2009 ACPA

Here is the link to the American Catholic Philosophical Association's 2009 conference, with the theme "Reasoning in Context." It looks like some good papers will be given. My paper, “Clarifying two Central Issues in Double Effect Reasoning Debates," which you have seen a version of on this blog, will be given Saturday evening. Thanks for all the input and support fellow blogoi!

Here's the abstract: "The principles whereby the reason operates in ethically complicated situations has been subject to long-standing debates in Catholic Philosophy. A classic text which exemplifies this is Aquinas' consideration of self-defensive killing. In this paper I clarify two central issues in double-effect reasoning debates surrounding this text. Both issues are connected to the seemingly simple but actually complex task of accounting for the 'chosen means' of self-defense. The first issue is whether the 'chosen means' are also able to be considered a 'proximate end,' to which the intention is directed. The second is determining whether the assailant's death is related to the 'chosen means' per se and therefore to the rest of the moral action. Resolving these issues provide grounds for answering the broader question implicit in the situation of self-defensive killing: what is to be done when human actions would inevitably entail that some evil is instrumentally tied to realizing some good?"

Preface to My Thesis

Below is a first draft of the preface to my thesis. I would appreciate your thoughts and input on it. At this point I feel like it is rather clumsy, and lacks the proper rhetorical flair. Please let me know if anything about it sounds to overbearing, unnecessary, etc.

In the many conversations that I have had concerning this paper I have encountered certain questions and difficulties that this paper presents, and yet are not addressed within the scope of the paper. The questions of which I speak, pertain to the foundations on which this paper, and my own ideas proceed. This foundation can be described (if you will pardon the cliché) as my “world-view,” or as it has elsewhere more aptly been described, my intellectual custom.
By referring to this intellectual custom I do not mean to suggest that I have some wholly unique perspective, nor do I propose to say that different intellectual customs are wholly alienated from one another such that communication is impossible between them (hence I am writing this preface). Rather, I believe that while my perspective, in one sense, is necessarily unique since I am unique. It is likewise necessarily part of a broader community in which I have been formed, raised, and influenced, since it is impossible for us to exist, separated from any outside influence. This broader community is that wherein the intellectual custom I share in exists. (What Aristotle says about arguments)
Judging, therefore, from the sorts of questions I have encountered regarding this paper, I assume that many of those with whom I have conversed come from a somewhat different intellectual custom. Perhaps this means that I am part of some sort of minority, or that I have merely encountered a peculiar sample. Whatever the case may be, I will endeavour to use this preface as an occasion to sketch, as it were, a backdrop for the following paper. This will not be so much argumentative as descriptive, and all this is done with a view to obviating the objections that would not be so much against the thesis as against the approach that is being taken to this thesis.
I want to acknowledge further, that some intellectual custom may be superior to another and that there are somethings that belong to this intellectual custom about which arguments can be made, and about which I can be in error. I wish merely to establish clearly the pertain aspects of the foundation from whence I am proceeding so that questions and objections might be distinguished accordingly.
Chief among my principles is the conviction that Philosophy is about things and attempts to speak of things in so far as they are universal and unchanging. It follows, therefore, that I am more interested in ideas than in those that held the ideas. In this way, the title of this thesis may be somewhat misleading. I am not actually concerned with the thoughts that went through Aristotle or Newton's minds except accidentally. I trust the interpretations of the texts will not be too far from what they think, but nevertheless I must confess that it is possible they would object to the way I portray their thoughts. Nevertheless, this is not a court where persons are being tried, it is a philosophical treatise where ideas are considered, and these ideas are held to be better or worse to the extent they correspond to the way things are. A further consequence that will be noted is how I blithely and liberally use the commentaries of St. Thomas Aquinas to understand Aristotle. I do this because St. Thomas seems to make the best sense of the texts of Aristotle. By makes “the best sense” I mean that he reads them in such a way as they make sense of things and make sense to me. Using the names of Aristotle and Newton, therefore, should be taken as more of a short-hand way of referring to their works.
This chief principle, as I have designated it, presupposes another: that things are intelligible. By many this claim is challenged. If it is not questioned that things can be known at all, there is great debate about to what extent things can be known. As important and interesting as these questions are, they have to be put aside. Unless I am to begin every work with an epistemological treatise, I must take it as given that I am able to know things. (Though how and to what extent merits discussion.)
Another frequent concern that has been brought to my attention is that in comparing Aristotle and Newton I am holding one as better than the other, as if I were pitting them against one another in some intellectual boxing match and that I grant victory to the one I favor. I will here give a glimpse of the following thesis: I will use terms such as “prior” and “more proper.” These are not intended to mean “better,” simply speaking. They will mean better in a certain respect. Prior means that it is better for this one to proceed the other. More proper means that it better suited to this end than the other, and this will be largely due to the other having a different end altogether. In essence, therefore, by saying prior and more proper, I am saying let the first is before that which follows, and that each is better suited to its proper rather than the end of the other.
Having laid down these prefatory remarks, I hope that I have sufficiently established the thought behind my thesis. That philosophy is about things, and that things are intelligible form the cornerstone of my philosophical approach. My clarifications about what it means to be prior and proper are to make clear the rhetorical approach that this thesis intends.

