Vomit the Lukewarm
Scripture and Gambling
To my knowledge, there is no direct reference to the morality of gambling in scripture. Something like gambling, is alluded to: "and for his vesture they cast lots
*", but never is there a clear condemnation of the act, nor even a clear instance of it.
It is difficult to isolate what one means by "the morality of gambling". It is obvious that it can be wrong per acciden
s- if someone were to, say, waste all their substance on it. It also seems pretty undisputed that gambling can be right under various conditions, like playing bingo to support the nuns. One can neither condemn games of chance flat out, like adultery or murder, nor reckon them as morally neutral as scratching your nose.
To my mind, gambling is dangerous for its unique ability to combine greed and sloth
: "Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction
. One of the most common temptations is the desire to be rich quick-
i.e. the desire to get rich without work. Because this desire is so
common in men, we should choose as a rule not to allow widespread gambling in a society
But what is wrong in a society is not always wrong in an individual case. If the question is whether to allow widespread gambling in a certain society, then I would argue that it is simply wrong, always or for the most part- and that we don't need to consider any special circumstances. If the question is whether an individual act of gambling is wrong, then I think we more have to look at the circumstances.
*Scripture often makes things of great moment turn upon lots: The land given to the twelve tribes is divided by lot; Saul determines who cursed his battle by lot (the lot falls upon his son, Jonathan); and the successor of Judas is chosen by lot. A very fascinating essay might be written about lots- my thesis would be that lot is taken as the voice of God. This is strange when you think about it- those in scripture saw the lots as testifying to God's will, whereas chance in general is taken to be a sign of the absence of God: i.e. "Life comes to be by chance, so there is no God". Even if this were so, why not see living being as "taken by lot"?
And yes, yes, I remember the difference between luck and chance...
The Comic Consciousness
Hegel claims that philosophers first destroy the traditional beliefs in the gods, and that this leads to a comic consciousness, which is unable to take serious things seriously. This is not an altogether unfitting description of our own time. It may be one of the better descriptions of the spirit of our age.
"Nor ought we follow those who say that a mortal should have thought concerned with mortality."
Philosophy is the understanding of immortal and eternal things. If someone can attain such knowedge, it is commanded of them- love God with your whole mind
A Personal Story About Learning the First Way
It took me ten years to get an scientific understanding* of St. Thomas' first proof for the existence of God. This isn't to say that I had no clue what was going on for ten years and then it just hit me. Over time, each of the premises revealed a little bit more of itself. I got clearer ideas of the parts of the proof: act and potency, the principle of causality, the relation of matter to agent, the distinctions in infinite regress. All the while, I was also getting clearer ideas of the responses to the objections to the proof: the problem of inertia, the problem of the possibility of many gods, the problem that it allowed for polytheism and things that no one would ever call God. I also had to learn the separate sciences that were necessary to understand the first way- the philosophy of nature, Aristotle's logical treatises, etc,
Some part of what kept me going- perhaps even the greater part- was sheer vanity: based on my past experience of myself, I probably wouldn't have kept studying the proof if everyone else was. Also, I already believed that that God exists, and I wanted to know this for myself. This doesn't make the first way some delusion or wish fulfillment- the man who discovered Troy, for example, only searched for it out of a faith in the fact that Homer must have been telling the truth. If faith in Homer can motivate a real discovery, why can't faith in God?
Even after all the work it takes to get the first way, one is only beginning theology. Notice that one hasn't even answered in the first way one lacks some very rudimentary truths about God: his incorporeality, for example (which, when you think about it, is a scandal for the mind- you mean that there can be something that exists
, but has no body
?) But it's also true that the first way is very fertile, and it leads to a thousand different conclusions, if one takes it seriously (so too with all the other five ways: I choose the first because it is, well, first in presentation, and because it was given by both St. Thomas, Aristotle, and Plato in The Laws
*by "scientific understanding" I mean primarily that I could reduce the proof to the self-evident, but also that I could give answers to the main objections. It's important to point out that the greater part of this time was spent in learning the science as such, not in learning the proof- but nonetheless, it is true to say that it takes ten years to learn the proof. since if someone were to start from scratch, it would take him ten years to get the sort of answer he wants. If an atheist were to challenge me "prove that God exists!" I don't know how I could give him a proof as rigorous as the one he wants- it took me ten years even with faith to sustain the journey.
