Peter Geach, fully Peter Thomas Geach

Peter
Geach, fully Peter Thomas Geach
1916
2013

British Philosopher awarded the papal cross "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" by the Holy See

Author Quotes

Even if a natural theologian correctly concludes to the existence of a God with attributes ABC, and those attributes do in fact belong solely to the one true God, we cannot be sure that in worshiping the God whose existence he has concluded to he is worshiping the true God. For along with these attributes ABC the natural theologian may ascribe to his God others which are not those of the true God. Thus, he may like Spinoza falsely believe that God produces all possible creatures, by a natural necessity of fully manifesting his infinite power; or, like many moderns, he may falsely believe that God needed to create a universe full of creatures in order that they, however inferior to him, might be there to love and be loved by -- much as a lonely old woman crowds her house with cats. Was Spinoza, and are these moderns, worshiping the true God, or rather worshiping some vain phantasm…?

It is not for us to answer such questions; enough to notice that they arise; and there is no reason to doubt that sometimes a natural theologian’s errors may mean that he does not lay hold of the true God in his mind and heart at all.

We dare not be complacent about confused and erroneous thinking about God, in ourselves or in others. If anybody’s thoughts about God are sufficiently confused and erroneous, then he will fail to be thinking about the true and living God at all; and just because God alone can draw the line, none of us is in a position to say that a given error is not serious enough to be harmful.

Logic of itself cannot give anyone the answer to any questions of substance; but without logic we often do not know the import of what we know and often fall into fallacy and inconsistency. Logic of itself cannot give anyone the answer to any questions of substance; but without logic we often do not know the import of what we know and often fall into fallacy and inconsistency.

The wicked can for the moment use God's creation in defiance of God's commandments. But this is a sort of miracle or mystery; as St. Paul said, God has made the creature subject to vanity against its will. It is reasonable to expect, if the world's whole raison d'être is to effect God's good pleasure, that the very natural agents and operations of the world should be such as to frustrate and enrage and torment those who set their wills against God's. If things are not at present like this, that is only a gratuitous mercy, on whose continuance the sinner has no reason to count. 'The world shall fight with him against the unwise.... Yea, a mighty wind shall stand up against them, and like a storm shall blow them away.'

We cannot balance against our obedience to God some good to be gained, or evil to be avoided, by disobedience. For such good or evil could in fact come to us only in the order of God's Providence; we cannot secure good or avoid evil, either for ourselves or for others, in God's despite and by disobedience. And neither reason nor revelation warrants the idea that God is at all likely to be lenient with those who presumptuously disobey his law because of the way they have worked out the respective consequence of obedience and disobedience. Eleazer the scribe (2 Maccabees 6), with only Sheol to look forward to when he died, chose rather to go there by martyrdom—praemitti se velle in infernum—than to break God's law. 'Yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty, neither alive nor dead.'

I must first clear up an ambiguity in the phrase 'doing evil that good may come'. We cannot ask whether e. g. Caesar's death was a good or bad thing to happen; there are various titles under which it may be called good or bad. One might very well say e. g. that a violent death was a bad thing to happen to a living organism but a good thing to happen to a man who claimed divine worship, and this would again leave it open whether doing Caesar to death was a good or bad thing to do for Brutus and the rest. Now when I speak of 'not doing evil that good may come', what I mean is that certain sorts of act are such bad things to do that they must never be done to secure any good or avoid any evil. For A to kill a man or cut off his arm is not necessarily a bad thing to do, though it is necessarily bad that such a thing should happen to a living organism. Only by a fallacy of equivocation can people argue that if you accept the principle of not doing evil that good may come, then you must be against capital punishment and surgical operations.

If a philosopher says he doubts whether there is anything objectionable in the practice of lying, he is not to be heard. Perhaps he is not sincere in what he says; perhaps his understanding is debauched by wickedness; perhaps, as often happens to philosophers, he has been deluded by a fallacious argument into denying what he really knows to be the case. Anyhow, it does not lie in his mouth to say that here I am abandoning argument for abuse; there is something logically incongruous, to use Newman's phrase, if we take the word of a Professor of Lying that he does not lie. Let me emphasize that I am not saying a sane and honest man must think one should never lie; but I say that, even if he thinks lying is sometimes a necessary evil, a sane and honest man must think it an evil.

In modern ethical treatises we find hardly any mention of God; and the idea that if there really is a God, his commandments might be morally relevant is wont to be dismissed by a short and simple argument that is generally regarded as irrefutable. 'If what God commands is not right, then the fact of his commanding it is no moral reason for obedience, though it may in that case be dangerous to disobey. And if what God commands is right, even so it is not God's commanding it that makes it right; on the contrary, God as a moral being would command only what was right apart from his commanding it. So God has no essential place in the foundations of morals.

As Descartes himself remarked, nothing is too absurd for some philosopher to have said it some time; I once read an article about an Indian school of philosophers who were alleged to maintain that it is only a delusion, which the wise can overcome, that anything exists at all; so perhaps it would not matter all that much that a philosopher is found to defend absolute omnipotence.

The usefulness of historical knowledge in philosophy, here as elsewhere, is that the prejudices of our own period may lose their grip on us if we imaginatively enter into another period, when people’s prejudices were different.

Author Picture
First Name
Peter
Last Name
Geach, fully Peter Thomas Geach
Birth Date
1916
Death Date
2013
Bio

British Philosopher awarded the papal cross "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" by the Holy See