Types of Causal & Explanatory Eliminativisms per Aristotelian Causes & Lonerganian Imperatives

Types of Causal & Explanatory Eliminativisms per Aristotelian Causes & Lonerganian Imperatives

Eliminative Nihilism is ignostic regarding existential causes & any explanatory that. It violates the imperative to be & denies transcendent being. Lord, give me only your love

Eliminative Nominalism is ignostic regarding essential causes & any explanatory what vis a vis attending, descriptively. It violates the imperative to be attentive & denies transcendent truth. Lord, give me your grace

Eliminative Voluntarism is ignostic regarding efficient causes & any explanatory who vis a vis intelligence, self-transcendently. It violates the imperative to be intelligent & denies transcendent freedom. Take, Lord, receive my entire will

Eliminative Relativism is ignostic regarding material causes & any constraints on (explanatory *) when or where vis a vis responsibility, normatively. It violates the imperative to be responsible & denies transcendent goodness (in terms of ordinacy, ie lesser & greater). Take, Lord, receive all my liberty

Eliminative Materialism is ignostic regarding formal causes & any explanatory how vis a vis reasonableness, evaluatively. It violates the imperative to be reasonable & denies transcendent beauty. Take, Lord, receive my memory

Eliminative Pragmatism is ignostic regarding final causes & any explanatory why vis a vis relationships, interpretively. It violates the imperative to be in love & denies transcendent unity. Take, Lord, receive my understanding

  • One can substitute “constraints on” for explanatory.
  • the material is that which takes up space-time

Final Word

The above is intended as an informal heuristic to foster reflection and unavoidably includes some rather facile, although not wholly indefensible, conceptual mappings.

The major practical upshot, consistent with all of my musings, is that metaphysical ignosticisms enjoy no epistemic warrant. One adopts any of these eliminativisms at the peril of self-subverting their own stance via parody.

One problem faced by every type of eliminativism – nihilism, nominalism, voluntarism, relativism, eliminative materialism or vulgar pragmatism – is that, taken as a system, it will self-subvert through parody.

Contra Wittgenstein – He should’ve said: It’s not “only” how things are but that & Who things are, which is the mystical.

For reality’s enchantments pertain to the reduction of – not only essences by existential acts, but – final & material potencies by formal & efficient acts.

This is to say that, among other epistemic [methodological] limitations & ontic [putative in-principle] occultations, that reality’s shot through with Godel-like constraints & infinite semiosis vis a vis all axiomatizing aspirations & [inescapably informal] interpretations.

This applies to explanations of – not just putative primal realities that lend themselves, undecidably so, to competing alternative axiomatic accounts of initial, boundary & limit conditions, but – EVERY instance & set of samenesses & differences that participate in relationship.

By “undecidable” we refer to a strictly logical undecidability vis a vis competing accounts, which otherwise get adjudicated pragmatically in terms of existential actionability & relationship enhancement, ie via an equiplausibility principle & not per some vulgar pragmatism.

Modally, the essential samenesses are rooted as possibilities from the past (primary natures), the materially individuated (& or haecceity-like) differences as present actualities (hypostatic natures), which formally participate, relationally, toward a future finality (secondary natures).

Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology a Neo-Chalcedonian Cosmotheandrism


The Vestigia, Imagines & Similitudines Dei per Universalism & Apokatastasis

Human reality fully transcends the teleo-potent, -matic, -nomic, -qualic as teleo-logic

beyond the essential, dynamical human being/becoming (acting per existential, material & final human potencies), as vestigia Dei (autopoietic, but as more determined, less indetermined)

w/a distinctively human abduction as it transcends abductive instinct w/abductive inference, fostering a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, aesthetically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among divine teloi & logoi w/an enlightened self-interest (erotically & proto-ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, imperfect contrition, etc, of human persons as imagines Dei … every distinctively personal act constitutes a volitional disposition re both what to freely will (among divine logoi) and whether to (freely) will at all (i.e. choosing not just instinctively but inferentially), so as less determined, more indetermined

next (at age of reason) realizing a more versatile, plastic behavioral repertoire, ethically, i.e. vis a vis choosing among even more divine teloi & logoi by transcending self-interests (agapically & ethically), e.g. Bernardian love, Ignatian degrees of humility, Kohlberg’s stages, perfect contrition, etc, of a person becoming (virtuous and/or vicious 2nd natures), thereby with a more expansive aesthetic scope, too, as similitudines Dei, as much more indetermined

Considerations of human volition, a freely willing human, must avoid absolute notions of in/determinism, for the personal freedom of humans presents only in terms of degrees, whereby we are free-enough to truly enjoy meaningful (good-enough, beautiful-enough, dayenu) value-realizations.

It seems to me that human persons are determined enough so as to be radically unable to thwart the divine logoi ordered toward our personal being (essential nature as imagines Dei) but are indetermined enough so as to be radically able to thwart those divine logoi ordered toward our personal becoming (secondary nature as similitudines Dei).

All other conceptions of human freedom are facile & simplistic, and fall prey to tautological nonsense and analytical paradox, anthropologically, either indeterministically reducing to all sorts of ridiculous voluntarisms & libertarianisms or deterministically yielding silly intellectualisms & compatibilisms.

Neither Thomist nor Scotist nor Molinist theological anthropologies, properly approached, fall prey to such anthropological nonsense, essentially, because their explicit/implicit “theories of everything” embrace a priniciple of “sufficient” reason, which is neither the idealist monist PSR of Spinoza, which reduces to pantheism, nor a materialist monist PSR, which reduces to nihilism. There are various physicalist & naturalist approaches that vary in their interpretations of necessity & in/determinacy, but they go beyond the heuristic of a suitably nuanced Aristotelian hylemorphism to prove too much, in my view.

How one conceives human freedom vis a vis ultimate realities will always boil down to one’s stipulations re mereological (whole-part conception), metaphysical (root metaphor) and teleological (PSR version) primal realities.

Below are some reflections evoked by:

Despairing into Gehenna: Manis, Kierkegaard, and the Choice Model

One upshot of divine simplicity [DDS] and actus purus, when understood in terms of apophatic negation, would be that one way determinate being differs from divine being is that the former can act only in relationship to limited potencies.

The human being, constitutively, enjoys a freedom that phylogenetically (in its evolutionary lineage) presented with the emergence of symbolic language. Prior to the age of reason, where new freedoms (moral & spiritual) will emerge, ontogenetically (in its individual development), a human child already enjoys a freedom of choosing among equally optimal self-interested choices with a behavioral plasticity that differs – not only quantitatively, but – qualitatively from other primates.

Specifically, as a child matures, its (aesthetic) scope of self-interested choices is not limited to mere abductive instincts, which many animals exhibit, but is expanded by abductive inference, an if-then calculus driven by an early imagination that’s growing exponentially. This exponential expansion of behavioral plasticity precisely results from an unmooring of the nonarbitrary range of instinctive responses by the child’s growing repertoire of arbitrary symbol conventions.

I emphasize this constitutive freedom of choosing among equally optimal goods per a young human’s first order desires (what they want) to note its relationship to human eros, what St Bernard distinguished in terms of love of self for sake of self and love of God and/or others for sake of self. From this eros, young (and old) humans experience imperfect contrition, i.e. expressing sorrow due to our just punishment and growing in enlightened self-interest (choosing being over nonbeing). I mention this in the context of reminding all that such an imperfect contrition is all that’s ever been required “to be saved” and to observe that I was taught that it would be heretical to suggest otherwise.

Thus, it seems to me that, soteriologically, human beings are intrinsically constituted by all that’s both necessary and sufficient to be saved?

Furthermore, this elemental human freedom possesses a distinct proto-moral and proto-spiritual character, which means that it can potentially progress beyond its constitutive & soteriological essential nature to realize a more robustly elective & sophiological secondary nature, which might determine – not its eschatological destiny, but – its beatitudinal scope. By that, I mean to suggest that it could progress in Bernardian love, beyond the erotic to the agapic, i.e. love of God & others for their own sake, thus expanding its original frontier of equally optimal choices (what some would call a Pareto front), thus enjoying an expanded aesthetic scope of choosing among even more goods, albeit always acting within limited potencies.

Thus we can parse human freedom, constitutively & electively, soteriologically and sophiologically, erotically & agapically, in terms of aesthetic scope expansion, moral progress & growth in intimacy (theosis).

Thus we can distinguish between 1) willing among equally optimal goods, aesthetically; 2) whether we will or not, morally & spiritually; and 3) what we will. Our “willing among” goods and volitional option “between” willing or not (choosing between being & nonbeing, good & evil) refer to human freedoms. “What we will” has been determined by divine logoi, teloi, intentionale, etc.

Coming full circle to the DDS & Actus Purus, might this portrait of the imago Dei not illuminate our understanding of divine being? If we properly distinguish between the divine nature and will, esse naturale and intentionale, might we not glimpse a thin divine passibility, where the divine will chooses – never between good and evil, being and nonbeing, but – along an eternal Pareto front of equally optimal “best” worlds, no such choices entailing either improvements or impairments of an ever-perfect divine nature’s aesthetic intensity but only “affecting” a divine aesthetic scope? Would this not account, exegetically & Christologically, for the distinction between Jesus’ natural will and the Father’s will as He prayed for the passing of that particular Cup? Would this not account for human second order desires, theotically, for example, such as when we grow with holy indifference in Ignatian degrees of humility, from image to likeness, praying for our transformation even in “what we want to want”? That’s to say – not only regarding second order desires pertaining to our choosing “between” being and nonbeing, but – our longing to please others and God in our choosing “among” equally optimal goods in holy submission to wills not our own?

Of course, we differ from Jesus in that our natural wills have a gnomic character due to our temporal epistemic distancing, which may even perdure in some manner post-mortem for some duration. If my apokatastatic intuitions are correct, our gnomic willing affects and effects – not soteriological realities of our essential natures vis a vis the imago Dei, but – our sophiological trajectories as we grow our secondary natures in intimacy and beatitude.

These implications of my universalism thus turn on this distinction:

A single will to raise up the image, but two to make the image into a likeness. ~ Lossky

This implicates another distinction – that between our essential & secondary natures. Human freedom determines only WHETHER one chooses to will at all & not WHAT one wills (in participating with divine logoi), incrementally forming a virtuous or vicious secondary nature or various degrees of both.

Vicious choices are privative of being, hence eternally self-annihilating as God honors human freedom. This is to suggest that, whatever reality they exhibit temporally, will not perdure eternally (much less be eternalized instantaneously & proleptically like our virtuous acts).

Virtuous natures are eternalized, both proleptically (i.e. harvested, instantaneously, is every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities) & eschatologically, by virtue of necessarily being joined to divine intentionale.

Even if, hypothetically, a given person’s eternal being was, in the end, constituted only by their essential nature as an imago Dei, having developed no virtuous secondary nature whatsoever (even after all epistemic distancing has been closed, whether temporally or even post-mortem), there can be no talk of self-annihilation for an imago Dei’s not self-determined (cf Lossky’s one will). Neither would God’s perfect will annihilate such an imago Dei, for that would amount to a divine self-contradiction.

What’s at stake, then, would be the nature of one’s eternal beatitude, perhaps in terms of aesthetic scope, which would be self-determinedly wider for one who’s developed a virtuous secondary nature.

Dogmatic Presuppositions of my theological anthropology

In a way, the answers — to such questions as

1) “libertarianism or compatibilism?”

2) “intellectualism or voluntarism?” and

3) “will or intellect or character?” — aren’t even wrong (regarding either divine or human natures).

For human persons, this is because there are 3 indispensable acts, limited by potentialities, involved in every human choice. These include

1) existence in potency to being,

2) efficient to material (will) and

3) formal to final (intellect), each necessary, none alone sufficient. Of course, this part wouldn’t apply to Actus Purus.

Character (habitus) stands halfway between those acts and potentialities, like iron forged into

1) leg braces, facilitating and/or

2) a bear trap, crippling the potentialities,

although in the latter case, never able (either temporally or eschatologically) to kill them, as they’re, in principle, inherently realizable (both temporally and eternally).

God does not punish habits, only acts, ergo, God allows misery only as a punishment for acts.

Why Suffering in God’s Presence doesn’t make sense to me

I am grateful for these conversations. They make me scratch my head and help me process my muddled thoughts. If anyone catches my drift, that’s a blessing for me. If anyone challenges me to be more artful in expression, that helps me, too. Most of all, any challenges to the substance of my views has, eventually, brought me closer to the truth and our God. In that spirit, then:

Even once casting aside the classical libertarianism & compatibilism framings as nonsensical category errors (what I mean by saying such “answers aren’t even wrong” but are gibberishtic anthropological caricatures), I have strived, awkwardly, to more intuitively grasp how to avoid the notion that a human person’s eternal destiny isn’t wholly determined.

In other words, while it may be logically valid and internally consistent to argue, analytically, that humans are created as “freely willing the Godly-determined” by using definitions of freedom that, to many, sound paradoxical (but make perfect sense! In terms of virtu-osity!), I still want more than a syllogism.

I want a story in which I can participate, holistically and imaginatively. Good news? From the online lectures (youtube) of DBH, one can tell that he will be gifting nourishment for both head & heart in _That All May Be Saved_.

Still –

If the will is located in efficient causation, free in the sense of WHETHER one chooses to will at all, and also in the sense of choosing AMONG goods, that, in my view, offers an eminently satisfying account of freedom, not just cognitively but emotionally. In these senses, persons are manifestly self-determined, created as freely willing.

There is another sense of freedom, which imagines a person’s capacity to choose WHAT is good, in other words to self-determine and to define and to appropriate being & goodness as they imagine same. In this sense, then, some view freedom in terms of choosing BETWEEN good & evil (apparent good), being & nonbeing (apparent being), virtue & vice. This view falls into incoherence because WHAT is good and constitutes being has indeed already been wholly determined by God and we are not free to determine or define same.

What about the “freedom” to choose otherwise, though, to opt for evil or nonbeing? That’s nonsensical on the grounds that evil or nonbeing, as privation, doesn’t successfully refer, ontologically. That definition of freedom lacks an ontic reference and entails an epistemic error, propositionally.

Nevertheless, dispositionally, our choices can, indeed, be culpable & such habits, clearly, vicious.

