Tag: Phenomenology

A fragmentary reading on emergent notions: seraphic love and affectio iustitiae

Recently I submitted an article to a journal on eco-phenomenology and how eco-phenomenology satisfies the intentions of ecological concern. For this blog post, I thought it would be good to establish a reference point for developing my thoughts on a slightly different subject: eco-theology. On that note, it seems appropriate to discuss two notions—seraphic love and affectio iustitiae—emerging from my eco-phenomenology.

Not to give too much background, but my eco-phenomenology presents Francis of Assisi as the prime mediator (or intermediator) in service of new imagination vis cogitativa, whose actions afford us with satisfaction of ecological concern—i.e., satisfaction of the estimative power. (In this context, the estimative power is that which, by the limitation of its very nature, oppresses creatures). The visionary-love of the seraphic[1] that Francis underwent was, and is, that from which one acts-in-care for the integral good of creation. Indeed, an application of the principle of seraphic love is demonstration of care [fürsorge][2]–a hospitalization—of the souls of all creatures. And applying this principle to the appropriate degree results in satisfaction of the needs of the estimative power.

Pope Francis describes (romantically though not naively so), what an application of the principle of seraphic love looks like:

Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, [S. Francis] burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them ‘to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason.’ His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister.’” Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour.[3]

In this passage, Pope Francis issues forth a specific sense of what seraphic love is as an important principle of eco-phenomenology: i.e., “[A]n integral ecology…for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human.”[4] Somewhat paradoxically, “categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology” are not categories of transcendental phenomenology, “the unknowable,” or something else. They are, rather, categories of openness in an intermediary form of life. By virtue of its openness, the actions of the intermediary send-forth an image of right-relationship that governs other forms of life, and it does this through application of particular matters toward universal notions—for example, the particular matter of gratitude toward the universal notion of social love. Enlivened by the splendor shining-forth from particular acts of gratitude unique to its own essence, the light of the intermediary illumines thus small and great things like; intelligent and dumb things, alike.

How do we attain to such light?

Seraphic love manifests via complete reception of stigmata. “Stigmata” refers, theologically, to the five crucifixion points, or wounds, of Christ’s passion: hands, feet, and side pierced by the lancea (cf. John 19:34). More specifically, it refers to a recipient taking-onthe crucifixion wounds of Christ through a process of stigmatization. Sander Vloebergs’ exploration of stigmatization presents an “inclusive” Dominican definition of stigmata as “evidence of suffering undergone in the attempt to follow Christ.”[5] According to Vloebergs, some consider S. Francis’s stigmatization as “the most famous and influential case” of serving as “the exemplar model [of] the Stigmatized, the alter Christus,” but not everyone thinks so.[6] According to Vloebergs, skepticism concerning the stigmata of Francis deals with whether the physical wounds of the stigmata were present well before his death, or not. Vloebergs presents his findings within the context of the “ambiguity between outer miracle and inner mysticism.” What is relevant here is the reception of stigmata as importantly involving the invisible nature of seraphic love, and this I term a seraphic spirit of mind.

Seraphic love as seraphic spirit of mind originates from Bonaventure’s account of S. Francis’s seraphic vision atop a Mt. Alvernia. A fragment of it reads:

This [seraphic] vision had been presented to his eyes by Divine Providence, that the friend of Christ might know that he was to be transformed into Christ crucified, not by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the fire of the spirit.[7]

Francis is said to have received a complete reception of stigmata, visible and invisible. And in accounting for the invisible nature of it, we look to the spiritual degrees of Francis’s seraphic vision, represented by the apparition of living angelic beings, having “six wings, all on fire.” In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the role of “the seraphim” is parallel to the role of the cherubim, who are depicted as sword-bearers of God’s fiery-justice (cf. Genesis 3:24). As to what the identity of the seraphim most closely resembles,Jewish scholarship suggests “the flying fiery serpent” in the Book of Isaiah (14:29-30), which reads as follows:

Do not rejoice…that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the root of the snake will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent. The firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will make your root die of famine, and your remnant I will kill.[8]

