Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Conformity to Good is True: C. S. Lewis and the Natural Law

THE SENSE THAT EMOTIONS OUGHT TO CORRESPOND TO REALITY, that the subjective world of an individual man should appropriately conform to the objective world around him, was, until fairly recently, regarded as a commonplace. Even such free-thinking neurotics such as Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) recognized the link, an umbilical cord as it were, between the objective and subjective worlds, and understood that human sensibilities were like an Aeolian lyre, which could be tuned through "internal adjustment" so that it could "accomodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them." Abolition, 16-17.[1]

C. S. Lewis also reaches back to the English poet Thomas Traherne (ca. 1636 - 1674), to the latter's Centuries of Meditations, for a literary anecdotal evidence that such congruence between objective world and subjective response was the foundation of virtue. "Can you be righteous," Traherene asks rhetorically--which itself is evidence of how common the belief was--"unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem?" Abolition, 15-16.[2]

The concept that is assumed and shared by both Shelley and Traherne has both Christian and Pagan roots, which is evidence of its fundamental humanness. It is shared by Saint Augustine, who, in his magnum opus De Civitate Dei (On the City of God), calls virtue ordo amoris, which is to say "the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it." Abolition, 16.[3] It is at the heart of the Greek notion of paideia (παιδεία), of education, when Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics states "that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought." Abolition, 16.[4]

Inculcating a proper correspondence between internal emotional states or affections and the objective order, especially among the youth, is central to the educational enterprise as traditionally understood. Through this sort of teaching, youth are trained to be predisposed to liking and not liking things in proportion to the objective fact of whether they are good or not good. The young man or woman then has a well-ordered predisposition to like what is good and dislike what is bad as a result of being taught the proper correspondence between objective world and a proper moral subjective response to it when he comes to the age of reason, "the age of reflective thought." If, instead of being properly ordered through proper training, this correspondence between objective order and affection is corrupted during youth's formative stage, it may be that the need for emotion to correspond justly to the objective world "will never be visible at all," and the young man or woman as he or she reaches adulthood will be unable to make progress in the science of Ethics. The moral world, the natural law, will be virtually foreclosed to him, or at least veiled from him, in whole or in part.

The Tao (道)

The wisdom of this insight is the inheritance of mankind. It is, for example, found in Plato, who in his Republic speaks specifically of the need to train the youth to appreciate the correspondence between the objective world and the subjective world of emotion, of passion, of affection.[5] It is, moreover, shared by the Hindu notion of Ṛta (ऋतं), which means something that is properly joined, a correspondence between a person and the truth, the real order, the pattern of the cosmos. As Lewis defines it, Ṛta is "that great ritual or patten of nature and supernature which is revealed alike in the cosmic order, the moral virtues, and the ceremonial of the temple. Righteousness, correctness, order, the Rta, is constantly identified with satya or truth, correspondence to reality." Abolition, 17. The same concept is comprehended by the notion of the Tao (道). What is the Tao or Dao?

It is the reality beyond all predicates, the abyss that was before the Creator Himself. It is Nature, it is the Way, the Road. It is the Way in which the universe goes on, the Way in which things everlastingly emerge, stilly and tranquilly, into space and time. It is also the Way which every man should tread in the imitation of that cosmic and supercosmic progression, conforming all activities to that great exemplar.

Abolition, 18. The notion of law as a correspondence to truth is also found among the revelation of the Jew. As an example of this, Lewis reaches into the Psalms, specifically Psalm 119(118):151, where the Law, God's commandments, his mitzvot (מִצְוֹתֶ), are venerated as truth, emeth (אֱמֶת).
You are near, O LORD, And all Your commandments are truth.

ἐγγὺς εἶ σύ κύριε καὶ πᾶσαι αἱ ἐντολαί σου ἀλήθεια

קָרֹוב אַתָּה יְהוָה וְכָל־מִצְוֹתֶיךָ אֱמֶת׃

Prope es tu Domine et omnia mandata tua veritas.
The Hebrew word used in the Psalm, אֱמֶת, or emeth--translated by the Septuagint as ἀλήθεια and by the Vulgate as veritas--means firmness, faithfulness, in short, truth. The Hebrew word connotes less a correspondence theory of truth, which is the connotation of the Hindu satya (सत्या), but instead emphasizes a reliability, firmness, trustworthiness, and permanence of truth. But the essential principle is the same, and and whether viewed as a correspondence or as firmness, the fundamental principle is shared among all great religions and philosophies of all time.
This conception in all its forms, Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and Oriental alike, I shall henceforth refer to for brevity simply as "the Tao". . . . It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true, and others really false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are. . . .
Abolition, 18.

Lewis's Tao is, in short, the concept that we have been advocating in this blog. It is the notion of the Eternal Law, and of man's particular participation in that Eternal Law, the Natural Law.

[1] Lewis quotes Shelley's In Defence of Poetry, Part I, ¶2, §§ 7, 8. The entire quote is:
§7 Man is an instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven, like the alternations of an ever-changing wind over an Æolian lyre; which move it, by their motion, to ever-changing melody. §8 But there is a principle within the human being and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise than in the lyre, and produces not melody alone, but harmony, by an internal adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite them. §9 It is as if the lyre could accomodate its chords to the motions of that which strikes them, in a determined proportion of sound; even as the musician can accomodate his voice to the sound of the lyre. §10 A child at play by itself will express its delight by its voice and motions; and every inflexion of tone and every gesture will bear exact relation to a corresponding antitype in the pleasurable impressions which awakened it; it will be the reflected image of that impression; and as the lyre trembles and sounds after the wind has died away, so the child seeks by prolonging in its voice and motions the duration of the effect, to prolong also a consciousness of the cause. §11 In relation to the objects which delight a child, these expressions are, what Poetry is to higher objects. §12 The savage (for the savage is to ages what the child is to years) expresses the emotions produced in him by surrounding objects in a similar manner; and language and gesture, together with plastic or pictorial imitation, become the image of the combined effect of those objects and of his apprehension of them. §13 Man in society, with all his passions and his pleasures, next becomes the object of the passions and pleasures of man; an additional class of emotions produces an augmented treasure of expressions, and language, gesture and the imitative arts become at once the representation and the medium, the pencil and the picture, the chisel and the statue, the chord and the harmony. §14 The social sympathies, or those laws from which as from its elements society results, begin to develope themselves from the moment that two human beings co-exist; the future is contained within the present as the plant within the seed; and equality, diversity, unity, contrast, mutual dependance become the principles alone capable of affording the motives according to which the will of a social being is determined to action, inasmuch as he is social; and constitute pleasure in sensation, virtue in sentiment, beauty in art, truth in reasoning, and love in the intercourse of kind. §15 Hence men, even in the infancy of society, observe a certain order in their words and actions, distinct from that of the objects and the impressions represented by them, all expression being subject to the laws of that from which it proceeds. §16 But let us dismiss those more general considerations which might involve an enquiry into the principles of society itself, and restrict our view to the manner in which the imagination is expressed upon its forms.

[2] Lewis quotes, in part, from Traherene's Centuries of Meditations, i.12. The entire section is as follows:
Can you be Holy without accomplishing the end for which you are created? Can you be Divine unless you be Holy? Can you accomplish the end for which you were created, unless you be Righteous? Can you then be Righteous, unless you be just in rendering to Things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours; and you were made to prize them according to their value: which is your office and duty, the end for which you were created, and the means whereby you enjoy. The end for which you were created, is that by prizing all that God hath done, you may enjoy yourself and Him in Blessedness.

