Thursday, October 26, 2006

Aquinas on causality: follow up.

Share/Bookmark (Continued from "Aquinas on Causality: Any Recommendations?")

I'm particualry interested in formal causation as I'm discussing the soul and the non-life to life problem with a few materialists who dont think formal causation exists.

Ok, I see! So you're interested in formal (and material) causality as it relates to philosophical psychology. Then I'd say:

1) Fr. H. D. Gardeil's volume on Psychology (vol. 3), chapter 1-3, especially 2. There he provides a critique of "mechanism" too, which is a version of materialism.

2) D.Q. McInerny's book on Philosophical Psychology should be helpful if you don't have access to Gardeil.

3) Aquinas, "Commentary on Aristotle's De Anima," Book I, Ch. 5, contains the fundamental treatise on this issue.

4) Aquinas, ST I.75-76, especially 75.1. This is the solution to your problem in a nutshell.

5) Robert Pasnau, "Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature," chs. 1-3, especially 3.

Pasnau is by no means a traditional Thomist (he's way too avant-garde for me) but he has an interesting approach that might help you refute materialism in a convincing way.

But instead of just giving you references, I'd also like to lead you in the right direction, philosophically.

The crux of the problem is: Bare matter, by itself, is chaotic, mere stuff. The living matter within an organism is not bare, crude matter. It operates in a unified way, organically. So living matter is bare matter plus organic unity. And bare matter cannot cause itself to have organic unity--otherwise everything would be alive--so there must be something which gives it organic unity. What could be giving it its unity? What is this "principle of organic unification" (POU)? If the materialists are right, then the POU is itself material--because for them everything is material. But if the POU is itself made out of matter, then it must be asked: what provides organic unification for the matter out of which the POU is made? If you posit another material POU then you'll eventually run into an infinite and pointless regress. So ultimately we must posit a POU which is not itself dependent on another POU, that is, one which is not material. This is what we call "anima" as in "animating principle." (Some people call it "soul," but by this we need not understand some ghostly floaty thing that lives "caged" inside the body. Rather, the "anima" is simply the "first POU.")

This is basically the argument in ST I.75.1, where he concludes that "the soul is not a body", i.e., the soul is not a material POU, but an immaterial one.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Aquinas on Causality: Any recommendations?

Share/Bookmark Can you recommend some modern Thomists who discuss causation or modern translations of older Thomists into English? I've got a book on causation by Wallace but there may be something better out there. Help.

-Since I don't know whether you're looking for a solid general introduction or a highly-specialized, scholarly discussion, I would recommend this for starters:

1) Gardeil, Henri Dominique. "Introduction to the Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas: Volume II: Cosmology." St. Louis: Herder, 1958; Chapter 5. This is vol. two of a series of four which is absolutely my favorite introduction to Aquinas' philosophy in English (although only vols. 2-4 have been translated from the original French). It observes Aquinas' understanding of the proper division and method of the sciences (as well as Aristotle's works) very closely. It does not attempt to export artificially a philosophy out of the theological context of the Summa (à la Gilson), but rather goes to Aquinas' philosophical opuscula and commentaries on Aristotle as the proper loci or sources for Aquinas' philosophy. So it doesn't only get the content right (as do most books out there), but also the proper methodology and order of the discipline (as do VERY few of the books I've seen). But it's out of print. Another good book--one that is in print--is:

2) McInerny, D. Q. The Philosophy of Nature. Denton, NE: Fraternity Publications, 1998. (This is not, by the way, the "famous" Ralph McInerny, but his brother Daniel.) This is one of Dr. Daniel McInerny's seven or so volumes which serve as a thorough introduction to Aquinas' philosophy---and they're all in print, just in case you can't find Gardeil's four volumes. I haven't read "The Philosophy of Nature" yet, but I have used his Ethics, and it is VERY good. If interested in these volumes, contact Fraternity Publications.

And, I know you asked for modern Thomists, but just in case you haven't read Aquinas himself on causation (and I don't mean the passages interspersed throughout his theological works, but the actual treatises on causation in his properly philosophical works), this is DEFINITELY where you should start:

3) Aquinas, On the Principles of Nature, especially chs. 3-6: . That's quite enough for starters, but if you want more detail, see also the following:

4) Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle's Physics, Book II, Ch. 3.

5) Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book V, Ch. 2.

6) Aquinas, Commentary on the Book of Causes, passim.

This will get your hands full for a while, if you haven't gone through it already. But if you are still looking for more specialized secondary literature on Aquinas' notion of causality, let me know. To my knowledge there is no single book that treats ALL of Aquinas' notion of causality, but individual works dealing with each of the four causes (and there are plenty) or with individual issues related to causality (such as Wallace)--but I can look a little deeper for you if you want.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Book Reviews: New Mass, Fatima, and EWTN.