The mythos of this passage is peculiar, particularly the seraphic spiritas “the fruit of the adder.” What could this mean? Perhaps seraphic spiritis a biting-spirit of love through which one’s passions are melded to conform to Christ-crucified, “not by the martyrdom of the flesh, but by the fire of the spirit.” The seraphic adjoining a host (in this case, S. Francis) inflames its user with a “complete conflagration of mind.”[9] The process of conflagration (i.e., the process of the fire of the spirit) is likened unto a wildfire burning and destroying the impurities of a person (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7; Psalm 66:10). The wildfire stokes an affection for justice as it indwells the will to act righteously, in purity. The signs of wildfire in the mind of a person, or as Vloebergs might say the signs of “eternal desire” in the mind of a person, fashions an individual in virtue. In other words, the perfection of virtue results from an indwelling process of seraphic spirit. Moreover, the intention of Christ’s passion is an arming of the mind and body to “no longer [be] bound by human desires but by the will of God” (cf. 1 Peter 4:1-2). Arriving at the intentions of this passion begins with the burning away of human desire, marked by impressions of mind. When the invisible nature of stigmata is fully present in the mind, the visible nature of it may begin to manifest; for, as “God is spirit,” the spirit incarnates (cf. John 4:24). So, the invisible nature of stigmata is the presence of mental signs of God’s intention toward us in our passion, and this culminates in a complete reception, a complete incarnation, of the love of God. But we must exercise cooperation with the seraphic spirit of mind to get there.

The will’s exercise of the signs of wildfire are an exercise of what Duns Scotus calls affectio iustitiae (i.e., “affection for justice”). The affectio iustitiae is a moderatrix “restraining or moderating” the lesser passions of the intellective (or sensitive) appetites in a free will.[10] The will without this moderatrix is a will engrossed in lower passions (i.e., the “affection for advantage” or the affectio commodi); or, perhaps engrossed too much in higher passions (e.g., intellectualism). Such a will is not totally free according. According to Duns Scotus:

If, along the lines of Anselm’s thought experiment in On the Fall of the Devil, one imagines an angel that had the affectio commodi and not the affectio iustitiae—i.e., one that had intellective appetite merely as that sort of appetite and not as free—such an angel could not refrain from willing advantageous things or from willing them in the highest [detrimental] degree…that affectio iustitiae…is the innate liberty of the will.[11]

The affection for justice serves the objective of justice. “Justice,” as Duns Scotus and others have it, is “rectitude of will for its own sake [and] has to do with another.”[12] As justice is desired, an “affection for justice” (affectio iustitiae) is required to develop rectitude of will necessary for the carrying-out of justice. Undergoing the complete conflagration of mind is likened unto practicing or exercising the affectio iustitiae. One possible way to practice moderating the passions, then, is to exercise the vis cogitativa with respect to moderation. According to theologian James Keating, exercising it to moderation involves a union of intellect and heart in holiness that abnegates popular imagination for new imagination.[13] One thing seems clear about the usefulness of the abnegation of popular imagination, and that is that an act of holy union might well be contrary to political activism. This would be beneficial for eco-theology because, unlike forms of political activism, exercise of affectio iustitiae restrains the will in order to act in-rectitude for its own sake and, at the same time, for another’s ultimate, immediate good.[14] The suggestion here is that acting-for the intentions of ecological concern should not be relegated to the political sphere but to some divine sphere. By “divine sphere” we mean that which one is habituated to practice, recognize, and discern the charisms of one’s life to deeper revelation and mystery. The charisms of one’s life may include evangelical poverty, penance, charity, grace, peace, humility, and others. Such a divine sphere would emanate from one’s detachment of earthly things to “things above” (Colossians 3:2). The practitioner, by being disposed the mind set on things above, would become a seraphic practitioner, through which social love is enacted, in justice, for the integral good of creation.

So much then for thoughts on eco-theology.

REFERENCES

Bonaventure (1868). The Life of St. Francis of Assisi. Edward, Henry (ed.). London. [Online]. Available: http://www.saintsbooks.net/books/St.%20Bonaventure%20-%20The%20Life%20of%20St.%20Francis%20of%20Assisi.pdf. (June 2020).

