Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sabotage by Google

There's a certain danger to making use of the "Ads by Google" feature that is available to users of Blogger and other similar services. Take for example the case of Philokalia Republic, a fine blog run by Kevin Jones who is perfectly sound, as far as I can see, in matters of faith and morals, and yet today his blog sported an ad for Illinois abortion clinics--generated at random simply by virtue of Kevin's many attacks on the morality of abortion.

Last year I noted a similar phenomenon occurring with use of the CafePress thingamajigg, which sometimes displays Catholic, sometimes anti-Catholic merchandise in its little window when used on a Catholic blog. I think that one has since been fixed, but using "Ads by Google" is clearly playing with fire.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pee Wee Herman Still Holding His Own

The Associated Press today has published the results of a poll asking Americans who were the biggest heroes and who were the biggest villains of 2006. Since it was a poll of Americans, George Bush managed to take top honors in both categories, though he won the "Biggest Villain" category by a larger margin than he won the "Biggest Hero" category (25% as opposed to 13%). Osama Bin Laden came in second for Biggest Villain, but he wasn't even close, scoring a measly 8%--no need for George to worry about hanging chads in that contest. John Kerry tied for 7th place, with only 1% of the votes.

The race for biggest hero was closer, but still no contest, with the soldiers in Iraq garnering only 6%. Our Lord and Savior, the Second Person of the Trinity and Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ, tied for third with Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama at 3%. Close on their heels was Bono, with 2%. Al Gore tied with Angelina Jolie at 1%, but John Kerry didn't make the list.

Actually, the biggest winner in the "Hero of the Year" category was "Not Sure", coming in with 27% of the vote. That's right, nine times as many people would rather say they don't know who is a big hero than say that it was, say, Jesus. Or Oprah. Whichever. As long as it's not Bono.

You can view some of the other resuslts here, but it will only serve to remind you that we live in debauched times. And in a debauched society.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Real and Notional Assent

Early in the year 1870 Blessed John Henry (later to be Cardinal) Newman published An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent, a work that has had both many detractors and fewer, though not a few, admirers in the intervening 136 years since its appearance. In that Essay he drew a distinction between two modes of a particular operation of the mind that he called "assent". One mode he called "real assent", the other "notional assent". Notional assent is the form of assent that we give to an abstract inference, whether deductive or inductive. Real assent is the form of assent that we give to concrete realities or the truths of religion independent of any abstract inferences from which they may be derivable. His purpose in drawing this distinction was to move away from what he saw as the overly abstract philosophical theology of his day as he had encountered it in his colleagues, both Anglican and Roman Catholic, but it is essential to see that he did not intend the distinction to be between two kinds of assent, but two modes of a single operation of the mind. The difference lies not in the mental operation itself, but in the object of the operation. In the case of notional assent the object of the operation is the inferential pattern of a theological deduction; in the case of real assent the object of the operation is a truth of religion. Because there are not two different operations of the mind involved, there need be no necessary difference in kind between the truth conditions of the object of notional assent and the truth conditions of the object of real assent. Newman's purpose in the Essay was to show how it is that the mind is able to have certainty about the truths of religion even when there is no obvious theological inference leading to the certainty of notional assent associated with some particular religious truth.

For Newman there can be no opposition between these two objects or the two forms of assent that are associated with them.
A dogma is a proposition; it stands for a notion or for a thing; and to believe it is to give the assent of the mind to it, as it stands for the one or for the other. To give a real assent is an act of religion; to give a notional, is a theological act. It is discerned, rested in, appropriated as a reality, by the religious imagination; it is held as a truth, by the theological intellect.
It is worth noting that Newman thinks of propositions as standing either "for a notion or for a thing". By "notion" here I assume he must mean something either semantic or conceptual; by "thing" I cannot imagine what he could mean other than a state of affairs. As I remarked in my post of yesterday, Newman was not trained in analytic philosophy, so his use of technical terms is somewhat non-standard.
Not as if there were in fact, or could be, any line of demarcation...between these two modes of assent....As intellect is common to all men as well as imagination, every religious man is to a certain extent a theologian, and no theology can start or thrive without the initiative and abiding presence of religion.
Newman's view is not markedly different from that of Saint Thomas Aquinas--with whom he was intimately familiar even before his conversion but who was obviously at the heart of the scholastic theology that dominated much Catholic discussion of the time. In the Summa Theologiae (I.1.8) Aquinas held that theology starts from its own first principles and argues from them to prove something else, but these first principles are held to be true--they are not proven true by theology, they are, rather, the fundamental articles of faith, the precepts of revealed religion. It was to this distinction--between demonstrable truths and non-demonstrable necessary first principles--that I compared Aristotle's treatment of our apprehension of first principles in the Posterior Analytics.

The two forms of assent, requiring distinct objects of the same mental act, are not related to each other by some common set of conditions. Newman did not hold, for example, that real assent is a more valid form of assent, or that notional assent is an imperfect form of real assent. The difference between them is strictly in their objects: real assent is assent to realities (res), notional assent is assent to concepts. Possibly he thought of real assent as more vivid than notional assent, but the truths of each are on a par. In this, too, Newman is in agreement with Aristotle, who held that our apprehension of realities is more affective than our apprehension of demonstrations.

Quite importantly for my own view is another point of agreement with Newman: the view that Newman and I defend is not a rational probabilism grounded in a final appeal to faith. Religious dogma--the revealed truths of the Scriptures and Apostolic teaching--are not themselves demonstrable from prior truths. Yet this is an important kind of truth for Newman: the real assent that we give to religious dogma is not conditioned upon any kind of demonstration, but it is apprehended by intellect.

There are some important areas in which I disagree with Newman. He devotes chapter 8 of the Essay to a discussion of "Inference", and it is quite clear that he has a rather different conception of the nature of inference than I do. His conception is clearly Aristotelian in broad outline, because he goes so far as to say that all deductive inference is properly syllogistic by nature and, hence, requires general terms throughout. He even explicitly excludes from the realm of deductive inference the very example of a valid deduction that I used in my previous post, the deduction grounded in the disjunctive syllogism. Newman was writing at a time when truth-functional logic had not been developed, and his unwillingness to consider sentential logic of the sort defended by the Stoics is probably due more to his lack of experience with those writers than to any systematic rejection of the sentential formalization. Having been trained in the Anglican tradition he was most familiar with the categorical logic employed by Aristotle and the Fathers, and he was not as deeply immersed in the logic of the Schools and he seems to have had no exposure at all to the work of those working in mathematical logic in his own century. These are not necessarily shortcomings, since I think that much contemporary logic is ultimately reducible to syllogistic; but it is a mistake to assert that an inference that is not in syllogistic form is not a deductive inference. One can forgive him for this error because he balances it out with the very valuable insight that not all inferences are propositional in character, an insight that is not fully grasped by everyone even today.

I must also disagree with Newman in his characterization of what ordinarily leads to categorical certainty in our beliefs. The examples that he gives are intended to suggest something like an inductive process, but in fact they are nothing more than collections of random observation statements, and he does not give a proper account of how it is that these collections of observations lead to the sort of certainty that he ascribes to conclusions that he thinks we draw from them. To take just two of his own examples, he asserts that we have certainty about the following two propositions: that Great Britain is an island; and that the works of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Plautus, Livy, and Tacitus are not 13th century forgeries. It may very well be the case that we have certainty about such things, but he does not bother to address the question of what it is, precisely, that warrants this certainty, if indeed anything does--instead he gives us a rather discursive description of the process by means of which he thinks we develop a feeling of certainty within ourselves that our judgments about these things are correct. Now it is important not to be unfair here--I have already remarked that Newman was not trained in analytic philosophy, so the failure to distinguish between what gives rise to a psychological state of feeling certain and what actually warrants with certainty is perhaps not an egregious error, but it leaves some rather important questions unanswered.

Surely Newman is right, though, when he complains that what often passes for "proof" is nothing more than the feeling that something is likely given what has happened in the past. He appears to endorse Hume's critique of such reasoning: we ought not have certainty that the future will be like the past, and yet we do. Much of what we accept as proof is really something very personal:
I think it is the fact that many of our most obstinate and most reasonable certitudes depend on proofs which are informal and personal, which baffle our powers of analysis, and cannot be brought under logical rule, because they cannot be submitted to logical statistics.
In passing from formal inference, to informal inference, to what he called "natural inference", Newman tried to get at the cognitive foundations of this inner sense of conviction about the truth of "things", by which, again, I assume he means something along the lines of states of affairs. The rational faculty responsible for this cognitive state he calls the illative sense, which is also the subject of the subsequent chapter of the Essay.

