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Vomit the Lukewarm
3/31/2005
 
On Loving Another In Themselves
(a post, I think, with something for everyone)


It seems that we love no person in themselves

Opening Argument

For nothing is loveable unless it is good,
but every good is a quality,
and every quality is distinct from the subject that has the quality.

But "person" is a name for a subject,
and the subject of something is the thing in itself.

Response:

"The thing in itself" can be taken in two ways. In one sense, it is the composite being which actually exists; in another sense, it is the principle of the composite thing that continues through various changes. Whichever of these meanings is more fundamental is a more fundamental account of the thing in itself. But a thing can be more fundamental in two ways: either because it is known to us first, and hence named by it first; or because it is a more perfect exemplar of the thing that is given the name. But we know "a thing in itself" first as a composite being which actually exists, therefore if the principle of this composite is more fundamental, it must be because it is a more perfect instance of that name "the thing in itself".

But the perfection of any principle is the thing it is a principle of, because this thing is the term of the principle, just as the term of the artist is an actual painting, the term of a letter of the alphabet is to be in an actual word, and the term of a seed is a mature tree. The principle of a composite person is, therefore, less perfect than the actual composite, and therefore this composite itself is a more perfect instance of "the thing in itself". But since the composite is a more perfect instance of "the thing in itself", and every composite has being through its parts, then the thing in itself has being through its parts. When one of these parts is the proper goodness of the thing, then the thing in itself is good by this, and it therefore is loveable in itself.

To the Opening Argument

I concede the objection inasmuch as it proves that "person" is a sort of "thing in itself", but I deny that this happens primarily by means of a subject as distinct from qualities. The primary meaning of "thing in itself" is a composite whole which has a subject and qualities as principles of its being.

Some Clarifications

When someone says "you don't love X, you love some quality of X, therefore you don't love it for what it is", in my experience, they mean four different things:

1.) They are confusing the primary sense of "what a thing is" (a composite of principles like subject and accident) with a secondary sense (substance as opposed to accident).

2.) A thing can either be loved in itself, or loved for the sake of something else, and we are capable of loving persons for the sake of something else.

3.) Whenever we love someone for something other than the proper goodness of a person as such, we do not love them in themselves, even if the good thing we love is a very intimite part of a person (their body, for instance).

4.) Sometimes the desire to be loved "for who we are" means "to be loved precisely inasmuch as one is a completely unique individual". When someone thinks this way, they will look at the whole argument above and say "So what if having the proper goodness of a person would make me loveable in myself? If someone else had that same proper goodness they would be just as loveable as me! I want a goodness that is totally my own, one that cannot exist outside of me, that did not exist before I existed, and will die as soon as I die!"

An unlikely wording, perhaps, but isn't this what the desire amounts to?

Taken in one way, this desire is completly perverse, that is, if it is a desire to be considered good persons simply because we exist. This is some coveting of what is proper alone to God- to be able to claim goodness simply in virtue of saying I AM.

But if we take the above desire in the sense that each person should seek a goodness that was unique to them, it is in one sense perverse and in another sense, beautiful. It is perverse if we see this unique goodness as being our highest goodness, and the one most excellent about us. But it is completly natural if we see this desire to be loved for what is incommunicable in us as a desire for a shared life with another person, for when we share our life with another person well, we really do become an incommunicable good to them. If someone is my first bride, no one else can ever hope to give this same very significant good to me; if someone has lived with me well for years, I cannot have those years lived out by anyone else. A friend only comes to be after we have shared our lives with them for a long time. A friend is completly incomminicable and unique- for what we have lived well with one person cannot be lived well again with another. We cannot change the past, nor replace the benefits that come from a life shared well with another.
 
3/30/2005
 
Short Reduction

If a person is primarily intellect then we would call a person good primarily because they have a good intellect.

The good of intellect is knowledge.

Therefore every knower would be a good person.

They are obviously not.

(for intellect, insert any of the other pop terms: consciousness, etc.)
 
 
Analogy, And Why Not Every Likeness is a Likeness of Genus, Species, or Number

Some words have more than one meaning. In fact, words tend to have more than one meaning as a rule. Every single word in this post so far has a multitude of meanings, and I would venture that far less than 1% of all the words on this blog have a single meaning. Even the relatively recent word "blog" is both a noun and a verb, and an adjective, like "a blog book" or "his thoughts were so blog" doesn't seem like it would take much to establish. When a word has many meanings that are in some way related to each other, we call the word "analogous".

