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What is theology?

SAN DIEGO -- Yesterday morning, members of the Catholic Theological Society of America listened to an extended critique of the way their organization operates, especially with respect to the way the society conceives of the practice of theology itself and its attitude toward more conservative theologians. The paper, delivered by Paul Griffiths of Duke University, caused quite a stir--an effect that seems not to have been accidental. I live-tweeted the session, as well as a related one that took up a report on "theological diversity" at CTSA released by an ad hoc committee last year.

Caveat lector: This is going to be long. And the ghost of Steve Jobs seemed determined to introduce errors as I tried to capture the flow of commentary. So you'll see a few typos (and informalities, all thanks to autocorrect). Also: Mostly I'm paraphrasing, so I apologize in advance if I've inaccurately conveyed a speaker's intent. Bearing that in mind, you'll find the day-in-tweets after the jump.

 

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I forgot to mention that before starting the Treatise Hume went to study with the Jesuits at LaFleche for several years.  (Yes, years.)  Unfortunately, he didn't get a solid grounding in Aristotle or Aquinas there.  But he certainly tried not to ignore them.

I do not think Hume ever rejected his own skepticism -- that would make him a totally incoherent thinker. Rather he developed a conventionalist theory of ethics, etc. He invested less and less energy in philosophy, possibly because he saw the nature of what it yielded, and wrote history instead.

In Mahayana Buddhism the scholastic theories of causality of earlier Buddhism are hoist on their own petard -- if everything arises in dependence on something else, then nothing has its own-nature (svabhava) but is ultimately empty; nonetheless we traffic in conventional causality or conditionality to comport ourselves ethically and soteriologically in the fleeting samsaric existence.

 I am not sure that it is correct to say that Hume "studied with the Jesuits" -- rather he lived in the town and visited the Jesuits and used their library. http://philosophybites.com/2013/09/alison-gopnik-on-hume-and-buddhism.html

http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/12/hume-et-le-bouddhisme...

Also Hume's years in La Flèche were not quite "before starting the Treatise" -- rather he wrote the Treatise there.    http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/david-hume-118.php

Perhaps we need to be a little more skptical about the foundational importance of skepticism: http://maritain.nd.edu/ama/Sweetman/Sweetman17.pdf

Fr. O'Leary --

Hume does admit at the end of Book I of the Treatise that he doesn't accept his own conclusions, but doesn't know how to get out of them.  So, yes, he is thoroughly inconsistent, but he admits it.

About the Buddhist texts. I have the Shambala translation of the sayings of the Buddha, but I don't know whether that edition is a truly scholarly work.  I know that the Pali texts are so ancient that there is bound to be some question about how to translate them.  But -- do you know that edition,and should i trust it as at least fairly competent?  

 

Message lost -- recommend Pali Nikayas translated Boston: Wisdom publications, and Kalupahana, Causality. Hume does not renounce his skeptical creed at end of Treatise I but only says that he is "diffident" both about his doubts and his convictions, as becomes a true skeptic.

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