Sunday, October 04, 2009

Love and Aristotelian Purpose

I was thinking more of an Aristotelian natural purpose rather than a Darwinian one. Of course the Aristotelian conception is a difficult one because you have the theistic tradition pushing it in the direction of intended purpose, and the Darwinian materialist tradition pushing it in the direction of Darwinian function.

But I think something can have an intended purpose without that purpose resulting in the fulfillment of the creaturely nature. If Calvinism is true, it is the intended purpose of some people to provide God the opportunity to display his wrath against sin and to serve as object lessons to make sure everyone up in heaven knows that they got there by grace, but in fulfilling that divine purpose, their desires are everlastingly frustrated. Or, to take a simpler example, we raise some animals for food. Sometimes we do in a way that pays attention to their interests (kosher laws suggest this way of thinking) and sometimes people simply exploit the animals, as in the case of veal calves cooped up in tiny pens. So I think we need the idea of an inner purpose that involves the fulfillment of the nature of the created object.

I an inclined to think that a concept of love could be developed as an active desire for the fulfillment of another being. X loves Y just in case X wants Y to fulfill itself, and does whatever is possible (consonant with other moral duties X might have) to make it possible that Y fufills itself.


Joshua said...

Thanks, Victor -- I see what you're getting at, and I agree it's a useful distinction.

drwayman said...

Dr. Reppert - You have presented an interesting concept. I obviously don't have the experience with Aristotle that you and most of your readers do.

I believe an Aristotelian thought would be that the purpose of a human being must have something to do with being human. We humans are different from the rest of creation in that we can guide ourselves using reason. Love and happiness then would be using reason well over the course of a full life.

Is this similar to Wesley's statement: "The glory of God is man fully alive."?

Victor Reppert said...

The quote about man fully alive comes originally from Irenaeus. It kind of goes along with John Piper's "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him." He then says "This is perhaps the most important sentence in my theology." Unfortunately for Piper, Walls and Dongell quite correctly point out that this doesn't fit very well with, ahem, some of Piper's other theological commitments.

drwayman said...

Dr. Reppert - thanks for the correction. In the future, I will have to say it's not original with Wesley.

J said...

Aristotelian thought does not lack a certain coherence, but also affirms essencia--nature is fixed, regular, and determined for the most part (greeks did not care for probability or uncertainity). That also meant the social order was fixed--with nobles who studied Aristotle, and the plebes and slaves who worked for 'em.

I don't think the dude speaking in the Beatitudes was overly fond of Aristotle's code.