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presidential address

1. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
John O’Callaghan

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Wilfrid Sellars’ engagement with Thomism in “Being and Being Known” is examined, specifically for his reformulation of the thesis that the mind in its mental acts is in some sense identical in form to the object known. Borrowing the notion of “isomorphism” from modern set theory, Sellars describes an identity of form between mind and world that is non-intentional in the “Realm of the Real,” while confining all questions of meaning and truth to the “Realm of the Intentional.” John McDowell’s response to Sellars’ reformulation is then examined. McDowell is critical of Sellars’ “blind spot” on the normativity of truth, and argues for the embedding of the intentional in the Realm of the Real under the guise of truth. This paper notes difficulties with both authors’ discussions. Both authors are misled in their discussions of Aquinas by an overemphasis upon the “mental word” as described by Peter Geach. In addition it is proposed that Sellars’ notion of “isomorphisms” has the additional problem of adequately distinguishing various types of mental statements as neural states in the Realm of the Real. The paper concludes by arguing for a deep affinity between McDowell and Aquinas on the normativity of truth.

presentation of the aquinas medal

2. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Theodore R. Vitali, C.P.

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aquinas medalist’s address

3. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Eleonore Stump

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plenary sessions

4. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Alasdair MacIntyre

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Four stages in an adequate philosophical education are distinguished. The first is that in which students learn to put in question some commonly shared assumptions about what happiness is and to ask what the good of engaging in this kind of questioning is. The second is a conceptual and linguistic analysis of “good” which enables questions about what human goods are to be formulated. The third is an investigation into the nature and unity of human beings designed to enable us to propose rationally justifiable answers to those questions. In the fourth and final stage those questions are posed.
5. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Candace Vogler

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According to Aristotle, every action is aimed at some good. Neo-Aristotelians argue that all intentional actions are pursued “under the guise of the good.” Contemporary critics find this thesis either perplexing or obviously false. In this essay, I survey a recent attempt to defend the guise of the good thesis, urge that the critic will reject the defense, and sketch a novel direction for defense of the thesis based on the thought that practical reason’s orientation to the future is fundamentally different from a modern predictive stance. Practical reason is directed to what is supposed to happen next, whether or not things go as they are supposed to go.
6. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
V. Bradley Lewis

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While the notion of the common good figures frequently in both rhetoric and the inquiries of academic political theory, it is often neither closely examined nor precisely defined. This article examines Aristotle’s use of the idea, focusing primarily on two sets of key texts: first, Politics 1.1–2 and Nicomachean Ethics 1.2; and second, Nic. Ethics 8.9 and Politics 3.7. The first set of texts emphasizes the common good as flourishing and the city as its necessary condition; the second emphasizes the common good as the good of all citizens as distinct from that of the rulers alone and leads to Aristotle’s notion of the generic political regime with its focus on the middle class and the rule of law. The conclusion notes both continuities and discontinuities with and challenges to contemporary politics posed by Aristotle’s view, which is neither as readily supportive of modern political programs nor as opposed to modern practices as is sometimes thought.

session i: reviving aristotelian natural science?

7. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Christopher O. Blum

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In recent decades, a growing number of biologists has testified to the priority of the whole organism with respect to its parts and protested against the dominance of mechanist and reductionist accounts of the organism in biological science. To see disinterested inquiry thus shaped “by constraint of facts” (Parts of Animals 1.1.642a28) will delight, but cannot surprise, an Aristotelian. Taking this rediscovery of nature by biologists as an occasion for reflection, this essay considers, first, what is presupposed by any healthy biological inquiry, second, the prospects of renewal for the science itself, and, finally, a good that could follow from such a renewal. Aristotelian biology is an invitation to consider the forms of living things. Since “philosophy claims to know” (Metaphysics 4.2.1004b25), philosophers are called to bear witness to the primacy of form and, like biologists, to be models of attentiveness to form.
8. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Michael W. Tkacz

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During the past three decades, Aristotle studies have been significantly influenced by a series of ground-breaking investigations of the zoological works, especially the Historia animalium. As a result, contemporary Aristotle scholars have developed a clearer and more consistent interpretation of the zoology and have demonstrated its consonance with Aristotle’s logic and metaphysics. This revolution in Aristotle studies was anticipated by the medieval natural philosopher Albertus Magnus. As the first thinker since Theophrastus to pursue an Aristotelian research program in the life sciences, he interpreted Aristotle’s animal histories as a series of pre-demonstrative researches preparatory to causal explanation as prescribed in the Posterior Analytics and the Topics. The medieval anticipation of these recent developments in Aristotle studies provides a compelling comparison of the interpretation of Aristotle now and then.

