A Metaphysical “univocity of reality” in a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism – a Peircean Precis

Thinking in terms of Peirce’s

Being > Reality > Existence

Considering a Neo-Chalcedonian Christology

While we still refer to divine & determinate hypostases via semantic univocity & ontological analogy …

Can we say that the Logos-logoi identity that humanizes divine persons & deifies human persons

invokes a metaphysical “univocity of reality per a Peircean Thirdness of generals, including created logoi, teloi, nomicities, etc,

all “participating” in a creatio ex deo, the essentially divine person self-determinately so, the essentially human person determinately …

such determinate effects variously exemplifying or signifying their Cause per their unique tropoi …

 

human persons as vestigia, imagoes & similitudines Dei …

the divine person as Logos in hypostatic union?

This would distinguish Maximus, on his own terms, from Balthasar’s Maximus, who overapplied the analogia?

Analogia of an Aesthetic Teleology

1) analogy of aesthetic intensityfixed

a) God: intrinsic perfection

b) human: subjective beatitude, bliss of beatific vision

2) analogy of aesthetic scope – variable in terms of manifestation

a) creator, God: scope of manifestations increased thru ad extra “exemplifications” of Logos & Glory, i.e. of divine esse intentionale, more than mere Cambridge properties, thin passibility

b) co-creator, human: scope of manifestations increased thru “significations” of Logos & Glory, objective beatitude, AMDG

Analogia of Divine & Human Tropoi

1) tropos of divine person

   a) essential nature exemplifies Logos

   b) secondary nature, exemplifies humanity

2) tropos human person

   a) essential nature as vestigial & imaginal Dei signifies Logos, exemplifies evolving humanity

   b) secondary nature as similitudino Dei signifies Logos, exemplifies deified humanity

Universalist Implications

The Summer of Love: Feser-Hart Redux

I was initially disappointed with Feser’s lack of earnest engagement with _TASBS_ . At the same time, I do concede that he and DBH have previously gone back & forth rather extensively & substantively. In some sense, one might ask how much more can Feser really add by way of argumentation.

See, for example:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2017/01/a-hartless-god.html

Honestly, I really couldn’t stomach more of Feser’s revival of that ole time religion, i.e. a decadent neo-scholasticism. The disconnect for me & his ilk truly is visceral. I don’t necessarily reject Feser’s counterarguments because they aren’t logically consistent. What leaves me cold or, sometimes, even on the verge of wretching, is that such rationalistic takes as his are so existentially disappointing.

To proceed from Feser’s valid premises to check for soundness, one must also accept his terms, which, in my case, presuppose that I will have jettisoned all of my most deeply felt aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions.

Now, I fully expect that, post-mortem, we will all travel “beyond” those quotidian evaluative dispositions in various ways, but I certainly don’t expect we’ll travel “without” them, that any acceptable post-mortem anthropology should do such violence to my earthly experiences of all that’s been true, beautiful, good & unitive. For that matter, neither can I set aside my theophanic experiences of the here & now for the morally unintelligible theodicies on offer.

Rhetorically, I felt like DBH was interrogating me, asking how I really felt, what I most deeply valued, whom I most fervently cherished and how those relational dispositions imparted normative impetus to how I’d really respond to various thought experiments, whether now or post-mortem, whether regarding God or, let’s say, my precious children. And he was suggesting “Hold that thought! Cherish that feeling!” before engaging any syllogism!

Others, like Feser, assure me, rather, that … well, if that single damned soul is my son  … “Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.” And when we reflexively recoil & launch an invective, they complain of our harsh rhetoric.

That’s it. I’ve said much more about much else, elsewhere & here. Sometimes too much, to be sure. So, I apologize again. But these are reasons of my heart. I’m searching for arguments that are not just valid. The most taut tautologies for me will also be existentially satisfying.

In a more discursive vein, I realize that many have misinterpreted _TASBS_ as a theodicy.

What I have described above has more to do with its theophanic thrust. I eschew evidential theodicies. I resist them vehemently. But I do countenance logical defenses regarding the problem of evil. One of the bigger takeaways from DBH’s arguments, for me, was a deeper appreciation for the conception of evil as privation, which, as a concept over the years, wasn’t wholly compelling to me, although, in some ways, just sufficient. What infused that notion with more meaning was interpreting it (as  a corrollary to _TASBS_) as referring to an eschatological reality.

While I had previously bought into the idea that evil had no intrinsic existence, still, it most definitely was real and “existed” parasitically. To suggest that its parasitic existence wasn’t visible, real, etc always seemed to be wholly incoherent, lame, unpersuasive. One just could not convincingly say it was absolutely “no thing.”

Only per a universalist account can one affirm that, ultimately & eternally, evil will indeed enjoy no parasitic existence &, as a corrollary to all being realizing its Sophianic union with Being beyond being, evil will lapse into utter no-thing-ness, absolutely not existing, since no privations of the good, of being, shall perdure.

Evil may not be absolutely no thing “yet” but it is progressively “becoming” nonexistent, for we are poised to exist in fulfillment of the divine Logoi.

Anything less than the utter destruction of evil’s parasitic existence (hindering our telic realizations) will leave us with a Manichean residue and a “relatively good” God?

So, while _TASBS_ proffered no shallow evidential theodicy as misread by folks wearing the wrong hermeneutical lenses, it does seem to provide a theophany which has practical implications for grounding a modest logical defense – not Platinga’s or Stump’s, but – perhaps like M.M. Adams’?

To be clear regarding the normative role that our aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions play in how we judge competing theophanic accounts:

Our evaluative dispositions are integrally situated within an holistic hermeneutical spiral, which orients us to transcendental imperatives. They represent laws planted in our hearts, experienced by our consciences, which have been further informed by family life, friendships & loves, church fellowship, catechetical instruction, moral development, liturgical cultivation, formative spirituality, communal discernments & ongoing conversions, both secular & religious.

They are not to be cursorily dismissed, hastily set aside or cynically caricatured.

I personally subscribe to an axiological epistemology, as has been previously articulated by Amos Yong and I in conversation with CS Peirce, Lonergan & RC Neville.

This should be read in conjunction with:

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved

And with:

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s _That All Shall Be Saved_

A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation By David Bentley Hart, Yale University Press (2019).

Feser recently published this review: David Bentley Hart’s attack on Christian tradition fails to convince

Precis of Feser’s Review

For Hart, at the end of the day it is not scripture, not the Fathers, not the councils, not the creeds, not Holy Tradition, that should determine what Christians believe.

The Fathers

Feser: The possibility of eternal damnation is taught in Scripture, by almost all the Church Fathers.

Why did Jesus not explicitly say that everyone will be saved, if that is what he meant? Why did it take centuries before any Christian even floated the idea?

Response:

Ambrose Andreano: Patristic universalism


The Councils

Feser: The Council of Trent rejected the view that a Christian can be certain of his salvation. As a non-Catholic, Hart would not be troubled by some of these facts, but his view is generally considered heterodox even in Eastern Orthodoxy.

Response:


Justin Coyle: May a Catholic faithful to the magisterium endorse universalism?


The Scriptures

Feser: Hart dismisses the traditional interpretation of the scriptural passages that teach the possibility of everlasting punishment. He claims that Christ’s words to this effect are either hyperbole of the kind typical of parables and apocalyptic literature, or have been mistranslated. When Christ speaks of punishment that is “everlasting”, he really means merely that it will last for an age.

Response:

Matthew Joss – Graduate Student of St. Mary’s College Logos Institute, University of St. Andrews writes:

DBH describes his hermeneutical method: obvious doctrinal statements (generally from the epistles) should be privileged over the figurative language of the Gospels and Revelation (93-94). There is an extended section dealing with the translation of aionios, which is quite helpful, although its actual application to texts is limited. He concludes, “The texts of the gospels simply make no obvious claim about a place or state of endless suffering”


Theological Anthropology

Feser: On the philosophical side, too, Hart’s book is a mess. A line of argument developed by Aquinas holds that it is impossible for the will to change its basic orientation after the death of the body. The reason is that the intellect’s attention can be pulled away from what it judges to be good and worth pursuing only by the senses and imagination, and these go when the body goes. The view has been spelled out and defended in detail within the Thomist tradition, but Hart has little to say about it other than to dismiss it with a few insults and cursory objections which Thomists have already answered.

