Vomit the Lukewarm
A man is either a disciple, or he takes up books at random.
Our analogies for God are based on negation and excellence. Negation is the more primary way in this life: hence mystical theology.
Jottings on Prayer
-One of the more haunting passages in scripture is Genesis 4: 6-8. God speaks to Cain to encourage him, for Cain is depressed and sullen on account of his envy. Though God speaks to Cain as intimately as anyone in Scripture- even seemingly face to face- Cain makes no response, but rather turns and kills his own brother.
-I suspect that the most universal regret of those who have just died is that they did not pray more. The goal is "pray always", but I doubt whether even very religious people spend one hundredth part of their waking life in prayer.
-Christ "went out to pray". Who has ever "went" somewhere to pray? As though they planned on it, looked foreword to it, and treated it as though it were as much a part of their life as, say, watching a television program?
-"Our conversation is in heaven"
-The traditional account of prayer, given by Damescene, is "the lifting up of the heart to God, and the asking of fitting things of him."
The instictive disposition of people these days, whenever confronted with something they find odd in the thought of some great mind, is to see the thought as a necessary result of the author's times; in such a way as to see it as not rational.
No one takes criticism as well as the dead. For some reason, they never object or defend themselves.
-We call something material because we can make something out of it. Material, then, first exits in relation to another which it is not. When the material is made into something, it still has a certain "otherness" yet it is undoubtedly a part of the thing as well. For example, we call wood "material" inasmuch as we can make something out of it- say, a floor- but when the floor is made, the floor is wooden.
And yet the wooden floor doesn't exaust all the things that the boards can be- the boards still have a relation to another, to which they are material. How many other things can floorboards be? There is not a finite number of answers to this.
-When I give some determination to material, I make some composite thing of the material and the determination. ". Making a piece of art, involves giving material another, which it receives to make a composite. In a word, art involves matter becoming another, as a composite.
In knowledge, we also take on a determination of another- but not in such a way that it makes some third thing, a composite. For this reason, we say that the necessary and sufficient condition of knowledge is immateriality. Knowledge involves being another, as the other, as opposed to forming a composite with it.
Errors That Are Agreed Upon by both the ID Movement and the Persons Who Oppose Them
1.) The word "science" only means one thing, or at least it only means one thing for the study of living things.
2.) All things that happen by chance are wholly undirected by intelligence. Said another way, both sides agree that if God exists, either the universe must be either wholly determined, or partially out of his control.
3.) One can only attain rational certainty of something, based on observation of the external world, from hypothetical-experimental methods.
4.) Love of God endangers one's objectivity (notice how often ID'ers will insist that they are not interested in proving God's existence at all- notice how fearful they are that they might be perceived as having theological motivations
Modern physics begins with Newton's first law of motion, sc. that an object will persevere in a state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. There are a thousand different things to notice about the law; one of the most significant is that the law is founded upon the fact that modern physics will only concern itself with things inasmuch as they are measured. We can see this in Newton speaking indifferently about "the state of uniform motion" and "the state of rest". The two are viewed indifferently because the two give equal measurements to one resting, or one moving in a uniform straight line
. It is also true that the two feel
the same, but this makes no difference, except inasmuch as it affects the reading on a measurement device (physics is not about how motion feels
This is one aspect of modern physics that has stayed constant even after relativity theory; for example, if gravity and inertial motion admit if the same numerical measurements, they are viewed as the same, just as electricity and magnatism are regarded as the same, because they travel at the same speed.
Rules of Definition
1.) Because definitions are clear articulations of what a word means, which relate to the word itself only as more distinct to less distinct;
a.) the definition cannot use the word being defined
b.) it cannot use words less known than the word defined
c.) definition cannot use metaphor.
d.) the definition must be brief.
e.) the definition must be convertable with the word defined
2.) Because a definition is a clear articulation of the "what" or essence of a thing;
a.) It must contain the genus and species of the thing, for these correspond to the what of a thing.
b.) It must not be negative if possible
, for negations do not explain what a thing is.
No unconscious person has ever thought "I am unconscious right now". Even if they did, they would only do so in virtue of some memory they retained from the waking world. This is a sign of why knowledge, the being in act of other as other, is prior to consciousness, which is the awareness in act of the self as self.