session ii: aristotle on the intellect

9. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Mary Elizabeth Tetzlaff

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This paper presents three interpretations of the infamous “sailor / ship” sentence that concludes Aristotle’s De Anima II.1. The first two interpretations represent the ones most popular in contemporary scholarship; the final is the author’s original. The interpretations are then evaluated with respect to grammatical plausibility and explanatory strength. The paper makes a case that the new reading answers to both points of evaluation and contributes to an interpretive approach to Aristotle that values the coherence and cogency of his De Anima as a whole.
10. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Jonathan Buttaci

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One of the most highly debated passages in Aristotle is his doctrine of the nous poiētikos of de Anima III.5. The interpretations of its precise nature and operation that were given by ancient and medieval commentators abound also today. With few exceptions, however, present-day interpretations disagree with the ancients and others on the logic of the passage. In particular, while most ancient and medieval commentators agree that there are three intellects or intellectual powers on scene in the passage, most contemporary interpreters assume that there are only two, identifying the pathētikos nous at the end of III.5 with the intellect described in III.4. In this paper I argue that this assumption is wrong, and that although the text is underdetermined in several ways, it is not so in this respect. The text, taken with other relevant passages, demands that the pathētikos nous be different from the intellect described in III.4.

session iii: virtue and rhetoric

11. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Anne M. Wiles

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The argument of this paper is that the Aristotelian analysis of justice and related concepts provides the best framework for understanding the structure and importance of justice in Dante’s Commedia. After giving a synopsis of the principle features of Aristotle’s account of justice in Book 5 of the Nicomachean Ethics, I consider a few scenes from the Inferno, the Purgatorio, and the Paradiso, showing how the punishments and rewards Dante describes are based on the Aristotelian analysis of justice. Finally, I show that Dante, following Aristotle’s views on the metaphysics of the human person, recognizes that argument alone is inadequate to the task of educating the reader on the proper care of the soul, and that Dante’s effective use of images, makes the abstract Aristotelian concept of justice vivid and attractive, and its opposite repulsive.
12. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Gregory R. Beabout

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In this paper, I extend contemporary virtue ethics by pointing to a philosophical insight that emerges from Aristotle’s Rhetoric: technical mastery of a discipline or practice involves cultivating the virtue of practical wisdom. After reviewing features of Alasdair MacIntyre’s virtue ethics, I draw attention to specific virtues identified by MacIntyre while noting the relative absence of the virtue of practical wisdom in his discussion of social practices. I compare and contrast MacIntyre’s virtue ethics with that of Aristotle. Focusing on Aristotle’s Rhetoric, I show how Aristotle suggests that the virtue of practical wisdom is integral to technical mastery in the art of persuasive public speaking. I argue that Aristotle’s insight about the tight connection between practical wisdom and technical mastery is not limited to the art of rhetoric. Retrieving insights from Aristotle’s Rhetoric brings into focus ways in which the virtue of practical wisdom is requisite to technical mastery more generally.

session iv: goodness and moral theory

13. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Leonard Ferry

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Eleonore Stump has recently argued that the Aristotelian foundations of Aquinas’s virtue theory have not only been exaggerated but are mistaken. She does not dispute Aquinas’s familiarity with and dependence on Aristotle’s moral theory. Instead, she argues that Aquinas’s ethics must be seen as essentially second-personal, where the central relationship is between the moral agent and the Holy Spirit, specifically the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the theological virtues. Her argument for displacing Aristotle, however, advances on at least two questionable fronts. On the one hand, she claims that the acquired, Aristotelian moral virtues are, for Aquinas, not real virtues at all. Only the infused moral virtues are real. On the other hand, she argues that the pro-Aristotelian character of many descriptions of Aquinas’s moral theory over-emphasizes the role of reason in Aquinas’s ethics. Against this prevailing view, Stump contends that Aquinas is, in a limited way, closer to Hume in privileging the passions over reason. I challenge Stump’s attempted displacement of Aristotle by questioning her on both of these fronts.
14. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Sebastian Purcell

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The present essay aims to respond to one of the most recent empirical challenges posed to an Aristotelian based virtue ethics. In the course of the debate concerning the existence of character traits a second and more recent challenge has emerged, which Jesse Prinz has called The Normativity Challenge. The argument in this case is that the empirical study of happiness undertaken by psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists, reveals that the end which virtues are supposed to support, namely happiness, is so thoroughly culturally specific that an Aristotelian virtue ethics cannot hope to stand as an alternative to other forms of ethics. In response I argue that Prinz’s critique is committed to two presuppositions about Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia that are not supported by a careful reading of the Nicomachean Ethics, one of which is a careful understanding of natural goodness, so that the sociological evidence he produces does not support the conclusion he supposes that it does.