[3] Lewis cites principally to De Civ. Dei, xv.22, but also to ix.5, and xi.28. Excerpts to the first citation is provided in the original Latin and in English (Marcus Dods, trans.) translation:
. . . . quemadmodum iustitia deserta et aurum amatur ab avaris, nullo peccato auri, sed hominis. Ita se habet omnis creatura. Cum enim bona sit, et bene amari potest et male: bene scilicet ordine custodito, male ordine perturbato. Quod in laude quadam cerei breviter versibus dixi: "Haec tua sunt, bona sunt, quia tu bonus ista creasti. Nihil nostrum est in eis, nisi quod peccamus amantes ordine neglecto pro te, quod conditur abs te." [Cf. Ant. lat.; cf. anche Laus Cerei (PL 46, 817)] Creator autem si veraciter ametur, hoc est si ipse, non aliud pro illo quod non est ipse, ametur, male amari non potest. Nam et amor ipse ordinate amandus est, quo bene amatur quod amandum est, ut sit in nobis virtus qua vivitur bene. Unde mihi videtur, quod definitio brevis et vera virtutis ordo est amoris; propter quod in sancto Cantico canticorum cantat sponsa Christi, civitas Dei: Ordinate in me caritatem. [Cant 2, 4.]

When the miser prefers his gold to justice, it is through no fault of the gold, but of the man; and so with every created thing. For though it be good, it may be loved with an evil as well as with a good love: it is loved rightly when it is loved ordinately; evilly, when inordinately. It is this which some one has briefly said in these verses in praise of the Creator: "These are Yours, they are good, because You are good who created them. There is in them nothing of ours, unless the sin we commit when we forget the order of things, and instead of You love that which You have made."

But if the Creator is truly loved, that is, if He Himself is loved and not another thing in His stead, He cannot be evilly loved; for love itself is to be ordinately loved, because we do well to love that which, when we love it, makes us live well and virtuously. So that it seems to me that it is a brief but true definition of virtue to say, it is the order of love; and on this account, in the Canticles, the bride of Christ, the city of God, sings, "Order love within me." Song of Songs 2:4

[4]Lewis quotes Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1104b. The reference in the Greek and in English translation (H. Rackham, trans.) is provided below:
περὶ ἡδονὰς γὰρ καὶ λύπας ἐστὶν ἡ ἠθικὴ ἀρετή: διὰ μὲν γὰρ τὴν ἡδονὴν τὰ φαῦλα πράττομεν, διὰ δὲ τὴν λύπην τῶν καλῶν ἀπεχόμεθα. διὸ δεῖ ἦχθαί πως εὐθὺς ἐκ νέων, ὡς ὁ Πλάτων φησίν, ὥστε χαίρειν τε καὶ λυπεῖσθαι οἷς δεῖ: ἡ γὰρ ὀρθὴ παιδεία αὕτη ἐστίν.

In fact pleasures and pains are the things with which moral virtue is concerned. For pleasure causes us to do base actions and pain cause us to abstain from doing noble actions. Hence the importance, as Plato points out, of having been definitely trained from childhood to like and dislike the proper things; this is what good education means.

[5] Lewis refers to Plato's Laws (653), and quotes rather loosely from Plato's Republic (401d-402a) which refers to the education of youth in music:
"In the Republic, the well-nurtured you is one 'who would see most clearly whatever was amiss in ill-made works of man or ill-grown works of nature, and with a just distaste would blame and hate the ugly even from his earliest years and would give delighted praise to beauty, receiving it into his soul and being nourished by it, so that he becomes a man of gentle heart. All this before he is of an age to reason; so that when Reason at length comes to him, then, bred as he has been, he will hold out his hands in welcome and recognize her because of the affinity he bears to her."
Abolition, 16-17. The principle with respect to education in music in the Republic is extended to education generally in the Laws. The heart of the Platonic text referred to by Lewis is the following:
γίγνοιτο καλός τε κἀγαθός, τὰ δ᾽ αἰσχρὰ ψέγοι τ᾽ ἂν ὀρθῶς καὶ μισοῖ ἔτι νέος ὤν, πρὶν λόγον δυνατὸς εἶναι λαβεῖν, ἐλθόντος δὲ τοῦ λόγου ἀσπάζοιτ᾽ ἂν αὐτὸν γνωρίζων δι᾽ οἰκειότητα μάλιστα ὁ οὕτω τραφείς.

The ugly he would rightly disapprove of and hate while still young and yet unable to apprehend the reason, but when reason came the man thus nurtured would be the first to give her welcome, for by this affinity he would know her.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The End of Man: C. S. Lewis and the Natural Law

FOR THE EIGHTEENTH AND NINETEENTH CENTURY Romantics, there was a world of difference between the beautiful and the sublime. These adjectives were descriptions of different, even mutually exclusive, aesthetic experiences a man or woman could have when confronting the marvels of natural landscape. Confrontation with an object of beauty elicited pleasing, agreeable feelings, and such feelings were the proper aesthetic reaction when confronted by an object with such characteristics as smoothness, neatness, symmetry, harmony, and orderliness. An object of sublimity, on the other hand, related to something obscure, dark, overwhelming, terrible, or majestic, usually large and overpowering, perhaps one that prescribed a sense of astonishment, awe, or horror, even danger in the observer. Something sublime elicited emotions of admiration, reverence, humility, and respect. In short, the beautiful was all form, whereas the sublime was largely formless. Beauty was within the comprehension of man; sublimity bespoke of something altogether beyond his intellectual or physical strength.[1] Beautiful landscapes were those characterized by quiet, gently-colored and harmonious scenes, whether of lakes, or fields, or forests, or rounded hills. It was the Arcadian, bucolic, pastoral scene that might be called beautiful. Sublime landscapes, on the other hand, would be those characterized by high cliffs, or dark craggy, erratic mountains and cliffs, the powerful waterfalls, and vast, boundless, limitless expanses.

The difference between the beautiful and the sublime appears to have been on everyone's mind in the 18th and 19th centuries, from the philosopher sitting on his desk, the budding politician, the explorer out in the wild, the tourist and the poet on an excursion.[2] Eventually, that distinction, altogether corrupted and confused, was to make it within the covers of the so-called Green Book,[3] a book on the English language that happened on the desk of C. S. Lewis, and that served as the foundation for a series of remarkable lectures on the natural moral law at King's College, Newcastle. These lectures, sponsored by the University of Durham as the Riddell Memorial Lectures, were held on February 24-26, 1943. Eventually, they were published in a book under the title The Abolition of Man. The book is considered a minor classic, and comes highly recommended by those who advance traditional morality and conservative cultural values.[4]

In the next few blog postings we will provide a series of reflections on C. S. Lewis's work The Abolition of Man.[5]

Lewis begins the Abolition of Man by noting how these authors of this popular text on language and literature (whom he calls Gaius and Titius) unwittingly destroy the sense of an objective world which should elicit particular emotional reactions from us, and from this it is a short order to subjectivism in morals. Rather, these contemporary Jacks and Joes, infected by modern subjectivism and relativism, completely fold together the objective world and the subjective world, both of which are realities, into one cloth of the subjective experience, thereby erasing in any real sense the notion of an objective world. The dangerous tendency is expressed in the context of the authors' handling the emotional reactions to things of beauty and things that are sublime in Coleridge's famed visit (with the Wordsworths) to the The Falls of Clyde, a series of waterfalls (or, in Scottish, "linn") on the River Clyde near New Lanark, South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The Falls of Clyde include the upper falls of Bonnington Linn, Corra Linn, Dundaff Linn, and the lower falls of Stonebyres Linn. The Corra Linn is the highest of the four linn, with a vertical fall of 90 feet.

The Falls of Clyde (Corra Linn) by Jacob More (1771)

As Lewis tells it:

In their second chapter Gaius and Titius quote the well-known story of Coleridge at the waterfall. You remember that there were two tourists present: that one called it "sublime" and the other "pretty"; and that Coleridge mentally endorsed the first judgement and rejected the second with disgust.