In this chapter he insists, quite rightly, I think, that "it is the mind that reasons, and that controls its own reasonings, not any technical apparatus of words and propositions." This is an idea that is thoroughly Platonic in its origins and can be found not only in Aristotle but in the Fathers as well. The idea that all reasoning is fundamentally propositional in nature has had its defenders, but this is not necessarily the case, even if it is possible to represent any particular inference by means of a formal system imposed upon it. Sadly, Newman again fails to give a clear account of precisely how this "illative sense" actually works and what are its normative foundations, preferring instead to give loose analogies and descriptions. Possibly this is an artifact of the protreptic nature of the work, but it is also probably an inevitable consequence of the cultural milieu in which he lived and worked. In an interesting move, he compares the illative sense to Aristotle's concept of phronêsis, practical wisdom, as given in the Nicomachean Ethics. Just as the phronimos, or practically wise person, has an innate sense of what his duty is, a sense that arises from habituation, so, too, in a general way, we come to be certain about those sorts of things that we have experienced again and again in such a way as always to have the same outcome. But whereas Aristotle gives a rather detailed picture of how phronêsis works, Newman offers no similarly detailed account of the illative sense. What he has given us is nothing beyond what Aristotle attempted to give, namely, an account of human cognition in terms of the structural components of the rational faculty, but he falls short of Aristotle's explanatory detail.

These problems in detail, however, do not lessen the importance and originality of Newman's work, written, as it was, 136 years ago and anticipating in some interesting ways some aspects of contemporary Aristotelian scholarship. In particular I am impressed with his willingness to grapple with that aspect of cognition that is surely at the heart of any epistemology: the capacity of the human mind to settle upon the best starting points, the most useful first principles. Although his account is ultimately unsatisfying, it is only because it is incomplete, not because it is fundamentally wrong-headed. There is much more work to be done in this direction, but anyone who undertakes to do that work would not go wrong to take Newman's Essay as his starting point.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Back to the (for me) Source

In the course of working through some of the issues involved in doctrinal development I have been reminded again and again of Blessed John Henry Newman's contribution to this topic in his An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. A commenter on one of my earlier posts complained that it sometimes seems as though Roman Catholics take Newman's views about doctrinal development to be themselves instances of irreformable doctrine. While that strikes me as too strong, I nevertheless agree that discussions of doctrinal development sometimes take the foundations of the idea too much for granted.

While not wanting to privilege too much Newman's view of things in this matter, I must confess that Newman has been particularly formative for me, and in trying to deal with some of the harder questions that have been posed for me by some of my readers, I have found recourse to the Essay again and again. Like many converts from Anglicanism, Newman has served as a kind of model for me, but I must also admit that, unlike many Anglicans, I am not as steeped in his writings as I ought to be. I have read such standards as the Apologia, the Parochial and Plain Sermons, and, of course, Tract 90, but the work with which I am most intimately familiar is the Essay. My copy of it, which I picked up at a used bookstore nearly 25 years ago in Chapel Hill, is now literally disintegrating from constant use and consultation. I know to my sorrow that reading and re-reading a certain text over many years has nothing to do with guaranteeing anything like a competent grasp of the ideas contained in that text, but to the extent that familiarity facilitates discussion, I am prepared to discuss that text in this context.

Folks who have done me the courtesy of perusing my earlier entries on this topic will remember that I have been defending a kind of two-stage process in the development of doctrine, and that the stages as I have described them are loosely based on Aristotle's description of a realist epistemology and philosophy of science as found in his Prior and Posterior Analytics. To recapitulate briefly: I see doctrinal development beginning from "theological axioms", that is, theological propositions that are known to be necessarily (and, thus, irreformably) true on the grounds of the Church's own indefectibility as guaranteed by Our Lord. From these beginnings, theological speculation, over time, can give rise to further propositions which, if they are found to be logically consistent with the axioms, can safely be added to the body of doctrine that is to be believed de fide, since the deductive process guarantees the truth of these propositions. On my account, much of the "theological speculation" that gets absorbed in this process is clarificatory in character, though it may contain some speculation that goes beyond mere clarification. Ultimately, however, anything that is accepted as de fide will have some deductive proof following from other irreformable doctrines and the theorems that can be derived from them.

What appears to be most controversial about my picture is my insistence on this second stage of doctrinal development: the logical testing of theological speculation. I have asserted that doctrine may only develop in such a way as to allow this sort of testing, otherwise new and untestable theological claims may appear to have the full endorsement of the Magisterium itself. There are two assumptions behind this view. First, I assume that the Church does indeed have a Divine Charism such that she can teach authoritatively, not merely in the sense of deserving obedience but in the sense of having fullness of truth. Second, I assume, along with Saints Augustine and Vincent, and with Blessed John Henry Newman, that there is nothing patent in the Church's teaching at any time during her history that was not latent from the beginning: Jesus Christ just is the fullness of revelation, and all theological truth must be traceable back to him and what he taught and what was handed down by his Apostles. I sense that these two assumptions are not shared by all of my critics, so in this post I will offer a few comments about these assumptions and what is at stake in accepting or rejecting them. In a subsequent post I will explore some of Newman's assertions in chapters eight and nine of the Essay. Chapter eight, entitled "Inference", draws distinctions among three types of inference related to the acceptance of the truth of propositions; chapter nine, called "The Illative Sense", is Newman's attempt to provide a model of how it is that we grasp the truth of propositions. Newman's model is not particularly original or rigorous--he was neither a dogmatic theologian nor an analytic philosopher--but he provides something that every Christian needs: an epistemology that is neither empiricist nor anti-realist.

First, however, I must explain my two assumptions. Let me begin with the assumption that the Church can teach authoritatively. This is an assumption that will be familiar to both Roman Catholics and Orthodox. It will even be familiar to many Anglicans, who explicitly endorse something that they call "tradition" in addition to the scriptures as a source of our knowledge of God. My own experience within Anglicanism, however, was that there tend to be different perspectives on just what this "tradition" is and just what is the nature of its authority. Some Anglicans appear to think that "tradition" is nothing more than a set of interpretive stances taken over time that are, indeed, "traditional" in the sense of being old and widely accepted but by no means irreformable. Others appear to endorse a view very much like the Orthodox view, that the "tradition" properly understood represents the teachings of the Apostles, a teaching that is not open to substantive change over time. I take this latter view to be very close to the Roman Catholic understanding of the church's Magisterium: a body of doctrine that is regarded as settled truth and that cannot be rejected by any Christian. That there must be such a body of doctrine seems indisputably clear to me, since it is both logically and temporally prior to the Christian scriptures themselves (I have more to say on this topic in my post on the idea of sola scriptura; for a very strange and ultimately unsuccessful defense of sola scriptura and an attempt to show the Catholic idea [along with just about every other Catholic idea] to be circular, I invite you to peruse the bizarre world of this blog). What is ultimately at stake here? If you reject the idea that at least one of the Church's teachings is irreformable, then ultimately you cannot defend any Christian teaching at all. Jesus may or may not be the son of God or the Second Person of the Trinity; indeed, God may or may not be Trinitarian; God may or may not exist. Without the authority to teach these things authoritatively--including the authority to enshrine some of these teachings in the form of scriptures that are themselves to be regarded as definitive and authoritative--then nothing is authoritative and anything may be believed.

My second assumption will be more controversial, even among the sane. My second assumption is that whatever the Church teaches, at any time in history, will be logically compatible with everything else the Church has ever taught, or ever will teach, at any point in her history. The way I put it above was actually not quite so strong, but it is compatible with what I have just written: what is patent in the Church's teachings now has always been at least latent from the beginning. The importance of this assumption cannot be overstated. If we assume that there is such a teaching authority as laid down in the first assumption, then all of its authoritative must be logically consistent for a very simple reason: from a logical contradiction, anything and everything follows. If you're not familiar with this logical principle, let me explain what I mean.

Suppose the Church teaches two things that are logically incompatible. Let call the two propositions P and Not-P. Now, if the Church teaches these things, then we can combine them as a conjunction: (P & Not-P). I've used the sign "&" to symbolize the conjunction, and I put the two propositions in parentheses to illustrate the fact that the two of them are being asserted together: P AND Not-p. Some might dispute this move--they might say that the Church does not teach P AND Not-P, but rather, she once taught p but now teaches Not-p, and they will claim that this is not a contradiction. In a certain sense it is not, but we are restricting the discussion here to just those propositions that the Church teaches authoritatively in accordance with the first assumption. Either the Church has that authority, or she does not. If she does not have that authority, as we have seen, then nothing about Christianity ever need be believed by anybody. If she does have that authority, then those things that she teaches with it are true all of the time, not merely at the specific point in time at which she teaches them. A more difficult question is the question precisely which propositions put forward by the Church are in fact taught authoritatively, but I will save that question for another day. At present, we simply assumes that she can teach authoritatively, and now we will see that she cannot teach different things at different times.

So, we have the conjunction of incompatible teachings, (P & Not-p). If the conjunction of the two things is true, then each individual conjunct must also be true, so we may separate the conjunction into its component parts. In other words, the following deductive inference is valid:
1. (P & Not-P)
2. P
3. Not-P
Now, this deduction leaves us with our two incompatible teachings asserted individually, each being true. Now there is an inferential rule, called "addition", that says that we may take any true proposition and add another one to it so as to leave a disjunction. For example, if it is true to say that today is Christmas, then it is also true to say that "Today is either Christmas or it is Easter." Indeed, the proposition that we add may say anything at all, even something silly: "Either today is Christmas or the moon is made of green cheese." The idea here is that a disjunction is true whenever at least one of its disjuncts is, and since in the previous two examples we know that one of the disjuncts is true, we also know that the whole disjunction is true. So let us use the letter X to stand for something quite silly, like the proposition "The moon is made of green cheese." I will use the letter "v" to stand for the logical relation "either...or", and so turning back to our sample deduction, we have:
1. (P & Not-P)
2. P
3. Not-P
4. (P v X)
Proposition (4) is warranted by the logical rule of addition. It says "Either P or X", and we know that the disjunction itself is true because we know that P is true. It doesn't matter whether X is true or not. But here is where things get very interesting.

