Vomit the Lukewarm

Without further ado, Vomit the Lukewarm is now located at http://www.liverevolt.com/assimilatiodei . It is now named "Assimilatio Dei".

Please change your bookmarks to reflect this development. Thank you, and enjoy!
Going from this to that.

Certain things can be described as going from _____ to ______. The things in the blanks are-properly speaking- contraries sharing a common genus; we could not, for example, put "green" and "two feet long" in the blanks. A little reflection reveals to us that everything we actually know- cats, season, planets, forces, energy, etc. are things that "go from______ to ______" They move positions, they increase and decrease, they go from being one kind to another, and so on.

There is one condition to "going from _____ to ____": you can't have the thing in the second blank. By definition, then the thing that goes from one thing to a to another has to lack the thing in the second blank, and inasmuch as it might have that thing, it can't go to it. In other words, one necessary condition of things that go from one thing to another is that they lack something.

Another condition of going from ____ to ____ is that the thing has to be able to get to the second thing, and it has to start from the first thing. We cannot, in real truth, be on our way to someplace that is not there.

Other condition is that the second term be the completion of this "being able to get to the second thing". This second thing is either positive of privative, but if it is privative, its isn't called a "thing" except per accidens: engine failure or a crushed house, for example, is more the absence of something than a thing. This is why when we speak about a thing going from this thing to that thing, the "that" indicates a certain fulfillment always, but a perfection when we use the word "thing" in its proper sense.
for what all think to be good, that, we assert, is good- he that subverts our opinion is the belief of all mankind will hardly pursuade us to believe his own either.

Nic. Eth, 10, chap ii

Our most intimate connection to the opinion of all mankind is through the language we speak. Our words are artifacts of billions of individual lives and minds. These words, our tools of thought, are in many cases older even than history, and can be traced to a time that left us nothing but root stems like "erg" or "ad" or "gno" or "len".
True things I heard in the last week, etc:

-Typical male sins are impersonal: drinking, reckless behavior, pornography, and the whole filthy heap of dehumanizing sexual sins.

Typical female sins are personal: manipulation, brutally destructive gossip, and sentimentality in the face of evil persons. Sexual sins tend to be sentimental.

-Modern political science has a curious influence from both John Calhoun and modern advertising practices. In different ways, this seems to make it a science influenced by a love of slavery.

-Christ as eucharistic is the union between the two great commandments- we cannot love God, i.e we cannot make the perfect loving communion with God, without at the same time making a communion with all who receive.

-We can't market sex except by marketing persons- which involves treating a person in exactly the same way one would treat, say, pork bellies or kleenex. The offense here not so much the lack of some distinction (it is not evil for a scale to make no distinction between a 50 pound hog and a 50 pound person) rather it is the confounding the good in itself with the good per accidens. Man is the good for which products exist, not a product that exists for man.

-The human mind, considered as a passive power, knows absolutely everything, without exception. The mind is intrinsically aware of its own absence of limitations even in the mere act of counting, but in the same way, it can relate to "perfection", "cause", "existence". This awareness of the infinity of which we are unable to know in actuality allows us in a certain sense to know what we do not know. Every number that the human mind actually knows is finite, but it does not follow that we need thing of all numbers as being finite- we can in fact know that they have no intrinsic limit. So too with perfections. Every one we know is finite and related to a subject- but we still can be aware that some perfection has no intrinsic limitation. We can even know that it is necessary. I am aware that the two cases of number and perfection are not perfectly equivalent, and I do not propose them as being so. I only mean to indicate the way in which the mind, by being aware of its passive infinity, can in a certain sense "know what it does not know", or as the mystics say "to know God as unknown".
One essential beginning of metaphysics is seeing Parmenides as a problem that needs to be addressed- as opposed to ignored or dismissed.


The life of philosophy: Georgias 526d
What is the thing in us that we seal with a word?

Everyone, and by this I mean everyone- from the crudest materialist to the most spiritualized Platonist, from Marxists to disciples of Berkeley- agree that knowledge involves "having something in mind". We all agree that when we know- by reason or imagination- certain things are "in" us. We are left to explain what this thing is within us, and how is it in us (there it is again, that phrase "what this thing is..." ousia).
The good is communicative of itself.

