Thought Notes

Busy week, oi. But I read/am reading a great little article on Aquinas’ account of mental representation – focusing on intentionality and the knower/thing known identity, which I’m going to read a bit more about. His account of how the intellect is informed by the form of the object known is pretty interesting as well – I personally find Aquinas’ epistemology pretty solid.

I’ve also read a good article on the concept of substitution/penal substitution in the early church fathers (here, which I’ll probably write a longer post on. Suffice it to say that attempts to locate a strictly penal view of the atonement in the early fathers fails pretty miserably – and as the article shows, by confusing substitution located in and under the larger themes of healing and Christus victor with penal substitution. I suspect I’ll be drawing on Irenaeus pretty heavily.

I’ve also thought a little bit about just war (those who argue that the Ten Commandments forbid war are simply wrong) and ethics more generally – using Tolkien as a bit of spring-board. I’m not a big fan of people mining Tolkien for ‘deep’ thoughts, but I think in the case of war it’s justified. A lot can be gleaned from his writings – not so much specific instances but moreso by taking his stories as wholes. Ethically, positively I fall firmly in the Bonhoeffer camp, negatively in the Nietzsche camp, as regards rationalistic modes of ethics.

Along with ethics I’ve had a few fleeting thoughts on freedom of the will – or rather, how misguided most contemporary discussions of free will are. Honestly, they can be pretty terrible (Sam Harris comes to mind). For my part, I’m convinced by Maximos the Confessor with regard to the will, as expounded by David Bentley Hart:

‘Of course, we are inclined (especially today) to think of freedom wholly in terms of arbitrary or pathetic volition, a potency made actual every time one chooses a particular course of action out from a variety of other possibilities. And obviously, for finite intellects, this is the bare minimum that liberty must assume; but it is also, just as obviously, a form of subordination and confinement. All possible choices are external to the will that chooses; they shape it from without, defining it before it has even chosen. Moreover  these possibilities are exclusive of one another: one makes a possible course of action real by rendering other courses of action impossible. And, as we all know, one can choose foolishly, or maliciously, or with a divided will. Freedom, so understood, would consist in no more than a certain kind of largely vacuous and limited potentiality dependent on other limited and limiting potentialities.

A higher understanding of human nature, however, is inseparable from a definition of human nature. To be free is to be able to flourish as the kind of being one is, and so to attain the ontological good toward which one’s nature is oriented; freedom is the unhindered realization of a complex nature in its proper end (natural and supernatural), and this is consummate liberty and happiness.’ (‘The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?’ p. 70-71)


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