Everything in the comsos can become something else. Said another way, there is something belonging to every being in the cosmos that is capaple of becoming something else. If we consider this thing that is able to be other inasmuch as it is able to be another, than it is clearly different from the thing. A such it is not determined to the thing, yet it is a part of it.
This lack of determination is the root of time and space, for in cosmic beings to endure means to have sucession in time, and to exist involves having a sucession of parts in space. It is also the root of death, for death can only belong to a thing which can become something else- for if it could not so change it would by definition maintain itself as what it was.
The word being is taken from the word "is". The word "is" is used in two ways.Predicamentally
: When it is used to indicate the truth of propositions.Existentially
: When it is used to indicate the truth of things; i.e. the actual existence of something.
Free choice connotes a certain imperfection. In our own life, we only have free choice between two options that are proposed to us by a fallible power (we cannot choose whether we want beatitude, and so only to the extent that we see beatitude unclearly that we can be able to choose something other than it). In God's life, there is only freedom of choice in relation to creatures, which can be or not be (although these creatures need not be in act- God still has free choice with respect to creatures virtually conceived in his own intellect- otherwise creatures would proceed from God in the same way that the divine persons, or Gods own willing of his goodness proceeds.)
Choice, in other words, though it is a perfection in an agent, still connotes a relation to contingency. God relates to contingency as its cause, but man relates to contingency though the actual weakness of his intellect, and through his subjection to a necessarily contingent world.
The Fourth Way
1.) What is composite is caused by the uncomposed.
2.) What is composite is imperfect, and the imperfect is composite.
Summary Plotlines for The Greatest Disappointments of My LifePlot One:
1.) I think up some thing that would be wonderful to do.
2.) I realize it would take three years to do (or some amount of time that seems too long)
3.) I judge that such an amount of time is too long, so I don't do it.
4.) The three years pass anyway.Plot Two
1.) I drank.
Two Bullet Points on ID and Evolutionism
-The ID/Evolution debate has mass appeal because it concerns our knowledge of God. To pretend that it doesn't would be disingenuous. "The knowledge of God" deserves by nature to be called "theology". It is also clearly a debate that has something to do with what is presently called "science", by which is meant a body of knowledge that is proved with a hypothetical, inductive, experimental, metrical method (henceforth, HIEMM). Most broadly, then, the debate is about God (as intelligent designer) and Science. Even if one were not willing to concede that the debate is about God, he would most certainly concede that it is a debate about intelligent design and science.
-Either the universe is a product of intelligence, or it is not; and either we can know this by HDEMM, or we cannot. So logically, there are four options:1.) The universe is a product of intelligence, and this can be shown by HIEMM
The position of the ID crowd2.) The universe is not a product of intelligence, and this can be known by HIEMM
The position of Atheists-for the-sake-of -evolution3.) The universe is a product of intelligence, but this cannot be known by HIEMM
We then either believe:
a.) it can be known in some other way, (i.e. science can be said of more than HIEMM) or
b.) it cannot be known in any way (the position of fideism).4.) The universe is not a product of intelligence, and this cannot be known.
an odd position, and something of an irrational claim, a sort of atheist faith.
The cause of tension is from the fact that position 3a. is true, which accounts for the partial truth in positions 1 and 2. One can make this proof as rigorous as demanded, for now, we could content ourselves with the lesser proof of the kind that one finds in HIEMM: it explains the phenomena of one side always seeming to have a point on the other. Notice also that position 3 is the most conciliatory of positions: each side can preserve a large part of their claim, and it preserves a sort of happy division between "religion and science", while still allowing a truly reasonable character to each one (if we choose 3a, at least).
a rough outline of an argument for the necessity of discipleship in philosophy(I have reservations about some parts of the argument, and the prose is dreadful, but I'd hold that something like the argument has to be true)
Is it essential to philosophy that the philosopher see himself essentially as a conduit for the tradition of philosophy?