Suppose I say to you, "Today is either Monday or Tuesday, but it's not Tuesday." Surely you will agree that it follows immediately from this that "Today is Monday." That is, if what I said is really true, if it really is either Monday or Tuesday but in reality it really is not Tuesday, then it must be true that today is Monday. Now consider our sample argument. It asserts "Either P or X" in (4), and proposition (3) says "Not-P". So we may make the following valid deduction:
1. (P & Not-P)
2. P
3. Not-P
4. (P v X)
5. X
If you have been following carefully you will note that we have just proven that the moon is made of green cheese, and we did it with a valid deduction. What permitted this ridiculous inference? It was the presence, in the first premise, of a contradiction. Because the letter X here can stand for literally anything we like, we have just seen that any argument that contains contradictory premises can be used to prove literally anything, even utter nonsense.

Now think of the Church's teachings as being like premises in an argument. If any two teachings contradict each other, then we have a situation in which the Church is teaching (P & Not-P), hence, if we agree that the Church teaches this, then we can prove that the Church also teaches that the moon is made of green cheese, because this follows logically form what the Church explicitly does teach.

This kind of case only handles contradictions. What about cases where what the Church teaches is not a contradiction of any other teaching, but is rather a new teaching? Someone might assert that the Church is not teaching anything like (P & Not-p), but does teach (P & Q), where Q stands for some proposition that was never taught by the Church in the past. This is where the nature of the development of doctrine becomes very important, because now we must explore in what sense has Q never been taught? Clearly if Q is logically consistent with some proposition Not-P, then we have the logical equivalent of teaching a contradiction. If Q represents something that, let's say, nobody in the Church ever thought of before, then what is the harm in teaching it? Why can't we just say, "Well, now we've thought of it, and everybody has to believe it." There are two related problems here. The first is the question why didn't anybody ever think of it before. If there is no way to show its relation to earlier teachings then one must question whether it was ever intended to be taught by Our Lord, whom we regard as in himself the fullness of revelation. If, on the other hand, it can be shown to be related somehow to other, earlier teachings, teachings that do go back to Our Lord or his Apostles, then what is the nature of that relation? What I have been suggesting is that, however that new teaching, Q, is discovered, whether through induction, theological speculation, or just plain old brainstorming, it must be related to earlier teachings in such a way as to be proven to be such. The Church could, of course, just assert any old thing that she likes and demand assent, if her authority is literally unlimited. But my first assumption does not assert that the Church's authority to teach is literally unlimited, only that she has the authority to teach. Part of my suggestion in these posts is that her authority is limited by certain constraints, and I have been portraying those constraints as logical in character. I will argue, in further posts, that these logical constraints are limited to deductive relations.

In my next post, I will dip into Newman's Essay with these assumptions as my background conditions.

Die 25 decembris, octavo Kalendas ianuarii, luna 5.

Innumeris transactis saeculis a creatione mundi, quando in principio Deus creavit caelum et terram et hominem formavit ad imaginem suam; permultis etiam saeculis, ex quo post diluvium Altissimus in nubibus arcum posuerat, signum foederis et pacis; a migratione Abrahae, patris nostri in fide, de Ur Chaldaeorum saeculo vigesimo primo; ab egressu populi Israel de Aegypto, Moyse duce, saeculo decimo tertio; ab unctione David in regem, anno circiter millesimo; hebdomada sexagesima quinta, iuxta Danielis prophetiam; Olympiade centesima nonagesima quarta; ab Urbe condita anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo; anno imperii Caesaris Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo; toto Orbe in pace composito, Iesus Christus, aeternus Deus aeternique Patris Filius, mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare, de Spiritu Sancto conceptus, novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus, in Bethlehem Iudae nascitur ex Maria Virgine factus homo: Nativitas Domini nostri Iesu Christi secundum carnem.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Take Back What is Ours

There is a movement afoot to get Holy Wisdom returned to the Christians (see the website here). It's tilting at windmills, but it's a great idea, and one cannot help but hope and pray for it, even while knowing that the Turks will never let it happen.

Just What Is the Principle of the Development of Doctrine, Anyway?

In a singularly unhelpful comment on the running dialogue regarding the Principle of the Development of Doctrine (PDD), one reader suggested that, if I am right about development being Non-ampliative, then we might as well replace the Magisterium with a computer. To say such a thing is to simultaneously misunderstand the nature of deductive reasoning and the nature of the Magisterium (not to mention the nature of computers, but that is another tale). In thinking about possible ways to reply to such a thing, however, I set myself to thinking about the central focus of these posts: the PDD itself. It occurred to me that some readers have a rather vague notion of what that Principle is in the first place.

Let me start things off here with a quotation from Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, a particular theological hero of mine, summarizing the central points of Blessed John Henry Newman's views regarding the development of doctrine. It is worth pointing out that Dr. Mike Liccione also refers to this passage in his own extraordinarily helpful discussion of the development of doctrine at Pontifications. Fr. Neuhaus writes:
Recall Cardinal Newman’s reflection on the development of doctrine, a reflection that has been incorporated by magisterial teaching. He suggested seven marks of authentic development: authentic development preserves the Church’s apostolic form; it reflects continuity of principles in testing the unknown by the known; it demonstrates the power to assimilate what is true, even in what is posited against it; it follows a logical sequence; it anticipates future developments; it conserves past developments; and, throughout, it claims and demonstrates the vigor of teaching authority. And thus it is, said St. Vincent of Lerins in the fifth century, that in authentic development of doctrine nothing presents itself in the Church’s old age that was not latent in her youth. Such was the truth discovered by Augustine, a truth "ever ancient, ever new."
While it is nice to see the expression "follows a logical sequence" in there, one must of course admit that inductive reasoning is "logical" in precisely the same sense that deductive reasoning is, but I would also draw attention to the thought of St. Vincent that authentic development of doctrine adds nothing to what was already latent in the youth of the Church. This is an explicitly non-ampliative understanding of "authentic development of doctrine", and only deductive inference is non-ampliative in this way. This is the understanding of "authentic development of doctrine" both of a fifth-century writer (and, arguably, of Saint Augustine) and of Newman himself.

Having said this, however, I am not at all sure that there is not sufficient common ground between my friend Mike Liccione and myself to reach some sort of a consensus on this issue. Just for starters, it was his posting on the development of doctrine at Pontifications that helped me to form my own views, or at least to give them a more substantial form than they had had before. It occurs to me that the principal difference between us, at least as the two of us appear to be construing it in our own posts, has to do with what might be describable as something like "cognitive leaps" in the developmental process. This was something that I myself had hinted at in my previous post when I talked about the differences between inference and interpretation. I think some of the commenters (at least at this blog) may have had something like this in mind, too, when they mentioned such teachings as the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception as exceptions to my rule that doctrinal development be Non-ampliative. In my view, the teachings on the Assumption and on the Immaculate Conception do not, in fact, represent examples of doctrinal development anyway--they are, rather straightforward teachings of the Church--but that is actually not a crucial issue in this debate (at least, not yet).

If I am right that there exists some common ground here, I think one way to highlight what I think that common ground might be would be to turn the discussion for a moment to Aristotle's Analytics. The Analytics are traditionally divided into two works (though this division is not Aristotle's, and he himself always refers only to a single work under the title Analutika), the Prior Analytics and the Posterior Analytics. In the Prior Analytics Aristotle lays out in typically exacting detail his theory of syllogistic logic. Aristotle was particularly proud of his accomplishment in the Prior Analytics: he was the first philosopher to construct a formal theory of inference, and it was--and is--a perfectly good formalization. Indeed, it was virtually the only formal logic in use until relatively recently, and it continues to be taught in logic classes. It has been augmented in some ways by the work of modern formal logicians, but it has not been superseded in any significant sense. The Posterior Analytics is more difficult to classify. Some say it is a treatise in epistemology, others speak of it almost as though it were a work in the philosophy of science. Aristotle was particularly interested in scientific topics, and so there may not have been a very sharp distinction in his mind between those two areas in the first place. (It is somewhat anachronistic to speak of "philosophy of science" in Aristotle's case, however, so one must be willing to blur some distinctions anyway when talking about these things.) The relationship between the Prior and Posterior Analytics is controversial among scholars of Aristotle. Aristotle was himself a very active scientist, in the sense of "natural philosopher" if not in our own sense of the term, and his work in the foundations of biology, in particular, was seminal, influencing the development of that science right up to the time of Darwin himself, who found Aristotle's taxonomy of species superior to Linnaeus'. Scholars have noticed, however, that Aristotle does not employ, in these biological treatises, any of the principles of inference that he lays down in the Prior Analytics, nor does he employ the syllogism in any of his other scientific writings. This has prompted some to suggest that his own scientific work was more along the lines of foundational speculation and data gathering, and some scholars have suggested that the principals he follows in his own scientific work are those established in the Posterior Analaytics, where the subject matter has more to do with the establishing of axioms, definitions, and scientific procedures. One line of interpretation holds that Aristotle saw science as a three-step process: first we establish axioms and definitions, then we gather data, then we organize the date in accordance with rational principles. Only the final stage, the organization of the data (perhaps for pedagogical purposes), would employ the principles of the syllogism. Everything else would be governed by the inference pattern that Aristotle calls epagogê and that we call induction.

