Vomit the Lukewarm
The perfect is known by a certain negation- it is that to which nothing can be added or taken away. In our experience, this consists in the thing being limited- that is, something lacks pefection if it goes beyond the limit, or if it falls short of it. Call this limited perfection, which in our experience is the only kind of perfection there is.
But we can also understand that perfection could occur if the the perfect being had a certain infinity, for if something is unlimited, it is also something to which nothing could be added or taken away. This is shown even in the material and imperfect infinity of mathematics: to add or subtract anything from infinity leaves one with infinity.
These are two different meanings of perfection, one limited and the other unlimited. Though we are using one word "perfection" to speak of both, the word is not a genus to which limited and unlimited are species, the way that "tree" can be said of oak and maple. Rather, from the first idea of perfection "that to which nothing can be added..." we notice another meaning
of "what cannot be added to". The same word means two different things, and yet the meaning of the first leads us by the hand to the meaning of the other. Perfection means something different when said of the unlimited and the limited, and yet we still need to understand the first meaning of perfection before we can understand the second one.
Remembering Mozart's Ave Verum
Ave Verum is perfect. I mean that more as a fact than as praise.
There are certainly other ways that art could be, and therefore be perfect. But there is a limit on the height of the object that can be attained by our senses, emotions, and imagination- and if it's not Ave Verum, it's something else that Mozart wrote.
All great crimes have great justifications. But yet what is justified is not a crime.
This paradox leads to one of the more silly ticks that the human mind plays upon itself: a.) something absolutely terrible happens- morally repugnant and totally evil; b.) Human beings start looking into why the terrible thing happened, and they find the argument that convinced the criminal himself to do the terrible thing; c.) they become moved, or sympathetic with the argument, and they forget how evil the action was . They end up forgetting the plain fact that the only reason they looked into this all in the first place was in order to explain the evil, not explain it away.
This argument does not apply to those who are too close to the great evil- those who loose family members, etc.
This paradox is usually caused by too much reliance on sentiment and emotion in moral questions. Only reason can strike a harmony between the competing motions of understanding and condemnation. "To understand all is to forgive all". This is true for those led by emotion - who either condemn because they refuse to acknowledge the force of the criminals justifications, or forgive them wholly only because they have explained the crime away.
Error is more common among animals than truth. This is shown by our instinctive urge to make wild inductions on the basis of almost no evidence: we eat one bad burger at one restaurant once, and we assume the whole chain is dirty; we see one news report about one thing, and we immediately feel like there might be a "crisis" (the news, in fact, counts on this instinctive desire to make improbable inductions as a rule- hence the "lead story format" that is common to all media.) Give a man two examples, any two hard cases, and you can convince him that there is a crisis over anything.
It is the desire to escape this that leads man alternately to seek after a more systematic knowledge of things. Concerning contingent things to be dome, he seeks prudence, by trying to model himself after the prudent men he sees; and concerning necessary things, he seeks science by discipleship to a reliable teacher.
|There is a strange argument going about that one cannot be a philosopher if he has religious devotion. If this were true, we would never be able to figure out if an argument was philosophical by reading it. Give whatever argument you think is patently philosophical: all being is good, universals are found in mind as regards the-state-of-universality, etc. Are these arguments philosophical? Not if we would believe certain interpretations of the "Athens vs, Jerusalem" crowd- for some would have us believe that we have to interrogate the author as to his motivations- and then have to take him at his word over whether his argument was philosophical or not.|
The seed grow by itself? Yes, if we are speaking of the agent. No, if we mean it can do so without water or soil.
More than once, I've realized that I've just listended to a speaker talk for an hour about how one should live, or the sort of things that one should do with their life, or about the sort of fundamental aims that a government should have, and yet they never mentioned anything about happiness.
In all moral concerns, there is absolutely no substitute for the ideas of goodness, reason, and happiness.
In concrete terms, if you try to substitute, say, "democracy" or the choice of the people for goodness, reason, and happiness, you will be left looking like an idiot when half-a million fools elect Hamas.
In even more concrete terms, I saw one of the women who won a seat in the elections. She is a nationally loved figure in Palestine because she sacrificed three of her sons in suicide missions. The people, it is said, respect most about her that she did not even cry for her sons.
Did not even Cry!? The actions of this woman are among the most disgusting and odious actions that I have ever known. Good Lord defend us! The Molechites
would brag over how they didn't weep when they sacrificed their children! This is the sort of mountainous, blasphemous degradation that only Islam can muster: put it right up there with female genital mutilation and the doctrinal belief that heaven is a vast whorehouse built to service mass murderers.
Sketch of A Theological Argument From the Nature of Material Beings
We call something "material" because some thing
is made out of it. The material is not the same as the thing: metal is not a car, and wood is not a tree or a house.
In art, we start from certain given materials and form them according to our ideas. This idea is always essential to the art: a sign of this is that we call a painting "a De Vinci" a book "Plato" and a recording "Mozart".
In natural things, the materials are not given and are not formed according to our ideas. They are formed by some internal power. This kind of coming forth- apart from art- is what we first call "nature" or natural.