Objection: "awareness of self as self" is not consciousness, but self- consciousness. Actual consciousness is the principle of this, or simply the awareness.
I distinguish: If by "awareness" one means the possession, or being, of other as other, then this is what we call knowledge, and so knowledge becomes the principle of self-consciousness, and knowledge and consciousness mean the same thing. Yet there is a manifest difference between the word "consciousness" and knowledge. Knowledge cannot precind from a consideration of true and false, consciousness attempts to derive
truth and falsity.
If by awareness one means the known thing as possessed, but not as objective: i.e. "I sense red" but not the claim that the object is red, then "conscioussness" is different from knowledge only when knowledge is viewed as judgment
, but not as being an other as other.
In general, the contemporary shift to considerations of "consciousness" in epistmological debates destroy the connection between the first principle of "awareness", which is knowledge, not consciousness. Knowledge gets lost, and the consideration turns from whether something is true or false, to what various people think. We stop thinking about what is true, and we start thinking about how Chinamen and Mexicans think differently.
On Reading over What I've Written.
Whatever I've said that is philosophical, is either part of the tradition or vanity.
Morality is self- control. When morality is lost, the sense of self-control will be lost too. For this reason, immoral and amoral ways of thought lead to a sense of powerlessness: we start teaching sex-ed because it is "inevitable" that they will do it; we insist that we need to do stem-cell research because scientists "are going to do it anyway".
Objections to Sertillanges
1.) All things are composed of matter and form
We know through the possession of only the form of another
We do not know the thing, but only a part of it.
We know the form separate without reference to matter or the composite, I deny
We know the form in necessary reference to the matter and composite in natural things, I concede
What is known differs from that by which the thing is known.
2.) Two things become one only by the formal destruction of both.
knowledge does not destroy either the thing nor the idea
Knowledge is not the possession of the form of another.
Two things that become one in substance destroy one another, I concede
Two things that become one in act, I deny
The union-knowledge- is a perfection of the knower, and so the union is not a union causing substantial change, but the accidental change of added perfection.
Two things that become one which both are the act of a material composite, I concede
Two things, one of which is not the act of some material composite, I deny.
Material union is not sufficient to account for the perfection of knowledge. Sensation is different from eating, and the object of the intellect is not able to become other- making it by definition immaterial.
Sertillanges Gets it Perfectly
Outside God and ourselves an idea is a thing, while a thing, in us and in God, is an idea. At this stage, this will serve as a reasonably accurate resume ofThomism.Foundations of Thomistic Philosophy
Dialectically, most most people admit that the alternative to the life of virtue is the life of pleasure. The account given of the life of pleasure is very protean, and what it means first- sheer carnal hedonism- bears little resemblence to later accounts of it- e.g. utilitarianism.
One dialectical point, though- the life of pleasure, in its root form, is a lifethat tends to be advocated primarily by unmarried young men. Women can have,at best, a jaundiced look at hedonism: one man's pleasure
tends to mean another woman's use
Things are morally evil because they harm us, and if they did not, they would not be evil.
God hates moral evil because it is contrary to the good of man.
A stubborn child will believe his own lies, unshakeably and instantly.
Be silent before the irrational: let it only hear its own voice.
A Wise man knows nothing compared to God, but the fool knows nothing compared to a child.
The fool believes he is the first to be a man, but the wise man knows his life was lived before.
A violent wind might uproot many trees, but a steady wind will scatter many seeds.
The fool will live his life in future years, but the wise man will hold his life a sum of days.
I.) Glory is given to another in two ways:
a.) by objectively manifesting the goodness of another (in a preeminent way),
b.) By actively manifesting the goodness of another by praising them (in a pre-eminent way).
The second kind is the more proper and perfect sense of giving glory.
II.) M.) Every nature that is ordered to another as a good manifests the goodness of that other.
m.) To be natural means to be ordered to God.
To be natural means to be ordered to glorifying God.
man, however, can glorify God in a more proper and perfect sense, he therefore is has a greater nature than other things that cannot so glorify.
