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The MOST Theological Collection: An Introduction to Christian Philosophy

"Addenda: reading list; paper topics; study Q (incomplete) & A"


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Table of Contents for this Work

Readings for Phil. 631 


Rhonda Chervin, Eugene, Kevane, Love of Wisdom

Wm. G. Most, An Introduction to Christian Philosophy (NDI office)


F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy

E. Gilson, The Christian Philosopy of St. Augustine

Werner Jaeger, Paideia

A. E. Taylor, Plato, the Man and His Work

G. E. Lloyd, Aristotle, The Growth and Structure of His Thought

Eugene TeSelle, Augustine the Theologian

T. V. Smith, From Thales to Plato

idem, From Aristotle to Plotinus

K. Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers

Term Paper Topics for Phil. 631:Christian Philosophy 

1. What is current anthropological opinion on monotheism among primitives-distinguish recent primitives from the whole race at a primitive state.

2. The use of a philosophy for deeper penetration into religious truths: both general theory and specific examples, from Fathers and others.

3. A full sketch of apologetics.

4. The beginnings of writing among the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. Story of how it was learned how to read the early writings.

5. What did Greeks mean by Paideia. Relation to Christian Paideia (cf. Werner Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia, Oxford U. Press, 1977)

6. Details of the theories of each of the Presocratics.

7. Plato's Republic in relation to Christian principles.

8. The successors of Plato: New and Middle Academies. Neoplatonism.

9. Plato's proofs of the immortality of the soul, and a

critique of each.

10. Plato's concept of God and gods and daimones.

11. Which of the following were pantheists Presocratics(individually), Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus.

12. Compare Plato's "practise for death" with the ideas of Christian detachment.

13. Compare Plato's ascent in the Symposiusm with the contemplation of Augustine and of John of the Cross.

13. Critique of Aristotle's Ethics and proposals for improving it.

14. Aristotle's theory of the kinds of constitutions of states.

15. Aristotle's teachings on friendship.

16. Aristotle's teachings on potency and act, and further applications of them.

17. Aristotle's proof of the existence of God.

18. Aristotle's proof of immortality: and critique.

19. Aristotle's problems on the Unmoved Mover and critique.

20. The philosophies of the Hellenistic Age and critique.

21. Catechesis in the early Church.

22. The contribution of St. Augustine to catechetics.

23. The Greek apologists.

24. The Latin apologists.

25. The intellectual and spiritual odyssey of St. Augustine.

26. The teachings of St. Augustine on grace and predestination and critique.

27. St. Augustine's theory of knowledge.

Study Questions for Philosophy 631 

1. What is the problem of the very possibility of a Christian Philosophy? A possible solution?

2. How many sources of revelation are there? What clarity did Vatican II add to the question?

3. A Protestant says that Scripture is self-interpreting, by comparing one part with another. What answer would we give?

4. Explain the special use of philosophy in understanding Scripture. What danger is there?

5. Why is philosophy specially needed in view of widespread atheism today?

6. How can we be certain which works are inspired? Give the chief steps in the process.

7. Is there any way to bypass the quibbles of critics about the credibility of many Gospel passages?

8. What method should be followed when two revealed truths seem to clash? What did the Fathers of the Church do at such a point? Give an example.

9. What is divine brinkmanship? How does it happen?

10. What distinction is needed within anthropology between hunting and fishing level primitives that have been observed today or in times recent enough for records, and the whole race when at a comparable stage?

11. What was the work of Wilhelm Schmidt? How do critics view it today? What distinction is needed?

12. What was the evolutionistic view of the most primitive level of mankind? What answer can be given?

13. What do modern biologists think of the work of Darwin?

14. What new evidence is there on polygenism?

15. Is belief in God universal? How could there be an atheistic people, in view of St. Paul's saying that atheists are inexcusable? Is sacrifice universal? Do all peoples have the same understanding of sacrifice?

16. Have any pagan peoples known of creation out of nothing?

17. What is the Sumerian King List? Possible implication?

18. Who first read cuneiform? Egyptian Hieroglyphics?

19. What was Paideia?

20. Who were the Sophists? What influence did they have?

21. Did any people have a partial disconnection of religion and morality? Give an example and some details.

22. What did the Presocratics try to find out? Were they thought to be atheistic? What did the word mean? What should be the relation of religion and science?