Consider the following two inferences.
1. "Mammal" is necessarily true of all humans.
2. "Animal" is necessarily true of all mammals.
3. Hence, "Animal" is necessarily true of all humans.
Constrast this inference with this one:
1. Socrates is a human, and he is also an animal.
2. Plato is a human, and he is also an animal.
3. Callicles is a human, and he is also an animal.
4. Coriscus is a human, and he is also an animal.
5. Hence, anything that is a human is also an animal.
The first inference is an example of a syllogism in the Aristotelian (categorical) style. The second is an induction. Both arguments give us rational warrant for asserting that all humans are animals, but only the first argument actually proves, with logical necessity, that all humans are animals. The difference lies in what Aristotle called the meson, and that later logicians called the "middle term". Aristotle held that the meson served a special, explanatory role in inference: it gives us the reason why something is true. The so-called "middle term" (here, "mammal") represents a class of things that connects the "major term" (here, "animal") to the "minor term (here, "human") by a kind of overlapping relation: some things that are animals are also mammals, but not all of them; however, all mammals are necessarily also animals. This relation guarantees that it is quite impossible for something to be a human being and not be an animal.

Now every deduction, if it is to be sound, must meet two conditions. It must be valid in form, and its premises must be true. Putting validity aside for the moment, how are we to know that the premises are, indeed, true? One way is to provide a proof of each premise. There are two ways we can give rational warrant for a premise: we may supply another deduction in which the premise we are trying to prove appears as the conclusion, or we may supply an induction that leads to the premise we are trying to support. Obviously only the first will count as a "proof" of the truth of the premise in question, but we cannot demand that deductions be given for every premise, because that will lead to an infinite procedure of premise-proving. We don't want to have an infinitely long sequence of deductions because these proofs, for Aristotle, are supposed to be explanatory, that is, they are supposed to give the reason why something is true. Anything that is infinite is necessarily incomplete, and so if we demand that all proofs be deductive then we can never have a complete explanation of anything. Some of our reasons for believing certain premises are going to have to be inductive.

For example, we may discover inductively that all human beings are mammals. It might be quite impossible for us to actually observe all the humans who exist right now, and it is obviously impossible for us to observe future generations of humans who don't even exist yet, and so to make the claim "All human beings are mammals" is obviously an induction, and yet we regard it as necessarily true because it represents a claim about the essential nature of human beings, and the essential nature of a thing is true of it necessarily. That means we can know it with certainty in spite of the fact that it is discoverable only by induction.

Now, this is a rather handy feature of Aristotle's essentialist metaphysics, and it is not available to contemporary scientists, but it is certainly available to Thomists and other essentialists in the Christian tradition. We agree with Aristotle that there are things that we can know with certainty on the basis of inductive reasoning, and I suspect that this is the sort of thing that Mike and others may have in mind when they argue that doctrine develops inductively. Or, to put it another way, if this is what they do have in mind, then I don't disagree with them, other than to say that, just because there are some inductions in there, we are not entitled to assume that the only sort of proof of the doctrine available is going to be inductive. As in the case of the proof that all humans are animals, both an inductive and a deductive inference may be available, and the deductive is always to be preferred, and for two reasons. First, it gives the reason why, hence proving its conclusion beyond any rational doubt; and second, the inductive inferential pattern can only be regarded as acceptable if it is grounded in necessary principles in the first place, and those will have to come from the teaching authority of the Magisterium, that is, they will have to be matters of interpretation, not inference.

Aristotle, in addition to being a metaphysical realist, was also a rationalist. That is, he was not an empiricist, which means that he did not think that we come to have knowledge of first principles via empirical induction, even though epagogê clearly plays a role in his story of how we come to have knowledge of first principles. But our cognitive grasp of the essences of things is a function of nous, our intellect, and it is entirely separate from the operation of perception. We grasp the universal that is present in the particular in a way that is explicitly rejected by contemporary empirical science. It should come as no surprise, then, that the Church should recognize a means of coming to have knowledge of the first principles of inferences by means other than mere empirical inductions made on scriptural texts. That would be tantamount to sola scriptura. On the contrary, it is the divine authority given to the Church herself that enables her to make pronouncements about doctrine that are infallibly (necessarily) true, and this is not a matter of inference, but of inspiration. There may be a process, similar to that described by Aristotle, in which we must lay out the results, as it were, of our research into these things that gives rise to an appearance of "cognitive leaps" in doctrine, but a full process of preparing the case will always enable us to put together a perfectly sound deductive proof that the teaching is true, and this process will always be non-ampliative.

Whether this represents real common ground between me and Mike will probably become clear only after further discussion, but I suspect that we are not far apart. I certainly trust in his intelligence and erudition to make clearer anything that I have said that may be worth holding on to and to help me to see my way clear to rejecting anything that I have said that is untenable.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

When Metaphysics Trumps Epistemology

Two Gospel readings in a row (yesterday's and today's) from Luke contrast for us the difference between Zachariah's response to God's message and Mary's. When I first converted I often wondered what the difference was supposed to be--why was God so much harder on poor old Zachariah than on Mary? Something about humble acceptance of God's will as opposed to skeptical stubbornness. Over time it gradually dawned on me, but today, sitting in the Church and listening to the lector--the same guy who was lector yesterday, so there was a certain continuity--I suddenly saw it in rather different terms.
And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
I don't know why I didn't see this before: Whereby shall I know this, as opposed to How shall this be? One is an epistemological question, the other a metaphysical, one a question about personal psychology, the other about divine reality.

I suppose this is something that sharper tools in the shed have seen all along, but I'm still marveling over the richness of biblical texts that can say so many different things to so many different people with such an economy of words. Being versus knowing, humility versus skepticism; Mary humbly accepts that God's will is just a manifestation of how things are, while Zachariah wants, principally, to be given a satisfactory account of how things will be.

A particularly humbling text for the philosopher, most of whom deserve a more permanent version of Zachariah's punishment.

Again With the Non-ampliative Inference!

Dr. Mike Liccione of Sacramentum Vitae has taken issue with my post Further Notes on Ampliative and Non-ampliative Inference. In particular, he wants to dispute my claim that doctrine always develops, when it develops, in accordance with deductive rather than inductive principles. If he is right, then doctrine will develop ampliatively (in my sense of the term). I'm not altogether sure I follow his reasoning, but assuming that I do at least to a certain minimal extent, here is what I would say in reply.

To begin, I'm not sure that we are really talking about precisely the same situation. Consider the following, from Mike's post:
In the lingo of logicians, "inductive" inference is any type of inference that is valid, in principle and for certain purposes, but not strictly deductive. The most common sort of induction is inferring that the future will, in this or that respect, be like the past.
Technically, the term "validity" refers to a property that applies strictly to deductions only, so it seems to me one of two things is going on here. Either Mike is using the word "valid" in a non-technical sense to mean something along the lines of "rationally warranted inference" or else he has something rather unorthodox in mind when he refers to an inductive inference. Since he goes on immediately to give a perfectly orthodox example of an inductive inference, I must assume the former.

So far, so good: after many years of teaching logic I know only too well that most people, when they say that an inference is "valid", do not intend to say that it is valid in the technical sense. Most folks are happy just to say that they think they can see where a particular inference comes from, and that is generally what they mean by the word "valid". Technically, every inductive inference is invalid, since it is always possible for the truth of an inductive inference to be false even if all of the premises are true. For this reason we do not characterize inductive inferences as either valid or invalid; they are characterized rather as being either strong or weak.

This is an important point, because nobody is claiming that inductive inferences should not be persuasive--a well-constructed induction should have certain properties that persuade rationally disposed hearers to believe its conclusion to be true with a certain degree of confidence less than 100% but greater than, let's say, 50%. But there is a huge difference between persuading somebody that a particular claim is true and proving that it must be true of necessity. Only a deductive inference can accomplish the latter, and only when it is sound (that is, it is valid in form and all of its premises are indisputably true).

My claim in Further Notes was that doctrine only develops in accordance with deductive principles. I confess that at least part of the motivation behind my claim was political in an ecumenical sense: I want to set at ease the hearts and minds of those Orthodox who worry that the principle of the development of doctrine warrants introducing radically new (and possibly heretical) belief-statements into the corpus of beliefs that must be held de fide. I think that this is a "valid" worry (non-technical use of "valid" here), and it is one that I share. The difficulty with any and all inductive inferences is that they are subject to (often massive) underdetermination, that is, the evidence can never establish the truth of any particular inference to the exclusion of all competing, non-consistent inferences. This is not a situation in which we want to find ourselves when trying to discover what must be believed de fide.