Response:


Pastor Tom Belt:
Maximian irrevocability thesis


Moral Responsibility

Feser: Hart argues that since rational creatures are made to know and love God, any choice against God is irrational. If a choice is non-culpable because it is irrational, how can we be culpable for any bad thing that we do (given that bad actions are always contrary to reason)? How can we deserve even finite punishments? And if we can’t, then why do we need a saviour?

Response:

DBH: response to David W. Opderbeck, Ph.D.

Hart’s Rhetoric

Feser: DBH’s book freely indulges the boundless appetite for gratuitous invective and other ad hominem rhetoric for which he is famous.

Response:


John Sobert Sylvest:
re DBH’s harsh rhetoric

Hart’s Pantheism


Feser: Hart holds that all human beings are parts of Christ’s body in such a way that if even one person is damned forever, then Christ’s body is incomplete, and even his obedience to the Father is incomplete. Hart also holds that the individual self is destined to be “reduced to nothing” so that we can be “free of what separates us from God and neighbour.” What is left he compares to the Hindu notion of Atman. But all of this is hard to distinguish from a pantheism that blasphemously deifies human beings.

Response:


John Sobert Sylvest: That’s too facile a caricature to dignify with a response.


Divine & Human Agential Interaction

John Sobert Sylvest:
account of the noncompetitive nature of divine & human agencies

The Arguments of DBH Ed Feser Failed to Engage

Response 1

John Sobert Sylvest:
Essay Before Reading TASBS

Response 2

John Sobert Sylvest:
Essay After Reading TASBS

This should be read in conjunction with:

The Summer of Love: Feser-Hart Redux

And with:

An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction

A Theistic Religious Naturalism: Why I – rather naturally – Have No Metaphysic

My adolescent fascinations and undergraduate & graduate preoccupations were rather narrowly focused on the behavioral sciences. And not just at the macro-levels of ethology, ecology & comparative psychology, but at the nuts & bolts level of brain biochemistry.

One year, in high school, I advanced to and participated in the International Science & Engineering Fair, having constructed a rather colossal, rube-goldbergian perfusion apparatus, designed to keep rat livers alive, in vitro, while conducting biochemical experiments on them.

That same year, I had also worked with a friend on memory transfer experiments. She had already accomplished primitive memory transfers between classically conditioned & naïve recipient planaria (flatworms), so, I suggested we take that behavioral investigation to another phylogenetic level. You see, in what were to me the Disney-like stacks of the dark aisles of the LSU library, I had previously encountered the wondrous mysterium fascinans of mammalian memory transfer research.

So, we acquired the requisite hamsters, trained some in mazes, extracted their brain RNA and injected it into their untrained siblings. A half-century later, when I pass that little pine grove where we buried them all, I rather wistfully recall their sacrifice, less sure now than then whether it was truly for the sake of science.

Let’s just leave it at that.

In college, hyper-motivated to get out of the classroom and back into the boundless tremendum of those library stacks and the endless fascinans of the laboratory, I hardly knew where to focus degree-wise. No particular curriculum fully accommodated my feverish interest in being able to better account for animal and human behaviors, so to speak, reductively. I therefore accelerated my graduate school entrance by craftily employing a general studies degree program. Such programs “generally” foster a rather lax approach that allows one to optimally navigate past difficult subject matters, but I exploited its flexibility to pull off the informal equivalent of a triple major with roughly 30+ hours each in chemistry and psychology coupled with even more coursework in zoology, much of that in independent research. So, it was thereby that I had thus ended up spending more than three years of undergraduate & graduate work in a neuroendocrinology lab that had previously, for example, figured out certain of the physiological mechanisms of bird migration. Oversimplifying things, we could get these critters to fly north versus south with specifically timed hormonal injections!

It was also thereby that I had thus advanced my education with a veritable dearth of arts and humanities coursework.

“Advanced my education,” of course, if employed as a true term of art, would not really apply to one who, fifty years hence, has yet to take a single philosophy or theology course, although I did take a single course in literature, another perhaps in history, for what that’s worth.

No, for me, any employment of that phrase more so resembles the meaning behind the Bonnie & Clyde lyric, “advanced their reputation and made their graduation into the banking business.” Turns out, I retired from banking, having served on various venues as chairman, president & chief executive officer. I won’t suffer you that digression even though it would have deep spiritual implications, more than tangential to … what’s our topic? … oh, yeah, metaphysics.

I suffered neither existential angst about nor epistemic incongruities from my heavily reductionist behavioral bent. I’ll reveal more below why that inclination didn’t become reductionistic.

Throughout all of my coursework and research, especially when engaging the most highly speculative theoretical aspects of each scientific discipline that I had studied, I rather subconsciously and implicitly cultivated what I’ve now come to appreciate as a healthy aporetic sense. I became very aware that, in most every discipline, empirical research would inevitably be encountered by descriptive aporia, which, in turn, developed into various interpretive schools, each subscribing to an approach that variously over- and/or under- emphasized distinct aspects of phenomena, whether focused on specific entities, in and of themselves, or on their properties, or on their relations, inner or outer.

By distinct, I’d later come to appreciate, I mean to suggest that they were aspiring to develop speculative conceptions that make a practical difference.

The practical differences implied by various theoretical conceptions can take a long time in coming, empirically. I began to notice this pattern in college.

In physics, I saw how, while empirical quantum mechanics was indisputable, different schools of quantum interpretation proliferated. In cosmology, different cosmogonal models competed. In biology, different accounts of life’s origins grappled with the inexplicable leap from physics and chemistry to biology. In cognitive psychology, different philosophies of mind modeled the origins of animal sentience. In anthropology, semioticians devised conceptual distinctions in explanatory attempts to understand how symbolic language could arise from mere icons and indexes, taking us beyond a mere sentience to a robust sapience.

I never bothered to invest very much in one or the other interpretation. I was content, rather, to try to more so understand what their particular questions were ABOUT, less so what their proposed answers, sometimes pretentiously, suggested. That early almost pre-reflective aporetic sense later evolved into more sophisticated intuitions, inchoate early on to be sure, but, later articulated in such heuristics as Gödel’s theorems, Agrippa’s trilemma, Peter Suber’s “problems of beginning” and other safeguards against epistemic hubris.

I had implicitly rejected any tidy epistemic compartmentalizations of supposedly non-overlapping magisteria and approached reality with a single, fallibilist epistemology. That’s to say that, to me, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology.

There are no such things as strictly metaphysical or scientific epistemologies. My youthful reductive tendencies have not been shaken, but neither have they devolved into any unmitigated positivisms or vulgar pragmatisms.

None of this is to deny that certain ontologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonal models, biogenetic theories, philosophies of mind or language origin anthropologies wouldn’t have even profound implications, existentially, regarding, for example, free will. Those interpretations do introduce conceptual distinctions that can have profound practical implications. I just never got terribly engaged by arguments for or against such as solipsism or free will, much less first principles. Common sense abductions, reductio ad absurdums and methodological stipulations remain – not only necessary, but – sufficient for those types of realities without the further “benefit” of tautological deductions, formal proofs or metaphysical excursions.

I thus abide not only reality’s metaphysical gaps and inter-theoretic aporia, but – marvel at the possibilities regarding its perimeters, its initial, boundary & limit conditions, its axiomatic contours as defended by such epistemic bulwarks as, again, Gödel-like implications, Agrippa’s trilemma and Suber’s “problems of beginning.” I do very much appreciate that not all tautologies regarding same are equally taut vis a vis embracing epistemic virtue and avoiding epistemic vice. But even the best interpretations of our highly speculative theoretical sciences have not yet yielded a normalization of gravity and quantum mechanics, a biopoietic account of life origins, a sentiopoietic account of qualia, a sapiopoietic account of symbolic language. So, I content myself by simply bookmarking these diverse aporia in terms of their ABOUTNESS that I can better inventory the nature of the questions they are asking in their methodological probes without overinvesting in the nature of the answers they pretend to proffer with their metaphysical conclusions. Such conclusions are too often not merely embedded in the premises and presuppositions of such metaphysical argumentation but in their very definitions.

