Wednesday, February 27, 2008

On Substance II

How do we identify a substance?

Since substance is being per se, something that exists in and through itself, it must be something that is a particular being, whole in itself and distinct from all other particular beings. It cannot exist in and through another being or as a part or principle of another being.

Any particular thing that exists in this way is a substance in the primary sense (first substance). And any reference to the genus or species of the particular thing is a reference to substance in the secondary sense (second substance).

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine... lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

William F. Buckley, Jr., R.I.P.

Whatever you may think of the man, for good or for ill, he was baptized into the death of Christ Jesus. Let us pray that he may rise again in glory with Christ Jesus. Such is our Christian duty.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On Substance

The term 'substance' is used in two ways.

First substance is any individual thing that exists in itself. You, dear reader, are an example of first substance. You are an individual, particular man.1

Second substance is the nature of some group of individual things that exists in themselves taken as the species of all things that share said nature. The use of the word 'man' to mean the species of you6, me and every other rational animal on dear old Terra is an example of second substance.7

[1] Certainly in the unmarked sense, possibly in the marked sense as well.2

[2] If you are not a man in either sense, dear reader, please inform me of this. I would be extremely pleased to be the person to make "first contact" with another sapient3 species. Unless of course you wanted to eat me. That would be really uncool.4

[3] 'Sapient' is a superior word to 'sentient', since 'sentient' literally means "capable of sensation," which is true of all animals. 'Sapient', on the other hand, literally means "capable of wisdom," something true only of rational animals.

[4] I feel that I must point out, dear reader--out of the sense of duty I feel towards the spiritual work of mercy that is instructing the ignorant--that eating a fellow sapient being would be immoral.5

[5] If you already knew this but just don't care, then consider this an example of admonishing the sinner instead.

[6] Again, unless your not.

[7] See previous notes. I suppose, dear reader, that if you aren't human we will either be forced to say that 'man' and 'human' are not interchangeable, but instead say that 'human' us a subset of 'man'; or we will be forced to redefine 'man' as "rational animal of the species homo sapiens" and apply the definition "rational animal" to some other word.8

[8] Yes, I am aware that this post is over 50% footnotes.

Proof for the immortality of the human soul

The following proof has been derived using St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, I, 75.

Every intellect is that which can know all corporeal things.
Every human soul is an intellect.
Therefore, every human soul is that which can know all corporeal things.

Nothing that can know all corporeal things is corporeal.
Every human soul is that which can know all corporeal things.
Therefore, no human soul is corporeal.
Which is to say that every human soul is non-corporeal.

Every non-corporeal thing is that which has an operation that body does not share.
Every human soul is non-corporeal.
Therefore, every human soul is that which has an operation body does not share.

Everything that has an operation body does not share is that which has an operation in itself.
Every human soul is that which has an operation body does not share.
Therefore, every human soul is that which has an operation in itself.

Everything that has an operation in itself is that which subsists in itself.
Every human soul is that which has an operation in itself.
Therefore, every human soul is that which subsists in itself.

Everything that subsists in itself is a substance.
Every human soul is that which subsists in itself.
Therefore, every human soul is a substance.

No substance is corruptible per accidens.
Every human soul is a substance.
Therefore, no human soul is corruptible per accidens.

Every form is an act.
Every human soul is a form.
Therefore, every human soul is an act.

Every act is that which exists by virtue of itself.
Every human soul is an act.
Therefore, every human soul is that which exists by virtue of itself.

Nothing that exists by virtue of itself is corruptible per se.
Every human soul is that which exists by virtue of itself.
Therefore, no human soul is corruptible per se.

If the human soul is corruptible, then the human soul is corruptible per se or the human soul is corruptible per accidens.
No human soul is corruptible per se and no human soul is corruptible per accidens.
Therefore, no human soul is corruptible.
Which is to say that the human soul is incorruptible

That which is incorruptible is immortal.
The human soul is incorruptible.
Therefore, the human soul is immortal.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A (Tentative) Definition of Torture

Torture is any act that causes pain to another person where no relationship exists between the acting person and the other that would guaranty the other protection from per se harm.

Replace "acting person" with "agent" and replace "other" with "subject" if you would prefer slightly more traditional language.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On the definition of "unnatural"

When speaking about various theological and philosophical topics, such as anthropology and ethics, a major source of argument is the use of the term "unnatural." Many a modern man will argue that something is not unnatural because it is a phenomenon that occurs in the natural world.

This is not how the term in used in traditional theological and philosophical discourse. Rather, when we speak of nature, we are speaking of a thing's formal and final cause, insofar as the form of a thing is the principle that moves the thing towards its proper end. Thus, when we say that something is "unnatural," we mean that it causes a thing to act against attaining its proper end.