Share/Bookmark I was told in confession not to read any literature that might cause me to doubt or deny my Faith. There are a few books that I had in my list which now I do not know if I should read. They are the following:

1) Rama Coomaraswamy, "The Problems with the New Mass."
2) Fr. Paul Kramer, "The Devil's Final Battle."
3) Christopher Ferrara, "EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong.

Would you say these books are safe for someone like me, who has not had a formal theological education?

-I would say the following:

1) I think Coomaraswamy's book, "The Problems with the New Mass," is not "safe" for the average layman. However, it is still valuable for those who are more advanced in theology and who wish to examine the issue of the validity of the New Mass in detail. But you don't need to read this book to be aware that there are problems with the new Mass. A more fundamental book on this issue is The Ottaviani Intervention. But perhaps someone who is pursuing his theological studies at seminary can tackle this book as part of his Sacramental Theology course. It might prove profitable for him, not in order to convince him that the New Mass is invalid, but to give him a good, sober summary of the arguments generally offered against the validity of the New Mass, and for him to be able to see where they fail, based on the solid traditional Sacramental Theology.

2) At least superficially, I can't find anything wrong with Fr. Kramer's "The Devil's Final Battle." It looks like a collection of very good articles on the truth about Fatima, which among other things, synthesize and update (in light of more recent events) the historical research presented in the trilogy by Brother Michael of the Holy Trinity, "The Whole Truth about Fatima." But Bro. Michael's books seem to be more a more solid, objective presentation of the facts, without some of the passionate rhetoric that I sense in the book edited by Fr. Kramer.

3) Ferrara's "EWTN: A Network Gone Wrong" seems very interesting and good overall. Ferrara's book is part of his rhetorically-charged crusade against Catholic Neo-Conservatives or "Neo-Catholics," who are characterized by an extreme loyalty to the latest papal fashion, who disregard the perennial tradition of the Church, and for whom EWTN is a primary medium of communication. Ferrara began this "crusade" by co-authoring (along with Thomas Woods) his first book, "The Great Facade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church," which I would recommend you read before reading (if you do read it) "EWTN, A Network Gone Wrong." "The Great Facade" is so aggressive (Ferrara is a lawyer), relentless and convincing that you won't be able to put the book down! My wife and I read it in the car!

Interestingly, in "EWTN," Ferrara does not wish to argue that the network has ALWAYS been COMPLETELY bad. He does admit that when Mother Angelica ran it, there was much good in EWTN, and that even now there are still some good programs. But he argues that since Mother Angelica's resignation in March of 2000, part of the network has "gone wrong," accomodating a "moderate" and subtle (and, therefore, all the more dangerous and deceptive) sort of modernism.

It seems very interesting, and I think I want to read it. (I am especially interested in finding out if what a colleague of mine said is true, namely, that most of the "facts" that Ferrara gives about EWTN are "dead wrong.")

But, again, if you do what I do (ignore EWTN altogether), then you don't have the absolute need to read it. Not that the book would be bad, but that there is SO much more out there that would be almost infinitely more profitable for you to read. (The curriculum that I have offered previously, for example.) You need, first of all, a solid foundation that will enable you to judge all these other issues correctly. There are millions of books out there that are dead wrong for fundamental philosophical and theological reasons!

Plus, never neglect your spiritual reading! That is what matters the most. Your spiritual life is, to use Christ's own words the unum necessarium, "the one thing necessary," the part that Mary Magdalen chose, and "which shall not be taken away from her." So I would recommend that, along with all your readings on philosophy, theology, apologetics, polemics, etc., you always keep reading spiritual books: e.g., scripture, lives of (and writings by) the saints, ascetical and mystical books, books on apparitions and miracles, etc.

I hope this is helpful.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blog Update!

Share/Bookmark Dear Bloggers,

Happy feast day of St. Francis!

After a Summer of limited activity (and over a month of total inactivity), Ite ad Thomas resumes its work. For so long I was unable to put up any posts due to an amazing cluster of problems that I had to drag my family through, including a very pregnant wife.

August and September were the most difficult two months of my life, so far. It has not quite been like Job, but it almost seemed that way to us. But now things are settling down a bit. I am getting back into my daily teaching routine and intend to update the blog regularly (although I can't promise long posts!).

I will, however, make it explicit now that I will be accepting donations. I want to do this for free (as it should), but the reality is that money is an issue for any poor philosopher/theologian like myself. As soon as time allows, I will update the sidebar of the blog and include a donations link. For now, however, if you wish to make a donation, you can simply use the mailing address next to my picture above. Prayers and beautiful holy cards are also greatly appreciated as donations (you should see my holy card collection!).

In Domino,
-Francisco Romero.

Sancte Francisce, ora pro nobis!