenna
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Here, I should like to tell a story, beginning with how the works of Aristotelian philosophy came to exist in Latin translations, then moving to the project of transforming Christian theology into an Aristotelian “science.” After that, I would like to look a bit more closely at the case of Br. Thomas of Aquino and his dependence upon the Muslim philosopher Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna, 980–1037). Finally, I shall end by drawing some wider conclusions based upon this important example.
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Barry S. Kogan Visions, Verities, and Voices: The Love of God and the Pursuit of Wisdom in the Medieval Jewish Tradition
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In this presentation, I set out to clarify, first, what the Jewish tradition finds in the life of Abraham that accords special value to rational reflection and even philosophical inquiry. Second, I examine a specific example of how this characterization and valuation of Abraham plays out within the tradition of medieval Jewish scholastic theology (Kalām) in tenth-century Baghdad by examining Sa‘adia Gaon’s famous “Argument from Time” to establish both the creation of the universe in time and, by implication, the existence of a Creator God. From there, I show how he draws upon the work of John Philoponus (ca. 490–570) in constructing his argument. Third, I present and analyze a well-known philosophical parable that Moses Maimonides (1138–1204), representing the tradition of religious philosophy (Falsafah), introduces early on in The Guide of the Perplexed. This parable deals in a subtle and suggestive way with the possibilities and limitations of trying to free people from perplexity and guide them towards wisdom. It owes a great deal to the work of Abū Bakr ibn al-’ Ṣā’igh, otherwise known as Ibn Bājjah (d. 1138). I conclude with a number of observations on how Maimonides may have interpreted his sources so as to develop his distinctive view of God and how the pursuit of philosophical wisdom is compatible with the love of God.
session i: jewish and arabic philosophers
7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
David Bradshaw Divine Simplicity and Divine Freedom in Maimonides and Gersonides
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From the standpoint of belief in divine freedom (or, more precisely, divine free choice), the medieval Aristotelian understanding of divine simplicity is deeply problematic. This is for two reasons. First, if the divine will and wisdom are identical, it would seem that God’s action must be wholly determined by His rational apprehension of the good. Second, if the divine will is identical with the divine essence, it would seem that for God to be able to do other than He does would mean that the divine essence could be different. This paper focuses on two leading medieval Jewish Aristotelians, Maimonides and Gersonides, to ascertain their approach to these issues.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Luis Xavier López-Farjeat Albert the Great between Avempace and Averroes on the Knowledge of Separate Forms
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In Albert’s De anima III, 3, chapters 6–11 there is a discussion on whether the human intellect is able to apprehend only forms abstracted from matter or whether it is possible for it to know something separated from magnitude. If the human intellect is able to understand separate forms, this would mean that some forms are not apprehended with phantasms and magnitude but by the conjunction of the possible intellect and the separate intellect. This matter is quite problematic since it is not clear enough whether separate forms are known through the perfect conjunction of the possible intellect and the agent intellect or by means of the agent intellect which acts both as efficient and formal cause of these forms. Here, I focus on chapter 8 where Albert criticizes Avempace’s doctrine of the intellect, and chapter 11 where he states a resolution to the problem, which is very close to that of Averroes. This exploration illustrates the complexity of the relationship between the philosophies of Albert and Averroes.
session ii: contemporary ethical problems
9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Bernard G. Prusak Paying for the Priceless Child
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As the sociologist Viviana Zelizer has observed, the twentieth century saw a “profound cultural transformation in children’s economic and sentimental value”: in brief, “the priceless child displaced the useful child.” Yet, the great value that we place on children of our own has gone hand-in-hand, again in Zelizer’s words, with a “collective indifference to other people’s children.” This paper focuses on the question of public responsibility for children: that is, on who should pay for the priceless child. I claim that, within the framework of a liberal state, public responsibility for children is not inconsiderable, despite and even because of the great value that we place on our own children. To make this case, the paper examines a not so modest proposal: namely, that the family be abolished. I argue that there is good reason to reject this proposal, but that this rejection comes with costs that call for compensation.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
John Zeis What Contradicts Intention
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The controversial Phoenix Hospital case demonstrates that there is significant disagreement in Catholic casuistry on what constitutes intention. Some hold that a causal closeness entails intention, while others deny that there is any necessary connection between causal closeness and intention. One of the strongest supporters of the causal closeness thesis was Elizabeth Anscombe. It will be argued, however, that her works on intention provide support for a position on certain types of cases, such as the Phoenix Hospital case and the termination of an ectopic pregnancy, which contradict intentional killing.
