According to Jonathan Prejean:
But speaking of fallacies, White's whole attack against me was based on one. Even if my argument could be turned against me, White's use of the fact against me would simply be an example of the tu quoque fallacy. The fact that my arguments defeat my own position doesn't mean they can't defeat White's as well; we could just both be wrong.
I hope that Jonathan is a better lawyer than he is a logician. Here is what the late Peter Geach, a Catholic philosopher, analytical Thomist, and professor of logic has to say:
Ad hominem arguments. This Latin term indicates that these are arguments addressed to a particular man—in fact, the other fellow you are disputing with. You start from something *he* believes as a premise, and infer a conclusion he won’t admit to be true. If you have not been cheating in your reasoning, you will have shown that your opponent’s present body of beliefs is inconsistent and it’s up to him to modify it somewhere. —This argumentative trick is so unwelcome to the victim that he is likely to regard it as cheating: bad old logic books even speak of the ad hominem fallacy. But an ad hominem argument may be perfectly fair play.
Let us consider a kind of dispute that might easily arise:
A. Foxhunting ought to be abolished; it is cruel to the victim and degrading to the participants.
B. But you eat meat; and I’ll bet you’ve never worried about whether the killing of the animals you eat is cruel to them and degrading to the butchers.
No umpire is entitled at this point to call out “ad hominem! Foul!” It is true that B’s remark does nothing to settle the substantive question of whether foxhunting should be abolished; but then B was not pretending to do this; B was challengingly asking how A could *consistently* condemn foxhunting without also condemning something A clearly does not wish to condemn. Perhaps A could meet the challenge, perhaps not; anyhow the challenge is a fair one—as we saw, you cannot just brush aside a challenge to your consistency, or say inconsistency doesn’t matter.
Ad hominem arguments are not just a way of winning a dispute: a logically sound ad hominem argues does a service, even if an unwelcome one, to its victim—it shows him that his present position is untenable and must be modified. Of course people often do not like to be disturbed in their comfortable inconsistencies; that is why ad hominem arguments have a bad name.
Reason & Argument (Blackwell 1976), 26-27.
Which brings us back to the original parallel. Indeed, Perry Robinson just piped in to confirm my comparison:
Truth be told, Prejean's account of the transmission of the tradition at this point is correct.
The argument came from me, then to Daniel (Photios) Jones, and then eventually to Jonathan Prejean along with the readers of Pontifications.
It is rather funny that you guys are stumbling on to this now.
In any case, the argument can go either way, Catholics can use it to tar Protestants and Protestants can use it to tar Catholics.
As an Orthodox, I am quite happy to let you two go picknicking on each other. :)
12/14/2006 11:56 PM
Thomism is very predestinarian and Scotism even more so. Truth be told, Molinism is quite predestinarian since it posits that God selects worlds to create in which agents perform acts determined by their essence.
12/14/2006 11:58 PM
Back to Prejean:
“Tu quoque” is the best you can do? Granted, your philosophical idealism is even sillier than Berkeley's, so it's not as if you are a paragon of logical rigor, but I still wouldn't expect such an obvious mistake from you.
No, Tu quoque is not the “best” I can do. But it will do for now since it’s a legitimate move in a cumulative counterargument.
And, of course, as we’ve now seen from Peter Geach, Prejean is the one who’s guilty of the logical gaffe, not me.
“The reason I think it is unsound as applied to Catholicism is that I don't think St. Thomas means what Photios says he does.”
It’s true that merely quoting Robinson doesn’t prove who is right or wrong. What it does, however, is to draw attention to a parallel debate between Prejean and Robinson over the scope of the argument.
The next question is who has the better of the exchange? Prejean is having to fight on two different fronts. So we should monitor his success or failure on the other front.
“By the way, if I thought the argument were sound as applied to Catholicism, I could have converted to Orthodoxy and still cheerfully used it in the same way against Calvinism, because the success of the argument as a defeater against Calvinism doesn't depend on its success against Catholicism. That's the nice thing about valid arguments; anyone can use them against anyone.”
It’s true that a defeater against Catholicism doesn’t thereby prove Calvinism, for there are more than two logical alternatives on the table.
However, a counterargument often proceeds by process of elimination. To knock the Catholic competitor out of the running by turning Prejean’s own argument against him is one stage of a cumulative counterargument in which you both argue against the opponent’s position as well as arguing for your own.
“Historical dyotheletism says that there are two libertarianly free wills in Christ. You say that there is no such thing as libertarian free will. Why do you care? If you don't believe in libertarianly free moral agents, then there is only one actual will in the whole universe: God's.”
Let’s begin with a definition:
“By ‘libertarian freedom’ is meant freedom such that the agent who makes a choice is really able, under exactly the same circumstances, to choose something different from the thing that is in fact chosen. The choices in question, then, are not causally determined to occur as they do; libertarian freedom is inherently indeterministic. This means that there is *nothing whatever* that predetermines which choice will be made, until the creature is actually place in the situation and makes the choice,” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, M. Peterson & R. Vanarragon, eds. (Blackwell 2004), 219.
Hasker uses the word “creature” at one point, so we need to make a verbal adjustment when we apply his definition to the case of God or God Incarnate, but that aside, if we plug this standard definition into the case at hand, then, even though Christ was sinless, he was not impeccable.