1.) It seems not; for philosophy is grounded on things which can be known by human reason alone, but every man, apart from any tradition, has the use of reason. Man can therefore have philosophical knowledge apart from the tradition. But whatever can be had apart from something, is not essentially dependent on that thing. So it is not essential for the philosopher to see it as his task to transmit a tradition.
2.) There are many traditions laid down by various philosophers. Before one can choose to follow any one of them, he must decide which is most worthy to be followed. But to decide this is to make a philosophical decision. Therefore we must have philosophy before we can follow a tradition.
3.) Philosophy is grounded on the things man knows about the immediate world he senses. But the tradition was simply wrong about many things in the immediate world that man senses. The philosopher, therefore, should see it more as his task to oppose the tradition than to be a conduit for it.
4.) In the widely accepted canon of philosophers, more stress is placed on those set forth new doctrines than those who simply transmit a tradition.
Response: Man is essentially social and rational. As rational, it belongs to him to come to know, passing from imperfect knowledge to perfect knowledge. But in all societies, it is fitting for those who are more perfect to lead those who are less perfect, as a father leads his son, or a teacher leads the student, or the one judged fit to rule rules those who are in his charge. But the whole history of philosophers forms a sort of society, in which the best thoughts are preserved and handed down to until now. Every philosopher, therefore, should see himself as essentially related to a tradition which it is his job to be a conduit for.
to 1.) From this objection, it does not follow that tradition is not necessary for the right functioning of reason, only that reason is different from tradition. Discipleship to tradition is in fact naturally necessary to reasoning well, just as a man naturally needs to be well raised by his parents in order to behave well.
to 2.) The formal and explicit of anything presupposes an imperfect grasp of the thing studied, but this imperfect grasp is not seen as a part of the science as such, either because it is formally different, or because the imperfect grasp is different from the more perfect grasp of the thing when it is known as a part of a science.
to 3.) A thing does not have to be infallible in order that it be fit to rule us, it only need have more truth in it than we have in ourselves. Obedience to tradition is consistent with fallibility in the tradition.
This being said, the errors in the tradition that proceeds from the first philosophers in certain ways speak to the fitness of following the tradition. The errors are first, often very instructive, and second, they are clearly identified as errors. Every one knows that St. Thomas was wrong about the Immaculate Conception. Does everybody know what, say, Descartes was wrong about? Everyone is certain that chattel slavery, widely accepted by the ancients, is wrong. Is there a universal agreement about exactly what is wrong, and yet practiced, in our own time?
to 4.) The canon of philosophers is formed separately from any claim as to the truth of falsity of their philosophy. No philosopher, however, can be indifferent to whether what he believes is true or false, near to the truth, or far from it.
The Myth of The Rebel
The myth of the rebel runs something like this: the world is full of inauthentic fuddy-duddies who control the culture. Out of all this inauthentic life comes the rebel, who leads himself and others to authentic existence through his love of art. The rebel is oppressed by the old fuddy-duddies, and overcomes them through the power of his authentic life.
In a word, the story goes like this: authentic life comes through self-expression, which is tested by the willingness to rebel against the established order. We have all heard this story a thousand times- it is the
story of modern pop icons (Elvis, Jim Morrison, Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones... but why limit it? Every new wave of pop music boasts of authentic life exercised against the old fuddy-duddies) and it is also the story of many political and scientific movements (Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, the hippies, and many others.)
The myth asks us to admire the "authentic life". Notice what authentic life is not: it isn't moral life, it isn't a life of self-denial out of love, it isn't even an examined life. Far from ever having to examine his life, the rebel always seems to have everything worked out from the the beginning, as though he were Christ questioning the teachers in the Temple. The rebel never has to experience the essentially moral drama of figuring out that "the greatest griefs are those we cause ourselves", for the rebel-as the story goes- only experiences grief at the hands of others, extrinsically, because he is oppressed and misunderstood. Because the rebel never experiences anything in his soul that he sees the need to correct or master (except perhaps, his own self- repression), the rebel is unable to have any moral development. In truth, the moral life begins when we accept that there are things in us that need to be perfected with outside help (family structure, churches, prayer) but the rebel sees his life as essentially perfect and ready to perfect the world around him.
