Friday, 20 September 2013

A new Machiavelli book

Chris Patten. "Prince of Renaissance Realpolitik." Review of Philip Bobbitt, The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the world that he made. Atlantic Books. The Tablet (20 July 2013) 18.

Patten is far more positive in his approach to Machiavelli than anyone else I have read - but I must say I have read very little on Machiavelli: some pieces by Fred Lawrence, and recently that other review that seemed quite neutral. See Harvey C. Mansfield, Review of Corrado Vivanti's Niccolo' Machiavelli, Princeton, The Wall Street Journal (1 July 2013) 29, and my blog entry 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Edith Stein and Heidegger

One of our students, Minh Dang, has indicated to me some not so pleasant interactions between Edith Stein and Heidegger. See On Human Being: A Dispute between Edith Stein and Martin Heidegger
RafaƂ Kazimierz Wilk, at

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Scotus and Lonergan

Fred Lawrence's comments on Bill Russell's paper for the ILW4 (e-mail to me, 8 Sep 2013):
I did read William Russell's paper on the plane that night, and it became clear to me why you like him so much. The part about switching from confrontation to dialogue was extremely well taken, and the example of Edith Stein was terrific. The Scotus section was not particularly convincing, but his style is nevertheless captivating--clearly a brainy guy with that wonderfully fluent style of the well-educated British Isles person.
Scotus's page on politics is indeed prescient and and tantalizing, especially in Fr Russell's contextualized retelling. It certainly  complements Aquinas (the "unsubtle doctor") on politics as 'civilis conversatio.' Consensus populorum, however, is surely not a panacea, as Tocqueville's remarks on 'the tyranny of the majority' make clear, and as Habermas on 'manipulated public opinion' as exemplified by current U.S. politics makes manifest, and as Austria's plebiscitary majority proved as it welcomed Hitler's Anschluss with eager applause.
As far as efficient causality in Aquinas's account of the procession of the Verbum is concerned, doesn't the agent intellect's illumination of the phantasm in the process of inquiry exercise efficient causality in bringing about the actus  intelligendi in the possible or passive intellect? Then, as the act of understanding prescinds or abstracts from what is irrelevant to the definition to bring about the intelligible emanation (or procession), which is the sine qua non that differentiates the definition that is only memorized from a definition that is proposed because one has grasped something by understanding (intelligere) [or, in the case of  an sit questions, differentiates rash judgment from true or correct judgment, which latter proceeds because one has grasped the sufficiency of evidence] The key word in either case as stated is the BECAUSE. That's Aquinas's whole point, and the issue surrounds not just efficient causality as underlying the BECAUSE, but something else, which, if it is not present, does not make good sense of the analogy to explain the creed's "begotten not made."
Sorry to go on and on.  One thing's for sure: we need to have Bill Russell present at our next Jerusalem Workshop, inshallah!
My response to Fred:
I've just browsed through Bill's paper and your own comments on it.
A question to you about the politics. I grant all that you point out about the limitations of consensus populorum. But Bill's - and Scotus' - point is about the source of political authority: not ownership of land, but consensus. What, according to you, should that be, given the limitations you have pointed out in consensus? And: is there any currently existing form of government exemplifying that ideal source? 
About the cognitional question: my impression is that Bill is not questioning the active role of intellect in Aquinas. What he actually succeeds in doing is a sort of back-handed compliment to Lonergan. While questioning whether Lonergan's interpretation of Scotus is correct, he seems to, in my opinion, assimilate Scotus to Lonergan at least in some sense: he admits that intellect is active; and that understanding precedes concepts.
Whether then Scotus - or Bill - have anything further, more precise to say on the matter, is a different question. So I would ask Bill to distinguish:
  1. Lonergan's interpretation of Scotus.
  2. the 'correct' interpretation of Scotus. (What did Scotus really say?)
  3. Do I / Bill / whoever agree with what Scotus really said?
  1. What did Lonergan mean by conceptualism
  2. What do I have to say about conceptualism in that sense
  3. How do I explain the workings of the human mind, w.r.t. the quid sit and an sit questions...