Aristotle offers arguments that resolve the valid syllogisms to various first figure syllogisms (Prior Analytics I.7). He further argues that the particular first figure forms, both negative and affirmative (i.e. "Darii" and "Ferio") can be resolved to the universal negative of the first figure ("Celarent") by contradiction and reductio. Thus, of the fourteen valid forms, ten resolve directly or indirectly to "Celarent" and two resolve to "Barbara" (they are both negative: "Baroco" and "Bocardo"). However, there seems to be no resolution of "Celarent" to "Barbara." However, one can offer the following arguments that the "perfection" of these figures, that the mind can immediately grasp the necessity of the conclusion, by resolving them to the principle of contradiction. Furthermore, perhaps, we have a from these arguments an argument that the negative does resolve to the affirmative universal figure.

The necessity of the conclusion from the "Celarent" form is per se notum because "Celarent" is a form of speech that sets down the negation (not-being) of a predicate whole from a subject whole, which is in turn the predicate whole of a subject part, but such a form appeals to the negative side of the principle of contradiction, which is per se notum. "Celarent" also appeals to the principle that the whole is greater than the part.

The necessity of the conclusion from the "Barbara" form is per se notum because "Barbara" is a form of speech that sets down the affirmation (being) of a predicate whole of a subject whole, which subject whole is predicate to a subject part, but such a form appeals to the positive side of the principle of contradiction, which is per se notum. Likewise, this form utilizes the first principle that the whole is greater than or contains the part.

However, being is prior to non-being in notion, and therefore affirmation (saying of something that it is) is prior to negation (saying of something that it is not) in notion. Thus the necessity of "Celarent" depends upon that of "Barbara."

I apologize for the dirty word in the title. These arguments are actually attempting to be a part of metaphysics.

Plato, philosopher and teacher of Aristotle, once taught that, "There is a real distinction between existence and essence." Note that, of the two predications in the preceding statement, the truth of each is evaluated by two different disciplines. An individual man could conceivably argue to falsity of the main clause, and the truth of the quotation, but he would require two different sciences, history and philosophy respectively, each with differing degrees of certitude as to their judgments.

Consider this sentence: St. Thomas held that "A demonstration of the existence of an immaterial, first, and unmoved mover is required to differentiate the science of physics and the science of metaphysics as to their subjects." It succumbs to an identical analysis as the statement concerning Plato. As a further consequence, the student of philosophy ought to invest his time secondarily seeking the answer to the historical question, and primarily the philosophical one. However, when it comes to knowing and defending the authority of one's teachers, and whom one's teacher indicates as teachers, the answer to the former question takes on more importance.

The disciples of St. Thomas take a broad spectrum of positions concerning the Angelic Doctor as the Expositor of Aristotle, the Philosopher. At one extreme, everything St. Thomas writes concerning Aristotle's philosophy in the commentaries is to be taken as (permit me the use of a dirty word) "Thomistic philosophy" (e.g., Weisheipl), unless St. Thomas explicity states otherwise in the same or parallel contexts. The other extreme holds that St. Thomas was only a theologian, and no such Thomistic philosophy can be found (Gilson). A more moderate position states that "When the views [Thomas] presents in more independent writings agree with those he exposes in a particular commentary on Aristotle, we may assume that he accepts the latter as his own position as well. When there is disagreement between the two discussions, we should be very hesitant in assigning such a position from one of his commentaries to Thomas himself, unless there is also some evidence pointing to change or development in his thinking on that point." [1] This view leans to the Gilsonian extreme, stating that St. Thomas agrees with what he says in commentaries on Aristotle only where explicitly stated elsewhere. Otherwise, the Expositor is merely expositing what Aristotle thought was philosophy, and isn't making any "truth-value judgments."

However, one could bend the stick towards the "River Forest" extreme and take what is (too strongly) named "The McInerny Identity Thesis": that St. Thomas agrees with what he says concerning what Aristotle said, unless he explicitly states otherwise (in any place). That this seems to be the case can be evidenced from the following place.

Concerning the disagreement over the distinction of the subject of physics from metaphysics, Wippel's position concerning the texts from Metaphysics IV, VI, and XI as St. Thomas treats of it in his commentary is that: "In these cases we have Thomas's explanation of Aristotle's text, but not Thomas's personal position concerning the conditions of possibility for separation and hence for the discovery of the subject of metaphysics." [2] Metaphysics VI.1 states:

...if there is no substance other than those which are formed by nature, natural science will be the first science; but if there is an immovable substance, the science of this must be prior and must be first philosophy, and universal in this way, because it is first. [1026a27]

St. Thomas, in his commentary, does "little more than repeat the Stagirite's text." [3] Now, without going into the intricacies of this issue philosophically, one can argue from the opponent's own grounds that St. Thomas in fact holds Aristotle's position. For, if there is another text (an independent text) where St. Thomas sustains this view, then it can be attributed to his own philosophical teaching.