And yet the material is not the same as the natural thing. Material is distinct from the material thing, and so the natural thing stands to its matter as a whole to a part, as an end to a means.
But in natural things, this order of means to end is intrinsic, and if it is intrinsic, it cannot come to be by chance. For example, letters might fall together by chance to spell "cat", but c-a-t does not mean
cat by chance. This intrinsic, meaningful order of means (the letters "a" "t" and "c") to an end (giving a word to name what Fluffy is) is not the sort of thing that chance can do.
If not by chance, then by intelligence. But it is not an intelligence like ours, which takes natural things as given, and works from them- it is an intelligence that is more intimately within the things, which does not presuppose any natural things. We oppose our art to nature because art moves extrinsically, and nature moves intrinsically. If nature is being moved by intelligence, it is being moved from within- in fact its very nature consists in being moved from within. We call it being moved even though we realize that it is not a "being moved" as we understand it, for when we move something there is some given thing with a nature that is "already there", but for the intelligence that is moving nature from within, no nature is presupposed.
But if no nature is presupposed, then the whole nature proceeds from the action of the intelligence that is within it. The nature both exists and acts though the intelligence that is giving it being and the power to act.
Material beings come to be, and act in virtue of an intrinsic order between the material and the material thing.
No intrinsic order can be by chance.
but The order of natural things is intrinsic to them
So all material beings come to be and act by intelligence acting within them.
But the intelligence that is causing natural things cannot presuppose natural things, for then nature would be art.
So the intelligence that is moving natural things exceeds infinitely the power of any finite intelligence, that takes knowledge from nature.
|And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel? |
|And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. |
|Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table. |
|So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. |
|And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word. |
|Then said Elijah unto the people, I, [even] I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets [are] four hundred and fifty men.|
Just because there is something wrong with _________, doesn't mean you get to replace it with something worse.
One of the poems I would have written long ago, if I had any ability to write poems, would have been about St. Matthew reflecting on his decision to write his gospel- and most especially, his recording the words of institution at the last supper: "this is my body".
Something in me says that St. Matthew was almost indifferent to writing his Gospel, in the sense that it was self- evident to him, even beyond needing to be said, that the good news of Christ would be spread regardless of whether he wrote anything down or not. Matthew did not bother to explain his Gospel, he did not intersperse the Gospel with any commentary or interpretation, because he did not see his Gospel the only way that the story would ever be told. I suspect that Matthew's main motive for writing the gospel was the desire to spend all of his time talking about Christ, and remembering how sweet it was to be in his presence.
Matthew knew that the truth about Christ would be known throughout the world forever, even if he never wrote anything down, even if Christ were abandoned by all his Apostles, even if Christ had never done a single miracle. Consider the plain fact that Christ was perfectly content to die without having committed a single word to paper, and without ever commanding, requesting, or even hinting that his disciples write a single word about his life*, or anything he had done.
*As far as I know, Christ only commands John to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor, but he commands nothing to be said about his life, his doctrines, or even his Sacrifice on the Cross.
Universal in Causando
The universal cause does not cause a universal- the cause of being does not cause "being" as opposed to causing, say, John. In the case of John, the universal cause of being is causing John, and in the case of you, the universal cause of being is causing you.
Causes of a thing need not be partial causes in the sense that each person might be a partial cause of the gumbo, by each giving an ingredient. Rather, not every cause can be viewed as the only cause of a thing. Both the parent and the universal cause of being cause John, but the universal cause causes John more intimately, for it continues to cause him for as long as he exists.
Meditation on A Child.
If I consider him as made out of something
, he can be given four accounts:
1.) He is himself, for what he is made out of makes him.
2.) He is his parents, for he is made out of them, and in this sense is nothing other than the subsistence of his parents in another place.
3.) He is the earth, for what he is made out of reduces to what came out of the earth (and the things of earth out of the stars)
4.) He is every human generation that came before him, for all he was made out of was derived from his parents, but his parents derived this same thing from their parents, and so on.
If I consider him as human, then he is not caused by anything mentioned above, for none of these things can be cause a human as human. Neither the child, nor his parents, not the generations that came before him are the cause of man, for they were all already human. Neither did the earth make this child apart from the co- generation of his parents. Similar considerations apply when we consider the child as existing, or having being.
And yet the child is obviously both made out of things, and human, and existing. None of these things constitute the child partially, for the same being is considered totally human, totally what he is made of, and totally existent. The causes, however, are diverse. Many different causes flow together to make a single effect. This child is being caused by more than one thing.
I'm With Gerrigou- Lagrange:Reasons for the Last JudgmentSt. Thomas explains these reasons. First, dead men live in the memory of men on earth and are often judged contrary to truth. Spirits, strong and false, like Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, are judged as if they were great philosophers...
read the whole thing here.
Russell's Paradox and Definition.
During a discussion about the foundations of knowledge, a very accomplished analytical logician argued that we could never be confident that anything was self-evident. He argued that most people would confidently assert it to be evident that every particular property or thing had a corresponding class that it was in. For example, "a red car" is in the class of "red things" and "John" in the class "man". This, the logician said, had been proven false. There need not be a corresponding class for every property.
