Notes on First Principles

I am slowly working through Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. As I do so, I will share quotes that I find intriguing and may want to reference later. I am reading this Latin edition and using Alfred J. Freddoso’s new English translation as needed.

In I, Q1, A6, Aquinas addresses the question of whether sacred doctrine is wisdom–utrum sit sapientia. Thomas affirms, but my interest is less in that as in the statements he makes regarding first principles:

Continue reading Notes on First Principles

Disagreement

Photo by Pressmaster on Pexels.com

Disagreements are no more unnegotiable natural forces than deliveries of the mistaken conscience are. They are openings for those who share a common faith to explore and resolve important tensions within the context of communion.

This kind of proposal is, of course, easy to mishear. It can be taken to mean that parties to disagreements must be less than wholly convinced of their position, ready to make room for possible accommodation. When really serious issues are at stake and talk of a status stantis aut cadentis ecclesiae begins to rumble like thunder, urging the search for resolution can seem like an invitation to capitulate, to concede essential points before beginning. It can seem as though Scripture is deemed to be inconclusive and ambiguous, so that either side is free to concede the possible right of the other’s interpretation. It can seem as though what is needed is an indefinite irresolution about everything important, in which there is no need for, and no possibility of, a decisive closure. But that is all a trick of the light. None of this is implied in the search for agreement. The only thing I concede in committing myself to such a process is that if I could discuss the matter through with an opponent sincerely committed to the church’s authorities, Scripture chief among them, the Holy Spirit would open up perspectives that are not immediately apparent, and that patient and scrupulous pursuit of these could lead at least to giving the problem a different shape—a shape I presume will be compatible with, though not precisely identical to, the views I now hold, but which may also be compatible with some of the views my opponent now holds, even if I cannot yet see how. I do not have to think I may be mistaken about the cardinal points of which I am convinced. The only thing I have to think … is that there are things still to be learned by one who is determined to be taught by Scripture how to read the age in which we live.

– Oliver O’Donovan, A Conversation Waiting to Begin, 32–33. Thanks to a friend for pointing out this quote to me.

Or as Jordan Peterson has put it, more succinctly:

Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

It’s Hard to Be Good

And so it is hard to be good: for surely hard it is in each instance to find the mean, just as to find the mean point or centre of a circle is not what any man can do, but only he who knows how: just so to be angry, to give money, and be expensive, is what any man can do, and easy: but to do these to the right person, in due proportion, at the right time, with a right object, and in the right manner, this is not as before what any man can do, nor is it easy; and for this cause goodness is rare, and praiseworthy, and noble.

– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 2.9, https://bit.ly/3ipS0qd

The Brothers Karamazov: 17 Quotes

dostoevsky

This summer I read through Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of my all-time favorite books. It’s a classic for a reason: in this book there meets together beauty and ugliness, grandeur and the mundane, good and evil, death and life, suffering and salvation. It functions as a compelling apologetic for the Christian faith in a secular age.

I wanted to share seventeen memorable quotes from the book. There are massive limits to what I’m doing here. It’s a novel, after all. These brief excerpts cannot capture the impact of a whole chapter or section or how masterfully Dostoevsky develops a theme, image, or character through the whole book.

Nevertheless, there are lots of great quotes to be found. Here are seventeen that stood out to me: Continue reading The Brothers Karamazov: 17 Quotes