Under the true definition of freedom, to refrain from choosing among goods when acting, i.e. giving no “consideration” to what God has determined, is intuitively recognized by most as “inconsiderate” behavior. While such can be just a plain mistake rooted in finitude, it can also be culpable (sinful refusal). Such a willful and culpable blindness, in my view, constitutes a self-determined behavior, “freely” chosen in the “whether & among sense” even though not the “what & between” sense. And it can habitually accrete into a vicious nature. I just believe that God honors such free choices through eternal annihilation, which we can self-determine vis a vis our “second nature” or acquired dispositions.

And I doubt anyone wholly lacks some measure of a virtuous nature, which will indeed be eternalized.

Even a person’s essential imago Dei — if largely bereft of any significant growth (2nd nature) from that particular image to likeness, if primarily wholly determined, if self-determined to the most meager degree conceivable and if not even discernibly responsive to some post-mortem epistemic-closure & beatific illumination — would not experience the Presence in misery, precisely because God has wholly determined otherwise. In God’s governance, punishment ensues only from sin (moral choices).

1) Because our moral nature emerges as a second nature from our essential nature, and
2) because, eschatologically, there are no longer moral acts, and
3) because acts not natures are punished under any circumstances,
no such misery can be experienced.

However one approaches the reality of innocent suffering in a cosmos fallen into dis-order by sin, temporally, such a disorder will, by definition, be eschatologically repaired.

voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism – Oh my!

Any proper transcendence of the category errors of voluntarism, intellectualism, libertarianism & compatibilism won’t entail a dissolution of in/determinacies.

What we can will (among) has been determined, while whether we will at all has not, the former as formal acts in limited potency to final causes, the latter as efficient acts in potency to material. Halfway between such acts & potency, habitus presents as virtuous & vicious 2nd natures, able to facilitate or cripple, but never to kill, potentialities.

This is why Thomas Talbott can say: Personally, I seriously doubt that God causally determines every event that occurs, whether it be the change of state of a radium atom, a dog’s leaping this way rather than that while romping in the yard, or the free choice of an independent rational agent.


Why should such an irrational choice, even if not causally determined, be any more compatible with genuine moral freedom than a rigorous determinism would be? ~ Talbott

In our temporal affairs, we routinely impute guilt to those deemed willfully blind. In criminal law, we employ such terms as willful neglect, reasonable diligence, reckless indifference, knew or should have known, should reasonably have known, etc In our quotidian affairs we refer to willful blindness or ignorance and self-deception. Moral theologians distinguish in/vincible ignorance and nescience, more crass when deliberate than affected, blameworthy in either case, more gravely wrong for serious matters.

That all such behavior is irrational to various degrees, nevertheless, it retains its inculpating character. That’s why so many irrational choices, even if not causally determined, are universally deemed more compatible with genuine moral freedom than any rigorous determinism.

My rule of thumb in theological anthropology is to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person. Therefore, tautologically concluding that all irrational behavior is, in principle, exculpating, does not sufficiently square with our ordinary moral intuitions. Our universalist apologetics, then, best appeal to infinite mercy & forgiveness rather than argue for a counterintuitive analytic, syllogistic innocence. Having deftly avoided the shoals of voluntarism, we must similarly steer clear of intellectualistic appeals, which ignore the vicious habitus that can impede the efficient cause of the will in realizing its potentialities.

Whether a vicious nature stands halfway between the acts & potentialities of the will or intellect, still, it can in no way, temporally or eternally, extinguish them, as they remain inherently realizable.

Pastor Tom Belt has persuasively argued a Maximian irrevocability thesis: “Hart’s view is an argument for the impossibility of the will foreclosing upon all possibility of Godward becoming. Such foreclosure would be teleological foreclosure.”

Again, invoking my rule of thumb in theological anthropology – to preserve, as far as practicable, our common sense & sensibilities, so as not to violate the integrity of the freely willing person – Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis squares better with our human experience than the overly speculative account of any putative irreversibility theses vis a vis avoiding such conceptual discontinuities between now & the eschaton as would render our anthropology unintelligible.

Now, if I may presume to paraphrase Talbott: Add to Belt’s Maximian irrevocability thesis the condition of minimal rationality and it seems impossible that anyone rational enough to qualify as a free moral agent would freely embrace an objective horror forever.

That’s as close as one can come to splitting the difference between a hopeful, practical universalism & an affirmation of a robustly theoretic universalism.

It seems to me that it’s quite possible a our viscious 2nd natures may not transist into the eschaton, especially if considered as privations of becoming. They may well thus be annihilated as God honors one’s choice for a self-determined non-becoming (refraining from growth in likeness). There can otherwise be no annihilation, in principle, for an imago Dei, as no one can freely self-determine non-being for an intrinsically good & absolutely valuable creation. The imago Dei plus any inklings of our virtuous 2nd natures (no one has none, whatsoever?) are eternalized, as God honors our self-determined choices for becoming (theotic realizations of divine & creaturely wills together).


Calvin, Luther, Aquinas & Scotus

The Antecedent and Consequent Will of God: Is This a Valid and Useful Distinction? by Andrew Hussman

Perhaps St. Anselm was on the right track when he classified the scriptural concepts under discussion here not as antecedens et consequens, but as misericordiae et iustitiae. This comes close to another distinction of God’s will, legalis et evangelicus. Law and gospel are found on every page of Scripture.

The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Biblical Interpretation edited by Paul M. Blowers, Peter W Martens

Bonaventure & Scotus on 1 Timothy 2:4


Gloria Frost: When the passages in which Aquinas and Scotus explicitly discuss the origin of contingency in creation are read in context with attention to the kind of contingency each is discussing, similarities between their views can be identified and the objections raised against their respective views can be solved.

In sum, for Aquinas the proximate reason for why an effect is contingently caused is the fact that it was produced by a contingently operating secondary cause. The ultimate reason, however, for why the effect was contingently caused is the efficacy of God’s will which willed for the effect to come about through a contingent mode of causation and thus, willed a contingent cause for it. Regarding the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all created effects, Aquinas says that the proximate reason for why every created effect is contingently existing is the fact that God freely causes every created effect.

In sum, when Scotus identified God’s contingent mode of causation as the source of the contingency of creatures, he was referring to the contingent mode of existence that belongs to all creatures. Like Aquinas, he thought that the capacity of the divine will to cause creatures contingently was founded on the fact that the divine will only necessarily wills the divine goodness, which is complete and self-sufficient.

Similarly, Scotus would have agreed with Aquinas’s position that effects are contingently caused by their proximate causes because of the efficacy of the divine will which chooses which kind of causes exist in creation.

Scotus, however, thinks that although the effects produced by God alone and those produced by both God and contingently operating secondary causes both follow from contingently operating proximate causes, they are fundamentally different in their modal features. The former effects have a single potency for non-existence, while the latter have double possibility for nonexistence. Thus, in Scotus’s view contingently operating secondary causes are a necessary condition for God to introduce into creation a secondary contingency, which adds an additional layer of indeterminacy to the contingent mode of existence which all creatures enjoy.

Scotus’s point is that God necessarily wills only those things that are necessary for what God loves in himself (i.e. his goodness). Thus, no creature is willed necessarily, since what is lovable in God does not require any creature for its existence. Like Aquinas, Scotus thought that God’s freedom not to create stemmed from the self-sufficiency and completeness of what is good, and therefore lovable, in God himself. If God’s contingent mode of causation with respect to creatures is traced to the self-sufficiency of the divine goodness, then the contingent mode of existence that belongs to creatures will similarly have this as its ultimate foundation.

Aquinas and Scotus on the Source of Contingency, Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy, 2014 by Gloria Frost

At Academia: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

At Scribd: Retreblement – A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology

More Eschatological Anthropology

I resonate with certain central elements of Dr Manis’ approach, e.g. that in *some* sense the divine will can be thwarted, that annihilation is incompatible with divine presence & that creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion.

I also resonate with Fr Aidan’s recognition that no metaphysical necessity’s imposed on God. It is from both general & special revelations that we have been gifted with some knowledge of the logic that onto-logically inheres and theo-logically coheres in the divine’s relationship with determinate realities. That relationship, of course, has ensued from – not metaphysical necessity, but – a self-determinate, divine kenosis.

Our knowledge of same, at the same time, remains fallible & inchoate. Regarding the problem of evil, for example, I reject (even recoil from) theodicies re the *evidential* problem, instead opting for Job 38 (where were you???!!!), but I do embrace a divine presence solution to the *existential* problem, i.e. (Be not afraid! I AM with you!).

More directly bearing on this discussion, though, I personally experience much consolation from many of the defenses to the *logical* problem of evil, ranging across the theological spectrum (from classical to process approaches).

To be fully coherent, then, it seems we must aspire to pull together a solution that satisfies the problem of evil in a way that’s — not only *logically* consistent (and even the best atheistic philosophers now concede that accomplishment, which is why they focus on *evidential* theodicies), but — *existentially* satisfying.

Such a solution, then, must be neither evidentially pretentious (re: why God allowed this particular evil) nor soteriologically presumptuous (re: why God must do this) in addressing divine reality (e.g. suggesting definite metaphysical and/or moral divine necessities).

Thus it is that the more nuanced universalist stances will, in my view, aspire to reconcile the best classical defenses with the best existential intuitions, the latter grown — not propositionally from logical argumentations, but — dispositionally from theotic participations.

Beyond the arguments of Athens & energies of Athos, those participations will also include such quotidian realities as, for a prime example, the raising of children.

There is, then, in all authentic human loving, a trans-rational apophaticism, which, beyond all proposals of speculative affirmations & negations, disposes one via a movement of the will (e.g. including a will graced with a virtuous habitus)? Such a movement of the will, whether of parental, spousal or other communal loves, pretty much inevitably & in principle, will come up short in what it can articulate via its co-causal movement of the intellect, which falters in its effablings regarding life’s truly ineffable experiences.

It is from my experience as a parent & grandparent, then, coupled with my gratuitously gifted formation & sacramental participation in a healing, reconciling & loving community of faith, that I want to proclaim “THAT all may be saved,” even as I struggle to give a metaphysical or theological account of *why* or *how*.

Yet, I’m here to learn how to better defend that hope, which is indeed within me, that I and others might move more swiftly, with less hindrance & greater consolation on our temporal journeys into eternity.

Another of my feeble efforts to defend my hope follows, but I am more sure regarding why Fr Aidan’s and others’ intuitions truly matter, much less sure that I can convey my own in a sufficiently artful & accessible manner.

I use a lot of question marks, below, not to solicit answers but to indicate my own intellectual tentativeness. My hope is firm but my expression falters.

While I find it problematic to conceive how there could ever be a definitive teleological foreclosure (cf. Pastor Tom Belt), neither would I want to deny the necessity of a creaturely freedom to refrain from willing. Further, properly understood, both the Thomistic and Scotistic anthropologies, in my view, suitably avoid the libertarian, compatibilist, voluntarist & intellectualist incoherencies. Human acts can indeed, at the same time, be irrational & culpable or impassioned & culpable, because the reality of human freedom presents in degrees.

Admittedly, we find it hard to define & difficult to discern exactly how and precisely when such thresholds get crossed in terms of degrees of both affectivity & rationality as they impinge on various degrees of culpability.

Still, if we deny our common sense & sensibilities regarding our experiences of human freedom, whether temporally or eschatologically, we risk abandoning what little intelligibility we enjoy regarding same. We inescapably must rely on that same intelligibility that we must employ in our daily approach to the realities of our dynamical human transformation (including moral conversion, spiritual formation & theosis).

Therefore, what?

While creaturely moral freedom’s a logically necessary condition of communion, what if, like freedom, the reality of communion also presents in degrees?

Is there not a modicum of communion, even in that imago Dei, who’s not crossed the threshold into the human moral life, whether due to age, illnesses or deformative dynamics? Or, who enjoys little in the way of theotic participation in the human spiritual life, i.e. little or no growing in likeness? Or, who’s even culpably developed a vicious second nature, but undeniably remains divinely indwelled and teleologically oriented, eternally & inherently?

What *is* a vicious nature but a habit of refraining from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not *be-ing* per se, but — one’s *be-coming*? To refrain, that is, from whether one wills to will at all regarding — not one’s essential nature or very existence, but — one’s growing from image to likeness?

What if one could only self-determinedly choose — not to be or not to be, but — to become or not become?

What if, in the same way we mustn’t ontologize evil, perhaps, neither should we reify the concept of a vicious nature, which habitually chooses non-becoming?

What if we should otherwise also, in part, conceive of such an imago Dei in terms of what it has freely & definitively determined not to *become*, even though it would & must, nevertheless, thus persist in *being* for all eternity? Even that putatively definitive determination *not to become*, though, should be approaching the threshold of a practical inconceivability, at least for those of us who couple Belt’s irrevocability thesis with Talbott’s virtual impossibility thesis (my description of the latter)?

Even stipulating to such an eschatological anthropology, as would remain an essentially hopeful — not a theoretically necessary — universalism, there remains a question regarding how such an imago Dei, bereft of any robustly moral & spiritual becoming, might subjectively experience the Eschaton.

To what extent might its experience be tortuous, whether formatively, restoratively or retributively?

In my view, once determinate reality has been made whole, cosmically reconciled, in principle, creatures would not be susceptible to existential deprivations or depredations. An imago Dei, not grown into divine likeness beyond its irrevocable, essential nature, might, rather quietistically, enjoy a minimalist reverie of aesthetic scope, while others enjoy, in various degrees, more expansive scopes (as I’ve discussed elsewhere), continuing to exercise their freedom in an eternal fugue of choosing among divine goods.

So, perhaps, authentic freedom entails relational, just not existential, self-determination?
Perhaps one’s self-determined choice to refrain from becoming could, in principle, be exercised irrevocably & eternally, hence never definitively?

Perhaps such a choosing might best be conceived in terms similar to that of a sacred, precious imago Dei, as one who, prior to the age of reason, possesses the same absolute, intrinsic value as that shared by all innocent children?

Perhaps such a self-determined refraining (including post-mortem, even after all epistemic closures), eschatologically, no longer could involve a culpable refraining from the consideration or not of goods in one’s acts, in principle, since any such neediness as would have motivated such acts, temporally, will have been obviated, eschatologically, by the cosmic reconciliation?

In other words, such an eschatological reordering would be metaphysically incompatible with such deprivations & depredations as would’ve formerly been compatible with the old temporal, lapsarian dis-order?