III.) Both intellect and will manifest the goodness of God to the extent that they are one with the divinity himself.
By nature, man can only have a natural unity to the divine nature.
IV) By Nature, man can know that he has no perfection of his natural powers except in union with God, but he cannot know:
-Whether this union gets any better than the sort of union he can have now, by praising God with his mouth, and knowing him by his natural means of negation, causality, and analogy.
-Whether this union will get any better in the next life.
-Whether his union with God will ever be a union of friendship. After all, who can force anyone to be their friend? Who could blame God if he denied us his friendship?
Conclusion: Man by nature exists to glorify God through his powers. These powers can are therfore perfected to the extent that they have a union with God, and so manifest his goodness. But man cannot know by nature if this union will rise above the one he presently has by nature. Man, in other words, can naturally know that we are ordered to union with God as a final end, but not the union of the beatific vision, or the seeing of God in a way that exceeds the way we can presently see God by analogy, causality, and- and this way is primary- negation.
Last Word On Idealism vs. Realism.
(a selection from "Hegel's Dialectic and the Motion of Motion" By James Donaldson, some edits added)
The origin of [Hegel's] dialectic is really quite simple. It is merely a matter of following out the particular theory of abstraction which results when we posit that the thing in itself, or primary substance is unknowable. Its difference from Aristotle on this point is profound in many ways.
First, Aristotle does not deny our knowledge of things, and hence the knowledge we have of them, though partial and incomplete in itself, can be used to signify the whole as existing in reality. In this manner, for Aristotle, the enunciation depends for its unity not on the abstract, formal unity of the concept, but on the real underlying unity of the thing in reality. This is why Aristotle distinguishes between the modus rei
, and the modus rei ut cognita
(the thing known from the thing inasmuch as it is known) . The thing as existing in reality is composed of integral parts, but the parts of the thing as existing in the mind are concepts which are knowledge of the whole thing
, although separately taken they only give a partial knowledge of the thing explicitly. Thus the whole as known through one
partial concept can be combined with the whole known through another
For Hegel, however, the correspondence between our partial knowledge and the whole thing in reality is denied, and our concepts are all taken as integral parts. And so for Hegel the the distinction between the thing in reality and as known falls down, and the mode of the thing existing in reality and in the mind are equated. The thing in reality is exactly as it is known. Hence, mental composition, like material composition, is of integral parts joined by the copula "is". Of course, a concrete enunciation involving a difference between subject and predicate immediately involves a most resounding contradiction (ed. note: one part can never be said of another, e.g. "a hand is a foot")...
Hence Hegel holds that there is a contradiction involved in in every sentence in which there is the least difference between the subject and the predicate, and he pushes his his point to say that even the enunciation of the sentence "A is A" involves a contradiction, because "A" as a subject is different from "A" as a predicate.
Why is there Something Rather than Nothing?
This question only has meaning for things that do not exist by definition. If we posit or prove the existence of a being whose very definition is to exist, it is meaningless to talk about why such a being exists- it would be like asking why triangles have three sides, or why an angle less than a right is acute rather than obtuse.
The question implicity limits the extension of "something" to those beings who do not exist by definition. These beings are called creatures.
I think the question is profound, but I don't ever seem to have the same idea of what "profound" means as the Philosophers I tend to converse with. Most of them seem to think that "profound" means "unanswerable". This has never been my experience. The profoundest things are usually the simplest things; the words we all know and use a thousand times a day. Something isn't profound because you can never find a reason for it- this is more typical of irrational and silly things. A question is profound because you can contemplate the answer forever, and always find new things to it. It is a sham profundity that can never begin to know- the true profundity is the kind that never ceases to know something new.
-Love, generically, involves willing to give some good to another. In the kind we are most familiar with, we give good to others because we see them as good. In a rarer case, we will to give good to others even when they are not good, and this kind of love is called mercy.
-Even very solid modern philosophers are corrupted by the modern academy's habit of babbling on forever. For the ancients, the emphasis was always relative brevity. Look at any modern bible scholar writing a life of Christ. One chapter will be longer than any two of the gospels put together. Most everything Aristotle says about the intellect could be written on probably twenty folio pages. Thomas Aquinas proves God's existence several times in- what- 750 words? Thales and Democritus still mean something today, and you could write everything that remains of them on a notecard.