In Summa Contra Gentiles, I.12, St. Thomas argues against those who hold that the existence of God can only be held by faith, and cannot be demonstrated by reason. Three arguments for fideism are brought up, and before they are answered in order, St. Thomas presents the four following arguments for the truth of the matter:

Huius autem sententiae falsitas nobis ostenditur, tum ex demonstrationis arte, quae ex effectibus causas concludere docet. Tum ex ipso scientiarum ordine. Nam, si non sit aliqua scibilis substantia supra substantiam sensibilem, non erit aliqua scientia supra naturalem, ut dicitur in IV Metaph. Tum ex philosophorum studio, qui Deum esse demonstrare conati sunt. Tum etiam apostolica veritate asserente, Rom. 1-20: invisibilia Dei per ea quae facta sunt intellecta conspiciuntur.

These arguments seem to be arranged in descending order of philosophical force: 1) from the teachings of logic, causes are to be concluded to from their effects; 2) from the order of the sciences, which argument will be considered in a moment; 3) from the desire or zeal of the philosophers; 4) from the authority of Scripture.

In the third argument, St. Thomas argues that the order of the sciences shows that fideism is false: "For if there are not any knowable substances above sensible substances, there would be no science higher than natural [science], as is said in Metaphysics IV." But, modus tollens, there is a science of metaphysics. Therefore there are knowable separate substances, hence fideism does not hold.

Note that St. Thomas quotes Metaphysics IV, whereas the passage he paraphrases clearly occurs in Metaphysics VI. The passage cited by the Pegis translation of the Summa Contra Gentiles is from Metaphysics IV.3, 1005a18ff, a passage Wippel includes in his dismissal. This misquotation I cannot explain. Concerning this misquoted text, in his commentary (written after SCG) St. Thomas also mentions the same difficulty: the reason for why the naturalists sought to treat of first principles: because they thought that there were no separate substances.

For our purposes, this text shows that St. Thomas must agree with what he states in his commentary on Aristotle concerning the texts in question (Metaphysics IV.3 and VI.1). The force of the argument in SCG depends upon an order of the sciences considered from the rank of their objects. By paraphrasing Aristotle, St. Thomas appeals contextually to the difficulty of distinguishing the subject of physics from metaphysics as part of that order. If they can be distinguished, fideism fails. If they cannot be distinguished, fideism holds. However, the solution to the difficulty (as St. Thomas indicates himself in his commentary, following Aristotle) is that the argument from Physics VIII for an immaterial prime mover establishes the subject of metaphysics.

If St. Thomas did in fact disagree with the Philosopher concerning this point, it is very misleading for him to paraphrase a well-known passage of Aristotle, importing its contextual solutions, in refutation of an error concerning the Catholic faith.

There are at least two replies that could be offered: 1) St. Thomas is appealing only to the order of learning, and 2) St. Thomas is using Aristotle's authority in a merely dialectical fashion: St. Thomas could still hold a "personal solution" to the problem of differentiating the subjects of physics and metaphysics.

Contra 1.: St. Thomas cannot be relying solely on the order of learning for this difficulty: in order to refute fideism, the existence of a science posterior to physics must hold (the order of teaching such a science in relation to physics would be posterior to such a consideration: nobody cares about the order you teach non-existent sciences).

Contra 2.: St. Thomas cannot offer merely dialectical responses to fideism. Philosophy as handmaiden must (in its defensive mode) show this to be (paradoxically) an error pernicious to the faith. Now, the argument from the "desire of the philosophers" is dialectical: "Surely all these men are not hunting in vain." The argument from logic is (in a like fashion, though stronger) dialectical, for while it teaches that effects prove the existence of causes, logic as a science cannot demonstrate the existence of those causes. The way to demonstratively refute fideism is to show the science itself. Now, if St. Thomas is quoting Aristotle as his authority for this, but disagrees with the Stagirite's solution (which solution must be clear, for St. Thomas indicates it in his commentary), all the while making no mention of it, his argument fails his hearers. It is greatly irresponsible for a teacher to introduce a difficulty in the presence of his students which he himself cannot solve.

Now, none of these arguments are demonstrative, and such arguments never will be. However, in the interest of clinging to St. Thomas a the Expositor, it seems that they lend support to following him as he follows the Philosopher.

[1] John F. Wippel, Metaphysical Thought of Thomas Aquinas, p.xx
[2] ibid., p.59
[3] ibid., p.57

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