I suspect that the refutation was based on Russell's paradox: which asserts that every class is either
A.) a member of itself (the class "five or more things" has more than five things in it)
B.) Not a member of itself (the class "man" is not a man)
If we talk about the class of all "B's" then either it is a B or an A.
But if its an A, then it must not be a member of itself- which results in contradiction.
If it's a B, then it's an A, and the same contradiction applies.Viola
, classes like "man", "green", "computer", "redness", "wisdom", "virtue", "vice" and any others of the kind, which is more or less every meaningful class that one could study, are thus rendered impossible and contradictory.
Ugh. If we read this same argument in Plato's Euthydemus
- or more to the point, in his dialogue Sophist
, we would instantly understand what kind of argument it was. Nihil sub sole novum
The absurdity is in assuming that it is meaningful to speak about a class being a member of itself at all. If "class" is taken to mean "the species or genus of the thing, or the sort of thing it is", then there simply is no such thing as our class "A" above, and Russell's whole antinomy becomes impossible. The definition of "more than five things" is not more than five things, any more than the definition of seven has seven different meanings.
I do praise Russell, however, for being infinitely more clear, readable, and convincing than any of those I have ever seen try to solve his paradox using the presuppositions or method of analytical logic. Philebus
Parts and Wholes
If we consider the parts of a definition, There is one way in which both the individual and the species are in the genus. The species is divided from the genus, and is in this sense a part. Man is divided from "animal" by "rational"; and "green" from "color" by "distinctive to grass and other foliage".
If we consider the parts of a definition in another way, the genus is in the species and in the individual. "Animal" is contained in the account of man and "virtue" in temperance.
To say that John, or a man, is an animal does not simply make animal a set of which John is a material part. The relation of part an whole in natures, universals, sets, and individuals is not as simple as that of hogs in a pen, or switches flicking in a microchip.
If to be in a class means to be contained in an idea the way that hogs are in a pen, or marks are upon a page, or electrical flashes are in a microchip, then the first sense of "man" does not name a class, nor of "five", nor of "two".
Even after the theory of evolution was proposed, people continued to believe in the idea of spontaneous generation. That living beings might come from non-living things was a philosophical commonplace at least until Pasteur showed the origin of bacteria, etc.
No sooner do we refute the last belief that life comes from non-living matter (flies from rotting meat, lice from hair and urine, etc.) , then we walk into a controversy about whether life comes from non- living things.
Notes on Chance and Divinity
If beings that come to be by chance are not caused by God, then they are not beings.
So too if beings come to be by chance, then there is no account of why a thing is a sort of thing, only why it is an individual.
Chance can make a man only as another man can make one, he cannot account for the fact that his offspring is this human as human, only for the fact that it is this human as this.
wisdom : immaterial being :: smelling the turkey cook : getting to eat it.recta sapere
(to taste right things= to be wise)
The monkey and the typewriter argument "an infinite number of monkeys..." illustrates exactly the difference between the per se unity of a word being typed, and the per accidens quality of the word being "an arrangement of letters"
Chance can account for any arrangement of letters, but if a word is only an arragement of letters, there is no difference between "cat" and "hjm,ZDSV" (I just banged the keyboard). The unity of order can only proceed from intelligence. An irrational cause creates order only as a carpenter might do heart surgery, or as a musician might build.
Meditations on the argument for intellectual activity after death.
1.) Given it belongs to reason that there is a personal existence of the soul after death, does it follow that there is an operation of the soul? St. Thomas argues yes, because
Nothing acts except inasmuch as it is actual,
The way which something acts follows the way it exists. Given that the soul exists apart from the body, so also it acts. After this, we are answering objections.
2.) The difficulty is that the soul's operation by nature
requires phantasms, and phantasms corrupt with the body. The soul is not the act of the body, yet it requires a bodly thing that it might operate- but how is even this so? Don't we establish immortality on the basis of an operation that is seperable from sense? (see the sed contra of the article)
3.) Modern thomists have picked up on the fact that St.Thomas says that it is almost impossible to prove immortality where the ressurection is denied, but the emphasis shoul be on denied, it is possible to precind from the cinsideration of the possibility of ressurection.
4.) In what way could operation stand to existence as act to potency?
How is existence related to its operation? Not as round is to circle, at least not in us.
5.) While the state of union with the body and the state of separation are the different, they admit of a certain more and less: St. Thomas claims in a number of places that:the more our soul is abstracted from corporeal things, the more it is capable of receiving abstract intelligible things. Hence in dreams and alienations of the bodily senses divine revelations and foresight of future events are perceived the more clearly. ST 1 q.12 a.11
6.) IS theattempt to sever existence from operation simply wrong- headed? The very proof for immortality is taken from the fact that the soul has an operation proper to itself. Again, the sed contra.
7.) Whatever the truth of the matter is, it must be conducive to human happiness.
8.) The mind knows itself in this life through another, in the next life it does not know through another see here
Jottings on The First Principle of Relativity
-Einstein grounds his theory of relativity on a developed idea of what "simultaneous" means, which necessarily defined simultaneity in relation to an observer. In the classical system of physics, one could meaningfully speak about two events happening "at the same time", without reference to an observer, but one cannot on Einstein's account, or according to the truth of the matter.