session iii: medieval christian arguments for god’s existence
11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Michael Oliver Wiitala Anselm’s Ontological Argument and Aristotle’s Elegktikōs Apodeixai
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Saint Anselm’s ontological argument is usually interpreted either (1) as an attempt to deductively prove God’s existence or (2) as a form of prayer, which is not intended to “prove” God’s existence, but rather to deepen the devotion of those who already believe. In this paper, I attempt to find a mean between these two interpretations, showing that, while Anselm’s argument is not a deductive proof, it is nevertheless a proof of God’s existence. I argue that Anselm’s ontological argument is analogous to Aristotle’s to elegktikōs apodeixai (retorsive argument) for the truth of the principle of non-contradiction in Metaphysics IV: an argument that does not move from premises to conclusion, but rather demonstrates the truth of its conclusion by showing that its conclusion is always presupposed. I argue that interpreting Anselm’s ontological argument in this way exempts it from the most common objections against it.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Daniel D. De Haan Why the Five Ways?: Aquinas’s Avicennian Insight into the Problem of Unity in the Aristotelian Metaphysics and Sacra Doctrina
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This paper will argue that the order and the unity of St. Thomas Aquinas’s five ways can be elucidated through a consideration of St. Thomas’s appropriation of an Avicennian insight that he used to order and unify the wisdom of the Aristotelian and Abrahamic philosophical traditions towards the existence of God. I will begin with a central aporia from Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Aristotle says that the science of first philosophy has three different theoretical vectors: ontology, aitiology, and theology. But how can all three be united into a single Aristotelian science? In his Metaphysics of the Healing, Avicenna resolved the impasse by taking the ontological vector as the subject of metaphysics. He then integrated the question of the four first causes into the penultimate stage of his demonstration for the existence of God, thereby placing aitiological and theological questions among the ultimate concerns of a unified Aristotelian metaphysics. In the five ways, St. Thomas integrated Avicenna’s Aristotelian search for the first four causes into the last four of his five ways, by showing that each of the four aitiological orders terminate in an ultimate first cause that we call God. Finally, by appending the proof from the Physics to the beginning of the five ways, St. Thomas was able to show that the ultimate aim of both natural philosophy and metaphysics is the divine first principle, which is the beginning and subject of sacra doctrina.
session iv: intellectual virtue
13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
W. Scott Cleveland The Distinctiveness of Intellectual Virtues: A Response to Roberts and Wood
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Robert Roberts and Jay Wood criticize St Thomas Aquinas’s distinction between intellectual and moral virtues. They offer three objections to this distinction. They object that intellectual virtues depend on the will in ways that undermine the distinction, that the subject of intellectual virtues is not an intellectual faculty but a whole person, and that some intellectual virtues require that the will act intellectually. They hold that each of these is sufficient to undermine the distinction. I defend Aquinas’s distinction and respond to each of their objections. I then briefly motivate why this is a distinction worth keeping.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Bogumil Misiuk A Richness Diluted in Translation: An Analysis of Pope John Paul II’s Notion of “Knowing” in the “Introduction” to Fides et Ratio
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Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter Fides et Ratio examines the foundations of epistemology and encourages a renewed discourse on what it actually means to know truth. The pontiff—both a philosopher and a theologian—reevaluates through the prism of man’s proper relation to truth the age-old question about the compatibility of faith and reason as means of acquiring knowledge. John Paul offers his perspective on the matter in the “Introduction” to Fides et Ratio by employing, in his native Polish, four non-exchangeable epistemological terms. Due, however, to the rather imprecise translations of his work, the profundity of John Paul’s thought largely has been obscured.The author of this paper attempts to recover the pope’s particular understanding of the nature of knowledge by expounding on the epistemological paradigm and norm presented by John Paul in addition to critiquing his view that modern society’s pursuit of knowledge parallels sinking in quicksand. Uncovering these insights ultimately leads him to a fuller interpretation of what kind of “knowledge,” according to Pope John Paul II, properly reflects the totality of man’s innate personhood and therefore what ought to constitute the underpinnings of knowledge itself.
