While You See a Chance (for Asceticism) Take It! – forsaking all for the sake of Love

Viktor Frankl taught that a person with a WHY to live can bear almost any HOW.

He should know; he learned that in a Nazi concentration camp.

That’s why renunciation, self-denial & ascetical exercises – not for their own sake, but – for the sake of a Loved One can also liberate us, ourselves.

We thus all should aspire to be strong-willed persons, but, as Gerald May distinguished, not willful but willing.

How might we strengthen our will to grown in love, willingness & freedom?

How might we weaken our willfulness & break those bondages which separate us from those whom we love?

How can we transform our “bondage to” into – not only a “freedom from,” but – a “freedom for” the sake of whom we love?

Where might we find a “technology of liberation” that frees us to aspire to a higher love, to life’s finer things, to get us back in the high life again, where all the doors we’ve closed at times might open up again?

Growing one’s freedom to love requires dwelling in – neither the past nor the future, but – the now.

No need to get preoccupied with either the past (as “Jesus paid it all”) or the future (as the Spirit eternalizes all traces of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities).

Nothing to fill in the blank with regarding “I’ll be okay when _______.”

Seriously, to grow my own freedom to love, I constantly sing in my head or even mouth the lyrics: “While you see a chance, take it!

In each now moment, while I see a chance to strengthen my willingness to love, I have better learned to take it, with increasingly few exceptions …

because my WHY to live has become way more important to me than any HOW.

Here, I am less focused on loving, personal interactions, although that remains the end. I refer, instead, to gratuitous self-denials, ordered to what Cynthia Bourgeault describes in terms of exercising & strengthening our “letting go muscle.” She’s talking within the context of distractions in Centering Prayer, but the same dynamic operates here.

While I see a chance for denial, whether regarding something as simple as –

Googling or not to satisfy some seemingly pressing but genuinely idle curiosity,

consuming or not some morsel (digital or vittles),

replacing or not otherwise intrusive worries with psalms,

foregoing or not an indulgence of drama (news-cycles or soapy series), or, more proactively,

climbing out of a chair or not to go walk or

dedicating my time or not to spiritual writing —

while I see a chance for denial, I take it.

And I’m talking about gratuitous self-denials regarding anything & everything, including wholly innocent self-indulgences, which, in and of themselves would be rather insignificant & morally neutral.

Because this exercising & strengthening of my “letting go muscle” has formed an increasingly strong habit in me of turning my attention to and caring ever more deeply about life’s higher loves & finer things, I’ve slowly found myself back in the truly high life, again.

Beginners on the spiritual path get scandalized at first regarding John of the Cross’ severe asceticism or Francis of Assisi’s betrothal to poverty.

Later, they learn to quit beating their heads against life’s walls just because it feels so good when they stop. They better realize that our saints & mystics didn’t forsake all just for kicks, but, instead, for the sake of One, Whom they loved above all. Romance fueled desires inspired their renunciations, released them from bondages to _______ & freed them for the Most High.

The spiritual practices & ascetic disciplines of every great tradition will eventually come to the fore in every life, as each finds the mystical path out of either great love or great suffering, usually some of both.

There may be some biochemistry in the admonition given to addicts – not to smoke as it makes relapses more likely. Beyond that, whether a substance or process addict (and we all have some degree of both, just varying by degrees of dys/functionality), I see the clear psychological & spiritual benefits that would accrue in strengthening one’s “letting go muscle.

Pascal’s Wager has normative impetus even for universalists. At the existential disjunction between nihilism & theism, where one reasonably opts to live as if the pursuit of life’s most beautiful, good, unitive & liberative realities will, more likely than other approaches, thereby gift the most true (as truth often has flown in on the wings of beauty & goodness, lifted by love), those pursuits are not merely instrumental but also happen to be their own rewards! As compelling as the spectre of eternal fire & brimstone may be, life’s Higher Goods, life’s Higher Loves, life’s Finer Things, which can be pursued without moderation, remain both necessary & sufficient to compel their own pursuits & celebrate their realizations, all quite apart from even temporal, much less, eternal rewards. Virtue truly is its own reward. It, alone, leads to the High Life.