Duns Scotus, John (1997). “God’s Justice,” in Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality. Part IV, 183-194. Frank, William (ed.). D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. Print.

Heidegger, Martin (2008). Being and Time. Macquarrie & Robinson (trans.). US: Harper & Row Publishers. Translated from the German Sein und Zeit (7th ed.) Neomarius Verlag, Tūbingen. Print.

Hirsch & Benzinger (2011). “Seraphim” in Jewish Encyclopedia,Available: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13437-seraphim. (Spring 2020).

Keating, James (2015). The Heart of the Diaconate: Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ. NY: Paulist Press. Print.

Mcginn, Bernard (2006). The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism. NY: Modern Library. Print.

Pope Francis (2015). “Ecological Education and Spirituality” in Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Vatican City. [Online]. Available: w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.pdf#page=58. (Spring 2020).

Williams, Thomas (2003). “From Metaethics to Action Theory” in The Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus. Williams (ed.). UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 332-351, print.

Vloebergs, Sander (2016). “Wounding love: a mystical-theological exploration of stigmatization,” in the International Journal of Philosophy and Theology,vol. 2: 1-2. Doi: 10.1080/21692327.2016.1199968.


[1] cf. Bonaventure, The Biography of St. Francis, 163-165. The “visionary-love of the seraphic” is another way of considering the integrated product, the singular act, of S. Francis’s “seraphic vision” atop Mt. La Verna.

[2] Heidegger, Being and Time, I.2, ¶12:57. “Being towards the world [Sein zur Welt] is essentially concern” (84).

[3] Francis, Laudato si’, no. 11

[4] Ibid.

[5] Vloebergs, “Wounding love,” 3-5

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, 162-164.

[8] cf. Hirsch and Benzinger, “Seraphim.”

[9] Mcginn, Christian Mysticism, 249

[10] Cambridge Companion to Duns Scotus, 343-346

[11] Ibid., 346

[12] Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality, 183-184

[13] Keating, Heart of the Diaconate, 40-42

[14] cf. Duns Scotus on the Will and Morality, 183-184

On Knowledge and Faith: The Philosophy of Edith Stein, Edmund Husserl & Thomas Aquinas


My readings lately have involved an interest in Thomistic and Husserlian views on philosophical investigation and/or methodology. The Thomistic view on philosophical investigation and/or methodology is about what the most principled way of doing philosophy is, or, otherwise, what the most principled way of exercising practical behavior is [i]. In slight contrast, the Husserlian view on philosophical investigation and/or methodology is about what it means to ‘catholicize’ modern, or modernistic, philosophy. Notwithstanding, it seems many people think these views are necessarily antagonistic to each other. What I contend in this post is that the methods of these two views are, at their core-function, the same. There is really no need to resign ourselves to a necessary antagonism between them, and we have Edith Stein to thank for that.

Uh, what’s an “Edith Stein”?

Edith Stein (1891-1942), known by her religious name as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was a Jewish-German philosopher, Carmelite mystic, nun, and martyr who lived during the tumultuous period of Nazi occupation in Europe. According to the New World Encyclopedia, her martyrdom preceded some pretty nasty political retaliation:

            “[T]he Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the nation’s churches condemning Nazi racism on July 20, 1942 […] the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, retaliated by ordering the arrest of all Jewish converts to Catholicism on July 26, 1942. On August 2, Stein was transported by cattle train to the death camp of Auschwitz, where she died in the gas chambers on August 9. Stein’s younger sister Rosa, also a convert, died there as well.

Canonized in the Roman Catholic Church by St. Pope John Paul II in 1998, St. Edith Stein has been bestowed the honor of being one of the patron Saints of Europe [ii]. Her scholarly works, among which include: Finite and Eternal Being, Knowledge and Faith, On the Problem of Empathy, her translation of Aquinas’ De Veritate, The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross (in German: Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft), and others, demonstrate a remarkable spiritual insight that is so wonderfully typical of a religious affiliation with the Discalced Carmelite Order, her own religious order. Indeed, her writings have served not only the Church, but the atonement and cleansing of Europe, the world, and the souls of numerous individuals.