The story of the rebel is bad art. Art pleases by making something known, and it makes something known by showing us what it is. But the story of the rebel doesn't tell us what the rebel is. If you want to be certain of this, ask what people think of rebels when they actually have to deal with them. Ask a cop, or a teacher, or a parent how cool a fifteen year old rebel without a cause is. You know what you call a rebel in real life? A Brat
. There's nothing romantic or cool or hip about brats. In real life, whatever good they have is marred by the fact that they are awkward, lazy, ill-mannered, self-righteous, disobedient, smug little boys and girls. The cult of the rebel is the cult of the brat, and brats should conjure no feelings of admiration, but rather feelings of pity and sadness which should be ordered to empowering a mature society to empower the brats out of their misery.
Art presupposes something natural. Some natural property is always taken as a given.
Whatever this property is: the rigidity of a two-by-four, the solidity of refined ore, the tendency of steam and gasoline to expand, the ability of copper to conduct electricity, fire making heat... the property must persevere in our artificial thing, in fact, it must persevere if we want our artificial thing to work or even exist.
This means that every artificial thing will be composed of things that already have a nature, and hang on to this nature. Our art will never have the unity of a natural substance. Our art is always "extrinsic" to nature, while nature is an intrinsic cause of motion. There is no replacing Antiphon's wonderful observation that if you planted a bedpost, it would shoot up wood, not a bed.
Art always presupposes something natural as a material cause. Art is therefore a different kind of thing because its matter is from a different order of being. Art consists in giving certain artistic determinations to natural things- natural things taken as matter.
Material cause is that out of which something is made, and which remains in it.
Material cause is clearly a sort of cause
, for material beings depend on the material they are made out of in order to exist.something is made:
we mean any sort of becoming whatsoever. Material cause is unintelligible apart from this "something".and which remains in it
: this indicates both that material cause is an intrinsic cause, and that it is different from privation- i.e. a thing can come to be from its opposite, but the opposite does not remain.
Because material cause is necessarily related to the "something that is made", and something made
is clearly an end of making, then all material is for an end. If nature, then, is both material and acts, then nature acts for an end.
Again, because material being relates to something that is made, material cause is constituted by being able to be something. But material cause is real, therefore "being able to be" is real. Potency is therefore real being, although distinguished from being in act. And material cause is potency.
Given that material cause is a sort of potency to be, there is dispute over whether there can be some material cause which is only potency. The classical name for such a material cause is "prime matter". Note first that material cause taken properly is not repugnant to prime matter, for material cause is properly constituted by its potency, and there is no repugnace for something to be nothing other than that by which it is properly constituted.
A cause is a positive principle on which a thing really depends for its existence.principle
: the genus of cause. A principle is something from which something is comes in any way.positive
: as opposed to negative, for things are sometimes said to come from their negation, or even from non-being, e.g. the shape came to be from something with no shape.really depends
: really as opposed to merely in thought.for its existence
: cause is understood in relation to something dependent, to something with derived existence. This is the most formal part of the definition of cause.
We cannot think of cause without thinking of a radical dualism of a dependent thing upon the thing which it depends.
When cause is understood in this way, the denial of causality most formally will involve a denial that there is any dependency of anything on anything else for existence. Such a denial is impossible. Wooden chairs need wood (as do wooden trees). Three sided figures need three sides. The word being spoken needs a speaker. Dog food is made for dogs.