23. Name two of the Presocratics and tell their views.

24. What was Aristotle's view on progress? On past ages?

25. Compare the ideas of Heraclitus and Parmenides.

26. What was the Greek atomic theory? In what way did it anticipate our modern atomic science?

27. Sketch the basic thought of Plato. What things would the Fathers really like in his system? What would they dislike?

28. What was the ascent described by Plato? In which work? Compare it to infused contemplation?

29. How did Plato try to prove the immortality of the soul? Criticize his proofs. How could we do it by reason alone?

30. What did Plato try to do in his Republic? What conclusion did he reach? How?

31. Did Plato say that God is beyond being? Could that make any sense?

32. What are the seven liberal arts according to Plato? How did his view differ from that of Greeks in general?

33. With whom did Aristotle study? How long? When did he become the next head of that school?

34. What effect did Aristotle have on Alexander the Great? How did it happen?

35. What research projects did Aristotle direct?

36. Why does Aristotle say Ethics is not an exact science? What principle of morality does he find in it? Any exceptions?

37. What tendency to totalitarianism is seen in Aristotle?

38. What is the supreme goal for man according to Aristotle? What does he think of making pleasure the goal? What three levels of guides to decisions are there?

39. What does Aristotle say of the internal description of pleasure? What should he have said? Consequences for homosexuality and contraception?

40. What is the influence of ignorance on moral responsibility according to Aristotle? Is he right?

41. Can we will evil precisely as evil, according to Aristotle? Explain.

42. How does Aristotle define love? Is he right? What is the relation of feeling to love? Of liking to love?

43. What is required for friendship, according to Aristotle? What is the distance between the two is very great?

44. What are the three good, and the three bad constitutions of states according to Aristotle? What is the basic purpose of having any state at all? Implications for world government? Does God will only democracy?

45. Aristotle says that a state should have no more citizens than the number someone can address at one time. Implications?

46. What do Plato and Aristotle say of the different kinds of music and their influence?

47. What Aristotle's teaching on potency and act? What are they? Is there any being without a potency? Name three special pairs of potency/act? Which does Aristotle miss?

48. What are the four causes? How does that compare to modern description of causes?

49. How would Aristotle react to Quantum Physics? What does Empedocles have in common with Quantum Physics? Aristotle's comment?

50. What is Aristotle's proof that there is an Unmoved Mover? Can we improve it using his principles? How? What kind of cause does he make it? Why was he wrong? Solve the problem he could not solve in this respect.

51. What does Aristotle mean by eternal? Do we mean the same? consequences?

52. Of what does the Unmoved Mover think? Who else had problems with the same topic?

53. Using potency/act, what can we determine of the characteristics of God? How?

54. According to Aristotle's principles, are we dependent upon God for: heart beats? breathing? thoughts? decisions of will? If yes to the last item, how can we be free? Show how he can help us understand 2 Cor. 3. 5 and Phil. 2. 13.

55. Why should we work out our salvation "with fear and trembling? (Scriptural meaning of that phrase?)

56. Does A. think the soul can act without the body? In what cases? Implications for survival after death? Can we help with his reasonings?

57. How does Aristotle define soul? What problems with that definition?

58. What is somatic resonance? Did Aristotle know anything about it? What?

59. How does Aristotle explain sensation?

60. What is passive intellect? Active intellect? If active intellect is pure actuality, is it identical with God? Explain.

61. Is intellectual activity just a higher form of sensation? What does Aristotle say? What would we say and why? Is it possible to make a computer that can think?

62. What consequences can we see from Aristotle' principles as to relation of soul and body? In regard to teenage doubts? In regard to spiritual progress?

63. What consequences do the ideas of question 62 have for human love?

64. Using Aristotle's principles what can we say about what it is like to die?

65. What can philosophy help us to see about heaven and hell and purgatory?

66. After death are we incomplete persons? How long do we stay that way?

Philosophy 631, Questions and Answers 

1. Philosophy works by reason, theology by revelation, as interpreted by the Church. Hence can philosophy get help from revelation? It can be like the back of a math book, with the answers, to check after working the problem.

4. Philosophy can help penetrate deeper by providing premises to use with revealed premises in what amounts to a syllogism, leading to a further conclusion. Danger: Philosophy could give a preconceived notion which could cloud understanding of revelation.

