Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cicero: The Law

True law is a harmony of right reasoning and nature. It applies to everyone and all places and times, for it is unchanging and everlasting. It commands each of us to do our duty and prevents us from doing wrong. Its commands and prohibitions guide good and prudent people, but those who are wicked will listen to neither. It is not right to try to alter this law. We cannot repeal any part of it, much less do away with it altogether. No Senate or Assembly of the people can free us from its obligations. We do not need anyone to explain or interpret it for us. There is no such thing as one true law at Rome and another at Athens. There is no change of law over time. It applies to all people everywhere. There is one Divine Master and ruler over all of us who is creator judge and enforcer of this law. Those who disobey him are fleeing from themselves and are rejecting their own humanity. Even if they escape human judgment for their wrongdoing, they will pay a terrible price in the end.  

Cicero. On the state. From "How to run a country." Translated and edited by Philip Freeman

Jeremiah Burroughs: Rationality and Liberty

1.  What is rationality?
2.  What does it mean to be a creature?
3.  What is understanding?  Judgement? Liberty of action?

That is why no creature but a rational creature can do an act of freedom.  Liberty of action is only in rational creatures and only comes from hence, for that is only freedom that is done in a rational way. Rational freedom is when I, by my judgment, see what has to be done, understand a thing, and my judgment agrees with what I understand: that is done freely. 

Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, 17. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Pilgrim's Progress: Good Works and Conscience

1.  In what way does Ignorance explain his religion?

2.  How does Ignorance appeal to his own good works and his own conscience?

3.  What is the basis of the reply from Christian and Faithful?

Here, therefore, they met with a very brisk lad, that came out of that country; and his name was IGNORANCE. So CHRISTIAN asked him, "From what part he came? and whither he was going?"

Ignorance. Sir, I was born in the country that lies off there, a little on the left hand; and I am going to the Celestial City .

Chr. But how do you think to get in at the gate; for you may find some difficulty there?

Ign. "As other good people do," said he.

Chr. But what have you to show at that gate that may cause that the gate should be opened to you?

Ign. I know my Lord's will, and I have led a good life: I pay every man his own; I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms, and have left my country for whither I am going.

Chr. But thou camest not in at the wicket gate that is at the head of this way; thou camest in hither through that same crooked lane: and therefore I fear, however thou mayest think of thyself, when the reckoning day shall come, thou wilt have laid to thy charge, that thou art a thief and a robber, instead of getting admittance into the City.

Ign. Gentlemen, ye be utter strangers to me, I know you not; be content to follow the religion of your country, and I will follow the religion of mine. I hope all will be well. And as for the gate that you talk of, all the world knows that that is a great way off of our country. I cannot think that any man in all our parts doth so much as know the way to it; nor need they matter whether they do or not, since we have, as you see, a fine pleasant green lane, that comes down from our country the next way into it.

When CHRISTIAN saw that the man was wise in his own conceit, he said to HOPEFUL whisperingly, "There is more hope of a fool than of him".

"Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him." Proverbs 26:12 

And said, moreover, "When he that is a fool walks by the way, his wisdom fails him; and he saith to everyone that he is a fool.

"Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool." Ecclesiastes 10:3 

What! shall we talk further with him? or outgo him at present, and so leave him to think of what he hath heard already; and then stop again for him afterwards, and see if by degrees we can do any good by him?" Then said HOPEFUL:

"Let IGNORANCE a little while now muse
On what is said; and let him not refuse
Good counsel to embrace, lest he remain
Still ignorant of what's the chiefest gain.
God saith 'Those that no understanding have
(Although he made them) them he will not save.'"

Hope. He further added, "It is not good, I think, to say all to him at once; let us pass him by if you will, and talk to him anon, even as he is able to bear it."

Pilgrim's Progress: Faith and Accusations

In these two sections we see Christian, and then Christian and his friend Faithful, accused of many things. And we see how each responds. 

1.  In what way are their responses an example of faith?

2.  In what way do Christian and Faithful differ from their accusers?

3.  Is faith of this type "blind" faith, or a kind of "leap of faith," or is it based on reasoning and inference?

4.  Faithful appeals to special revelation, does that mean he accepts its contents blindly or is there an implied arguement for special revelation in what he says?

Apol. Thou hast already been unfaithful in thy service to him; and how dost thou think to receive wages of him?