Considerations of Freedom
Freedom is distinguished into freedom of exercise (to do something or not to do something) and freedom of specification (a determination of whether something is good or evil/ right or wrong). Freedom of specification, for example, pertains deciding the speed limit or a curfew time or a homework due date, freedom of exercise pertains to whether we will follow something. Our freedom of specification extends as far as our authority, our freedom of exercise extends to all that we do not desire by nature. We have neither freedom of specification nor of exercise as regards our final end: i.e. beatitude.the Divine Essence is beatitude itself, the intellect of a man who sees the Divine Essence has the same relation to God as a man has to beatitude. Now it is clear that man cannot willingly be turned away from beatitude, since naturally and necessarily he desires it, and shuns unhappiness.
It is evident that we have no freedom of specification as regards the natural law, and we have freedom of exercise only to the extent that we view a particular aspect of the natural law as separate from our final end.
The Other meditation that came out of remembering Chartes cathedral.
If I lived in the culture that built Chartes, I most likely would have been a serf, illiterate, with no medical care, running water, books or any of the other benefits that come with modern liberal democracy. I wouldn't have this blog, there would most likely be no indication that I even existed.
But you can't build something like Chartes cathedral, where they built it, without demonstrating that your town, as a town,
cares a great deal about leading people to God. The same seems to be demonstrated by the products of their universities. That we are better at political organization and medical care is inarguable, but it also seems arguable that they were better at ordering their lives to eternal things than we are.
A blogpost that began as a meditation on the memory of Chartes Cathedral
If we were doing a historical dig, and we uncovered some building that was the largest and most majestic building in the whole city, we would reasonably conclude that this building held something that was of supereminent importance to the people of the city.
The largest and most majestic buildings in our cities are centers of commerce and money making.
Two Notes on Evolution.
-The present account of the origin of the species is a mess. Tne present theory of evolution is the cause of nothing less than a mass hysteria- regardless of what one says about it, his words are seen as partisan and polemical. The cause of all this hysteria is the fact that men want answers to profoundly difficult philosophical questions, without having to do philosophy.
First, let's not kid ourselves- the evolution debate is primarily philosophical. Mike Behe, Richard Dawkins, Gould, and many other Darwinians and Anti- Darwinians writing bestsellers and landing big professorships, and getting written up in the New York Times because they are talking about something that touches to the root of our own understanding of who we are and what our life means. Ordinary language calls such profound questions about ultimate meanings and purposes "philosophical"*. It is maddening to see a guy who insists that his opinions on the evolution debate are merely scientific in the sense of being unconnected to an ultimate meaning of life- I feel like telling those guys it's only because of this philosophical aspect that people are buying your books, watching you on TV, arguing over what you say, and giving you that big grant/endowment/chair/book deal.
- Almost no one bothers to give proper reasons for the theory of evolution, as Darwin did. Darwin argued:
Whenever things reproduce at a geometric rate (exponentially), they struggle for existence.
All living things reproduce at a geometric rate
So all living things struggle for existence.
Struggling for existence is then proposed as the cause for the evolution of the species**.
One difficulty is that one can hold that species evolve without holding that there is a struggle for existence. It is never quite clear what one means when they say they believe in evolution: do they hold that exponential increase of animals leads to mass extiction and the accidental and unintended survival of individuals with certain traits? I am not aware of a single textbook that gives the exponential increase of animals as the cause of natural selection. Pepper moths, finch beaks and whale flippers are all evocative analogies, but have we simply given up on Darwin's reasons? Unless one gives a reason for what they say, they have no science. Darwin had science. What do we have?
*One aspect of this debate is over who exactly gets to answer these ultimate questions: what should have primacy over answering these profound questions (e.g. "science" or "religion")? But this question is itself a philosophical one (notice I do not say that it is only
a philosophical question, but that it is necessarily a philosophical one)- and so we do not escape the need to philosophize.
**The Chapter on Stuggle for existence, which is largely an extension of the population theories of Malthus, can be found here
The most profound error shared by the Atheist-for-evolution crowd and the IDers is that neither side thinks nature is particularly creative. IDers see developing nature as essentially passive to the work of some intelligence, Evolutionists see nature as wasteful and stupid-certainly "blind". Come to think of it, both sides would have reason to call nature "blind": one side says another sees for it, the other says that nature doesn't see at all.