6. By Apologetics. Two phases: First, start with Gospels, not yet considered as inspired. Put through the checks we use with other ancient documents. Reach conclusion we can get some simple facts (not entwined with an ancient culture, and readily able to be so simply and directly picked up by senses of an observer, that there is no room for bias. Second phase. Find: a)There was a man called Jesus, b)He claimed He was sent as a messenger from God, c)He did enough to prove this by miracles worked in frameworks with a tie between miracle and claim, d)He had an inner circle, spoke more to them, e)He told them to continue His work, His teaching, e)He promised God's protection:"He who hears you, hears me." This group/Church can tell us which books are inspired, that the messenger is divine etc.

11. W. Schmidt, anthropologist, found many hunter level tribes that were monotheistic. Wanted to extrapolate to say whole race was thus when at same stage. Critics attack the extrapolation. But some do use extrapolation in other fields, e. g, archaeologists. No other solid way to reach whole race.

12. Evolutionists before Schmidt said primitive man was dumb, made gods out of natural forces, was polytheistic. Schmidt at least ruined that notion.

13. A conference in Chicago in 1980 of 160 top scientists decided the intermediate forms supposed by Darwin were lacking in fossil record, but held to evolution, using "punctuated equilibria", sudden fluke leaps up with no stages in between.

15. Belief is at least nearly universal. There could be an atheistic people: St. Paul describes descent on the spiral with decay of true worship and morals. Sacrifice is nearly universal, but ideas on it are varied.

19. Paideia is the process of imparting the whole culture and knowledge held by ancient Greeks to children.

20. Sophists were traveling teachers, esp of rhetoric. Would argue equally well on both sides of any question. Teach any subject for a price. Great influence in Greece, preventing putting philosophy in as 7th liberal art.

21. Greeks, Romans, and many primitives had two parts in moral code:one part, small content, gods would enforce (respect for gods, duty to state, family, guest in house, suppliant). The other things would not enforce.

22. Presocratics tried to find the world stuff-out of which all was made. Other Greeks said they were atheistic, since they dispensed with the gods in explaining phenomena. Really, the true God established natural laws, keeps them in operation.

23. Thales: all made of water. Anaximander, all out of the boundless. Cold etc. is positive, not privation. Anaximenes:all from air. Pythagoras, all of numbers, Heraclitus: all is change; Parmenides: no change, only one being. Empedocles, four causes: earth, air, fire, water.

25. Heraclitus said all is change; Parmenides, no change, only one being.

27. Before birth we were in the world of Ideas or Forms, e.g., Ideas of justice, beauty-things without bodies. All justice is by participation in justice, for example. We came to this life, with body as penalty, for some fault. We took drink of underworld river, which made us forget. Questioning by Socrates stirs up memory: all learning is remembering. Reincarnation, conditioned by how we live here. But several lives as a wise philosopher brings permission to skip reincarnation, soul gets wings, flies away. --Fathers liked his saying that we should imitate God, who is all good (though not creator). This world is poor compared to the next world. Socrates: wise man should have as little as possible to do with the things of the body. Follow justice even if you get no credit in this life.

30. Plato tried to find what justice is: it is condition in which each stays in his own place, and within man, each of our three faculties keeps own place. Also: should one observe justice even if no man or god would catch? Yes. Saw this by picturing an ideal state.

31. Plato said Good is beyond being- seems to identify God with Good. Makes sense: means the word being as applied to creatures, and as applied to God, has something in common, but mostly difference.

32. Bodily raining, mathematics, plane geometry, solid geometry, astronomy, harmonics, with philosophy as 7th, according to Plato, rhetoric according to Sophists.

36. Not exact because it works by induction, not deduction, depends on the (golden) mean, which is relative. Exceptions: murder, adultery, stealing always wrong, no mean in them.

38. Supreme goal is happiness. To make pleasure the goal is a life fit for cattle. Three levels to follow: 1)whim of moment (pleasure), 2) reason, 3) Gifts of Holy Spirit- Aristotle did not know the 3rd.

39. Pleasure lies in the exercise of a healthy faculty on a good object. Should have said it is a means to a goal wanted by nature(God). If we see that procreation is the only primary goal of marriage, that rules out contraception and homosexuality.

42. To love is to will good to another for the other's sake. Feeling is a sort of parallel, a (somatic) resonance which in human affairs tends to go along with it. Liking is a feeling, loving is an attitude of will.

43. Mutual love, known to both, exchange of benefits. If distance is too great, friendship not possible, not possible with a god.

46. Certain kinds of music tend to resonate with and promote certain interior attitudes. This agrees with modern musical therapy theory.