-Consider an easier example: Are thunder and lighting simultaneous? We must in some sense truly say "no". Things are simultaneous which we see happen at the same time. The man next to a cannon holds that the smoke and the bang are simultaneous, the man he is shooting at does not. Did the flash and the banghappen at the same time? In one sense, obviously not- the one occured six seconds later, an obsever would say. He could even show you a video of the things occuring six seconds apart.
-Simultaneity has always been understood in reference to an observer, because it is time. All measurements are essentially observer- dependent.
-Einstein certainly is trying to understand nature, but in order to get a clear idea of what he is doing, we need a clearer idea of the way in which measurement reveals the nature. Galileo, for example, took an ingenious route and said measurement revealed nature because nature simply was subsistent quantity. This is ingenious, but untenable, as it involved a sort of divinization of nature (eternity, immutability, pure intelligibility) and a strange sort of divinization at that (mathematics, like logic, is essentially human- it subsists in the imagination. Angels do not need mathematics to understand quantity)
Christianity, Jerusalem, and Athens
Christianity is necessarily tied to events that happened in first century Jerusalem, and for this reason it is tied to the great accomplishments of Athens. The essentially Jewish character of christianity is taken for granted these days- and it should be- but not only is christianity essentially Jewish, it is also essentially Hellenistic. It can even be seen as hellenistic because
it is first- century Jewish. Consider a few points:
- If we assume the Apostles wrote their own writings in the language they survived in, five of the original apostles spoke Greek fluently.
-"Christ" is a Greek word, as is the name for the new sect, "Christianoi"
- The whole New Testament survived as a Greek document.
- The first evangelists to spread the word out of Jerusalem are Hellenized Jews- Jews that had spoken greek for at least one generation, and who had Greek names- Stephen, for example (see Acts 6)
- The epistle is a distinctively Greek mode of discourse.
- The Old Testament references in the new testament are taken, as a rule, from the Septuagint. - The Septuagint itself contains many books that are blatantly hellenic: Wisdom, Sirach, Maccabees. Consider a phrase like we find in Wisdom that says God "made the world out of matter without form." or the mother in Maccabees who tells he son that the universe was created out of nothing.
A good deal of Apostolic Christianity is simply Greek speaking Hellenized people speaking to other Greek speakers in Greek modes of discourse, quoting from a Greek text. I is for this reasons, and others, that I say that Christianity is essentially Greek- It is no more possible to ignore its Greek than its Jewish character. A Christianity without Athens would literally be a christianity without "Christianity"- the word would be something different.
Five Hundredth Post.
Writing five hundred posts is significant to me. I wanted to celebrate with new skins, but incompetence, lack of motivation, and failure to find any skins I liked killed off the idea. I was tempted to change the name of the blog too, since the title can't be anything but a cause of revulsion for those who don't know that it was taken from the last paragraph of De Koninck's "Essay on the Common Good", which at the time seemed to me one of the best articulations of what I thought about philosophy- in addition to sounding, well, cool.
The blog is a great help to me because it helps me see the content of my own thought. I can order my thoughts more clearly, and have a record of things I might otherwise forget. Some things I would rather
forget, but it's helpful to have those around too, for various reasons.
I know a few folks stop by to read the blog, and I think you for doing so. For me, knowing that someone is going to read my things is a good incentive to be clear, and to write habitually. I have tried in the past to write every day in a journal, but I never had any incentive to really clean up my thoughts, or write in the journal daily. Having people I respect read my stuff solved the problem, and now I write with enough frequency to build up good writing habits.
Nothing can acquire a form it already has.
Intellect can acquire the form of any body.
(intellect is given as existent- this is admitted by all as self evident)
The argument seems to have been abandoned by Thomists of late. If you replace "body" with "immaterial thing", it seems to prove that the intellect is a body.
The argument does work, when undertood properly. It's found in De Anima, III, c.5.
Evolution is a rational account of where the species came from. The ancients did not seek a rational account of where the species came from, because they did not know they needed to give one. Through the middle ages, scholars were still puzzling over whether the world was eternal or not- the main debate for them was whether all species simply went back forever in time, or not. Christianity forced people to believe that the world had a finite beginning in time, but a dispute still raged over whether this could be known rationally. It is impossible, however, to give an account of the origin of the species in time until it is given rationally that species had
an origin in time.
It was not until science sufficiently developed its experimental part that people could know that the universe was finite, because as St. Thomas shows, the origin of the world in time cannot be known philosophically. Darwin's answer is that species come to be from other species. What is the alternative? We can dispute the mechanism, but not the principle. Species either come to be from other species, or they come to be from nothing.
It is common to hear people claim that knowledge is based on intuitions. If these intuitions are taken to mean an essential grasp of a thing, then I agree, but I don't see how one can get the word intuition to mean an essential grasp of a thing. The essence of a thing is revealed in words, in its name. This essence imples that certain things are per se, others per accidens, and certain things are virtually contained in the very idea of the term. To say these things of the term makes for what is called "a self evident proposition"- a primarily known truth
. Intuitions seem to be wordless things, you just "get it" apart from words, apart from the act of naming. Naming, in this sense, is seen as incidental to the act of knowledge, and it is unclear how the self evident comes to be, since essence is not acknowledged as known.