Gispert-Sauch and Dupuis on Abhishiktananda

Just dipped randomly into an article by Gispert-Sauch about Abhishiktananda, and found some precious insights, which G-S takes, I think, from Dupuis: three questions, actually, for the Swamiji, and an appreciation:

1. Are not experience and expression related? Is not all experience related to nama-rupa, name and form? Is it true that names and forms are totally unable to disclose the Absolute? G-S answers: Sankara at any rate believed that they are able to do so, and notes that Sankara developed a philosophy of laksanartha. (This is nice! G-S is probably echoing / drawing upon De Smet here.) The Upanisads themselves offer a more positive relationship between experience and expression. (123-24)

2. Can the experience of Jesus be reduced to the Upanisadic Aham Brahma asmi? Is not the filial relationship inserted into Jesus' very experience of 'I am'? (124-25)

3. Has not the dialectical opposition between vyavaharika and paramarthika been overcome by the Easter experience of Jesus and the apostles? G-S calls this "an astonishing and metaphysically subversive" news. (125-26)

He ends with an appreciation of Dupuis that I find wonderful, because of the way it appreciates the Swamiji's 'living with tensions' or 'holding tensions together', something that Stephanie Saldana hinted at in her sharing at the recently concluded ILW4 at Jerusalem:
Abhishiktananda was unable to transcend these antinomies (between advaita and Christianity) theologically. It was not his calling to construct their synthesis, and he left this responsibility to other. His greatness is elsewhere: It consists in having lived within himself the symbiosis of two traditions, Hindu and Christian, in so real a way that both became part of himself, without his ever being able to reject or disown either. His stubborn fidelity to his two faiths - or better, as he wrote one day, to the 'two forms of a single "faith"' - make of him a prophetic figure in a time when the 'marriage of East and West', especially the encounter between the Christian mystery and Hindu mysticism - in full respect for their differences and without lurking ambiguity - is felt as an urgent need. His experience opens an important avenue towards a Christian theology of religious traditions that would be based on an existential encounter with these traditions in inter-religious dialogue. (J. Dupuis, Jesus Christ and the Encounter of World Religions [Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991] 90) [See G-S 126-27.]
G. Gispert-Sauch, "Christ and the Indian Mystical Tradition - Swami Abhishiktananda," Blossoms from the East: Contribution of the Indian Church to World Mission, ed. Joseph Mattam and Krickwin C. Marak, Fellowship of Indian Missiologists (FOIM) n. 6 (Mumbai: St Pauls, 1999) 123-127.

I am excited because Dupuis and G-S put very charitably something that I have heard and read De Smet saying about the Swamiji. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The passionateness of being and the craving for love

This morning, suddenly, at meditation, the startling realization about the connection between the passionateness of being and the craving for beauty and for love. Perhaps what Lonergan calls the passionateness of being is,  at least in some of its reaches and aspects, not different from the craving for beauty and for love. Fred Lawrence kept quoting Telly Savalas during the ILW4: "Who is it that love you baby?" We are all, all of us, searching for love.

There is, of course, the taint, the blight, the corruption, and when Robert Jordan in his Wheel of Time series talks about the taint on saidar (or is it saidin?), the male half of the Power, perhaps there is an allusion to this. Our craving for love is blighted, by possessiveness, the desire to own, to be, to eat, swallow up, engulf. Perhaps the underlying transcendental is unity, which, tainted, can become possessiveness, especially in the delicate area of interpersonal relationships. Food becomes me; another person cannot become me without qualification. But the craving is there: the desire to attain at least some, even if fleeting, moment of bliss.

I cannot help recalling Henrici's marvellous comments on Plato's ladder of beauty in The Symposium: a text that bears going back to. A seminal text.

And is not restlessness another name for the passionateness and the craving? The restlessness that Augustine spoke so well about and that he no doubt knew from personal experience. And I want to ask: "Are your hearts restless? Or are they perhaps at rest? And if they are at rest: where do they rest? In what do they rest? In whom do they rest? Perhaps you have reached God?"