instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Saturday, July 14, 2012

St. Alphonsus and the Christian Remembrancer, pt 4

A final quotation from the article (after which it takes up the questions of promises and oaths):
 While we find, as Billuart remarks, in looking into the works of various theologians, a vast amount of agreement on the general principles of amphibology, we are no less struck by the diversity of opinion expressed among them as to particular instances. We find them sufficiently unanimous upon the following points:
  1. that the essence of a lie consists in the intentional abuse of language for the purpose of deception:-
  2. that language is to be held abused so as to constitute a lie if it cannot be understood otherwise than in a false sense, i.e., one contrary to the mind of the speaker:-
  3. that words, besides their ordinary meaning, are liable to be determined to an extraordinary one by particular circumstances of time, place, and person :-
  4. that under such circumstances it is lawful to use words thus equivocally determined; but as to exactly when such determination may be said to have taken place, some theologians admit this occasion, others that.
The consideration that words and practices acquire conventional meaning according to the language and customs of the country in which they are used, will tend in a measure to explain this; for hence, we can easily conceive that an equivocation or mental restriction might be perfectly determinable and therefore lawful in Italy, which would be simply indiscoverable and therefore the reverse of this in England. [Formatting added]
Note that the fact that what is discoverable in one context is indiscoverable in another shows that the details of which equivocations are lawful, and when, are not suited to magisterial pronouncement.