Disputed Questions

Welcome to Disputed Questions! In medieval universities, the quaestiones disputatae was a rigorous method of academic debate which aimed at forcing one to defend one’s intellectual position against the strongest possible objections. A question or topic was proposed, an answer given, and then the best objections to that answer were listed. The defendent was then required to make a reasoned case for his answer, as well as respond in depth to each of the objections.

This is what has come to be known as the “scholastic method,” enshrined especially in the masterful Summa Theologiae of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The disputed questions is thus a paridigmatic model of the heights of intellectual discourse and inquiry.

This blog seeks to live out the tradition of the disputed questions, by encouraging dialogue across perspectives concerning life’s most important questions, especially in the areas of philosophy, theology, science, and politics.

If this project sounds interesting, please follow and share with others!

15 thoughts on “Disputed Questions

  1. Harrison,

    I am definitely interested in your objective for this blog. In fact, I have been sitting on one big dispute I have with a statement in Aquinas’ Summa for a long time. I never brought it up because it was not relevant to any of the discussions on Sens Homines. Would it be okay for me to bring it up here?

    Paul Buchman

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Paul, it’s good to hear from you again. You’re more than welcome to post your thoughts here, either as a comment, or, if you want, you could send it to me in an email and I could post it as an actual article on the blog.

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      1. I was embarrassed to discover that what I thought was a statement by Aquinas, was in fact an “objection” to which Aquinas argued against. Good thing I decided to recheck my sources. So I have nothing to dispute after all.

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  2. Thanks for the information about this new blog. I have a question about the Doctrine of Divine Conservation. Would you please explain or direct me to an explanation on why the conjoining of essence and existence must be concurrent? I understand that contingent beings must have their existence sustained (e.g. mammals need oxygen), and I understand that a per se series is caused by a being of Pure Act, but for some reason, I don’t recall the specific conservation argument for essence/existence.

    Thanks, in advance.

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    1. There are probably different approaches to this, but here’s one. Neither essence nor existence can exist independently. In other words, if some essence lacks existence, it doesn’t actually exist. And if some act of existence has no essence, neither will it actually exist, because it will not be anything specifically. So they can only be actual if they are conjoined. But they are also really distinct, i.e. neither includes the other by its own intrinsic nature. So they must be caused to be conjoined. Now when an effect is per se dependent upon its cause, when the cause is removed, the effect ceases. The conjoining of essence and existence is an effect per se dependent upon the causal activity of God. If God were to cease his causal activity, the effect would cease as well.

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      1. A follow-up: A critic might argue that the essence/existence merger for humans was performed by the parents. Since that is a per accidens series, conservation doesn’t appear to apply, no?

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      2. For St. Thomas, it cannot be the case that the conjoining of essence and existence of a human is caused by the parents. Aquinas distinguishes between the agent cause of being, and the agent cause of mere becoming. The cause of being is what actually causes the essence and existence to be conjoined. The cause of “becoming” is what merely causes “this matter” to receive “this form.” This is what the parents do. The parents don’t actually conserve the child in being. They cannot “create” being.

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      3. I realize the parents cannot conserve their child’s being, but what is the difference between cause of being and uniting matter and form? If the parents are the cause of a parcel of matter to receive a particular form, how is that appreciably different? Are you saying that the being of the sperm and the being of the ovum are conserved by God, so that when both are conjoined, God continues to be the ultimate cause of the union?

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      4. It’s more like the latter. Think of this example: you have one molecule of hydrogen and two molecules of oxygen. You then put them both in a tube that mixes them, thus creating water. You were not the cause of the being of either the hydrogen or oxygen, nor are you the cause of the actual “being” of the water. You are the cause of the coming together and mixing of the hydrogen and oxygen, which, per the pre-established laws of nature, results in the chemical reaction which produces water.

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      5. Thank you! That’s a little clearer. By the way, your website is very hard to read. The font is quite small, and the greyish text makes it even harder to read with the light green background.

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  3. Harrison, I have another question regarding the incarnation. Given that God transcends time, how does He not become temporal at the incarnation? Have you written about the incarnation?

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    1. I have not written too much about the Incarnation, but hopefully will in the future. To answer you question, the classical view holds that God only becomes temporal with respect to the human nature which he assumes. With respect to his divine nature he remains outside of time.

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