Thus, it can be entirely correct to call certain urges, inclinations and actions unnatural, even though they appear as phenomenon in the natural world.

Error has no rights

Every evil is a privation.
Every error is an evil (of the intellect).
Therefore, every error is a privation.

Every privation is a lack of being (in a being that should have what it lacks).
Every error is a privation.
Therefore, every error is a lack of being.

No lack of being has rights (because nothing can be truly predicated of that which does not exist).
Every error is a lack of being.
Therefore, no error has rights.

My problem with the so-called "existential fallacy"

If we're not actually talking about things, then it's not philosophy, it's just word games.

If something doesn't exist, then nothing can be truly predicated of it. The problem with the following syllogism:

All rational beings are persons.
All Martians are rational.
Therefore, some Martians are persons.

is not that I have assumed existential import, thus committing a formal fallacy. The problem is that the minor premise is false. It is false because Martians do not exist.* Therefore, nothing can truly be predicated of them.

It is not a good idea to mathematize and abstract logic to the point where we forget the primacy of being

*If we ever discover that there are Martians, I will obviously have to change my example.

A valid argument

1. If you do not have faith, you will not be saved (Eph 2.8)

2. If you do not do works, you do not have faith (Jas 2.17)

3. If you do not do works, you will not be saved (2,1 HS)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Human Flourishing and the Liturgy

The topic of this essay will be human flourishing and its relationship to the liturgy. It will be philosophical insofar as I will use certain insights gained from philosophy. It will be theological insofar as any discussion of the liturgy must take into account theology and Divine Revelation. I will begin by defining the term “human flourishing.” I will then examine it in terms of both philosophy and theology. Finally, I will try to use the concept of human flourishing to shed some light on the true purpose of the liturgy.

Let us first define what we mean when we speak of “human flourishing.” Something is said to flourish when it grows, thrives, and prospers. These words all imply life and action. But we do not say a thing flourishes when it performs just any action. Rather, we judge a thing's flourishing in terms of what it is, in terms of its form. Flourishing, then, is action in accord with a thing's form.

Now, the actions that are proper to a thing are actions that lead it to the attainment of its end. Formal cause is oriented towards final cause. Thus, we can say that a thing flourishes insofar as it is moved towards, and attains, its end. Applying this definition of flourishing to humanity, we come to see that “human flourishing” is another name for man's motion towards, and attainment of, his proper end.

However, this definition of human flourishing does us no good if we are unable to say what the proper end of man is. For the answer to this question I will turn to Aristotle, who tells us that happiness is what all men seek.[1] This answer certainly corresponds to reality. When you question any man on the reason for his actions, sooner or later he will tell you that his ultimate goal was to be happy.

Yet to say that human flourishing is equivalent to happiness has still shed very little light on the term. For when we question men on what happiness is, we find that we receive a variety of answers. After proving that happiness is not those things that it is most commonly thought to be, Aristotle spends the rest of the Nicomachean Ethics exploring what happiness is. He concludes that happiness is the activity of our highest part (the intellect), aiming at its highest object (the first cause).[2] In short, happiness is contemplating God.

Now, we can see that over the course of history men have used their reason to contemplate God under a variety of names: the Good, the One, the Prime Mover, Self-thinking Thought, etc. While we must admit that all these ideas of God have come with some admixture of error, we must also admit the truth of the words of St. Paul: “For the invisible things of [God], from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; [H]is eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.”[3]

But with the coming of God's Revelation, especially the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we see that perfect happiness is unattainable in this life. It is not just that it is difficult. It is not just that we are likely to make errors, even those of us who are great philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle. Even with the fullness of Divine Revelation, even with the Church and the Sacraments, it is impossible for us to attain perfect happiness in this life. We know this by the words of Revelation itself: “We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face.”[4]

This is not to say that our activities as philosophers and theologians are useless. By the use of right reason applied to nature we can know true things about God as the first cause of all beings, as well as many of His attributes. By the use of right reason applied to Divine Revelation we can better understand many things that God has revealed about Himself throughout Salvation History. Both activities can be used to explain and defend the truth of our faith, and to help others accept the grace that God offers them. And both philosophy and theology, when done out of love for He Who is Truth, can be sources of grace, which can help us attain our final end.