47. For any change, there needs to be first a potency(capacity). If it goes through, the potency is filled, fulfilled(actualized). Since that is filled, there is more being at the end: requires the First Cause, which is Pure Actuality, else we would need to ask how it got up from potency to act. God has no potency is Pure Act. Special pairs: matter/form; substance/accident; essence(nature)/existence. He missed the third pair.

48. Material cause (out of which it is made, e. g, steel of a saw); Formal cause, the characteristics which make it to be such, e. g, toothed edge makes a saw a saw; Efficient cause- which makes contact and acts on it, e.g., the smith who made the saw; final cause, the goal, to cut wood. Today we do not call the first two causes.

50. He says there must be an ultimate cause for motion. We improve it as we did in #47, using his potency/act principles. He makes it a final cause-- but a final cause will not turn any wheels. We solve: God's decisions or acts of will are identical with His being, which cannot change(no potency). So no change when He causes things, decision always there- though He can order it to take effect at any point on the scale of time.

51. He means something that always was in motion, always will be (he thinks of the spheres, about 50 of them in the sky, on which stars etc. are attached). We mean the duration of God, with no change at all, and so, no past, no future, all is present.

53. Since He has no potency, He cannot change, is eternal, is out of time (which is constant change). Also since potency is limit (A did not see that) without potency means without limit and so, infinite.

54. Heart beats, breathing, thinking, decisions of will-- all involve rise from potency to act, and so need the First Cause. This shows 2 Cor 3;5 means we cannot even get a good thought without Him. And Phil 2. 13, we cannot make a good decision without Him. Cf. 1 Cor 4, 7: "What have you that you have not received?"






60. Passive intellect is mind that can take on any impression, and as such, it is purely potential (but as faculty, it is compound of potency and act). Active mind is mind as pure activity, it causes the passive mind to take on the impressions. Yet it is not God, for He is Pure Act. Active mind is pure actuality on a scale from potency to act, but as faculty, it is part potency, part act. Passive mind is not separable from the body; active is.

61. A says they are different:1) All animals have sensation, not all have thought; 2) sensation is usually correct; thought is often in error. --His proofs do not prove. We use instead the concept of dog which we have - not high or low, long or short etc. Just plain dog. No artist , with his choice of medium, could make an image of it- so that in us which holds the concept is not material but spiritual. So a computer being material could not hold such concepts.

62. He says soul and body are related as matter to form. This fits with many instances of somatic resonance. If I have a condition on either the mental or bodily side, for normal running I need a parallel on other side, which is resonance. When resonance is on side of body, it is called somatic resonance. Thus in a patient with deep depression, faith is on side of spirit, but the somatic resonance may be damaged by bad biochemistry so that faith cannot function, he will think it is gone. --At a point in teenage, great bodily changes put somatic resonance to beliefs into a flux, hence instability. --Spiritual progress lies in alignment of will with will of God. But this is tied to growth in somatic resonance, and that grows according to the laws of bodies, in a step graph pattern.

63. Human love is willing good to another for the other's sake. Resonance to it is chemistry/feeling-- anything from nonsexual response of parents to their kids, to explicit sexual response. The chemistry develops automatically, feels like love, but there may be no real love in the will present- especially in case of much premarital sex, with puts each into state such that if death came, t hey would be miserable forever--this is not concern for well being of the other for other's sake. It is using the other. But many are fooled by the chemistry, marry on a mistake, find out later.

69. Stoics said the only good was to live habitually according to reason for reason's sake. The opposite would be evil- all else indifferent: to be sick or well, rich or poor, dead or alive. Emotions interfere with reason, so should be uprooted. A few Fathers thought Christ had no feelings: Clement of Alexandria and St. Hilary of Poitiers. St. Augustine felt it wrong to cry when his mother died.

73. If they did not worship God rightly, and fell into grave sins habitually, light would be withdrawn, they would become gradually more and more blind.

74. , No, it was exaggerated, as shown by his words in 1 Cor 6. 11, after a smaller list of great sins: "Certain ones of you were such." He had two ways of looking at the law: 1) focused- as if looking through a tube, one sees only what is inside of the circle. Then: The law makes heavy demands, give no strength, so a fall is inevitable. 2)Factual: removes the limit of vision, sees that off to the side, in no relation to the law, is grace. Then:law still makes heavy demands and gives no strength, but help can be had, and so a fall is not inevitable. IN Romans 1 Paul used a heavily focused picture- in 1 Cor 6. 11 a factual picture.