Standardized spelling and context in a sentence has does a good deal to cut down the unrelated multiplications of meanings of words that sound the same: imagine if there were no set spellings of "seize", "seas" and "sees", or imagine if a man with a thick Chicago accent was trying to distinguish the meanings of "other" and "utter". Even with standardized spellings, some ambiguities still remain, like "seal" (the animal) and "seal" (the device or action of firmly enclosing) or "junk" (a Chinese boat) and "junk" (refuse).

Nevertheless, analogous words have diverse meanings which are in some way related. It is important to get the nature of the relation right. Take a word like "cold": it means first "the absence of heat"; but it comes to mean "a sort of disease"; "a dead end" (as in "the trail went cold") and "cruel" (as in "he gave me a cold stare"). In all these meanings, one can discern the common note of privation, since all the meanings in some way relate to a sort of lack. None of the meanings of "cold", however, is "a privation", neither is it the case that "privation" means "cold". Even if one of the meanings of "cold" was "privation", this meaning would still only be one meaning among many, and not some overarching meaning for all the meanings of the word "cold". Even though certain analogous words like "cold" have one common idea, they remain distinct from this common idea. The word "cold" does not really mean privation, it is rather the case that we are able to expand one meaning of the word cold to another meaning because we see a common idea of privation in it. This common idea is not a meaning of the term, except per accidens, but it is the basis upon which we can extend the meaning of the term.

Even when we find some common meaning between two meanings of a term, it is not necessary that there be some common idea between more than two meanings of a word. A can be similar to B, and B to C, but it does not follow from this that A is similar to C, because a thing B might have things similar to it in different ways. Something like this must have happened with the words "sharp" or "set", which have so many wildly different meanings it is impossible to come up with some likeness between them all. We cannot, however, abandon the idea that there might be some common idea merely from this fact. Say it is possible that the "B" we spoke of above has two ways that something can be similar to it, call them X and Y. Now A might be similar in virtue of X, and C might be similar in virtue of Y, but there seems to be no impediment to having some common likeness between X and Y (call it "Z"), and therefore A, B, and C could have a common idea in virtue of "Z".

But the only way that we could always hope to find some common general meaning between all the meanings of a word would be if there were always some genus common to all things. There is simply so such genus, for if there were such a genus of all things, nothing could be different from it, but if a genus admitted no differences, then nothing could be distinguished from it and so there could be no distinction in things. And so there must be more than one genus, and neither of these genera is reducible to another.

But even in the face of the irreducibility of genera, we still use analogous names, since even after we find that there are two genera that are irreducible, we still continue to call them each "a genus". This sort of analogous naming is helpful, even though it does admittedly put us at risk of confounding various irreducible genera together. If fact, unless we use "genus" as an analogous word, we lose even the ability to say "certain genera are irreducible to another".

But if certain genera are irreducible to another, then so also a fortiori certain species and number are so also. So will the terms which are in the various genera, even if, like the word genus, they are said of many irreducible genera. Some of the most important of these words are the ones that occur in all camps, like "truth", "goodness" "beauty" and "is".
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*In fact, "difference" as such would have to have no distiction from "sameness". Even if per impossibile such a highest genus existed, it would annihilate the possibility of human thought, for it would obiterate the real distinction between thoughts. We cannot help but also notice that the very reason this question of genus comes up is that one posits unity in diversity- so to annihilate diversity of things is to cut off the very branch one sits on.
 
3/29/2005
 
On Perennial Philosophy
(blogger ate the first one, and it took time to re-type)

I was recently asked to give an account of what I mean by "perennial philosophy", and in particular to say which authors are examples of perennial philosophy. My response here has three parts: 1.) an account of what it means to call a philosophy "perennial"; 2.) what the fundamental basis of this philosophy is; and 3.) What fundamental demand this philosophy makes of a person.