So, in addition to the psalms & hymns of old time religion, I commend Disney’s “Let It Go” and Steve Winwood’s “Finer Things,” “Higher Love,” “Back In the High Life” and, most of all, “While You See a Chance.

From “Finer Things

And come morning
There’s a good wind to blow me home
So time be a river rolling into nowhere
I will live while I can
I will have my ever after

The finer things keep shining through
The way my soul gets lost in you
The finer things I feel in me
The golden dance life could be

From “Higher Love

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?
I will wait for it
I’m not too late for it
Until then, I’ll sing my song
To cheer the night along
I could light the night up with my soul on fire
I could make the sun shine from pure desire
Let me feel that love come over me
Let me feel how strong it could be
Bring me a higher love

From “Back in the High Life

We’ll have ourselves a time
And we’ll dance ’til the morning sun
And we’ll let the good times come in
And we won’t stop ’til we’re done
We’ll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time will open up again
We’ll be back in the high life again
All the eyes that watched us once will smile and take us in

From “While You See a Chance

Stand up in a clear blue morning
Until you see what can be
Alone in a cold day dawning
Are you still free? Can you be?
When some cold tomorrow finds you
When some sad old dream reminds you
How the endless road unwinds you
While you see a chance take it
Find romance, fake it
Because its all on you

Of interest:
Amos Yong explores sanctification as deification in Eastern Orthodoxy, in general, & in the desert tradition of Orthodox spirituality, more specifically, proceeding in the hope that its “technology of liberation” will provide a bridge for dialogue with the Buddhist tradition.

Pneumatology and the Christian-Buddhist Dialogue: Does the Spirit Blow through the Middle Way?
Amos Yong, BRILL, 2012

Augustinians & Thomists, Nature & Grace, Politics & Religion

The following notes are in continuity with & supplemental to:



For responses to Nouvelle Theologie, Feser lists:

1) Lawrence Feingold’s The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas & His Interpreters

2) Steven Long’s Natura Pura

3) Ralph McInerny’s Praeambula Fidei

4) Bernard Mulcahy’s Aquinas’s Notion of Pure Nature and the Christian Integralism of Henri de Lubac

5) Serge-Thomas Bonino’s edited volume Surnaturel: A Controversy at the Heart of Twentieth-Century Thomistic Thought

I would add as a meta-critique of all the schools:

Don Gelpi’s The Gracing of Human Experience: Rethinking the Relationship between Nature & Grace

He names fallacies of Christian thinkers that have in the past skewed theological understandings.

In The Gracing of Human Experience: Rethinking the Relationship between Nature and Grace, Gelpi argues that Charles Sanders Peirce’s philosophy avoided those fallacies & provides a novel frame of reference for rethinking the theology of grace. While he eschews any artificial extrinsicism, he doesn’t underestimate secular conversions in the gratuity of creation.

In my (eisegetic?) take, Gelpi’s view is consonant w/both a faithful Augustinianism, the best of Existential Thomism & sympathetic to Nouvelle’s Communio, rejecting transcendentalist anthropologies (e.g. Whig Thomism) or those flirting w/depravist tendencies, as do some integralists (e.g. Political Augustinianism) & Augustinian radicalisms (Radical Orthodoxy & Benedict Option).

Per Thaddeus Kozinski: Both classical & new traditions neglect four realities:

1) mutually dependent relation of speculative & practical reason

2) subjectivity-shaping role of social practices

3) tradition-constituted-&-constitutive character of practical rationality

4) indispensability of divine revelation in ethical inquiry & practice. <<< end of Kozinski critique from Brandon Watson

While some may be justly criticized re 1-3, many feel caricatured.

Regarding #4, it mustn’t be coupled w/an ecclesiocentric exclusivism at odds with Nostra Aetate.

Elsewhere, Kozinski presses his critique vis a vis #4 against Maritain (& Rawls).

Among those claiming caricaturization, Feser responded to Kozinski.

Re: Macintyre’s criticism of Maritain, Ralph McInerny well notes that, even inadequate & false justifications have embedded in them an implicit recognition of the true ends of human nature & thus of the true basis for practical precepts.