The aboutnesses most often under consideration include (using some personal, idiosyncratic neologisms) the following aporia:

1) veldo-poietic regarding field origins that appear teleo-potent or end-unbounded;

2) cosmo-poietic regarding physical realities that appear teleo-matic or end-stated;

3) bio-poietic regarding life origins that appear teleo-nomic or end-directed;

4) sentio-poietic regarding sentience origins that appear teleo-qualic or end-purposed; and

5) sapio-poietic regarding language origins that appear robustly teleo-logic or end-intended.

In terms of aboutness, different interpretations at each emergent level employ metaphorical languages that are largely incommunicative in the other levels. This is to recognize, for example, that, if we reconciled quantum mechanics with gravity today, we’d be no closer, tomorrow, to delivering an adequate account of biogenesis, much less a philosophy of mind with a sufficient explanatory adequacy, much much less solve the riddles of indeterminacy that inhere in any account of free will.

Above, I referenced entities, properties and their inner & outer relations. In my encounters with different accounts of reality’s various emergent levels of aboutness, I noticed that, whichever chosen root metaphor, whether of substances, relations, processes, experiences or otherwise, each account variously dealt with those phenomenal categories as well as addressed the temporality of past, present & future, or possibilities, actualities, probabilities & necessities. Transcending the various root metaphors were vague conceptions like act & potency, which seemed to me like helpful placeholders for any ontology.

Because my passion had always been focused on the epistemic reduction of behavior, I was especially drawn to semiotic emergentist accounts that addressed human language origins. It was in my reading regarding same that I encountered for the first time, in a meaningful way, how indispensable were Aristotelian conceptions of formal & final causes, in addition to such as efficient, material, instrumental, exemplary & imaginal causes.

Nothing advanced my grasp of such teleodynamics more than my corresponding- friendship with & generous tutelage by Ursula Goodenough, who’s long collaborated with her good friend Terrence Deacon regarding all things biologically emergent for decades. Introduced by a mutual friend, Michael Cavanaugh, I recognized in their work the very same Peircean themes I had first grappled with when reading the Peircean philosophy & anthropology of an old (five decade) acquaintence & fellow yat (New Orleans native) Don Gelpi. *** see note below

So, there I was, outfitted with a triadic heuristic that approached vague phenomena, from the quantum through the mental, not with any metaphysic or root metaphor, but using placeholders like entities, properties & relations; possibilities, actualities & probabilities; past, present & future; act & potency; being, reality & existence; in/determined & in/determinable; and the full suite of Aristotelian causes, which was proving to be a useful epistemic heuristic for folks of otherwise diverse ontological persuasions, including nonreductive physicalists.

I should say this, however, as an emergentist, I do not subscribe to such distinctions as others often draw between strong & weak emergence, weak & strong supervenience. (I travel light, sans metaphysic & sans supervenience.) Thus it was that my early biological interests had begun to intersect philosophy of mind (e.g. Deacon versus Dennett & Dawkins) and Aristotelian emergentist accounts made for a great heuristic. So, I only ever employed such heuristics, as I mentioned above, to bookmark aporia, different types of aboutness, inventory the relevant questions & map concepts across competing interpretations. I otherwise remained and remain a metaphysical agnostic, a realist, to be sure, but with no interest in inhabiting any given system. I suppose you could say that I’m putting off any serious metaphysical excitement and over-the-top ontological enthusiasm for any given account of nature’s causal joints until I see how the ontology that underwrites same has normalized gravity & quantum mechanics, or proved empirically fruitful with its biogenetic stance or philosophy of mind deliverances.

So, my modest emergentist heuristic doesn’t really do much, propositionally & speculatively, but dispositionally it has had much transformative impetus for the ways I approach all communal, aesthetic, ethical & liberative human realities & concerns.

Any task of musing about reality’s perimeters can be done with a Peircean-like abduction of the Ens Necessarium in a single afternoon’s parlor sitting, not explicitly employing Peirce, mind you, just competently engaging one’s common sense. We will typically bring three musements into play, whether inchoately or reflectively:

1) a mereological intuition regarding the relations between reality’s parts & wholes;

2) a metaphysical intuition reflecting some particular root metaphor for reality’s entities & their properties; and

3) an epistemic intuition (usually involving some version of the principle of sufficient reason) as to whether, regarding reality’s primitives & axioms, those are merely brute or clearly fruit about which reality, in principle or not, remains mute.

My own intuition suggests that, whichever stances one presupposes, mereologically, metaphysically or epistemically, will lead to an abduction of some Ens Necessarium, propositionally. Various quidditative attributes then get intuitively assigned, which can (presupposing an epistemic virtue not all attain) lead to competing equiplausible interpretations of reality writ large, which then get adjudicated mostly dispositionally by- not a vulgar, but – a semiotic realist pragmatism, wherein a plurality of defensible stances (metaphysical, even moral) can reasonably, hopefully peacably, coexist due to – not any relativism, emotivism or voluntarism, but – a metaphysical fallibilism. My heuristic thus only provides me some conceptual placeholders to map whatever it seems to me to be that competing stances happen to be talking about in terms of aboutness.

In other words, I’m rather content to say that something like Scotus’ formal distinction appears at stake, here; something like Thomas’ analogy of being, there; something like Peirce’s distinctions between Being, Reality & existence, here.

And I want to affirm, over against any silly ignosticism, that such talk is meaningful, existentially & transformatively, even while insisting it has serious limits, speculatively.

I do rather believe that serious formal argumentation can take place, ontologically & modally, even syllogistically, as long as one guarantees the conceptual compatibility of one’s quidditative Ens Necessarium-conceptions employing only apophatic predications. I think one can see, however, how that type of argumentation crosses only a very limited epistemic distance, rationally?

What about positive conceptions? Can they similarly be meaningful?

Well, semantically & univocally, I believe so. But with the caveat that, for dang sure, absent a robust root metaphor that travels up & down the great chain of being gifting us robustly empirical deliverances regarding our quotidian, finite, determinate & temporal realities, why in the world, much less out of this world, would we over-invest in their speculative conclusions regarding ethereal, infinite, indeterminate & eternal realities? The same epistemic critique applies to any ontological analogy or semantical univocity of being. Such metaphors will collapse at pretty much the same velocity as they cascade. Not only that, even within a given metaphysic, manifold interpretations can compete. Further complicating translation efforts, the metaphysical idioms under consideration may be appropriated within any given culture more so implicitly and inchoately, less so explicitly and reflectively, all of this coming into play even in the etymological roots of each language’s concepts. Why even expect our metaphysics to overcome the aporia of reality’s perimeters before we’ve even see what Scotism & Thomism, Whitehead & Hartshorne, or, for that matter, Aristotle or Plato, have done with gravity & quantum mechanics or biogenesis?

When, at last, I did consciously engage other philosophies of science, I had come from the world of the highly speculative, theoretical sciences, where I had learned of the time-honored efficacies of the long-banished Aristotelian formal & final causations and had become aware of the epistemic cul de sacs of logical positivisms & radical empiricisms. I had also learned of the tremendous heuristic value of the very vague categories of act & potency, determinacies & indeterminacies, vagueness & generality. I came to it all already bearing the gift of my epistemic heuristic and discovered that, in the many different types of philosophy of science discourse, some of the vary same aboutnesses and causations and phenomenological categories were in play! However, I also brought with me the same degree of epistemic humility that inhered in a fallibilist approach. But I had, still have, little interest in becoming a Scotist or Whiteheadian. And my introduction to Thomism was Maritain’s existential approach because it was the vehicle with which I first delved into quantum interpretations. Thereafter, I soon learned there were Aristotelian, Transcendental, Analytic, Phenomenological, Process, Neo-Scholastic and Semiotic schools of Thomism, among others. I haven’t inhabited any of those either. Neither do I buy into Peirce’s metaphysical musings, only finding his phenomenological categories to be great conceptual placeholders.