Abolition, 2. It is unclear to me whether C. S. Lewis recollected this incorrectly or whether the authors of the Green Book got it wrong (and I have not been able to access the original Green Book to make that determination), for it appears that Coleridge's problem is not that one tourist felt one way and that another tourist felt another about the Corra Linn, but that the same tourist purported to feel that the Corra Linn was both beautiful and sublime, something which was incongruous, even stupid and risible, if one knew the meaning of the terms.[6]

But the precise recollection of the incident at the Corra Linn is not important, at least not as important as the spin that Gaius and Titius put on the incident. What was objectionable to Lewis was the severance by the authors of the distinction between the objective and the subjective world, and the suggestion that all reality is feeling, all is subjective, that the subjective has no real ordering to the objective, and the further implication of what this means: that we cannot know reality, that there is no objective world to which we ought to conform or respond appropriately. The upshot of all this is ultimately to hold that there is nothing that is important since all is feeling.
Gaius and Titius comment as follows: "When the man said This is sublime, he appeared to be making a remark about the waterfall . . . Actually . . . he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings. What he was saying was really I have feelings associated in my mind with the word "Sublime", or shortly, I have sublime feelings. . . . This confusion is continually present in language as we use it. We appear to be saying something very important about something and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings."
Abolition, 2-3. Extend that manner of thinking about literary expression into the language of morals--and the language of literature is not that different from the language of morals--and you have a recipe for the destruction of man. And it was this concern that spurred C. S. Lewis to criticize the diseased view of the world that was contained in the green covers of this elementary textbook. It was, in his view, an indoctrination that was calculated to destroy children, to have them grow up to be "men without chests." And it is for this reason that Lewis quotes as an epigraph to the chapter the words from the traditional Christmas Carol that refer to Herod's slaying of the innocents: "So he [Herod] sent the word to slay / and he slew the little childer."[7] Lewis explains his worry:

The schoolboy who reads this passage in The Green Book will believe two propositions: firstly, that all sentences containing a predicate of value are statements about the emotional state of the speaker, and secondly, that all such statements are unimportant.

Abolition, 4.

This view of value, a moral theory of emotivism, of course, is execrable whether meant by the authors or whether the result of unintentional neglect or carelessness. What we have here is a sort of murder of the modern innocents' souls, a stifling of their natural want to know the objective truth, the truth about our world, about the natural moral law, and ultimately about God who created both.

Unwittingly, perhaps, but still every bit successfully, these elementary school educators destroy the heart in the developing child. The heart of the child is that instrument by which his emotion is ordered toward the objective world. Emotion, sentiment is not something against which man ought to be fortified as if it has, and cannot have, any relation to objective reality. Rather, what needs to be encouraged by the educator is the proper ordering of emotion and sentiment to the object. That is, emotion ought to have its roots in the objective, and the proper ordering of emotion and sentiment with the objective world is what education, especially in the young, should regard important.

The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles [of emotion] but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiment is to inculcate just sentiments. . . . For famished nature will be avenged and a hard hard is no infallible protection against a soft head.

Abolition, 14. The fundamental problem of the modern view which is espoused by Gaius and Titius is the severance of the linkage between reality and the internal or emotional life of man. Traditionally, there was understood to be a correspondence, a congruity, a measured and rational connection between the objective world and the internal human reaction to it. This correspondence appears to have been lost.
Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it--believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt. . . . [R]esponses could be more 'just' or 'ordinate' or 'appropriate' to it than others.
Abolition, 14-15. It was this belief that stood behind the reaction of Coleridge to the man who would have the Corra Linn to be both beautiful and sublime. The cataract before the tourist was sublime, and the proper emotional response to the sublime object in front of them were sentiments of awe, of humility, of reverence. To claim that an object before you was sublime was more than mere description of sentiment. It was, at the same time, "also claiming that the object was one which merited those emotions." Abolition, 15. It was this connection between the objective and subjective worlds that allowed Coleridge to be critical about the tourist's confused response to the Corra Linn. If only subjective states were involved, one could not criticize a man whose emotions failed to correspond adequately to the object before him. If the world is all subjective, there is no room for communicating about it. It would be like the tourist saying, "I feel sick," and Coleridge responding, "No, I feel quite well." There would no longer be the common link with the objective world that would allow common ground between men. The cosmos would no longer be our home, the room where we sup in common and toast to the sublimity and the beauty of God's creation. We would all be entrapped within the world of subjectivity, of relativity, of individuality, of narcissism. This is a world where we drink--toasting only to ourselves--the insipid drink of solipsism. We fall into a world where there is no such thing as beauty, as the sublime, there is only self, and in self only loneliness.

[1]The subject has been addressed by many literary critics and literary historians. One may point to the essay by Nicola Trott entitled "The Picturesque, the Beautiful, and the Sublime," in Duncan Wu, ed., A Companion to Romanticism (Oxford: Blackwell 2003), 72 ff.
[2]The efforts of philosopher's to distinguish between the two emotional states can be seen, for example, in Edmund Burke's youthful work A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful or in Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment, or even more directly in his 1764 work Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen). According to Kant's Critique of Judgment:
The beautiful in nature is a question of the form of the object, and this consists in limitation, whereas the sublime is to be found in an object even devoid of form, so far as it immediately involves, or else by its presence provokes, a representation of limitlessness, yet with a super-added thought of its totality. Accordingly the beautiful seems to be regarded as a presentation of an indeterminate concept of understanding, the sublime as a presentation of an indeterminate concept of reason.
Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgment (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1952), 90-91 (J. C. Meredith, trans.) The distinction was brought to the wilds in the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806). Merriwether Lewis, in his Journals, reflects on the difference between two waterfalls on the Missouri River, the Great Falls, which he had seen the day before, and the Beautiful Cascade (later renamed Rainbow Falls) ruing his lack of artistic or poetic ability to describe the two:
“I wished for the pencil of Salvator Rosa [i.e., Titian] or the pen of [James] Thomson [author of The Seasons], that I might be enabled to give to the enlightened world some just idea of this truly magnificent and sublimely grand object, which has from the commencement of time been concealed from the view of civilized man.”
The next day the expedition went upstream and there Lewis saw a second set of falls:
I now thought that if a skillful painter had been asked to make a beautiful cascade that he would most probably have presented the precise image of this one; nor could I for some time determine on which of those two great cataracts to bestow the palm, . . . at length I determined between these two rivals for glory that this was pleasingly beautiful, while the other was sublimely grand.
The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, (University of Nebraska Press, 1987), Vol. 4, 285-290. (Gary E. Moulton, ed.). More closely-related to C. S. Lewis reference is Coleridge, who himself reflected on these differences in his work Coleridge, "On the Principles of Genial Criticism" published in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal in August and September 1814: "There are few mental exertions more instructive, or which are capable of being rendered more entertaining, than the attempt to establish and exemplify the distinct meaning of terms, often confounded in common use, and considered as mere synonyms. Such are the words Agreeable, Beautiful, Picturesque, Grand, Sublime."
[3]The Green book referred to by C.S. Lewis is the book by Alec King and Martin Ketley,
The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing originally published by Longmans, Green, in 1939. He refers to the authors as "Gaius" and "Titius" which are used as monikers to refer to the typical "Joe" and "Jack" by Roman authors.
[4]For example, The Abolition of Man was placed 7th in National Review's 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century. It was placed 2nd in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's list of the 50 Greatest Books of the 20th Century. It was selected as one of the ten most important books a conservative ought to read in 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read by Benjamin Wiker (Washington, D.C.: Regnery 2010).
[5]C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), hereinafter referred to as "Abolition."
[6]The incident occurred on August 21, 1803, and is related by Dorothy Wordsworth (William Wordsworth's wife) in her Recollections of a Tour in Scotland, A.D. 1803:
The waterfall Cora Linn is composed of two falls, with a sloping space, which appears to be about twenty yards between, but is much more. The basin which receives the fall is enclosed by noble rocks, with trees, chiefly hazels, birch, and ash growing out of their sides whenever there is any hold for them; and a magnificent resting-place it is for such a river; I think more grand than the Falls themselves.

After having stayed some time, we returned by the same footpath into the main carriage-road, and soon came upon what William calls an ell-wide gravel walk, from which we had different views of the Linn. We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country, and saw a ruined tower, called Wallace's Tower, which stands at a very little distance from the fall, and is an interesting object.

