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Monday, February 25, 2013

0266: The Term “Logos” in the Magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI - Part (III)



Entry 0266: The Term “Logos” in the Magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI - Part (III)


Logos as Verbum and Ars


As in previous years, after finishing the Lenten spiritual exercises, the Holy Father Benedict XVI expressed some words of gratitude towards the members of the Roman curia who accompanied him in retreat. Here is the brief address in its original Italian followed by the English translation.

Original Text: 
Cari Fratelli,

Cari Amici!

Alla fine di questa settimana spiritualmente così densa, rimane solo una parola: grazie! Grazie a voi per questa comunità orante in ascolto, che mi ha accompagnato in questa settimana. Grazie, soprattutto, a Lei, Eminenza, per queste "camminate" così belle nell’universo della fede, nell’universo dei Salmi. Siamo rimasti affascinati dalla ricchezza, dalla profondità, dalla bellezza di questo universo della fede e rimaniamo grati perché la Parola di Dio ci ha parlato in nuovo modo, con nuova forza.

"Arte di credere, arte di pregare" era il filo conduttore. Mi è venuto in mente il fatto che i teologi medievali hanno tradotto la parola "logos" non solo con "verbum", ma anche con "ars": "verbum" e "ars" sono intercambiabili.

Solo nelle due insieme appare, per i teologi medievali, tutto il significato della parola "logos". Il "Logos" non è solo una ragione matematica: il "Logos" ha un cuore, il "Logos" è anche amore. La verità è bella, verità e bellezza vanno insieme: la bellezza è il sigillo della verità.

E tuttavia Lei, partendo dai Salmi e dalla nostra esperienza di ogni giorno, ha anche fortemente sottolineato che il "molto bello" del sesto giorno – espresso dal Creatore – è permanentemente contraddetto, in questo mondo, dal male, dalla sofferenza, dalla corruzione. E sembra quasi che il maligno voglia permanentemente sporcare la creazione, per contraddire Dio e per rendere irriconoscibile la sua verità e la sua bellezza.

In un mondo così marcato anche dal male, il "Logos", la Bellezza eterna e l’"Ars" eterna, deve apparire come "caput cruentatum". Il Figlio incarnato, il "Logos" incarnato, è coronato con una corona di spine; e tuttavia proprio così, in questa figura sofferente del Figlio di Dio, cominciamo a vedere la bellezza più profonda del nostro Creatore e Redentore; possiamo, nel silenzio della "notte oscura", ascoltare tuttavia la Parola. Credere non è altro che, nell’oscurità del mondo, toccare la mano di Dio e così, nel silenzio, ascoltare la Parola, vedere l’Amore.

Eminenza, grazie per tutto e facciamo ancora "camminate", ulteriormente, in questo misterioso universo della fede, per essere sempre più capaci di orare, di pregare, di annunciare, di essere testimoni della verità, che è bella, che è amore.

Alla fine, cari amici, vorrei ringraziare tutti voi, e non solo per questa settimana, ma per questi otto anni, in cui avete portato con me, con grande competenza, affetto, amore, fede, il peso del ministero petrino. Rimane in me questa gratitudine e anche se adesso finisce l’ "esteriore", "visibile" comunione - come ha detto il Cardinale Ravasi - rimane la vicinanza spirituale, rimane una profonda comunione nella preghiera. In questa certezza andiamo avanti, sicuri della vittoria di Dio, sicuri della verità della bellezza e dell’amore.

Grazie a tutti voi.



Translation: 
Dear brothers,

Dear friends!

At the end of this spiritually dense week, there remains just one thing to say: Thank you!

I thank you for this praying and listening community that accompanied me during this week. Thank you, above all, Eminence, for these very beautiful “walks” in the universe of faith, in the universe of the Psalms. We are left fascinated by the richness, by the profundity, by the beauty of this universe of faith and we are grateful that the Word of God has spoken to us in a new way, with new power.

“The art of believing, the art of praying” was the thread. It came to my mind that the medieval theologians translated the word “logos” not only as “verbum” (word) but also as “ars” (art): “verbum” and “ars” are interchangeable.

For the medieval theologians, only in the two words together does the whole meaning of the word “logos” appear. The “Logos” is not only mathematical reason: the “Logos” has a heart, the “Logos” is love. Truth is beautiful, truth and beauty go together: beauty is the seal of truth.

And, nevertheless, you, through the Psalms and through our daily experience, also firmly stressed that the “very beautiful” of the sixth day – spoken by the Creator – is permanently contradicted, in this world, by evil, by suffering, by corruption. It seems that the evil one wants permanently to stain creation, to contradict God and to make his truth and beauty unrecognizable.

In a world so characterized also by evil, the “Logos,” the eternal Beauty and the eternal “Art,” must appear as a “caput cruentatum” (bloody head). The incarnate Son, the incarnate “Logos,” is crowned with a crown of thorns; and nevertheless, precisely in this way, in this suffering figure of the Son of God, we begin to see the most profound beauty of our Creator and Redeemer; and yet we can, in the silence of the “dark night,” hear the Word. Believing is nothing other than touching the hand of God in the darkness of the world and thus, in silence, to hear the Word, to see Love.