I remain, therefore, for the most part, a thoroughgoing metaphysical agnostic.

Don’t get me wrong, though.

I do applaud those who engage fully any given school with its onto-logical enterprises, or even regarding certain natural law-like de-ontologies.

I only ever insist, however, that …

any given metaphysic not be delivered with a confidence level that outruns its heuristic value in physics …

that our deontologies should be delivered at least as modestly as our ontologies are tentative …

that the normative impetus imparted to any epistemic stance be commensurate with the evidentiary standards it’s already met.

Many remain in search of a metaphysic?

So do I.

*** Note: Emergentism, as an umbrella concept, refers to a rather wide variety of evolutionary approaches, both reductive & nonreductive as well as a radical emergentism, which doesn’t invoke supervenience. What I describe above specifies none of those, as I’m agnostic regarding whether or not a particular supervenience obtains for all teloi & entropies, at least, not in the sense we could a priori specify whether the emergence of any given aboutness refers to an epistemic and/or ontic reality and/or to what extent, and, also, not in a manner that clearly specifies the precise nature of any corresponding subvenient realities.

So, I’m articulating generic or plain vanilla emergentism. What’s definitely at stake is the indispensable & indisputable role of evolutionary processes. Therefore, even those who don’t invoke an explicitly emergentist idiom may fall under my generic description, for example, Dawkins & Dennett on the reductionist end of the spectrum and Jack Haught on the radical end. Clustered with the nonreductionists who’d invoke supervenience would be folks like Nancey Murphy & Joe Bracken, the latter who employs a field process metaphor.

I would interpret Peirce as sympathetic to that supervenient stance but as rigorously interested in avoiding both the essentialism of Aristotelian substance approaches & the nominalism that can afflict Whiteheadian process approaches. Deacon & Goodenough’s something more (or else) from nothing but approach, if I grasp it correctly, adheres to that Peircean rigor & thereby threads the essentialism-nominalism needle, or, more accurately, rejects the dyadic subject-object paradigm that gives rise to those “solutions.” Essentialism is rejected because it’s not dynamical. Nominalism is avoided as nature’s regularities play a real role as generalities, like laws, patterns & habits, irreducibly & triadically, mediate all interactivity between & among all entities, properties & relations.

Deacon’s concept, absentials, evokes for me the key Aristotelian insight of potency. The teloi involved rather precisely point to creaturely deficiencies or privations or biological imperatives. This is to recognize, in my take, that, beyond a mere supervenience, where mereological relationships exhibit causal efficacies, contextual relationships matter (pun intended, i.e. are informationally embodied). However, beyond generic Aristotelian conceptions of telos vis a vis formal (act) & final (potency) causes, which are way too general to add heuristic value, much less any new information, to one’s system, a Peircean emergentism recognizes novelty in – not only entities, properties & relations, but – reality’s regularities. Any talk of formal & final causes or of entropy up & down the great chain of being will inescapably invoke teloi & entropies that are merely analogous & clearly emergent. Of all the emergentist perspectives, the Peircean-like leanings of Deacon & Goodenough seem the best nuanced.

I can abide most all of the nonreductive & radical emergentist approaches. I just haven’t had the time or knowledge to invest in one or the other. If I ever do, it will likely combine Bracken’s field concept & the Deacon-Goodenough triadicity. Theologically, it would eschew any classical creatio ex nihilo for something closer to Catherine Keller’s creatio ex profundis. (Preliminarily, I have referred to this project as a polydoxic, tehomic pan-SEMIO-entheism).

In my view, there can be no question, then, that questions are left begging, explanatory adequacy is left lacking, regarding the precise nature of any putative supervenience’s subvenient substrates. There are sufficient regularities to render reality almost infinitely intelligible, enough discontinuities to keep it eminently incomprehensible (not necessarily permanently occulted in principle, but, intractably so in practice). It thus remains problematic as to how & when regularities will connote a reality as regulated and/or as a regulator, which in/determinacies connote a transient methodological in/determinability and/or an ontological in/determinedness, whether an apparent chaos reveals clear chance in nature or mere epistemic distancing & axiological privations.

And where up & down the great chain of being do such regularities introduce exactly what kind of chance or arbitrariness? It seems clear that, whatever the nature of their extrinsic constraints (chance vs necessity, chaos vs order, paradox vs pattern, random vs systematic), semiotic agents, by perpetuating, maintaining & replicating their own dynamical constraints (as ordered toward closing epistemic distances & overcoming ontic privations), can leverage (direct, purpose or intend, respectively, teleo -nomically, -qualically or -logically) even arbitrary signs, autopoietically, in life-giving & relationship-enhancing ways that foster an integral communal flourishing. Partly regulated & determined, such agents are obviously regulators that, themselves, determine outcomes.

Regarding the symbolic species, how much freedom of agency such personal entities-in-process can dynamically engage, ironically & paradoxically, derives from how successful they are at being true to their self-constraining imperatives, biologically & socially, via disciplines we might call the practice of auto-poietic authenticity. Hence the saliency of practices of all great as well as indigenous traditions, whether asceticisms & disciplines, normatively, or rituals & celebrations, evaluatively.

Finally, it’s my intention hereinabove, to defend a radically pluralistic openness to all manner of pluralisms – metaphysical, cultural, religious, moral, ethical & anthropological – speculatively speaking (not via relativism & nihilism but fallibilism & probabilism). It’s my contention that humankind, largely, otherwise remains sufficiently similarly situated, ecologically & ethologically, to substantively share enough in the way of the evaluatively dispositional to be able to abstract from same a normatively propositional consensus, as reflected in such general precepts as were, for example, articulated in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. These precepts remain both necessary & sufficient to underwrite the most salient aspects of public order, public peace, public justice & public morality. And, although more problematical, they lend themselves to reasoned discourse regarding the formulation of specific concrete norms to guide humankind in its quest for bioethical, ecological, economic & other important value-realizations.

My radically pluralistic outlook regarding plausibilistic (not probabilistic) speculative stances, and sufficiently consensual approach regarding public norms, is deeply sympathetic to the principles of free exercise & nonestablishment regarding all such matters of conscience, both the plausibilist speculative & creedal matters and regarding probabilist practical & moral realities. No conscience should be unnecessarily or unduly burdened by public law unless there is a morally defensible (sufficiently consensual) compelling government interest spelled out in a generally applicable law that so burdens any consciences in the least restrictive manner practicable.

Essentially, this hereinabove has all amounted to a plaintive appeal by me to humankind:

Why can’t we all just get along?

Why not impute – not the most cynical, but – the most charitable interpretation conceivable to others’ motives, properly imagining that they probably share our most urgent public values & insistent human concerns & only likely differ, prudentially, regarding the best way to go about enjoying value-realizations & avoiding value-frustrations?

Why shouldn’t all foresake the militant proselytizing – not just within & among creeds, ecumenically & interreligiously, but – including those who’d annihilate supernaturalism or de-nihil-ate philosophical naturalism?

Have we learned nothing from the logical positivists, radical empiricists & metaphysical ignostics, who, naively wielding Occam’s Razor as if it were a self-evident first principle, in their hege-monist-ic anxiety to annihilate supernaturalism, would collaterally epistemically extinguish the illuminative interpretive heuristics of our theoretical sciences? That is just so mid-20th Century!

And what’s with those who, upon encountering any growth in cultural diversities or trend in globalist harmonies, advocate isolationistic retreats or nationalistic advances? Why do they tend to be the very same people who, so reflexively, recoil from any degree of pluralism – metaphysical, religious, aesthetical, ethical, etc – spooked, as they always facilely suggest, by the twin spectres of relativism & nihilism, never once imagining that such diversities & harmonies might otherwise arise from the hermeneutically fertile grounds of epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism? These tend to be the same folks who, while decrying any move from a methodological to a philosophical naturalism as illicit, turn around and treat any methodological stipulation to a principle of sufficient reason as if it were some metaphysical verity.

