The object as separate

In what sense is knowledge an object, in what sense is it not, and is there only one sense in which knowledge is of an object?

 

Object denotes something to be attained, and therefore involves separation and difference. This usually is understood to mean that one must come to a state called “knowledge”, not having knowledge before. The question immediately arises how knowledge is even possible at all: how can we make knowledge from a series of things that fall short of knowledge? The problem is even more dire than this, for even I we could generate knowledge out of nothing; once an object is attained it is no longer an object, for there is no separation from it. Knowledge taken in this sense could neither be attained nor exist if it were attained.

 

 

 

Two notes on John the Baptist.

John the Baptist, when asked who he was, said he was a voice. This is a perfect description, for the actuality and purpose of the voice is from the word; so much so that a voice without its word is literally meaningless, like “a noisy drum or clanging cymbal”. John expresses his complete dependence on the Word (who was a cousin to him, or as he would say, a brother) by saying that he is so totally dependent on the activity of the Word that it would be misleading if he were to perform the slightest activity upon him, like unloosening his sandal strap.

John again protests his unworthiness to perform the slightest activity upon the Word when Christ requests baptism from him: “it is you who should be baptizing me”. Christ counters that it must be done to “fulfill all righteousness”. It fulfills all righteousness because Christ’s baptism sanctified all waters for baptism (again, it is impossible for the waters to act to sanctify Christ). This sanctification of the waters caused the existence of the new sacramental order which is the source of all righteousness. This institution of the new sacrament fulfilled the teachings and witness of the prophets because in this sacrament the door of the Church of Christ opened forever and was opened to heaven.

How much of what I studied existed?

Not every difference added to some genus makes something with a determinate nature. Red and green for example, makes a real difference in color, but not a real difference in, say, cars or numerals. Said another way, red and green are kinds of color; but not kinds of numeral or car. It is obvious that this or that numeral might be red; and that car might be green, but this does not make “green numeral” a kind of thing, as though mathematics is remiss or lacking something because it does not treat of all the wonderful numerals “2” that happen to be written in green ink.

The reason why, say, red makes a real difference in color but not in car is because red determines something in the definition of color, but not of car. The modern account of colors shows this particularly well: “color” as such is that portion of the EM spectrum between X and Y, and red is the part that starts at X. The nature “red’ is a clear determination of color, but it doesn’t determine anything in the definition of a car or a numeral or a bird, even though all can be red. To speak of a red car, despite any feelings to the contrary, is to speak about two natures and not one.

But what is not one, cannot be said to exist in the proper sense of the term. To believe that such a multitude exists as one is in fact the very first principle of sophistry. But we would not be deceived by such a sophistry, would we? We would all realize the silliness of someone teaching about “green numerals”, right?

We certainly wouldn’t be the dupes of a sophistry like “red philosophy”. But how much different is it to speak of modern philosophy, or ancient philosophy, or eastern philosophy? Do any of these terms determine something in the definition of philosophy? For that matter, does anyone bother to define philosophy, or is this viewed as mere narrow dogmatism? If it is narrow, very well- but our alternative is literally to talk about nothing.

How much of what I studied even existed? Who knows? The shadow of non-being was probably over much of it. Socrates- who was never so blithe as to think that something existed simply because someone talked about it- knew this all too well, and he was continually saying he didn’t even know if the things the professional teachers spoke of even existed. This is because Socrates always focused on the first things.

Thoughts on the Evils of Hallucinogens, Psychedelics, etc.

If we can see the value in chastity, we can see the evil of drug use: just as artificially altering impeding the function of one’s reproductive organs is a great evil, so a fortiori is artificially altering and impeding ones organs of thought and reasoning.

 

I can alter the natural disposition of my consciousness; I can alter the natural object of my consciousness as present in mind. But the natural object of my consciousness is truth. Therefore if drug use is good, error and falsehood are as well.