The universe of the minds is more real than the cosmos. This world is as a cloud put next to it. This world, typified by its essential homogeneity of extension and duration, by its comparative undifferentiation, un-uniqueness, by the nothingness that all things are mixed with and resolve to. ..
We are the composite of being and nothing, prone to think that the Trinity is a contradiction. But we are infinitely more like contradiction than the Trinity. We imagine heaven as clouds. But it is the cosmos that is a cloud- mutable, temporary, homogeneous, uniform, subject to chance, full of formlessness and void, giving no light of its own, but only visible in the light of another.
DeKoninck for Memorization:...And if we do not seem able to follow the Angelic Doctor, is it not because we have excluded from the universe the efficient and sufficient cause moving the cosmos and pushing it upwards? Our timerous attitude is only too easily explained. Since Suarez we have resolutely put a plug on the world's top side: we wish to explain everything in nature by means of intracosmic causes. Suarez, in denying the apodictic value of the arguments presented by saint Thomas for demonstrating on strictly rational lines the existence of pure spirits, cut every essential link between the cosmos and the created spiritual universe. Let us add to that his hybrid notion of prime matter, and we arrive logically at the barbarous creationism of our philosophy manuals. It is obvious that if we sterilize the world from its outset, nothing more can come forth. Creationism, which from all angles opens the world directly on God, passing to one side of the universal hierarchy, implicitly rejects what is essential to the universe: unity of order.
Univocism (as opposed to the doctrine of analogy)
(some parts here are hypothetical- I wouldn't stand by all of them)
If being were only one thing with one account, then all science would be mathematical science. The reason is because science must begin with what is most known, the most known thing is the root of any respective science, and the most known science is mathematics. Neither is it an objection to distinguish what is most knowable to us, and what is knowable in itself, for in mathematics they are the same.
It is also the case that when science is seen as essentially mathematical it propounds a single method for all sciences; as is seen in the modern insistence that there is only one scientific method. This position reduces to the univocism of Duns Scotus, but it was made mediocre, but popular, by Descartes.
Now it is the case that the science that calls itself modern is mathematical, yet there is another element: the world that it applies it mathematics to. But this world- in the eyes of one who believes in univocism
- is viewed as being essentially receptive of mathematics- the world becomes pure potential for the mathematical form.
Sooner or later mathematics will be unable to bear the weight that formerly rested on metaphysics. At this point, mathematics itself will collape under its own groundlessness, and become a mere extension of logic- logic now understood as an art that follows intrinsically arbitrary rules governing unknowable objects. At this point, all fades into silence.
One not on that silence, for it is present even now. For example, it is very common to see people who are very talented at math go up to some monsterous eqation, and with a few flicks of a pen, a very simple equation falls out with a simple answer. Whenever they are asked how they did it, they usually begin their explanation by saying "you just..." and then there are a few prefunctory pieces of jargon, and a general confusion as to why anyone can't grasp the thing they are doing. This is what happens when something that is essentially scientific and
artistic becomes wholly artistic.
The Principle of Efficient Causality.
The principle of efficient causality speaks to the unity of a thing with its efficient cause. Three properties describe an efficient cause:
a.) It is exterior, as opposed to being an intrinsic part of the thing being caused, like its parts or its definition.
b.) It is active, as opposed being passive.
c.) It possesses the thing it it confers before the being that receives it. This priority is sometimes temporal, and always causal. This possession is must be an intrinsic one, for if not the agent cause is a mere instrument of some other agent, and requires that agent.
And so there are several ways to articulate the principle of causality:
1.) Everything that does not have some property intrinsically receives that property from something containing it intrinsically.
2.) What does not come forth from the nature of a thing, if it is possessed, comes forth from the nature of another thing.
3.) All that does not inhere in something in virtue of itself, inheres in it by participation. See here
for one of the great "I never knew/ forgot that that was there" moments you get from reading books.
At times, the principle of efficient causality can seem almost indistinguishable from the principle of exemplar causality/ finality. Both are put in the language of participation.