Enough, then, with the tired age-old attempts to, sometimes comedically but always cynically, craftily narrow all conceptions of epistemic virtue & broaden those of epistemic vice in such a way as to philosophically shoehorn only one’s own ontological footings, while denying others their normative fitness. Inevitably, such attempts will cripple our triadically inferential common sense, itself, which already labors under necessary & sufficient fallibilist rubrics of alternating conjecture & criticism as our practical reasonings navigate under speculative uncertainties. Any sufficiency of evidence, both of quantum & quality, vis a vis normative justifications, has never been an all or nothing – either/or reality, but, in a long-established & time-honored way, has common sensically been proportioned by evidentiary standards, whereby one’s epistemic rights get suitably extended or abridged by a rubric which norms: Show me your evidence and I’ll tell you what you can justifiably do with it.

Those, who have imagined that such norms could be tweaked to arrogate all epistemic virtue to themselves & attribute all vice to others, are not as bright as they suspect, for such philosophical shoehorning has always inevitably inferentially hobbled – not only our highly speculative theoretic sciences, but – common sense, itself. Such hermeneutical cobblings render such interpretive footings susceptible to a self-subverting parody, as they inescapably step forward into the epistemic quicksands of naive realisms or radical skepticisms. Enough already!

The Most Common Deficiencies in Moral Philosophy & Theology -especially when applied to Politics

These are notes for a preliminary draft that will address some of the most common & egregious deficiencies that persist in moral philosophy, as often demonstrated by common folk & so-called experts alike.

1) Methodologically, the same old sterile scholasticism remains stuck in a nonvirtuous cycle of abductive moral hypothesizing & deductive moral clarifying, employing too many physicalistic, biologistic terms. This natural law approach needs to be complemented (its inferential cycling completed) by the inductive testing of a more robustly personalist approach. While some have made a personalist turn, eg JPII & New Natural Law school, they remain a prioristic, hence rather arbitrary, not having made a more robustly inductive turn. It is one thing to take one’s old natural law arguments and translate them into a personalist idiom, quite another to actually adopt an inductive, personalist method, which actually inquires into the putative value-realizations & value-frustrations it suggests will present in the concrete circumstances of person’s lives.

2) Too many reflexively charge differently minded others with moral relativism, nihilism, emotivism, voluntarism, vulgar pragmatism & a host of other philosophical pejoratives, as if a defensible ethical pluralism might not otherwise be grounded in the epistemic humility, metaphysical fallibilism & moral probabilism of our quotidian human common sense & sensibilities.

3) re: moral probabilism, too few draw a suitable distinction between empirical & theoretic doubts, between “is that?” & “what is?”

4) too few avoid category errors & logical missteps in navigating a hierarchy of truths & values along w/principles of cooperation & double effect, for example, re: act of voting, too much discourse moves too quickly from a ranking of causes to a double effect calculus, skipping or giving short shrift to a critical principle of cooperation analysis, which is to say that, as they proceed, for example, with a political cause ranking through a cooperation calculus (principle of cooperation) to calculate the effects (principle of double effect) of a vote or policy, they often ignore how very highly tenuous a given causal chain is – as would be in play regarding what are very highly contingent acts – … in other words, they adopt a moral & prudential calculus susceptible to the parody of rendering most remote material cooperation illicit in our public lives

5) re: evaluation of moral acts, re: moral objects (cluster concepts w/specifications beyond physical act), intentions & circumstances, too few recognize that moral objects are cluster concepts that have already specified the circumstances of physical acts, often further defining them enough to consider such as virtually exceptionless, but not with enough knowledge to justify considering them absolutely so, as we reason from general precepts to concrete norms

6) too few distinguish ontic from moral evil

7) too few distinguish formal from material innocence or harm

8) too few distinguish prudential from moral judgments

Regarding theological anthropology, then:

9) too many fail to recognize the Spirit’s presence in the secular, in the natural & in our temporal ends via the gratuity of creation, wrongly imagining that the Spirit is only ever present in the sacred, in the supernatural & in our eternal ends via the gratuity of grace

10) too many confuse the law of graduality with a gradualism of the law

11) too many give a primacy to coercive measures rather than, per subsidiarity principles, soft powers

See: https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/a-goldilocks-theological-anthropology-between-pessimism-optimism-natural-supernatural-nature-grace/

Afterward:

After I’d written the above, in general, I came across a reminder of where I’d so often seen such lapses, in particular:

+Chaput has always seemed sincere to me & his logic clear, but awash in category errors. As I think about this, his approach & writings over the years may well provide the best concrete example of so much that’s been wrong in Catholic moral theology & theological anthropology. Indeed, he often provides the perfect foil for how to otherwise philosophize & theologize properly in the secular age.

https://disqus.com/home/discussion/firstthingsmag/thoughts_on_the_instrumentum_laboris_charles_j_chaput_ofm_cap_first_things/#comment-4125474133

And I would imagine that the words of Michael Sean Winters, below, generally reflect what I more particularly specified above:

I admit that I find it tiresome to have to continually criticize Archbishop Chaput. I do so in sadness not in anger. But, it must be said: If I were writing a work of fiction and I wanted to create a caricature of a culture warrior bishop, I do not think I would have the courage to create one so reckless, so uncomplicated in his moral sensibilities (and not in a good way), and so quick to render judgment against others, so willing to ignore the pope, or to cite him, as it suits his own purposes, so intellectually thin and so edgily partisan, as Archbishop Chaput’s columns show him to be.

https://www.ncronline.org/print/blogs/distinctly-catholic/archbishop-chaputs-regrettable-column

[Michael Sean Winters is NCR Washington columnist and a visiting fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.]

Why I Have No Metaphysic

My adolescent fascinations and undergraduate & graduate preoccupations were rather narrowly focused on the behavioral sciences. And not just at the macro-levels of ethology, ecology & comparative psychology, but at the nuts & bolts level of brain biochemistry.

One year, in high school, I advanced to and participated in the International Science & Engineering Fair, having constructed a rather colossal, rube-goldbergian perfusion apparatus, designed to keep rat livers alive, in vitro, while conducting biochemical experiments on them.

That same year, I had also worked with a friend on memory transfer experiments. She had already accomplished primitive memory transfers between classically conditioned & naïve recipient planaria (flatworms), so, I suggested we take that behavioral investigation to another phylogenetic level. You see, in what were to me the Disney-like stacks of the dark aisles of the LSU library, I had previously encountered the wondrous mysterium fascinans of mammalian memory transfer research.

So, we acquired the requisite hamsters, trained some in mazes, extracted their brain RNA and injected it into their untrained siblings. A half-century later, when I pass that little pine grove where we buried them all, I rather wistfully recall their sacrifice, less sure now than then whether it was truly for the sake of science.

Let’s just leave it at that.

In college, hyper-motivated to get out of the classroom and back into the boundless tremendum of those library stacks and the endless fascinans of the laboratory, I hardly knew where to focus degree-wise. No particular curriculum fully accommodated my feverish interest in being able to better account for animal and human behaviors, so to speak, reductively. I therefore accelerated my graduate school entrance by craftily employing a general studies degree program. Such programs “generally” foster a rather lax approach that allows one to optimally navigate past difficult subject matters, but I exploited its flexibility to pull off the informal equivalent of a triple major with roughly 30+ hours each in chemistry and psychology coupled with even more coursework in zoology, much of that in independent research. So, it was thereby that I had thus ended up spending more than three years of undergraduate & graduate work in a neuroendocrinology lab that had previously, for example, figured out certain of the physiological mechanisms of bird migration. Oversimplifying things, we could get these critters to fly north versus south with specifically timed hormonal injections!

It was also thereby that I had thus advanced my education with a veritable dearth of arts and humanities coursework.

“Advanced my education,” of course, if employed as a true term of art, would not really apply to one who, fifty years hence, has yet to take a single philosophy or theology course, although I did take a single course in literature, another perhaps in history, for what that’s worth.

