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Thomas Aquinas

This tag is associated with 9 posts

Really Recommended Posts 6/10/16- Patrick Stewart, evidence for God, and more!

A picture of a goldfinch I took. All rights reserved.

A picture of a goldfinch I took. All rights reserved.

Thanks for coming by and checking out this week’s “Really Recommended Posts!” This time around, we have a look at what we should expect in evidence for God’s existence, a response to the “9 Marks of Complementarianism,” Patrick Stewart on domestic violence, the “hyperbole” argument regarding the Canaanites, and Aquinas’s metaphysics and arguments for God. Let me know what you think in the comments!

A Look at God’s Existence: Evidence We Want vs. Evidence We Should Expect– We often ear or read about there not being enough evidence for God. How much of that is set up by expectations about what kind of evidence God should provide?

Kevin DeYoung’s 9 Marks of Complementarianism– Recently, Kevin DeYoung posted about what ought to be the 9 marks of complementarianism. Scot McKnight offered a response to these marks from a different perspective.

Patrick Stewart on what he is most proud of– Patrick Stewart is perhaps best known for playing Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. A fan at a recent conference asked him what he was most proud of outside of acting, and his response was powerful- working against domestic violence. This is a beautiful video worth watching. Ignore the clickbait title (which I amended here).

Misunderstanding the Canaanite Hyperbole Argument– Clay Jones, a professor at Biola University, notes that there are several misconceptions about what exactly is answered regarding the argument that the “genocide” of the Canaanites is hyperbolic.

Four Causes and Five Ways– Edward Feser outlines a brief look at Aquinas’s metaphysics and its link to his Five Ways (six arguments).

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Really Recommended Posts 3/11/16- Aquinas, Syria, church and state, and more!

postI hope you’ll enjoy the latest round-up of really recommended posts for you, dear readers! This week, we have Aquinas on faith, a response to a claim about Jesus’ view of women, church and state, and Syrian refugees as topics. Let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors know as well!

Response to Kevin DeYoung’s “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus”– Philip Payne is a fantastic biblical scholar, and here he dismantles an article from complementarian Kevin DeYoung in which the latter argued that Jesus would agree to the subordination of roles for women. Also check out Part 2 of the response.

Aquinas on Faith and Reason– Thomas Aquinas had some intriguing things to say about the relationship of faith and reason. So often, people dismiss faith as patently absurd or against reason. Is that the case? Check out this post to see Aquinas’ insight.

The Church is Not the State– Some timely words regarding interpreting Scripture in light of our own nation.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis Moved Into My Neighborhood– Sometimes the best way to discuss controversial topics is to look at case studies. Here is a specific story from someone who had Syrians move into her neighborhood.

 

Book Review: “The Analogy of Faith” by Archie J. Spencer

af-spencer

A question which we don’t often stop to think about in theological discussions is whether or not it is, in principle, possible to speak of the divine. Archie Spencer’s book, The Analogy of Faith, asks just this question and offers an in-depth analysis of various approaches alongside proposing a model for speaking about God.

The book is split, roughly, between analysis of various proposed models for speaking about God and a development of a Christocentric model for speaking of the divine.

The analysis of Aristotle’s analogy of being in the first chapter is particularly interesting. Spencer notes that because Aristotle’s analogy depends upon the interrelatedness of things through cause, and because God is the ultimate relation of causation as the unmoved mover, his concept of analogy is ultimately almost useless. The reason is because it becomes too broad: effectively anything can be related to anything else through an analogy of relation, and then this tells us nothing about the things being related themselves. Yet even here Spencer argues that Aristotle’s concept of analogy–itself reliant upon Plato in many relevant ways–can be useful in that it relates causality and the divine ideas, thus preparing the way for Neoplatonist thinking.

Following on the heals of this analysis are some fantastic insights into Augustinian and Thomistic thought about analogy as well. Thomas Aquinas is perhaps the most important thinker regarding the use of analogy in speaking about God of all time. As Spencer notes, it is impossible to adequately deal with the topic without spending significant time on Aquinas’s view of analogy. However, Spencer’s ultimate analysis is that Aquinas did not have a well-developed theory of analogy of his own. Instead, he asserts, it has been the followers and interpreters of Aquinas who made a “Thomistic” theory of analogy, based around the analogy of being. Because these theories ultimately depend on an Aristotelian foundation, they, too, are found to be ultimately inadequate. After all, if we are unable to reference God’s being in any direct way, then it is difficult to see how creatures totally unlike the divine can have an analogue of that divine. Spencer’s analysis in this section is thorough and fairly convincing.