Eschatological freedom would thus entail only whether one wills to will at all, i.e. one’s *choosing* or not (in & of itself) among eternal goods & becomings, as well as any choosing *among* such potentialities (that array of divinely determined goods & becomings)? It could not otherwise involve a choosing *between* divinely determined goods and reified evils (by disordered appetites or inordinate attachments), which would be ontologically nonsensical. Nor could it involve refraining from a choice from/for non/being, which has never been an existential prerogative of the imago Dei over against the divine will, anyway.

Eternal annihilation of any imago Dei remains off the table as conceptually incompatible with its essential nature and theologically incoherent, as it would constitute a reversal of the eternal divine intentionale?

I believe, therefore, that God honors the freedom of human persons by eternalizing all self-determined acts of human becoming (as synergetic divine participations) and by refraining from any eternalizations of our non-participatory acts (such as we refer to in terms of vicious 2nd natures) i.e. our choices “not to become.” As such, our virtuous 2nd natures transition into eternity along with our essential natures, while our vicious 2nd natures will self-determinedly perish (a virtual self-annihilation), which certainly remains, to an extent, and in *some* way, a lamentable thwarting of the divine will. What it would not amount to is an unmitigated loss. Such choices would (self-punitively & consequently) cost one tremendous but nonessential opportunities, but, in the end, no loss of an original & essential goodness. Such choices would amount to a gratuitous superabundance foregone, but with no loss of an abundant life redeemed, that’s to say, reoriented, saved, healed, sanctified & empowered, as a new creation.

Our participatory imaginations gift us, integrally & relationally, unity, beauty, goodness, freedom & truth, forming our dispositions (senses & sensibilities) toward various ways of belonging, desiring, behaving, transcending & believing, as expressed in our attitudes regarding & personal commitments to others, the cosmos, God & even our own selves, as told & retold in our stories.

One, who’s thus properly disposed & committed, can then imaginatively engage others thru inspired storytelling, thereby, in turn, fostering others’ healthy participations, dispositions & commitments.

Such storytelling may, more or less, lend itself to a more rigorous cognitive map-making, foundationally, which is to say, historically, exegetically, scientifically, philosophically & metaphysically. Theologically, such foundations can then systematically underwrite our ecclesiologies, soteriologies, sacramentologies, sophiologies & eschatologies.

There are countless pastors, homilists & spiritual directors from diverse faith traditions, who’ve articulated robustly pneumatological ecclesiologies, radically inclusive soteriologies, profusely incarnational sacramentologies, remarkably polydoxic sophiologies & universally efficacious eschatologies – as awakened & enlivened by human solidarity & compassion & retold in personal stories, thus implicitly grounded in their collective participatory imaginations.

Some are better than others, when it comes to explicitly mapping such dispositions, systematically & foundationally. Make no mistake, though, it can be done, especially, it seems to me, by those who recognize certain resonances between Franciscan, Scotist sensibilities & Eastern Orthodox sophiological approaches.

For example, however harshly one might wish to critique certain of Fr Richard Rohr’s explicit foundational apologetics, far more importantly & deserving of way more emphasis, implicit in the collective oeuvre of his lifetime’s ministry, is precisely such an ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, sophiology & eschatology that I would to defend in my Retreblement: A Systematic Apocatastasis & Pneumatological Missiology.

This is to suggest that one shouldn’t ever miss the concrete, dispositional, participatory theophanic, theopoetic, theopoietic & theotic forests for the abstract, propositional, cognitive theological, metaphysical trees. As it is, robustly metaphysical descriptions & rigorous theological formulations necessarily elude us, in principle, while vaguely semantical references & broad heuristical contours guide us, in practice.

Following Ignatius, we must charitably presuppose the most orthodox interpretations of our theological interlocutors, not reflexively & habitually construing ambiguities & inadequate or inartful expressions against them.

Integrally, Fr. Rohr’s robustly pneumatological ecclesiology, radically inclusive soteriology, profusely incarnational sacramentology, remarkably polydoxic sophiology & universally efficacious eschatology are grounded in his Franciscan (common) sensibilities, Scotistic meta-heuristic (common) sensicalities & Eastern sympathies, both Orthodoxy’s sophiological tradition as well as the Orient’s nondual traditions. All of these presuppose, then, certain outlooks, theologically (i.e. paterological, Christological, pneumatological & Trinitological approaches) and anthropologically (as, continuous with all vestigia Dei & uniquely as imagines Dei, theotic intimacization invites each person to progress via similitudo Dei).

To wit:

A. implicatory trinitarian theology (of divine esse naturale):

  • 1) interpersonal propria
  • 2) intimate idiomata
  • 3) invitatory (ad intra ur-kenosis) relata

B. intertwined temporal missions of creation, conservation & consummation (mutually entailing acts of ad extra kenosis) via tri-personal presences (multi-form unitive revelations, i.e. mutual intimaci-zations not mani-fold encounters of separate exemplifications), where

C. inseparable “opera ad extra” are tri-personal while also especially revealing of particular exemplifications via their “proper roles” where the

D. immensity of the divine universal presence, which is variously im/mediate, in/visible & intense, the effects of which are tri-personally operative as well as personally appropriated in the theophanic operations of our creaturely “exitus” or production from God in divine creation, i.e. trinitologically & anthropologically … or as an

E. intensity of the particular divine presence via hypostatic extensions, the effects of which are – not only tri-personally operative & personally appropriated, but – personally “proper,” i.e. united to a given divine exemplification, in the theotic missions of our creaturely “reditus” or return to God in divine consummation, i.e. sophiologically & eschatologically … with the

F. immediacy (Emmanuel, God is with us!) of the divine mercy & urgency of its prompt succor, bringing about manifold & multiform proleptic creaturely realizations of the divine telos, as it’s entailed in these theotic missions. Such realizations anticipate & guarantee the divine missions’ universal efficacy, ecclesiologically & sacramentally, thereby effecting – in this eternal now – our creaturely salvation, redemption & reconciliation by God through divine conservation, i.e soteriologically.

G. implicated theological anthropology (of divine esse intentionale):

  • 1) indwelling vestigia
  • 2) imaginal uniqueness (essential nature of imago Dei)
  • 3) intentional & incremental theosis (dynamical & progressive intimaci-zation of secondary nature of kenotic similitudo Dei)

tags: interreligious dialogue, polydoxy, panentheism, pansemioentheism, retreblement, john sobert sylvest, richard rohr, universal christ, pneumatological missiology, apocatastasis, apokatastasis, david bentley hart, russian sophiology, joseph bracken, divine matrix, norris clarke, personalist thomism, charles sanders peirce, donald gelpi s.j., amos yong, palamas, duns scotus, logical problem of the trinity, richard rohr, michael morrell, perichoresis, universalism, universal salvation, free will, libertarian free will, cappadocians

To Be or Not, to Sophianize or Not our human secondary nature: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (eternally self-determined)

In Conclusion –

Not as a systematic conclusion, but per my vague heuristics, it seems quite plausible that there’s no inconsistency between a proper libertarian conception of the will (e.g. those of Maximus & Scotus) and universal salvation (apocatastasis).

As long as we draw the necessary distinction between choosing “between” good & evil (being & nonbeing) and choosing “among” goods (on a Pareto front of equally optimal choices), along with the further distinctions of our essential & secondary natures (Scotus) and natural & gnomic willing (Maximus), apocatastasis can be conceived as sufficiently self-determinative.

Gnomic willing is what our one will, the natural will, does when epistemically-axiologically distanced, as it chooses to act or refrain from acting in accord with divine logoi, i.e. choosing or refusing participation in goodness & being, thereby forming or deforming one’s secondary nature as, in varying degrees, virtuous and/or vicious.

If we conceive our epistemic-axiological distancing in theotic terms, as our temporal journeying from image to likeness, our gnomic willing constitutes our co-creative participation in Being, beyond being, in Goodness, itself, beyond goodness. Our self-determined secondary natures, ad majorem Dei gloriam, will thereby gift us such holiness & beatitude that some souls will, indeed, outshine the sun.

I have insisted, for decades, inspired by something, per my dim recollection, that Hans Kung once suggested regarding eschatological anthropology (though I can neither cite nor recite it): that every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, every trace of human goodness, will be eternalized. Upon further reflection, consistent with those thoughts, it seems to me that every self-determined refusal to participate in goodness & being will be likewise respected, as any vicious aspects of our secondary natures transist into eternal nonbeing, as those temporal moments are essentially constituted by self-annihilations of our secondary natures.

I see no a priori reason that complete closures of each person’s epistemic-axiological distancing cannot be accomplished post-mortem, e.g. such as in instantaneous life reviews or via other such purgative vehicles, thereby eternally “fixing” our secondary natures and, definitionally, ending all gnomic willing.

If, in some unimaginable putative worst case scenario, a human person would transist into eternity with no measure of a virtuous secondary nature, no happy eternalizations, whatsoever, what might that entail?

There can be no eternal annihilation of a person’s essential nature, which will necessarily enjoy eternal being by virtue of its intrinsic goodness. That essential being can in no measure be diminished or demolished self-determinedly. No one conceives of a libertarian free will on such terms, especially those committed to the (theo)logical necessity of eternal fires & brimstone.

How, then, might we conceive this bare personal essence, bereft of a virtuous (and vicious) secondary nature? Well, following the conventional “age of reason” approach, which defines the threshold for the growth of rudimentary, self-determined secondary natures (moral & theotic), I conceive such an essential nature in terms of early childhood, as precious sacred faces, whose voices make such precious sacred sounds. And, in an eternal environs, no longer situated per an epistemic-axiological distancing, I envision those children of God & ourselves in pure delight & as wholly beloved. Now, if in holiness & beatitude, they present as tiny votive candles, thoroughly on fire with divine love, while others shine forth as this or that blazing helios, surely, that will not diminish their lovability? That others might be holier than us, O’ Lord, grant us the grace to desire it, provided we shall be as holy as you’d have us be!

What might constitute different degrees of beatitude? both of different measures of self-determined, virtuous secondary natures & of precious, sacred essential natures?

Different degrees of beatitude will be experienced commensurate with the self-determined ontological densities of each person, as measured in relative spiritual intensities (both moral & theotic) and experienced in degrees of expansive aesthetic scopes, that is in terms of the number of choices “among” eternal goods of which one has freely chosen to avail oneself. In this sense, the imago Dei will have grown in divine likeness, for, while the divine nature undergoes no change in perfection vis a vis aesthetic intensity, the divine will, esse intentionale, is ever “affected” in terms of aesthetic scope by our free, self-determined choices to participate in Being, in Goodness.

It is in this sense that I would suggest that the difference between our essential & secondary natures might roughly map to such distinctions as we’ve always recognized in terms of, for example, imperfect & perfect contrition, eros & agape, early vs later stages of Bernardian love, illuminative & unitive ways, Ignatian degrees of humility and so on.

It has always been accepted that imperfect contrition and love of self for sake of self & love of God for sake of self are sufficient. Such “enlightened” self-interest has always been sufficient for parents? I fully expect it will remain sufficient for our Heavenly Father and that it will obtain for all the requisite conditions necessary for our own eternal beatitude. For, as DBH has so compelling argued, who could enjoy an eternal existence separated from those we’ve always loved and will always love unconditionally?

Exploring the Other Side (well, one part, anyway)

continued from here

I could only ever conceive of a post-mortem annihilation of one’s vicious secondary nature, never of one’s essential nature (imago Dei), which would be held in existence b/c of its intrinsic goodness. I picture such a “mere” imago as a person of 7 or younger (not some horror!).

To be or not to be, who we really are, that is the question, as we freely choose to act in pursuit of options that we know to be good (all equally or each sufficiently so) or not to act in consideration of same.

One can act in an inconsiderate or thoughtless way, without considering the good, under some compulsion, hence exculpably, or after considering the good, sinfully, in both cases depriving one’s act and its effects of any distinctively human quality. One can, thereby, nihilate the very essence of one’s being in a de-privative act that can potentially render effects deprived of the good (privatio boni).

Habitual patterns of in/considerate acts yield our secondary natures, which can include varying degrees of both virtuous & vicious natures, hence degrees of likeness to our God, extrinsically, varying in moral & spiritual intensities, which proportionately gift expansions of freedom & aesthetic scope. Our essential nature, an imago Dei, though, remains intrinsically good.

It seems quite probable to me that every authentically free human act, participating in Goodness, itself, has an intrinsically eternal quality, that every trace of human goodness, every beginning of a smile, all wholesome trivialities, are sophianized, gifted an eternal aesthetic scope. Other acts are self-nihilations, diminishing our secondary nature’s likeness to God in varying degrees, while, intrinsically & inviolably, our essential natures remain a precious, sacred imago Dei, a durable aesthetic intensity.

We thus self-determine, in every act, how much of our secondary nature gets eternalized (as virtuous) or self-nihilated (as vicious), what degree of authenticity we freely will to realize.

My Universalist Account

Therefore –

What if God honored all freely refused participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if God honored all freely accepted participations in eternal goods as ordered toward our contingent being?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by such refusals of eternal goods or being, was allowed to lapse into nonbeing, precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What if that part of the nature of our contingent being, as it was formed by freely accepted eternal goods or being, was eternalized (becoming virtually essential being), precisely respecting one’s free choice?

What would transist into eternity, then, whether proleptically and/or eschatologically, would therefore be our intrinsically good essential being, with its fixed aesthetic intensity, and extrinsically good (virtuous) secondary nature with its self-determined aesthetic scope, but never one’s vicious secondary nature, lacking sufficient moral intensity & self-determinedly ordered toward nonbeing, hence annihilation.


Concepts to be Expanded:

Emergence of probability

Via transmuted experience

In individuals as secondary nature, with a diversity of specific identities & uniformity of generals (Peircean)

In societies as culture, pluralistically, in particular religions & universal presence

Mediated or not, pneumatologically

Expressing or not, Maximian logoi

Further Discussion

Scotus locates the will in efficient causation. For many, this represents a conceptual relocation from the formal.

Conceiving the free will as efficient cause (in limited potency to material) implicates a volition that determines only WHETHER one exercises (or refrains therefrom) one’s will but not to WHAT it chooses, i.e. it must not refer to why this or that is chosen but only to why the will wills at all, because it does remain free not to act.

As such, the will refers to the sole rational potency, never acting without the intellect, which is co-causally operative (in bringing the Maximian logoi to bear) even though not finally determinative.