Chr. Wherein, O APOLLYON, have I been unfaithful to him?

Apol. Thou didst faint at first setting out, when thou wast almost choked in the Gulf of Despond; thou didst attempt wrong ways to be rid of thy burden, whereas thou shouldst have stayed till thy Prince had taken it off; thou didst sinfully sleep and lose thy choice thing; thou wast also almost persuaded to go back at the sight of the lions; and when thou talkest of thy journey, and of what thou hast heard and seen, thou art inwardly desirous of vain-glory in all that thou sayest or doest.

Chr. All this is true; and much more which thou hast left out: but the Prince whom I serve and honour is merciful and ready to forgive. But besides, these infirmities possessed me in thy country; for there I sucked them in, and I have groaned under them, been sorry for them, and have obtained pardon of my Prince.

Apol. Then APOLLYON broke out into a grievous rage, saying, "I am an enemy to this Prince: I hate his person, his laws, and people: I am come out on purpose to withstand thee."

Chr. APOLLYON, beware what you do; for I am in the King's highway, the way of holiness: therefore take heed to yourself!

Apol. Then APOLLYON straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, "I am void of fear in this matter: prepare thyself to die! for I swear by my infernal den that thou shalt go no farther; here will I spill thy soul." And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but CHRISTIAN had a shield in his hand, with which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did CHRISTIAN draw, for he saw 't was time to bestir him; and APOLLYON as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that CHRISTIAN could do to avoid it, APOLLYON wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made CHRISTIAN give a little back; APOLLYON therefore followed his work furiously, and CHRISTIAN again took courage, and resisted as manfully as he could. This sore combat lasted for above half a day, even till CHRISTIAN was almost quite spent. For you must know that CHRISTIAN, by reason of his wounds, grew weaker and weaker.


Then proclamation was made, that they that had aught to say for their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar, should forthwith appear and give in their evidence. So there came in three witnesses: to wit, ENVY, SUPERSTITION, and PICKTHANK. They were then asked if they knew the prisoner at the bar? and what they had to say for their lord the king against him?

Envy. Then stood forth ENVY, and said to this effect: "My lord, I have known this man a long time; and will attest upon my oath before this honourable bench, that he is –– "

Lord Hategood, the Judge. Hold; give him his oath!

So they sware him. Then he said, "My lord, this man, notwithstanding his plausible name, is one of the vilest men in our country; he neither regards prince nor people, law nor custom; but doth all that he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions, which he, in the general, calls principles of faith and holiness. And in particular, I heard him once myself affirm that Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity were diametrically opposite, and could not be reconciled. By which saying, my lord, he doth at once not only condemn all our laudable doings, but us in the doing of them."

Judge. Then did the judge say unto him, "Hast thou any more to say?"

Envy. "My lord, I could say much more; only I would not be tedious to the court. Yet, if need be, when the other gentlemen have given in their evidence, rather than anything shall be wanting that will dispatch him, I will enlarge my testimony against him." So he was bidden to stand by.

Then they called SUPERSTITION, and bade him look upon the prisoner; they also asked what he could say for their lord the king against him? Then they sware him; so he began:

Superstition. My lord, I have no great acquaintance with this man; nor do I desire to have further knowledge of him. However, this I know, that he is a very pestilent fellow, from some discourse that the other day I had with him in this town; for then, talking with him, I heard him say that our religion was naught, and such by which a man could by no means please God; which sayings of his, my lord, your lordship very well knows what necessarily thence will follow: to wit, that we still do worship in vain; are yet in our sins: and finally shall be damned. And this is that which I have to say.

Then was PICKTHANK sworn, and bid say what he knew in behalf of their lord the king against the prisoner at the bar.

Pickthank. My lord, and you gentlemen all, this fellow I have known of a long time; and have heard him speak things that ought not to be spoken. For he hath railed on our noble Prince BEELZEBUB; and hath spoken contemptibly of his honourable friends, whose names are, the Lord OLDMAN; the Lord CARNALDELIGHT; the Lord LUXURIOUS; the Lord DESIRE OF VAINGLORY; my old Lord LECHERY; Sir HAVING GREEDY; with all the rest of our nobility: and he hath said moreover, that if all men were of his mind, if possible, there is not one of these noble men should have any longer a being in this town. Besides, he hath not been afraid to rail on you, my lord, who are now appointed to be his judge; calling you an ungodly villain, with many other such like defaming terms, with which he hath bespattered most of the gentry of our town.