We can thus distinguish between the natural law as operative in a plurality of largely theocentric societies (functionally personalist & communalist) & its theoretic grounding, both implicit & explicit. The operative is ontological, the theoretic — gnoseological.

Over against Alasdair MacIntyre’s social philosophy, Bryan Turner suggests its pessimistic view of the collapse of a common moral vocabulary is unfounded.

For one thing, MacIntyre creates a nostalgic picture of the coherence of past communities, & for another, MacIntyre neglects the growth of human rights & international law as instances of a shared moral system that is not based on emotivism.

Alasdair MacIntyre on morality, community & natural law, Journal of Classical Sociology 13(2) 239–253, 2013

We mustn’t overestimate natural law accessibility as we descend from the more general precepts to increasingly specific concrete norms, or underestimate its operative efficacies in, at least, provisioning a modicum of public peace, order, justice & morality.

So, there’s no reason that our world’s largely theocentric vision can’t explicitly, even if sometimes inchoately, affirm that freedom’s inherent duties are objectively & communally ordered to realize the aretaic & deontological ends (teloi) of eternal & natural laws.

Or that we grow in freedom through a formative & liberative process of learning, which will necessarily include the increasingly habitual practice of these duties.

While I am sympathetic to the rhetorical strategy regarding exaggerated “rights talk,” in & of itself, it’s not philosophically bankrupt as some suggest, for freedom’s rights remain correlative with & inseparable from its duties to be/come who & do what we ought. They are, therefore, rather precisely implicated.

The Problems of Beginning & Justification – are hardly fatal

One can read Godel & the End of the Universe by Professor S.W.Hawking here.

I first listened to Professor Hawking’s lecture as differently entitled: “Gödel and the end of physics

Audio available here.

When listening to Hawking, it seemed I’d encountered his conclusion, many years before, in Jesuit Father Stanley Jaki‘s 1966 “The Relevance of Physics.”

Fr Jaki responded to Hawking in an article rather snarkily called “A Late Awakening

Alon Amit wrote an ANGRY rebuttal. Ironically, it included: It’s possible we won’t find one because the theory will inevitably contain a plethora of hand-tuned parameters that “can’t be explained from first principles.”

If Amit’s right regarding “nonsensical conclusions from Gödel’s Theorems,” it seems he was nevertheless missing the obvious point regarding those first principles that both Jaki & Hawking properly intuited: Münchhausen trilemma

But Sextus Empiricus c.160 had already beat’em all to that insight!

Peter Suber has written the best & most accessible discussion of this whole “Problem of Beginning

It’s a lesson every aspiring (or world-renowned) physicist or metaphysician must learn.

Still, neither Tarski nor Gödel should be facilely applied.

The take-away is NOT that the radical skeptics win the day or that postmodernism offers a system rather than a mere critique. Instead, justification requires both speculative & practical reason, a robustly participatory taste & see approach to Truth!

See: Natural Theology & Natural Law -however otherwise weak, at least- defeat Nihilism

Essential Theophanic & Putative Theo-ontological Aspects of Human & Divine Relations

A theophany might define essential donative, communicative, participative & liberative aspects of human-divine relations. It would preclude all fatalism & determinism, include a robust conception of agency & proper conception of freedom.

Would any of those dogmatic essentials necessarily be threatened in a theo-ontology that

pan-entheistically employs an ontological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates creatively as we participate & are liberated imitatively?

panen-theistically employs a mereological distinction between humans & God, where God donates & communicates diffusively as we participate & are liberated substratively?

From lengthy, depthful discussions with a friend who followed Aurobindo & a limited study of Rāmānuja, all which evoked anew my own resonances with Pseudo-Dionysius, I would answer — no.

Of special interest, see:

Clayton, Philip. (2010). Panentheisms East and West. Sophia. 49. 183-191. 10.1007/s11841-010-0181-9.

