Archive for April, 2008

Hume adducit hoc argumentum de Tillotson contra conversionem Eucharistiae:

There is, in Dr. Tillotson’s writings, an argument against the real presence, which is as concise, and elegant, and strong as any argument can possibly be supposed against a doctrine, so little worthy of a serious refutation. It is acknowledged on all hands, says that learned prelate, that the authority, either of the scripture or of tradition, is founded merely in the testimony of the Apostles, who were eye-witnesses to those miracles of our Saviour, by which he proved his divine mission. Our evidence, then, for, the truth of the Christian religion is less than the evidence for the truth of our senses; because, even in the first authors of our religion, it was no greater; and it is evident it must diminish in passing from them to their disciples; nor can any one rest such confidence in their testimony, as in the immediate object of his senses. But a weaker evidence can never destroy a stronger; and therefore, were the doctrine of the real presence ever so clearly revealed in scripture, it were directly contrary to the rules of just reasoning to give our assent to it. It contradicts sense, though both the scripture and tradition, on which it is supposed to be built, carry not such evidence with them as sense; when they are considered merely as external evidences, and are not brought home to every one’s breast, by the immediate operation of the Holy Spirit.

Error argumenti simplex est. Ulla data evidentia contradicit hypothesem in qua ea evidentia non inveniatur, et sustinet hypothesem in qua sic inveniatur. Si quaedam evidentia convenit duabus hypothesibus, non afficit utrius probabilitatem relativam. Quod Eucharistia videatur esse panis et vinum praedicitur ab doctrina praesentiae verae et ab theoria de Tillotson, et igitur id non facit utram esse probabiliorem (estne recta constructio?) quam erat primo. In aliis verbis, argumentum de Tillotson non pertinent. Quod considerandum est hic est vel evidentia quae praedicitur ab una theoria tantum, vel initialis probabilitas relativa utriusque theoriae. Hume errat aut propter favorem eius aut quia non scit aestimare evidentiam recte, aut propter utrumque.

Hume adduces this argument from Tillotson against the transubstantiation of the Eucharist:


The error in the argument is simple. Any given evidence contradicts a hypothesis under which that evidence would not be found, and supports a hypothesis under which it would be found. If certain evidence fits with two hypotheses, it does not affect the relative probability of either. The fact that the Eucharist should appear to be bread and wine is predicted by the doctrine of the true presence and by Tillotson’s theory, and therefore it does not make either more probable than it was in the first place. In other words, Tillotson’s argument is irrelevant. What should be considered here is either evidence that is predicted by one theory only, or the initial relative probability of each theory. Hume errs because of his bias or because he does not know how to judge evidence properly, or for both reasons.

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Examen ultimum

Pars orale oralis examinis comprehensivi mei feria sexta est. Deinde defungar examinibus omnino, atque feria septima sabbato vel Dominica iterum scribam.

The oral part of my comprehensive exam is on Friday. After that I will be completely done with exams, and I will post again Saturday or Sunday.

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In annotationibus scripturae prioris (verbum significans “blog post” lingua Latina non habet, intantum scio), Michahel proponit quaestionem optimam, utputa utrum vita caritatis studio sapientiae melior sit. Attributio secunda a Sancto Thoma data studio sapientiae in loco posito est esse sublimius quam omnia alia studia hominum. Ratio eius positanda est: “Sublimius autem est quia per ipsum homo praecipue ad divinam similitudinem accedit, quae omnia in sapientia fecit: unde, quia similitudo causa est dilectionis, sapientiae studium praecipue Deo per amicitiam coniungit; propter quod Sap. 7-14 dicitur quod sapientia infinitus thesaurus est hominibus, quo qui usi sunt, facti sunt participes amicitiae Dei” (SCG, I, 2). Hic S. Thomas affirmat amicitiam fingi per dilectionem, quod concludat vitam caritatis esse vere meliorem quam studium sapientiae, quamvis quippe S. Thomas non trahit hanc conclusionem.

Haec possunt reconciliari per hoc, quod S. Thomas dicit alibi. In uno modo, sapientia est virtus intellectualis acquisita; in alio modo, est donum Spiritus Sancti. In hoc modo, sapientia producit amorem Dei, et coniungit igitur hominem Deo per amicitiam, ut Thomas dicit. “Duplex est cognitio veritatis, una quidem quae habetur per gratiam; alia vero quae habetur per naturam. Et ista quae habetur per gratiam, est duplex, una quae est speculativa tantum, sicut cum alicui aliqua secreta divinorum revelantur; alia vero quae est affectiva, producens amorem Dei; et haec proprie pertinet ad donum sapientiae” (ST, I, Q. 64, A. 1). Sapientia et caritas sunt sic adstricte ligatae una, atque distinctio inter studium sapientiae et vitam caritativam non est disjunctiva sicut argumentum suadet.