When this PICKTHANK had told his tale, the judge directed his speech to the prisoner at the bar, saying, "Thou apostate, heretic, and traitor ! – hast thou heard what these honest gentle-men have witnessed against thee?"

Faith. May I speak a few words in my own defence?

Judge. Sirrah, sirrah ! – thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place; yet that all men may see our gentleness towards thee, let us hear what thou, vile apostate, hast to say.

Faith. 1. I say, then, in answer to what Mr. ENVY hath spoken, I never said aught but this: That what rule, or laws, or customs, or people, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity. If I have said amiss in this, convince me of my error; and I am ready here before you to make my recantation.

2. As to the second, to wit, Mr. SUPERSTITION, and his charge against me, I said only this: That in the worship of God there is required a divine faith; but there can be no divine faith without a divine revelation of the will of God: therefore whatever is thrust into the worship of God that is not agreeable to a divine revelation, cannot be done but by a human faith; which faith will not profit to eternal life.

3. As to what Mr. PICKTHANK hath said, I say – avoiding terms, as that I am said to rail, and the like – that the prince of this town, with all the rabble – his attendants, by this gentleman named – are more fit for being in hell than in this town and country; and so the Lord have mercy upon me!

Then the judge called to the jury – who all this while stood by, to hear and observe, – " Gentlemen of the jury, you see this man about whom so great an uproar hath been made in this town; you have also heard what these worthy gentlemen have witnessed against him; also you have heard his reply and confession: it lieth now in your breasts to hang him, or save his life; but yet I think meet to instruct you into our law.

"There was an act made in the days of Pharaoh the Great, servant to our prince, that lest those of a contrary religion should multiply and grow too strong for him, their males should be thrown into the river.

"And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt , which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel . And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour. And the king of Egypt spake to the Hebrew midwives, of which the name of the one was Shiphrah, and the name of the other Puah: And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see them upon the stools; if it be a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it be a daughter, then she shall live. But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive.

And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives: and the people multiplied, and waxed very mighty. And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses. And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive." Exodus 1:7-22 

There was also an act made in the days of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, another of his servants, that whoever would not fall down and worship his golden image should be thrown into a fiery furnace.

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height wasthreescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon . Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,

That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.

They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon , Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in hisrage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who isthat God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Daniel 3:1-18 

There was also an act made in the days of Darius, that whoso, for some time, called upon any God but his, should be cast into the lions' den.

"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree." Daniel 6:1-9 

Now the substance of these laws this rebel has broken; not only in thought (which is not to be borne), but also in word and deed, which must therefore needs be intolerable.

"For that of Pharaoh, his law was made upon suspicion to prevent mischief, no crime yet being apparent; but here is a crime apparent. For the second and third, you see he disputes against our religion; and for the treason he hath confessed, he deserves to die the death."

Then went the jury out, whose names were, Mr. BLIND-MAN, Mr. NO-GOOD, Mr. MALICE, Mr. LOVE-LUST, Mr. LIVE-LOOSE, Mr. HEADY, Mr. HIGH-MIND, Mr. ENMITY, Mr. LIAR, Mr. CRUELTY, Mr. HATE-LIGHT, and Mr. IMPLACABLE; who everyone gave in his private verdict, against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. BLIND-MAN the foreman said, "I see clearly that this man is a heretic." Then said Mr. NO-GOOD, "Away with such a fellow from the earth!" "Aye," said Mr. MALICE, "for I hate the very looks of him." Then said Mr. LOVE-LUST, "I could never endure him." "Nor I," said Mr. LIVE-LOOSE; "for he would always be condemning my way," "Hang him, hang him !" said Mr. HEADY. "A sorry scrub," said Mr. HIGH-MIND. "My heart rises against him," said Mr. ENMITY. "He is a rogue," said Mr. LIAR. "Hanging is too good for him," said Mr. CRUELTY. "Let us dispatch him out of the way," said Mr. HATE-LIGHT. Then said Mr. IMPLACABLE, "Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; therefore let us forthwith bring him in guilty of death." And so they did; therefore he was presently condemned to be had from the place where he was to the place from whence he came, and there to be put to the most cruel death that could be invented.