Now let us take our understanding of human flourishing and apply it to the liturgy. While it is true that we are unable to achieve total and complete happiness in this life, we come the closest to this perfect happiness when we properly participate in the liturgy. The Second Vatican Council's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, called the liturgy “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed”.[5] It states, “In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle”.[6]

The Second Vatican Council also called for “the faithful [to] take part [in the liturgy] fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.”[7] It states, “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy.”[8] Finally, it says, “In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else”.[9]

The question that has caused much division in the intervening years since the council has been the definition of “full and active participation” in the liturgy. To answer this question we should turn to those philosophical and theological tools that we have in our possession. At the same time, we should turn towards the tradition of the Church and to the Second Vatican Council itself. I will now attempt to do so.

Happiness is the activity of our intellect contemplating the best and highest truth, God, the first cause of all creation. Insofar as a taste of happiness is attainable in this life, it is attainable through contemplating God, as far as we can know Him through reason and Divine Revelation. Through the liturgy, we attain the best taste of the Heaven, the best taste of happiness. It seems to me that the clearest answer to the question of what constitutes full and active participation in the sacred liturgy is one word: contemplation. In the liturgy we can contemplate Him not just as He is knowable through His creation. Not even just as He is knowable through what He has revealed to us through Sacred Scripture. In the liturgy we can contemplate Him as He stands before us, in His flesh and in His blood, though they are veiled under the appearance of simple bread and wine. And since love proceeds from knowledge, it follows that through the liturgy we can love Him more.

This also seems to be the understanding of active participation that has been handed down by tradition. For example, in his 1947 encyclical letter Mediator Dei Pope Pius XII stressed the fact that “the chief element of divine worship must be interior.”[10] He went on to state, “It is an error, consequently, and a mistake to think of the sacred liturgy as merely the outward or visible part of divine worship or as an ornamental ceremonial.”[11] Finally, he continues by saying “that God cannot be honored worthily unless the mind and heart turn to Him in quest of the perfect life”.[12]

This is not to say that outward participation has no place in the liturgy. Earlier in this same encyclical, Pope Pius XII states, “The worship rendered by the Church to God must be, in its entirety, interior as well as exterior. It is exterior because the nature of man as a composite of body and soul requires it to be so.”[13] But our internal participation in the liturgy is more important than our external participation, since the latter without the former is worthless and condemnable.[14]

Moreover, this interpretation seems to be born out by Sacrosanctum Concilium itself. To see this one need only read the opening paragraph of the document. There it states, “It is of the essence of the Church that she be… eager to act and yet intent on contemplation”.[15] Further on in this paragraph it continues by saying that “action [is directed and subordinated to] contemplation”.[16]

Again, my point is not that we should eliminate outward participation. But my point is that we must be careful not to make outward participation our dominant understanding of active participation. The most important thing is for each and every person at the Mass to be able to inwardly orient himself towards the contemplation and worship of God.

In his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, delivered on December 22, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said that the years since the Second Vatican Council have seen two competing theories of interpretation. The first views the council as a breach with the Church’s tradition and interprets it as such, substituting what they think the council should have said for what its documents do say. The second interprets the council documents in light of the Church’s tradition, seeing the council as a continuation of the Church’s unfolding of the Deposit of Faith. Pope Benedict said that the first view was unacceptable, for it leaves us with two churches, one before the council and another after, rather than the single Church of Christ. Endorsing the second view, he called for the Church to understand the council within the continuity of its 2000-year history.[17]

This paper has been my attempt to follow the Pope’s call. As such, I have brought my knowledge and intelligence, however feeble they may be, to bear on an issue that is dear to my heart and important to the Church, the issue of the Divine Liturgy, of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In this, as in all things, I submit myself to the Holy Catholic Church, Mother and Teacher, and to the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

[1] Nicomachean Ethics, I, 4.

[2] Ibid., X, 7.

[3] Romans I, 20. (All Scripture quotations are from the Douay-Rheims.)

[4] I Corinthians XIII, 12.

[5] Vatican II, Sacrocsanctum Concilium, 10.

[6] Ibid., 8. The footnote to this passage references Apocalypse XXI, 2; Colossians III, 1; and Hebrews VIII, 2.

[7] Ibid., 11.

[8] Ibid., 14.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 24.

[11] Ibid., 25.

[12] Ibid.,26.

[13] Ibid., 23.

[14] Cf. Ibid. 24; Mark VII, 6; Isaias XXIX, 13.

[15] Vatican II, Sacrocsanctum Concilium, 1.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Benedict XVI, Christmas greetings to the Members of the Roman Curia and Prelature.

Well, I'm back.

The thesis is in the process of being written, but there is too much bouncing around in my head. And so I am starting the blog up again, so I have a place to dump the rest. More to follow. Until then I'll put a few of my old posts back up. I saved the ones in which I thought I said something worthwhile.