The word “is” or “exists” in the five ways, part 1

The first way says

Motion exists
Motion requires a first mover
So a first mover exists.

The thomist insists that the word “exists” has a different meaning in the premises and the conclusion, that is, the word is not univocal. In fact, the proof for the existence of God is not possible unless the word “existence” or “is” can have different meanings in the premise and the conclusion, for

Univocal terms are in one genus
All that is in a genus is characterized by potency.

First movers are without potency.

Distinctions in sense knowledge.

Take three different ways of describing the same experience:

I see red and green
I see a shape
I see a rose.

All are appeals to sense knowledge, but not in the same way. In the first, we speak of something that can only be discerned by the sense of sight; in the second, of something that we could also sense through touch (we could feel out the buds and the thorns); and in the third we are claiming to see something that has both the red and the shape. Rose is a name for a certain single thing having many things; a size, shape, color, reproductive power, a parent, a history, a position, etc. The rose is a certain principle by which all the things it has are one.

So say the world did explode- what then? Nothing much. Space was silent the day before, and it would be silent soon afterwards.

A regime vs. the dominant ideology of the regime

Plato’s descriptions of the five different political regimes precind from the distinction into left and right. Presumably, our distinction between left and right could characterize any regime; in other words we could have an aristocract, democrat, or Tyrant, that was either liberal or conservative.

Both perfection and imperfection lead to God.

I can focus on the perfection of the universe, or the imperfection of the universe, and am led to knowing God either way. By the perfection, there are design arguments; by the imperfection, there is the fourth way.

As I am nervous about the present way in which design arguments are made (too many of them rely on the questionable basis of probability theories) let me give this as an example of what I mean:

Suppose there were beings who had always lived beneath the earth, in comfortable and well lit dwellings, decorated with statues and pictures and furnished with all the luxuries enjoyed by those we reckon to be supremely happy. Now suppose these beings, though they had never been above ground, had learned by report and hearsay about the existence of the gods and their divine power; now if at some time the the jaws of the earth were opened and they were able to escape from their hidden abode and come forth into our world… Suddenly they would see the the earth and the sea and the sky and come to know the vast clouds and the mighty winds, beholding the sun, not only seeing its beauty but also its power to cause the day by shedding light all over the sky. Even after night has darkened the earth they see the whole sky adorned with stars, and the changing phases of the moon’s light… seeing all these things, surely they would think that the gods exist, and that these wonders are the handiwork of the gods.

The vanity of man. No sooner do we imagine supernatural help then we imagine ourselves entitled to it. Even worse; we will not admit God exists unless he gives us supernatural help.

“But there is so much evil everywhere, this universe is broken, isn’t God love, goodness…” Let this be: it is all beside the point. Let all nature be one vile cesspool of cruel indifference (it isn’t). What claim do I have, as a natural being, to a good that is greater than nature? It’s obvious that I can’t invoke a political right, or a familial right to supernatural help; but it’s even more obvious that I cannot invoke a natural right to something beyond nature.

There is a sense in which the argument from evil is very true: for if it were true that we could invoke some claim to God’s help, then God would not be supernatural: but such a being- a non supernatural God- is a contradiction. Again, if we pay careful attention to the argument from evil, it demonstrates that a God who would be wrong to help us does not exist. The conclusion is correct: there is no such being.

On the meaning of ‘is’ Part I

Anyone can see that “runs” and “running” are the same word; but “is” and “being” have the same relation. The wild irregularity of the verb “to be” (am, are, is, being, to be, be, was, were, been) hides relations that should be more apparent, and which are more apparent in other verbs.

Properly speaking, we can never learn what being is; for all learning is a certain transition from not knowing something to knowing it- but we already know what being is before we ask about it, because to ask about being means to ask what it is (the case is similar with the word “meaning” and “mean” in the sense of signifying). Being is already known in a way that no other concept is. Who does not understand what “dilatoriness” is can understand it at least in potency- and he can have it explained to him in a way that doesn’t require him to actually understand the word itself or any of its roots, like “dilatory”; but whoever does not have some actual understanding of being cannot ever ask what it is. If the verb were not so irregular, the previous sentence would be an obvious tautology.

On being a role model

I imagine that if you told the average college professor that he was a role model, he would deny it. They could counter by pointing out that they are hardly the most influential persons in the student’s life, and they are certainly not all models of what the perfect professor should be. Both these points would be true, but they are beside the point. When a student thinks “how should an academic person act?” the most powerful answer to the question will come from simply remembering the actions and character of the various academics that he has actually met. It is not the case that the student only takes the best teachers as role models: this is implicit even in the very word “role model”; for a role model is someone who models a role, someone who shows us what a certain role looks like. If we model the role well, then the student will get a good idea of what the role is; and if we model it poorly, the student will get a bad idea of what it is. If a student only sees professors who are skeptical, hesitant, dispassionate, and overly enamored with their own theories and with their own jargon; then it will be almost impossible for the student not to think that he must act exactly like this if he wishes to act like an academic: even if he disagrees with the content of everything he has learned.

Because we are real persons, existing in the flesh, we cannot avoid first modeling ourselves on the real persons we know. In whatever role we have been placed, we do not have the choice of whether we will be a role model or not, only whether we will be a good role model or a bad one.

A symbol is not a word. Doing algebra problems is not like reading a sentence, it’s like playing checkers or chess- although it is immeasurably more powerful. This symbol can do this. What is a number to algebra? There is no answer; for a number is really anything that can be used in an equation. Pi, i, 3, 3.5, 1, -2; all are numbers as far as algebra is concerned- but try definining number in such a way as to include all of these symbols. A symbol does not say what something is; it tells us how something can be used.

A symbol is not a word. Doing algebra problems is not like reading a sentence, it’s like playing checkers or chess- although it is immeasurably more powerful. This symbol can do this. What is a number to algebra? There is no answer; for a number is really anything that can be used in an equation. Pi, i, 3, 3.5, 1, -2; all are numbers as far as algebra is concerned- but try definining number in such a way as to include all of these symbols. A symbol does not say what something is; it tells us how something can be used.

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