I think the physicist that I imagined below in my dialogue two posts back had an "intuition" of time and distance and mass in the true sense, but I would call his grasp "a working postulate" or something of the kind.
In a word, intuitions lack a relation to the essential. It is inevitable that an intuition based science will be unable to handle accusations of being arbitrary.
Architectonic syllogisms on how the mind must know the essences of things
M: What is per se is essential, as opposed to accidental.
m: We name what is per se, and we name as we know.
proof m: We do not call a man "man" because he is wearing a plaid shirt, or because he has brown hair.
the Major is simply an account of what "per se" means, the minor an account of something necessary for naming.
What is most changeless of a thing is essence, or known relative to essence.
We know what is changeless in a thing.
A Discussion with an All-Physics Knowing Physicist
q.) What is power?
a.) I know that that has 15 watts of power.
q.) how do you know that?
a.) I measured the amount of work it did, and divided it by the number of seconds it took. For short, you can just remember P= w/t
q.) How much work did it do?
a.) It corresponded to the amount of energy it had.
q.) how much energy did it have?
a.) Seven Joules.
q.) What do you mean by that?
a.) I mean that I took the amount of force it had in Newtons, and multiplied it by the amount of meters it could cover, that is W= Fd
q.) what do you mean when you said you "took the force"?
a.) I mean that I measured the number of kilograms that could have been moved, multiplied it by how far the kilos moved, and divided it by the square of the time, kg x m/ sec^2.
q.) what are time, kilograms, and distance?
a.) Time is this (shows the number on a stopwatch), kilograms are ( shows a number on his scale), the meters are (shows the number of times he puts a stick on something).
q.) That's why you say things like "time is 5, Kg is 6, and M is 9.2."
q.) Well, since you explain everything in relation to time, mass and length, I just wanted to know what you thought these things were.
a.) Time is "t" and mass is "m" and length is "d". This (points to the numbers on the watch) and this (points to a numeral on a scale) and this (shows the markings on a stick).
Actual responses people would have if all the stars in space spontaneously arranged themselves to spell "Repent and believe in Jesus Christ", and continued to spell the message for the entire night.
-The media would broadcast the miracle in round the clock coverage, eventually including a panel of experts that would worry about the violence that might be inflicted on Jews and Muslims.
-Muslims would explain the event as a Jewish conspiracy.
-Local governments would have no official response, for fear of violating the first amendment.
-The ACLU would file suit against one county in Georgia that put up a banner mentioning the event. The county would insist that the banner was only put up for historical reasons.
-Planned Parenthood would release a fundraising card, written in computer generated stars, saying "repent and believe in Choice"
-Traditionalist Catholics would complain that the message was not in Latin. They would explain this by pointing to the laxity that came out of Vatican II.
-Scientists would hypothesize that an event similar to this was the cause of religious belief among primitive cultures.
-Academics would write papers inspired by the event, arguing that the "conceptualization of a second order repenting cannot other 'itself' at any meta- level of analysis." The message's value for feminist theory would be hotly debated.
-People living in sin would stop fornicating for up to three days.
-The UN would insist that we should acknowledge the call of the message. In keeping with this, they would increase their shipments of condoms to Africa.
-The wise would recognize that miracles without grace are dead.
Scientists have discovered the biological basis of religious belief
Scientists have discovered the biological basis of hunger.
Why haven't we debunked the myth of food yet?
Paper Draft, IVcriticism appreciated- especially of writing style and clarity!!!
St. Thomas claims that the things of faith are the foundation of a science. In a word, the things of faith are scientific. The objection to this is immediately at hand: science is based on things known, but the things of faith are a not known "blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe" or "we walk by faith, and not by sight (2Cor. 5: 7.)" St. Thomas answers by distinguishing what is known from what is known to us. The articles of faith are things known to God and the blessed, proposed to us for belief. We hold by faith that faith is science. This requires that one who does not have faith will not admit that the faith is scientific, but this is hardly surprising- no science could be accepted by a man who lacks the basis for the science.
The denial of the scientific character of faith always involves identifying what is known and what is known to man. As soon as we distinguish these two, revelation becomes possible, making it possible for man to believe in something known to a higher intellect. There is nothing particularly shocking about having to believe in what is known by another- it is the usual way most of us learned the physical sciences. Any twelve year old, for example, can be told that matter is atomic and that the earth revolves around the sun, but it takes years of learning in order to understand the arguments that prove atomic theory and heliocentrism. Until the child knows the proof for himself, he is left to accept the truth of heliocentrism on the authority of his elders.
But even after one grants the scientific character of faith, there is still a question of why faith was necessary at all. Why not simply leave human reason alone?