St. Thomas agrees, but goes further: it is the nature of act- that is, of being- that it communicate itself as much as possible. One of the easiest thomistic axioms to misunderstand is "everything acts inasmuch as it is in act". St. Thomas wants us to take the axiom with the emphasis on the word acts: i.e he wants us to read the axiom as "everything, insofar as it is in act, is acting." see the below, but more importantly, De Potentia, Q. II, art. 1. Where he simply says outright that it is the nature of act to communicate itself, for everything acts inasmuch as it is in act.
It makes perfect sense when you think about it:

SCG, I, c. 45:

Every substance exists for the sake of its operation

...so just as matter exists for the sake of form, so form, which is [being] in first act, exists for the sake of operation, which is [being] in second act. Operation is thus the end of a created thing.

ST, I q.105, a 5

Man exists for the sake of Science and moral virtue. In a virtuous man, one encounters the fullness of a man.
In itself and not in itself

The Categories distinguishes all things into those that are in a subject, and those that are not in a subject. To be in a subject means to really depend upon the subject for its existence. Whatever is not in a subject is a substance (ousia, see below), either primarily (John) or secondarily (man, animal).

One of the characteristic marks of perennial philosophy is this irreducible and primary division between derived existence and existence not being derived. This allows for a certain order, or even a hierarchy among beings. Since there is no common genus between derived beings and beings not derived, but at the same time the mind is naturally carried from the idea of the one to the other, we approximate a genus by a sort of incomplete thought, like "_______ of existence" where certain terms can be placed in the blank. The relation between the various results are said to be "named analogously".
Satire Draft

What if one leveled the same arguments that philosophy has to deal with against, say, Chemistry?

1.) Chemistry, during the time of Dalton and Lavossier, was free and unfettered. But in the times after that, chemistry hardened into dogmatism. Students were forced to memorize the names of the elements; they were taught outdated models of thinking about "atoms as little balls"; students had to learn the ways of balancing chemical equations by rote; anyone who doubted the canonical status of anything in the popular theory was marginalized...

2.) We really should read the writings of the 13th century chemists- there's a lot of good things that we can learn from Madrigon of Chalon, and Rodger of Oxford. Both of them showed some things about the relative densities of things, which is the grounding of modern chemistry. And besides, even if we disagree with what they are saying, we need to know how to respond to people who believe the sorts of arguments they give.

3.) Chemistry is more about the questions we ask about matter. Why should we be killing the spirit of questioning about matter?

4.) Why Should chemistry study matter? There are many other ways of understanding chemistry.
Anyone can doubt or question whether he can know "the metaphysical essence of nature"

Aristotle claims only to know what some things are. So does everyone. You know what language this is.
The Categories and Ousia ---Updated---

It's interesting to follow the word "ousia" though the Categories. Ousia first means "what something is", but it is also the name for the first category of things (usually called "substance").

The word first appears in the opening sentence of the book: "things are said equivocally when... the logos of ousia is different... things are univocal when the logos of ousia is the same." Here "logos" seems to be "account" and "ousia" means "what something is". Another acceptable translation of ousia here would be "essence".

In chapter five of the Categories we read that "ousia, in the truest, strictest, and primary sense of the term is what is neither said of a subject, nor in a subject." By "said of", he means "explained in reference to" and "in" means "deriving existence from". We spoke of this distinction between "of"and "in" a subject below.

The central term in ousia is "what". When we understand ousia as primarily the "what" of a thing, i.e. "what a thing is" it becomes easier to undersand what is commonly called secondary substance. Secondary substance is an absurd sounding concept in English, but if we understand it as meaning "what a thing is secondarily" then it makes more sense. If I point to John Smith, it makes sense to say he is John Smith "primarily" and man "secondarily" or even more generally, he is an animal.

If we call ousia "what" then we can also more easily see the relation that all the other categories have to it. This is how Aristotle initially accounts for the categories, although, as Neoteronous points out, there is no pronoun for "what" in the last four Categories:

How large (quantity)

what sort (quality)

to what (relation)

when (what time)

where (what place)

to lie (what position)

to have (what circumstance)

to act (what doing)

to suffer (what suffering)
It's striking to notice the number of similarities there are between leveling a few insults at people and eating junk food: we do it to relieve stress, we get a small charge of good feeling, we don't cause any desirable growth, we easily get hooked on doing it, etc.

Something like this is indicated in the Psalms, where one who sins is described as having "a heart that is as fat as grease"
Ammonius on the Categories

At the beginning of the Categories, Aristotle divides all uncombined words into four groups:

What is said of a subject, not in a subject (kath' and en hupokeimen__)

What is not of, but is in.