A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. C[oleridge], who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with [a] gentleman, who observed that it was a "majestic waterfall." Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grant, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with Wm. [William Wordsworth] at some length the day before. "Yes, sir," says Coleridge, "it is a majestic waterfall." "Sublime and beautiful," replied his friend. Poor C. could make no answer, and not very desirous to continue the conversation, came to us and related the story, laughing heartily.
It was of these falls that William Wordsworth wrote his poem, "Composed at Cora Linn, in Sight of Wallace's Tower," where the sublimity of the falls and the sight of Wallace's Tower nearby blend into sublime sentiment of those who fight for freedom against tyranny: In part:
LORD of the vale! astounding Flood;
The dullest leaf in this thick wood
Quakes--conscious of thy power;
The caves reply with hollow moan;
And vibrates, to its central stone,
Yon time-cemented Tower!

And yet how fair the rural scene!
For thou, O Clyde, hast ever been
Beneficent as strong;
Pleased in refreshing dews to steep
The little trembling flowers that peep
Thy shelving rocks among.

Hence all who love their country, love
To look on thee--delight to rove
Where they thy voice can hear;
And, to the patriot-warrior's Shade,
Lord of the vale! to Heroes laid
In dust, that voice is dear!

Along thy banks, at dead of night
Sweeps visibly the Wallace Wight;
Or stands, in warlike vest,
Aloft, beneath the moon's pale beam,
A Champion worthy of the stream,
Yon grey tower's living crest!

But clouds and envious darkness hide
A Form not doubtfully descried:--
Their transient mission o'er,
O say to what blind region flee
These Shapes of awful phantasy?
To what untrodden shore?

Less than divine command they spurn;
But this we from the mountains learn,
And this the valleys show;
That never will they deign to hold
Communion where the heart is cold
To human weal and woe.

. . . .

[7]The carol referred to by Lewis as the epigraph to his first chapter is "Unto Us is Born a Son," a translation of the Latin hymn Puer Nobis Nascitur. See the web page The Hymns and Carols of Christmas.
Unto us is born a Son,
King of Quires supernal:
See on earth His life begun,
Of lords the Lord eternal,
Of lords the Lord eternal.

Christ, from heav'n descending low
Comes on earth a stranger;
Ox and ass their owner know,
Be cradled in the manger,
Be cradled in the manger.

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer,
And slew the little childer.

Of His love and mercy mild
This the Christmas story;
And O that Mary's gentle child
Might lead us up to glory!
Might lead us up to glory!

O and A, and A and O,
Cum cantibus in choro,
Let our merry organ go,
Benedicamus Domino.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Being and the Natural Law: Inclinations

INCLINATIONS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THOMISTIC understanding of the natural law. In St. Thomas's responsio in q. 94, art. 2 in the IaIIae of his Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas speaks of a sort of tripartite natural inclination in man and of an "order of natural inclinations" which informs the "order of the precepts of the natural law." Secundum igitur ordinem inclinationum naturalium, est ordo praeceptorum legis naturae. (Iª-IIae q. 94 a. 2 co.)

There is some controversy on what exactly these inclinations are, and whether they incline before or after "contact" with human nature. Are these inclinations something only formal, do they have to do only with the ratio boni in its most abstract form, in the order of the transcendental? And do they become "enfleshed" only upon contact with human nature? Or are these inclinations already informed by human nature when they come to us? Are the inclinations already "enfleshed" as it were and particularized in a manner so that they are something more than mere formal inclinations? Dr. Knasas believes the latter. In his view, by the time we encounter the natural moral law in the form of its first inclinations we have already encountered ourselves and our fellow man as "intellectors of being as the good." The ratio boni then has already been through the process of enfleshment, of humanization. "A consideration of human nature has been going on extensively already" before we get to the order of inclinations.

[T]he natural inclinations correspond to further confrontations of practical reason with humans as heightened presentations of the ratio boni. Human experience involves various epiphanies of this object. Around these epiphanies form injunctions of practical reason. These injunctions incline us. Hence, when Aquinas remarks that 'those things to which man has natural inclination are naturally apprehended by reason as being good and so as objects of pursuit,' he does not mean that the natural inclinations invest these things with the appearance of being good.

What, then does St. Thomas mean? Do inclinations inform us what is good? Or does the good inform the inclinations? Which is first, the inclination or the good? Does the inclination incline to the good? Or is it the good which draws the inclination toward it? For Dr. Knasas the answer is obvious: the good precedes the inclinations:
[I]t is because things are first apprehended as good that one has natural inclinations to them. In other words, the inclinations form in the wake of the apprehension of good; the apprehension of goods does not form in the wake of the natural inclinations.
This is not, Dr. Knasas, notes the view of most Thomists. Most contemporary Thomists or neo-Thomists appear to start the moral life of man with a very "formalistic or empty, hence uninspiring" notion of the good of the first principle. The strain of music that hits our inner ear, our synderesis, in the fundamental chant that "good ought to be done" is insipid, ethereal, formal, not yet sung by human voices. Dr. Knasas disagrees with this view. He suggests the strain of music that hits our inner ear of synderesis with the fundamental moral chant that "good ought to be done" is already sung with human voices. It is not the voice of God we hear. It is the voice of God in man we hear. So the good is already touched by human nature by the time we are inclined to it. We are already aware of ourselves and our fellows as "intellectors of being" and "willers of good" by the time the inclinations come around to draw us to them as the begining of the moral life. The inclinations we have for self-preservation, for procreation, for social and political life, for God himself are already aware of our fellow man as an "intellector of being" and "willer of good." In distinction with the brute animals who have inclinations toward self-preservation and procreation, man's inclinations have already been stamped with the uniqueness that comes from being human. That is why, for example, the act of sexual union is for man already fully informed by the dignity that comes with being an intellector of being and willer of the good. Casual sex, or sex without commitment, is already abusive of the special dignity we have and the special dignity our coupling partner has. We assault the fundamental ratio entis and ratio boni, which is in us in a much more splendid way than in the rest of creation, when we treat the encounter between to intellectors of being and willers of good in such a casual way. We abuse being, we abuse good by treating sexual congress so flippantly.

Here, alas, we ran out of time, and we were unfortunately deprived of Dr. Knasas's insights with respect to the inclinations of man to the social life and to belief in God. We were also unable to get into the role of secondary and tertiary precepts of the natural law, and notions of intrinsic and extrinsic variability in the precepts of natural law. Perhaps he can be re-invited?

It is manifest that Dr. Knasas is hounded by the beauty of being and its rich meaning in both our intellectual life and our moral life. His insights were valuable, and his enthusiasm catching. Our prayer is that we may all be as "slain by being" as Dr. Knasas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Being and Natural Law: Moral Obligation

AS WE DISCUSSED IN OUR PRIOR POST, man is determined, is under an intrinsic compulsion, to seek the universal good, but has freedom in choosing particular goods. In looking about him, man, who is but one analogate of the analogon of being and the analogon of the good, is himself but a particular good among particular goods. He observes, however, that there are some particular goods, some analogates of being, namely himself and his fellow men and women, that participate in being, and hence in the good, in a more remarkable way. In humans "being has a voice," and good is sought in freedom. In these analogates of being, being and good is capable of being intellected, appreciated, held inside, and shown outside, and communicated with in a more particular way. Being and good is intellectually present in one's self and in one's fellow men in a manner in which no other particular goods--animal, vegetable, or mineral, or other tangible or intangible good--participates. This awareness--that we ourselves and our fellow man with us are "intellectors of good," what Dr. Knasas referred to as the phenomenon of seeing men as "epiphanies of being"*--immediately imposes a sense of obligation, a constraint or felt necessity, that these particular goods ought to be treated in a manner differently than those particular goods that are not "intellectors of good," but merely participate passively, as it were, in the good.