The Man That Was Not Created
It is very common to view the relation between nature and grace, or reason and revelation, as separate and autonomous. When we say "grace builds on nature"; or "nature is redeemed by grace" it is easy to get the idea that man is born in a natural state, or even a state of wounded nature, and grace is added to that. There is some truth to this, but there is a danger we need to avoid in this account too.
The danger might best be seen by thinking about a man that was never created: natural man. This man would be subject to death, and pain, and the tension between what his senses told him was good, and what his intellect told him was good. These privations would be consequent to his nature.
But such a man was never created. Instead, a being was created in a state of supernatural elevation, bearing a nature that was intrinsically ordered to a supernatural life, dependent on supernatural gifts. The gifts were lost, and so death, pain and concupiscence were experienced not merely as Consequent (per accidens) to his nature, but as punishments
. We are born not simply as a nature, or even as a nature that lacks a natural good
, but as a nature that lacks a supernatural
good that it was created to have. To give an example, the purely "natural man" who was never created would have been like a peasant, who grace could freely make a king. We are like a king who through folly lost his whole kingdom. We are not simply born in a lower class (like any peasant) we are born dethroned and disgraced
. A peasant has a chance of enjoying his life simply as it is, but a dethroned king must always experience his life as something degraded, lower, and lacking his due dignity.
Purely natural man could still have faith, and he could still be granted beatitude. But he would not need revelation of the supernatural in order to understand his own innermost life-dare we say, his nature
- in the same way that the disgraced supernatural man needs revelation in order to understand himself, in the way he comes forth from the womb and walks through life.
Effects of Television
1.) Television lets us see things far off, and makes us feel as though we have a connection with them. This leads to a greater sense of connection with people far off. This greater sense of connection necessarily imples a greater sense of responsibility for things far off.
2.) Television gives us a sense of actually being present at a certain place, when in fact we are observing it from a safe distace, apart from the reality of the situation.
3.) Television makes it possible for people to endure life without having to talk to their neighbours.
4.) Television consumes someone's daily leisure time in hour-long bites. How many hours of daily leisure time do we get?
5.) One of the original hopes for television is that it could bring culture into every home. Perhaps that's exactly what it did.
6.) The visual image on television is ordered to having someone make a final decision on an event after the first look.
7.) Television is ordered to the tastes of the multitude. The tastes of the multitude used to be called "vulgar". We still believe something similar to this, for we all have some sense that becoming popular is connected with "selling out" or becoming less authentic. Certainly there must be some
truth to this. Who, after all, would dare to suggest that the most popular art of a culture was always, or even usually, its best art?
8.) Television is ordered to presenting a set of irregular and unusual images on a regular schedule. This makes unusual events seem more common.
9.) Television over stimulates the eyes, leaving us with an underproportioned access to the world through hearing, smell, touch, and taste.
How do We Miss this Stuff in Scripture?Psalms 17:15
The wicked have their repayment 'in this life", but the Psalmist is content that "he shall awake" with the "likeness [of God]". This is the beatific vision.
In case I ever were asked...
The greatest passage in all literature is- and the competition here is very steep-Confessions, Book Nine, Chapter Ten
The passage narrates a conversation that Augustine had with his mother several days before his mother caught an acute sickness and died. The best account I've ever heard of the passage came from a very holy monk, who said quite matter- of- factly: "If you read this passage, you will have a mystical experience".
-I try to read a book as though I was reading something that I wrote myself. It's a good trick. I'll find myself saying all the time "why did I say that"? and "If I said that, I must believe that..."
-Imaginative definitions are worse than metaphors.
"So Hegel's whole critique of Christianity is based on the fact that Christ is dead?"
Okay, so you don't want to speak for Hegel; but is it fair to say that Christ is the same sort of person as George Washington or Lincoln, even if he is given as human and divine
, a historical figure who is no longer present?
After two hundred years of this, it's getting kind of old.
The question "who do you say that I am
" is perennial. Christ will not allow us anything short of asserting that he is physically, visibly, and actually present in the world now. Every other position will eventually degrade into emotivism, mythological beliefs, forgettable rationalism, and an insipid Christianity. Christianity has asserted this from the first: "If Christ is not raised, your faith is in vain, and you are still in your sins".
