instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, July 29, 2005

A thing of beauty

There are lots of interesting bits in the talk "Morality and Culture: Beyond Kant and Jansenius," by Tracy Rowland. Among them:
  • Kantian and Jansenist morality, though very different (and in some ways opposite) in detail, "share the property of making duty and obedience to the will of a legislator... the driving force behind moral action." This as opposed to love. (A key question: Do we obey out of love, or love out of obedience?)
  • "Jansenism is notoriously difficult to define." I, however, have found it's quite easy to use. This, however, gives me pause: "Cardinal Giovanni Bona (1609-74) suggested that a Jansenist is a Catholic who did not like Jesuits."
  • There are "experiences which mediate to the person an insight or vision of the glory of God and the beauty or splendor of creation. In the absence of such experiences the person lacks an understanding of the form or forms of goodness and is left with, at best, a coherent framework of laws whose credibility is based on its logical consistency for those who have the patience and inclination to study them; or more commonly, a collection of principles mutually inconsistent, tacitly cobbled together from rival moral traditions, whose credibility is based on their common acceptability within the dominant institutions of any given culture."
    This notion would explain Catholics who hold to "moralism" -- "described by David Schindler as the position whereby moral truth is either a matter of arbitrariness or (mechanical) imposition from without, or both" -- as people who have not experienced the glory of God or the beauty of creation. Which, in turn, indicates moralism's antidote.
    Well, in fact Rowland gives eight requirements to overcome moralism, though I wasn't convinced they're all requirements strictly speaking.
  • According to Michael Hanby, "In the [Trinitarian account of the will], voluntas is the site of our erotic participation in an anterior gift, and it is at once self-moved and moved by the beauty of that gift."
    The idea of being moved by beauty contains, I hypothesize, the seed to resolving the predestination-free will paradox. We think of God's actions as analogous to a chess game played against a predictable opponent: "If I move my pawn here, there's no way he'll resist taking it."
    But God as Mover is preceded by God as Being, which is to say God as Beauty. His will might in some ways be better thought of simply as His presence, which being beautiful draws the human will to Him.