1.) "Perennial" denotes being long lasting, and as such it is a synonym of "sempiternal" and "everlasting". The etymology of the word, however, reveals several connotations that set the word apart from any of its synonyms. The word first means, in Latin, "lasting throughout the year (per+ annos)"; but it next becomes the name, in English, of a kind of flower bulb that blooms in an unusually large number of growing seasons. Though these two meanings are distinct, together they are a lovely teaching tool to explain what the perennial philosophy is. The perennial philosophy is made to last throughout many seasons, and it continually recurs even after it has vanished for a time. It does not, moreover, come back like weeds come back, but as a flower.

2.) Nothing is capable of being more sound and lasting than the foundation upon which it is built, and so the everlasting character of perennial philosophy requires an everlasting foundation. This everlasting foundation is formed by self evident propositions, and therefore the distinctive mark of perennial philosophy is a continual attention to the self evident, either by articulating it perfectly, or by meditating on it, or by firmly tethering all propositions to it.

By "self evident" I mean a proposition that is known as soon as all of its parts are known. Since we come to know things over time, and anything can be known more or less perfectly, we should not expect all self evident propositions to be known by everyone perfectly, or even by all at the same time. In some such propositions, we can expect the parts to be known by all almost immediately, like "the whole is greater than its part" or "some words have more than one meaning" or "nothing can both be and not be, (at the same time and in the same respect, etc.)". There are other self evident propositions whose parts can be known only after dialectic, clarification, and qualification have cleared away some of the underbrush that obscures the ability of the mind to see the parts of the proposition. There is not always a bright yellow line between these propositions and the first ones, since the same amount of dialectic etc. is not necessary to manifest them. In this camp of propositions are, in general, a whole raft of definitions that are essential to perennial philosophy: "material is what things are made out of" or "Every agent acts for an end" or "man is a rational animal"*. Besides these, there is another class of self evident propositions whose parts cannot be known except to the degree that we have good moral habits; like "the force of evil desires diminishes if they are resisted" or "Each kind of habit has its particular pleasure". Generally speaking, very little can be known abut morality except to one who is already living a moral life.

3.) Because perennial philosophy is founded on the self evident, but the self evident is not always known to us immediately, and because we come to understand philosophy most often through the teachings of someone else, this perennial philosophy requires that we follow some master with a reasonable trust. This condition of reasonable trust is called discipleship. A disciple is one who, on the basis of being shown certain truths that he knows are certain, trusts a master by always giving him the strong benefit of the doubt. By "strong benefit of the doubt" I mean that he will not disagree with his master unless he can appeal to something even more self evident than the master's teaching.

If it is objected that we should trust no one in philosophy, but only accept certain doctrines as we come to know them, I answer that this makes philosophy impossible. The truth of certain propositions can only manifest itself over time with meditation, and unless we trust certain masters, we will not put in the time to meditate on what they say, even if we end up disagreeing with it. We are simply incapable of pursuing something unless we see it as a good, and since we cannot always immediately see the proper goodness in what some philosopher says (in the case of philosophy, the proper goodness is truth), we must either be motivated to see it by the goodness found in trust, or not at all.

But where does one find this master that is worthy of discipleship? Here we reach the point where I must give either a very long defense, or a personal testimonial. I choose the personal testimonial. St. Thomas has never let me down in an argument, and I have always found that his arguments reduce to the self evident. And yes, when I speak of St. Thomas I also see him as a disciple of Aristotle, and Aristotle of Plato; and again yes, I accept both Charles DeKoninck and Marcus Berquist as faithful expositors of what both Aristotle and St. Thomas say. I am a disciple of all the men listed above, and their doctrine is, by my lights, perennial philosophy for all the reasons I have noted above. Since all of these men have gone on record as saying that they would deny anything in their philosophy if it contradicted something more known and certain (there again, the principle of contradiction) then I, as their disciple, make the same pronouncement also. All of us defer to the truth that is found in the nature of things, a truth which proceeds from the mind of God.
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*It was the genius of Socrates, and of Plato, that they saw dialectic as the essential starting point of any philosophy that would last, not because it was essential to the prove the starting point of a science (since no starting point, by definition, is capable of being proven- but rather because it was essential for us to see the starting point in the first place) . I see Plato's method as essential, so much so that if someone doesn't love Plato, they have next to no chance of ever being a philosopher.
 
3/24/2005
 
If Hume were A Pre- Socratic...
(a fictional thought experiment)

...The All is what man sees, and its copy.