They therefore brought him out, to do with him according to their law; and first they scourged him, then they buffeted him, then they lanced his flesh with knives; after that they stoned him with stones, then pricked him with their swords; and last of all they burned him to ashes at the stake. Thus came FAITHFUL to his end. Now I saw that there stood behind the multitude a chariot and a couple of horses waiting for FAITHFUL, who – so soon as his adversaries had dispatched him – was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the clouds, with sound of trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate. But as for CHRISTIAN, he had some respite, and was remanded back to prison; so he there remained for a space. But he that overrules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it about that CHRISTIAN, for that time, escaped them, and went his way.

And as he went he sang, saying:

Friday, September 9, 2016

Reading #21: Feser: Kalam and Time

The Cosmological and Kalam Arguments

1.  What is the Kalam argument?  What is cosmological argument and why is Kalam a kind of cosmological argument?
2.  Why did Aquinas reject the Kalam argument?  In what way does it fail to address Greek Dualism?  What is the difference between showing matter is dependent on God and that matter had a beginning?
3.  What is an actual infinite and a potential infinite?  Why does Feser think the hotel analogy fails?  In what way does this relate to theories of time and what are these theories?
4.  What does it mean to say that Craig's version of the Kalam argument is too closely tied to scientific discoveries?
5.  Is there another form of the cosmological argument that shows not only the dependence of matter on God but also that matter had a beginning?


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Reading #20: Shankara: Maya

Shankara’s views on Maya or Avidya:

“It is something positive … though not real. It is called positive in order to emphasize the fact that it is not merely negative. It has two aspects. In its negative aspect it conceals … Reality and acts as a screen to hide it. In its positive aspect it projects … the world of plurality on the Brahman-Ground. It is non-apprehension as well as misapprehension” (Sharma p. 274).

“It is indescribable and indefinable for it is neither real nor unreal nor both. It is not real, for it has no existence apart from Brahman; it is not unreal, for it projects the world of appearance. It is not real, for it vanishes at the dawn of knowledge; it is not unreal, for it is true as long as it lasts. It is not real to constitute a limit to Brahman and yet it is real enough to give rise to the world of appearance. And it is not both real and unreal, for this conception is self-contradictory” (Sharma p. 274-275).

Sharma says: “The words ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ are taken by Shankara in their absolute sense. Real means real for all time and Brahman alone can be real in this sense. Similarly, unreal means absolutely unreal like the hare’s horn, which this phenomenal world is not. Hence this world is neither real nor unreal. This shows its self-contradictory and therefore incomprehensible nature…. Shankara’s intention is perfectly clear – none can condemn this world as unreal; he who does it, is not qualified to do so and he who is qualified to do so, will not do so, for he would have risen above language and finite thought” (Sharma p.279).

Shankara’s views on Brahman: “Brahman is the only Reality. It is absolutely indeterminate and non-dual. It is beyond speech and mind. It is indescribable because no description of it can be complete. The best description of it is through the negative formula of ‘neti neti’ or ‘not this, not this’. Yet Brahman is not an abyss of non-entity, because it is the Supreme Self and stands selfrevealed as the background of all affirmations and denials. The moment we try to bring this Brahman within the categories of intellect or try to make this ultimate subject an object of our thought, we miss its essential nature” (Sharma p. 280).

Sharma, Chandrahar. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers; 1987.

Reading #19: Buddha: The Arrow

There is a parable of the poisoned arrow attributed to Buddha. 

1.  Why don't the origins or the nature of the poisoned arrow matter?  Is this analogous to not knowing the nature or purpose of the world?
2.  Are there some metaphysical truths that are important to know, and others that are useless speculation?  How can this be determined?
3.  What does it mean for something to be useful?
4.  Presumably there are many different Dharmas, or ways of living, how can we know which to follow without getting involved in metaphysical discussions? 

"He [Buddha] used the following parable to illustrate the attitude of those who cannot distinguish between what is useful and what is not:

'Suppose someone was hit by a poisoned arrow and his friends and relatives found a doctor able to remove the arrow. If this man were to say, 'I will not have this arrow taken out until I know whether the person who had shot it was a priest, a prince or a merchant, his name and his family. I will not have it taken out until I know what kind of bow was used and whether the arrowhead was an ordinary one or an iron one.' That person would die before all these things are ever known to him.'

In the same way, those who say they will not practice the Dharma until they know whether the world is eternal or not, infinite or not, will die before these questions are ever answered."