Karl Barth and Eberhard Jungel are the next thinkers addressed, and they provide a basis for Spencer’s own theory of analogy, which is Christological. I’m summarizing an extraordinarily detailed theory here, so I’m sure I’m not adequately outlining it, but the basic thought is that because God has come to us, that allows us through divine revelation of Christ to refer to God. Thus, analogy is the analogy of faith rather than an analogy of being–one in which God has condescended to allow reference to the divine being in human language, rather than one in which we are able to, by our own thinking, come to language which speaks of God.

Upon reading Spencer’s analysis and arguments, I am fairly convinced that he is correct in his notion that the analogy of being is insufficient to capture the possibility of talk about God. What I do wonder, however, is whether Spencer (and most others) too quickly dismiss the possibility of univocal language about God. It seems to me that if we are to say “God is love” then we must have some sense in which that actually relates to God. To be fair, Spencer could respond by pointing to such a statement as exactly in concord with his theory, which would assert that it does relate to God because God has revealed the divine nature to us in Christ and God’s Word, thus allowing us to rightly say “God is love.” However, I think that a deeper treatment of the possibility of univocal language related to God talk would have been appreciated in a book like this. Though, admittedly, the book is already lengthy and is specifically focused on analogy, not the possibility of univocity or equivocal language.

One minor complaint I have is that in the thoroughness of the book, it seems that Spencer is sometimes repetitive. He hits the same point from several different angles in the same chapter, to the point that the book can become quite dry at times. However, the subject matter itself is deeply intriguing, and his full treatment of the topic makes it hard to fault him for stating a few things more than once.

Those interested in reading a dense book of philosophical theology should look no further than The Analogy of Faith by Archie Spencer. It is a deep work that demands much reflection and consideration. It is the kind of seminal writing to which one will constantly return as one thinks about the topic discussed. I can say that I learned a great deal from the book, and had my mind stretched as it hasn’t been stretched in some time. I recommend it highly.

The Good

+Deep analysis of key concepts related to analogy
+Many avenues for further research
+Workable theory which offers some resolution

The Bad

-A bit too verbose at times
-Dismisses univocity a bit too quickly

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Archie Spencer, The Analogy of Faith(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Renewing Moral Theology” by Daniel Westberg

rmt-westbergHow might we integrate the study of ethics and theology? In Renewing Moral Theology, Daniel Westberg takes this project head-on. He approaches it from the perspective of Thomism, the philosophical-theological framework of Saint Thomas Aquinas which is itself influenced by Aristotle. The book therefore provides a strong introduction to the Thomistic view of moral theology.

The book is not, like many, a handbook for discussing various moral issues. Some hot-button topics are raised, but they are not the focus. Westberg’s focus is, instead, much broader. He provides here a metaphysical basis for ethical reasoning, while addressing some of the main questions that come up regarding that framework. Thus, this is a book that encourages further reasoning and research rather than trying to answer some laundry list of moral questions (such as questions of sexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and the like). The focus is on giving an overarching metaphysical basis for using one’s reasoning in ethical situations, not handing the answers to such questions to the readers. This alone makes it valuable because many books on ethical reasoning unfortunately do not address the pressing metaphysical or metaethical questions that come up in thinking about morality.

Thomism has much to offer when it comes to moral theology. The system gives a framework for analyzing things like “being,” “right and wrong,” motivations, emotions, and more.

Westberg provides valuable insights into a number of key issues for ethics from a Christian perspective. Incorporating the holistic approach of Thomism into ethics, he notes that emotions do play a vital role in our practical reasoning and the way we approach moral questions. Emotions are often ignored or treated as frivolous in treatments of objective morality, and to have them incorporated into the study was a much-needed corrective.

He also gives excellent illustrations of and counters objections to the “double-effect” principle, which is the notion that moral actions can have two outcomes, one intended and one not, which allows for right action to be taken even if a wrong outcome will occur or is known to occur. Thus, for example, he treats the notion of a surgery which would kill an unborn child but save the mother. The intent of the surgery is to save the mother, not kill the child, but both are “effects” (hence double-effect) of the procedure. There are some key objections to using this principle to allow for certain moral actions, such as the apparent parsing down of moral choices into separate spheres of decision and intent, but Westberg counters them deftly. In doing so, he provides a strong defense of this critical ethical principle.

Examples are abundant throughout the book, and they constantly are used in ways that helpfully illustrate the point at hand. Some of the more obscure-seeming aspects of how an Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics might impact ethics are made much more clear by Westberg’s clarifying examples.

