The logic of proof

In this chapter, therefore, we are first brought to the question of the logic of proof. In a recent article, Milbank writes of how there is in Thomas's Summa Theologiae 'a much more integral relation between sacred theology and metaphysics'1 than there is in his earlier Summa contra Gentiles. In the earlier Summa, the overall structure and balance indicate just how much room Thomas was at that stage of the development of his theology prepared to allow for natural reason within the articulation...

Milbank on Thomas and proof

In chapter 2 I considered Gunton's reasons for denying the consistency of Thomas's natural theology with Christian faith, and then set out, very briefly and without comment, Milbank's different, indeed opposed, argument to the same general effect. Milbank's case needs to be revisited, because, unlike Gunton, who maintains that Thomas does offer what may be called an 'onto-theological' natural theology, Milbank denies that Thomas offers any such thing, though on grounds similar to Gun-ton's,...

The Kantian objection

As to Kant, the Vatican decree that the demonstrability of the existence of God by reason alone must be conceded on grounds of faith is prima facie exactly to reverse the priorities argued for in the Critique of Pure Reason, that it is on grounds of faith that such rational demonstrability must be denied. But the conflict is more complex and less direct than any such simple opposition of terms might suggest, if only because Kant argues at length and on purely philosophical grounds not only that...

Difference and hierarchy the pseudoDenys

At first blush, however, one would have supposed that classical forms of negative theology would hardly commend themselves to the 'democratic' temperament of post-modern philosophy, if only for the reason that 9 See Jacques Derrida, 'How to Avoid Speaking Denials', in Sanford Budick and Wolfgang Iser (eds.), Language of the Unsayable The Play of Negativity in Literature and Literary Theory, New York Columbia University Press, 1989, pp. 1-50. 10 Derrida, On the Name, p. 76. 11 Which you might...

The objection of the nouvelle theologie

A third sort of grounds for contesting the propositions of Vatican I -on my account of them - draws the issues closer in with the sources in Thomas Aquinas on which my defence of them partly relies, and causes me to anticipate here a distinction which, by the end of this essay, will turn out to be all-important. Put in its plainest form, my case is that there are reasons of faith for maintaining that the existence of God must be demonstrable by reason alone, and that by 'demonstrable' is meant...

The retreat from intellect medieval affectivism

If such is the widespread modern orthodoxy, a more common late medieval revision of Thomas's position shares with the modern its scepticism of the rational, while in at least one respect sharing with Thomas his apophaticism about faith. For even in Thomas's own time, and before, we encounter a rising tide of late medieval anti-intellectualism which became a flood in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a tendency - it is not a 1 See Milbank's extended article, 'Intensities', in Modern...

Effecting what is signified

Which brings us to the issue of sacramental efficacy. Since the twelfth century it has commonly been said to be in the nature of a sacrament to 'effect what it signifies'. And while there is no call to quibble with this formula as such, it needs to be said that, largely because of post-medieval and distinctly empiricist notions of causality, it is now a highly misleading formula. For these reasons. I have suggested that we ought to distinguish between the formal character of a sign in virtue of...

The case against Milbank

It is possible to contest this construction on Thomas's strategy in the 'five ways' on a number of counts, however, two in particular deserving comment. The first is the importation into Thomas's thinking, at just the wrong point, of the 'Augustinian' principle that you cannot know relative degrees of imperfection in creatures without first knowing, in some way, whether by 'intuition', or as the object of some 'experience', supreme perfection to exist. Thomas certainly maintains that there...

Further objections and answers

These things are simply a matter of the 'logic' of the incarnation, at any rate of a Chalcedonian Christology. It is, of course, possible for Christian theologians to abandon the logic, and some do explicitly, as we have seen Hick does though it is more common for Christian theologians thoughtlessly to dismiss the Chalcedonian Christology, unaware that in doing so they run the risk of abandoning the subtle and complex logic of transcendence on which it relies. As McCabe says, it is one thing to...

