Metaphysics: Being, Essence, & Truth
| Chaired by Matthew Fell
• John Betz, Being, Essence, Identity and Ecstasy: An Essay in Trinitarian Metaphysics
Abstract: The full meaning of this paper/essay is bound up with its full title, “Being, Essence, Identity and Ecstasy: An Essay in Trinitarian Metaphysics.” The first part, entitled “Breaking the Immanent Frame,” concerns being and essence and therewith the basic elements of philosophical metaphysics; the second part, concerning identity and ecstasy, deals with theological metaphysics in the proper sense of the term, namely, in light of Trinitarian theology. Accordingly, the first part subdivides into two parts, the first of which offers a critical endorsement of Heidegger’s existential ontology – endorsing his understanding of the ontological difference between being and beings and of the giftedness of being in beings, while criticizing his failure to see that being is nothing but love. The second part seeks to recover the question that is obscured in Heidegger (owing to his overreaction to the history of Platonism), but is just as fundamental to metaphysics and eo ipso to the question of the human being: the question of essence. In other words, Heidegger’s anti-Platonism leaves us with a truncated ontology that forecloses the very question of the meaning of (human) being it purports to pose. It is the task of philosophical ontology, however, to keep the horizon of being open to being and essence, its fundamental, constitutive elements, so that ontology can be liberated into metaphysics and philosophy can receive the light of revelation – specifically, what the Trinity reveals about the meaning of being, i.e., about the meaning of the relation between being and essence, as love.
• Christophe Chalamet, The Return of Metaphysics: Is This The Way Forward?
Abstract: The return of metaphysics is bound to worry many people, for more or less legitimate reasons. If by metaphysics we understand a thought process by which we abstract from empirical reality in order to attain a first cause, then it could well be that metaphysics is a wrong-headed way to think theologically. Is there a way to construe metaphysics in such a way which renders it fruitful, indeed necessary, for Christian theological discourse? This is a basic question, which deserves to be raised and discussed between partisans and opponents of the “return of metaphysics.” The present paper argues that the critique of metaphysics among Protestant (and other) theologians deserves a serious hearing, in order to avoid falling back into the trap of a kind of theological discourse which severs God’s being or essence not just from God’s triune being but also from God’s act, or into the trap of a discourse which prioritizes in one way or another (even logically) God’s being over God’s act - God’s act conceived as, quite specifically, the act of the triune God in history. “Being” as such does not determine or express who God is. Rather, God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as revealed and known through God’s act in history, centrally in the narrated history of Jesus of Nazareth as attested in Holy Scripture, determines God’s “being” or “essence.”
• Rowan Williams, Knowledge and Relation: contemporary transformations of logos
Abstract: ‘One aspect of the classical Trinitarian schema, as elaborated in East and West, is the contention that intelligence itself is grounded in the self-communication of God’s “truthfulness”, i.e. God’s correspondence to God in the life of the Trinity. On this basis, Maximus, for example, develops his model of finite beings as embodying/articulating the myriad logoi contained in the eternal Logos; and Aquinas develops the picture of the verbum mentis as the sameness-in-difference of the subject’s own life as activated by encounter with what is not self. The significance of retrieving a Trinitarian ontology is thus to do with epistemology as well as ontology more generally. This paper will attempt to show how some more recent philosophies and theologies move in this direction (consciously or otherwise) and what contribution can be made to a renewed epistemology by utilising and refining the relevant aspects of the tradition – which (paradoxically) may allow a more serious valuation of physical and historical/contextual dimensions to knowledge than the conventional arguments of a typically “modern” attitude to knowledge and truthtelling.’