To answer this, we must return to what we mentioned earlier about the scientific method pointing beyond itself to another science. What is the name for the science it is pointing to? The ancients called the science "philosophy", but philosophy has fallen upon hard times of late, and so I won't insist on calling the science philosophy. It is enough for now to point out that the science is naturally known. By "naturally known" I mean two things, sc. that it is known by a human mind, and that the thing known is within the natural world. But just as the scientific method points beyond itself to a philosophical knowledge that is firmly within the limits of nature, so too natural knowledge points beyond itself to a knowledge of the things beyond nature. This happens because it belongs to the essence of reason to seek the causes of things, and a cause is nothing other than what is responsible for the existence of something. But every natural thing has something upon which it depends for existence. Reason, therefore, can never find the ultimate cause of things among natural things. By nature, reason will always look beyond itself for fulfillment, and it is on this account- among other reasons- that revelation was necessary. Even if revelation were not given, man would have still by nature hoped for it.
Paper draft, III
Now in a certain sense, science B, commonly called "the scientific method" does not need to be justified. As we've already said, it is not as if anyone seriously wonders if it is a good way to build up a body of knowledge. So long as one is simply using the scientific method, there is no reason to ask questions about it- it is enough that the method, like any tool, simply gets results. But scientific method can not only be used, but also examined as an object, just as we are doing now. We can ask questions about scientific method itself: What is is scope? What are it limits? Is it the only way of being objective? Can it tell us of whether there is an intelligent design to the universe? We can even arrange the answers to these questions to form a systematic, objective, and dispassionate body of knowledge- in other words we can form a science. The scientific method, therefore, whenever it is taken as an object, points beyond itself to another science.
Now there are several objections that one tends to hear to the claim that the scientific method points beyond itself to another science. Most of the objections boil down to the claim that there is no science beyond the scientific method since there is no agreement about what is. This objection packs some emotional force, but crumbles with the slightest glance of reason. Sciences aren't formed by popular agreement, and they never have been. We should already be warned of the difficulty of the science beyond the scientific method: given the difficulty and the amount of time needed to figure out things even with
the scientific method, it will be no easy task to figure out the science beyond
it. There is also a certain irony in the objections to the claim that the scientific method points beyond itself. Let me put it this way- no objector ever says something like "this man's hypothesis is totally wrong! I can prove it with the readings from my atom smasher!" or "A science beyond empirical science? Bosh! Just look at these test tubes, and this printout from my science-o-meter!" Just as the arguments I'm giving here are neither hypothetical nor experimental, so too, none of the objections to my point will be. As soon as anyone speaks about the nature of the scientific method itself, they instinctively reach for premises that come from a knowledge outside of the scientific method.
Paper Draft, Part II
In contemporary usage, the word "science" can mean two things:
A.) A systematic, objective, dispassionate body of knowledge about a particular subject matter (lets call this "science A").
B.) An inductive, hypothetical and experimentally verified body of knowledge about a particular subject matter- usually something in the natural world (Let's call this "Science B".)
How are these two meanings related? Is every science B a science A? Is every science A a science B?
First of all, we can set aside at least one point about which there is no controversy: namely that some, if not most science B is science A. That the expermentaly verified hypothesis is an effective way of building up a body of knowledge is a settled question, and so we can set it aside. In fact, what we he call science B has been so effective in building up science, it has even led some persons to believe that it is the only
way of being systematic and objective. We might get so carried away with enthusiasm for science B as to think every
science A is a science B. There's nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about science, of course, but this opinion is an inadequate description of science. First of all, if every systematic, objective body of knowledge was hypothetical and experimentally verified, then arithmetic, geometry, history, logic, etc would not be systematic, objective bodies of knowledge. The main problem with saying that science A must be science B is that to say this would destroy the possibility of having scientific knowledge of science B. How could we ever show that science B is the only method of attaining systematic, objective knowledge? We would, by our own premisses, be forced to use the method of "science B", which would require assuming the truth of the thing we were trying to prove.
(Paper Draft, Part I)On The Relation of Science and Faith
(a riff on a long-term topic
At the beginning of his Summa Theologicae, Thomas Aquinas asks whether Sacred Doctrine- which is based in faith- is a science, and he proves to his own satisfaction that it is. It is now, of course, a commonplace to hold that what is based in faith is not a science. The whole disagreement about the relation of faith and science takes place after
both sides have agreed that faith is not scientific. Some may hold that faith and science are mutually exclusive, others might hold that they are mutually supportive, and still others hold that there is no relation between them at all, but all of these agree that the faith is not science. What then are we to do with the argument of Thomas Aquinas?
We might try to resolve the whole disagreement to a mere verbal confusion. Perhaps it is false to think that Aquinas' words "fides" and "scientia" mean more or less the same thing as our "faith" and "science". The first problem with this is that its contrary to what any lexicon would tell us: "fides" just does
mean faith and "sciencia" science. Another problem with this is that some of the things Aquinas calls "scienciae" are still called a sciences today- mathematics, logic, and the mathematical study of the motion of the planets in Astronomy. The fundamental problem, however, is that even if the disagreement was merely verbal, we are still left to wonder which side has the better account of what science should mean. St. Thomas would insist that the things of faith should be called scientific right alongside of geometry, arithmetic, and hypotheses about the stars. To the contemporary mind, however, it is absurd on its face to call all these things by the same name, as though they were the same sort of enterprise. Though many might be tempted to simply dismiss Aquinas out of hand (what could those Medievals know anyway?) it's worth while to take a look at the way we use the term science, and see whether we can defend our use of the term as clearly and rigorously as he did.