...there is no seeing except in seeing, no hearing except in hearing, though madmen boast of this...

...I spoke to the madman above the city gates* "two boats met each other in a storm. How many oars were moving?"

_________________
*The place above the gates was reserved for the goddess Athena. The sentence gives no indication as to whether Hume, the madman, or both were in that place.



.
 
 
Intellectual Humility as A Categorical Imparative

A categorical imparative is a moral maxim whose denial involves contradiction.

1.) Intellectual humility involves giving primacy to the object (as opposed to the subject's ideas of it, formulations of it, opinions of it, or possession of it.)
2.) The good of the intellect is caused by goodness of the object it possesses (a man is not made good in this way, but an intellect is.)
3.) So the rejection of humility is the rejection of the primacy of what makes the intellect good.
4.) If we reject the primacy of one thing, something other becomes primary.
5.) the corruption of humility involves giving primacy to something non-primary.

In a shorter form:
The object is the primary cause of the intellect's goodness.
Humility is the acceptance of the primacy of an object.


 
 
Humility and Its Corruption

Everyone who has engaged in a few philosophical arguments realizes that intellectual pride and arrogance* are the most hateful corruptions of a philosopher, and that these are in some way the source of every evil that can afflict him. The opposite of these corruptions is humility. Now there are many good formal definitions of humility, but here are two of my favorite "working definitions" of humility:

"A humble philosopher lives by argument, and it doesn't matter to him whether you convince him or he convinces you"

Cf. Harvey Mansfield

"A humble man is one who could stand in a Cathedral that he had built, know that it is the most perfect cathedral that had ever been made, and still be no more or less happy than if someone else had built it"

Cf. C.S. Lewis

_____________________
*I don't see these two as separate corruptions. Pride is the defect in the soul, arrogance is the manifestation of this defect to others.
 
3/23/2005
 

(Revised Version)
On Those Who Believe That the Physical Sciences Reveal an Ugly and Irrational World


There is a certain group of people who believe that the physical sciences prove that the things we hold by common sense are of little or no value, or even that science itself necessarily involves the rejection of common sense. These persons divide into two groups:

1.) The popularizers of the physical sciences. These persons are as close as the nearest PBS nature or science program.

2.) Contemporary philosophers who use the physical sciences as proofs for broader philosophical doctrines.

The first group of people seem mainly interested in getting people interested in science, and they seem only to use the novel and the shocking because they do this. Even if a scientist has no desire to say shocking or revolutionary things, the popular media still promotes the bizarre and uncanny, because it wants news and programs that folks will buy. The second group of people, in addition to having all these motivations, also believes that the physical sciences prove that the world is fundamentally irrational, and/or that we have no truths that are self-evident and not subject to refutation. They believe that any proposition can be subject to upheaval and that anything that cannot be refuted is ipso facto scientifically worthless.

A few observations:

1.) If the modern philosopher claims to refute what he sees as common sense, he must do this by either appealing to something more known than common sense, or to something that is not more known. If he appeals to something more known, then he is in fact saying that we have an even greater knowledge of truth than the one called "common sense", and he in fact affirms the dignity of knowledge to an even greater degree. If the philosopher appeals to something less known than common sense, it is simply irrational to accept what he says, since no one would prefer an objectively less known thing to a more known thing.

2.) Scientific theories, as a rule*, harmonize more facts, they have greater simplicity, and a greater clarity. These three qualities are exactly what perennial philosophy calls the qualities of beauty. The physical sciences, then, advance nearer and nearer to the beautiful, not the ugly and irrational.

3.) Most of the philosophers that attempt to show the irrationality of the world shows no signs of understanding the first thing about philosophy. They show no desire for dialogue; but only for pontificating to a fawning audience. When they do speak, their terms are rarely defined, they begin from some random and uncontemplated starting point, and they ignore distinctions that took perennial philosophy hundreds of years to iron out. A short list of the missed distinctions are the ones drawn between equivocation and analogy, things and the second intentions of things, a thought experiment and a pointless riddle, symbols and words, the genesis of something and its nature, the particular as a particular and as an instance of a nature, art and science, prudence and art, the subject matter one science and another, act and potency, the per se and the per accidens etc. etc. etc. Trying to discuss philosophy with someone who willfully ignores these distinctions feels something like being lectured by an angry child who wants to get out of doing his homework. It is even more maddening that those who extrapolate an irrational world from the physical sciences show no sign of having meditated** on the popular and intelligible explanations of the physical sciences that were given by the scientists themselves. Arthur Eddington, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and a whole raft of others would be stunned to realize that someone thought that their theories proved theworld to be ugly and irrational. It is bad science and worse philosophy. But it is the sort of thing that will always make the news.