The will determines neither the act of existence in potency to essence nor the formal generically determinative act in potency to one’s final cause, which makes a human existent what one truly is, e.g. a human person, the symbolic species, an imago Dei, a beloved child of God, a sister of Jesus, a brother of the Cosmos.

Taken seriously, this has enormous soteriological and sophiological implications, which is to say, regarding redemption, justification & sanctification, i.e. intiation into communion, adoption into the Kingdom, on one hand, and, on the other, beatitude & glorification, i.e. ascetically & mystically or theotically, further establishing the Kingdom via communal collaboration.

In my view, Scotus would worry about the risk of any full blown liberty of indifference [1], i.e. including not just one’s aesthetic scope or efficient acts in limited potency to divine logoi, materially, but also, vis a vis aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existential acts (self-annihilation) in limited potency to divine logoi, essentially, as well as formal acts (generic self-determination) in limited potency to divine logoi, finally (as if we could become other than what we already are, what C.S. Lewis might call a “dismantling of humanity”). This amounts to what M. M. Adams would call a low doctrine of human agency [2], although I am not wholly familiar with her precise formulation and how it might comport with my own, above.

Any such exercise and actualization of rationality makes one’s efficient acts good and increases the being of the Kingdom, ecclesiologically, both proleptically & eschatologically. But does that also increase one’s own being, intrinsically, as per a Thomistic metaethic, per se changing one’s esse naturale per a generic determination? [3]

Or does it only change, per an agential extrinsic denomination, one’s esse intentionale?

Does moral evil frustrate an increase in the being of one’s esse naturale, even to the point of its full diminishment, so to speak undoing one’s intiation into communion and adoption into the Kingdom, denying one’s very aesthetic intensity & ontological density?

Rather, might it frustrate an increase in being only vis a vis one’s esse intentionale, foregoing further communal collaboration in the Kingdom, restricting one’s aesthetic scope, limiting one’s ecclesiological participation, as one neglects spiritual exercises and practices of presence? [4]

I’m not suggesting my anthropological categories & applications measure up with anthropological rigor or even capture the points of disagreement between, for example, Eleonore Stump & Marilyn M. Adams. Even if they amount to an ahistorical, eisegetic account of Aquinas & Scotus, though, perhaps they still have some normative integrity all their own?

If stable dispositions, derived from habitual spiritual exercices and practices of presence, to act in accordance with or contrary to one’s nature, i.e. virtues or vice, do produce second natures, whether virtuous or vicious, do those ontologically negate or just phenomenologically mask our primal human nature, hide the imago Dei?

In my view, our primal being and goodness is both unalienable, due to divine esse intentionale, & inalienable, not a capacity of determinate esse intentionale.

Eternally, are we dealt with in accordance with both or either of our natures, primary &/or secondary, however one conceives these volitional loci, as esse naturale or intentionale?

If the goodness of our being is thus light, will our existence in Hell thereby be unbearable?

Let’s consider Hart:
[T]he wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair. [5]

Does not this refer to the transformative & theotic dynamisms that I addressed, above. Will not those dynamisms cease post-mortem or in some eschatological closure of epistemic distance, such as in a particular judgment & life review? Hart doesn’t take this into account, when describing the tortures of hell, but only because he otherwise ultimately rejects an infernalist stance, not inconsistent with Bulgakov’s surmise that those dynamisms might continue post-mortem, finally rejecting eternal torment as a moral absurdity.

So, if those dynamisms terminate post-mortem, wouldn’t we necessarily only be dealt with in accordance with our primary nature, which would comport with Maximian being, eternal being and well-being? Or, if also our secondary nature, only that level of goodness & being which emerged per Maximian logoi, never otherwise instantiating a privatio boni, which have no ontological reality?

Might ill-being only ever be a transitory, purgative state? Or even a misconstrual of an eternal esse intentionale, which remains volitionally indifferent to any aesthetic scope, beyond its original endowment, not inconsistent with a Scotistic free will, located in efficient not telic causes?

A post-mortem will that’s closed all epistemic & axiological distances and has been purged of any residual vicious secondary nature could only refrain from determining among the goods of an enhanced aesthetic scope, choosing not to grow one’s spiritual intensity. It would no longer be able to otherwise act inconsiderate of goods pertaining to temporal exigencies, due to having none, so, would no longer be able to sin, no longer able to vary its moral intensity.

Bishop Barron [6] writes: If there are any people in Hell (and the church has never obliged us to believe that any human is in that state), they are there, not because God capriciously “sent” them, but because they absolutely insist on not joining in the party.

This isn’t wholly inconsistent with the view of volitional indifference to a self-constrained aesthetic scope, but, again, what of my point that human volition is not otherwise constituted by self-constraints regarding aesthetic intensity (ontological density), existentially or generically, regarding THAT one is or WHAT one primally is (whatever one believes regarding self-constructed secondary natures)?

How, then, would we psychologize that eternal disposition? I’m asking for a friend, who’s a social wallflower, who prefers to watch the mirrorball & swirling dervishes beneath, who doesn’t mind others coming over to sit in silent presence (90% is showing up, only 10% is dancing, perichoretically or otherwise?), while they keep the finger sandwiches & beers coming. One person’s modus ponens is another’s modus tollens?

As John O’Brien observers: Concerning the detailed specific nature of hell … the Catholic Church has defined nothing. … It is useless to speculate about its true nature, and more sensible to confess our ignorance in a question that evidently exceeds human understanding. [7]

Fr Richard Rohr writes: To be frank, I think that perhaps no single belief has done more to undercut the spiritual journey of more Western people than the belief that God could be an eternal torturer of people who do not like him or disobey him. And this after Jesus exemplified and taught us to love our enemies and forgive offenses 70 x 7 times! The very idea of Hell (with a capital ‘H’), as Jon Sweeney explains in this magnificent book, constructs a very toxic and fear-based universe, starting at its very center and ground. Hatred, exclusion, and mistreatment of enemies is legitimated all the way down the chain of command.” [8]

Jon Sweeney writes: “Ultimately, I choose not Dante’s vengeful, predatory God who is anxious to tally faults, to reward and to punish. Instead I choose the God who creates and sustains us, who is incarnate and wants to be among us, and the God who inspires and comforts us. That God is the real one, the one I have come to know and understand, and that God has nothing to do with the medieval Hell.” [9]


Following Scotus, I intuit that no eternally self-constrained aesthetic intensity is possible, neither existentially (THAT) nor generically (WHAT).

And with Rohr & Sweeney, I’ll simply insist, apophatically, on what an eternally self-constrained aesthetic scope simply must NOT be like.

Then, with O’Brien, I’ll confess ignorance, kataphatically.


[1] MM Adams re Scotus’ concerns re liberty of indifference, as she cites Duns Scotus, God and Creatures: The Quodlibetal Questions, translated with introduction, notes and glossary by Felix Alluntis, O.F.M., and Allan B. Wolter, O.F.M. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1975), q.16, art. Il, 377-79·

[2] ibid The Problem of Hell by Marilyn M. Adams

[3] Dante’s Hell, Aquinas’s Moral Theory, and Love of God, Eleonore Stump, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (2):181-198 (1986)

[4] When God created us in the divine image, God intended us to be cocreators and participate in God’s plan. Hell may not be a literal burning fire, but does that mean it doesn’t exist?by Kevin P. Considine

[5] The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? By David B. Hart

[6] Bishop Barron

[7] John Anthony O’Brien, The Faith of Millions: The Credentials of the Catholic Religion, pp. 19–20

[8] from the Foreward to Dante, The Bible, and Eternal Torment by Jon M. Sweeney

[9] Sweeney ibid

U-turns and Transcendentals


Because comments are closed, above, to wit:

It recent reading regarding free will, both temporally & in the eschaton, a thought occurred to me.

Temporally, the issue of being equipoised deliberatively arises, raising a concern of arbitrariness.

Eschatologically, the nature of deliberation, itself, is questioned, presumably, because of a lack of dispositional potencies.

Now, in my view, our freedom necessarily derives precisely from both epistemic AND axiological distancing, both temporally & eternally.

Therefore, even when one realizes a given divine telos, precisely attaining its divinely specified epistemic-axiological intensity, whether that value-realization has gifted one a temporal equi-positioning (chocolate or vanilla?) or even an eternal dis-positioning (God or God?), that need neither, in the former case, implicate arbitrariness, nor, in the latter, obviate deliberative willing.


Because aesthetic intensity, alone, needn’t exhaust our notions of intentionality, whether temporally or eternally, whether of human volition or of the divine esse intentionale.

Integral to any coherent notion of intentionality, one must include the conception of an aesthetic scope, even if a relatively thin notion of post-mortem human enrichment, as one has thus happily moved from image to likeness (vis a vis our thin notion of divine passibility, as has been well articulated & defended by folks like Norris Clarke & Greg Boyd).

The human will thus perdures deliberatively, temporally & eternally, epistemically & axiologically distanced, varying aesthetically in scope even when not in intensity, appropriating novelty & enjoying diversity, moving from glory to glory to glory (hence nonarbitrarily choosing now vanilla, now chocolate, unless C.S. Lewis was correct regarding our heavenly desires for sex and ice cream).

Regarding those post-mortem, who’ve not thus closed their epistemic-axiological distance, haven’t been glorified, they, too, remain irrevocably deliberatively engaged, so to speak, on purgative & illuminative paths toward unitive beatitude.

Not to adopt Pastor Tom Belt’s irrevocability thesis but to embrace various irreversibility theses does violence to our common sense & sensibilities regarding personhood.

The Trinity and Apocatastasis

Cardinal Dulles describes Balthasar’s stance toward universalism as leaving the question speculatively open, which has different practical implications than altogether refusing the question?

The former creates a right, conceivably a duty, to hope for universal salvation.

It seems Balthasar’s positive theology & pastoral strategy conspired to defend hope from either despair or presumption, either of which he considered a type of hope-less-ness.

Does that conclude our inquiry?

Hardly, for one must next argue whether a given proclamation of apocatastasis meets the criteria of presumption.

Our duty to hope & pray that all may be saved implicates the prohibition against proclaiming whether any or which are damned.

Indeed, after Balthasar’s exercise in positive theology, historically & exegetically, he reasonably inferred that the evidence for God’s desire to save all clearly outweighed any suggesting the factual damnation of some.

If one thereby chooses to either merely stipulate to or even clearly affirm apocatastasis as theologoumenon vis a vis belief, what adiaphora of praxis might that implicate?

Here we next encounter a question of theological anthropology:

How might we account for the way temporal human beings know & embrace the eternal order?

While there can be a fragility to any given hope that remains poised between despair & presumption, if we’ve successfully obviated presumption vis a vis apocatastasis, in particular, as mysterium, next we’ll encounter a polar relationship between tupos (figure, type) and aletheia (truth).

Semiotically, what figures or signs could make present any putative truth of a universal salvation?

How might such a sign participate in the efficacy of such a truth as it shapes – not only how we tell the story (cf Kimel), but – moves beyond a mere eschatological proclamation regarding what the future holds to a question of present praxis regarding how that future will necessarily shape our worship & theosis, i.e. liturgically & devotionally, formatively & pastorally.

What semiotic reality could make such a mystery, apocatastasis, proleptically present, thereby mediating a confident assurance in the object of our hope & via what form of temporal participation in our eschatological consummation?

Here, we recall the tripartite trinitological dynamism (ad intra processional & ad extra cosmic) of emanation, exemplarity & consummation, as well as the tripartite exemplars of vestige, image & likeness, as we present Origen’s tripartite division of shadow, image & truth as all signs of the Good News point to individual, ecclesial & cosmic conversions, transformatively (theotically), and a final consummation, apocatastatically.

I have borrowed the terminology of de Lubac’s “Corpus Mysticum” to frame up the questions above, wherein de Lubac explicated the underlying anagogy of his sacramental theology. For him, any knowledge of the Christian mystery requires a participatory approach, which transforms the believer by subjectively uniting her with the mystery’s objective content. Thus de Lubac provides an anthropological heuristic for spiritual understanding.

But, for a truly coherent accounting of an apocatastatic anagogy, we still need a more robustly detailed account of how we enjoy such proleptic tastes of any future perfections?

For that, we can turn to the Syrian, Isaac.

Unable to comprehend such mysteries through mere temporal reasoning & logic, according to Isaac, it’s a mind standing on eschatological thresholds in the state of astonishment, who’s further graced with wonder, who can embrace the ecstatic experience of the future world in the present, in a now moment.

For an account of Isaac’s sources, see Jason Scully’s Isaac of Nineveh’s Contribution to Syriac Theology: An Eschatological Reworking of Greek Anthropology

For an account of de Lubac’s anthropological heuristic for spiritual understanding, see Joseph Flipper’s Sacrament and Eschatological Fulfillment in Henri de Lubac’s Theology of History

Oh, did I forget to mention that de Lubac articulated his account of spiritual understanding and anagogy vis a vis the sacraments using Origen’s eschatological account and anagogia, i.e. how we might taste & see the truths regarding apocatastasis? Cf. Flipper

Prologue as Afterward

We must set aside the indefensible notion that the human will is either absolutely free or positively determined, whether scientifically, philosophically or theologically.

We can then ask “which aspects of human volition need to be free to what degree?” in order to be consistent with both our moral instincts & intuitions and common sense & sensibilities.

The answers to that question, by its very construction, will not be strictly formal & propositional (neither descriptively nor normatively deductive), but will be propositionally informal (abductively & inductively) and evaluatively dispositional.

Put more concretely, any answer to “which aspects of human volition need to be free to what degree?” will, in large measure, boil down to “how much constraint on human volition are you willing to acknowledge & accept?” before you would declare human moral obligations a dead letter?

Certainly, there’s an acceptable range & not just a jumping off point regarding what degree of human autonomy must be enjoyed if we are to be bound by moral obligation?

And the propositional views and evaluative dispositions of most of us, due to our shared moral instincts & intuitions and common sense & sensibilities, will fall safely within such a range.

However, some seem evaluatively disposed to assert the highest degree of autonomy conceivable (and in near absolutist libertarian terms) as being necessary in order to morally bind a human person to any meaningful degree.

BUT this begins to sound like something that would come from one who’s far more invested in his own WILLFULness than in growing her WILLINGness, for …

as Chris Green points out: Speaking of our freedom as absolute and supreme means (a) that freedom-from-God is itself the greatest good God can give us and/or (b) that our freedom is ultimately self-grounded and our destiny self- determined.