Certain kinds of scientific realists have suggested that this worry is overblown. They characterize certain kinds of inductive inferences as having far greater warrant than others. In order to give a certain cache of respectability to this claim they have actually come up with a special name for this kind of inductive inference: abduction. An abductive inference is one that is supposedly more likely to be true than its competitors, even though the same evidence is available to all candidate inferences. It is sometimes called an "inference to the best explanation" on the grounds that it posits an explanation that is inherently more plausible than its competitors. For example, suppose I find little teeth-marks in the chunk of cheese on my kitchen counter, and I hear little scratching sounds in the walls, and I find little tiny turds all over the floor and counter-tops. Now imagine two explanations. According to explanation (A), there is a mouse in my house. According to explanation (B), my evil little brother is trying to freak me out and drive me batty by setting things up in my kitchen to make it look as though I have a mouse in there when he knows that I have a very important dinner party coming up. Both explanations are consistent with all the known (and knowable) evidence (assume that my little brother really is such a person as to do such a thing), yet (A) seems, somehow, more plausible than (B), if only because it seems less ad hoc. But an abduction is just an induction by another name, and it suffers from all the same problems that plague induction generally. I might commit myself to (A) only to discover that it was, indeed, my little brother all along, and nothing about the evidence itself favored (A) over (B)--the only thing that makes (A) more likely than (B) is a set of theoretical presuppositions that I bring to bear on the inference-drawing process itself.

Now, Mike suggests that there are, nevertheless, gradations of some kind among inductive inferences, and in particular he wants to claim that an inferential pattern that he thinks he has found in the Scriptures rises above the merely inductive to something like the abductive. He gives a rather intriguing example:
Now I consider it fairly obvious that some, perhaps even much, DD is ampliative and thus "inductive" in logicians' lingo. To take my favorite example, that the Son is homoousios (of the same substance) as the Father does not follow by strict deduction from the testimony of Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, and what the various liturgical rites of the early Church all had in common. If it did, then all it would have taken to refute the Arians decisively, once for all, would have been a logical proof of the sort that had long before been provided for, say, the Pythagorean Theorem in geometry.
I'm particularly concerned about Mike's claim at the end here, that the logic of deduction is always going to be something that just pops out and is obvious to everybody. Now Mike himself noted, in a post at his own blog, that he accepts Saint Anselm's argument in favor of the Filioque, and perhaps he means something non-standard when he says he buys that argument but when I say things like that I mean that I think that the argument works. Anselm's argument is a deductive argument, and it is laid out with what can only be characterized as anal-retentive precision and care, and yet it failed to persuade the Greeks. I do not think that it is the case that a deductive argument is always going to do the trick when it comes to "refuting" any particular inference, if all we mean by "refuting" is getting folks to acquiesce in our take on things. If he means something more technical by "refute"--if he means that the Arians were proven wrong, then of course they were refuted. They just didn't think that they were. In short, I think that the homoousios doctrine does follow by strict deduction. This is not to say that every premise needed for that deduction is made explicit in Scripture; some premises are themselves intermediary conclusions of other deductions. But the inference itself needs to be deductive or else there is no rationally compelling reason to believe it.

The notion of compulsion here is extremely important--it is not just a rhetorical nicety to stick in a word like that. Inductive inferences have a certain rational warrant to them--that is, if they are strong it is not irrational to accept them--but precisely because of underdetermination there is no compulsion to believe them--we may always question any inductive inference and in so doing we still act rationally. It would be irrational, by contrast, to question a sound deductive inference.

This brings me to a point that Mike makes a little later in his post. In fishing around for a description of the pattern of inference he is talking about he writes:
I can't think of a name offhand, but I believe I can see the pattern in the unfolding of divine revelation itself. Consider how Matthew 1:23 cites Isaiah 7:14 to support the claim that Jesus was born of a virgin. Matthew was relying on the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which uses the term parthenos, meaning "virgin," to translate Isaiah's almah, meaning "young woman." Why that translation? After all, not all virgins are young women and not all young women are virgins. Perhaps the "seventy" Jewish scholars in Alexandria who produced the LXX believed that the Messiah would be born of a literal virgin; but then, perhaps not. We really don't know. They may simply have chosen parthenos as a decorous synonym for 'a young woman' with the implication that the Messiah would be her first-born. At any rate, we have no evidence that first-century Jews assumed the Messiah would be born of a literal virgin. There doesn't appear to have been any consensus among Jews about how to construe Isaiah 7:14 on this particular point. Yet Matthew, or at least the early Church that received his Gospel as canonical, seems serenely confident that it prophesied that Jesus the Messiah was born of a literal virgin.
The difficulty here is that this is not an inference at all, but an interpretation. While it is true that interpretation of data is a necessary condition on any inductive inference, it is of course also true that every deductive inference requires interpretation of data. So the fact that this pattern is to be found in the "unfolding of divine revelation" is insufficient to show that the pattern of inference involved in the development of doctrine is not deductive.

It's also worth pointing out that, in this particular case, anyway, we're dealing with scriptural claims, albeit claims separated in time. From our perspective, though, the claims of Scripture themselves do not develop, but rather our own understanding of their meaning does. To take just one of the more familiar instances of this sort of thing, consider the Church's teaching on usury. This is a favorite canard of the cafeteria catholic crowd that seems to take a perverse pleasure in saying that doctrine develops in a way that will ultimately result in new teachings on women priests, gay marriage, and a whole slew of other complaints-du-jour. It is precisely this sort of crap that a real principle of the development of doctrine must be well-constructed enough to avoid. Usury has always been condemned by the Church, but what the Church is willing or unwilling to count as an instance of usury is a prudential judgment that is contingent on certain economic and social facts. These facts, obviously, change over time, as economic and social conditions change. But the morality of usury itself never changes because it is not grounded in contingent judgments but necessary ones. (The same is true of torture, by the way, as I've pointed out in many posts. Check the archives if you're interested.)

How do we know that the Church is right about what counts as usury these days? We don't. Nor do we know for certain that capital punishment will never again be necessary for the defense of the common good. We know with certainty that usury is wrong, but we cannot know with certainty whether a particular rate of exchange is usurious in every possible case. But by becoming Christians we do place ourselves under the authority of others: we trust in the Church's authority to teach us in matters of faith and morals, even on those occasions (not rare, but not ubiquitous) when those teachings are grounded in contingent or prudential judgments. It may be in this sense that there is ampliative development of doctrine: once the deductions have been carried out, we require some authoritative source of interpretation. I said above that a sound argument cannot rationally be disputed, and a sound argument is one that is both deductively valid and its premises are all indisputably true. When was the last time you saw a premise that was indisputably true? Every premise is disputable in some sense. So in order for any teaching to be held with some degree of confidence, we must place our trust in some source of interpretive authority, and that source of interpretive authority is the Ordinary Magisterium.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Festina Lente

Here's a brilliant little observation from George Charles Allen of Docendo Discimus:
I am posting earlier than anticipated and, of course, procrastinating ever-so-slightly on this dark and stormy night. Though, as I always say, Procrastination is the realization that true Genius is born in the white-hot flames of crisis.
That thought should keep me going as I try to make a 1 February grant submission deadline at the NSF.

Read the whole post here, but savor in particular these thoughts:
I am writing this evening because I had the infrequent opportunity of having two extraordinary friends in the same room, at the same time, and I came to realize how special and rare a gift I have. And so it seems, every rainy evening, while sitting in the warm, familiar setting of my room reading a book, rocking gently back-and-forth-and-back again in my chair, my thoughts always turn toward my few close friends and the warm, content feelings which conjure up within me. To say I cannot live without them would be absurd; but to say that they make life often more bearable, interesting, pleasant and oft times quite exciting and spontaneous; and to say that every moment I spend with them is a moment cherished, remembered and well spent would couple fittingly with what St. Augustine summarized as his thoughts upon friendship (of which I cannot disagree) in Book IV of the Confessions, and so I share it with you:
All kinds of things rejoiced my soul in their company--to talk and laugh and do eachother kindnesses; read pleasant books together, pass from lightest jesting to talk of deepest things and back again; differ without rancour, as a man might differ with himself, and when most rarely dissension arose find our normal agreement all the sweeter for it; teach each other or learn from each other; be impatient for the return of the absent, and welcome them with joy on their homecoming; these and such like things, proceeding from our hearts as we gave affection and received it back, and shown by face, by voice, by the eyes, and a thousand other pleasing ways, kindled a flame which fused our very souls and of many made us one.
The Wandering Scholar (Docendo Discimus) is a fine blog, one that I recommend very highly.

The Socci Manifesto

The following was distributed on the Classics listserv email discussion list today.

429 South 20th St. #A Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio, Chairman
Philadelphia, PA 19146 William A. Torchia, Esquire, Vice Chairman
Telephone: 215 732-6431
E Mail:
Advisory Council: Dr. Harold Boatrite, Jean Buckalew Dr. Lucy E. Carroll, Anthony Corvaia, Jane Errera, Dr. Francis X. Kelly, Esq.., Dr. Timothy S. McDonnell, Charles L. Myers, Dr. Temple Painter, Father Robert C. Pasley, KHS, John F.X. Reilly, Esq.

December 19, 2006
TO: Members of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Latin Liturgy Association, Inc. and Friends
RE: The Socci Manifesto (Edictum Antonii Socci et Aliorum de Prisca Missa Latina)

Antonio Socci, Franco Zeffirelli and other European intellectuals have issued a document that has become known as The Socci Manifesto which supports the efforts of Pope Benedict XVI to foster frequent celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. The text of this Socci Manifesto appears in Latin and English at the end of this message. It emphasizes the historical and cultural values of the traditional Latin Mass.