*It is true that later theories may involve more principles than earlier ones, but this is almost always offset by an enormous increase in the amount of things that are explained, and/or the clarity with which they are explained. This is simply to say what we mean by "a better theory". I only add that "better", in this case, means "more beautiful".
** In fact, one of the most profound defects of the above mentioned philosophers is that they show no sign of having meditated on anything. The reason for this is evident enough: what reason would a nihilist have for meditating on anything as vacuous and ugly as his own opinion of the universe? The effect of this is that they never gain any profound appreciation of the first principles from which all philosophy proceeds, but rather they dismiss these principles as hollow tautologies, and found their philosophy on anything: so long as they don't have to think about it for too long. They end up sounding like a guy who starts a story at any random point, skips to anything that crosses his mind, and then looses interest after two minutes of insulting his listeners.
 
3/21/2005
 
A Few Distinctions Between Art, History and Science

(n.b. Science, history and art are all treated per se here. In other words, every time I say, for example, "science" I mean "science as such" or "science qua science". I left out the qualification because it would become tiresome here.)

1.) Every science treats of what neither comes to be nor passes away, for science is the presence of a nature in the mind, every nature exists in the mind as a universal, and no universal comes to be or passes away, except per accidens.
1a.) History, by definition, treats of what has passed.

2.) Every art unqualifiedly attributes the existence of the object of art to the action of the artist- so much so that we can call the painting "Starry Night" "a Van Gogh".
2a) History does not unqualifiedly attribute the existence of the object of history to the action of the historian- we cannot call World War Two "a Churchill" or the Peloponnesian wars "a Thucydides".

3.) Science, art and history can proceed by method, i.e. they all can proceed according to certain most efficient ways to their object.
3a) Science and history have evidence as an essential part of their method, whereas art does not.

4.) Science seeks necessary causes.
4a) History seeks causes that are contingent.
4b) Art seeks no causes.

5.) History means both "history as past" and "history as the account of the past". We here speak of history in the second sense, and so history exists as in an actual, particular relation of history. The historian must be, therefore, in some way responsible for his subject matter, since his subject matter (again, in the second sense of history) consists in being accounted for.
5a) The subject matter of science, since it is the nature of the thing, does not exist in being accounted for. Science does admittedly consist in knowing something, but there is no thing X such that "science as X" is different from "science as an account of X".

6.) Science consists in an abstraction from particular cases
6a.) History and art do not exist as in an abstraction from particular cases.

7) The particulars in history are discerned.
7a.) The particulars of art are not discerned, but made.

8.) Right discernment is called "prudence", and prudence is a sort of wisdom, therefore history involves a sort of wisdom.
8a) Science also involves a sort of wisdom, but it is not a wisdom that involves discernment of a particular, but rather in the relation of all thins to universal causes.

9.) An artist becomes more perfect to the extent that he can execute his art without thinking.
9a.) A scientist does not become more perfect to the extent that he can proceed without thinking, in fact, his whole science exists as an ordered body of knowledge, i.e. of thought.

The denial of one or more of these distinctions is the cause of most of the philosophy that is characteristic of the last four hundred years. One can locate a philosophy pretty well by understanding what distinctions, if any, it makes between science, art, and history, or in a more general sense between:

Science: The universal knowledge grounded in a given object.
Prudence: The knowledge of a particular that is also grounded in a given object (there are a few distinctions here in all the words- since we must account for not only the very popular history which was dealt with here, but also for the other prudence based endevors like morality and politics and journalism.)
Art: The making of a particular object.
 
3/20/2005
 
Part XVI: The End.