The alternate theory would be to see nature more as, well, alive. Both as moved and moving, as devoloping to higher and higher states of being though the activity of an intrinsic principle.
Human Nature and the Movies
A woman not wanting a husband is at least as perverse as a man not liking Braveheart
Jottings on Reason
-To reason means to go from one thing to another in order to attain truth. Augustine divides reason into the higher and the lower: higher reason "seeks to know divine things and to take counsel from them", while lower reason turns to temporal things. Because both are kinds of reasoning, they can both be called science in a general sense, but Augustine says that higher reason is more properly called "wisdom" and lower reason is more properly called "science".
- Reasoning is done perfectly through demonstration. Demonstration begins with the apprehended (the major) then it extends the apprehended to something less universal (the minor) and in both of these, it discerns a conclusion in light of its causes.
Response to Vallicella
(concerning his post "It ain't obvious what is obvious")
Philosophy is not the questioning of everything (with what could we possibly question everything
? The only thing at hand is nothing
). Rather, it is the first science to proceed from reason's grasp of the seminal principles of natural reason. The first such principle is the principle of contradiction, concerning which every single person is absolutely certain and completely inerrant.
Even if philosophy were not the first science to proceed from the first principles of thought, then whatever science did so proceed would be more noble and more worth doing than philosophy, more certain, and even able to judge all the radical principles of philosophy.
Two Meanings of Proof
There are many meanings of the word "proof" but it is important to distinguish two:
a.) The proof that gives a proper cause,
b.) The proof we would expect to manifest something.
For example, one could prove that man had immortal life by saying
All spiritual forms are immortal
Every human being has a spiritual form
This argument gives a proper cause, but one would not expect it to manifest the immortality of man, either to a friend of the position, or an adversary of it. Both the major and the minor are too disputable- especially the minor.
Nevertheless, giving this syllogism gives us a solid point to stand- it gives us something to explain with a another argument, and then perhaps another. Sooner or later, every proof has to find a bedrock in either the self-evident, or the absurd.
The Five Ways as a Five Short, Absurdist Q and A's.
(the normal questioner speaks first, the irrational premise against the five ways is the response)
1.) Can you hang this picture for me?
What do you need me for? Just get an infinite number of hammers!
2.) These pictures are beautiful. Who took them?
Why are you asking such a stupid question? Can't you see that there are an infinite number of these pictures?
3+4.) Turn off the range, the water is boiling.
No, actually, this pot has been on the range for an infinitely long time! It has always been on the range- this pot is necessarily
5.) Do all natural things act for an end?
No, most natural things simply stop changing when they finish a determinate process!
Man as Dignified and Degraded
It is absolutely impossible to deny the dignity of human intelligence: even if we claimed that man knew nothing, or even if we claimed not even to know if man knew nothing, still, in this statement there is an inescapable grasp of all things, regardless of whether they are grasped as unknown or uncertain.
It is also given by experience that human intelligence is a very low and degraded form of knowing. We understand the first things only by negation, and this is only if we are very wise- most people would not even think to ask about "the first things". We acquire good habits only with struggle, for even when we see what the right thing to do is (not often) our minds do not have enough force to impel us to do it. Even after man comes to know that God is most worthy of love, and virtue is most worth pursuing, even then these truths rarely seem real to him until he acts on their truth. As a rule, men prefer being unique to having truth, platitudes to wisdom, vulgar productions to noble art, etc.
And yet man's intrinsic nobility will always rebel against the vanity of his vulgar self. Our present society might gorge itself on degraded music and vain art- but no particular artist will be preserved for long enough to count as history. We will toy around with bogus spirituality and fad religions, but none of these religions will claim more than 2% of the population for very long.
Socrates claimed that he knew nothing. He meant that his knowledge, compared to the knowledge of God, was nothing.
Still, "nothing" is as transcendent as "everything". Neither word can be said except by a being who already knows all things. In saying "nothing" I negate all, which requires that I already understand the all.