Our European friends have asked for expressions of support for the Manifesto.
If you wish to join the thousands who want to lend their support to The Socci Manifesto, please send e-mail to:

The subject line should be: The Socci Manifesto (Edictum Antonii Socci)

You may compose your own text or use one of the suggested texts below:


"Nos apertis verbis assentimur Benedicto XVI, quod interdictum de prisca missa, iuxta Sancti Pii missale celebranda, quae missa quasi copiosum cultus humani patrimonium tuenda est et consideranda, abolere statuerit."


“Esprimiamo il nostro plauso per la decisione di Benedetto XVI di cancellare la proibizione dell'antica messa in latino secondo il messale di san Pio V, grande patrimonio della nostra cultura da salvare e riscoprire”.


"We express our praise for the decision of Benedict XVI to cancel the prohibition of the ancient Mass in Latin according to the Missal of Saint Pius V, a great legacy of our culture, which must be saved and rediscovered."

Please indicate on the e-mail your name, profession (optional), city (optional) and country of residence. Anyone is most welcome to write.

I understand that these e-mails may ultimately be given to the Sovereign Pontiff himself.
Thank you for giving this long message your attention. Best wishes to each of you for a very happy Christmas and New Year!
Most cordially,
Rudy Masciantonio

Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio
Chairman, Philadelphia Chapter, Latin Liturgy Association, Inc.
429 S. 20th St. #A
Philadelphia, PA 19146
215 732-6431

Venite missa rediit.

Homines doctos atque eruditos cunctos et universos hortari velim, ut faveant
Benedicto XVI Summo Pontifici, quippe Qui lautum copiosumque cultus et
humani et divini patrimonium tuendum praedicandum esse censuerit. Digna est
enim Eius sententia ut prodatur memoriae, quamvis greges eorum, qui rationis
lucem reformidant atque aliorum de re divina repudiant opiniones, in
Pontificem acerbissime invehantur. Nuper Arturus Medina S.R.E. Cardinalis, e
delectis viris Ecclesiae Dei tuendae, qui disputarunt num sacri ritus Latina
lingua impune fieri possent, omnium admiratione: “Mox Summus Pontifex -
nuntiavit - motu proprio concedet ut Missa Latina, iuxta Sancti Pii V
missale, iterum celebretur”. Quod quidem haud leve habebit momentum non modo
Ecclesiae sed civitati quoque et cultui constabiliendis. Etenimvero
intellegentes laici omnium primi senserunt quid detrimenti etiam cultus
humanus esset accepturus, si aboleretur liturgia Piana atque ipsa Ecclesiae
lingua sacra exolesceret.

Quum vero, abhinc XL annis, contra Concilii decreta, ne vetus Ecclesiae
liturgia, qua quidem Patres in Concilio ritus celebrarunt, amplius fieri
liceret sancitum est, maxima doctorum pars merito hoc sunt criminati, quod
Civitatis Christiane velut radix excideretur: fuisse enim liturgiam fontem
et originem operum politissima arte factorum. Itaque binae litterae pro
Missa Piana sunt in publicum editae, priores anno post Christum natum
MCMLXVI, alterae anno MCMLXXI, quas litteras inter alios subsignarunt
Georgius Aloisius Borges, Georgius de Chirico, Helena Croce, W. H. Auden,
Bressonius et Dreyerus scenarum artifices, Augustus del Noce, Iulianus
Green, Iacobus Maritain (vir apprime doctus et a Paulo VI quam maxime
dilectus, cui Pontifex decretum eruditis destinatum tradiderat); tum
Eugenius Montale, Christina Campo, Franciscus Mauriac, Salvator Quasimodo,
Evelyna Waugh, Maria Zambrano, Elemirus Zolla, Gabriel Marcel, Salvator de
Madariaga, Ioannes Franciscus Contini, Iacobus Devoto, Ioannes Macchia,
Maximus Pallottino, Hector Paratore, Georgius Bassani, Marius Luzi, Vido
Piovene, Andrea Segovia, Haroldus Acton, Agatha Christie, Graham Green,
aliique quam plurimi, quibus annumerandus Vilelmus Rees-Mogg, moderator ille
ephemeridis Britannicae, cui titulus “Tempus”.

Quorum plerique saeculares fuerunt, quoniam omnibus hereditate contigit
prisca liturgia Latina, quae est eius praestantia in re civili et divina,
haud secus ac Sacellum Xystinum, Cantus Gregoriani, aedes cathedrales,
Gothorum statuaria, Basilica Petriana; quin etiam huius liturgiae
patrimonium eo diligentius est hisce temporibus tuendum, quo magis
Europaeorum Civitas radices velut suas excidere ac deserere periclitatur.

Singulariter autem accidit ut ipsi Catholici novatores, qui dialogi momentum
cum mundo saeculari et nostrae aetatis hominibus, quasi vexillum,
proposuerant, nihil curarent opiniones eruditorum et XL annis linguae
Latinae servarent interdictum: o arbitrium non prius auditum! Mense autem
Aprili anni MMV, paulo ante quam Benedictus XVI ad pontificatum eligeretur,
Vido Ceronetti, scriptor idemque laicus, epistulam ad novum pontificem
edidit, qua rogat ut “detrahatur triste capistrum, qua vox Latina in ritu
suffocatur”. Ceterum Iosephus Ratzinger, cardinalis quum esset, apertis
verbis fatens Missam Pianam contra omnia vetustatis exempla vetitam esse:
“Numquam - inquit - Ecclesia post hominum memoriam ritus orthodoxos abolevit
aut vetuit: hoc enim ab ipsa Ecclesiae indole alienum fuisset!”. Idem libro
quodam concitate narravit quid de missali a Paulo VI modo publicato
sentiret: “Quod Missalis Piani usus vetabatur - ait - percussit me et
perturbavit, quandoquidem quippiam simile nullo vetustatis exemplo in
liturgiae vicibus confirmabatur; contra autem callide effecerunt ut
prohibitio tanquam mos usque adhuc retentus haberetur. Praeterea, vetantes
missalis usum, quod inde a priscis Ecclesiae sacramentalibus saeculorum
decursu coaluerat, liturgiae gradus et aetates velut interciserunt, ex quo
nihil erat oriturum nisi calamitas… aedibus antiquis dirutis, novae sunt

Quid inde consecutum est nisi damnum magnum? Etenim in re liturgica inita
est via licentiae atque intemperantiae. Iosephus Ratzinger cardinalis: “Mihi
- ait - persusum est Ecclesiae discrimen, in quo versamur, plerumque ex
liturgiae dissolutione proficisci, quae interdum putatur, etsi Deus non
daretur, quasi nihil referret utrum Deus sit, audiat nos, nobiscum
colloquatur, necne. At si in ritibus iam non apparent fidei communio,
universalis unitas Ecclesiae eiusque historiae, mysterium Christi viventis,
ubinam Ecclesia iterum appareat cum sua natura spiritali?”.

Nunc vero Deo volente accidit ut cardinalis ille Ratzinger, pontifex
creatus, interdictum de prisca liturgia sit aboliturus, cultus libertatem
instauraturus, Ecclesiae atque hominum societati redditurus uberrimum
copiosumque thesaurum. Itaque Iosephus Ratzinger certis argumentis probatur
inter sapientissimos quosque horum temporum merito referri; iis autem qui
illiberaliter acerbeque in Eum intra ipsa Ecclesiae moenia invehentur,
quemadomodum iam praenuntiarunt Galliae episcopi, oportet ut refragetur
turba cultior, quae abhinc XL annis opinionem suam de re aperuit. Quae quum
ita sint, rogo homines laicos eruditosque ut coram populo assentiantur. En
igitur habeatis tabulam, quam suadeo ut subsignetis:

Nos apertis verbis assentimur Benedicto XVI, quod interdictum de prisca
missa, iuxta Sancti Pii missale celebranda, quae missa quasi copiosum cultus
humani patrimonium tuenda est et consideranda, abolere statuerit.

Guido Ceronetti, René Girard, Antonio Socci, Vittorio Strada, Franco


I wish to launch an appeal to the world of culture.

In support of a decision of Benedict XVI.

The announcement was given by Cardinal Arturo Medina Estevez, a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission which met to discuss the liberalization of the Latin Mass. The prelate said, "The publication of the Motu Proprio by the Pope which will liberalize the celebration of the Latin Mass according to the Missal of Saint Pius V is close." It is an extraordinarily important event for the Church and even for the culture and history of our civilization. Historically, lay intellectuals were actually those to realize more and better the disaster, the actual cultural destruction, represented by the "prohibition" of the liturgy of Saint Pius V and the disappearance of Latin as sacred language of the Catholic Church.