No, for me, any employment of that phrase more so resembles the meaning behind the Bonnie & Clyde lyric, “advanced their reputation and made their graduation into the banking business.” Turns out, I retired from banking, having served on various venues as chairman, president & chief executive officer. I won’t suffer you that digression even though it would have deep spiritual implications, more than tangential to … what’s our topic? … oh, yeah, metaphysics.

Throughout these very same time periods, my other youthful preoccupations had me actively engaged with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, youth retreat movements and liturgical music ministries, all great places, by the way, to meet nice girls, which was yet another major and mesmerizing preoccupation of mine. I mention my religious orientation only by way of emphasizing why I suffered neither existential angst about nor epistemic incongruities from my heavily reductionist behavioral bent. It wasn’t reductionistic by virtue of the fact that a Loyola Jesuit had already introduced me to the distinction between primary and secondary causality. That was the only metaphysics I needed to continue gleefully on my way while my more fundamentalistic friends were suffering crises of faith over little things such as … oh, let me think … evolution.

Throughout all of my coursework and research, especially when engaging the most highly speculative theoretical aspects of each scientific discipline that I had studied, I rather subconsciously and implicitly cultivated what I’ve now come to appreciate as a healthy aporetic sense. I became very aware that, in most every discipline, empirical research would inevitably be encountered by descriptive aporia, which, in turn, developed into various interpretive schools, each subscribing to an approach that variously over- and/or under- emphasized distinct aspects of phenomena, whether focused on specific entities, in and of themselves, or on their properties, or on their relations, inner or outer.

By distinct, I’d later come to appreciate, I mean to suggest that they were aspiring to develop speculative conceptions that make a practical difference.

The practical differences implied by various theoretical conceptions can take a long time in coming, empirically. I began to notice this pattern in college.

In physics, I saw how, while empirical quantum mechanics was indisputable, different schools of quantum interpretation proliferated. In cosmology, different cosmogonal models competed. In biology, different accounts of life’s origins grappled with the inexplicable leap from physics and chemistry to biology. In cognitive psychology, different philosophies of mind modeled the origins of animal sentience. In anthropology, semioticians devised conceptual distinctions in explanatory attempts to understand how symbolic language could arise from mere icons and indexes, taking us beyond a mere sentience to a robust sapience.

I never bothered to invest very much in one or the other interpretation. I was content, rather, to try to more so understand what their particular questions were ABOUT, less so what their proposed answers, sometimes pretentiously, suggested. My early grasp of the rudimentary distinction between primary and secondary causation, as conveyed by those happy charismatic Jesuits, who, to me, embodied both the epitome of erudition and pinnacle of evangelical joy, later evolved into more sophisticated intuitions, inchoate early on to be sure, but, later articulated in such heuristics as Gödel’s theorems, Agrippa’s trilemma, Peter Suber’s “problems of beginning” and other safeguards against epistemic hubris.

I had implicitly rejected any tidy epistemic compartmentalizations of supposedly non-overlapping magisteria and approached reality with a single, fallibilist epistemology. That’s to say that, to me, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology.

There are no such things as strictly religious or metaphysical or scientific epistemologies. My youthful reductive tendencies have not been shaken, but neither have they devolved into any unmitigated positivisms or vulgar pragmatisms.

None of this is to deny that certain ontologies, quantum interpretations, cosmogonal models, biogenetic theories, philosophies of mind or language origin anthropologies wouldn’t have even profound implications, existentially, regarding, for example, free will, or theologically regarding, the reality of God.

Those interpretations do introduce conceptual distinctions that can have profound practical implications. I just never got terribly engaged by arguments for or against such as solipsism or free will, much less first principles. Common sense abductions, reductio ad absurdums and methodological stipulations remain – not only necessary, but – sufficient for those types of realities without the further “benefit” of tautological deductions, formal proofs or metaphysical excursions.

My vague God-conceptions have always taken refuge – not in reality’s metaphysical gaps and theoretic aporia, but – at its perimeters, its initial, boundary & limit conditions, its axiomatic contours as defended by such epistemic bulwarks as, again, Gödel-like implications, Agrippa’s trilemma and Suber’s “problems of beginning.”

So, yes, I do rather pragmatically, not just a priori, eschew certain worldviews without feeling the need to engage in atheological mud-wrestling.

And I do very much appreciate that not all tautologies are equally taut vis a vis embracing epistemic virtue and avoiding epistemic vice. But even the best interpretations of our highly speculative theoretical sciences have not yet yielded a normalization of gravity and quantum mechanics, a biopoietic account of life origins, a sentiopoietic account of qualia, a sapiopoietic account of symbolic language.

So, I content myself by simply bookmarking these diverse aporia in terms of their ABOUTNESS that I can better inventory the nature of the questions they are asking in their methodological probes without overinvesting in the nature of the answers they pretend to proffer with their metaphysical conclusions. Such conclusions are too often not merely embedded in the premises and presuppositions of such metaphysical argumentation but in their very definitions.

The aboutnesses most often under consideration include (using some personal, idiosyncratic neologisms) the following aporia:

1) veldo-poietic regarding field origins that appear teleo-potent or end-unbounded;

2) cosmo-poietic regarding physical realities that appear teleo-matic or end-stated;

3) bio-poietic regarding life origins that appear teleo-nomic or end-directed;

4) sentio-poietic regarding sentience origins that appear teleo-qualic or end-purposed; and

5) sapio-poietic regarding language origins that appear robustly teleo-logic or end-intended.

In terms of aboutness, different interpretations at each emergent level employ metaphorical languages that are largely incommunicative in the other levels. This is to recognize, for example, that, if we reconciled quantum mechanics with gravity today, we’d be no closer, tomorrow, to delivering an adequate account of biogenesis, much less a philosophy of mind with a sufficient explanatory adequacy, much much less solve the riddles of indeterminacy that inhere in any account of free will.

Above, I referenced entities, properties and their inner & outer relations. In my encounters with different accounts of reality’s various emergent levels of aboutness, I noticed that, whichever chosen root metaphor, whether of substances, relations, processes, experiences or otherwise, each account variously dealt with those phenomenal categories as well as addressed the temporality of past, present & future, or possibilities, actualities, probabilities & necessities. Transcending the various root metaphors were vague conceptions like act & potency, which seemed to me like helpful placeholders for any ontology.

Because my passion had always been focused on the epistemic reduction of behavior, I was especially drawn to semiotic emergentist accounts that addressed human language origins. It was in my reading regarding same that I encountered for the first time, in a meaningful way, how indispensable were Aristotelian conceptions of formal & final causes, in addition to such as efficient, material, instrumental, exemplary & imaginal causes.

Nothing advanced my grasp of such teleodynamics more than my friendship with & generous tutelage by Ursula Goodenough, who’s long collaborated with her good friend Terrence Deacon regarding all things biologically emergent for decades. Introduced by a mutual friend, I recognized in their work the very same Peircean themes I had first grappled with when reading the philosophy & theology of the late Jesuit, Don Gelpi. Why was I reading him? Only because, fifty years ago, he was one of those crazy smart & crazy happy Jesuits, whom I saw every Friday night at Loyola prayer meetings.

So, there I was, outfitted with a triadic heuristic that approached vague phenomena, from the quantum through the mental, not with any metaphysic or root metaphor, but using placeholders like entities, properties & relations; possibilities, actualities & probabilities; past, present & future; act & potency; being, reality & existence; in/determined & in/determinable; and the full suite of Aristotelian causes, which was proving to be a useful epistemic heuristic for folks of otherwise diverse ontological persuasions, including physicalists. (I know that raises some questions for many but I’ve addressed it elsewhere at length and it’s not my purpose to flesh that out here). I will say this, however, as an emergentist, I do not subscribe to such distinctions as others often draw between strong & weak emergence, weak & strong supervenience. (I travel light, sans metaphysic, sans supervenience & sans filioque. It’s all of one fabric. Ha ha!)