Because being as the good is intellectually present in a human, a human is a special analogate of being as the good. In the human, being as the good burns more brightly than it does in analogates like animals, plants, and miners. . . . Does it not make a world of difference in our estimation of the human? Does not the fact of the heightened intellectual presence of being as the good in our fellows issue to our freedom a command of respect and solicitude? . . . . This command is the initial appearance of obligation, moral necessity.

The awareness that as "intellectors of being as good" we carry in ourselves this light of being in a special way is what imposes, then, the obligations to cherish ourselves, and the equal obligation to cherish the other. Love your neighbor as yourself becomes the fundamental norm. Love your fellow "intellector of being" as you love yourself inasmuch as you also are an "intellector of being." To strike at oneself--to commit suicide, engage in self-mutilation, abuse oneself--is immediately enjoined. To strike at others, to murder them or to assault them, to abuse them is likewise an apparent injunction. For any assault on the special presence of being in these particular goods we call humans is unseemly. This is the "grand fact" that is the source of moral "oughtness," that men are intellectors of being as the good, and that they deserve a greater solicitude and respect, that is a moral response, than those who do not participate in being and good in the same intimate way.

So to summarize: we have advanced, from the real, to the intellection of the real, to analogical thinking, to an awareness of being and the good--the ratio entis and the ratio boni--to the awareness of their equivalency, to an understanding of an intrinsic compulsory thirst for being and the good which manifests itself in an awareness that we have freedom to chose those particular goods about us, and in the exercise of that freedom we come to see that certain particular goods, namely ourselves and our fellow human beings, share in being as good, in the ratio entis and the ratio boni, in an especial way, and that this demands from us an obligatory response of respect, of solicitude, of care. From reality itself we have thus walked step by step to the threshold of moral obligation. From "is" we have come to "ought" via being and its equivalency with good through a path that Hume never sought to travel as he wallowed in his skepticism. The cause for oughtness is to be found then in reality itself, in the ratio entis and the ratio boni and the ratio veri, which is at the heart of all that is, all that is good, and all that is true, and in the fact that we as men participate in being, the good, and the true in a special way from the rest of the analogates of being.

With this background, Dr. Knasas delved into article 94, q. 2 of the IaIIae of St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae. In the moral quest, like in the intellectual quest, we have to begin from somewhere. There is not infinite regress in the journey: there has to be a place from where we take leave. These are the self-evident principles, the principia per se nota. As St. Thomas explains something is self-evident in two ways or modes. First, it may be self evident in itself (secundum se), or it may be self-evident in a subjective sense (quoad nos). In other words, a proposition may in fact be self-evident without someone knowing it or recognizing it. A man may not see the self-evident because he is unlearned (or badly educated).

The reason for this is that a self-evident principle exists when the predicate is contained in the notion of the subject, so that when I say X=Y is a self-evident principle, the Y is already contained in the X in some manner (without being merely tautological). We have, therefore, to know the definition of the subject, of X, before we can see the self-evident nature of the proposition. If we do not know the definition of the subject, of X, or if we do not know the meaning of Y, we will fail to see the self-evident nature of the proposition.

Some principles are so obvious that they are self-evident to all. These are propositiones quarum termini sunt omnibus noti, propositions whose terms everyone recognizes as self-evident. There are, of course, a handful of such self-evident propositions which are often restatements or necessary corollaries of others, including the principle of being or existence ("being is"), the principle of identity ("whatever is, is"), the principle of excluded middle ("something either is or is not, but not both," or "there is no middle ground between being and non-being"), the principle of non-contradiction ("nothing can be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect," or "being as necessarily contradictory to non-being"), the principle of difference ("that which is is not that which is not, and that which is not cannot be identified with that which is"), the principle of sufficient reason ("everything which is possesses a sufficient reason for its existence"), the principle of causality ("non-being cannot cause being" or "nothing comes from nothing"), the principle efficient causality ("every effect must have a cause"), the principle of finality ("every agent acts for an end"), and so forth. As examples of these universally-held self-evident principles, St. Thomas cites two of Euclid's five principles or common notions ("things equal to one another and the same are equal to one another") and ("every whole is greater than its part").

There is a certain order in which we grasp these universally self-evident principles, as if one foot goes before the other. We first apprehend being, that transcendental--the analogon whose analogates includes all things. And from this we take the second step that being is not equivalent to non-being, and from here all other of the universally self-evident principles of the speculative or theoretical intellect are based. From here we start walking syllogistically.

What occurs with the speculative or theoretical intellect--which seeks being as truth--occurs in an analogous fashion in the practical intellect--which seeks being as the good and is directed to action. With the practical intellect we first apprehend that transcendental the good, and this leads to that second step which is that good is that which all things seek after. And from this comes the first precept of law: good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided (bonum est faciendum et prosequendum, et malum vitandum). This principle, that good is to be done and pursued and evil is to be avoided, is the foundation upon which the natural law rests. In contrast with the first principle of speculative reason, the first principle of practical reason is a command, an imperative: good ought to be done, should be done, must be done. From here, analogous to the speculative intellect, we begin our syllogistic journey into the realm of morality and ethics.

The need for such self-evident principles of speculative reason and of practical reason are obvious:

[T]o avoid debilitating infinite regress [in thought], we come to the realization that we know some reasons not because they are themselves demonstrated but because they are just obviously true.

The self-evident principles, however, are not given us a priori. The self-evident principles themselves are built upon reality, a reality which impresses itself upon our mind through the senses. These principles are obtained by man a posteriori, though they exist in reality which is a priori to us. These principles are objectively outside of us in the real, and through the senses and our process of intellection and apprehension of being we grasp them as being part of the real. This is fundamental to the realist view, and it is what distinguishes the self-evident principles in Thomistic realism from the self-evident principles arising out of the positivism of someone like A. J. Ayer**:
[I]n back of self-evident propositions as a basis for reasoning lies the previously noted*** capacity of the intellect to apprehend commonalities in the real things provided by sensation. . . . For [A. J.] Ayer, self-evident propositions do not express the way reality is. They express only how we want our words to be used. In other words, behind a self-evident proposition, Ayer does not see an intellectual insight into the real, but [rather he sees] a human decision that is basically arbitrary.
Dr. Knasas explored the link between the first principle of speculative reason and the first principle of practical reason. The first principles have an intimate relationship to their respective analagons. The first principle of speculative reason is based upon the "steadfastness" nature of being. That "steadfastness" is communicated to each analogate of the analogon of being. Our perception of this leads to the first principle of speculative reason: being is being, and excludes non-being: a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.

There is a similar intimate relationship between the first principle of practical reason and its respective analogon, the good (bonum). Instead of "steadfastness," which is the central feature of being, we have "desirability" as the central aspect of the good. This "desirability" is what fees the first principle of practical reason: good ought to be done, and its opposite avoided. There is thus an intimate relationship between the characteristic feature of the analogon and the respective first principle.

As an aside, St. Thomas does not equate being with the good in article 94 of the IaIIae of the Summa Theologiae. But the equivalency is found elsewhere in the Summa, specifically in Ia, q. 5, arts. 1-3. St. Thomas is forthright: Every being, as being, is good (ens, inquantum est ens, est bonum) (Iª q. 5 a. 3 co.)

The issue is not so neat, however. For a principle to be self-evident, the predicate must in some manner exist in the subject. If the first principle of practical reason is that good ought to be done and its opposite avoided, how is it that the "oughtness" is contained in the notion of the "good"? Oughtness is not compulsion. Oughtness is not untrammeled freedom. Oughtness is obligation within freedom.

If "the good" in the first principle of practical reason is understood as the transcendental good, then it does not seem to lead to moral obligation. The reason for this is that one is not free to reject the transcendental good. The will, as we mentioned earlier in this posting, is captured in "automatic rush of appetite," an "initial eruption of the will," an "engendered volitional dynamism," as so compelled to seek the good. "There is no moral necessity here because there is no freedom." There is no moral necessity because there is necessity pure and simple. "The will acts automatically." Obviously this cannot be the source of the first principle of practical reason: there cannot be any "oughtness" if one is compelled and there is no freedom.

