Web-log, March 21, 2017

The Week

Well, I finished the chapter and sent it off. In the chapter, I was attempting to weave medieval background into a description of Calvin’s psychology as described in The Institutes I.15.1-8. I had run into so many difficulties trying to figure out how to arrange the background and my analysis of Calvin that, in the end, it was easiest just to cut Calvin out of the chapter. Once I had made this decision, the chapter seemed to write itself. I was done in less than a day. It came to 41 pages (roughly 14,000 words without footnotes–it would have been over 20,000 together). Part of the conclusion is below:

“In sum, there are very clear and broad historical reasons that Calvin’s psychology does not reflect the five distinctives of Aquinas’s psychology. Since we need to read him as he is situated, we can avoid blaming him for not answering questions that were not being asked and ascribing too much consequence to his way of organizing his psychology. The theological disputes that occurred between Aquinas and Calvin produced a general psychological inheritance for him, a core of four tendencies according to which, as we will see, his psychology generally conforms: (1) a tendency to hold a more dualistic approach to the body soul relation, which attributes the lower faculties to the body—owing both to the arguments over the identity of the soul and its powers and over the immortality of the soul (body/soul dualism), (2) a tendency to see the will and its passions as the morally relevant faculty, along with a corresponding tendency to see the passions of sense appetite as mere bodily passions, natural and irrational (ascendency of the will in action and affective theory), (3) a tendency to curtail the importance of virtue for the ethical life in action theory (mitigating the telos of divine command, flourishing; (curtailing of virtue in action theory), and (4) a tendency to see continence, rather than virtue as the maximal ethical state for persons (continence as highest ethical state). I have already remarked that the additional contribution of the Reformers is a tendency to overlay God’s volitional determinism on human psychological determinism as a way of minimizing the importance of human virtue. In the next chapter, I will lay out Calvin’s psychology in light of these four tendencies.

IMG_4994I’ve already emailed the chapter to Matthew Levering and received a quick email back with a promise to take a look. I’m hoping to interact with him about it, since it is very much in his wheelhouse. Most of the books consulted for this chapter were requested from the gorgeous Feehan Memorial Library at the University of St. Mary of the Lake where Levering teaches.

The uptake here is that the next chapter is also coming along nicely, since I removed the Calvin stuff and dumped it all into a file. It already has 7,500 words, and yesterday was a very productive day writing, sharpening some ideas I had already put on paper. I hope to be done with a draft of this chapter within two weeks.

The Set Up

I am back at TEDS today, scanning books and doing some tasks for the Trinity Journal. I’m currently about 91% done with Dombey and Sons by Charles Dickens; this is the last of the Dickens novels for me. So, I will have to be careful not to get drawn into it and stay on task. I had broken my headphones last week, and so, since headphones are indispensable to this work, I am rocking a new set of Klipsch S4i earbuds. I am a big fan.

The Plan

  1. Scan two library books by Levering, which need to be returned to Feehan
  2. Complete Trinity Journal Tasks
  3. Catch up with a couple of friends if possible
  4. Read and take notes on “The Soul” in Paul Helm’s John Calvin’s Ideas
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