After writing this, I came across this: Dionysian Ponderings: The God Who is Theophany by Fr Aidan Kimel

I heartily commend that whole series.

tags: creatio ex nihilo, creatio ex deo, creatio ex profundis, creatio ex amore, efficient & exemplary causes,

Natural Theology & Natural Law -however otherwise weak, at least- defeat Nihilism

In science, faith & quotidian life, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can normatively adjudicate any competing responses using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty.

The hermeneutical spiral, above, recapitulates Lonergan’s transcendental imperatives & functional specialties.

See: https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/contemplative-being-behaving-believing-belonging-desiring-becoming-an-outline-of-foundations/

To wit:

De-liberatively, regarding our references, descriptively & interpretively, epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate, normatively, any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty, evaluatively.

De-liberatively (cosmos & mythos – be free, be loving, be-loved per both temporal & ultimate teloi) …

regarding our references …

descriptively (logos or perceptionbe aware in research & communications) & …

interpretively (topos or understandingbe intelligent in interpretation & systematics) …

epistemic virtues should first vault our speculative claims over the threshold of equiplausibility, where we can adjudicate …

normatively (ethos or actingbe responsible in dialectics & foundations), any competing responses, using the principles of reasoning under uncertainty

evaluatively,(pathos or judging & decidingbe reasonable in history & doctrines).

I must stipulate with Hart & Milbank that any rivalry between ultimate worldviews, say nihilist vs theological, cannot be logically coerced. Reality remains far too ambiguous for us & way too ambivalent toward us to compel belief through speculative reason, alone.

With the Thomists, I would insist that, even stipulating that nihilism has not thus been refuted, philosophy well demonstrates the reasonableness of natural theology as an equiplausible competing worldview.

For me, Thomism’s reasonableness remains indispensable over against any thoroughgoing fideism, much less, nominalism, idealism, voluntarism or relativism.

I do not receive Milbank as coming from some Thoroughly [Post]Modern Millie, but, instead, take (eisegetically) his postmodern critique as an admonition to avoid the temptations of dueling hyper-formalisms in countering those insidious –isms.

This is to recognize that —

no essentialistic framing will finally foreclose nominalism, descriptively;

no naïve realism will convincingly defeat idealism, interpretively;

no intellectualistic speculation will logically overcome voluntarism, evaluatively;

no absolutistic insistence will compellingly obviate relativism, normatively; and

no rationalistic appeals will definitively refute fideism, existentially.

But what amount to epistemic misfires for some are but caricatures for others, whose

1) descriptive probes include semiotic & moderate critical realisms;

2) interpretive heuristics employ a metaphysical fallibilism;

3) evaluative dispositions engage an irreducible triad of logos-pathos-ethos, e.g. Aristotelian eudaimonia, Augustinian beatitudo or Thomist summum bonum;

4) normative propositions allow some degree of ethical pluralism grounded – not in an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but — suitable epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism ; and

5) philosophical preambula vault fidei past the threshold of equiplausibility.

Thomism’s reasonableness thus gets vaulted philosophically past the threshold of equiplausibility by the valid & coherent arguments of natural theology & natural law. (And its deontological conclusions should be considered at least as modest as its ontological commitments are tentative). There, philosophy culminates in either the theological preambula fidei & its general precepts or a nihilistic cosmogony.

Any “competing” theological or nihilistic mythos would come after a normatively justified existential leap.

Past this threshold of epistemic warrant, speculative reason yields to practical reasoning under uncertainty. The speculative arguments between essentialism & nominalism, realism & idealism, intellectualism & voluntarism, absolutism & relativism and fideism & rationalism have previously been transcended by a fallibilist, critical realism.

Normative justifications commence and can lead either to the fideistic, voluntaristic dichotomy of a theological versus nihilistic mythos or to an existential disjunction, where rational equiplausibility principles, albeit often implicit, adjudicate a decision to “live as if” that which is (more so, perhaps, they who are) the most life-giving & relationship-enhancing, the most beautiful & good, the most unitive & liberative, will — first & proleptically, i.e. proximately & temporally, as well as eventually & eschatologically, i.e. ultimately & eternally — also happen to be the most true.

