Sunday, November 7, 2010

Augustine on Lying - Sermon

If you would like to download the audio for this sermon, click here.

I would like to elaborate a bit on what a lie is, on whether or not is it always wrong to lie, and on whether or not we can lie to ourselves. Rather than just giving you my own immature thoughts on the subject, I want to draw on the thoughts of St. Augustine. I don’t know that I fully agree with Augustine, but I think he is a good place to start. Perhaps I can do another sermon where we look at Aquinas’ view, Newman’s view, and Kant’s view.

My interest in this topic was stirred up by a book called “Lying: An Augustinian Theology of Duplicity” by Paul J. Griffiths. The Holy Spirit had already been convicting me of my own tendency to be dishonest, but this book helped clarify and sharpen my vision so that I began to see more clearly just how deep and wide my dishonesty is.

All of us know that it is wrong to lie, but few of us see how easy it is to lie and how entrenched we are in our own lies. In fact, if you made it your life’s ambition to never lie, you would probably be one of the most socially awkward people around. Many of our “social graces” rely on our ability distort our true thoughts. Even if we think someone smells funny, we usually shy away from telling them this. Anyone who just blurted out his thoughts without any sort of filter would be considered rude.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spinoza and Aquinas on the Divine Substance

In this article, two views concerning the nature of the Divine Substance will be explained and compared. First, some key points concerning Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza’s view will be given. After that, the classical view of God will be offered. As the classical view is explained, similarities and differences between the two views will be highlighted.

Benedict (Baruch) Spinoza’s View of Divine Substance

Substance as Self-Sufficient

In his book A Study of Spinoza’s Ethics, Jonathan Bennett outlines five aspects of Spinoza’s thinking that set the stage for his philosophy in general and his view of the Divine Substance in particular. Two of those five aspects will be mentioned here, as they are more pertinent to our discussion of the Divine Substance. The two aspects of his thinking which are relevant to our discussion are his implicit notions of “explanatory rationalism” and “causal rationalism”. Explanatory rationalism refers to the idea that, given a fact, an explanation may be given for that fact. Causal rationalism is an extension of explanatory rationalism. It makes causal relationships strong analogs to logical relationships.

According to Bennett, explanatory rationalism “is the refusal to admit brute facts”. In other words, the explanatory rationalist cannot offer ‘it just is the case’ as an explanation for any given fact. Everything, in principle, must be explainable. Causal rationalism is the refusal to allow a distinction between what is logically necessary and what is causally necessary. The causal rationalist thinks that logical necessity does not merely entail causal necessity; rather, to speak of logical necessity is simply another way of talking about causal necessity. As Bennett states, “When [Spinoza] speaks of ‘the reason or cause why Nature acts’… he thinks he is talking about one relation, not two.”