session v: thomas aquinas
15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Sean B. Cunningham Aquinas on the Natural Inclination of Man to Offer Sacrifice to God
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Aquinas says that offering sacrifice to God is “of the natural law” because man has a “natural inclination that he should tender submission and honor” to God (ST II–II.85.1c.). Aquinas’s characterization of sacrifice as natural undermines two common mischaracterizations of Aquinas’s natural law theory: that “natural inclinations” means pre-rational “urges” generally and that natural law pertains exclusively to secular matters. For Aquinas, inclinatio naturalis in the sense proper to natural law means those inclinations that follow upon man’s substantial form in a teleological order; the “natural” for man includes properly human things, e.g., virtue and political life. Worship—an act of justice—is natural for man, even if specific rites are determined by divine law. Aquinas’s account of sacrifice as natural illustrates the proper sense of inclinatio naturalis. His teleological account of natural inclination raises questions about attempts to disengage Aquinas’s natural law from natural teleology or sectarian religious claims.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Maria Carl St. Thomas Aquinas: The Unity of the Person and the Passions
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One of St. Thomas Aquinas’s most ingenious, yet underappreciated, philosophical innovations is his synthesis of Plato’s dualism and Aristotle’s hylomorphism in his theory of the human person. Aquinas’s view of the person expresses itself in a number of aspects of his thought. In this paper, I explore how his understanding of the passions is a reflection of his account of the unity of the human person. Just as Aquinas’s view of the person reconciles elements of dualism and hylomorphism, his explanation of the passions steers a middle course between intellectualist and physicalist accounts of the human emotions and resists the reductionism characteristic of these dominant kinds of theories. Because Aquinas depicts the passions as engaging the whole person, I conclude the paper with a brief sketch of the significance of the passions for his moral theory.
session vi: arabic and christian philosophy
17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Katja Krause Albert and Aquinas on the Ultimate End of Humans: Philosophy, Theology, and Beatitude
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Albert and Aquinas present beatitude in their Commentaries on the Sentences in strikingly different ways. While Albert’s theory of beatitude is an account purely based on theological conceptions and sources, Aquinas makes extensive use of philosophers such as Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Avicenna, and Averroes. Recent scholarship has shown that Aquinas derived his philosophical argumentation for the beatific vision from Averroes’s conjunction theory. Yet the reasons for Albert’s and Aquinas’s disparate theories of beatitude have not yet been investigated. In this paper, I shall show that Albert’s and Aquinas’s divergent conceptions of the relationship between the two sciences of philosophy and theology explain their disparate theories of beatitude.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Nathan Poage The Subject and Principles of Metaphysics in Avicenna and Aquinas
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This paper argues that, in spite of interpretations to the contrary, Avicenna and Aquinas are fundamentally agreed as to subject and principles of metaphysics. The first part shows the philosophers’ common metaphysical starting points in the realm of assent and the realm of conceptualization as well as their common use of the distinction between principles common by causality and common by predication to provide the overall structure for their metaphysics (Avicenna, Physics of the Shifa’ 1.2.8–10; Aquinas, De Trin. V.4). The second part argues that both philosophers have similar descriptions of God and common being and thus similar views on the relation between God and the subject of metaphysics; and the third part, by surveying some remarks by Avicenna on Sufism and the use of the Qur’ān’s description of God’s attributes, argues that Avicenna is not forced by his naturalistic theory of prophecy to include God under the subject of metaphysics.
session vii: physical bodies and god
19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Travis Dumsday An Argument for Hylomorphism or Theism (But Not Both)
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Substratum theory remains a key competitor in the substance ontology literature. Here I argue that an internal worry for the theory gives rise to an interesting dilemma: Either (1) the substratum theorist should abandon the theory in favor of hylomorphism, or (2) she can keep substratum theory but must add to her ontology a powerful causal agent or agents able to operate outside the laws of nature (which would get us part of the way to theism, and at the very least a denial of metaphysical naturalism).
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 86
Patrick Rooney Duns Scotus on Elements and Organs in a Mixed Body
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John Duns Scotus provides a theory of elemental mixing that is striking in the way it denies some rather plausible interpretations of empirical facts, while fiercely attacking rival theories that claim to explain these facts. In brief, Scotus denies that the forms or qualities of the elements are present in a mixed body (mixtum). This theory is surprising because, as Richard Cross has noted, it seems that Scotus’s theory of body-organ unity could serve as the basis for a more plausible Scotistic account of mixing. Here, I will explore the possibility that Scotus’s discussion of the unity of a body and its organs may provide Scotus with the principles for a better theory of mixing. I will argue that Scotus cannot use body-organ unity as a model for his theory of mixing unless he accepts a position developed by Richard of Mediavilla, namely, that forms of one species can enjoy different grades. As Scotus rejects this position, I conclude that he must retain his somewhat unattractive theory of mixing.