Eminence, thank you for everything and let us continue to take “walks” in this mysterious universe of faith, to be ever more able to pray, to proclaim, to be witnesses of truth, which is beautiful, which is love.

Finally, dear friends, I would like to thank all of you, and not only for this week, but of these 8 years in which you have borne with me, with great competence, affection, love, faith, the weight of the Petrine office. This gratitude remains in me and even if now there ends the “external,” “visible” communion – as Cardinal Ravasi said – there remains spiritual closeness, there remains a profound communion in prayer. In this certainty we go forward, certain of God’s victory, certain of the truth of beauty and love.

I thank all of you.
Translation by Joseph Trabbic
© Innovative Media Inc.

Monday, February 18, 2013

0265: Actus Essendi and Existence (IX)



Entry 0265: Actus Essendi and Existence (IX)

Professor Kevin White reports on the two meanings of esse, namely, the esse that refers to the metaphysical principle of actus essendi and the esse that refers to the fact of existence.

After giving relevant quotations from Cornelio Fabro, Joseph Owens, and John Wippel, professor White concludes that 
All three interpreters agree that esse and essence are distinguished as two principles of a peculiar kind, namely, metaphysical or entitative principles. Fabro introduces the further suggestion that esse as principle must be distinguished twice: not only from (1) the essence that is its fellow-principle, but also from (2) the ‘result’ of esse as principle, namely, ‘existence which is the fact of being.’ It is the requirement of this second distinction that Owens denies and that Wippel reasserts (while describing the ‘result’ as ‘esse as facticity’).
Kevin White, “Act and Fact: A Disputed Point in Recent Thomistic Metaphysics,” The Metaphysics of Aquinas and its Modern Interpreters: Theological and Philosophical Perspectives, 31st Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York, March 26-27, 2011.

Monday, February 11, 2013

0264: The Term “Logos” in the Magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI (II)



Entry 0264: The Term “Logos” in the Magisterium of Pope Benedict XVI (II)  

An excerpt from the General Audience of 6 February 2013:

God is the origin of all things and his omnipotence as a loving Father unfolds in the beauty of creation. God manifests himself as Father in creation, inasmuch as He is the origin of life, and in creating, reveals his omnipotence.

God, like a good and powerful Father, takes care of what he has created with a love and loyalty that never fail or diminish.

"By faith", writes the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, "we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible"(11:3). Faith implies, therefore, knowing how to recognize the invisible by identifying the traces of it in the visible world.

The believer can read the great book of nature and understand its language (see Ps 19:2-5), but the Word of revelation, which stimulates faith, is necessary for man to achieve full awareness of the reality of God as Creator and Father. It is in the book of Sacred Scripture that human intelligence can find, in the light of faith, the interpretative key to understand the world.

In particular, the first chapter of Genesis holds a special place, with its solemn presentation of the divine creative act that unfolds in seven days: in six days God completes creation and on the seventh day, the Sabbath, he ceases from all activity and rests. A day of freedom for all, a day of communion with God. And so, with this image, the book of Genesis tells us that God's first thought was to find a love responding to His love.

The second thought is then create a material world in which to place this love, these creatures who answer him in freedom. This structure, therefore, causes the text to be marked by some significant repetitions. Six times, for example, the phrase is repeated: "God saw that it was good" (vv. 4.10.12.18.21.25), and finally, the seventh time, after the creation of man: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (v. 31).

Everything that God creates is good and beautiful, full of wisdom and love, the creative action of God brings order, sets things in harmony, bestows beauty. In the Genesis account then, it emerges that the Lord creates by his word: ten times the texts uses the expression "God said" (vv. 3.6.9.11.14.20.24.26.28.29).

It is the word, the Logos of God who is the origin of the reality of the world and by saying, "God said," and it was so, it emphasizes the effective power of the Word of God.

As the psalmist sings: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, by the breath of his mouth all their host ... because he spoke and all things were created, he commanded, and it was done" (33:6.9). Life arises, the world exists, because everything obeys the divine Word.

But our question today is: in the age of science and technology, does it still make sense to speak of creation? How should we understand the Genesis narratives?

The Bible is not intended as a natural science manual; its intention instead is to teach us the authentic and profound truth of things. The fundamental truth that the Genesis stories reveal to us is that the world is not a collection of contrasting forces, but has its origin and its stability in the Logos, in God's eternal Reason, who continues to sustain the universe. There is a plan for the world that arises from this Reason, from the creating Spirit.