This constitutes meta-discourse, however inchoate or implicit, whether variously held provisionally or confidently, yes, prior to special revelations, and yes, on tradition-transcendent grounds. Importantly, this needn’t be formal discourse or what can sometimes devolve into sylly syllogisms, but more often, via our participatory imaginations, comes from our common sense & common sensibilities, from connaturality, an illative sense, a tacit dimension, intuitions & informal abductions.

The most problematical arguments of natural theology are rationalistically grounded in naïve rather than critical realisms. The most problematical arguments of the natural law are a prioristic, rationalistic, deductivistic, biologistic, physicalistic & infallibilistic, especially as they move from general precepts to specific concrete norms, particularly because of epistemic hubris and the lack of a more inductive, personalist relationality-responsibility approach. But the abuse of natural theology & natural law is no argument against their proper use.

The questions that beg?

What constitutes the most life-giving, existentially?

How do we define & measure the most relationship-enhancing? The most unitive, interpretively & orthocommunally?

Where’s the most beautiful instantiated, evaluatively & orthopathically?

And the most good realized, normatively & orthopraxically?

And the most liberative, metanoetically & orthotheotically?

These are not questions that yield to an armchair cognitive map-making but which must actively engage participative imaginations that are naturally embodied, historically situated, socially embedded, culturally bound, politically immersed & transcendentally horizoned.

Of course it’s incredibly problematical to apply our ortho-metrics to competing worldviews, precisely because their instantiations are so very particular & traditioned.

But I wouldn’t want to defend the notion that nihilism remains in that competition?

Finally, Between an overly pessimistic Augustinian interpretation & overly optimistic transcendental Thomism, perhaps a Goldilocks theological anthropology can be articulated:



Gelpi recognized both as donative realities – a gratuity of creation & gratuity of grace, the Spirit’s universal presence (e.g. nomicities) & particular presence, where Grace is mediated via transmuted experience, where, for example, Kerygma matter immensely.

This discussion continues here:


Where in the World is Sophia? —a Sophiological footnote

The created grace Gelpi refers to would be constituted by reality’s actualized potencies, eternalized teloi (both temporal & ultimate teloi) of Peircean thirdness, efficient materialities of secondness, connaturalized indeterminacies of firstness, existentialized essences, formalized finalities, participatory intimacizations eternalized, all temporal realities coaxed forth Pneumatologically, Christologically & Paterologically via Divine Energies as would account for effects as would be proper to no known causes.

Every trace of human goodness, for example, eternalized, i.e. every beginning of a smile & all wholesome trivialities!

Whether interpreted in Platonic, Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, Thomist, Scotist, Palamitic or Peircean categories (and I cross hermeneutical bridges between them all), collectively & dynamically, these cumulative actualized potencies or eternally realized divine teloi may represent Sophia, who participates in the Divine Energies in a perichoretic Divine Dance.

In The Wisdom of God, Bulgakov spoke of two Sophias, one created and the other uncreated. She to whom I refer above would be the created Sophia in her participatedness. While I affirm the Divine Energies per a formal distinction, I must defer to others regarding the manner of viewing Sophia in Orthodoxy. And still wonder just how we might best account for ecstatic visions of Sophia.

See more re this theophany:



This body of work largely comprises my project, which I refer to as Pan-semio-entheism, because, as a systematic theology, while it is metaphysically realist, it prescinds from any given metaphysical root metaphor (substance, relational, process, experience, etc) to a phenomenological meta-heuristic.

See: Amos Yong With John Sobert Sylvest, “Reasons and Values of the Heart in a Pluralistic World: Toward a Contemplative Phenomenology for Interreligious Dialogue,” Studies in Interreligious Dialogue 20:2 (2010): 170-93















Integralism as a Pre-political Anthropology & Meta-political Norm Grounded Philosophically in Natural Theology – The Pre-political Grounding of both Liberal & Illiberal Regimes

Liberal & illiberal regimes may all have their times & places.

Licit regimes will share certain theoretical foundations, hence, criteria of liceity.

Consistent with such foundations, then, consider the following criteria:

Public laws serve as one of many means toward just ends.

We critique political strategies, diagnosis their deficits & prescribe their optimality by prudentially judging them per criteria defined by just ends.