Socrates' statement is superlatively wise because he sees wisdom as knowledge relating to God. God is the cause, measure, object and fulfillment of all wisdom at least as Socrates' understands it. God is the cause, because Socrates begins to seek out wisdom in response to an oracle of the god; God is the measure, for all human wisdom is reckoned as nothing in comparison to him; God is the object, because the goal of the philosophical life is likeness to God (Theatetus); and he is the fulfillment, for all things seek their fulfillment in the perfect, and all men desire wisdom.
The Angelic Multitude
The consensus on the multitude of angels is that it is immense. St. Thomas claims
that the angelic multitude exceeds material multitude by as much as the size of the universe exceeds the size of earth.
Even if one were to confine themselves to speaking about the number of things poduced by the fucundity of nature, still, estimates for the number of species
that have existed begin at two billion. The number
of one species alone, ants, is reckoned at over a quadrillion living individuals. It is only fitting that the fecundity of creation in the angelic universe is incomparably greater than the fecundity and diversity of nature.
Even in this superabundant fecundity, there is a greater perfection of unique individuals and personality. Each angel is his own unique species- the best way to picture it is that when we go to heaven and see our first angel (scripture indicates that we will think that we have seen God) then even after we see this angel and we are told that it is not God, when we look at our next one, we will say "what is that? Now that
must be God!" (except we will need a new personal pronoun, since distinctions of gender are meaningless to describe angels). And even after this, it has only happened twice. The fecundity of the angelic universe will have already produced angels in incalculable billions in the discrete instant of our thought, and repeat itself with billions in the next thought... billions...
I'm sure we'll see that number as so laughably small-
And how much does it help to think of numbers anyway? Our numbers are homogeneity of divided quantity, the same thing over and over again. If we saw angels, we would understand how meaningless it is to number them- it would be like trying to number all human thoughts.
A Dominican Story
Because he lived as a beggar, Thomas Aquinas went out once a week to collect food (and presumably spare change) from local towns people. One of his students asked him if it bothered him to have to do such rounds, since he was an internationally- well-known theologian. Thomas' response was "No, I have too much common sense for that".
We speak about God, angels, our own soul, and the life to come in the same way that a blind man speaks about colors. We can certainly say true things about spiritual things- but anything we imagine about spiritual things is false; and usually dull. I for one can't help imagining the angelic hierarchy as a row of unmoving points of light in black space- or imagining my own soul as a ghost. If you want a certain idea of what spirits are not,
imagine them. We can say and know all kinds of true things about immaterial being, but we cannot allow so much as a glimmer or dot of light, or a specteral form, or a dark void to creep into our imagination without creating a misleading and utterly false thing with the very image. Deum nemo vidit umquam
Givens agreed upon by Athiests and Theists
1.) In any system well ordered by reason, good is rewarded, and evil punished (this is axiomatic).
2.) Good is not always rewarded, nor evil always punished in this life (a fact simply given).
If one affirms that God exists, the argument proves that there is a life after this one, i.e. that man is immortal (for in that life he will be punished or rewarded)
If one denies the immortality of man, the argument is a proof against the existence of God.
We can only reason from what we have memorized.
Have you Heard This Argument Before?
In three steps:
1.) Bring up some profound idea in philosophy or theology.
2.) Cite a little understood theory in some other science as though it were irrefutable and obvious, and as though it implied exactly what you said. Use said theory as a "counter argument" against the truth of the philosophical idea (the more jargon the better).
3.) Forget about both philosophy, and the other science you just quoted.
Most of us were taught to learn in a way that amputated both the beginning and the end of the process. We should begin with rote memorization, and end with contemplation.
Since we have neither the beginning nor the end, the middle becomes a bloated mess. Infinite counter examples are sought at any cost, the opinions of infinite writers are sought as though for their own sake, and in general, a thousand different "models" are posited to explain nothing in particular about something we can't agree about.
Seek definitions, reason from them, and for heaven's sake, at some point enjoy the activity, since it is worth doing for its own sake.