Edith was a student of the Göttingen School — an association of thinkers at the University of Göttingen that stood for, or otherwise represented, one of the most prominent philosophical and academic movements of the early 20th century: phenomenology, which may be defined generally as “the study of first-person experience” or as “the study of individual phenomena according to an individual’s authentic experiences of that phenomena”. The discovery of the Göttingen School, and/or the phenomenological method associated with it, is attributed to Edmund Husserl, who is sometimes called the “father of phenomenology”. Edith Stein eventually reached her philosophical end by means of Husserl’s phenomenological method, and this end was, among other things, a spiritual and vocational calling to the Discalced Carmelite Order as a nun and mystic. If we want to understand how Edith reached her end, we ought to review the method that helped her reach it: i.e., Husserl’s phenomenological method. To do this, we can begin by comparing Husserl’s method to that of another.

It appears clear that Edith favored Husserl’s phenomenological method above other methods, like that of the philosopher Martin Heidegger. Indeed, Edith’s phenomenological method was virtually indistinguishable from Husserl’s; and Husserl’s method differed from that of Heidegger’s. Husserl’s and Heidegger’s method can be distinguished by revealing what Edith identified with about each phenomenological view. What Edith identified in Husserl’s phenomenology was an adequate foundation upon which to build her own philosophical view; his was a method of application [iii]. Edith identified with Heidegger’s phenomenology in a much less satisfactory way. Edith identified Heidegger’s phenomenology as a “being-in-need” of greater, and more exact, phenomenological description [iv]. According to an account of Stein’s critique of Heidegger’s Being and Time, Heidegger’s phenomenology, and therefore his philosophical method, lacked a sense of what Husserl termed “exact science” [v]. In critiquing Heidegger’s phenomenology, Stein raises key issues about the value of mere description vs. exact description approaches to doing philosophy.

Stein’s critique of Heidegger’s Being and Time focuses on “the faithfulness of Heidegger’s phenomenological description of Dasein[vi]. Stein argues that Heidegger’s concept of Dasein (i.e., Heidegger’s term for a “being-there”), provides “no real account for the body and the soul, for they are obscured by the vocabulary of being” and, by lack of this real account of Dasein, Heidegger never really draws out the implications of his concept of Mitsein (i.e., Heidegger’s term for a “being-with”) [vii]. According to Stein and others, Heidegger’s phenomenology proposes that the “individual is charged with the task of achieving an eigentliches Sein (authentic being), whereas the community is only a receptacle for a fallen or fleeing Dasein[viii]. Stein critiques Heidegger sharply on this point: Doesn’t the community play a much greater role than that in the formation of Dasein? [ix]. Stein’s questioning points to a particular, yet more reasonable, method required for a greater phenomenological description of Dasein. She points to a need for a peri-phenomenological method, a method of exact description, or a method of descriptive science that centers on “being-around” others by means of “ostensibly peripheral phenomena” [x]. Stein also points out an inadequacy of Heidegger’s phenomenological method, because according to Stein’s own phenomenological method, we need others, the community, to help us; we need to ‘be-around’ a community so to address our faults adequately and therein be restored from our, or Dasein’s, fleeing, fallen status. According to an account of Stein’s phenomenology, our method of being is not exact without others and/or the community. Heidegger, in contrast, takes community to be something accidental, and not essential to, the restoration of Dasein. So while Stein held that an adequate philosophical method required, essentially, a “being-in-need” of community, Heidegger did not; and while Heidegger did not outright reject that a philosophical method can never include a “being-in-need” of community, he certainly didn’t think it was essential to his philosophical method.