Thích Nhất Hạnh gives a similar version: 

The Buddha always told his disciples not to waste their time and energy in metaphysical speculation. Whenever he was asked a metaphysical question, he remained silent. Instead, he directed his disciples toward practical efforts. Questioned one day about the problem of the infinity of the world, the Buddha said, "Whether the world is finite or infinite, limited or unlimited, the problem of your liberation remains the same." Another time he said, "Suppose a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and the doctor wishes to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the man does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, his age, his parents, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first." Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.

Nhất Hạnh, ThíchKapleau, Philip (2005). Zen Keys. Three Leaves Press. p. 42.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Reading #18: Pierre Bayle: Fideism

From The Third Clarification 

1.  What is incontestable about religion?
2.  What is the basis of authority for religious knowledge?
3.  What is the difference between reason, or the natural light, and revelation?  Why is revelation needed?
4.  How is revelation to be understood?
5.  What philosophers are especially to be avoided?  Give the argument from Bayle that shows these philosophers are self-refuting. What other implications follow from this type of argument?
6. Why can't philosophy help in attaining wisdom and what can?  How can wisdom be identified?
7.  What is faith?  Why is it needed?  What is its relationship to objections from reason?

As the basis of this third clarification, I set fourth at the outset this certain and incontestable maxim that the Christian religion is of a supernatural kind, and that it's basic component is the supreme authority of God proposing mystery to us, not so that we may understand them, but so that we may believe them with all the humility that is due to the infinite being, who can neither deceive nor be deceived. This is the polar star of all the discussions and all the disputes about the articles of religion that God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

From this it necessarily follows that the tribunal of philosophy is incompetent to judge controversies between Christians, since they are to be carried only to the tribunal of revelation.

Every dispute about the question religious prerogatives ought to be rejected from the very first word. No one ought to be allowed to examine whether it is necessary to believe what God orders us to believe. This ought to be accepted as a first principle in matters of religion. It is up to the metaphysicians to examine whether there is a God and whether he is infallible; but Christians, insofar as they are Christians, ought to suppose that this is something already decided.

Then it is only a question of fact, namely, whether God requires that we believe this or that. Two sorts of people can have doubts about this, some because they do not believe the Scripture is divine, others because they do not believe that 
the sense of Scripture is such and such. 

Every dispute, then, the Christians can engage in with the philosophers is on this question of fact, whether Scripture was inspired by God. If the proofs offered by the Christians on this subject do not convince the philosophers, the controversy is to be discontinued.


Now, of all the philosophers who are not to be permitted to dispute about the mysteries of Christianity until they have accepted revelation as a criterion, there are none as unworthy of being heard as the followers of Pyrrhonism; for they are people who profess to acknowledge no certain sign that distinguishes the true from the false; so that if, by chance, they come across the truth, they can never be sure that it was the truth. They are not satisfied with opposing the testimony of the senses, the maxims of morality, the rules of logic, and the axioms of metaphysics.


All ages have required and will require that knowledge of the revealed truths be sought by different means than knowledge of philosophy. Philosophy does not cure the mental wavering that ought to be cured if one hopes by prayer to obtain true wisdom. 


Nothing is more necessary than faith, and nothing is more important than to make people aware of the price of this theological virtue. Now, what is there that is more suitable for making us aware of this than meditating on the attitude that distinguishes it from the other acts of the understanding? It's essence consists in binding us to the revealed truth by a strong conviction, and in binding us to them solely by the motive of God's authority. Those who believe in the immortality of the soul on the basis of philosophical reasons are orthodox, but so far they have no share in the faith of which they are speaking. They only have a share in it insofar as they believe this doctrine because God has revealed it to us, and they submit humbly to the voice of God everything that philosophy presents to them that is most plausible for convincing them of the immortality of the soul. Thus, the merit of faith becomes greater in proportion as the revealed truth that is its object surpasses all the powers of our mind; for, as the incomprehensibility of this object increases by the greater number of maxims of the natural light that oppose it, we have to sacrifice to God's authority a stronger reluctance of reason; and consequently we show ourselves more submissive to God and we give him greater signs of our respect than if the item were only moderately difficult to believe.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Reading #17: John Philoponus: Against the Eternity of the World

John Philoponus: Against the Eternity of the World

John Philoponus lived, studied, and taught in Alexandria in the 6th century.  At that time Alexandria was the pinnacle of academic learning, and Christians and non-Christians argued about beliefs central to each worldview such as the eternity of the world.  He is well known for his arguments against Aristotle and the eternity of the world. Below is a link to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy where his argument against the eternity of the world is summarized.