Scientific Methods and Matters
Every science includes a method and a subject matter. Not every subject matter is treated by the same method, nor can it be. A method is a sort of tool, and one would not expect to use the same tools to understand triangles, laws, logical matter, God, history, ancient civilizations, irrational numbers, life, death, etc. The most well known scientific method, sc. the hypothesis tested experimentally, is worthless for understanding almost all of the things mentioned above.
A Comparison and Contrast of Sense Knowledge and Intellectual Knowledge.
Sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge share four properties:
a.) they are both knowledge, and so they both belong to conscious beings that have an object within consciousness.
b.) As knowledge, they rise above the power of matter considered as such, for they can contain an object in a fundamentally different way from the way a mere matter contains an object (something heard, for example, is not in consciousness the way nails are in a box.)
c.) The thing within consciousness is intentional, i.e. it is about something.
d.) The thing within consciousness can be remembered, which allows for a set of individuals to be grouped together according to some similarity. Tis happens because memory gives something the power to be reminded of something and this reminding of necessity imples similarity.
So long as we focus on consciousness, the way the object is contained, intentionality, or a set of individuals grouped together, we will be unable to distinguish the knowledge of sense from the knowledge of intellect. In these four ways, there is no essential difference between the knowledge of human beings, chimps, chickens, or any other animal with memory (and a-c are common to even animals without memory*.)
Sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge differ in that:
a.) When an object is in consciousness according to sense, it is in consciousness according to its particularity. When an object is in consciousness according to intellect, it is in consciousness in a way that is not limited to any particularity. When I am seeing the color red, I must actually see one particular red thing. When I am thinking about what red means, I need not be thing about any one particular red thing. The imagination of red is about one particular, the word red is not.
b.) Because of this, there is something in the intellect that cannot be reduced to any sense particular. But any sense particular proceeds from the activity of a particular sense organ. Therefore there is something in the intellect that cannot be reduced to the activity of any sense organ**.
c.) The intellect imposes names on things. The name of something is ordered to expressing what is essential in the thing named***. And so the intellect is ordered to understanding what is essential in things, and the seal and external embodiment of this knowledge is the name.
d.) Because the same thing can have different names for different people, the names of things are not natural (like bird calls or the warning growls of dogs), but the words are in some sense conventional. For this reason those who use words are essentially social. The knowledge embodied in words will require life in society. Sense knowledge, as knowledge, does not require this.
*This does not explain all the likenesses between human and animal knowledge- it says nothing of emotions, habits, even a sense in which non-human animals have "voluntary action"
. Animals have been traditionally misunderstood by making them, alternately, both human (think PETA or Peter Singer) and Machines (Descartes, Michael Behe). Though I am convinced that both these opinions are mistakes, I take them seriously and I see them as both having some truth to them. I certainly don't intend to degrade animals by opposing sense knowledge to intellectual knowledge. An animal, or even any natural thing, is essentially
superior to anything we'll ever be able to produce by art.
**This is a 2nd AEE "camestres", not the invalid 1st AEE. The A premise is commensurate)
*** We don't call a man "man" because he is, say, brown-eyed or blond, for this is accidental. We call him man in relation to something essential. This is so with all names even when what is essential is not known explicitly, and so we must substitute something for the essential. But the mere fact that we are substituting for the essential shows that the name is ordered to understanding it.
A Valid And Useful Argument
If ________ were true, I would destroy the possibility of human happiness.
But all actions in human life, including the thought of _________, can only be done for the sake of happiness.
Therefore ___________ is not true.
(for an example of something that could go in the blank, read the philosophy described here
Universality and Intentionality Should Be Taken Into Account When We Consider The Primacy of Ideas
There is nothing wrong with holding that the human intellect first knows the idea, as opposed to the exterior world. This doctrine is common to almost every philosopher who has ever lived, and I suspect that most thoughtful people have at some time considered the doctrine compelling. The difficulty is that the doctrine of the mind first knowing ideas tends to be the cause of apprehension and fear- we fear that the whole world could be a dream or some such thing.
The fear is motivated by thinking that consciousness could replace the external world. In other words, if the first world we know is the world "inside our head"- i.e. the world of consciousness, then it is possible that the world of consciousness could be taking the place of the external world, and we are none the wiser. When we actually pay attention to the nature of the world within our heads, however, it makes no more sense to think it could replace the external world than the idea of grass could replace the idea of a dog.
The world within our heads is universal and intentional. When I say the word "man" which man do I mean? When I think the word "music", which song am I thinking of? Our idea of dog- our consciousness of it, isn't the sort
of thing that could replace Fido and Lassie. No one could ever confuse the idea "dog" with any particular dog in the way that, say, a mallard might confuse a decoy with a real duck, or the way we might mistake a silk rose for a living flower. Our ideas are more than pictures of things, which is manifest both from our experience of what an idea is, and from the fact that even if ideas were simply pictures, this wouldn't explain why they are known. In other words, if we think ideas are nothing more than pictures, we don't explain why they are ideas at all.