On the other hand, if "the good" in the first principle of practical reason is understood as particular goods--that is the analogates of the analogon "the good" as instantiated all its diversity and particularity--then there is similarly no moral obligation, although for exactly the opposite reason. Here, there is nothing to distinguish between one particular good and another. There is nothing but absolute freedom, and no oughtness that might impinge upon our arbitrary freedom. We are, as it were, in a Baskin Robbins free to choose whatever we will, and de gustibus non est disputandum. We are outside the realm of ought.

So where is it between "necessary volition" (a curious oxymoron) and "raw freedom" that we find oughtness? Here we have to go back to Thomistic epistemology. We have to go back to things. The question we must ask is: "In what things do we perceive the good so that the obligation arises?" It is in those things that are "intellectors and willers of the good."

Among all the analogates of the good, intellectors and willers have the analogon in an especially intense manner. Before such instances we are free undoubtedly, but we are also morally constrained. In humans, the ratio boni burns more brightly that it does in other instances . . . Can that fact leave us unconstrained?

Man stands midway between "the good" simpliciter, transcendentally, and "the good" in its most diverse particularity. Man shares in the particular, but man also touches, incarnates in a manner of speaking the universal good in a unique way. There is a spark of "the good" in him that is found in no other particular good, and so, like the man whom we confront who straddles the universal and the particular, we straddle between absolute freedom and absolute determinism. Right smack dab in the middle is the compulsion in freedom, the oughtness in liberty, that is the very definition of morality. So when we say that good ought to be done and evil avoided, the "good" in that first principle "is the ratio boni as specifically in the human instance."

All this discussion seems esoteric, hardly the type of thinking that the typical man-on-the-street engages in. But what we have described is a process that is virtually automatic and natural in us, so naturally do we engage in it that it is virtually "hidden in the human psyche," though it produces "conscious effects." The reality of the process that is dissected by the philosopher is evidenced by shadowy notions of our dignity, by the fellow-feeling we have for our fellow man, by our ability to visualize ourselves apart from the world and yet realize that somehow "human relations run by special rules," special rules that are part of reality, a reality of which we are part, which we have not made, but which we discover.

The source of these "half-conscious realization about special rules and human relations" is what St. Thomas Aquinas calls "synderesis." For Aquinas, synderesis is the habitual possession of the first principles of practical reason. But this habitual possession is not something a priori, but like all Thomistic thought it is based upon his a posteriori epistemology. The ratio entis as well as the ratio boni result from abstraction derived from sensible things, from our contact with reality. The natural law, the moral law, is something that is in some way external to us, outside of us, and beyond us, which impresses upon us through the senses, and which, through our habitual possession of by synderesis, becomes most internalized so that it also becomes our law. There is a fit between the law outside and the law inside, and the law outside, which is real, informs the law inside us, which is an accurate and correct reflection or copy as it were of what is outside us. The natural moral law is unquestionably real. To reject the natural moral law is to fall into the abyss of the unreal.

*There is an interesting overlap between this concept of seeing men as "epiphanies of being" and W. H. Auden's "epiphany" that he described in his poem "Law Like Love" and "A Summer Night." See "Law Like Love" The Timid Analogy. What W. H. Auden described poetically, Dr. Knasas has sought to explain philosophically.
**Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-1989), a British philosopher associated with the British humanist movement, who advanced logical positivism in such books as Language, Truth, and Logic (1936) and The Problem of Knowledge (1956).
***Dr. Knasas adverts to the epistemological or metaphysical basis of our knowledge, which we discussed in our postings on his lectures entitled Being and Natural Law: Tarantulas and other Nightmares, Being and Natural Law: The Bent Twig and Epistemology, and Being and Natural law: On Vilnius and Kaunas and Koufax and Mays.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Being and Natural Law: The Good or Ratio Boni

IS BEING GOOD? Some philosophers object to characterizing being as good. Their argument goes something like this. Since the analogon of being must include within it all of the analogates, their sameness and their dissimilarity, then it must also include their imperfections and defects. These latter also are within the great global transcendental analogical concept of being. Since the analogon of "being" contains the imperfections and defects in the analogates that compose it, it seems to follow that being cannot be good simpliciter. Being and good are not synonymous, it would appear.

But in fact this is not the case. The objection is based upon the failure to see that evil--imperfection, defects in the analogates--do not directly arise from being, but arise only indirectly. "Directly speaking only integral and whole analogates arise from being." The evil that arises occurs "later when these integral analogates accidentally clash." The clash between analogates--say the attack of a tiger on a man, the attack of one being upon another--is a clash within the level of the analogates. It is not a clash that reaches upwards, as it were, to the level of the analogon. It is a local dispute, not a universal dispute.* This same clash which occurs between analogates can also arise within an analogate. (The clash "within" an analogate within the analogon of being must also be understood to be a clash "between" analogates, analogates within an analogate, since our sensitive nature is an analogate of "being" and our intellectual nature is likewise an analogate of "being".) Therefore, the Pauline struggle between his natures** is a clash between analogates, and is not a clash that rises up, as it were, to the analogon and impugns the good of being.

What this means, then is that being and the good are equivalent. Being is identified with the good. The good is identified with being. There is no being that is not good qua being. There is no good that is not being. Not only is man an "intellector of being," but, because being and good are desirable, he is also a "willer of the good."

The identification of being with good provides the basis for moral obligation or moral necessity in Dr. Knasas's view. There is a three-linked chain between the identification of being with the good--the ratio entis = ratio boni--and the sense of moral obligation or felt necessity.

The first link is the intrinsic desire for the good that is engendered in us, and the expression of it, ordered or disordered, through particular goods. In choosing particular goods as expression of the intrinsic desire toward "the good," we also learn about freedom, our freedom to chose particular goods. Though we have have freedom to chose particular goods under the light of the good, we do not have the freedom, we remained determined, to chose, seek, and desire the universal good. We choose the particular good freely, though it is under the auspices as it were of the necessary choice for the universal good. The second link is therefore freedom to chose particular goods. All our choices as to particular goods are chosen under the aspect that they will somehow yield us "the good." All particular goods we desire and seek, even those that are chosen or sought in a disordered way and hence evil under the circumstances, are chosen as apparent or seeming goods under the in-built desire in us, a desire we cannot shed, for "the good." The third link will be the source of moral obligation, and that is the awareness that man shares, in a particularly forceful, superior, and unique way, in being and the good, that is, he is a sharer par excellence in these transcendentals. As a particular good, therefore, man is superior to all other particular goods, because he shares in a more noble way in being and in the good, since, contrary to all being and all good that is below man--the brute animals, vegetative life, and lesser things--man is both an "intellector of being" and a "willer of good." It is this dignity, the recognition of this dignity within us and others, that is the last link in the chain which takes us out of freedom in choosing particular goods, to the realm of moral obligation, to moral necessity, a necessity borne in freedom, that urges us to choose one particular good over another particular good as being right.

Going back to the first link in the chain of moral obligation, we may develop it as follows. The identification of being with good occurs in man as "an automatic abstraction of the intellect," one that "can go unnoticed and lurk in the depths of our conscious life." It is intrinsically in man, and we need not be philosophers implicitly to know that good and being are interchangeable. When confronting being as good, therefore, there is an "automatic rush of appetite," an "initial eruption of the will," an "engendered volitional dynamism," a desire for all being and all good, one that "is the source of all specifically human desire," which represents the human "heart's deepest longing."*** This implicit sense of being is why even the most unphilosophical of men would understand the first principle of speculative reason: the principle of contradiction--that something cannot be and not be at the same time and in the same respect. This implicit sense of the good is also something that wells up in us, whether we are conscious of it or not, and so we can understand without being philosophical or introspective the first principle of practical reason--that one should do good and avoid evil. "By explicating being as a transcendental analogon, the philosopher merely explicates an abstractum that the intellect of every human person automatically takes from the real things presented by sensation." In other words, philosophers express the reality that is already impressed in all of us.