The Problem of Hell and Free Will
by Chris Green, Ph.D

Recent Musings:

Below are excerpts from “The Population of Hell,” First Things 133 (May 2003): 36-41.
In a reverie circulated among friends but not published until after he died, Maritain included what he called a conjectural essay on eschatology, in which he contemplates the possibility that the damned, though eternally in hell, may be able at some point to escape pain.
Karl Rahner held for the possibility that no one ever goes to hell. We have no clear revelation, he says, to the effect that some are actually lost. … Rahner therefore believed that universal salvation is a possibility.
The most sophisticated theological argument against the conviction that some human beings in fact go to hell was proposed by von Balthasar, who said we have a right & even a duty to hope for the salvation of all.
Edith Stein , now Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, defends a position very like Balthasar’s & finds it possible to hope that God’s omnipotent love finds ways of, so to speak, outwitting human resistance. Balthasar says that he agrees with Stein.
Avery Dulles : This position of Balthasar seems to me to be orthodox. It does not contradict any ecumenical councils or definitions of the faith.

Video of a 45 min lecture by Dulles in NY given Nov 20, 2002 & entitled The Population of Hell
Excellent responses to Dulles’ Population of Hell lecture / article.

From science & philosophy we know humans aren’t absolutely free but “adequately determined.” What about theologically? Freedom’s not absolute there either.

A single will to raise up the image, but two to make the image into a likeness. ~ Lossky

See: The Problem of Hell and Free Will at afkimel.wordpress.com

The practical takeaway is that modern categories (libertarianism & compatabilism) don’t measure up to Thomistic & Scotistic accounts. A human freedom constrained in some ways & degrees won’t obviate moral responsibility. Only absolutist conceptions need, in principle, reject universalism?
While I haven’t moved from my long & steadfast practical (Balthasarian) – to an in principle or necessary theoretic – universalism, I’ve been persuaded, by the collective cogency of many Orthodox approaches, that it can’t be a priori or in principle or necessarily ruled out.

The Thin Passibility of the Eternally Deliberative Human Will


Because comments are closed, above, to wit:

It recent reading regarding free will, both temporally & in the eschaton, a thought occurred to me.

Temporally, the issue of being equipoised deliberatively arises, raising a concern of arbitrariness.

Eschatologically, the nature of deliberation, itself, is questioned, presumably, because of a lack of dispositional potencies.

Now, in my view, our freedom necessarily derives precisely from both epistemic AND axiological distancing, both temporally & eternally.

Therefore, even when one realizes a given divine telos, precisely attaining its divinely specified epistemic-axiological intensity, whether that value-realization has gifted one a temporal equi-positioning (chocolate or vanilla?) or even an eternal dis-positioning (God or God?), that need neither, in the former case, implicate arbitrariness, nor, in the latter, obviate deliberative willing.


Because aesthetic intensity, alone, needn’t exhaust our notions of intentionality, whether temporally or eternally, whether of human volition or of the divine esse intentionale.

Integral to any coherent notion of intentionality, one must include the conception of an aesthetic scope, even if a relatively thin notion of post-mortem human enrichment, as one has thus happily moved from image to likeness (vis a vis our thin notion of divine passibility, as has been well articulated & defended by folks like Norris Clarke & Greg Boyd).

The human will thus perdures deliberatively, temporally & eternally, epistemically & axiologically distanced, varying aesthetically in scope even when not in intensity, appropriating novelty & enjoying diversity, moving from glory to glory to glory (hence nonarbitrarily choosing now vanilla, now chocolate, unless C.S. Lewis was correct regarding our heavenly desires for sex and ice cream).

Regarding those post-mortem, who’ve not thus closed their epistemic-axiological distance, haven’t been glorified, they, too, remain irrevocably deliberatively engaged, so to speak, on purgative & illuminative paths toward unitive beatitude.

Not to adopt Pastor Tom Belt’s irrevocability thesis but to instead embrace various irreversibility theses does violence to our common sense & sensibilities regarding personhood.

The Critical Importance of a Normative Account of Affective Conversion in the Authentication of any Doctrine of Apocatastasis

While pastoral concerns, as communications, do emerge last in the functional specialties (per their progressive nature), the theological task is not complete without a proper authentication of doctrines, which is where I locate Fr Kimel’s concerns.

In that context, a normative account of affective conversion matters greatly! All the more if his stance is a theolougemon in his tradition.

Don Gelpi, The Authentication of Doctrines: Hints from C. S. Peirce, Theological Studies 60:261-293 (1999)

The Trinity is a Mystery to be Lived & Not a Problem to be Solved

Something tells me that, if the Trinitarian accounts of Origen, Maximus, the Cappadocians, Thomists, Scotists & Palamites reconcile using the rubrics, below, as I’m confident they do, one shouldn’t approach the Mystery of the Trinity as a problem to be solved but as a divine reality to be lived, participatorily, via prayer & theosis.

If that approach does not suffice for one, existentially & speculatively, they could find themselves in real existential jeopardy of suffering the practical consequences of gravity, because they could very likely be among those withholding prudential judgments regarding same, while awaiting the speculative resolution of its mysterious relationship to quantum mechanics!

Here’s where the Trinitological Hullabaloo begins:

In a meta/ontology concerned with non/determinate realities, the equivocal predications of “is” must be disambiguated, because they can refer to logics of predication (properties), identity (objects) or temporality (relations).

Certain relational meanings of “is” specify realities as present (now), atemporal (timeless), omnitemporal (always), transtemporal (persistent in present period), nontemporal (now potentially temporal) or eternal (meta-temporal).

A couple of examples:

In physics, spatialized time could refer to a nontemporal reality, for example, if a given symmetric equation would suggest a potential temporalization of space (from 2-D to 3-D).

In personal identity theory, explanatory principles must ground both synchronic & diachronic individuation, often mapping the identities of non/determinate persons both eternally and temporally (including a-, omni-, trans- & presently), for example, regarding divine persons, in trinitology, human persons, in eschatology.

Neither reductionist (somatic or psychological) nor dualist (Cartesian) approaches can provide such principles without doing violence to our common sense & sensibilities and sacrificing narrative coherence & moral intuitions.

Why surrender those intelligibilities, sensibilities, coherencies & intuitions to such speculative ontologies, when more modest meta-heuristics can sustain them, while, at the same time, robustly fostering ongoing metaphysical explorations?
Such meta-heuristics include a variety of scholastic, pragmatic & analytical realisms, mostly consistent with Aristotelian-like syllogistics, which work rather well with determinate modes of being & formal modes of identity.

Those syllogistics can be derived from that logic of modal identity, which applies to nondeterminate realities (e.g. necessities, singularities, boundary & limit conditions, and other meta-nomicities).

While successful references to nondeterminate realities, in addition to formal modes of identity, include those of essences (e.g. properties) & existents (e.g. persons), those latter modes of identity are only analogous to essential & personal modes of being.

The exemplarist accounts of Scotus (e.g. immanent universal) & Origen (e.g. Platonic reversal), as well as the substantialist accounts, where the Godhead & persons relate like secondary & primary substances, function as meta-heuristics, which meta-ontologically gift us semantical & analogical intelligibility for realities, which cannot, in principle, be generically specified, ontologically.

Some label such approaches radically apophatic or mysterian. Others fail to note the analogical interval between essential & personal modes of identity & being, then mistakenly characterize them as modalist, tritheist, subordinationist, univocist, equivocist and so on. Either way, they’re critiquing caricatures.

The Mystery of the Trinity does not present a logical problem vis a vis consistency, as long as we properly attend to the equivocal predications of “is” and avoid conflations of determinate & nondeterminate realities, as they employ distinct, but related, syllogistics regarding their modes of being & identity.

The Mystery of the Trinity presents, rather, an ontological problem in that we cannot, in principle, successfully describe (via connotative-denotative generic specification) —

WHAT so loved the world THAT … … John 3:16 et cetera etc etc

Deo gratias, we do know Who!

A Glossary of Predications for Determinate & Nondeterminate Realities (not necessarily pertaining to divine realities but even pertaining to, for example, materially monist conceptions & other non/reductive metaphysical accounts)

An essential nature or esse naturale can be a non/composite nature w/ or w/o formal distinctions, where the 3 meanings of “Is” include:

  • Properties
  • Objects
  • Temporalities

Other predications made for realities concurrent with but not identical to a nature (esse naturale), which necessarily inhere, characterizing but not defining it, naming but not describing it, include univocal semantic references & analogical predications of meta-ontological & meta-nomological realities:

  • Propria – predicated essentially re: attributes
  • Idiomata – predicated personally re: exemplifications, hypostases
  • Epinoia – predicated relationally of kenoses, oikonomia, operations, energies, actions & apophatic attributes as non- & self-determinate sources (e.g. internal paterological ur-kenosis, external christological kenosis of incarnation & pneumatological kenosis of creating and trinitological transforming economy, whereby each creature’s resplendently transfigured & persons theotically so)

An esse intentionale via accidental properties can include volitional & intellectual relations to external realities, i.e. Cambridge properties that represent real but contingent relational changes, both:

  • External – via creation
  • Internal – via a thin passibility in aesthetic scope

as determinate effects (creative & theotic, i.e. vestigia, images & likenesses) ensue from transcendently non- & self-determinate sources

More Trinitarian Reflections:

DDS, MOF & Filioque

The filioque doesn’t, per se, implicate simplicity. It reconciles with the MOF & the formulation that the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.

For irenic accounts, see:

from a Catholic take:
Mark J. Bonocore

from an Orthodox stance:
Peter Gilbert

For what’s at stake, see:

Cardinal Dulles

Maximus acknowledged the Latin introduction of the filioque was done “in order to manifest the Spirit’s coming-forth (προϊέναι) through him and, in this way, to make clear the unity and identity of the essence.

Some worried, however, that, when coupled w/an emanationist interpretation (precisely imputed to an Augustinian DDS), the filioque’s logic of processions would yield an infinite causal chain of persons (it doesn’t due to distinctions like mutually opposed relations, active & passive spiration, principium/aition & causa, etc) and would compromise divine freedom. They were further concerned that natural rather revealed theology grounded its conceptions of nature & persons.

The DDS turns out to be a much stickier theological widget than the MOF, which I receive as dogmatic, or the filioque, which I accept as theolougemon.

A good DDS could accomplish a great deal of heavy lifting, idiomatically, while a bad one would be a dead weight. What we need, therefore, is a Goldilocks DDS, a metaphysical gruel that’s not so thick that it nullifies divine freedom or trivializes divine personhood & love, but, not so thin that necessary distinctions between determinate & nondeterminate realities disappear.

I would insist w/ D. B. Hart that we need some DDS & w/Norris Clarke that a thin divine passibility’s defensible, agree w/W. L. Craig that Clarke’s approach threatens many commonly understood Thomistic notions of same, disagree w/Perry Robinson that Thomist approaches are as incompatible w/some Eastern approaches as he imagines but agree w/his depiction of the coherency of those Eastern approaches, and have especially enjoyed reading the online irenics/polemics re: DDS of Michael Liccione, Edward Feser & Thomas Hopko.

In the end, surely we’ll need distinctions like un/conditional necessity, esse naturale/intentionale, inentionale as aspect of naturale, change in intentionale as thin passibility.

Norris Clarke actually contends that, in order to make intelligible the belief that what happens in the world does make a significant, conscious difference to God, the Thomistic metaphysical doctrine of no real relations in God to the world should be quietly shelved because it is no longer illuminating. Norris Clarke explains that the term `real relations’ carries a narrow technical meaning for Aquinas, one implying intrinsic change in the real intrinsic, nonrelative perfection of the subject of relation and the independent existence of the other term. Since neither of these requirements can be applied to God, Aquinas allows ‘intentionality relations’, in the purely relational order of knowledge and love in God towards the world, but technically refuses to call these `real relations’. Whilst defensible on technical grounds, Norris Clarke believes this perspective to be so narrow and incomplete, so difficult to convey, that this point of conflict with Process thought should be dropped. Norris Clarke affirms that it should be unambiguously stated that God is truly, `really’, personally related to the world by relations of knowledge and mutual love and affected in consciousness, but not in abiding intrinsic perfection of nature, by what happens in the world. ~ Robert Connor

Below, in no particular order, are some of my favorite online reads re: DDS, MOF & Filioque:




















The Monarchy never entailed subordination

Nor Simplicity modalism

And a new filioque collaboration

Could end a thousand year schism!

What’s Athens to do with Jerusalem?

Or Rome with Constantinople?

Whether one reads Hart or Avery Dulles

She can be apokatastatically hopeful!

Parsing Theories of Eveything in Terms of Modal Identities & Being  (essential, hypostatic & formal)

I’ve often reflected on how the manner in which one approaches the notion of formal causation, alone, can hold the key to which metaphysical door one chooses to walk through. I don’t have the time or interest to explicate it all, presently, but some may capture where I’m headed from this skeletal outline, below.

I will suggest this – no serious scientist or philosopher would, nowadays, consider human symbolic consciousness as anything other than immaterial. This is to further suggest that no physicalist approach can be coherently advanced without an openness to the reality of formal causation.

Finally, metaphysics remains alive & kicking. Those who, in their anxiety to annihilate metaphysics, deny formal causation, will also do away with our highly speculative theoretic sciences, for formal causation is the epistemic fulcrum by which all moderate realisms accomplish their metaphysical heavy lifting, heuristically.