At any rate, Stein’s critique of Heidegger’s Being and Time brings us back to our initial emphasis about the core-sameness of Husserl’s and Aquinas’ philosophical method. In Knowledge and Faith, Stein gives us three core-functions for doing philosophy. In holding to these functions, we have an adequate philosophical method and foundation that contains the key to sufficient description and which, furthermore, may free us from committing philosophical errors or mistakes, like those of, supposedly, Heidegger. For Stein, these three core-functions are three agreements shared by both Husserl and Aquinas. They are: (1) sensation, (2) intellectual processing, and (3) passivity of understanding [xi].

Sensation

  • Agreement #1: “All knowledge begins with the senses.”

Commentary: It’s important to note that Aquinas and Husserl agree on a particular thing about this proposition — namely that, “[One] is very far from requiring any particular kind of sense intuition, such as an actual external perception, as a support for all knowledge” [xii]

Intellectual Processing

  • Agreement #2: “All natural knowledge … is acquired through the intellectual processing of sense material.”

Commentary: Accordingly, intellectual processing of sense material is “intellectus dividens et componens [i.e., the understanding dividing and composing]”; and, in reference to Husserl’s phenomenology, intellectual processing is an “act of consciousness that intends or refers to any object by way of a noema or noematic sense (i.e., a ‘reason of supernatural sense’).”[xiii]

Passivity of Understanding

  • Agreement #3: The meeting, or agreement, of “opposition” to “any subjective arbitrariness” is of “the conviction that intuiting, in the sense of passively receiving, is the proper contribution of the understanding and that all of its action is but a preparation for it.” [xiv]

Commentary: The passivity of understanding is not a proper form of contribution to X because it does not contribute to X by a proper form of action. In other words, the passivity of understanding is intuition without a proper form of action; as such, it does not properly contribute to X.

In summary, the contribution of understanding as something by perception alone is not what Aquinas and Husserl agree upon. What Aquinas and Husserl agree upon is the notion that the contribution of understanding is not by perception alone. They also seem to agree that the contribution of understanding is an intellectual processing of perception that manifests by a form of proper activity. In other words, Aquinas and Husserl agree on the method of doing philosophy, and this agreement is something worthy of our attention because it signifies an objectivity to the way philosophers do philosophy, and this is evinced in Edith’s analysis of virtually the same philosophical method in that of Aquinas and Husserl. What Edith Stein gives to us is a reasonable demonstration of the core-methodology that philosophers have been utilizing for at least 800 years. Given the influence of Aristotle’s philosophical method on that of St. Thomas Aquinas, it’s probably closer to 2,500 years. Once more, we have Edith Stein to thank for such a contribution to our understanding, so thanks Edith!

I mean, of course, Saint Edith.

Lance H. Gracy serves as contributor and editor-in-chief of TheEruditePress. If you want to know more about him, check out the “About the Editor” page.


REFERENCES

[i]  Edith Stein (2000). Knowledge and Faith: The Collected Works of Edith Stein. (Redmond, Walter, Tr.). Washington: ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies; 35. (Original published under the title Erkenntnis und Glaube). Print.

[ii] cf., “Edith Stein” in the New World Encyclopedia. DOI:  https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Edith_Stein. (Web accessed, summer 2019).

[iii] cf., introduction to Jon C. Wilhemsson’s The Philosophical Contributions of Edith Stein (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016). Print.

[iv] Calcagno, Antonio (2007). The Philosophy of Edith Stein.Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press; 116-18. Print.

[v] Casey, Edward S. (2017). The World on Edge.Indiana: Indiana University Press; 9-12. Ebook.

[vi] Calcagno’s The Philosophy of Edith Stein, 116

[vii] Ibid., 116, 118

[viii] Ibid., 118

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Edward’s The World on Edge, xviii.

[xi] Edith Stein (2000). Knowledge and Faith: The Collected Works of Edith Stein. (Redmond, Walter, Tr.). Washington: ICS Publications, Institute of Carmelite Studies; 41-7. (Original published under the title Erkenntnis und Glaube). Print.

[xii] Ibid., 41-2

[xiii] Ibid., pp. 44-5; also, see Smith, David Woodruff, “Phenomenology”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2018 Edition), Edward Zalta (ed.), URL = <plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/phenomenology/>.

[xiv] Ibid., 46