What is more, if God the Father is a libertarian agent, then God is not impeccable. On this definition, God is free to choose between good and evil. So Prejean’s position commits him to radical voluntarism. Morality is reducible to an arbitrary divine fiat.
If God, or God Incarnate, is a libertarian agent, then God’s goodness is entirely tautologous.
If he’s a libertarian agent, then he’s pure potentia rather than pure actus.
Speaking for myself, God has no “circumstances.” Rather, God is the author of our circumstances. God creates the situation we’re in. God doesn’t find himself in a preexisting situation.
In some ways, God has more freedom than we do, and in other ways less.
For example, God cannot lie or sin. On the other hand, he's not subject to time, space, or causality.
I think we should view the relation between God's nature and the creation more in proscriptive rather than prescriptive terms. God's nature is such that he will not create a world of pure evil, or a world with gratuitous evil, or a world in which evil triumphs over good, or a world wherein evil overbalances good.
God's nature is such that he will not create a foolish or frivolous world.
So God's nature is proscriptive with respect to certain logically possible worlds. These are not live possibilities. They would never make the cut.
But it doesn't follow from this that God's nature is prescriptive with
respect to possible worlds.
On the face of it, there seem to be alternative goods as well as
incommensurable goods. It isn't a choice between good and evil. So God isn’t constrained to choose just one possible world—or any at all.
Continuing with Prejean:
I have yet to see any Calvinist scholarship that exonerates Calvin of the charge of confusing potentia ordinata with potentia absoluta or his fallacy in equating the two.
I think the author's attempt to exonerate Calvin ultimately fails, though, because Calvin throws the matter into "mystery" at exactly the point at which Thomas Aquinas uses the medieval power distinction to do conceptual work. Even if one rejects the later Power Distinction as separating God's will from His wisdom and reason, Calvin doesn't deal with the doctrine of divine simplicity and secondary causation in any coherent fashion; his failure to provide an explanation at this point is just as damning as the assertion (which he condemns) that there can be no explanation. In that respect, he is, as you've noted, identical to the Muslims. Small wonder that they have an almost identical concept of inspiration and sacred texts.
There are two problems with this objection:
i) Prejean is tacitly mapping Catholic theological method onto Calvinism, as if Calvin is to Calvinists what the Pope is to papists.
But Reformed theological method takes its point of departure with exegetical theology, not historical theology.
Even if Calvin were guilty as charged, this does nothing to overturn Reformed theology, for it does nothing to overturn the exegetical foundation of Reformed theology.
At most, it would only mean that Calvin was unsuccessful in presenting a philosophical theodicy.
ii) Prejean makes a string of empty assertions rather than actually interacting with Reformed scholarship, such as chapters 4 and 11 in Helm’s book on Calvin’s Ideas.
Moving along, Prejean quotes me as saying: “"Inspiration is a deterministic process—otherwise it wouldn’t be inspirational. Indeterministic inspiration is an oxymoron."
To which he responds: “The concept of sovereignty is based exactly on the metaphysical error that I cited above.”
Actually, my statement isn’t based on the concept of sovereignty. Rather, it’s based on the concept of causality.
In particular, it’s based on a counterfactual (sine qua non) definition of causation—according to which A caused B in case B would not obtain unless A obtained.
Scripture attributes to divine inspiration a certain effect which would not otherwise obtain apart from inspiration.
But as a libertarian, Prejean is committed to a contracausal model of freedom. He doesn’t even have room in his system for necessary conditions, much less sufficient conditions. So inspiration becomes an otiose category.
“The concept of only being able to compare wills by contrast in turn leads to construing sovereignty in terms of who wins in a conflict (ironically, it was a analogous concept of nature that led to Pelagianism, which Calvin so despised). God's complete sovereignty is established by God's will beating everybody else's will. Inspiration is God's will determining what is written; reception to revelation is allowing God's will to dominate your will. Again, that is nothing other than Nestorian-type monotheletism: union with God means allowing one's will to be dominated by God's. Christologically, you'll see decriptions of Christ equating Christ's righteousness with 'perfect obedience;' that's a sure sign you're dealing with this sort of thing, because the definition of a righteous man is just the predestined man, the one who does what He is supposed to do under complete domination of God's will.”
This is simply a straw man argument because it attempts to redefine the Reformed doctrine of divine sovereignty in coercive, hard deterministic terms whereas compatibilism is a version of soft determination which eschews compulsion.
“The problem is the case of evil, because there simply isn't any coherent way to say that evil is a violation of God's will without violating God's sovereignty, and there is no coherent way to say that evil is the result of secondary causes, because the lack of the Power Distinction renders that assertion incoherent. You can define sin in terms of disobedience to God, but by the definition of sovereignty in play, nothing can disobey God, else His sovereignty would be in doubt. The dilemma is inescapable: God is either an evil sovereign (and a liar to boot for saying that evil is contrary to His will), or there is no such thing as evil, because it is literally impossible to disobey God (this is the Muslim solution: the way things are is simply the way God wants them to be).”
This is simplistic and equivocal because it fails to draw elementary distinctions between means and ends, necessary and sufficient conditions, as well as the prescriptive or decretive meaning of the divine will.