[article] Theistic Creation and Natural Philosophy

Michael Tkacz has offered an insight that Avicenna’s emanationist position commits the cosmogonical fallacy of assuming a kind of prior potency outside of the act of creation; this assumption of a prior potency amounts to a denial of creation. Given that instrumental causes would be a sort of power that is prior to the act of creation, this is a useful insight. In thinking of creation as a production through intermediaries, Avicenna is thinking that in some way creation is a process. God creates the First Intelligence, which creates the first soul and first sphere and also the Second Intelligence; this process is repeated until the Ninth Intelligence, which creates our world and gives forms to bring about substantial change. In this sense, creation is a process and a kind of becoming (fieri). The insight here is that emanation is not just an alternate theory of creation; it implies something that is incompatible with creation ex nihilo.… Read More [article] Theistic Creation and Natural Philosophy

[article] Thomas Aquinas on Instrumental Creation, the Cosmogonical Fallacy, and the Intelligibility of Nature

In the second book of his commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sententiae, Thomas Aquinas considers three opinions regarding the creation of the material universe through intermediaries.  The first is the opinion of the Neoplatonic emanationists of the School of Baghdad who held that God created the material world through the creative power of intermediate intelligences.  The second position is that of the Parisian masters of theology who denied Islamic emanationism on the grounds that the infinite power required by creation ex nihilo cannot be communicated to a creature.  The final opinion is that of the Lombard himself who denied the actual communication of creative power to intermediaries, but considered it philosophically possible.  While Thomas is in full agreement with the Parisian masters in their complete rejection of emanationism, he nonetheless here expresses sympathy for Lombard’s position on the philosophical, if not doctrinal, possibility of God’s creation of the world through instruments.… Read More [article] Thomas Aquinas on Instrumental Creation, the Cosmogonical Fallacy, and the Intelligibility of Nature

[article] No Cause, No Credo

ABSTRACT: This study presents St. Thomas Aquinas’ groundbreaking treatment of the relation between God as Creator and nature through the Aristotelian model of natural causation and the distinction between essentia and esse contra occasionalist conceptions of creation. By clearly distinguishing primary (divine) and secondary (natural) orders of causation, the Angelic Doctor champions Divine omnipotence while preserving the causal integrity of nature at one and the same time. His position on the relation of divine and natural causation in nature is formulated, in part, as a response to the occasionalist doctrine, denying natural causation. While Thomas shows that denying natural causation would actually vitiate divine omnipotence, this study extends his argument showing Aristotelian causation (secondary cause) is a necessary condition—i.e., one of the preambula fidei—for the Christian belief that God is the all-powerful creator of the natural world. This presentation and extension of St. Thomas Aquinas’ critique of occasionalism is needed given a continuing trend among Anglo-American Analytic and Humean Christian philosophers to deny natural causation and hold that God is the only cause.… Read More [article] No Cause, No Credo

[article] How To Be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan

The provocative nature of both the form and content, “medium” and “message,” of Marshall McLuhan’s scholarship on technological culture has attracted a wide array of McLuhan interpreters of diverse intentions. It is well known, however, that McLuhan considered himself a follower of the thirteenth century scholastic Thomas Aquinas; as he wrote…… Read More [article] How To Be a Contemporary Thomist: The Case of Marshall McLuhan

[article] Signs and Reality

ABSTRACT: The world today has a “meaning” problem.  That is: while the attainment of “meaning” poses a perennial difficulty common to every human life in every human age, our lives in this age have a problem with attaining meaning—indeed, a twofold problem.  First, the problem being that we do not know, precisely, to what the term “meaning” refers; and second, the problem being that even if we recognize one aspect or more of the term’s referent, we do not understand how it can be resolved into a coherent whole, for we lack the requisite principles. Among the obstacles preventing both the attainment of the meaning of “meaning” and its coherent resolution are myriad misunderstandings of what it means to say that we “know reality”; misunderstandings which not only fall short but miss the mark entirely.    More must be done in order to explain both how realism is possible and just what falls into the reality which realism is said to make known. At the heart of the struggle for realism is the question of to what extent and in what regard the cognitive means of knowing are the same as the object known.  This question is especially central to the Thomistic tradition, for Thomas often refers to the species intelligibilis as a similitudo of the object known.  Various misinterpretations and muddy explanations of this reference have hindered an understanding of how the human intellect knows its object. To resolve this Thomistic problem and the problems of meaning, we propose a semiotic realism, a realism that structures its doctrines in accord with the nature of signs and that accordingly understands the species intelligibilis as fragmentary, incomplete, and in need of continual deliberate interpretational refinement in order that we attain a better grasp on the truth of the real.… Read More [article] Signs and Reality

[article] Interpretation and Traditions

ABSTRACT: My topic today develops some themes found or at least suggested in both Ens Primum Cognitum and The Intersection of Semiotics and Phenomenology but focuses on one in particular: namely, why people are so quick to develop and obstinate in maintaining bad intellectual positions—not in terms of the historical causes which have contributed to the state of bad thinking prevalent today, but in terms of the cognitive capacities themselves; that is, what happens in the person as cognitive agent when falsehoods are adopted and subsequently protected.… Read More [article] Interpretation and Traditions