Meditation on Mercy
To be merciful is to give some good when it is not deserved, or to withold some harm when it is deserved. Every person gets many opportunities to be merciful: when five year old boy gets kicked by his sister (and let's assume that she really does start it for no reason)
he has a choice to keep silent, to say " I love you anyway", to heartily forgive his sister at that moment, even to say "you have struck me without cause, but I choose to pray for you". If anyone saw the child do this of his own free will, they would be overwhelmed by the majesty of the child's soul, by his nobility... they would reckon the child as a great souled person, more worthy of esteem than even many great adults... We would seek counsel from that child in how to deal with our lives...
But then again, we know what a child will do if it gets kicked for no reason- good grief, we've been
that child, and we've been him for years
On the Summa Theologicae
Going into the Summa is like going to a very large and energetic city. You could spend a long time simply getting to know the well known tourist spots, and there are no limits to the number of new places you can find after all that. You could spend a whole lifetime there and never feel like you needed to move elsewhere. In fact, the more time you enjoy spending there, the less you feel like leaving- and you begin to develop a pride over being "a local".
The Summa, like an energetic city, has been visited by many people, and it will continue to receive a wave of tourists every year: eighteen year old kids that are forced to read the five ways in a college "core" class; college professors who are trying to work out some ethical question; editors who spin out a continuous stream of books titled "An Introduction to St. Thomas", etc. There is also a whole neighbourhood of locals: thousands of nameless monks; a few well-known citizens; a sprinkling of grad students; and a few folks seeking permanent residence.
What sense does it make to complain that the Summa is "too logical"? This is like complaining that the streets of Manhattan are too logical. What sense does it make to fear that you would loose your individuality as a scholar if you spent your whole life in the Summa? This is like thinking there's more to see in the suburb than in the city.
Thoughts on Tradition
All original doctrines are bad. If there are supposed exceptions to this, I don't bother with them, since I have a lifetime of work to do just figuring out the things that are rock solid in the tradition.
Love the tradition first out of a sense of Piety to the ancestors, and secondly, and primarily, out of a love for the truth which can only be found in discipleship to the tradition.
The immediate question: "how do I find the tradition?" The surest way is to take the common philosophical points of agreement between Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas. After I understand these things, I'll move on to the commentators who are often as profound as those they comment on: Plotinus, Proclus, Porphery, Simplicius, Ammonius, Origin, Albert the Great, Cajetan, Banez, John of St. Thomas, etc. and others who clearly show that they don't want to express themselves, but only want to express the thoughts of the tradition.
Any pleasure one takes in forming some new doctrine will fade in a week, and the look of his innovation will soon disgust him with its pettiness.
Krasis was a word first used by Greek physicians to describe the interpenetration of two elements into a unity. The idea is preserved in our English word "solution" as opposed to "mixture".
The transformation of krasis is very manifest in eating. When I eat something and it gets turned into, say, muscle, the thing I eat goes from being a dead thing to being a living thing. Some common element at least facilitates this change: the ancients tought it was fire or air, we reckon it to be certain atoms and molecules.
The dispute (or confusion) in any theory of the elements has to do with whether one affirms or denies krasis. The common belief among the early ancients was that there was no krasis of the elements- that if something were made of fire and earth, then its whole being was nothing other than fire and earth. There may have seemed like there was something different, but in fact there was no single compound at all. Just as tiny white sqares next to tiny black sqares will seem gray, so different elements next to each other will seem like a different, third thing, but in fact there is no difference except one that is due to the weakness of our sensation. Democritus sums up this point of view with great clarity "you can't make two out of one, or one out of two". If you have hydrogen and oxygen, in other words, you will always really have these two things, never some one thing, say, water.
On such a view, there is no way to preserve an essential difference between a living thing and a non-living thing.
One also loses the ability to distinguish between nature and art, except in the elements themselves, which are now the only things that can be viewed as natural.
Material exists as what can be something else. By defining nature as nothing other than its material, we make it nothing other than what can be something else. But what can be only exist in this way because it has reference to something actual. And so if we deny that there is anything actual in nature, we must deny its potency also.