Causality

A reduction of causes always leads to some cause that causes by itself, for only this cause can make us cease to look for causes. We can be deceived as to whether something causes by nature or not, but it doesn’t change the sort of cause that we seek.

Thomism holds that natural things cause by themselves- but thomism holds also that this very causality is a certain creature that is being caused, that is, God is causing things that are themselves really causing, in such a way that their causality is not derivative in the sense of being merely instrumental. Such a cause would reduce nature to art, and divine causality to merely human.

If we see knowledge as essentially requiring a subject and object which are opposed to each other, then the attainment of the object would constitute a destruction of knowledge, for it would collapse the object into the subject. What takes the place of knowledge is a continual positing of hypotheses that approach the object. The creative activity of the self posits possibility after possibility, refutes each one, and transcends them both only to start the process over again. There is nothing wrong with seeing this as a way that knowledge can proceed, only with seeing it as the only way that knowledge can proceed- which is exactly what is required by the subject/object distinction in knowledge.

The negation of the purely speculative and divine. UPDATED

Philosophy since Descartes has seen science as beginning before the attainment of an “object” that is to be attained by the power of a subject, or human self. Whether this putative object is attained or not is of little importance compared to the fundamental decision to oppose object and real world to the subject and the self, and to seek the former pair through the latter. As soon as one makes this move, self as self becomes the absolutely first principle of knowing the world, and all knowledge, even if it is considered knowledge of the object or real world, must be measured by the human self. Human knowledge, as human, becomes an essential principle for the knowledge of everything, that is, of every object. But anything that necessarily derives its existence from the human mind is in some way practical, and so the object, as attainable and attained by science is a certain made thing. This is true even if the knowledge is also essentially speculative, for example, logic and mathematics are each essentially speculative and essentially practical sciences. Here is the essential point: given Descartes’ first principle, it is absolutely impossible to have a science that is not essentially practical, even if it is also  in some sense speculative. All this follows from his understanding of an object of science as something to be attained by a subject or self.

Aristotle, by contrast, did not make the first principle of his science self-as-opposed-to-object, but was agnostic about whether man measured all possible knowledge or not. Aristotle did not see science as beginning with the attainment of an object, but as ending with it. He saw the science as beginning with a subject manifest to experience. Through considering one such subject, mobile being, Aristotle concludes that man does not measure all knowledge that he attains, for he attains to some knowledge that is beyond him insofar as he is a human being. There is an element or power in man that transcends what is proper to him as man, and it is this element that man is most called to live in accordance with. By living in accordance with this divine element, man becomes the possessor of what Aristotle would call “divine science”. The primacy of this divine science does not preclude study of the sciences proper to man as man- in fact it requires them in order to be understood, and it cannot be learned until after essentially human sciences.

Descartes’ philosophy, and the whole tradition after him, is based on this negation of the divine in man.

The order of the five ways

We come to know God from first knowing creatures, and so the order of the five was follows the order that the creature as made refers to the maker. We first see the creatures as simply made, i.e. as things once possible which were made actual (1st Way). We then move to explicitly considering the maker and efficient cause (2nd Way), and since efficient causes so easily call to mind motion and temporal existence, the third way divides the efficient cause from the whole order of contingent things by separating God both from what simply contingent, and from what has any dependence on another (3rd Way). Having been set apart from all contingency, all the perfections in things are seen as supereminently and suprecompletely contained in divinity:  supreme truth, goodness, beauty, power, exemplar causality, perfection, wisdom, purity, life, love, object of worship and holiness (4th Way). The whole universe of nature is then seen as governed and under the dominion of superabundant, an therefore common good (5th Way).

Although there is never a time when the proofs lose their reference to creatures given in sensation, the order of the first four ways is toward the removal or negation of the divine from the universe, and the fifth way, as it were, reunifies the divinity into the innermost parts of nature itself [Cf. Banez, Commentaria]

Notes on the Kalam Argument

In its typical modern form, the Kalam argument is

What begins to exist has a cause

The universe begins to exist

So the universe has a cause.

(Beginning is usually taken as “temporal beginning” or “a beginning in time”.)

The root of temporal existence is mutability, and the mutability of things rests on a principle in things that is capable of becoming something else. How many things does this mutable principle allow a thing to become? An indefinite or infinite amount. Temporality, then, contains a certain infinity within itself, and in this sense there is no temporality without infinity. The temporal nature as temporal is more compatible with infinite regress.

If “beginning” is taken to mean the transition from non-existence to existence as such, then why invoke the universe? Perhaps because it is easier to imagine the universe as transitioning from existence to non-existence, or because a certain unity of effect would point to a unity of cause. But so long as we focus on existence as such, the argument applies just as well to anything that exists.