session v: brains and minds

15. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Turner C. Nevitt

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Richard Sorabji and Myles Burnyeat have developed and defended rival interpretations of Aristotle’s account of sensation. Both agree in accepting the common terms of Aristotle’s account (alteration, transition from potentiality to actuality, reception of form without matter, etc.), but they disagree about how these terms are to be understood. In this paper I consider these rival interpretations, examining the best arguments for each and raising new objections to both. I argue that each contemporary interpretation, in its own way, faces the same problem—the inability to accommodate everything that Aristotle says in his account of sensation. In the search for an alternative interpretation I suggest turning to the medieval tradition, and particularly to the interpretation developed by Aquinas in his commentary on Aristotle’s De anima. I argue that Aquinas’s interpretation deserves more attention because it retains the best features of its two contemporary rivals while avoiding the problems facing each.
16. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Daniel D. De Haan, Geoffrey A. Meadows

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This paper aims to show that the thought of Aristotle can shed much light on the irksome problems that lurk around the philosophical foundations of neuroscience. First, we will explore the ramifications of Aristotle’s mereological principle, namely, that it is not the eye that sees, but the human person that sees by the eye. Next, we shall draw upon the riches of Maxwell Bennett’s and Peter Hacker’s Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience (PFN) in order to elucidate how Aristotle’s mereological principle can be of service to contemporary neuroscientists, psychologists, and philosophers. In the third and fourth parts we aim to complement the project of PFN by showing how Aristotle’s philosophical anthropology and doctrine of pros hen equivocation can strengthen PFN’s response to eliminativists, reductionists, and other critics of “folk psychology.” Finally, our last section will investigate the kinds of correlations involved in brain scanning techniques, such as fMRI, so as to determine whether the most recent empirical discoveries do in fact support various critics’ rejection of “folk psychology.” We will show that the empirical evidence does not in fact favor eliminativist or reductionist views, and that we would do well to turn to the more Aristotelian approaches to neuroscience adopted by PFN and ourselves.

session vi: action, willing, and knowing

17. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Traci Phillipson

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Despite the drastic differences in their views of the intellect and the location and specific function of the will both Aquinas and Averroes are able to claim that their systems allow for moral agency because they both place the will—a faculty that is of prime importance to the process of moral action—in the individual. Both philosophers think that they are following Aristotle in making their claims about the will and the intellects. This paper will examine the issue of will and the related issue of the intellects as it appears in the Aristotelian texts and in the subsequent work of Averroes and Aquinas. It will argue that at least some of the divergence in Averroes and Aquinas can be attributed to (1) an issue of translation regarding De Anima, and (2) a difference in the role of cogitation and the intellects regarding will.
18. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
John Schwenkler

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I propose that the knowledge of what one is intentionally doing counts as “non-observational” because of the role it plays in guiding the action itself. I then consider an objection: is it possible for the knowledge of one’s present action to contribute to the guidance of what one presently does? I argue that this is indeed possible, and that the failure to see how this is rests on questionable metaphysical assumptions about the nature of causality.

session vii: persons and practices

19. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Douglas Kries

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This paper explores Leo Strauss’s puzzling claim, published in an essay on Aristotle’s Politics, that Aristotle was the founder of political science even though Socrates was the founder of political philosophy. In order to explain Strauss’s claim, the paper analyzes the distinction between political science and political philosophy as Strauss understood the matter. This analysis shows that Strauss offers us a very “Socratic” view of Aristotle’s Politics; that is, Aristotle’s political science shares the concern of Socrates for initiating the philosophical quest with a naïve inquiry into the question of the human good and then urging the inquiry toward the questions of the theoretical or contemplative life. Such a view of Aristotle’s political science, if pursued seriously, would radically alter common approaches to reading Aristotle.
20. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association: Volume > 87
Daniel P. Maher

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In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the relation between teachers and students during his treatment of “non-uniform friends.” These friends exchange goods differing in kind (e.g., something useful is exchanged for pleasure). Such friendships depend on the needs of the friends, and we are invited to ask whether some need induces a philosopher to teach a not-yet-philosophical student. In this paper I argue that the philosophical teacher does not approach his pupil out of need nor as he would approach a contemplative friend who is an equal. The teacher chooses to benefit students as a morally virtuous human being would, although not as if his happiness depends upon their success in learning. A teacher is not an ordinary benefactor, intent upon seeing his power made actual in some other person. Aristotle’s philosophical teachers seem to be simultaneously more generous and less interested in their students.