What is of, and in.

What is not of, nor in.

Examples of these, respectively


a particular white, or a particular piece of knowledge


Joe, or "this horse"

Ammonius arranges these in a square of opposition: he says that all is either substance, or accident, and either universal or particular, therefore, there is, in order:

Universal substance

particular accident

universal accident

particular substance.
Having taught Latin for several years, I've heard a fair number of kids whine about how useless it is.

The fact of the matter, though, is that there is simply no comparison between the literature of the ancients and anything composed in a romance language. To complain that Latin is a dead language can only be a part of a proof of the fact that dead men are the only ones worth listening to. The sort of thing that Virgil does with words simply cannot be done in English, and the craftsmanship of what he does can no more be done by a modern writer than an ancient doctor could perform interuterine surgery or build the space shuttle. One can certainly talk about "beautiful modern poetry", but this means about the same thing as "cutting edge- 13th century chemistry".

And even if I might be willing to concede a little bit about poetry, I'd hold more firm on the status of philosophy. There is something to comparing Tennyson or Rimbaud to Cutullus, for example, but it would be utterly meaningless to try to compare, say, Wittgenstein to Plato, as though the two could be measured by a common unit.

I don't think that the ancients were sprinked with some kind of magic pixie dust that made them better poets- I don't even really want to live in the sort of world that makes for ancient poetry. A large part of the reason that the ancients produced better poets (and by extension, literature) is because they treated poets like gods. A great poet could be afforded the same respect as the writers of the Gospels are afforded today, or scientists who heal diseases and produce technology. Such renown is a powerful incentive- the sort of incentive that doesn't exist anymore for poets. Poets write now only because they like too.
One Way To Understand Temporal Being

One way we can understand what it means for all material beings to be temporal beings is to see that in all material things, a sort of clock proceeds from their very nature. Even in matter which seems to be simply "sitting there" we can still know that it is decomposing at a certain rate, being affected by the things that are surrounding it at a given rate, pressing down on the world around it with a certain intensity that is understood with time units, etc. Even inorganic elements are a swarm of activity down to the last electron, an activity that is every bit as regular as a clock, as is seen in radioactive dating of things.
Islam And Stereotypes

Brandon laments that some of the generalizations made about Muslims are the same generalizations made about the Jews. The similarities are striking:

...suspicion of Muslims as a whole, refusal to believe that Muslims can really participate in Western civilization, doubts about whether Muslims can be loyal Americans or Frenchmen or what-have-you, fear-mongering about how much Muslims control...

What are we to do with stereotypes?

The easiest response, and the one I was raised to have, is to see all stereotypes as wrong, simply as stereotypes. The mere act of casting a universal judgment on a group of persons was a sign of ignorance. Since no stereotype is correct, then, we are left only to distinguish the acceptable ones from the non- acceptable ones. The criterion for judgment was that a stereotype was unacceptable if it was held by the enfranchised, and if it impugned the disfranchised.

The easy response, however, rests on the judgment that all stereotypes are simply wrong. This assumption is wrong on is face, and I doubt there is anyone who would believe it if he articulated it clearly. We might still condemn stereotypes as harmful, though, and precind from considering to what extent the stereotype might have some truth to it.

Brandon, and those who commented on his post, were concerned that the stereotypes against Muslims would lead to a hostile and disproportionate harming of Muslims. But to the extent that the stereotypes about Muslims are correct, Western democracies would have to fear being harmed by Islam. I emphasize that I use the phrase "to the extent that". Stereotypes are at best partially true. A stereotype is an opinion formed for the political purpose of making correct a judgment in a majority of cases. What general rules should we have about persons who believe in Islam? Let us all admit that Brandon articulated the stereotypes that are believed against Islam. To the extent that they are correct, the West should fear; to the extent that they are false, Muslims can fear unjust reprisals. My suspicion is that either way, a civilization will fall.
Light as an Equivocal Cause -UPDATED

Light, like mind, unifies contraries in its power of causality: particles and waves, color and whiteness.

Light causes all these things above, though they are exclusive of each other. People often throw up their hands and think that light, because it causes mutually exclusive propeties, must be some kind of contradiction. Empedocles thought something similar to this too (though in a different context)- he said that if smoke comes from fire, then wood must be made out of smoke. More exactly though, thinking that light must be a contradiction because it causes both a particle and a wave is like thinking that the mind is a contradiction because it causes both black paint and white paint.