This is inherently a work of moral theology and so Westberg spends a good amount of time outlining how theology might impact one’s moral outlook. Aquinas had much to contribute here, and again the Thomistic system is incorporated into the discussion, allowing for a robust metaphysics to back up the ethical reasoning placed herein.

Renewing Moral Theology is a great read for those who want to explore the interconnectedness of theology and morality. It provides a firm foundation to explore further issues of Thomistic ethics. For those who are not inclined towards Thomism, it can serve as a springboard for discussion and interaction with the view. It comes recommended.

The Good

+Strong Thomistic look at ethics
+Good use of examples to illustrate principles
+Excellent analysis of “double-effect” principle
+Rightly emphasizes some key areas of moral decision-making

The Bad

-At times it skips too quickly to conclusions

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Daniel Westberg, Renewing Moral Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 4/17/15- Aquinas, Creationism, Abortion, and more!

postSpring is here for real this time (maybe?). That means that my family gets to go on long walks outside, which is wonderful. What else is wonderful? Sharing some awesome posts with you, dear readers! Here’s another round of RRP that includes posts on Aquinas, science fiction, creationism, men and women, and arguments for abortion (debunked). Check them out, and let me know what you think!

Soft Tissue in Mollusk Fossils and the Case for a Young Earth– Does soft tissue prove that the earth is, in fact, only a few thousand years old? Here is an analysis of an argument put forward for some for the position of young earth creationism.

Bad Pro-Choice Arguments– There are some really poor arguments out there for all kinds of positions. Here is an analysis of some bad arguments for the pro-choice position.

Three Reasons I believe Men and Women are Equal Co-Laborers in God’s Kingdom– Why believe that men and women should work side-by-side in pastoral (and other) ministry? Here are three reasons.

Spec[ulative]-Fic[tion] Subgenres: Paranormal & Supernatural– Christian speculative fiction [read= fantasy/sci-fi] publisher Enclave has put out this post on the genres of paranormal and supernaturalism in fiction. It’s worth a read to see some interesting distinctions.

Was Aquinas a Materialist?– Edward Feser analyzes the claim that Thomas Aquinas was a materialist when it comes to human nature.

Really Recommended Posts 9/19/14- Aquinas, the “Gospel” of Barnabas, Poverty, and More!

postI’ll say it: I’m very pleased by this lineup of posts. Here, we have posts addressing metaphysics and cosmology, the Bible and poverty, Muslim Apologetics, Creationism, and Aquinas. How’s that for a diverse lineup? Let me know what you thought of the posts in the comments here.

Cosmology and Causation- Why Metaphysics Matters by Edward Feser– Edward Feser is one of the most brilliant philosophical minds I have encountered. He’s a Thomistic philosopher and whether or not I agree with what he writes, he always challenges me to think on the points he raises. Here, he writes on the importance of metaphysics in the realms of cosmology and causation. Check this out!

Wayne Grudem Debates Richard Glover on the Bible, Poverty, and Foreign Aid– What might the Bible say about foreign aid and poverty? Here, Wintery Knight offers an analysis of a recent debate between Christians on the topic. I have reviewed Wayne Grudem’s book “The Poverty of Nations” which will provide some background to the issues discussed here.

Creationist Influence on Biblical Study Tools– Always be aware that when we’re using any sort of study tool for reading the Bible, there will be interpretation happening. Here, one of my favorite sites takes a look at some ways young earth creationism has influenced some biblical study tools.

The Gospel of Barnabas– Unfortunately, the alleged Gospel of Barnabas is often trotted out in Muslim Apologetics as proof that various aspects of Christianity are false while Islam has them correct. Here’s a great analysis of the dating of this book and whether it should impact us at all in our interfaith discussions.

Did Thomas Aquinas Believe that Sin Affected the Intellect?– Yep. Okay, there is more to it! Check out this post on the topic of Aquinas and the noetic effects of sin.

Really Recommended Posts 6/13/14- Defining Faith, Bible Popularity, Aquinas, and more!

postCheck out these posts from all over the web, collected for your own viewing pleasure by yours truly. If you enjoyed the posts, drop them a comment! Let me know what you think here. Thanks for stopping by, now go read!

The Least Popular Book in the Bible– I found this to be one of the most fun posts I have read in a long time. I really encourage you to check it out. But Don’t Cheat! Leave a guess as to which Bible book is least popular before you head over and find out! The post also gives reasons to read the book, so you may get some good reading in.