1.  Why do Christians believe that the world had a beginning, or is not eternal?
2.  Why do thinkers like Aristotle and Plato believe, or assume, that the world is eternal?  How does this affect their definition and understanding of "God."
3.  John Philoponus does not address every individual eternalist but instead addresses their claims in kind.  How does he do this?  Apply his argument to contemporary eternalists.  
4.  What are the implications for Christianity if: 1) the world is eternal (without beginning) or 2) we cannot know if the world is eternal or created?
5.  Why are eternity and divinity connected so that if the stars are eternal, they are also divine?
6.  Can you give his argument that the world is not eternal?  His argument against a divine 5th element?  Can you find correlations to this 5th element in contemporary eternalists?
7.  Summarize the method of John Philoponus in respect to reason and thinkers like Aristotle.

Summary of his argument from Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Philoponus' battle against eternalism may be divided into three stages. The treatise Against Proclusis followed by a second and even more provocative publication, On the Eternity of the World against Aristotle. This work was published c. 530-534 and involved a close scrutiny of the first chapters of Aristotle's On the Heavens (his theory of ether as the fifth element, of which the heavenly bodies are made) and the eighth book of the Physics (arguing for the eternity of time and motion). The third stage is represented by one, perhaps two, non-polemical treatises that have survived in fragments which indicate that numerous arguments against eternity and for creation were arranged in some kind of systematic order.Like the polemic against Proclus, Against Aristotle is mainly devoted to removing obstacles for the creationist. If Aristotle were right about the existence of an immutable fifth element (ether) in the celestial region, and if he were right about motion and time being eternal, any belief in creation would surely be unwarranted. Philoponus succeeds in pointing to numerous contradictions, inconsistencies, fallacies and improbable assumptions in Aristotle's philosophy of nature relating to these claims. Dissecting Aristotle's texts in an unprecedented way, he time and again turns the tables on Aristotle and so paves the way for demonstrative arguments for non-eternity. One such argument is reported by Simplicius (In Phys. 1178,7-1179,26 = Contra Aristotelem, Fr. 132). It relies on three premises: (1) If the existence of something requires the preexistence of something else, then the first thing will not come to be without the prior existence of the second. (2) An infinite number cannot exist in actuality, nor be traversed in counting, nor be increased. (3) Something cannot come into being if its existence requires the preexistence of an infinite number of other things, one arising out of the other. From these not at all un-Aristotelian premises Philoponus deduces that the conception of a temporally infinite universe, understood as a successive causal chain, is impossible. The celestial spheres of Aristotelian theory have different periods of revolution, and in any given number of years they undergo different numbers of revolutions, some larger than others. The assumption of their motion having gone on for all eternity leads to the conclusion that infinity can be increased, even multiplied, which Aristotle too held to be absurd.
The non-polemical anti-eternalist treatises exploit, among others, Aristotle's argument that an infinite power or potentiality (dúnamis) cannot reside in a finite body (Phys. VIII 10). Philoponus infers that since the universe is a finite body, it cannot have the dúnamis to exist for an infinite time. As in the case of his theory of light, this argument involves a shift of meaning. In the context of Aristotle's argument in Phys. VIII 10, dúnamis meant ‘kinetic force’; Philoponus uses the word in the sense of ‘existential capacity’ or ‘fitness to exist’.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reading #16: Plantinga: Warranted Belief

From "Warranted Christian Belief" page 156

"Put in a nutshell, then, a belief has warrant for a person S only if that belief is produced in S by cognitive faculties functioning properly (subject to no dysfunction) in a cognitive environment that is appropriate for S's kind of cognitive faculties, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at truth.  We must add, furthermore, that when a belief meets these conditions and does enjoy warrant, the degree of warrant it enjoys depends on the strength of the belief, the firmness with which S holds it."

1.  Can the cognitive environment in which a cognitive faculty is operating be known by that cognitive faculty in a non-question begging way?
2.  What role does the idea of a design plan play in the definition of warrant?
3.  Why is there a relationship between degree of warrant and firmness of belief?
4.  Consider the relationship between knowing what is good, this definition of warrant, and responsibility.