Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Catholic Carnival

This weeks Catholic Carnival is up and yours truly is on it.

Someone from the Holy Vocations blog really wanted me to post my post on the problem of evil for this weeks carnival...so I did and am on...there's other great stuff on it so check it out.



Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have seen great things....

The Opera Philosophica and the Opera Theologica by William of Ockham is available through Franciscan Publications, hardcover and all...for $1200 US.

One day it will be mine, 17 volumes of pure intellectual goodness (except for the political theory).

Other great things I found....

John Duns Scotus: Early Oxford Lecture on Individuation

Scotus for Dunces: An Introduction to the Subtle Doctor

John Duns Scotus: Four Questions on Mary

John Duns Scotus: A Treatise on Potency and Act: Questions on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Book IX

St Anthony of Padua: Sermons for the Easter Season

St Bonaventure: De Reductione Artium ad Theologiam

St Bonaventure: Itenerarium Mentis in Deum

St Bonaventure's Disputed Questions on the Mystery of the Trinity

St Bonaventure's Disputed Questions on the Knowledge of Christ

And perhaps the best thing to come from there is the Franciscan Studies Journal, which I have use many a times for writing philosophy papers and I think I will have to begin subscribing to it because it's just amazing.

I am done with book geeking for now...

Check it out here:


Monday, June 12, 2006

A Solution to Talking About God?

I was covering some shifts at Johnny Zee's last night, which equals me sitting around reading all night and getting paid to do so.

Anyways...I was reading up on St Anselm and it came to me.

Let me give you the background...

There is a problem of language when one talks about God. It involves a basic principle (both logically and mathematically). I will communicate this via what is known as Set Theory.

Set Theory claims the following, that a finite set cannot contain an infinite set. That is to say, finite sets are limited in scope of numbers, while infinite sets are boundless. Thus, an infinite set cannot be contained, period.

So God, who is infinite, thus can't be contained by a finitie mind. This is easy enough to understand. But then we have a problem. Our language is finite in nature, yet it attempts to describe something infinite. This seems to be quite a perplexing thing.

Pseudo Dionysius attempts to solve the problem by his 2 roads of talking about God.

The first way is the Via Positiva, the Positive Way. This way states that when we say God is good, it is true, because God is good, He includes that concept of good which we conceive. However, God is really super-good, that is, the good which is in God is so far beyond our understanding of the good (thus keeping the infinite gulf that exists between God and creation). So our concept of good conveys some truth about God, but it is minimal, but can be said in an affirmative fashion.

The second way is known as the Via Negativa, the Negative Way. This way states that since our language is finite, it cannot possibly grasp any fact about God. God's goodness is so far beyond our understanding of goodness that it makes sense for us to say that God is not-goodness. That is to say, God is not what we conceive goodness to be, because He is infinitely beyond that. This is the way of the mystics and deeply rooted in Neo-Platonic philosophy.

So, there is great debate as to which way is better. Pseudo-Dionysius will state that the Via Positiva is rooted in the Via Negativa. Because our idea of goodness is so far beyond what goodness is like in God, it is essentially negative.

Now...I think there is a way to solve this. If you recall in one of my previous posts, St Augustine's Theory of Evil states that evil isn't an ontological reality, that is, it doesn't have being and existence like goodness has. Instead, it is a twisting, deprivation, lacking of good.

I argue that language is the same (though not as evil, just that it isn't what God is). Since language does not reach the heights of God, it does not affirm things the way they are. However, The Word is God. Thus, our language, our words, are simply a lesser degree of the Word. They express the reality, though in a limited lesser degree. Words are a "deprivation" of the divine reality which they signify. Thus, they express truth because they contain a bit of that which they are deprived of. Thus, via St Augustine's theory of evil, our language can express truths about God, rooted in the via negativa (because of the of deprivatio), but expressed in both ways.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Well...it is now officially over. With the words "admito te" I was afficially admited to my BA in Philosophy.

It was a great ceremony oozing with Medieval elements (except, of course, the Native Indian furniture for the ceremony...not so medieval).

To be able to wear my bachelor robes as a real honour. I wish I could afford to buy some, but I think I'll save that for the doctoral robes if God wills that I go that far in my education one day.

It was also a weird/sad day in that it meant the end of a time I have come to appreciate profoundly. It means another step towards the future, wherever it may end up being. It is exciting, but sad. I will miss the University atmosphere, despite it's radical liberalism at times. I will miss learning in a class setting, lack of sleep, I will miss writing papers and getting into philosophical arguments with various classmates. I will miss a lot of it indeed and for that I am sad. But I will be getting more education in the future, so I have that to look forward to. I look forward to receiving my MA with joy and to continue up the academic latter. Seeing all those professors in their doctoral robes was just amazingly awesome and beautiful and my heart yearned to be able to wear those robes one day. There is something about an academic environment that is just so me, though it took me up to my last year to realize that.