We necessarily tend, therefore, to the universal good--the good. Our hearts, our being is hardwired, as it were, to seek the good. But though, in fact because, the will tends invariably towards the universal good, it does not tend invariably toward particular goods. Hence, the fact that our will is determined to seek the universal good is what frees us in our choices of particular goods. The fact that we are forced to be on the road to being, the road to the good, is what allows us to visit the inns of particular goods on either side of the way.
Aquinas explains that since the will necessarily tends to the universal or perfect good, then before any particular or finite good, the will does not necessarily tend. . . . Poised before beings seen in the light of the good, the will is indeterminate or free. As individual goods, existing things can be will; but as individual goods, existing things need not be willed.
It is therefore the good that precedes our inclination to the good, and not vice versa. The good is not obtained from our inclinations. Our inclinations are a response to the reality of the good that precedes us, that is there before our inclinations. Our inclinations conform to the good.

From the universal desire for the universal good, to the awareness that this desire for the universal good allows us freedom in choosing the particular good, we come to the threshold of the basis for moral obligation. Moral obligation may be described as the moral necessity in the face of freedom in choosing particular goods, within the metaphysical necessity of choosing the universal good. From hard necessity into freedom back into a soft necessity. This is the manner in which the chain of moral obligation progresses. That last link in the chain will be the subject of our next blog posting.
*This raises interesting issues for theodicy, the existence of (and even definition of) evil, and the providence of God. Dr. Knasas only hinted at such things as quandoque or "sometime" evils, evils which must arise in a material world which cannot be perfectly arranged and where free radicals therefore exist. He also spoke about whether there is evil when a superior analogate clashes with an inferior analogate (man kills a tiger) or only when an inferior analogate clashes with a superior (tiger kills man). Analogously, the higher aspect of man (his soul) clashes with his lower aspect (passion), and there is no evil done when the higher overcomes the lower (reason overcomes passion). Evil only happens when the lower overcomes the higher (passion overcomes reason). What is God's role in all this? Does God permit such quandoque evils so that an antecedent good may be done? Does God allow such quandoque evils so that a consequent good may be derived from it? Obviously, these issues were beyond the purview of Dr. Knasas's lectures.
**"I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me. For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin." (Romans 7:21-25)
***When this "automatic rush of appetite," this "initial eruption of the will," this "engendered volitional dynamism," focuses on the particular instead of being or the good in general, dissatisfaction is invariably the result. Even when we choose a particular good well and our ordered desire is satiated, it is never fully satiated; it leaves a longing for more, a sense that "the good" has not been obtained. When we choose a particular good and our desire is disordered, the lack of satiation, this ennui, is even more apparent, as not only do we feel that we have not reached "the good," we sense that we have departed from the path to it, as such a fulfilled disordered desire leaves a bitter aftertaste.
What we thought would satisfy us leaves us wanting for more. What was the apple of our eye shrivels to one good among others. Do not these experiences indicate that fundamental to human consciousness is a grasp of perfect good against which things eventually proportion themselves as only particular goods?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Being and Natural Law: Being and Ratio Entis

IN PRIOR POSTINGS WE HAVE DISCUSSED the issue of analogical thinking and the concept of analogon and analogates. We used the examples of analogons of "charming cities," of "great ball players," and "holiness" and "law." The first two were examples of analogy of proportion. The latter two of analogies of proportionality. It is clear that these analogons have limited analogates. The analogon of "charming cities," for example, would probably not include Al-Fashir, the capital of city of North Darfur in the Sudan. The analogon of "great ball players" does not include most of us. The analogon of saints does not include the vicious or the unbeliever. The analogon of Law does not include the unjust law.

Some analogons, however, are distinctive because they include all things. These analogons have everything as their analogates. These analogons are known as the Transcendentals. Being, Unity, the True, and the Good are such transcendental analogons.

The transcendentals are what is behind the intellectual and moral life of man. Dr. Knasas focused on the analogon of being, on the ratio entis, before going to the analogon of the good, the ratio boni. The analogon of being has to be a transcendental, and has to embrace all things and all their differences, because if it did not include the differences in things, if the differences were somehow excluded from the analogon, then "the differences would reduce themselves to non-being," and this would mean that the differences were not real things, and being is "one undifferentiated thing." For the differences to be real--for them to have being--they need to be included in the analagon of being. Differences in things, then, are included within the ratio entis. This would include all substances, all accidents.

The Good Samaritan (1849) by Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
The Good Samaritan Recognized His Neighbor as
Fellow "Intellector of Being" and "Willer of Good"

Knowledge of transcendentals is, in a manner of speaking, "useless" knowledge as Maritain called it. It is "useless" because it is not the kind of knowledge that yields any material boon. It is not the Baconian type of scientific knowledge expressed in his Meditationes Sacrae, wherein "knowledge is power," scientia potentia est.It is not the knowledge of American pragmatism. We cannot put this knowledge to work in any practical way, and so it is not likely that William James would have embraced the importance of the transcendentals. It is knowledge for knowledge's own sake; it is knowledge whose very value is having it. It is the knowledge that Socrates referred to when he said that the unexamined life is not worth living, ὁ δὲ ἀνεξέταστος βίος οὐ βιωτὸς ἀνθρώπῳ (Apology, 38a). It is this knowledge that, in particular, enriches human life: crescat scientia, vita excolatur. The pursuit of being, the value of pursuing knowledge of the transcendentals, is only known by those who Dr. Knasas said are "slain by being." To some extent, we are wired for it. Therefore, the man who frustrates his wife by his attraction to baseball is perhaps trying to understand the analogon "great ball players." He has misdirected the natural desire to understand the greatest of all analogons, the transcendentals. The pursuit of the knowledge of the one, being, of the good, of the true is a pursuit that, though "useless," is never wasted.

To intellectually apprehend being is to experience an earthquake in one's intellectual life. Thereafter one is not the same. Everything becomes of interest, because every thing in its uniqueness gives one another look at the ratio entis. . . . Jacques Maritain wrote most passionately of the intellectual perception of being. Maritain called it the intuition of being, l'intuition de l'être.

This intuition of being that is in man is his unique characteristic. Because of the intuition of being, we are "intellectors of being." No other animal appears to have this intuition, and it is the fundamental ability to be "intellectors of being" that characterizes us as a rational animal, a ζῷον λογικόν. It is also what makes us a ζῷον πολιτικόν φιλάλληλον, a political and philanthropic animal. Ultimately, we recognize not only that "I" am an "intellector of being," and that I therefore have a dignity above other beings, one that demands a moral response (love yourself). But my recognition that others of my kind are also "intellectors of being" demands a moral response to them (love your neighbor as yourself). It is the fact that we recognize that we are "intellectors of being" that is, in Dr. Knasas's view, the source of moral obligation.

But that begins to take us to the notion of the good, the ratio boni, which is a matter we will reserve for our next posting on Dr. Knasas's lectures.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Being and Natural Law: On Vilnius and Kaunas and Koufax and Mays

IN TRYING TO GRASP AT THE SOURCE for the moral imperative, the "oughtness" or the obligation-in-freedom that humans sense, Dr. Knasas begins with Thomistic epistemology. As we have seen, Dr. Knasas proposes a realistic epistemology, one that proposes that our cognition, informed by our senses, is directly impressed with the real. It is from our minds so impressed that we begin the process of intellection. The process of intellection is the means by which we distill, as it were, commonalities or the "sameness" among things.

As an example of this process, Dr. Knasas drew three triangles on the blackboard, and asked the question: "How many objects are we aware of?"

Triangles: 3 or 4 Objects?