Believing that such a reality is behind all this, illuminates every aspect of life and gives us the courage to face the adventure of life with confidence and hope. Thus, the Scriptures tell us that the origin of being, of the world, our origin is not irrationality or necessity, but rather reason and love and freedom. Hence the alternative: either priority of the irrational, of necessity, or priority of reason, freedom and love. We believe in this latter position

Monday, February 4, 2013

0263: Schools of Thought within the Thomist Tradition



Entry 0263: Schools of Thought within the Thomist Tradition  

For his book Aquinas: A beginner’s Guide (Oxford: Oneworld, 2009), professor Edward Feser had written a brief overview of the history of Thomism that in the end was cut out from the book when the author and the editors agreed that it did not fit entirely smoothly where it was going to go. Feser, however, found another option. He made available what he had written on the history of Thomism in two installments in his blog. Here are the links to “The Thomistic Tradition, Part I” and “The Thomistic Tradition, Part II”:




In his reflections, Professor Edawrd Feser identifies the following strands of Thomism:

1. Neo-Scholastic Thomism: Due to its emphasis on following the interpretative tradition of the great commentators on Aquinas (such as Capreolus, Cajetan, and John of St. Thomas) and associated suspicion of attempts to synthesize Thomism with non-Thomistic categories and assumptions, Neo-Scholastic Thomism has also sometimes been labeled “Strict Observance Thomism.”

Its core philosophical commitments are summarized in the famous “Twenty-Four Thomistic Theses” approved by Pope Pius X. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964) is perhaps its greatest representative.

2. Existential Thomism: Etienne Gilson (1884-1978) tends to emphasize the importance of historical exegesis but also to deemphasize Aquinas’s continuity with the Aristotelian tradition, highlighting instead the originality of Aquinas’s doctrine of being or existence. The main reason for the label is the emphasis this approach puts on Aquinas’s doctrine of existence. Contemporary proponents include Joseph Owens and John F. X. Knasas.

3. Laval or River Forest Thomism: Charles De Koninck (1906-1965), James A. Weisheipl (1923-1984), William A. Wallace, and Benedict Ashley are among its representatives.

It is sometimes called “Laval Thomism” after the University of Laval in Quebec, where De Koninck was a professor. The alternative label “River Forest Thomism” derives from a suburb of Chicago, the location of the Albertus Magnus Lyceum for Natural Science, whose members are associated with this approach. It is also sometimes called “Aristotelian Thomism.

Writers like Ralph McInerny exhibit both Neo-Scholastic and Laval/River Forest influences, and the approaches are not necessarily incompatible.

4. Transcendental Thomism: Joseph Marechal (1878-1944), Karl Rahner (1904-84), and Bernard Lonergan (1904-84), seek to reconcile Thomism with a Cartesian subjectivist approach to knowledge in general, and Kantian epistemology in particular.

5. Lublin Thomism: It is also sometimes called “phenomenological Thomism.” In particular, it seeks to make use of the phenomenological method of philosophical analysis associated with Edmund Husserl and the personalism of writers like Max Scheler in articulating the Thomist conception of the human person. Its best-known proponent is Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005).

6. Analytical Thomism: It is described by John Haldane, its key proponent, as “a broad philosophical approach that brings into mutual relationship the styles and preoccupations of recent English-speaking philosophy and the concepts and concerns shared by Aquinas and his followers.”

By “recent English-speaking philosophy” Haldane means the analytical tradition founded by thinkers like Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Elizabeth Anscombe (1919-2001) and her husband Peter Geach are sometimes considered the first “analytical Thomists.”

We might tentatively distinguish, then, between three subcategories within the group of contemporary analytic philosophers who have been described as “analytical Thomists.”

a. Those who emphasize the “analytical” element at the expense of the “Thomism.” Anthony Kenny (who rejects Aquinas’s doctrine of being) and Robert Pasnau (who rejects certain aspects of his account of human nature) would seem to exemplify this first tendency.

b. Those who give both the “analytical” and the “Thomistic” elements of analytical Thomism equal emphasis, and is represented by thinkers like Geach, Brian Davies, and C. F. J. Martin (all of whom would attempt to harmonize Aquinas’s doctrine of being with Frege’s understanding of existence) and Germain Grisez and John Finnis (who would reinterpret Aquinas’s ethics so as to avoid what Moore called the “naturalistic fallacy”). The work of Norman Kretzmann and Eleonore Stump also possibly falls into this second category.

c. Those whose training was in the analytic tradition and whose modes of argument and choice of topics reflects this background, but whose philosophical views are in substance basically just traditional Thomistic ones, without qualification or reinterpretation.

The work of writers like Gyula Klima and David Oderberg seems to fall into this category.

d. [Speaking about his own position, Edward Feser added:] My own understanding of Aquinas has been influenced most by the work of writers in the Neo-Scholastic, Laval/River Forest, and Analytical schools (especially the third category of analytical Thomism that I distinguished). In particular, I follow these approaches in reading Aquinas as the pivotal figure in an ongoing “Aristotelico-Thomistic” tradition, a “perennial philosophy” which has its roots in the best of ancient Greek thought and continues to this day.

7. Other approaches: While Aquinas is generally understood to be an Aristotelian, commentators like Cornelio Fabro (1911-1995) have emphasized the Platonic elements in his thought. And John Deely advocates bringing Thomism together with semiotics, the general theory of signs and signification