Thomas on inference from creatures to

Before considering whether there is a case for the possibility of a causal argument, let us first consider what Thomas's view of the matter is in principle. There are at least two important texts in which Thomas explicitly raises the question of whether the transcendence of God - which entails God's being spoken of 'analogically' - rules out the possibility of inference being valid to God from creatures, and in both his answer is in an unambiguous negative such inference is not thereby ruled...

Esse and analogy

In turning, then, to the question of how existence, in the sense of 'actuality', is predicated, we are brought to Thomas's famous teaching that existence is predicated 'analogically'. Famous it is, and famously misunderstood. To say that existence is predicated 'analogically' is in the first instance to say no more than that it is predicated neither equivocally nor univocally. On this matter, it is fair to comment that too much has sometimes been made of Thomas's so-called 'doctrine of analogy'...

A limit question

And that 'limit' question is 'Why is there anything at all rather than nothing ' It is, Thomas thinks, a question the rational mind opens up to naturally, yielding to the pressure of its own native energies as reason, which is to wonder about causes.5 This is the question with which 'reason' reaches its limits, for it is a question the answer to which must in the nature of things defeat our powers of comprehension, so that in its encounter with the necessity of asking that question, 'reason'...

Ens is predicated univocally of God and creatures

Scotus says that 'being' ens is univocally predicated of God and of creatures. His argument for this proposition is based upon a general episte-mological principle familiar to those who know Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy if, of two properties potentially ascribable to a thing, one can be known with certainty to be ascribed to it, but the ascription of the other is open to doubt, then those two properties must be really distinct from one another. Alternatively the principle can...

Difference and indistinction Meister Eckhart

In the formulation of Meister Eckhart's theology, however, the Dionysian hierarchy - whether in the form of an ontology of degrees of being, or in that of the outflow of descending illuminations - notably plays little if any part. If 'difference' is central to that theology and spirituality, the carefully structured hierarchical gradings of the pseudo-Denys found in chapters 4 and 5 of his Mystical Theology in Eckhart are relatively underplayed, yielding central place within his theological...

Bonaventure and the centrality of Christ

In Bonaventure's Itinerarium Mentis in Deum5 we find a complex interweaving of at least three strands of theological tradition. First, there is his own Franciscan piety and devotion, which place at the centre of Christian thought and practice the human nature of Christ, but very particularly the passion of Christ. Secondly, there is a rampantly affirmative theology of 'exemplarism', in which, in classically medieval style, he constructs a hierarchy of 'contemplations' of God, beginning from the...

Presence and absence in Thomass Eucharistic theology

Our merely illustrative examination of Thomas's Eucharistic theology may begin in an iconographical setting. In the once medieval Catholic, now Calvinist-maintained, cathedral at Bern in Switzerland, one is confronted by a visibly Calvinist architectural revision. Altars once richly ornamented are stripped niches once containing images of saints are now empty walls, once brilliantly hued, whitewashed the glass now plain the orientation reversed, the stalls facing north, not east. The effect is...

A metaphysics of Exodus

At this point it is necessary to dispel a myth which may have been thus far reinforced by my own lax terminology. Thomas's 'simple' God is not, in the first instance at least, a 'God of the philosophers', as I, in a dubiously helpful concession to Pascal, may appear to have been saying. Thomas's God, whose simplicity is ultimately guaranteed by the divine identity of esse and essentia, is, at least so far as he is concerned, the God of 'Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob', that is to say, the God of the...

Scotus and univocity

I call a concept 'univocal' if it has that sameness of meaning which is required so that to affirm and deny it of the same subject amounts to a contradiction also, if it has that sameness of meaning required such that it can function as a middle term in a syllogistic argument - thus that where two terms are united in a middle 1 Catherine Pickstock, 'Modernity and Scholasticism A Critique of Recent Invocations of Univocity', forthcoming in Antonianum. I am grateful to Dr Pickstock for allowing...

Thomas and ontotheology

And so we return to the question whether to say that esse is predicable of both God and creatures is 'onto-theological'. Thomas, of course, knows no such nomenclature but he knows the question and entertains it for himself. If God's simplicity gets its root meaning in the identity of God's essentia and esse,30 this poses the further objection that if God's esse and God's essentia were identical, if God were to be described as ipsum esse subsistens, it would seem to follow that God's existence...