So yes, that chapter in my life is officially over. My parents were around and the gift they have gotten for me is the complete Church Fathers book set, a 38 volume hardcover set of all their works. I look forward to keeping my nose in those books for years and years to come when it arrives at my doorstep.

For those who read this that I have come to know during my university years, thank you for everything. Whether big or small, you have all had an influence in my life and helped give me that strength to persevere and cross that finish line.

And so tonight, I relax, and am going to attempt to read, my BA is hung up, I do hope it receives some company in years to come.


Friday, June 02, 2006

Reflections on the Problem of Evil

Theodicy is the study of Divine Justice, or, as many philosophers like to term it "If God is all good, why do bad things happen?"....that is...why is there evil in the world.

Theologically there are 2 Traditions, the tradition of Iranaeus, and the tradition of St Augustine.

St Iranaeus says that evil is in the world so that we can become more matured beings, that the conflict between good and evil is a training ground for virtue. This solves the problem of existence of evil being necessary so that we can have a redeemer to come and redeem our sins. However, it seems to place the blame of evil on God...and we wouldn't want to do that as theologians.

The second is the much more exhaustive and reasonable (in my humble opinion) theory of St Augustine. St Augustine, being the Platonist that he is, states that there are two types of evil, moral evil and "natural evil". I will explain "natural evil" first. "Natural evil" is in quote because St Augustine says that "natural evil" does not exist at all, it's simply a perception of the world due to the clouding of sin on the soul. An earthquake would happen whether sin entered the world or not, but sin changed our perception. What would have been seen in a sinless world as the natural, necessary occurances is sin in a sinful world as painful and evil (not to mention the idea that pain and suffering are seen to be evils in and of themselves as well). Therefore, natural evil such as natural disasters is simply a way of talking.

This leads us to the principle of plenitude which thus leads us to moral evil. The principle of plenitude states that the best possible world is the fullest possible world, that is, the reality with the most existence in it is the best world and God would create that world.

Thus the world we live in is the fullest possible world. It is obvious that free will is part of this fullest possible world. It is a better universe in which a rational being has free will then a universe in which a rational being does not have free will. Every single event that has happened in history could happen in a world without free will, but, according to St Augustine, free will is obviously a good thing and thus is in this world.

If there's free will in the world, then there is the ability to choose. To choose means one has at least two things to choose from. The most basic choice in the state of theology is to choose God or not to choose God. In the end, that is where all our actions lead us. Are my actions towards the end of God or towards a selfish end and counter to the Divine Goodness? That is the basis of moral activity.

Now St Augustine has a problem. If existence is a positive attribute, then how can evil actually exist? That would mean that there would be good in evil, which is contrary to reason, evil is the total absence of good. St Augustine pulls a neat little trick. He states that evil is a privation of the good, that the good is what ought to be in existence but it has been deprived of its fullness. Another simple way to define moral evil is that which is not good. It is a lack of goodness.

The problem here though, I have just thought about, is that if evil does not exist, then there is no evil for Christ to redeem. St Augustine's theodic theory is missing one thing, the ability to affirm the existence of evil without changing its total negative attribute.

This is purely speculation, but I propose that sin and evil is not a negation, but a twisting of the truth, of the good. It is a false perception and use of that which is intrinsically good. The most basic example is free will. Free will is good intrinsically, however, it is seen as evil when it goes counter to its purpose. Thus, a choice would have eternal consequences if all choices are rooted towards or against God. Thus, if Adam and Eve sinned, there is an eternal consequence for the choice they made. The rock of a choice has been thrown into the pond of eternal consequences. Thus, could it be said that Christ's redemption is that which re-orientates us towards the good? Perhaps evil doesn't have to have an ontological and metaphysical basis in reality. Perhaps it doesn't really need to exist, but is simply a privation of the good. Christ's redemptive act is that which gives us the ability, on an eternal and infinite level (since our choices are rooted in God and God is infinite), to choose towards the good again. Christ's redemption does save us.

Original sin is something that is eternal and infinite in that it is an eternal and infinite rebellion against God. Christ's redemption is also eternal and infinite and gives us the ability to re-orientate ourselves back towards the good on a complete basis. Thus the need for grace in our lives throughout the history of mankind.

If you have any comments on this, I'd greatly appreciate this.