Sufficient strategies will attain a modicum of justice as realized in public virtue, order & peace.

Confluent with other just ends, we exercise the end of freedom by being who & doing what we ought, i.e. properly forming & duti-fully exercising our consciences to flourish in & as community, where the necessary goods of a sufficient material progress serve as a means to higher moral & spiritual ends.

Freedom’s inherent duties, thus objectively & communally ordered, realize the aretaic & deontological ends (teloi) of eternal & natural laws.

We grow in freedom through a formative & liberative process of learning, which will necessarily include the increasingly habitual practice of these duties.

Freedom’s rights remain correlative with & inseparable from its duties to be/come who & do what we ought.

Radically finite, the concrete states of both individual & communal realities constantly evolve, so, continuously, we must prudently discern the means of their flourishing and adapt our public laws & political strategies to those states.

Laws & policies must variously prioritize & subordinate agreed upon (at least practically if not substantively) rights & interests and, when those rights unavoidably & truly compete, adjudicate them, balancing & reconciling them through accommodations that, foremost, preserve & foster the common good, but only ever limiting the rights & interests – or burdening the consciences – of individuals in the least restrictive manner practicable.

The abovementioned criteria obviously share certain theoretical foundations.

Even if only implicitly & inchoately, we can anthropologically & philosophically ground rather substantive (suboptimal but satisficing) agreements regarding theories of humanity & of the cosmos, of truth & of knowledge, of goodness & of beauty.

We thus abide some degree of ethical pluralism derived – not from an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but – from a moral probabilism consistent with an appropriate epistemic humility & suitable metaphysical fallibilism. Our de-ontologies should therefore be as modest as our ontologies are tentative.

A given community may well move beyond such an implicit & inchoate philosophical grounding, e.g. natural theology, to an explicit & definitive revealed theology. In that case, any agreed upon rights & interests may more optimally reflect humanity’s ultimate telos, condiligentes, i.e. as co-lovers with God.

In such a community, religious conversion can further foster, even trans-value, its members’ realizations of humanity’s proximate, erotic-agapeistic-eudaimonistic teloi.

Beyond a given community’s vision of ultimate teloi, transcultural realities & religious pluralism invite further excursus, e.g. regarding shared orthocommunal (topos), orthodoxic (or polydoxic logos ), orthopathic (pathos), orthopraxic (ethos) criteria.

Moral Choices – locating our impasses

On this 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima, visit the @PublicDiscourse archives for debates exploring the ramifications of Truman’s decision.

Tollefsen, calling it “utterly wrong

Miscamble, dubbing it the “least evil option

When another’s ethical approach seems ambiguous, we should charitably presuppose its most orthodox interpretation.

For example, some defenders of the 1945 atomic bombings refer to a “psychotic Japanese civilian resistance” or a kind of “national kamikaze campaign.”

They thereby propose, even if implicitly, that we best reconceive multitudes of ostensible noncombatants as material non-innocents, i.e. not immune from direct targeting.

Such a reconception might well betray an implicit deontological calculus, which, even if inchoate, could rescue their proportionate reasoning from the encroachment of an insidious & vulgar consequentialism.

And this could properly relocate a moral impasse from meta-ethical to other concerns, e.g. evidential, prudential & semantical.

For example, how might we make sometimes facile criteria for distinguishing material [non]innocents much more robust, i.e. semantically coherent, empirically discernable, anthropologically defensible?

These are relevant questions – not only for nuclear, but- modern conventional war & asymmetric terrorism. They extend beyond warfare to all life issues (regarding legitimate self-defense).

So, I offer here no critique or answers to the various stances – only a few of my own questions regarding the proper location of various impasses.

Truth Broadly Conceived

Truth refers – not only to the investigatory, semantical & epistemological “conformity of” one’s thoughts to reality, but – to a reality’s participatory, ontological & axiological “conformity to” adequate thoughts (re various teloi). We know this philosophically & theologically.