When we say “beginning to exist in time” are we focused on the source of existence as temporal, or as existence?

The certitude of conscience

Consider how we experience certitude in conscience. This kind of certitude does not argue or demonstrate or even speak. We simply experience a truth and judgment already established: that thing I did was wrong. To give reasons for why the thing is wrong would be possible but unnecessary. A conscience speaking rightly does not need additional reasons, for it is reason.

Could one man in ten thousand actually give the correct argument from ethics as to why that thing I did was wrong? Probably not. Would an argument from ethics be rationally necessary to convince a man in an argument about moral philosophy? Probably. The argument in some sense requires a proof that almost no man can give, but which no man of right conscience needs.

It is therefore not outside of our experience to have a complete rational certainty of something not self evident in the absence of an argument, demonstration or discourse.

Proclus, Elements, IV

Every thing which is converted to itself is incorporeal.

To be converted is to turn back to something. Extension cannot turn back upon itself as a whole, but mind can turn basck its thought upon itself as a whole. Even in the case of a light beam which can reflect back into itself, still, this part of light cannot turn back upon the same part of itself. Mind, however, can consider the very power of consideration we have, and be consious of its own consciousness.

Almost any spacial consideration will yeild the same result: compare, for example, the way that body and mind “contain things”, or the way a body and mind can “reach out” to things, or the way they “go somewhere”.

Proclus, Elements, III

All beings proceed from one first cause.

A single formality proceeds from a single cause, for a procession is one if it is to one.

Beings are either simple or composite. But for the simple to subsist means or it to preserve its unity, and for the composite to exist means to preserve the unity of its composition. But all unity is being caused by a participation in the one (prop I). So too is all being.

Causality denotes influx into an effect, but influx into a cause is from one to another. But from and to are the extreme terms of influx, and whatever is bound by terms it its extremities has a first.

All infinite regresses take place over an infinite time, but all actual causes are simultaneous.  Therefore ll actual causes are finite and require some first. But the being of things is being caused by participation, etc..
First causes are either one or many. If they are all one, then this one is the one cause causing all. If they are many, then they are being caused by the one through participation with it.

Goodness is a cause of all being, for it draws all being to itself. But goodness is either one or many, and so the above follows.

Proclus, Elements, Part II

(Some summaries and alternate proofs for the enunciations of Proclus’ Elements of Theology

 All multitude participates in a certain respect of The One.

A multitude is this multitude, and is therefore has some unity. But it does not have unity in virtue of itself (for it is a multitude), and so it has unity in virtue of another from the multitude. This other is either one unity among a multitude, or is is the principle of unity for the whole multitude of all things. But without some principle of unity for the whole multitude of all things, the whole becomes unthinkable- to say “all things” would be a contradiction, for the whole would not be a whole, all things would not be all.

 What participates in The One, is both one and not one.

Participation in the one requires two things; unity and distinction. As unified with it, it is in someway one, and as divided from it, it is in some way many, for division from the one is possible only by some multitude.

  Everything productive of another is more excellent than the nature of the thing produced.

What causes (is causing) another either makes another cause, or not. If not, it is of a more eminent nature than what has no causal power. If it creates another cause, then either the second cause is greater in power, equal, or inferior. If inferior, the enunciation is proven. If equal, then a posterior cause is equal to a prior one, which is impossible. If greater, then its very causal power is an effect of the first cause, which makes it supposedly equal, which has just been shown impossible.

More briefly, what is causing cannot cause its own priority in another. But the excellence of a cause is in its priority to other causes and effects.

The good itself is the leader of all things that in any way whatever participate in the good.  

This follows from the first theorem, for the unity of anything it its good, for since all being is either a composite or simple, but both subsist by unity, and all things seek subsistence, all unity is good.  

Moreover, all participation presupposes a common good, and so participation in The One presupposes a single common good of The One.

All being seeks the good, and so what is primarily good is beyond them. If it is one of them, then there is some being that would not seek the good.

The cause of unity

Two things are each one. Pace to Ockham, each is one in virtue of its unity. How do we explain this unity in both? Insofar as each of the unified things is taken one after another in itself, there are many unities, and so it must be explained in virtue of a unity in another. But so far as this unity is in another it must be a different kind of unity, otherwise this unity would simply be a third unity in relation to the other two, and so on to infinity, which would give no reason either. But insofar as this unity in another is the source of unity, we can extend the meaning of “one” to speak of the source, as Aristotle points out that “healthy” is said first of health in a body, and later of medicine, which is the cause of health.

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