Naturally, the response was, "Three." "Four," Dr. Knasas correctly pointed out. There are the three physical triangles, and then there is the fourth object, intellectual in nature, of which we are aware, namely, "triangularity." One sees "triangularity" along with the three triangles one sees through the senses. The process of distilling commonalities or sameness in things is what is called "intellection." Another word for it is "conceptualization." It is, at least in the Aristotelian and Thomistic tradition, a process of abstraction. It is not a process of anamnesis or reminiscence such as Plato proposed. Additionally, this "triangularity" is not something with real existence such as Plato problematically taught, but is something that is that is drawn out from, abstracted, from the the instantiation of triangularity in the triangles we see.

Commonalities are of two kinds: univocal and analogical. It is important to distinguish the two forms of intellection that come from the two forms of commonalities we see in things.

Univocal commonalities are intellected "apart from the differences of the individual instances." We distill out the differences, concentrate on the sameness, and it is the sameness thus abstracted from any individual differences that becomes the shared commonality. The differences are left outside. Only the similarity between objects is allowed in the door of the mind. Thus, in univocal notion of triangularity, we ignore the fact that one of our triangles is an isosceles triangle, one is a left-handed right-angled triangle, and the other a right-handed right-angled triangle.

Univocal Reasoning: Sameness without Differences

Not all intellected commonalities are of this kind. There is a kind of intellection that is analogical,* where the commonalities are intellected without excluding the differences in their instantiation. The entire analogate or individual instance is invited in the door of the mind, and the individual instances' differences help inform our understanding of the commonality or analogon.

Analogical Reasoning: Sameness with Difference

Dr. Knasas gave two examples of this sort of reasoning. Consider the two Lithuanian cities of Vilnius and Kaunas.** They may both be called "charming cities," and yet they are palpably different even while sharing the commonality of "charming cities."

Kaunas and Vilnius are Charming Cities

Vilnius has winding and crooked streets. Kaunus, on the other hand, straight and orderly streets. Yet withal they are both charming cities in spite of the differences in the makeup of their streets. To understand the sameness in Vilnius and in Kaunas, therefore, one begins by focusing on the differences. "The sameness lies in the differences." In this instance, the city of Kaunus and the city of Vilnius are called analogates, and the commonality they share, that of "charming cities," is called the analogous concept or analogon. What is striking about this sort of reasoning is that the more instances one has of analogates, the more one understands the analogon. It is not like univocal commonality where, once seized it is essentially completely grasped. Analogous concepts, while less precise than univocal concepts, are infinitely richer. They are almost inexhaustible. There is, therefore, a certain bitter-sweetness in analogical thinking because analogical concepts can only be grasped through individual instances, through analogates, and so they are never fully and completely learned. As we gather up our knowledge through understanding analogates, we are also aware that we never fully exhaust the concept. This is even more true when we speak about analogons that involve the transcendentals such as being and the good.

Another instance of analogous commonality would be the notion of "great baseball players." The analogon "great ball players" contains such diverse greats such as the Jewish left-handed pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, Sandy Koufax, or the great African-American right-handed hitter and outfielder for the New York Giants, Willie Mays. In order to understand the analogon we need to invite all of their diversities. We learn, thereby, for example, that race, religion have nothing to do with being a great ball player. We learn that one can be a great ball player even though one's greatness comes from different tasks or roles that relate to the playing of the game of baseball. The more great ball players we have within the analogon great ball players, the more we learn about the commonality these ball players share.

Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax are Great Ballplayers

A further distinction in analogies can be made. This distinction is based upon how the analogates realize the analogon. Analogies are proportional if the analogon relates to the individual analogates independent of another analogate. If, however, one analogate refers to the analogon through another analogate, then one has an instance of analogy of proportion. The analogy of "charming cities" is proportional in that neither Vilnius nor Kaunas have to refer to each other to in realizing the analogon. The same is true for Koufax and Mays as analogates of the analogon of "great ball players." An example of an analogy of proportion would involve the notion of holiness. In the analogon "holiness" we would have Christ as the prime analogate. The saints would also be analogates, yet their holiness is completely dependent upon the holiness of the prime analogate, Christ. These secondary analogates--St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis Xavier, St. Clare of Assisi, etc.--are dependent upon the prime analogate Christ. (Though not mentioned by Dr. Knasas, it would seem that if "Law" is the analogon, then Eternal Law would be the prime analogate, and the secondary analogates would be the Natural Law, and even tertiary analogates positive law, whether divine or human, and the Jewish ceremonial or judicial law.)

*We have addressed the issue of analogy or analogical thinking in a number of prior posts, perhaps most technically in the posting entitled The Analogy of Law: From Law to Law.
**Dr. Knasas is of Lithuanian origin, and has taught at Universities there hence the choice of Lithuanian cities as examples.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Being and Natural Law: The Bent Twig and Epistemological Realism

THE NEXT COMMON CRITICISM OF REALIST EPISTEMOLOGY comes from the empiricists such as Locke, Berkely, and Hume. If knowledge of reality is informed by the senses, and the senses are manifestly unreliable, how can our knowledge of reality be reliable? Typically, the empiricists would point to the "bent stick" in the water, the apparent displacement that occurs as a result of parallax, or the discrepancy between those who see color and those who are color blind (who's to say colors are real, and not just something that is in the one who perceives?). A rectangular paper looks rectangular when looked at straight ahead, but it looks trapezoidal when viewed form an angled vantage point. An analogous phenomenon in the sense of hearing is the changing pitch associated with the Doppler effect. With the deviation between our senses and reality, how can we say we know reality when all our knowledge comes by and through these unreliable senses?

A variety of examples of "relativity in perception"



Color Blindness

The Doppler Effect

Dr. Knasas disagrees that the momentary or occasional deviation in the senses that is at the center of the "relativity in perception" critique of the empiricist school presents an insurmountable problem. "The relativity in perception is not sufficiently great to justify doubt about immediate realism." Though there may be variances in perception as a result of the relativity that is intrinsic to that perception, there is sufficient basis to be firm about the essential fact that we are perceiving something immediately real. There is sufficient information to begin philosophy.

[S]ufficient immediate realism exists for one to initiate his philosophizing. You do not have to know what is the exact shared of color of the poppies, the exact configuration of the paper, the exact subject of the motion. For philosophy to begin it is enough that sense cognition proves real color, shape, and motion.

The epistemological realism of St. Thomas did not demand perfection in the direct knowledge of real things. In attacking epistemological realism, moderns confuse the "immediate cognitional presence of the real" with "an immediate physical presence of the real." "Physical presence," Dr. Knasas insists, "demands exactitude and brooks no exception." However, the "immediate cognitional presence of the real" may not be so exact or so perfect. Often enough real objects impress themselves in our mind "at the end of long chains of physical causality," and, as a result, real things impress themselves in our cognition imperfectly. There are time, however, that the "physical presence" and the "immediate cognitional presence" of the real align perfectly.

Although Dr. Knasas did not suggest it, one should note that the "relativity in perception" can be explained by us, adjusted to by us, which is another way of saying that we can often explain how and why the "immediate cognitional presence of the real" departs from the "immediate physical presence of the real." Our ability to do this indicates that we have sufficient grasp of the reality behind the relativity that is intrinsic in perception to be able to correct for the latter. Thus we can explain why the color blind man does not see color, whereas the normal man does, and we can even invent tests to determine whether someone is color blind and whether he suffers from monochromacy, dichromacy, or trichromacy. We can explain, by understanding refraction and the effect that a change in medium has on the direction of light waves as a result of a modification of their speed, why the image of the twig in the water appears bent. We can explain why vantage point affects our perception of the shape seen. We can explain why the velocity of an object that emits sound affects the pitch of the sound. These adjustments, it would seem, would be impossible if we did not have a grasp of the underlying reality behind the relativity in perception. Moreover, the "relativity in perception" is itself part of reality, as it would not be reflective of reality if my senses did not take into consideration changes in media, in velocity, in vantage point, and so forth.

In summary, the objections of the empiricists seem rather easily overcome. They surely are not sufficient to have us jettison our common sense and advocate a total lack of correlation between the real about us, and our cognition of that real world within us, a cognition that is mediated through the sufficiently reliable senses.