Friday, 10 October 2008

Conflating finitude and falleness

Unlike Heidegger, Caputo speaks well of Aquinas and seems to be far less negative about the history of Western thought. That is why it is suprising that, like Heidegger, he also seems to conflate finitude and fallenness in some way. Thus he can say:

Grace perfects nature. As a Christian with an Aristotelian streak, Aquinas thought that our nature was wounded by sin but not that it was vitiated and corrupted all the way down and that we should fall back on faith in desperation. That particular idea broke out with a fury in the Reformation and it went back to Augustine, not to Aquinas. Aquinas thought that our senses and our rational faculties were made by God and they were capable of working very well, as is anything God has made, but that as natural and human faculties they were limited and imperfect, and this imperfection is made up for by grace, thanks be to God. (Philosophy and Theology 17, emphasis mine)
Caputo does not seem to know about the distinction between gratia sanans and gratia elevans. He does know about grace, but he thinks grace is needed only to make up for the natural imperfect and limitation of human faculties.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Wittgenstein, Newman and Lonergan again

I have just been browsing through the Kienzler article. My impressions: Kienzler's interpretation of Newman might leave much to be desired... He calls Newman an empiricist, a rationalist, and so on. If Lonergan's reading of Newman is right, he is no such thing!

But this is a large question of interpretation - a fine example of one's basic philosophical commitments radically interfering with one's understanding of an author... and a great case for the practice of the Functional Specialty dialectic... put all interpretations in line, find out the radically conflicting points, and reduce them to their roots in basic philosophical positions.

Despite that, Kienzler has done a great job.

Some good work in store for a Lonergan/Wittgenstein enthusiast?

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Lonergan on philosophy and theology

Lonergan uses three devices to help him describe the new relationship between philosophy and theology: the moving viewpoint, sublation, and the two vectors of human development.

The first device is predominant in Insight. It is exemplified within elementary arithmetic when new rules have to be found to handle negative numbers, fractions and surds: these rules are able to handle not only the old numbers but also the new. Again, it is exemplified in the shift from elementary arithmetic to algebra, and from Newton to Einstein: Einstein’s theories account for Newton’s laws as well as what those laws could not account for, so that the latter become a subset of the former (see Lonergan, CWL 17:410). The moving viewpoint is therefore not a logical device, for logic can only bring out the virtualities inherent in the initial set of premises, but the moving viewpoint is able to take into account emergent novelty, and it does so only by modifying the initial premises. Thus the shift from philosophy or the ‘purely humanist viewpoint’ to the viewpoint of faith and theology is a movement in the viewpoint: faith and theology go beyond philosophy without disturbing what is proper to philosophy.

The second device emerges in the post-Insight years: theology is an Aufhebung or sublation of philosophy. But Lonergan is quick to specify that Aufhebung here is to be taken in Rahner’s sense rather than Hegel’s. (This would have to be clarified with all the observations Lonergan makes about the difference between his own position and that of Hegel: Lonergan's position is intellectualist rather than conceptualist, non-necessitarian, etc.)

The third device emerges in the post-Method years. The first two devices indicate clearly that theology goes beyond while respecting the competence of philosophy (and here Lonergan is far clearer than Caputo). The third device, however, without denying such sublation, exemplifies the intricate and intimate relationship between philosophy and theology better than the first two – for in the concrete we are often at the vectorial intersection between faith and reason, between what is received and what is personally appropriated.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Newman and Wittgenstein (and Lonergan)

It does not seem to be very well known that, in the very first paragraph of his On Certainty, Wittgenstein mentions Newman: Dazu eine komische Bemerkung H. Newmans – On this a curious remark by H. Newman.

P.J. FitzPatrick has a small comment on this remark with the same title: “Dazu eine komische Bemerkung H. Newmans.” Wittgenstein and His Impact on Contemporary Thought: Proceedings of the Second International Wittgenstein Symposium, 29 August - 4 September 1977, Kirchberg / Wechsel, Austria, 2nd ed., Elizabeth Leinfellner and others, eds. (Holder-Pichler-Tempsky, 1989) 42-45.

The remark is curious. If, as FitzPatrick says, Wittgenstein’s position on certainty is similar to that of Newman, there arises the antecedent probability that it is also similar to that of Lonergan, who is supposed to have read the Grammar of Assent five or six times during his early philosophical studies, and who claimed to have transposed Newman from the commonsense to a more ‘systematic’ mode of writing and style of thought….

Curious indeed. Komisch, in fact. Matter for a little dissertation.

H. Danny Monsour of the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto, passed on to me the following reference: Wolfgang Kienzler, "Wittgenstein and John Henry Newman on Certainty," Grazer Philosophische Studien 71 (2006) 117-38. The abstract reads:

Wittgenstein read and admired the work of John Henry Newman. Evidence suggests that from 1946 until 1951 Newman's Grammar of Assent was probably the single most important external stimulus for Wittgenstein's thought. In important respects Wittgenstein's reactions to G. E. Moore follow hints already given by Newman.
More and more komisch.