Anarchy, Causality, and the Gift of Self

JPI 977

Through key philosophical and theological texts, this seminar seeks to ponder in what sense the perception of being as gift is able to retrieve and deepen an adequate account of causality. This reflection is also at the service of the clarification of what it means to give of oneself. The contemporary conception of causality as extrinsic imposition of (normally topographic) movement by means of force has silenced the classic conception of causality as the communication of esse as act (Aquinas, De principiis naturae). It has also established anarchy, lack of principle, as a fundamental contemporary axiom. Since one of the main reasons for this radical shift was the corresponding shift in the perception of the transcendental good—a shift that moved from perceiving the good in terms of generosity to those of power (dominance, ruling, and ordering)—it is crucial to elucidate in what sense perceiving the communication of esse in light of gift, thus retrieving generosity, may yield an adequate understanding of causality. Pondering the meaning of causality, therefore, is a twofold task. First, it necessitates a philosophical reflection on the specificity and interconnectedness of the fourfold causality. Second, it requires a theological reflection on the divine communication of esse; that is, to ask what it means for God to give in and to himself and to give in such a radical way that it allows the concrete singular both the possibility of being and the capacity to give.

The seminar approaches the speculative issue of causality from a historical perspective. This approach seeks to uncover the questions involved in causality and the gift of self and to address them in depth. The seminar is divided into three parts. The first revisits the Greek understanding of causality and the good (Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus). The second examines the understanding of causality within the framework of the Triune God (Dionysius, Aquinas, Ockham). The third approaches the modern shift that reads causality in terms of power (Hume, Hegel, Heidegger). The renewed perception of causality from the perspective of being-gift enables us to take up the concrete singular’s own capacity to give and to consider “work” as the change effected through the singular’s finite communication of being, its gift of self.

Associated Faculty

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