Aristotelian Hylomorphism – robustly conceives formal causes

  • 1) affirms modes of identity

  • 2) derives modes of being from modes of identity

  • 3) employs formal identity for both nondeterminate & determinate realities

Consequences: as exploratory heuristic, fosters research programs, eminently actionable – existentially, consistent with humanity’s common sense & sensibilities and with its great & indigenous religious traditions

Agnostic Physicalism – open to formal causation

  • 1) consistent with modes of identity

  • 2) derives modes of being from modes of identity

  • 3) ephemeral entities, hypostatically, are essentially physical

  • 4) employs formal identity & being for realities, bracketing in/determinacies

  • 5) ontologically reductive physicalism devolves into materialism

  • 6) nonreductive physicalism could reconcile with hylomorphism

Consequences: forecloses on research programs

Materialist Monism – denies formal causation

  • 1) consistent with essential & hypostatic modes of identity

  • 2) ephemeral exemplifications, hypostatically, are essentially material

  • 3) considers formal realities, whether modes of identity or of being, nonsensical

Consequences: reduces to ultimate nihilism & makes free will wholly illusory

Idealist Monism – affirms formal causation practically & ephemerally not essentially & eternally

  • 1) consistent with essential & hypostatic modes of identity & qualified formal identity

  • 2) ephemeral exemplifications, hypostatically, are essentially intentional

  • 3) considers formal realities, whether modes of identity or of being, epiphenomenal

Consequences: principle of sufficient reason on steroids, wreaks havoc with free will, reduces to pantheism

In some sense, naturalism is a more expansive concept than physicalism which is more expansive than materialism. Furthermore, these concepts must be further parsed to specify whether they are being employed methodologically (i.e. epistemologically) and/or philosophically (i.e. ontologically) as well as ephemerally & determinately and/or eternally & nondeterminately (e.g. axiomata).

For its part, naturalism doesn’t a priori specify its primitives (e.g. spatio-tempero-materio-energetic, i.e. physicalism and/or consciousness), while physicalism doesn’t deny formal realities, whereas materialism does (both ephemerally & eternally).

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.

Freedom – from Aquinas to Modern Emergentist Semiotics

If freedom’s a realization of essence, the gratuity of creation already gifts us degrees of freedom via co/operative connaturality ordered to temporal ends, e.g. Lonergan’s secular conversions thereby foster an obediential potency to the gratuity of grace, necessary to realize our eternal ends, theological virtues, our fullest essence.

Co/operative graces don’t abrogate but bring freedom to fruition.

Acting per our temporal ends grows freedom, per our eternal ends IS freedom.

By analogy, infinite actuality to be His essence = God’s freedom.

Tracking Aquinas: Formal causes or habits grow & correspond to increasing freedom, as the ratios of acts to potency, formal to final causes, determinations to indeterminates, increase (in the direction of Actus Purus).

Interestingly, in modern emergentist semiotic accounts, final causes (teloi) have been parsed per degrees of indeterminate potency that have been progressively actuated & determined. Entities & states emerge as teleopotent or end-unbounded; teleomatic or end-stated; teleonomic or end-directed & end-purposed; teleologic or end-intended, where freedom is realized.

Whatever one’s position re nomicities (act/formal & potency/final), a more robust account of reality’s emergent, nested nomicities, as Lonergan might say, would provide “no end of room for God to work on the free choice without violating it.”

A generic emergentist semiotic heuristic can indeed provide a more robust account of creation’s nomic realities vis a vis divine interventions.

HUMAN FREEDOM – BYOM (bring your own metaphysic)

An account of the emergence of freedom in particular semiotic terms
The emergence of symbols will ultimately differentiate the teleonomic from the teleologic, the robustly algorithmic instinctual from the weakly algorithmic cognitive precursors of behavior.
Because of its arbitrary nature, symbolic processing can make more mistakes in response to stimuli. We can think of similies, analogies & metaphors as nonliteral or as mistakes in comparison to the merely iconic & indexic algorithms of instinctual abductive processes.
This ability to make more mistakes in response to stimuli, if they’re not of tremendous survival significance, exponentially leverages the mistake-maker’s ability to learn, bootstrapping a potential maladaptive “devolution” of a hard-wired abductive instinct to a soft-wired abductive inference.
To a great extent, the emergence of this less algorithmic abduction would have not been greatly maladaptive, especially since individual outliers (out-liars) would have been protected both socially and instinctually.
Symbolic language evolution may have been bootstrapped, therefore, from some broken hardwiring in the instinctual abductive processors of human phylogenetic ancestors.
The ability to then symbolically imagine one’s own self in a more robustly inferential abductive process accounts for even more bootstrapping, especially of a socially adaptive nature. Not only could the symbol-maker advance in the manner of “absenting” various teleomatic and teleonomic constraints through enhanced learning and memory, but s/he could better out-maneuver any unwelcome, external teleologic constraints, socially, further leveraging one’s own internal teleologic processing in service of oneself and one’s tribe.
The increase in the plasticity of abductive behavioral responses with the dawn of abductive inference thus represents a novel qualitative emergence, therefore, not a mere jump in algorithmic, computational processing capabilities.
Through enhanced learning and memory, individually and socially, the symbol-maker’s growing repertoire of behavioral responses and the increasing plasticity of those responses need not be conceived in terms of some nomological escape velocity, whereby nomic necessities would no longer objectively hold, but certainly would represent the dawn of a more robustly probabilistic cognitive processing in addition to but with no marginalization of instinctual abductive capacities, the latter which still play an indispensable role in our species’ quotidian existence, even subconsciously. This is to suggest that we feel more free in our daily choices than we actually are.

Any of our mis/perceptions that environmental regularities (both ad extra in our interaction with our physical and social environs and ad intra in our symbolic self-representation) are, themselves, necessarily less versus more in/determined, may or may not really derive from their objective nomic attributes, but, rather, may instead be rooted in our own experience of variances in our own abilities and in/determinations of those regularities, whatever the reason for their seeming in/determinabilities. Those variances would result from our own learning advances.
As a result of those learning advances, we would, in turn, pragmatically value or disvalue various entities, states or events, axiologically privileging the teleologic over the teleonomic over the teleomatic. Our experience of a progressive freedom from their respective constraints needn’t be conceived as a change in their intrinsic nomic necessity. It’s possible that it could instead be understood as an advance in our own methodological determinations vis a vis their real determinability.
We cannot a priori know when it is that we are being thwarted, methodologically, or have encountered some in principle permanent occulting, metaphysically, by an indeterminable reality, however much it might, itself, be in/determined, whether it’s a necessity or contingency, finite or infinite. We do know that there’s little justification for raising a white epistemic flag of surrender or in a priori presupposing that any entity, event or state is brute or unconditioned.
An account of the emergence of freedom in general semiotic terms

If there exists a variety of telic causes, for example, teleopotent or end-unbounded (e.g. certain equilibria), teleomatic or end-stated, teleonomic or end-purposed, and teleologic or end-intended, which can be variously nested and networked to effect any particular entity, state or event, these could well represent objective, physical, nomic necessities.

We might perceive such nomicities and respond as if they represent real stochasticities, variously over- and/or underdetermined – not because they are not otherwise wholly determined, but – because we experience them differentially along an axiological continuum of end-relata, which we derive pragmatically from their perceived adaptive significance.

This is all to suggest that we nonarbitrarily value the teleologic over the teleonomic over the teleomatic due to their significance for our survival and flourishing.

Insofar as any given entity, state or event represents a unique causal network wherein these variously nested end-relata or teloi contribute in different ways and to varying extents, we will tend to value them as more or less beautiful, if they are more or less abductively facile or elegant, and as more or less good, if they are existentially advantageous or useful. Small wonder that the phrase — “That’s random!” — is intended in the pejorative sense. The unintelligible event threatens us. It has the potential to invoke an exhilarating awe, if it doesn’t wound or kill us, if we can cultivate a tolerance for ambiguity and learn to better abide paradox.

Our abductions will be valued as more or less true to the extent they afford value-realizations of beauty and goodness. It is in our experience of epistemic distancing from such axiological value-realizations, in other words, our experience of our radical finitude both epistemically and existentially, that we will locate emergent degrees of freedom, precisely in terms of our progressive ability to foster value-realizations and avoid value-frustrations.

What we call freedom is thus derived from our developmental experience of learning and memory, whereby we experience a progressive diminution of teleomatic, teleonomic and external teleologic constraints with a concomitant augmentation of internal teleologic effectiveness. What matters, then, for our experience of relative freedom, are genuinely perceived differentials in the quantity and quality of nested and networked end-relata or teloi and not whether or not they are, in and of themselves, real nomic necessities.

Teloi can be thoroughgoing nomic necessities, while also being limited in their range and scope vis a vis any given entity, state or event. It is in our encounter with such differentials as the range and scope of various teloi that we will value or disvalue them per their adaptive significance, all without concern for whether such differentials represent epistemic in/determinables or ontic in/determinedness.

So, this is all to further suggest that, from within an emergentist heuristic, the experience of human freedom would be compatible with ontologies that interpret stochasticity and nomicity in epistemic terms only, in meta/physical terms also or in various admixtures, where in/determinacies represent epistemic in/determinables and/or ontic in/determinedness.

If we stipulate to a principle of sufficient reason, its logical aspect could reasonably expect causal explanations for entities, states and events in the modal category of actualities. In the modal category of nomicities, we’d, instead, aspire to formulate axioms that are both consistent & complete in a closed, formal, symbol system. Any such rendering of ultimate initial, boundary and limit conditions may well, even inescapably, have some type and degree of bruteness regarding putative alternative axioms, but, ontologically, the causal relata, even if not terminating in some causa sui, needn’t be conceived as turtles all the way down, but, instead, in terms of nested, networks all the way around.

If bruteness is in some manner inescapable, perhaps a more restrictive definition might suffice, whereby we qualify it in pragmatic terms as interesting or uninteresting?

If a putative final equation is so elegant and so incredibly useful vis a vis our unimaginably complex emergent reality, so beautiful and so good, whether its axioms are true or not may or may not be terribly interesting.

Take, for example, the hundreds of pages of the Principia Mathematica wherein the axioms required for the arithmetic system that proves 2+2=4 are therein formulated and proved.
Have you read those pages?

Do those proofs interest you?

Would you care if they were otherwise brute, as long as you could taste their goodness and see their beauty?

Might a PSR version admit uninteresting bruteness, logically, for an otherwise elegant modal ontological argument that’s been validly formulated?

If so, such a PSR might well be true, whether grounded in a causa sui, sufficiently predicated, or otherwise in a valid alternative eternalist, infinitist account.

We just cannot a priori say.

PSR – taking existence as a predicate?

A rather old and perduring philosophical problem endures. Taking existence as a predicate for some causa sui is certainly valid but it requires further demonstration to show that the event, state or entity obtains.
An unrestricted PSR, employing existence as a predicate, does seem to entail monism and necessitarianism, culminating in an implicit/explicit ontological argument for some god-conception, all taken together, a pantheism. Other PSR versions seem more broadly consistent with any number of ontologies.
The most interesting modal ontological arguments to me are those of Gödel & Hartshorne, more recently by Chris McHugh, who employs Richard Gale’s strategy to guarantee conceptual compatibility vis a vis the logic of the argument’s properties. That approach describes the properties in negative terms, i.e. non-this and non-that. One could limn one’s preferred class of conjoined properties in this way to ensure that one’s argument remains immune to parodies which might otherwise reduce one’s god conception to yield absurdities. Sounds like good old fashioned apophatic theology!
The PSR logic seems to me to have similar hurdles in taking existence as a predicate. It all boils down to competing plausibilities, convincing ourselves and others of the truth of our premises and integrity our terms.
PSR – it’s essential structure
If one stipulates (in my view, inescapably) that the PSR remains neither analytically nor synthetically a apriori, neither rationally provable nor disprovable, neither empirically verifiable nor falsifiable, it will, thereby, conveniently escape the Agrippan trilemma. Agrippa can only take down those PSR versions that employ (whether explicitly, implicitly or practically) infallibilist, foundational pretensions, the likes of which realism needn’t entail, only dogmatism.

PSR with various ontological priors

Less than any serious objections to the PSR per se, whatever its scope (and we need non-question begging, nonarbitrary, principles for its expansion or restriction), my biggest concern is what its different proponents put on our ontological plates and expect us to swallow after setting our epistemic table with commitments to various PSR versions.
Setting aside our concerns, then, regarding the epistemic character of various PSR versions, for argument’s sake, any PSR will seem to me to be less problematic than the implicit presuppositions one might bring along to its table. I’m thinking mostly about those presuppositions regarding different SETS of givens (primitives & laws), axioms/self-evidentiality & rules of inference.
Most formulations of monist, dualist and pluralist ontologies seem to invoke naive set theory, which has been proven inconsistent. Many seem to incoherently demand the same types of explicability for arguments regarding both finite and infinite sets, most often misapplying the axioms of finite sets to infinite sets, whether those set members include necessities and/or contingencies.

Naive set theory brings into play constraints like Godel’s Incompleteness, Tarski’s Undefinability and Russell’s Paradox, each or all of which wouldn’t necessarily commit us to wholesale incoherency. They will often require of us, however, some degree of epistemic capitulation to paraconsistent logics, for example. This seems somewhat analogous to our often being forced to resort to weaker forms of inference, such as when arguing for the PSR, itself.
So, avoiding the fallacy of abuse, I am not challenging the eminent rationality of various PSR versions properly applied. I’m just yet to see it applied in such a way that it could move me beyond a vague phenomenology & ontological undecidability and into any particular metaphysical system, including those of Peirce or Spinosa, Swinburne or Tegmark.
PSR – causal explanations and causal relata

I suppose I bifurcate the PSR into subjective causal explanations and objective causal relations. I would not bother arguing for the latter, which, for me, begs no justification. Our priors might differ in that I do make an intuitive leap, suspecting that entities and states (real actualities) are sufficiently (not wholly) determined by nomicities (teloi).

We are confronted with a demarcation challenge as applied to our indispensable & provisional methodological stipulations. Which of those might we justifiably morph into para-1st-principles? PSR? Methodological naturalism? There’s an obvious consistency in doing either both or neither. Some, however, do one or the other. What’s their nonarbitrary, principled demarcation?

My concern with Della Rocca’s argument is that he couldn’t succeed, in principle, in formally proving that stance, although that certainly wasn’t his ambition. His cumulative case ox is gored by the same methodological horn that takes down Swinburne’s inductive approaches. Neither meets evidentiary standards that rise beyond a reasonable suspicion to the level of a probable cause, thus lacking the normative impetus both Della Rocca and Swinburne would impart with their bayesian-like probabilities.

The non-question begging, nonarbitrary principle I would apply as urged by Della Rocca would draw a distinction between explicatory arguments that refer to putative entities & states and those that refer to known entities & states vis a vis existing laws, primitives, axioms or rules. This does not correspond to the Popperian demarcation, distinguishing the probable (triadic inferential cycling) from the plausible (dyadic inferential cycling of deductive clarifying & abductive hypothesizing sans inductive testing). It takes us beyond into the domains of the very highly speculative theoretic sciences and metaphysics, where equiplausible interpretations compete and where explicability arguments about the very existence of an entity are certainly legitimate but would be less plausible and therefore impart less normative impetus than those about other causal relations regarding known entities or states.