Another reason one could never simply replace Lassie with the idea "dog" is that the idea "dog" is about something, whereas Lassie isn't about something. Even if someone wanted to say "okay, the idea of 'dog' can't replace the dog in the world, but the imagination of a dog could replace the one in the world, for the imagination has a particular image". Even then, the argument wouldn't work, for the image in the imagination is still about
something, and essentially so. We can't remove the idea of about-ness from ideas or imaginations any more than we could remove the idea of "side" from square. If we say "everyting is ideas and sensations" we mean "everything is about something else, but something else is meaningless" said another way "everything refers beyond itself, but it can't refer beyond itself"
Sources And Contemporary Scholars
One of the statements that always comes up whenever "thomism" comes up among a group of contemporary scholars goes something like this: "I read a lot about thomism: I've read Genieges 'Spirit in Esse
and thomistic Metaphysics'; Gilson's 'The Spirit of Thomism'; Deneloffmann's 'Esse
and the Analogy of Being in Later Neo-Thomistic Thought...'"
Another very common thing that academic- type people say about thomism goes something like this: "How can I know which school of Thomism is 'authentic' or 'representative'? Should one read The Neo Scholastics? The Augustinian Thomists? The Whig/Transcendental/Existential/ Ontological/ Essentialist/ Analytic Thomists...?"
These opinions share the common trait that it never seems to cross the mind of the one speaking to simply read St. Thomas himself- we do, after all, still have access to the stuff he wrote
. We do not, moreover, need to read him as though he were some kind of unintelligible matter which needed to be formed by the opinions of others. Shouldn't it be one of the main goals of a thomst to read the whole
Summa? How about the entire Contra Gentiles? Disputed Questions? Why not just do this? If we want to solve the question of what is authentically Thomist, if we want to get what is absolutely thomistic, why not go to the one source where we're absolutely certain to get it?
Composition and Negation
One of the points of agreement between Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas is that a concrete term signifies the participation in an abstract form. To call something white means "to have the form of whiteness; to call something a man means "to have the form of humanity". The same is also true vice versa: to have the form of whiteness is to be white, to have personhood is is to be a person. Now as everyone learns in Philosophy 101, there is a difference between what Plato made of this fact and what Aristotle made of it- Plato claimed that the form as form
existed both within the human mind and outside of it, Aristotle claimed that the form as a form exists only within the human mind. But this profound difference of opinion shouldn't obscure the point of agreement between Plato and Aristotle about the relation between concrete and abstract terms. There are two main points of agreement:
a.) The form is that in virtue of which a thing is intelligible, and
b.) The thought of a thing is composite, for a form is viewed in relation to something, either as in it (concrete) or as separate from it (abstract)*.
When we speak of fundamental things, the intelligible form in our mind is usually a negation of something. The first definition in the first science (geometry) is "that which has no part" . The first principle absolutely for man is the principle of contradiction, which cannot be stated without speaking of "cannot" or "impossible". The first principle of the whole universe is well described as "a spirit that is infinitely perfect", but such a being is known by a string of negations: "spiritual" means "not material", "infinite" means "not finite" and "perfect" denotes "that which lacks nothing" or "that to which nothing can be added or taken away".
Negations cannot be treated indifferently. Both what is non-existent and what is spiritual can be described as "non material", but it does not follow from this that the spiritual is the same as the non-existent. It is true that to simply call something, say, "not finite" can apply to both the infinite and the non- existent, but this is not how one comes to the term "not finite" when they arrive at it rightly. We don't simply start out knowing immaterial in the same way that we know "red" or "hot". The word immaterial can never have some meaning apart from what "material" means, and nothing immaterial can be known to exist except in virtue of what we know about matter which exists. This is to say that any meaningful use of the word "immaterial" or "infinite" exists as a sort of term to an inquiry that can never separate itself from the what matter and finitude are.
Another confusion about negation is the way in which it presupposes something positive. Our knowledge of the immaterial requires a prior positive knowledge of material, but not a proper positive knowlege of the thing that is immaterial. What is immaterial is known as a term or limit, or a thing to which the material refers**.
*again, Plato would claim it also has a subsistence apart from mind, Aris. would deny this.
** The argument goes something ike this: all matter stands in need of an exterior agent in order that it might act or be. But this exterior agent cannot be material. So something immaterial must exist, since matter does.
Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle would both hold that the idea is the first things known, but they understand this differently from the idealists: their ideas are intentions, and they are of what Thomas called "nature absolutely considered". The idea "man", for example, is both about something- it's about man, in fact- and it applies to all men. This is an insight that's easy to miss for being obvious. The thought of a man is about a man. This is a unique trait of ideas. A fish, for example, isn't about a fish. An idea also does not need to have the sort of particularity we see in all the things around us: which fish is the word "fish" about"? If it is about any one, it could not be about another, but if it were not about any one, it couldn't be said of it. The claim of the Thomists is that a universal is about any particular, as that particular is known by a human mind. Neither angels or God require abstraction to know.
-Participation first means "to take part in". Each participant takes part because he is a part, and yet in he is also regarded as equal to the whole: each individual player can be treated as though he performed the whole act, whether the act is winning a competition or robbing a bank. When one receives more, it is either because they participated more, or because they played a greater part in causing the thing they participated in.