Keep in mind, very little of the meta-metaphysical discussion consideration above had anything to do with my approach to theology, which, in my life, otherwise had focused on formative spirituality, the ascetical & mystical and interreligious dialogue. Instead, my biological interests had begun to intersect philosophy of mind (e.g. Deacon versus Dennett & Dawkins) and Aristotelian emergentist accounts made for a great heuristic.

I only ever employed such heuristics, as I mentioned above, to bookmark aporia, different types of aboutness, inventory the relevant questions & map concepts across competing interpretations. I otherwise remained and remain a metaphysical agnostic, a realist, to be sure, but with no interest in inhabiting any given system.

I suppose you could say that I’m putting off any serious metaphysical excitement and over-the-top ontological enthusiasm for any given theology of nature until I see how the ontology that underwrites same has normalized gravity & quantum mechanics, or proved empirically fruitful with its biogenetic stance or philosophy of mind deliverances.

So, my modest emergentist heuristic doesn’t really do natural theology. That task can be done with a Peircean-like abduction of the Ens Necessarium in a single afternoon’s parlor sitting, not explicitly employing Peirce, mind you, just competently engaging one’s common sense. We will typically bring three musements into play, whether inchoately or reflectively:

1) a mereological intuition regarding the relations between reality’s parts & wholes;

2) a metaphysical intuition reflecting some particular root metaphor for reality’s entities & their properties; and

3) an epistemic intuition (usually involving some version of the principle of sufficient reason) as to whether, regarding reality’s primitives & axioms, those are merely brute or clearly fruit about which reality, in principle or not, remains mute.

My own intuition suggests that, whichever stances one presupposes, mereologically, metaphysically or epistemically, will lead to an abduction of some Ens Necessarium, propositionally. Various quidditative attributes then get intuitively assigned, which can (presupposing an epistemic virtue not all attain) lead to competing equiplausible interpretations of reality writ large, which then get adjudicated mostly dispositionally by- not a vulgar, but – a semiotic realist pragmatism, wherein a plurality of defensible stances (metaphysical, even moral) can reasonably, hopefully peacably, coexist due to – not any relativism, emotivism or voluntarism, but – a metaphysical fallibilism.

Neither does my heuristic do theologies of nature. It only provides me some conceptual placeholders to map whatever it seems to me to be that competing stances happen to be talking about in terms of aboutness.

In other words, I’m rather content to say that something like Scotus’ formal distinction appears at stake, here; something like Thomas’ analogy of being, there; something like Peirce’s distinctions between Being, Reality & existence, here.

And I want to affirm, over against any silly ignosticism, that such talk is meaningful, existentially & theotically, even while insisting it has serious limits, speculatively.

I do rather believe that serious formal argumentation can take place, ontologically & modally, even syllogistically, as long as one guarantees the conceptual compatibility of one’s quidditative God-conceptions employing only apophatic predications. I think one can see, however, how that type of argumentation crosses only a very limited epistemic distance, rationally?

What about other positive God-conceptions? Can they be meaningful?

Well, semantically & univocally, I believe so. But with the caveat that, for dang sure, absent a robust root metaphor that travels up & down the great chain of being gifting us robustly empirical deliverances regarding our quotidian, finite, determinate & temporal realities, why in the world, much less out of this world, would we over-invest in their speculative conclusions regarding ethereal, infinite, indeterminate & eternal realities?

The same epistemic critique applies to any ontological analogy or semantical univocity of being. Our metaphors will collapse at pretty much the same velocity as they cascade.

I’ve addressed elsewhere why, beyond our onto-theological natural theologies & theo-ontological theologies of nature, which do aspire to systematic & syllogistic argumentation via root metaphors, most of our employment of analogies & metaphors otherwise more so amounts to the informal theophanic God-talk of our common sense & sensibilities.

And I’ve defended it as eminently actionable, existentially, and as soulfully dispositional, communally, aesthetically, normatively & liberatively, all which, integrally & confluently, can, over time, reasonably raise our confidence in all things hoped for, our convictions of things unseen and certainties regarding our practical & moral responses, relationally, to God, others, cosmos & even oneself.

Many seem to lose track, even in the very same conversations, of how they segue from onto-theology to theo-ontology to theophanic discourse and back, leading to all manner of category errors. Are we talking about God’s being, here? His ousia? And, there, a particular hypostatic thatness? Or, now, the divine energies? Or, then, the Reality of the Ens Necessarium? His will or intellect? Essential attributes or Cambridge properties? Determinate or indeterminate reality? Divine simplicity or freedom?

The categories in which we traffic, non-metaphysically via revelation, shouldn’t be facilely mapped to the theo-ontological categories of our metaphysics presupposing they can syllogistically overcome our theologically speculative aporia. These mapping exercises, rather, serve the missiological imperatives of Gospel inculturation, which presuppose a comprehensive epistemic journey, from start to finish, through Lonergan’s theological methods: research, interpretation, history, dialectics, foundations, doctrines, systematics and communications. The communication of an inculturated Gospel will often involve a translation between different metaphysical idioms. Not only that, as addressed above, even within a given metaphysic, manifold interpretations can compete. Further complicating translation efforts, the metaphysical idioms under consideration may be appropriated within any given culture more so implicitly and inchoately, less so explicitly and reflectively, all of this coming into play even in the etymological roots of each language’s concepts.

Why even expect our onto-theologies and theo-ontologies to overcome the aporia of our speculative, systematic theologies, before we’ve even see what Scotism & Thomism, Whitehead & Hartshorne, or, for that matter, Aristotle or Plato, have done with gravity & quantum mechanics or biogenesis?

So, when, at last, I did consciously engage natural theologies & theologies of nature, I had come from the world of the highly speculative, theoretical sciences, where I had learned of the time-honored efficacies of the long-banished Aristotelian formal & final causations and had become aware of the epistemic cul de sacs of logical positivisms & radical empiricisms. I had also learned of the tremendous heuristic value of the very vague categories of act & potency, determinacies & indeterminacies, vagueness & generality.

I came to theology already bearing the gift of my epistemic heuristic and discovered in its onto-theological & theo-ontological discourse that some of the vary same aboutnesses and causations and phenomenological categories were in play!

However, I also brought with me the same degree of epistemic humility that inhered in a fallibilist approach.

And, in theology, as in science, I encountered, in no too few theologians, the very same levels of unjustified epistemic hubris that I had witnessed among certain scientists.

But I had, still have, little interest in becoming a Scotist or Whiteheadian. And my introduction to Thomism was Maritain’s existential approach because it was the vehicle which had first taken me into serious interreligious dialogue. Thereafter, I soon learned there were Aristotelian, Transcendental, Analytic, Phenomenological, Process, Neo-Scholastic and Semiotic schools of Thomism, among others. I haven’t inhabited any of those either. Neither do I buy into Peirce’s metaphysical musings, only finding his phenomenological categories to be great conceptual placeholders.

I remain, therefore, for the most part, a thoroughgoing metaphysical agnostic.

Don’t get me wrong, though.

I do applaud those who engage fully any given school within onto-theological & theo-ontological enterprises, as well as regarding natural law deontologies.

I only ever insist, however, that …

any given metaphysic not be delivered with a confidence level that outruns its heuristic value in physics …

that our deontologies should be delivered at least as modestly as our ontologies are tentative …

that the normative impetus imparted to any epistemic stance be commensurate with the evidentiary standards it’s already met.

Christianity remains in search of a metaphysic?

So do I.

Over-coming not Over-turning Metaphysics: A Peircean Trinitophany of Divine THATness, WHATness & HOWness

For Peirce,

Being > Reality > Existence

We can successfully reference the

Being of God

Reality of God

Will of God

But the Peircean category of Existence does not refer to God, only to creation.

Peircean categories can help us avoid the category errors that can easily arise in our references to distinctly different types of trinitarian properties, haecceities & relations, e.g. what we attempt to predicate of ousia, hypostases & energeia.