I have considered many ways to treat of what should come next in this discussion of beatitude, but nothing I can write is adequate. The short list of ideas was:

1.) I considered an account of the beatific vision that radically negated all of our present knowledge in this life- at one time I considered putting it like this: if God had given us the senses of a bloodhound, we would speak of "the beatific scent". Although this seemed like one of the better ways I could express the force of "eye has not seen...", it was problematic (to say the least) and, of course, it sounded silly. Nevertheless, It is absolutely necessary to point out that when we speak of the beatific vision we are extending the meaning of the word vision so that it no longer means any experience we have with our bodily eyes- and yet we too often imagine the experience in terms of something seen this way, and we end up making "beatitude" banal. I sometimes fall into a rut of imagining the beatific vision as a bright light; or a static staring at God; or a frightful, unblinking stare that we must hold interminably.

2.) I considered an account of beatitude that focused on the definition of "eternity". The definition is notable for, again, being mostly characterized by negation.We can better contemplate beatitude by remembering what it is not.

3.) I considered a long discussion of the transcendentals: goodness, truth, beauty. I thought that by discussing these we would have the best bridge from the things we know in this world to the things we hope for in the next.

4.) I considered a long discussion about the resurrection of the body.

5.) I considered a sort of inward journey to God like the kind that Augustine relates that he had while discussing beatitude with his mother. The experience is recorded toward the end of the Confessions. This is a rapturous text. Read well, it will give almost anyone a mystical experience.

6.) I thought about a discussion of the hierarchy of beauty related in speech Socrates gives at the end of Plato's Symposium.

In the end, the ideas simply crowded each other out. There was also the fatigue of focusing on the same point for some five weeks. The whole series also either caused, or coincided with an all but total loss of generated comments, and it doesn't take long before total comment silence, like every prolonged silence, ends up playing tricks with your mind.

The most promising idea I had for ending these posts was the one that treated beatitude as the extension of our present experience of beauty. I would have borrowed most of my ideas from the philosopher who wrote this. The article linked to is moral philosophy, but the author has also won some recognition for his treatment of the question of beauty; a treatment which- since it was a well ordered and thorough exposition of perennial philosophy- was the last word on the "conflict" between art and science, mysticism an theology, Plato and Aristotle. His ideas, however, proved immune to the brevity that blogposting demands, since they were firmly grounded in many of the profound particulars of theology, both natural and revealed. But this man, at the conclusion of his own work, saw in one quotation a perfect expression of the relation between beauty and beatitude- and I think it best to end my discussion with that same quotation. The words of the quoted Author have the benefit of being both familiar to all, and of never losing their refulgence by repetition:

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.


Psalms 27 (26) v. 4
 
3/16/2005
 
Part XV: Summary of the Whole Argument

This series of posts began with an argument that denied the possibility of ultimate happiness in this life. If ultimate happiness is possible, then it requires that man both survive this life, and survive with some awareness. In order to establish that some part of man survives, we needed to establish that man is composed of a deathless part-which required that we first establish some things about matter.

This discussion allowed for a proof that God personally created that part of man by which he is alive. Having established this degree of divine intimacy with each human life, the argument turned to the other unities that every particular man has to God. These arguments were meant to show not only our total dependence on God, but also to give us confidence that God desires to share his own life with us.

The last of these arguments shows that man is unified to God by being a knower, and as such man lives in the world of immaterial persons, and desires a personal and eternal relationship with God. This union, however, is beyond man's power to attain, and so ultimate happiness for man becomes contingent on the goodwill of another- which we can be naturally confident of, but not naturally certain of. In order for man to have certainty of this goodwill, it was necessary that God reveal his own desire to grant man beatitude. The final posts concern the Incarnation as this revelation, and the way in which we are unified to the God Incarnate.

The final posts will concern the beatitude as such.
 
3/11/2005
 
Part XIV: The Gospel of Beatitude

The gospel* of beatitude is the bodily presence of Jesus Christ, who is both the promise of beatitude and the first born of all the blessed. From this first gospel, the Gospel- i.e. a written account of Christ's life- is made possible. Since human beings name things as they know them, and they know the written account of Christ first, the written accounts of Christ's life are the first things named Gospels. But it is obvious that the written accounts are secondary to the primary reality that they narrate- sc. God's taking of a human soul and body.