76. See answer to 74.

80. There was not formally philosophy in sense of working by reason alone. They did use reason but always joined with Scripture. So in the sense of thinking with a religious faith, then there is philosophy. Also the thought pattern we just saw in reply to q. 74 shows something akin to abstraction.

83. Genesis 3:15:Messiah will come. Genesis 49. 10: Rulers will be from tribe of Judah until Messiah comes. Isaiah 7. 14:Messiah will be born of a virgin (but the prophecy is likely to be multiple fulfillment, referring both to Hezekiah, son of Achaz, and Jesus). Isaiah 9. 5-6. The child will be God the Mighty. Isaiah 11. 1ff: Messiah will have the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 53:Messiah will suffer and bear the sins of all. Micah 5. 1ff. He will be born in Bethlehem. We get help from Targums, ancient Aramaic versions of OT. They surely are Jewish interpretations made without hindsight (seeing them fulfilled in Christ). Also, Jacob Neusner of Brown U. surveyed all Jewish literature after 70 AD up to Babylonian Talmud. Up to it, no interest in Messiah- within the Talmud, some interest, but only great point mentioned is line of David. In contrast, Targums see so many Messianic things- could not be written in centuries with no interest.

106. God is the One, unconscious. He sends out emanations, first, World Soul, then, individual souls, finally, matter, where emanations are petered out. Soul should pull away from senses, return to union with One by mystic contemplation. It showed Augustine God is spirit, so is soul, evil is privation. Did not help his bad morals.

107. At start of life, he thought God and soul were bodily. Evil was a substance. Had no moral code. Manichees confirmed him in this, added objections to heroes of OT. When Bishop Faustus of Manichees failed to answer his problems, he lost faith in Manichaeism. Went to Rome, heard of New Academy: Skeptics, but did not join. Went to Milan, there read Plotinus, made gains mentioned in 106. Good example caused conflict in his soul leading to conversion. It was his mother's heroic penances and prayers that got him this extraordinary grace, for he was hardened.

108. He worked most against Pelagianism, which almost wiped out the need of grace.

109. To correct exaggerations of his admirers, to respond to objections, to praise God, he wrote Confessions.

110. Alaric and Goths sacked Rome in 410- first since 390 BC. People had thought it was eternal. Pagan remnant cried: when old gods were worshipped, such things did not happen. Not only to answer this, but to give a new philosophy of history he wrote City of God. City of God includes good angels, and humans (either: members of Church, or the predestined-- he never settled). City of world includes bad angels, and the other men. Did not get it from Plato, for there is only one city there. Nor from Manichees, one kingdom is evil by nature.

112. He wrote: On Catechizing the ignorant (starting almost from scratch) and De doctrina Christiana, 4 books: Book I the purpose of education in view of the transcendent God. Book II shows how each art and discipline is to be taught the objects of which are part of God's creation, with philosophy at the top. It rises from mere being to Ipsum Esse, as He calls God. Book III Takes up study of the Bible, which will largely replace the study of pagan authors. Book IV, the science of rhetoric, subordinated to philosophy and revealed religion.

115. Reason first shows faith is reasonable (apologetics), then helps to deeper penetration of truths of faith.

116. Jesus said: One is your teacher, the Messiah. A took this to apply to all knowledge, and though the sense is disputed, he probably meant that the divine light enables us to see that some things are necessarily and eternally true.

117. Because he showed the necessity of grace for salvation, and our total dependence better than any others, especially better than the Greek Fathers.

119. He taught predestination to heaven independently of merits, and negative reprobation independently of demerits. In a few places he implied the opposite on reprobation, making it depend on demerits. This was within his massa damnata theory: our race became a damned, damnable blob by original sin: God could throw it all into hell without waiting for anyone to sin personally. To show mercy, He will rescue a few, blindly, to show justice, He will let the rest go to hell.

124. New proposal has three logical steps: 1)God wills all to be saved, 2)He looks to see who resists grace gravely and persistently (throwing away persistently the only thing that could save them: these he reprobates negatively, lets them go to hell. 3)All the rest He predestines to heaven, not because of merits, which have not yet appeared, nor because of lack of demerits, but because in step 1 this is what He wanted, and they do not block Him. The Father analogy shows same thing.

125. Without my help God causes me to see something as good, makes me favorably disposed. At that juncture where I could reject, if I actually make no decision against grace, it will go into phase two, in which it works in me both the will and the doing, in such a way that at the same time, I am cooperating by power being received at the same moment from grace.

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