The univocal predication of being

Scotus is quite clear about one proposition central to his theological epis-temology 'being' ens is the proper object of the intellect and is predicated univocally of anything whatever. I say that Scotus is clear about this. But followers of Thomas Aquinas are likely to judge this proposition to be thoroughly confused when they read it in conjunction with another, equally unambiguous, statement of Scotus ens is not a genus and the logic of ens is not that of a genus.26 In saying this, Scotus is...

Nietzsche Derrida grammar and

In his Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche tells us of his 'fear that we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar',5 thereby expressing, perhaps seminally for much French interpretation of Nietzsche, its logophobia, its fear of language. For all his supreme wordiness, Nietzsche fears language - it torments him with theological paradox. Language, constructed internally from the formal constituents of grammar, divides. Not that language fails merely as expression - because it...

Acknowledgements

My first, and principal, debt of gratitude is to my wife, Marie, who not only has helped me with advice about some details of the text of this work, but has throughout the long and painfully slow process of its composition selflessly provided me with the kind of support and encouragement without which that process could not have been easily endured. Nor can I imagine ever having completed this book without her having created the sort of personal and domestic circumstances in which alone...

Theological rhetoric

Anyone who has had the least acquaintance with the writings of Thomas Aquinas and of Meister Eckhart will be struck by how it is that the writings of these two Dominicans, educated as both were albeit some forty years apart in the same priory at Cologne, and possibly taught by the same Albert the Great, could differ so starkly in rhetorical 'feel'. It would be easy to put these differences down to a relatively superficial matter of style and imagery, dictated by differences of intellectual...

The Barthian objection

One different kind of ground for contesting the propositions of the Vatican Council - I shall characterise it in terms which are broadly 'Barthian' -is distinguishable from Kant's in that on this account an authentically Christian faith rules out the standpoint of natural theology as rivalling Christian faith as if with an alternative 'standpoint of unbelief', as Alvin Plantinga puts it.8 On this account of Barth's position, natural theology is a form of betrayal of the divine purposes of...

Affirmative and negative in the Christology of Bonaventure dynamics

Which brings us to the 'dynamics' of the structure of the Itinerarium. We have noted that the hierarchical principles of Bonaventure's exposition could lead us to read the movement from vestigia through imagines to the highest concepts of God, from 'outer' to 'inner' thence 'above', as successive phases of affirmativeness into an ultimate negativity. But such a reading is defensible only on neglect of a contrary movement of'centring', a movement which clearly predominates in Bonaventure's...

Natural theology and ontotheology

As a first step in response to what seems to be a widespread and general hostility to 'natural theology' we must next begin a long process of consideration of two particular forms that the criticism takes, sometimes linked, sometimes not, as directed at some key high and late medieval theologians, including, some say, Thomas Aquinas, while others find them in Duns Scotus but not in Thomas. The first accusation is that of the theological error which, since Martin Heidegger, is described as...

The apophatic and the cataphatic

That Thomas's theological starting point lies in the defeat of the human mind by the unknowability of God, whether in the mind's own nature as rational or as transformed by grace, will perhaps seem hard to reconcile with any case for the demonstration of the existence of God unaided by faith - for such a case, if any does, would seem to lay claim to 'know God', indeed to know God all too well. But this unknowability will seem, on the other side, just as hard to reconcile with the nature of that...

The formal and material objects of faith and reason

As a first step in setting out how this argument will proceed, let us note a crucial ambiguity in Kerr's conclusion from the propositions of the 'nouvelle theologie' that the 'God exists' of the philosopher's reason 'means something radically different' from the 'God exists' affirmed by the Christian 'under the conditions of faith'. This is partly, but only partly, true, and to see in what sense it is true and in what sense false, we can ask why does the Vatican Council, in distinguishing what...

Christology statics

For there are two general principles which organise the structure of the Itinerarium, embodying, as it were, the theological statics and the theological dynamics. They are of equal theological importance. As to the 'statics', these are most visible in the purely formal elements of exposition and chapter division of the work, though they are by no means merely formal in their significance. The work is set out on the model of a 'ladder of ascent' and so on conventional principles of medieval...