Neither the PSR nor methodological naturalism warrant elevation to an a priori, nonpropositional, self-evidential, axiomatic given and they don’t enjoy epistemic parity with explicability arguments interpreting known entities or states. Initial, boundary and limit conditions beg too many existential or modal questions of states yet known.

PSR – demarcation considerations

Della Rocca & Feser properly make plausibilist appeals. That’s appropriately modest in my view.

I like his demarcation challenge, requesting non-question begging, nonarbitrary principles for rejecting explicability arguments [EA] regarding existence but not for some other types of EA. What justifies any a priori rejection of the PSR in the case of existence?

I’m going to try to formulate some non-question begging, nonarbitrary principles for when indispensable methodological stipulations should graduate in our systems to the status of seeming metaphysical necessities (e.g. with ontological commitments) and when they should be considered as merely provisional strategies.

For example, why elevate the PSR from an epistemic heuristic to the equivalent of a self-evident first principle while not similarly moving from an indispensable methodological naturalism to a full blown metaphysical naturalism?

For example, what might be the epistemic & pragmatic costs of denying one or the other — the PSR? Methodological naturalism? Perish the thought!

And what might be the respective cost-benefits attached to affirming their metaphysical necessity?

Well, with the PSR on steroids version, for many, an untenable downside might be necessitarianism? Others might address the consequences that might ensue if metaphysical naturalism got enshrined as the only reasonable ontological commitment.
PSR – epistemic justification?
As per my theory of knowledge, any PSR proceeds from an induction, gets selected over against competing claims abductively, then formulated tautologically. It’s an eminently rational move, very ontologically suggestive but in no way decisive. As per my theory of truth, I am no more interested in justifying it than I am in justifying first principles, common sense notions of causation or of other minds.
Spinoza & Aquinas

The conceptual overlaps between Spinoza & Aquinas are real and interesting. Where they differ makes for a great foil through which we might deeper our understanding of each other as well as our self-understanding. Alas, I’m too preoccupied with meta-metaphysics to make a leap!
PSR – normative justification

It’s a riddle to me as I normatively justify the PSR inductively & abductively in intuition, common sense & pragmatically. However, it’s not a wholly self-subverting notion because it’s a matter of degree. Peirce would counsel us that on matters of vital concern, we trust our intuitions, instincts, common sense, tradition. In matters of highly theoretic, speculative concerns, we best hypothesize boldly. Popper says much the same thing regarding our formulation of falsifiable hypotheses.
PSR – modal distinctions & their distinct forms of explanation
Intuitively, almost appealing to a notion like self-evidently, I’m sympathetic. It may be that if we properly distinguish between modal actuality and modal necessity so as to properly specify the criteria by which each would be sufficiently explained, you needn’t sacrifice the PSR to more and more restrictions. Modal actualities are sufficiently explained by nomic necessities. Modal necessities might be sufficiently explained by axiomatic consistency & completeness, formally & symbolically & systematically & closed.
PSR – Spinosa as Scotist?
My first blush is that the PSR is not necessarily inconsistent with any plurality whatsoever, especially if Spinoza employs something akin to both the univocity of being and formal distinction of Scotus. The plurality needn’t be one of substance as a modal actuality. The attributes would refer to nomological necessities or formal distinctions.
PSR – Spinoza & Peirce

I see even more resonances between your appropriation of Spinoza and my own of Scotus & Peirce.

The laws are real but not actual things. They refer to final causes, which I refer to as teloi to emphasize the analogical character of different types of laws. This modal category evokes for me the formal distinction of Scotus. Some Thomists might refer to it as a metaphysically real distinction.

For Peirce’s modal category of laws or generalities or regularities, noncontradiction holds but excluded middle folds.

For actualities, the world of things, where real physical distinctions apply, both noncontradiction and excluded middle hold.

To get to this point of agreement, we have not relied on any particular metaphysic but only vague phenomenological categories like modal distinctions and their logic.

I employ these categories to see how different competing metaphysics can each be logically consistent, internally coherent, externally congruent, interdisciplinarily consilient, hypothetically consonant and abductively facile. I presuppose that my interlocutors’ metaphysics meet these criteria of epistemic virtue, whether materialist monists or idealist monists, whether employing substance or process approaches, whether predicating existence of being or not, whether imagining a chain of infinite teloi sufficiently explained by an understanding of each and all links or otherwise grounded in some primal Telos. In other words, I presuppose that each proceeds from a live option (not saying some don’t thereafter disappoint me).

On this point of what nomological realism and nomic necessity might mean, I see no inconsistency between Spinoza and Peirce. There need be no real limit to causal explanations and causal relations vis a vis actualities or things.

What might an unrestricted PSR demand regarding not things but laws? Perhaps the consistency & completeness of their axioms? If so, that’s not theoretically problematic even though our access to them remains inescapably problematic.

It seems to me that the trilemma applies to our theories of knowledge, to our approach toward things or actualities and laws or necessities. It means our approach remains fallibilist and probabilist. If you are suggesting it’s a category error to aim it at a theory of truth, I think I agree.
Types of Necessity

This discussion evokes different types of necessity for me, such as epistemic, logical, metaphysical and nomological.

It brings to mind a Peircean interpretation — that Spinoza’s thought was necessitarian in the sense of his being a nomological realist and his determinism was a principle of individuation for things.

Neither this necessitarianism nor determinism applied generally to the whole of his metaphysic, however.

Consistent with a nomological realism …

wherein nomic necessities govern causal relations & foster the causal explanations per your PSR version …

Spinoza’s metaphysic would not be inconsistent with Peirce’s modal ontology & logic nor with his formal mind-body distinction nor even with a Peircean tychism, where laws (final causes) & regularities, themselves, evolve.

Properly constructed, a PSR would, at worst, garner a Scottish verdict: not proved. One would be disproving too much to claim more for their rebuttal.

More to the point of this post, though, is that it would gain intuitive common sensical appeal if consistent with this Peircean take on Spinozan necessitarianism, being much less counterintuitive to many.
PSR as methodological
Because we must provisionally and methodologically stipulate to the PSR doesn’t make it ontologically necessary, it only makes us epistemically unfortunate if it’s not.

Metaphysical presuppositions like the first principles, PSR, PSC and predicating being of existence can serve us as methodological stipulations without requiring us to necessarily accept them as ontological commitments.

The regularities we observe could be novel emergent realities, both temporally & spatially very local, in an eternally dynamical reality. In a process conception of reality, a notion like motion, change or novelty might best serve as our metaphysical root metaphor rather than more static ones like being or substance.

Whether our dynamical account of these causes would fall prey to the fallacy of composition or not, we cannot a priori say and may not necessarily be able to a posteriori access.

If indeed the PSR does not hold beyond our local emergent reality, it does not mean that reality is wholly unintelligible. Not being comprehensible as a whole would not keep reality from being intelligible, in part.
Aristotelian Causations

Aristotelian notions of causation have been helpful in modern semiotic science. But in the same way that different emergent layers of reality employ analogical notions of entropy (e.g. Boltzman, Shannon & Darwin entropies), so, too, instances of final causation might or might not represent analogues of various teloi (e.g. teleomatic, teleonomic & teleodynamic).

In our original discussion of first principles, the fallacy of composition may or may not come into play vis a vis PSC & PSR. Under one scenario, we can conceive of dynamical, emergent, teloi, only. Under the other, we must add primal Telos, about which our conceptions must remain very vague, as our metaphorical references get progressively weaker.

I gather that you are merely defending the reasonableness of certain metaphysical presuppositions but not that you are denying competing equiplausible interpretations. I wouldn’t accept the notion that these competitions could be contested in any robustly probabilistic way, presently. Too many epistemic hurdles need to be jumped, like reconciling gravity & quantum mechanics.
PSR – a/theological implications?

Of interest may be what one presupposes, metaphysically, as the object of sufficient reason?

That object often lies hidden – not only in the premises, but – in the definitions of a given argument’s terms.

For example, regarding any given whole, one may a priori consider it to be that type that can be sufficiently explained by its parts. Another may presuppose that the whole, itself, begs an explanation beyond those available by understanding its parts.

The PSR, it would seem, could have as its object either a whole that is sufficiently explicable by its many dynamical causal components or one that requires a transcending and preceding cause. That latter whole and its preceding cause may be conceived together as yet another whole, itself, either sufficiently comprehensible or not. A putative primal cause may or may not ever, necessarily, need to come into play? It might arise or not in a static, substance metaphysic, arise or not in a dynamical process approach. Often it seems such ontological conclusions are tautologically embedded in the definitions and root metaphors of competing metaphysics, before they make their way into premises and arguments.

I guess one implication is that we needn’t conflate any PSR & PSC, as —

even if reality, in the end, was not explanatorily brute, that doesn’t necessarily specify the causal natures of the objects under consideration, i.e. what might be required to comprehend this or that entity.

Those objects when taken as a whole, it seems, could be wholly intelligible whether understood in terms of 1) the causes of their dynamical parts 2) some preceding & transcending cause, which then begs the same analysis or 3) some primal cause?

None of those scenarios would have strict a/theological implications, i.e. necessarily ruling God in or out. They’d have implications for various a/theological conceptions of reality in terms of any essential natures or specific attributes, e.g. changing the root metaphors of our metaphysical interpretations.

To make this a tad less abstract, a bit more concrete, some panentheists employ more or less classical god-conceptions like creatio ex nihilo, while others imagine a creatio ex profundis or creation out of a coeternal formless void, abyss, chaos or “the deep,” as referenced in Genesis as “tehom.” A tehomic panentheism would be consistent with both a self-subsisting cosmos and a self-subsisting deity, both possibly explicable without reference to transcending causes, intelligible simply by understanding their respective components.

The PSR thus remains an indispensable methodological stipulation. No justification for epistemic surrender? What type of causes beg explanation or not,

we can’t always know? Are we dealing with a multiplicity of teloi, both in kind and degree, or some primal Telos, vis a vis reality taken as a whole?
PSR & explanatory gaps
I very much enjoy reading the popularized accounts of current scientific research, especially as they focus on explanatory gaps regarding origins. The empirical facts regarding quantum mechanics, cosmogenesis, the origins of life, origins of consciousness & origins of symbolic language fascinate me.

I view it all through an emergence heuristic (although eschewing distinctions like supervenience). At each juncture, of course, are manifold interpretations of those facts, which I classify, respectively, as veldopoietic (field origins), cosmopoietic, biopoietic, sentiopoietic & sapiopoietic. Hence different quantum interpretations, cosmogonies, life origins interpretations, philosophies of mind, etc, all with various emergent, novel entropies and teloi.

The new philosophical interpretations can often be as frustrating to me as the new scientific facts are fascinating! Some interpretations prove too much and come across more ideologically driven than philosophically. I remain a thoroughgoing metaphysical agnostic about such explanatory gaps. A physicalist conception of the soul is as tenable to me as any other.

I suppose I’m saying enjoy your science as not much has happened metaphysically since … I’ll be politic and let that hang.
PSR – more on Aquinas & Spinosa
Your distinctions regarding Aquinas & Spinoza’s versions of simplicity remind me of various versions of distinctions conceived by Scotists & Thomists. What Scotus called a formal distinction might be what some Thomists now call a real metaphysical distinction. Then of course they add real, virtual, conceptual and modal distinctions (of both adequacy & temporality). Some Thomists now distinguish between an esse naturale and an esse intentionale, more highly nuancing simplicity, contingency, separability, im/mutability, im/passibility and such.
Nontheist Interpretations

I celebrate nontheistic metaphysical interpretations of reality, theistically, conceiving them as studies of God’s impersonal aspects.
Nature of Regularities

That’s a major rub — the nature of regularities. In our empirical sciences, we proceed with probabilities, never quite encountering necessities even though reality hints at them, all over the place! Are any necessities physically instantiated?

Is chaos merely epistemic or robustly ontological? Are in/determinacies merely in/determinable or clearly in/determined or a combination of both? We don’t generally need to know these answers to make probabilistic, falsifiable, predictions and fallibly advance knowledge.

CS Peirce formulated what he called the Neglected Argument for the Reality of God, which boils down to an abduction of the Ens Necessarium. (Peirce was largely influenced by Scotus).

Does necessity successfully refer to physical reality? Metaphysically? Are there eternal laws or only ever-emergent regularities, partly dis/continuous, variously in/determined in degrees? It’s quite a Quest we’re on!

Suber’s Problem of Beginning
I enjoy reading this paper every few years: https://dash.harvard.edu/ha…

Maybe it’s a baker’s dozen-lema. Although, Peter Suber’s list of problematic ways of beginning did seem to reduce to Thinker’s trilemma is how it first struck me long ago.

Hawking came to accept Godel-like implications for any theory of everything. In the choice between consistency & completeness, he said the good money’s on incompleteness & consistency.

Is the cosmos mute, brute or fruit?

Mute regarding its necessity or contingency? A brute reality? The contingent fruit of another reality?
I have progressive, Evangelical Protestant friends, who, when they mention grabbing a beer, often seem to be doing so as a form of social media vice-signaling, almost as if to be brandishing some renegade, heterodoxic bona fides. When my Catholic co-religionists bring up brewskis, they are assuredly merely sharing a simple faith proposition or credo: I believe I’ll have another beer.
Explanations & Justifications
I take explanations to be descriptive and/or interpretive, while justifications are normative, including justification of beliefs (interpretive). So, there’s an integral relationship and the same problems apply to inductive and causal justifications as well as deductive.

The process of justification can lead to the premises of any trilemma or baker’s dozen-lemma, however one conceives these problems of skepticism.

The good news is that we don’t have to reject any of those premises, whether 3 or 13, in order to dismiss their conclusion — that knowledge isn’t possible. All we have to do is to draw the distinction between fallible & infallible knowledge. Human knowledge is fallible & probabilistic. That argument only applies to infallible knowledge, which makes the trilemma perhaps problematic for the Pope but certainly not for me.