These written accounts of Christ's life, in addition to telling the story of Christ, also have marked similarities to Christ himself. Both the scriptures and the incarnation are revelations of God, manifestations of his inner life. Both are singularities: just as Christ is the only man who one can point to and say "he is God", so also the Gospels (and the sacred scriptures that relate to them) are the only books which one can point to and say "God wrote these". Both manifest mysterious instrumentality: just as the Incarnation involves God working through the instrumantality of a real human body and soul, the Bible involves God working through the instrumentality of real human authors.

Through the written Gospels, we are led to the awareness that the primary gospel- the body of Christ- is present to all men even now, and will be forever. This written gospel takes its name from being "the good news", but "news" has a hierarchy of meanings, and we are called to go from hearing the news of the event to seeing the event that is the news. The written accounts of Christ's life do not promise that we will always have written accounts of Christ's life, but they do promise that we will always have access to his body, for Christ himself commanded that we be in the presence of his body as a remembrance of him (Luke 22:19.) Our relation to Christ is not merely the relation of a reader to the subject of a book, but a relation to the very bodily presence of Christ. It is this body that is the fundamental gospel, the revelation of the good news that God desires to grant to man a beatitude he naturally desires but cannot naturally attain.

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*"Gospel", is a kind of news. "News" is one of those lovely English words with a pile of meanings going back to the fourteenth century. The primary sense in which I use it here is more recent (from the OED):

c. A person, thing, or place regarded as worthy of discussion or of
reporting by the media. Freq. to be news.

1912 R. KIPLING Diversity of Creatures (1917) 192 The great Baron
Reuter himself..flashed that letter in full to the front, back, and both
wings of this scene of our labours. For Huckley was News. 1946 E. WAUGH When Going was Good v. 260 Abyssinia was News.
Everyone with any claims to African experience was cashing in. 1965 Listener 23 Sept. 452/2 The reading boom..has made
poets news, and it has made them think about being news. 1974 V. GIELGUD In Such a Night vii. 58, I am not what is
commonly called ‘news’. But..my wife is ‘news’ in the biggest possible
way.

I would include some less documented cases that may be more familiar to our
contemporary ear, like "Journalists with integrity don't make the
news, they report it."


 
3/08/2005
 
Part XIII: That The Incarnation Is Necessary for Beatitude.

The Incarnation inasmuch as it relates to the present discussion of beatitude is God's taking of a human body and a human soul, that, through the instrumentality of the same, he might manifest to man his desire to completely share his life with every single human being. This Incarnate God, Jesus, is the first of all men to enjoy the beatitude that man seeks by nature but lacks the power to attain, and so it is through him first that we hope to attain beatitude.

This man Jesus is both the promise and fulfillment of human beatitude. He is the promise because through him we first see that God desires to share his life with men, and he is the fulfillment of human beatitude because he is the first of all men to actually enjoy the beatitude. Because beatitude is the ultimate end for man, and it is from the end that anything derives it's reason for existence, then, without Christ man has no reason to exist. This is one reason why this man Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and that all things were created through him and for him.

Again, Jesus Christ is himself God and the revelation of God's desire to fulfill the natural purpose of human life. It is Christ himself that is the Gospel- the good news that human life has a reason to exist. Without the Gospel that is Jesus Christ, there is no other Gospel, and it is only to the extent that Christ himself is present to us that the Gospel can be present to us also. But since God's first Gospel and revelation is nothing other manifestation of himself through his body, and since God wished to make this revelation known in all nations, even to the end of the world, it follows that God's very revelation of man's beatitude is the body of Christ- even to this day.
 
3/05/2005
 
Part XII: On The Faith Necessary for Beatitude

We hope for things that we desire and have no power to attain, so man by nature hopes for God to perform the action in which his beatitude consists. He waits for God to reveal himself in such a way that he might have a new hope- namely the confident expectation of beatitude based upon an acceptance of God's revelation that he desires to share his life with man. This revelation- since it would be nothing other than a revealing of the inner plan and desire of God, hidden from all creation- if it exits, requires faith, or rather the very acceptance of the revelation in this life is faith. We do not know that God desires to grant himself to us, that we might satisfy our irrevocable and congenital desire for union with the highest good. We do not know this because it does not follow of necessity from any premise, nor is it necessary in itself; it comes rather from the free choice of God himself. If he has chosen to grant this, our life has some purpose; if he has not chosen to grant this, there is no standard by which we can accuse God of dealing wrongly with us. We are the subjects and servants of God simply and always, in this life or any other. We are his lovers- if we are- only through accepting by faith God's revelation of his own love for us.
 