Those teloi include:

proximate erotic-agapeistic-eudaimonistic teloi

ultimate telos of condiligentes

The more eros & agape – ascending love & descending love – find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. BXVI Deus Caritas Est

“gratitude for, & the desire to share w/others, the love that we ourselves have received … In the words of the 14th Century theologian Duns Scotus – Deus vult condiligentes – God wants persons who love together w/him.” BXVI Address at Wiener Konzerthaus, Vienna 2007

In addition to virtue dynamics, Scotus employs deontological elements.

The “free will” (voluntas libera) can select in conformity w/the affection of justice (affectio justitiae) & the good in itself (bonum in se).

The “natural will” (voluntas naturalis) necessarily moves by natural affection (affectio commodi) & seeks one’s own good (bonum sibi). ~ Anselm via Scotus

Our common sense, evaluative dispositions, moral sensibilities & ethical intuitions may be inchoately deontological.

Morally, when our analytical decisions seem to violate our deepest connatural inclinations, we can inartfully express such choices. e.g. The implicit proportionate reasoning calculus of our inchoate deontology could mistakenly come across as otherwise explicitly consequentialist.

If we encounter an ethical reductio ad absurdum, where we suspect otherwise valid syllogistic conclusions are somehow unsound, we best check our concepts, which may not successfully refer, maybe because we’ve too broadly or narrowly conceived a reality, e.g. material non/innocent.

A Defense of Metaphysics: “To Be or Not To Be?” or “To E-Prime or Not?”

Some use E-Prime to eliminate the passive voice but, in so doing, will then write even more passive sentences.

Some nominalists might prescribe the exclusive use of E-prime in an attempt to do away with metaphysics, but that strategy sacrifices – not only common sense, but – probabilistic approaches like, ahem, natural science!

For example, when discussing modal realities, forms of the verb “to be” might better (sometimes even indispensably) express degrees of vagueness & convey meanings about various states of an entity & its dynamical causes (even apart from predication or identity), i.e. continuous & progressive aspects.

For modal realities, then, in both physics & metaphysics, successful references remain indispensable even when successful descriptions elude us. For example, effects as remain proper to no known causes (variously over/under-determined) can refer to putative entities.

Some essentialists might thus proscribe E-Prime.

Not so fast!

Those same indispensable aspects, which they aspire to preserve (continuous, progressive & vague) in their Aristotelian sense, can implicate some forms, entities & identities that are – not just static, but – dynamical, emergent & nonstrict.

If, as moderate realists, we properly evade the tensions as present between nominalism & essentialism, we can discover some deep resonances between Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomist, Scotist, Palamitic & Peircean approaches, particularly in the subtle distinctions they apply to formal realities.

For starters, they all recognize & affirm the formal as real ( even if variously). At a deeper level, they emphasize the centrality of becoming, whether metaphysically or theologically. Those stances, when taken together, will inevitably lead to other salient convergences, which I’ve addressed elsewhere.

This consideration of the rhetorical virtues & vices of E-Prime is not wholly unrelated to the old Kantian saw that one can’t take existence as a predicate of being. Of course we can, only it’s tautological. That doesn’t mean our proposition is necessarily untrue, only that we haven’t added new information to our system.

Tautologies, however, can have tremendous heuristic value, especially when associated with a host of other epistemic virtues, thereby enhancing our modeling power of reality.

This is to say, too, that not all tautologies are equally taut. When further associated with axiological virtues, even when not providing new information, they can foster deeper meanings.

When we thus prescind from the necessary to the probable in our phenomenology, bracketing the root metaphors of competing metaphysics, we resist a prioristic rushes to closure regarding reality’s indeterminacies.

Specifically, we refrain from a priori categorizing in/determinacies as necessarily derived from either a methodologically in/determinable reality, epistemologically, or a metaphysically in/determined reality, ontologically.

Also, in a plain vanilla emergentism, we eschew the distinctions between weak & strong emergence, strong & weak supervenience, because, on one extreme, they’re question begging, on the other, trivial.

So, rather than prove too much, say way more than we could possibly know, tell untellable stories, yet without ignoring ontological implications, we traffic in – not the metaphysically decisive, but – the ontologically suggestive.

One take-away is that any deontologies should be at least as modest as our ontologies are tentative.