Philosophically …

from the HOWness (primary & secondary relations) of certain effects as would be proper to no known causes …

we reason to the THATness (primary substance) of the Reality of God, as such effects …

evoke the WHATness (secondary substance) of the Being of God – as another “kind” of being, an Ens Necessarium (Peirce), which only special revelation can qualify.

Divine aseity, kataphatically & quidditatively, describes the Being of God as a secondary substance or essence (Aristotelian) or quiddity (Scotistic WHATness), i.e. the Father’s revealed, concrete unoriginateness (e.g. Rahner), all corresponding to Peircean firstness.

Divine simplicity, apophatically & nondescriptively, references the Reality of God as a primary substance (Aristotelian) or haecceity (Scotistic THATness), i.e. God’s philosophically knowable unoriginateness (e.g. Rahner), all corresponding to Peircean secondness.

Ergo, the divine hypostases of revelation refer to the trinitarian relations of three primary substances, while the divine ousia refers to the trinitarian relations in one secondary substance or essence.

Divine energeia, participatably & experientially, diffuse the Will of God as esse intentionale (Thomist) or relationality (Cappadocian HOWness), i.e. the personhood of the Eucharistic divine-human communion (e.g. Zizioulas), all corresponding to Peircean thirdness.

Of course, all of this presents over against Arianism, modalism, tritheism, etc

How do we understand the content of special revelation, as our analogical & doxological predications of God, employing ever-cascading but always-collapsing metaphors, seem to challenge Thomas’ doctrine of analogy?

Aquinas denies univocism & equivocism prior to, apparently, affirming their amalgamated version, some might suggest, in an ad hoc manner, i.e. not defending that leap or deriving its logic?

It seems to me, however, that his trans-analogical, amalgamated analogia, derives in the same way that Christopher McHugh derives his God argument. McHugh improves Anselm, Gödel & Hartshorne’s ontological proofs by employing only apophatic predications, while otherwise still following formal modal logic. Any logical inconsistencies are thereby guaranteed not to derive from conceptual incompatibilities, thereby immunizing the argument from any susceptibility to a subversion by parody.

So, properly predicated, our quidditative probes do employ a complete cycling of triadic inference, abductively hypothesizing, deductively clarifying & inductively testing our knowledge of God.

But they accomplish only so much.

Onto-theologically, regarding God’s primary substance, we abduct the Reality of God’s THATness.

Theo-ontologically, regarding God’s secondary substance, we deduct the Being of God’s WHATness, our kataphasis necessarily translated into apophasis.

Avoiding a sterile, nonvirtuous cycle of dyadic inference, i.e. of rationalistic hypotheses & syllogisms …

In other words, not over-turning but over-coming metaphysics

Theopoetically, beyond our abductive onto-theologizing regarding the Reality of God’s primary substance or THATness, and deductive theo-ontologizing regarding the Being of God’s secondary substance or WHATness …

regarding the Will of God’s HOWness, then, we inductively participate in the theophanic Divine Energies.

We existentially engage their connatural, eudaimonistic invitations ever-aspiring to embody their entelechies.

While often inchoately & confusedly, these participations via engagements & embodiments can serve to implicitly authenticate the ortho-doxic formulations of our onto-theologies & theo-ontologies …

through their ongoing transformative realizations of manifold & multiform ortho-communal, ortho-aesthetic, ortho-pathic, ortho-praxic & ortho-theotic efficacies.

Another parsing:

Presupposing 1) a root metaphor (substantial &/or relational) 2) reasoning formally & 3) predicating apophatically (albeit constrained by indeterminacies of vagueness & generality)

Propositionally, then –

Onto-theologically, we abduct the Ens Necessarium w/a successful reference to the Reality of God’s divine esse via philosophy, i.e. THATness or hypostasis.

Theo-ontologically, we increase the accuracy of our theological references to the Reality of God’s divine essence, apophatically, saying what God is not (univocally &/or literally) &/or not like (equivocally &/or analogically), i.e. WHATness or essence or ousia.

Dispositionally, then –

Theo-poetically, we increase the accuracy of our theological descriptions of the Reality of God’s divine energies, kataphatically & apophatically, via myth, storytelling & liturgy w/ever-cascading, always-collapsing metaphors, norming our responses to divine relationality, i.e. its HOWness or teloi, as they re-positionally transform us (fostering what Peirce might call a quietus vis a vis admirability via the primacy of the aesthetic, what the mystics might call sweet repose).

See also:

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/24/the-apparent-tension-between-divine-simplicity-divine-freedom/

https://paxamoretbonum.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/simply-divine-or-a-divinity-fudge-cooking-with-dionysius-scotus-peirce-aquinas-palamas/

The Re-Enchantment of a never, truly disenchanted Reality

It’s not so much choices of root metaphor, metaphysically, or whole-part stances, mereologically, that will logically force an a/theological conclusion or foreclose divine aseity & human freedom.

Rather, it’s facile conceptions of telos – not predicated equivocally as teloi.

Metaphysical & mereological choices merely leave different questions begging, eg “Why not rather nothing?” changes to “Why not rather something else?”

Causal realities require more nuance than generally employed, not only differentiating ultimate & temporal teloi, but even within the created order of determinate realities, recognizing the plurality of teloi presenting as different kinds of “aboutness.”

These telic realities will reflect various degrees of indeterminacy, which, while ontologically suggestive, remain epistemically undecidable.

Couple a much too facile & univocal conception of telos to the Principle of Sufficient Reason [PSR] with any metaphysic cum mereology du jour — and

that naive realism will morph mere methodological stipulations into full blown metaphysical philosophies, e.g. Spinozan (PSR on steroids), Denettian-Dawkinsian materialism & rationalistic theisms, which, being sylly, rely – not on faith, but – syllogisms.

A rigorous emergentism has now rehabilitated, semiotically, the never truly disabled formal-final causes, re-enchanting our never truly dis-enchanted reality.

These telic causal joints don’t present as metaphysical gaps into which we’d fideistically place our gods, but neither can the neo-Nietzscheans guard the metaphysical perimeters, where reality’s initial, boundary & limit conditions can’t a priori be declared brute rather than a donative fruit.

Is reality thus brute, fruit or mute?

For most persons & most of history, reality has been interpreted as – not at all mute, but – having spoken.

A robust existential actionability has been cashed out of that interpretation & normatively justified in terms of augmented unity, beauty, goodness & freedom.

Conceptions of divine interactivity have ranged between the remotest of deisms & most intimate of spousal mysticisms.

Such conceptions aren’t urged or constrained by our metaphysics, though, only by our theodicy-free theophanies!

Trinitarian Asymmetries: Ad Extra & Ad Intra

In the eternal generation of the Son & procession of the Spirit, the economic trinity manifests the immanent trinity.

The non-determinate Creator gifts (originates or speaks) …

the uncreated, transcendent, trans-determinate Logos (norms) mediated by …

the empowering Spirit to …

the determinate creation, the order of which thus presents as an harmonious, telic configuration of pluralities.

This manifestation of the economic trinity exhausts what can be said of the immanent trinity.

Apart from the creative act & divine energeia, which reveal an extrinsic, relational, trinitarian divine esse intentionale

we can attribute nothing determinate, intrinsically or essentially, to the trinitarian divine esse naturale in its aseity.

While being, reality & existence refer to creatures, only being & reality refer to the Creator, a non-existent.

The divine esse naturale (intrinsic, essential being of God) remains trans-formally distinct from the divine esse intentionale (extrinsic, relational reality of God).

I thus eisegetically adapt Neville’s creatio ex nihilo & Yong’s pneumatology in my own meta-heuristic.

Robert Cummings Neville‘s __God the Creator: On the Transcendence and Presence of God__ & Amos Yong‘s __Discerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian Theology of Religions__

Truly Apophatic Negations of Divine Being

I prefer the prefix non– for apophatic negations that refer to divine being, essence or esse naturale, & trans– to refer to divine reality, energies or esse intentionale, eg. non- vs trans-in/determinate, modal, analogical, formal, etc b/c non-
better conveys that I have no idea!

The above refer, respectively, to the Peircean, Palamitic & Neo-Classical distinctions.