When, 40 years ago -- in contravention to the documents of the Council -- the prohibition of the ancient liturgy of the Church (that which had been celebrated even during the Council) was imposed, there was a great and meritorious protest by very important intellectuals who considered this decision as an attack on the roots of our Christian Civilization (the liturgy has always been a center and a fountain of the most sublime art). Two appeals were published in defense of the Mass of Saint Pius V, in 1966 and 1971. These are some of the names which undersigned them: Jorge Luís Borges, Giorgio De Chirico, Elena Croce, W. H. Auden, the directors Bresson and Dreyer, Augusto Del Noce, Julien Green, Jacques Maritain (who indeed was the favorite intellectual of Paul VI, the one to whom the Pope had given the letter to intellectuals at the end of the Council), Eugenio Montale, Cristina Campo, François Mauriac, Salvatore Quasimodo, Evelyn Waugh, Maria Zambrano, Elémire Zolla, Gabriel Marcel, Salvador De Madariaga, Gianfranco Contini, Giacomo Devoto, Giovanni Macchia, Massimo Pallottino, Ettore Paratore, Giorgio Bassani, Mario Luzi, Guido Piovene, Andrés Segovia, Harold Acton, Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, and many others, incuding the editor of the “Times”, William Rees-Mogg.

They are largely lay intellectuals because the cultural and spiritual value of the ancient Latin liturgy is a legacy of all, as is the Sistine Chapel, as is the Gregorian [chant], as the great cathedrals, Gothic sculpture, the Basilica of Saint Peter also are. Even more so today, when our entire European Civilization risks to cut off and deny its own roots.

Curiously, even "progressive Catholics", which made the dialogue with the world and with modern culture their banner, did not give any regard and fought for forty years to keep this incredible prohibition. An unprecedented arbitrariness. In April 2005, at the eve of the election of Benedict XVI, it was a lay writer, Guido Ceronetti, who writes, in La Repubblica, an open letter to the new Pope, in which he asked "that the sinister suffocating gag on the Latin voice of the Mass be removed". When he was a cardinal, Ratzinger declared that the prohibition of the Mass of Saint Pius V was unprecedented: "throughout her history, has never abolished nor forbidden orthodox liturgical forms, which would be quite alien to the very spirit of the Church". In one of his books, he retold dramatically how he had viewed the publication of the missal of Paul VI: "I was dismayed by the prohibition of the old missal, since nothing of the sort had ever happened in the entire history of the liturgy. The impression was even given that what was happening was quite normal," but, Ratzinger wrote, "the prohibition of the missal that was now decreed, a missal that had known continuous growth over the centuries, starting with the sacramentaries of the ancient Church, introduced a breach into the history of the liturgy whose consequences could only be tragic ... the old building was demolished, and another was built."

The effects were disastrous. The road to incredible abuses in the liturgy was opened. Ratzinger writes, "I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us. But when the community of faith, the world-wide unity of the Church and her history, and the mystery of the living Christ are no longer visible in the liturgy, where else, then, is the Church to become visible in her spiritual essence?"

That same Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who prepares to cancel the prohibition, will find opposition even inside the Church (already pre-announced by the French bishops) and he deserves an answer from the world of culture which, forty years ago, made its voice heard. I ask intellectuals and whomever may wish to do so to sign this synthetic manifesto:

"We express our praise for the decision of Benedict XVI to cancel the prohibition of the ancient Mass in Latin according to the Missal of Saint Pius V, a great legacy of our culture, which must be saved and rediscovered."

Guido Ceronetti, René Girard, Antonio Socci, Vittorio Strada, Franco

Today's Lyrics

Gadji beri bimba clandridi
Lauli lonni cadori gadjam
A bim beri glassala glandride
E glassala tuffm i zimbra

Bim blassa galassasa zimbrabim
Blassa gallassasa zimbrabim

A bim beri glassala glandrid
E glassala tuffm i zimbra

Gadji beri bimba clandridi
Lauli lonni cadori gadjam
A bim beri glassala glandrid
E glassala tuffm i zimbra

Talking Heads, I Zimbra, from Fear of Music.

Ever get the impression that some Gen-Xers get most of their ideas from popular culture?

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Buster is Back, Sir

The New York Times is reporting that "Postcards from Buster", a PBS children's show featuring a rabbit from the "Arthur" books by Marc Brown, has been picked up for a second, much curtailed, season. In "Postcards from Buster" we follow Buster Baxter around the globe--well, the western hemisphere part of the globe, anyway--as he travels with his father, who is a private pilot for a musical group calling themselves Los Viajares. I get up rather early each day--usually by 5:45 I'm saying Matins Lauds and Prime--principally so that I can drive my son to school at 7:15. Once I've finished the Office there's usually a little time before we have to leave and he often turns on PBS to watch the show "Arthur", from which the Buster character is borrowed.

I have to confess that I rather love the "Arthur" show, and I've been watching it almost obsessively ever since my children started watching it. Sometimes I watch it without them, I like it so much. I gave my daughter four different boxed sets of three DVDs each for her birthday, and I've seen more of them than she has. But "Postcards from Buster", which follows "Arthur" on our PBS station, is a very different show, and it has come under some rather sharp criticism from certain conservatives, mostly because of a show they did in the first season featuring a family in Vermont with "two moms".
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attacked the episode in a letter to Pat Mitchell, the former PBS president, dated Jan. 25, 2005. “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode,” she wrote. The same day PBS removed “Sugartime!” from its lineup. In the days that followed, the American Family Association, a major Christian conservative organization, orchestrated a campaign of more than 150,000 e-mail messages and letters to Ms. Spellings supporting her position, said Ed Vitagliano, a spokesman for the association.
I did not see the episode in question (and believe me I regret it because I love maple sugar more than just about any other confection on the planet--oh, who am I kidding: I definitely love it more than any other foodstuff on the planet), but it's very difficult for me to get worked up about it. For one thing, it's just one episode. For another, the show is otherwise excellent. For yet another, kids don't pay all that much attention to things like that anyway and folks who think that they do are in the grip of a theory.

I remember calling the office of Senator Jesse Helms when I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. At the time his re-election was not assured and, good conservative that I am, I preferred him to his opponent. He had a tendency, however, to use extremely inflammatory language about homosexuals, and I was good friends with several very conservative homosexuals who were put off by his language. The purpose of my call was to inquire into whether the language couldn't be toned down a bit, if only to ensure as many votes for the Senator as possible. This was when I was young and nêpios, obviously. I started my conversation with the woman who answered like a true politician, pointing out how much I liked the Senator's voting policies. She was obviously pleased with this, and we chatted amicably for a few minutes. When I got around to my point, however, her tone of voice changed immediately from the warm, friendly, southern drawl, to a cold, businesslike dismissal of my entire point. "The senator stands by his position on homosexuals," she informed me in a blank monotone, and she hurried off the phone, convinced, probably, that I was a not-so-covert member of the Queer Alliance.

Now, I wasn't suggesting that the senator change his position, only that he change the way he talk about his position, that he be more diplomatic. Jesse Helms was never known for his diplomacy, however, and I was too new to the state to be aware of that. But I did learn one thing: when it comes to politics, ideologues take the lesson of Caesar's wife very seriously. It actually doesn't matter so much what you believe in your heart of hearts, what matters is what you are perceived as believing. So in the case of Buster Baxter, a single episode that leaves the wrong impression is sufficient to condemn the whole project in the minds of some, who wish to be perceived as "strong on gay marriage" or something. It's worth it to them to go out on a limb on an issue as banal as this just so that their constituency will see them saying the right sorts of things in the press.

Parents who don't want their children "exposed" to this kind of thing need to think very carefully. It's one thing to want to teach your children about Christian values; it's another thing to teach those values in way that backfires on you. These kinds of families are out there, and they sometimes have children in them. If you give your own kids the impression that it's better not to even think about such things, to ignore the folks like these that you meet in your day-to-day lives, you are far from inculcating Christian charity in your children and well on your way to raising somebody who will stand on the street carrying signs that say "God hates fags".
And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them. But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners? And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
How can we teach our children to do both--to shun the wrong choices of others while sitting down and eating with them in their own house as a sign of God's loving call to repentance--if we would rather pretend that those of whom we disapprove don't even exist?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top Five Philosophers

Fr. Al Kimel of Pontifications sent me a link recently to the Mormon Philosophy and Theology blog in which we are treated to a brief description of some poster's five "favorite philosophers", who were, in this order:
1. Nietzsche
2. Heidegger
3. Peirce
4. Derrida
5. Davidson
I wrote back to Fr. Al saying something along the lines of "Wow, apart from Davidson these guys aren't even on the radar for me as possible candidates." So Fr. Al challenged me to post just what are my five favorites. He actually used the word "meme", but that word is so Dawkinsian that I'm not going to use it myself, I will only mention it.

The list that I sent to Fr. Al was this, in chronological order:
1. Plato
2. Aristotle
3. Saint Anselm
4. Saint Thomas Aquinas
5. Immanuel Kant
Such lists are inevitably personal in character. The poster at Mormon Philosophy and Theology noted that his list was determined by the thinkers who had "most affected" him, and that has also informed my list; one could go the Time magazine route and try to list the thinkers that one believes to have most affected others, but even that sort of process is influenced by possibly unexamined assumptions and preferences.

Apart from Aristotle there aren't any philosophers of science in my list, in spite of the fact that philosophy of science is one of my own particular interests. This is not because I don't think that there are any truly great philosophers of science (Aristotle actually is one, after all), but rather because few philosophers of science have influenced me in the way that those in my list have. If I were to make a list of just philosophers of science, their names would pale in greatness compared to the five in my overall list, so I won't try to embarrass them by making such a B-list, even though some of them deserve to be so embarrassed.