Is the Bible’s Definition of Faith Opposed to Logic and Evidence?– In light of the recent debate between Boghossian and McGrew on “Is Faith a False Epistemology?” (see my summary and analysis here), I found this post extremely insightful. What does the Bible say about faith? What kind of definitions does it give? Check out this great post on these questions.

Aquinas’ First Way (image)– Be sure to zoom in on this one! It’s a pictorial way to look at the “First Way” of Aquinas to reason to the existence of God. I think there are a couple problems with the exposition, particularly in speaking of water as only potentially cooling, but it is a good, basic introduction. Check it out.

Did Jesus Ride Two Animals Into Jerusalem?– How might we reconcile apparent differences in reports over how Jesus rode into Jerusalem? Check out this post to read up on a few ways, alongside some analysis. It’s well worth the time spent!

Book Review: The New Perspective on Mary and Martha– Drawing from Luke 10:38-42, Mary and Martha are often seen as quintessential examples of how to focus on Christ. But what message do we often get about/from them? Is there a corrective for some of the wrong pictures we may have? This review gives some insight into these and other questions.

Really Recommended Posts 2/14/14- Rival theism, evidence for faith, apologetics, and more!

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneThe Winter Olympics are on and I am currently experiencing -7 wind chill… which feels warm compared to what we’ve had! Thus, we have an owl post edition of the Really Recommend Posts, which features another round of great reads from across the internet! This week, we peruse rival theism, reasons for apologetics, evidence for faith, and more!

A complex god with a god complex– Edward Feser here discusses some criticisms of classical theism from a rather unexpected avenue: a rival theistic system which does not hold that God is the simplest possible being, among other things. Rather than being an atheistic critique, this is a criticism from a variant on theism. Feser’s comments are insightful and interesting. He is a Thomistic philosopher who continually has extremely insightful thoughts. I’ve been reading through one of his books–The Last Superstition–and a post on a quote from it has spurred much discussion.

J. Warner Wallace: Why are you a Christian?– The importance of apologetics is brought poignantly to the forefront in J. Warner Wallace’s comments in this post. Wallace is the author of Cold-Case Christianity, a simply fantastic apologetics book, and his comments here offer a stirring call to instruction in the faith.

Okay, you’re right. There’s no evidence for faith– Tom Gilson has been at the forefront of responding to Peter Boghossian, the Atheist Tactician. Here, he continues his series of posts regarding Boghossian’s critique of faith in general. The comments are highly insightful.

The Legitimate Use of Thomas Aquinas in Apologetics– What might Thomas Aquinas have to instruct us in apologetics? Here a few major aspects of Aquinas’ continuing contributions to apologetics are discussed.

Gary Habermas- SALT 2013 (VIDEO)- Gary Habermas is a leading expert on Jesus’ Resurrection. Here is a speech he gave at last year’s SALT (Strategic Answers for Life’s Thoughts) conference.

Book Review: “On a Complex Theory of a Simple God” By Christopher Hughes

Christopher Hughes’ work, On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology (hereafter CTSG), is part of a series of books (on independent topics by different authors—meaning one can jump in on whichever book one wants) called the “Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion.” It is the first book in the series which I have read (though I have 5 more sitting on my shelf), but if it is any indicator of things to come, I highly recommend this series.

CTSG mostly focuses on Thomistic Philosophy, but it specifically highlights St. Thomas Aquinas’ arguments for Divine Simplicity and his discussions of the Trinity and the Incarnation. I must admit that initially I found it hard to maintain interest in this work. Thomistic Philosophy is by no means a specialty of mine, and I got the book mostly because I was vaguely interested in whether or not Divine Simplicity—that is, the idea that God is “omnino simplex”, altogether simple, and “in no way composite” (Hughes, 4). Hughes, however, manages to make a topic in which I displayed only a passing interest into a page-turner of a philosophical work.

Divine Simplicity was appealing for a few reasons. First, if God is composite in no way, then it seems as though many objections to the compatibility of properties of God—say, of omnipotence and omniscience—fail to be objections at all. For if God is absolutely simple, omnipotence just is omniscience (following the example) and vice versa, and if this is the case then to object that omniscience and omnipotence are incompatible would be to object that two things which are identical are incompatible. Aquinas holds to this very view. On Aquinas’ view, “His [God’s] existence is also His goodness, wisdom, justice, omnipotence, and so on” (22). Second, if God is perfectly simple, then it seems as though God as a hypothesis, if you will, increases in merit, granting Occam’s Razor. For, if God is absolutely simple, then to object to God’s existence as being too complex (as some do) is entirely specious, as God is not complex at all. Third, philosophical interest in Divine Simplicity had me longing to learn more about it.