3/04/2005
 
Part XI: That Natural Desire Seeks What is Beyond Natural Power.


Read here

and here

(And secondly)

Man has a natural desire for what he cannot naturally attain. He can know that there is a greatest good, but he cannot naturally lay claim to it; he can know that this greatest good is an intelligent being, and yet no intelligent being can be forced to befriend a man; and further, since this greatest good is also the highest ruler, no man can appeal to some higher law if he feels the greatest good has wronged him*. Every accusation or disdain for God reduces to a disgust that he made us the way he did- said another way, all disdain for God is founded on self loathing.

Again, man naturally desires an absolute uncreated mystery, which he understands through creatures. At times, man understands God by negating something of creatures (as when he calls God immaterial, unmoved, etc) at other times, man understands God by seeing a created thing in relation to him (as when we call God first cause, or creator) and at other times we extend the meaning of a term that applies to creatures in order to apply it to God. But at no time can our reason look to any creature and see something that exists in God. We see intelligence, but intelligence is not in God like that, we see existence, but existence is not in God like that, we even see love, but love is not in God like that. The intelligence of man is certainly able to say true things about God- both in affirming and negating- and yet one of the most fundamental of these is that God is the absolute uncreated mystery.

But if man naturally desires what he cannot naturally attain, both because he simply cannot demand the friendship of anyone, and because by his created natural powers he cannot overcome the whole infinite distance that separates the contingent and relative from the absolute; then, again, it remains for him only to hope that God himself will overcome the whole vast distance between himself and man, and join himself to man. Before this union happens we can only, like all lovers, hope for it. So long as we love God so, we will also hope, but both our love and our hope rest-for now- on faith.

______________________________
* The argument from evil, whenever it has any emotional force, involves a claim that God is being unjust or immoral in his relations to man. I have no idea what this could possibly mean. Looking for some standard by which to judge God is like looking for the part of a book beyond the cover, or a part of a steeple above the cross. We cannot deny God out of some claim that he is immoral or unjust, since every immoral being is under an authority, and is therefore neither the first authority nor divine.
 
3/02/2005
 
On Beatitude Part X: What is Necessary for Human Beatitude

When we say that the creature has an absolute dependence, "creature" means anything that has being, not simply substances, but any part of a substance, any action of the substance, and anything that relates to substance. We oppose "creature" to both God and non-being. When we call God a creator, we can mean both that he made what was different from himself, and other, and that he made something opposed to non-being, and in this sense like himself.

The creature, then, is opposed in different ways to the creator and to non being. It stands opposed to the creator because it has no source of existence from itself (and in this sense it is in itself non-being); but it stands opposed to non-being because it has existence. The creature can also be said to have a likeness to both the creator and to non-being, for it both is and yet is nothing in itself.

The creature is infinitely removed from both non-being and the creator. No creature can be non-being, nor can it be the creator, and "to become" either would amount to annihilation of itself. In this sense, every creature- every man, angel, mind, thought- is infinitely far from God. Yet in another sense, every man, angel, thought and being has a sort of likeness to God, and one may certainly have more of a likeness than another, though all creatures- again- are infinitely removed from the divinity.

But if every creature is infinitely removed from God, then what of the knowing creature's desire for friendship with God himself, a desire that cannot be extracted from the knower (part IX)? What are the consequences of creating something with a desire for something that it is infinitely removed from, and therefore has no ability to attain by itself? Friendship can only be proportionate to intimacy, but every creature is of itself infinitely removed from God. This infinite distance cannot be crossed by a creature any more than a creature can cross the infinite distance between non-being and being, for the creature cannot create. And yet that creatures exist at all proves that God in fact does, by his own power, overcome the infinite distance between non-being and being by his act of creation. This leaves open the possibility that God himself could cross the infinite distance between creature and creator. If this crossing as not happened, or will not happen, then human life is futile and frustrated; with neither an attainable purpose, nor the hope of one.
 
Traditio aut Vanitas

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