This sort of overly materialistic thinking with regard to light is only cleared up when we understand the doctrine that the Medievals had about equivocal causes- an equivocal cause is an agent that contains its effects in a higher way than they are present in the effect- like mind does, or like the Medievals thought the sun did. Calculation of sums, for example, is a mechanical operation in a calculator, but it is a spiritual operation in man, i.e. the operation exists in a higher way in a man. In a similar way, night and day can never exist together, but they are known together in the mind- even necessarily so since "night" contains "day" in its definition. So too with "sight" and "blindness" or any other contraries or exclusive things.
As far as modern physics is concerned, a human being (or anything with a body) simply is time, for time is what is from a clock, and a human body- with its heartbeats, developments, menstrual cycles, terms of pregnancy, rates of decomposition after death etc. is a clock just as much as a swinging pendulum. We are sometimes less ideal for measuring purposes, but we are clocks nonetheless. As far as time is concerned, we are the same sort of thing as an electrical pulse going through a quartz crystal at 32,768 waves per second (this is how the average quartz watch measures time, it counts to 32,768 and then ticks another second).
Different sciences have different ways of defining what they study: some define hypothetically, others define according to the proper meaning of the word, others define things in order to make them more apt to be measured well. Each science demonstrates according to these definitions: metrical sciences demonstrate through measurements, hypothetical sciences by confirmation of hypothesis (hypotheses are essentially experimental, since by nature they are predictive- if ______, then this will happen.)

For example, physics and chemistry define "matter" as "whatever takes up space and has mass" a definition that allows for easy measurement by a meter stick and a scale. The Philosophy of nature defines matter according to what the word means: "that out of which something is made". Another science, or part of a science, might define matter according to a particular hypothesis, say that it is reducible to energy in a certain way. Each science gives us an understanding of matter, but according to a particular kind of middle term.
The Signs for the Damned

In the demonic religions of the Aztecs and Maya, the gods were shown with large protruding tongues. The large tongues were signs for something- it is believed that they were symbols of a large thirst needing to be continually slaked.

In our own time, I can think of no better sign for the life of the damned than an abortion machine. It works by inducing a vacuum- a non being; it swallows and gorges itself on death; and by nature it can never be filled (the machine would not work if it were full).

When you think about it, of course modern man had to symbolize his covenant with the damned with a machine. Does anyone think we could have done it with sculpture?
The first commandment acknowledges God as the one "who delivered us out of bondage".
Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas all claim that the goal of human life is to become as like to God as possible (see Theatetus 176 b, Ethics book X) Thomas Aquinas goes further than either of these two and proves that man naturally desires the happiness divinization, and will only be happy when he is divinized.
Cause and effect are simultaneous.

In the first sense of the word "cause", a thing is not a cause unless it is causing, i.e. unless it is actually exercising causation. There is no problem with saying someone or something was caused in the past, and the thing that was caused still exists, but if we pay close attention to how we use the word "cause", it is something that in its most proper sense must be simultaneous with its effect. This is shown from the first definition of a cause: "that which gives rise to an effect*". A cause, therefore, is first known by a relation, and so to lose an actual relation is to lose an actual cause.

*This is the standard definition- I took mine from the OED and American Heritage.
What causes, and what is causing

The not every cause of becoming is the same as the cause of being. The man causes the wall to become white by painting it, but the paint both causes and is causing the wall to have the color it has.

A man conceives a son, and therefore causes a man. But he does not cause his son inasmuch as he is human, for then he would have to cause himself as well.

These are all related to the principle that every thing is either from self, or from other. If not from self, then from something else. We call this something else "efficient cause". And the principle is "the principle of efficient causality".
One and Many

What is found in many can be explained only by reference to some one, as St. Thomas says:

"If something is found as a common note in many, this must be because some one cause has brought it about in them; for it cannot be that the common note of itself belongs to each thing, since each thing is by its own nature distinct."

De Potentia, q.3 a.5

And perfection is found in many.
Limit as Perfection and the Negation of Perfection

Whatever is limited and perfect has a double relation to its limit: in one sense, the perfection is constituted by the limit, and in fact is the same as the limit, but in another sense, the limit is the negation of perfection. The limit cuts off the thing from other perfections: because it has this one, it cannot have that one. It is this sort of limitation that made it necessary for God to create intellectual substance- for everything in the universe was limited only to its own peculiar perfection, but intellectual substance has the perfection of all being by knowledge.
Traditio aut Vanitas

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