There are also a lot of realists in my list, in spite of the fact that I am something of an anti-realist, but my anti-realism is confined to certain issues in the philosophy of science. When it comes to metaphysics, I'm a full-blown Thomist, with all the realism that entails.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Episcopalians are Revolting

According to a story in today's online edition of the New York Times the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is about to reach a point of "revolt", a state that the Times seems to find in the imminent vote of eight parishes in Virginia to sever ties with the denomination. Some of them hope to come under the aegis of African or Latin American bishops who are more orthodox than, say Peter James Lee, the present bishop of Virginia.

I have mixed feelings about Bishop Lee who, as regular readers of this forum will remember, was my Rector when I was a parishioner at the Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, North Carolina before my conversion. I worked rather closely with him, too, because I was a postulant for Holy Orders at the time and he oversaw my internship year while I worked for Bill Coolidge at St. Bartholomew's parish in Pittsboro. The two men went rather different directions: Bill Coolidge has basically left the church, while Peter Lee has gone to become one of its leaders. But they are similar in some ways. When I was working at St. Bartholomew's a new hymnal was being introduced, and some of the parishioners did not like it. Bill's attitude was basically "Nobody is forcing them to use the new hymnal; they can just sit in the pew and listen while the rest of us sing." Compare that with this from Peter Lee:
Our Anglican tradition has always been a very large tent in which people with different theological emphases can live together,” Bishop Lee said in a telephone interview. “I’m very sorry some in these churches feel that this is no longer the case for them. It certainly is their choice and their decision. No one is forcing them to do this.
True enough. Nobody is forcing them to do this, just like nobody forced those folks back at St. Bart's to sing from the new hymnal. I don't force my son to go to school, either. He can stay home every day if he wants to, stacking up the unexcused absences until he is expelled. It's his choice. Why should I take any responsibility for my son's poor choices? He's almost 13 years old, for goodness sake. What am I, his guardian?

It's a little disconcerting when someone from an apostolic church shrugs off the apostolic responsibility onto the flock so easily. But of course my analogy is flawed. It's not so much like my son refusing to go to school and getting expelled; it's more like his insisting on going to school and getting a good education while his teachers insist that he stay home and watch TV. Who would blame him if he decided to hire some African or Latin American teacher to come to his house and give him some real lessons? Knowing the educational establishment the way I do, I suspect that the local school board would object that these new teachers are not "certified", and they would make trouble for them and try to keep them from teaching in this district. At least Peter Lee has not done that--he has been rather accommodating of the orthodox believers, unlike some other bishops, who have ridiculed and blocked parishes that wanted to move under the auspices of conservative African or Latin American bishops.
Anglican rules and traditions prohibit bishops from crossing geographical boundaries to take control of churches or priests not in their territory. So Archbishop Akinola and his American allies have tried to bypass that by establishing a branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America. Archbishop Akinola has appointed Mr. Minns as his key “missionary bishop” to spread the gospel to Americans on his behalf.

Mr. Minns and other advocates of secession have suggested to the voters that the convocation arrangement has the blessing of the Anglican hierarchy. But on Friday, the Anglican Communion office in London issued a terse statement saying the convocation had not been granted “any official status within the communion’s structures, nor has the archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment.”
That would be bad for unity, after all. Better to whip those bad boys into shape and keep them in the fold until they get bishops that are properly "certified". In this case, "certification" means keeping your mouth shut even when your teachers are teaching you a load of crap. The unilateral actions of the progressives in the PECUSA has drawn the ire of folks throughout the communion, but for some reason its the conservatives who are arrogant and judgmental.

For more of my thoughts on this, here is a post contrasting Peter Lee with Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, my mentor in the faith.

Further Notes on Ampliative and Non-ampliative Inference

In a number of my previous posts I have drawn a distinction between ampliative and non-ampliative inferences. My purpose in doing so has been as part of a larger project to clarify, if only for myself, some of the details of the development of doctrine in the Church and how that development applies to such dogmata as that of the Trinity or the Filioque.

More recently, because of some postings by my friend Dr. Mike Liccione over at Sacramentum Vitae, there has been much combox activity from both Orthodox and Anglican readers regarding the precise nature of this claim that doctrine develops. This is a clarification of what I think is meant by the term.

Consider the following set of propositions.
1. If Bob went to the show, then Mary went to the show.
2. If Sally went shopping then Sarah went swimming.
3. Either Bob went to the show, or Sally went shopping.
I apologize in advance for the banality of the sample propositions here, but the semantic content is not as important as the logical structure at this point.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that propositions (1)-(3) are the beliefs of a certain group of people, call them the Bobheads. If someone were to ask us, "What are the principle beliefs of the Bobheads?", we could enumerate propositions (1)-(3). Could we, however, say that the Bobheads also believe this proposition:
4. Either Mary went to the show or Sally went swimming.
It might be tempting for someone to say: "No, you cannot impute that belief to the Bobheads, because it is not one of the propositions that they explicitly endorse in their list of beliefs. However, proposition (4) is a necessary consequence of beliefs (1)-(3). Logically, we can say that (4) is entailed by (1)-(3) by virtue of a rule of inference called "constructive dilemma": if propositions (1)-(3) are all of them true, then propositions (4) is necessarily true as well, and not just accidentally so, but because propositions (1)-(3) are true.

In this particular case it is rather easy to see the connection between propositions (1)-(3) and proposition (4). In other cases, however, the logical connection between a set of propositions and its entailments may not be so clear. The important point to note, however, is that proposition (4), although it says something that may appear to be a little different from what any of propositions (1)-(3) say individually, it does not, in fact, say anything the least bit different from what propositions (1)-(3) say collectively, that is, the information that is present in proposition (4) is not different from the information contained in propositions (1)-(3). This is precisely what guarantees the truth of the conclusion of a deductively sound argument. When the argument form is inductive rather than deductive, the information in the conclusion is actually new, and there is no guarantee that it is true even if all of the premises are true.

Inductions, then, are ampliative in the sense that they claim something above and beyond what the premises claim. Deductions, by contrast, are non-ampliative, because their conclusions do not state anything different from what the premises collectively tell us. Doctrine develops only deductively, not inductively hence, doctrine develops only in a non-ampliative manner.

In the case of the doctrine of the Trinity, for example, nobody who has actually read the New Testament with a critical and intelligent eye will claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is explicitly stated there in the way that the Bobheads' beliefs are explicitly stated in propositions (1)-(3). Rather, the doctrine, if it is in there at all, must be extracted by means of logical entailments of the sort that proposition (4) represents. Some of these entailments will be obvious, others less so. It is clear to everybody that God is One in Three; it is less clear that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son in the same way that he proceeds from the Father. Or rather, the logical entailment that necessitates the truth of that claim is not obvious to everybody.

An important worry that must be addressed in this connection is the following. What, precisely, is involved in saying that "I believe propostion p"? Must I be consciously aware of the semantic content of p in order to say that I believe p? For example, suppose you were to say to one of the Bobheads, "Oh, so you must think that Mary went to the show or Sarah went swimming." The Bobhead in question may very well say "No, I don't think either of those things happened." You might then say "But come on, you said that you do believe (1)-(3), so how could you not believe that either Mary went to the show or Sarah went swimming?" You might well say that. But the Bobhead might well look at you and say "I don't believe it because I only believe (1)-(3). Those are my beliefs. I don't have any others." If you are tempted to argue with the Bobhead, pointing out that (4) follows from (1)-(3), you might find yourself talking to a brick wall. If you have any doubts about whether people can refuse to believe things that they are logically committed to, try teaching a college student every now and then. Or really anybody: folks are remarkably irrational when it comes to acknowledging that they are logically committed to things that they may not see themselves as logically committed to.

And in fact it's not that obvious that they are being irrational anyway. I know what even numbers are, and I know what odd numbers are, and I know what prime numbers are. Do I also know the truth of the proposition "Every even number is the sum of two primes?" No, I don't, even though the truth or falsity of it is entailed by things that I do know--so how could I not know it? I just don't, because I have never bothered to trace out the proof (or refutation) of it. In fact nobody has, so nobody knows whether it's true or false, even though there are some great mathematicians out there who have worked on it, and presumably they have even more true beliefs about numbers than I do.

So it's quite possible for folks to be committed to believing things that they do not, in fact, consciously believe and that, indeed, they may consciously deny believing, and yet they are not necessarily being irrational. They merely need to find the proof or refutation and see the logic of the situation. That is what real ecumenical dialectic ought to be about.

If it really is true that, say, the Filioque as the West understands it follows from the truth of what both East and West believe, as St. Anselm holds, then eventually there will be agreement on the truth of that doctrine, and it will not be a new truth, but a discovered truth, not discovered in an ampliative sense, but discovered in a logical sense, in the sense that we now see how it follows of necessity from what we all agree to be true. Possibly we will find that it does not follow, or that it is contradicted. That would be bad from a Western point of view, and I don't think it possible, but it is certainly possible in other kinds of cases, and both sides need to be open to such possibilities.