Hughes’ analysis and critique of the arguments for Divine Simplicity are fantastic. His capabilities in discerning and detailing the complexities involved in Thomistic Philosophy are spectacular. It is his unbiased analysis, however, which most characterizes CTSG. Throughout pages 28-57, he destroys (in my opinion) Aquinas’ arguments for Divine Simplicity. Then, he argues that God cannot be identical to His insular attributes, which counters the argument in defense of Divine Simplicity that, roughly, ‘omnipotence and omniscience may appear to be different, but perfection of either quality shows that they are actually the same’ (60-68).

Yet despite his rather convincing arguments against Divine Simplicity as drawn out by most proponents, Hughes also outlines a possibility for a defense for that very idea. For if 1) God exists necessarily in the logical sense, and 2) if all things are contingent upon God’s existence (two premises Hughes disagrees with, but does not offer an argument to refute per se—instead he refers to Humean thinking as a reason not to accept 1)), then

“[b]y 2), any individual substance in world w distinct from B exists there only at the sufferance of B, and would not have existed if B had exercised its will in a way it might have. By 1), we know that there is an individual substance—the individual in our world which is (a) God—which exists in w, and does not exist at the sufferance of B, that is, could not have failed to exist through any possible exercise of B’s will. It follows that the  individual who is a God in our world is identical to B. Since B and w were chosen arbitrarily, we may conclude that nothing actual or possible could have the specific nature Deity without also being the very same individual as God. In other words, God’s individual essence is no different from His specific essence” (99).

This allows the defender of Divine Simplicity a “way out,” if you will. For she can hold that 1) and 2) are both true, and then argue (though, as Hughes notes, in “a flavor more Leibnizian than Thomistic” [100]) that God exists and his specific and individual essence must be identical. This allows for a modification of Divine Simplicity which avoids the downfalls Hughes points out in the other formulations.

Another fantastic section of Hughes’ work is his defense of omniscience. He suggests (following David Lewis) that omniscience can be defined as “X is omniscient if and only if X knowingly (that is, in such a way as to satisfy the conditions for knowledge) self-ascribes all and only those properties that X exemplifies” (126). This suggested definition of omniscience has much to recommend it. First, it clearly avoids any problems with the supposed incompatibility of a timeless deity and knowledge, thus allowing those who favor Divine Timelessness (such as myself) to have an adequate, defensible view of omniscience. Second, it allows for the compatibility of a timeless, changeless, and omniscient deity (127).

The rest of CTSG is made up of Hughes analyzing Aquinas’ view of the Trinity and the Incarnation. This covers approximately half the work, but I feel the need to sum up Hughes wonderful analysis simply by saying that it seems he has shown there are serious problems with Aquinas’ formulation of the Trinity, granting Aquinas’ presuppositions about identity, simplicity, etc., but it seems that Hughes “way out” for the defender of Divine Simplicity outlined above could potentially be a “way out” for those desiring to defend the Trinity and the Incarnation on a modified account. Hughes himself offers possibilities for defending each of these doctrines which may not necessarily require abandoning Simplicity (cf. 251-253 for one example). As it stands, however, it seems that Aquinas himself has not provided an adequate defense of the propositions he wishes to claim as “compossible.” Rather, defenders of Thomistic philosophy must turn outside of that realm–towards analytic or Liebniz–to reconcile those doctrines which Aquinas wishes to defend.

Hughes does a simply fantastic job of outlining Aquinas’ arguments, analyzing them, critiquing them, supplementing them, and then providing a final analysis. Hughes remains fair and, I would say, unbiased throughout his work. He allows for the possibilities that central theses of Aquinas’ “philosophical theology” are indeed correct, granting formulations Hughes himself does not share. I, however, do share many of the premises of those who can defend Divine Simplicity, and therefore continue to find it a “bruised, not beaten” doctrine. Hughes’ insightful work should command a place of care on any philosopher of religion’s bookshelf, as he has not only written a wonderfully compelling investigation into Aquinas’ philosophical theology, he has also contributed to modern Thomistic and analytic philosophy, but most of all he demonstrated a willingness to concede possibilities on the “other side” of the debate and a rigorous approach to analytic philosophy of religion which one can only hope will be emulated.

Source:

Hughes, Christopher. On a Complex Theory of a Simple God: An Investigation in Aquinas’ Philosophical Theology. Cornell University Press. 1989.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

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