I agree that radically skeptical arguments fall on the horns of their own trilemma. The skeptic, then, must retreat to a moderate skepticism, just as the realist retreats to moderate and critical realisms, where we prescind from metaphysical modes of necessity to those of probability, employing underdetermined realities & fuzzy logics. The skeptic might then argue that, given these premises, one can reasonably expect that they’ll to some degree find infallible knowledge to be elusive. [tongue in cheek]
Theories of Truth & Knowledge
Spinoza, per this account, seems to employ a correspondence theory of truth with a fallibilist theory of knowledge.
He seems to draw a distinction between causal explanations and causal relations, by which he locates our mind-body conceptions in the former not the latter. Our minds and bodies would be connected explanatorily but would not interact because, substantially, they are the same.
This exemplifies Scotus’ formal distinction.
Peirce was a realist about laws and causal relations, including continuity, efficient & final causation.
It would seem that these interpretive resonances between Spinoza, Scotus & Peirce, when taken together, would be consistent with your monist intuitions? Peirce had a saying that we must be about “the minding of matter and the mattering of the mind.”
Peirce, however, was also a realist about chance, so would part ways Spinoza’s complete determinism. Maybe it could be said that if epistemology models ontology and our epistemology is inescapably probabilistic, then, so might reality be probabilistic, so might reality be largely but not entirely determined rather than governed by thoroughgoing necessities. For Peirce, the Ens Necessarium would refer to the reality of God.
Of course, one cannot a priori know whether probabilities are merely epistemic or also ontological. So, I’m just describing, not prescribing, another logically live option to you.

Perhaps Spinoza wouldn’t consider an epistemic infinitism fatal, especially for an infinite accidentally ordered series, where reality represents a set of contingents. If that set, itself, is explicable in terms of its members, our explanations are both complete and consistent. Apparently, Spinoza a priori presupposes, however, that this set of contingents is, itself, contingent. Maybe it is but maybe it isn’t.
In the case that this set of contingents might indeed beg its own explanation, a circular referentiality needn’t be logically flawed, only epistemically uninformative. The accidental series would represent formal not substantial distinctions in Spinoza’s monism, causal explanations not relations, all substantial relations presupposed in a closed, deterministic system as wholly intelligible necessities.
The practical upshot may be that the PSR leads to various theories of everything that are inescapably tautological, whether monistic, dualistic or pluralistic. The PSR might be axiomatically true and one of our tautological TOEs could be true. This is to suggest that neither the PSR nor a logically consistent, internally coherent and externally congruent metaphysic can be disproved by formal argument. All that can be demonstrated is that, if they’re indeed true, we can’t prove them formally. There’s a big difference between suggesting that we cannot, in principle, formulate truth, axiomatically, and otherwise saying we can’t prove that we’ve done so. The PSR could very well be much more than mere heuristic. It’s normative justification is pragmatic as we taste and see its goodness. As a methodological stipulation it’s ontologically suggestive, even though not decisive. This is no vulgar pragmatism but a fallibilist realism. The death of the PSR has been greatly exaggerated!
Fallacy of Composition?
At any rate, under whatever scenario, I certainly wouldn’t argue against the premise that “an infinite regress of contingent explanations would require a necessary explanation for the chain’s existence.” It certainly isn’t irrational and also seems worthy of holding beyond a mere stipulation for argument’s sake. I don’t imagine I could argue for it, either, at least not decisively. It seems rather undecidable, formally. Informally, an argument against it would seem refutable by a reductio. For one thing, the analogies required to traverse putative temporal, nontemporal and atemporal realities get so progressively vague and weak as to offer little intelligibility.
I appreciate the derivation of the trilemma from the PSR. That’s pretty tidy. The trilemma for sure succeeds against apodictic certainty and chastises those who are tempted to prove too much.

PSR’s essential structure redux

PSR is Product of Informal Reasoning

The PSR appears to be a combination of inductive and abductive inferences regarding both logical causal explanations and ontological causal relations.
Inductively, competing intuitions conjecture that reality can either be wholly or only partly explained, that some facts are brute or not.
Abductively, the PSR presupposes the conjecture that reality can be wholly explained, accepting the criticisms regarding brute facts.
This abduction thereby a priori and in principle forecloses on further inferential cycling, where deductive clarifying and abductive hypothesizing can be empirically interrupted by additional inductive testing.
PSR thus takes on the Form of a Metaphysical Tautology
Such a stark and rigid choice between competing explanatory interpretations moves the abduction across the epistemic line of demarcation from physics to metaphysics, where the PSR gains immunity to falsifiability.
Any perduring lack of intelligibility or causal explanation will then be necessarily considered only ever “provisionally” brute, however much empirical probing or attempts at falsification take place for however long.
The resilience of the PSR, therefore, does not derive from its long survival of the repetitive alternating conjectures and criticisms of critical rationalism, inductive experimentation or empirical falsification. Instead, it comes from its tautological premises, the truth of which remains rationally undecidable and empirically unfalsifiable. Those premises may very well be true or could, indeed, be false, but they remain ontologically uninformative.
A metaphysical tautology grounded in inductive and, even weaker, abductive inferences, does not make for a good formal argument. It has implicit probabilistic features due to its inductive nature and plausibilist appeal which led to its abduction, but nothing logically or ontologically necessary.

PSR is Normatively Justified as Methodological Stipulation
The PSR remains an indispensable methodological stipulation, but as a metaphysical presupposition, while it’s most certainly ontologically suggestive, it’s hardly decisive. As an inherently fallibilist approach, it doesn’t get epistemically gored on the horns of Agrippa’s trilemma like infallibilist and naive realist outlooks.

Human knowledge employs fast & frugal heuristics, a legacy of the evolutionary economy of epistemic satisficing, which corresponds, epistemologically, with something perhaps better described as the Principle of Adequate/Satisfactory Reason vis a vis causal explanations, whatever may “really” be the case, ontologically, with causal relations.

The PSR is normatively justified even while lacking other robustly epistemic warrants. While any formalized versions would be subject to Godel-like constraints, it’s best to remember that such formulations can be consistent and complete even though we cannot prove them formally. Our normative justifications are pragmatic, not a vulgar pragmatism, whereby we can quite possibly, indeed, taste and see the goodness of its methodological fruits.

PSR Remains Eminently Rational as a Theory of Truth but inescapably Fallibilist as a Theory of Knowledge

This is all to suggest that we mustn’t prove too much, that the PSR has its weaknesses but, at the same time, should not be underestimated regarding its strengths. It’s in no way irrational. Some of its refutations lend themselves to dismissal by reductio.
How might its logical structure compare to first principles, common sense notions of causation and some self-evident beliefs, which we accept nonpropositionally? Is it any more problematic than Humean problem of induction, as induction, for all practical purposes, works pretty darned well given our immersion in manifold and multiform regularities?
The PSR seems to lend itself only to an informal account, as it appears to me to be grounded in probabilistic inductions and plausibilist abductions, then epistemically woven into a metaphysical tautology, beyond the reach of empirical falsification.

Appendix 1 – Sound Logic

All this really is about is the distinction between logical validity and soundness, although the focus at hand more particularly concerns whether or not certain premises are justified in suggesting that certain of their terms are self-evident or overwhelmingly plausible. And the practical upshot is that if we are confronted with competing equiplausible claims, that does not exhaust our arsenal of rationality, which then turns to normative justifications for the existential actionability of those claims, the “living as if” approach consistent with consensus takes regarding epistemic and moral virtues.

Ironically, what may have first captured my own interest in competing metaphysics was my curiosity at how and why others found it so interesting, while I was in fact disinterested. Following Whitehead’s notion that Christianity was a religion “in search of a metaphysic,” I always believed, and still do, that Christian faith is justified with no need to resort to a particular metaphysic and that only a vague phenomenology suffices for its common sensical intuitions and an ordinary openness to abide with the occasional counterintuitions, especially if the character of those spouting such parables & paradoxes was impeccable and their love & compassion exemplary.

So, my project really has more to do with making an appeal not to tell untellable stories, not to prove too much, not to say way more about primal and ultimate realities than we could possibly know.

Our phenomenal experience of being sufficiently free, whatever degree of determinedness obtains, and of genuine value-realizations, requires no formal justification and is threatened by no sophistic formulations, at least no more than, for example, our belief in other minds. Solipsism is undecidable, neither provable nor refutable. But who cares? Who even finds it interesting? That’s how I feel about so much of metaphysics. If I enter the ontological fray, it is only to demonstrate its self-subversive tendencies.

Keeping these categories straight, though, does have enormous heuristic power in the most highly speculative theoretic sciences, which segue past or occupy the margins of that line of demarcation between science & metaphysics. I think here of competing accounts of cosmic origins, quantum interpretations, philosophy of mind and life’s origins, none which necessarily would have much import for putative primal necessities.

Appendix 2 – Religious Naturalisms

Varieties of Metaphysical Naturalisms — all consistent with both epistemological & ontological naturalisms

1) substantival monism – one being & one substance

a) materialist & physicalist

b) idealist – Neoplatonists

c) neutral (dualist attribute) – Spinoza

d) mereological (dualist substance) – consistent with PANentheism*

Various Hindus (Aurobindo) & Buddhists (Nagarjuna’s Middle Way) can be mapped everywhere and nowhere within the above monistic categories. Even Spinoza & Einstein have been reinterpreted by some as pan-entheists rather than pantheists.

2) attributive – one category of being & however many substances

a) materialist

b) idealist

* PANENtheism is ontologically dualist or pluralist, only methodologically naturalist

Why Double Agency Works for me – an emergentist defense

Reflections evoked by Fr. A. Kimel’s:

The World is a Novel in the Mind of God

Fr. Al wrote “God’s activity as creator,” notes McCann, “operates in such a way that my integrity as an agent is exactly what it would have been if the subject of creation had never come up, and we had concluded that, as many libertarians believe, my decisions and actions have no determining cause of any kind, primary or secondary” (Creation, p. 105).

The only difference between his construal of human freedom and the typical libertarian construal, McCann tells us, is that his account presents our decisions and actions as grounded in God as primary cause, “whereas on the standard libertarian view their existence is grounded in nothing whatever” (p. 109). <<<<<

The approach to free will with which I most resonate precisely comes from philosophers and scientists who’ve grappled with a person’s “integrity as agent” apart from the “subject of creation.

Some frame the issue less in terms of in/determinism, a reality that presents in degrees and better conceived in probabilistic terms like propensities, and more so in terms of reductionism and downward causations (e.g. whole-part constraints as well as formal and final).

For these theorists, among whom are believers, unbelievers and nonbelievers, the question of free will does not so much turn on the putative reality of neurobiological determinism (although some do speculate regarding quantum indeterminacies) but much more so on the question of neurobiological reductionism (both epistemic and ontological), which, long story short, remains phenomenologically indefensible.

Of course, I’m talking about those who, primarily informed by modern semiotic science, embrace an emergentist stance. I resonate with that perspective in its most generic sense, which affirms emergent teloi in nature but which doesn’t necessarily invoke further distinctions, such as between weak and strong emergence or supervenience. For example, even a nonreductive physicalism, in my view, proves too much.

These emergentists would all affirm — not only the teleomatic and teleonomic teloi of, respectively, inanimate (end-stated-ness) and sentient things (end-purposed-ness), but also — the robustly teleodynamic (end-intended-ness) consciousness of sapient persons, who enjoy genuine autopoietic agency or an authentic will or personal intentionality.

This emergentist stance remains a phenomenological, exploratory heuristic. This is to say that it does not ambition an explanatory metaphysic. It merely takes an inventory of nature’s emergent novelties, among which are different teloi, and affirms the most robustly downward causation observed as human, personal, intentional agency.

I say intentional agency as distinct from human freedom, which can sometimes more, sometimes less, characterize any given person’s agency. I draw that distinction partly out of sympathy for DB Hart’s conception of freedom and, also, from the perspectives of both human developmental psychology and formative spirituality, whereby true freedom must be grown in a radically social-relational milieu.

Fr. Al wrote: McCann thus seeks to move philosophical reflection beyond the ever-ellusive causal joint that ostensibly binds divine and human agency. Perhaps we should not even employ the notion of causality—hence his suggestion that we think of the relation between God and creatures as analogous to the relation between intention and content. <<<<<

The emergentist stance, as an exploratory heuristic, does not explain the novelties that present as the cosmos emerges from the quantum, as life emerges from stardust, as sentience emerges from early life forms, as sapience finally emerges from sentient consciousness. Nature’s causal joints remain ever-elusive.

Not only are nature’s causal joints for the emergentist ever-elusive, the emergent teloi, themselves, —- from the teleopotent quantum fields (veldo [field]-poietic) to the teleomatic thermodynamics and morphodynamics of physics and chemistry (cosmo-poietic) to the teleonomic life forms (bio-poietic and sentio-poietic) to the teleo-logical (sapio-poietic) person — remain only weakly analogical, as varieties of formal and final causations.

This is all to suggest that we are asking too much of any given metaphysic, presently, by requesting an explanation of nature’s causal joints. No root metaphor has yet reconciled gravity and quantum mechanics and the latter still admits several interpretations (epistemic and/or ontological). How much more so would we be telling untellable stories to pretend to describe the causal joints between divine and human agency?

This is to further suggest that our vague understandings of formal and final causations in nature’s emergent teloi require a great deal of analogical — not univocal — predication.

There are manifestly qualitative — not just quantitative — differences between the teleonomic sentience, which humans share with other animals, and the teleo-logic sapience, which is unique to Homo symbolicus. It’s no easy task to imaginatively answer the question:

What is it like to be a bat?

How much more would we be saying way more than we could ever possibly know by facilely imagining:

What is it like to be omniscient?

How much more careful we must be in our analogical predications between emergent teloi and the primal Telos of a self-subsisting esse?

All that said, then, absent any neurobiological reductionism, which many scientists and philosophers clearly would deny, if some don’t even see the threat (to human intentional agency and freedom) from a materialist monist determinism, atheologically, then I certainly don’t see one from a divine determinism, theologically.

Grounding our emergent teloi, in general, a robustly telic human agency, in particular, in God as primary cause, seems a very defensible move, and double agency a very reasonable conception.

God’s sovereign control over nature’s teloi or regularities would sustain or suspend them per the divine will but never to the extent that the emergent and robust telos of the human will (the apex of nature’s teloi) would be suspended.

Theologians might argue whether such a divine constraint would be essential (intrinsic), metaphysical (in/coherent logically) or kenotic, but, given the grounding of any human agency/divine constraint in the Source via creatio continua, who would not characterize it, per any of these scenarios, as sovereignly authored?