Hoc quaestionem ponit utrum sapientia qua donum possit appeti. Sicut enim Liber Sapientiae dicit, “scivi quoniam aliter non possum esse continens [sapientiam] nisi Deus det et hoc ipsum erat sapientiae scire cuius esset hoc donum” (8:21). Sed si sapientia de quo S. Thomas dicit hic non sit huiusmodi, sententiae eius sint invicem adversus, quod, licet possit, inconveniens videtur. Aut si hoc non est, donum sapientiae potest appeti. Atque hoc possibile est propter duo. Primo, quia Deus non dona dat indiscretim, et aliquis igitur studeat sapientiae quaerendo Deo, sicut Iacobus dicit, “si quis autem vestrum indiget sapientiam postulet a Deo qui dat omnibus affluenter et non inproperat et dabitur ei” (1:5). Secunde, quia gratia naturam perficit, aliquis potest appetere donum sapientiae mente paranda id accipere, atque unus modus faciendi huius–quamvis forsan non solus modus–est studere primo sapientiae naturali; scientia naturalis quippe frustra est si quis nolit accipere scientiam divinam. Videtur mihi quod talis interpretatio necesse est ut intellegamus S. Thomam recte. Evidenter enim argumentum annotationis verum sit si caritas et sapientia non aliqua coniungantur.

Translation in the comments soon. here:

In the comments on the previous writing (Latin doesn’t have a word for “blog post,” as far as I know), Mike proposes a very good question, namely whether the life of charity is better than the pursuit of wisdom. The second attribute given by St. Thomas to the pursuit of wisdom in the passage cited is that it is more noble than all other human pursuits. His account should be quoted: “It is more perfect, moreover, because by it man especially approaches to a likeness to God, who made all things in wisdom; whence, because likeness is the cause of love, the pursuit of wisdom especially joins man to God in friendship; for which reason it is said (Wisdom 7:14) that wisdom is an infinite treasure to men, which they that use become the friends of God” (SCG, I, 2). Here St. Thomas affirms that friendship is formed through love, which might imply that the life of charity is indeed better than the pursuit of wisdom, although of course St. Thomas does not draw this conclusion. (Addition to the original post: I am not saying that wisdom is better than charity, nor do I think St. Thomas is. In fact, I think the opposite is true. The key to understanding this passage, however, is in how we view the relationship between the two.)

These things can be reconciled by something that St. Thomas says elsewhere. In one sense, wisdom is an acquired intellectual virtue; in another sense, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In the latter sense, wisdom produces love of God, and hence joins man to God in friendship, as St. Thomas says. “The knowledge of truth is twofold, one of which is had through grace, the other of which is had through nature. And that which is had through grace, is also twofold. In one way it is speculative only, as when secrets of the divine are revealed to someone; in the other way it is effective, producing love of God, and this properly pertains to the gift of wisdom” (ST, I, Q. 64, A. 1). Wisdom and charity are thus tightly bound together, and the distinction between the pursuit of wisdom and the life of charity is not disjunctive as the argument suggests.

This raises the question of whether wisdom as a gift is something that can be pursued. For as the book of Wisdom says, “I knew that I could not acquire [wisdom] unless God gave her, and this itself was of wisdom, to know whose gift she was” (8:21). But if the wisdom of which St. Thomas speaks here is not of this kind, his opinions are opposed to one another, which, although possible, seems unfitting. Or if this is not the case, the gift of wisdom can be sought after. And this is possible for two reasons. First, because God does not give gifts indiscriminately, and someone can therefore pursue wisdom by asking God, as James says, “But if anyone of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all generously and does not reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5). Second, because grace perfects nature, someone can pursue the gift of wisdom by preparing his mind to receive it, and one way of doing this–although perhaps not the only way–is to first pursue natural wisdom; of course, natural knowledge is in vain if someone is unwilling to receive divine knowledge. It seems to me that some such interpretation is necessary if we are to understand St. Thomas correctly. For the argument in the comment is evidently true if charity and wisdom are not somehow joined.

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Sanctus Thomas dicit studium sapientiae esse perfectius quam omnia alia studia hominum. Ratio quam dat est hoc: “inquantum homo sapientiae studium dat, intantum verae beatitudinis iam aliquam partem habet” (SCG, I, 2). Hoc patet secundum quod sapientia vera est nihil nisi scientia divinorum, et beatitudo quoque consistit in scientia huiusmodi, sicut Evangelium Ioannis dicit: “haec est autem vita aeterna ut cognoscant te solum verum Deum et quem misisti Iesum Christum” (17:3). Quippe scientia divina quam nunc habemus eadem non est ut haec quae habebitur in beatitudine, sed huius imago est; quare Sanctus Thomas dicit nos iam habere posse “aliquam partem” verae beatitudinis.

Saint Thomas says that the pursuit of wisdom is more perfect than all other human pursuits. The reason he gives is that “insofar as a man gives himself to the pursuit of wisdom, so far does he even now have some share of true beatitude” (SCG, I, 2). This is evident from the fact that true wisdom is nothing other than knowledge of divine things, and beatitude likewise consists in such knowledge, as the Gospel of John says: “This is eternal life, that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (17:3). Of course, the divine knowledge that we have now is not the same as that which will be had in beatitude, but it is a likeness of it, for which reason Saint Thomas says that we can have now “some share” of true beatitude.

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The purpose of this blog is to pontificate about philosophy, theology, Latin, and other academic issues in which I am interested. In short, it exists because of my fondness for uttering platitudes in stained-glass attitudes.

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