 

Truth consists properly in conformity to mind. The intentional and deliberate desire to alter consciousness is therefore a desire to alter truth- it is in a very real sense a rejection of all truth as such.

 

To seeks an artificially altered consciousness requires that we find or natural consciousness lacking. But our natural consciousness is has as its first connatural object being. Drug use, then, involves some rejection of existence, and a judgment calling it insufficient. 

 

The use of psychiatric drugs also proves the same point: the purpose of drugs acting on the mind is to return the mind to its natural state. Again, the very moral measure of the drug is how well it can move a damaged consciousness to its natural state.

 

notes on Catholic Protestant ecumenism, II

The goal of ecumenism is the union of the Church. I have great hope for Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism simply because it’s possible. A group of Patriarchs could get together with a group of Bishops, sign a sheet of paper, and declare unity. The following week, the parishioners would gather and mass would continue the same as it did the week before.

I have no hope or Catholic-Protestant ecumenism because neither can hold that the other is a Church. As I’ve said before, a right thinking Protestant can believe it’s possible for a situation to arise under which he would have to leave his denomination; but a right thinking Catholic can never believe this. Again, an orthodox Catholic believes that the Church of Christ is, was and will always be identified with a single denomination; but a Protestant can never believe this- for to do so would destroy the possibility of Protestantism. These ways of seeing the Church are fundamentally contrary, which is to say they are the maximum difference within a single genus. It is precisely this contrariety makes it always possible for people to say “look at how much Catholics and Protestants have in common!”

Again, I stress that this contrariety is essential to Protestantism and Catholicism. When a Catholic walks into a Protestant religious service and discerns that everyone there is more or less equal, his natural reaction is to say “Why do I have to be here?” In other words, this is what a Catholic understands as a devotional service, and such a service can be had at home, or on a Tuesday, or once a month, or with friends, or even not at all. When a Protestant walks into a Catholic religious service and discerns that everyone there is not equal, but the priest is distinctively more important, his reaction is to say “Why does he have to be here?” The Protestant mind sees a cleric as a man put between God and other men, and as therefore, at best, a useless addition to the Gospel (this strikes me as true even in the case of High-Church Anglicans).

This was the sense of the crack that I made a few days ago about Catholic-Protestant ecumenism being like an odd dinner party, etc. All sides are waiting for the death of the other because in one way or another they realize that there can never be one Church composed of, say, Catholic and Protestant “rites”. It’s impossible even to speak of how one would form one Church from both. We can of course be polite and cordial with each other, and even learn a few things, but we will never be one and we all know it.

I say this not to be a naysayer, but in an ecumenical spirit. The discussions between Catholics and Protestants will lead to the realization that the split between them is grounded on a principles that neither side can concede without ceasing to exist. Ecumenism can be sobering too, and this is one such moment. What is called for is not more cheerful dialogue, painstaking agreements, and then calls for more study. In this particular case, an action for the unity of the Church demands that we choose the correct side, reject the other, and then dedicate our efforts toward bringing people to it.

Nature as a source of action

 

All actions, insofar as they are created things, are being caused by the divine mind; but not all actions proceed in the same way.

 

The root of all action is some tendency. Consider that we tend in different ways to the ground, or to eat, or to write a poem, or to lift one’s mind and heart to God (prayer). The first arises from a nature we share with all bodies, the second from nature we share with all plants, the third from a nature we share with all human beings. The last, however, arises from the divine nature.

 

Nature is the first source and cause from which action arises. Any action according to faith, hope, or charity does not arise from human nature, but from the divine nature. This teaching is de fide.

 

The use of anything according to human nature-whether thought or desire or emotion- conforms us to human nature; the use of anything according to faith- again, regardless of what it is- conforms to the divine nature.

 

Any effect of a created is attributed wholly both to the divine nature, and to the created nature that acts, although it is attributed in different ways. Does this not imply an unnecessary multiplication of causes? No, because a substance with true causal power is created to fill out the order of the universe. Those things that cause themselves are the living; those caused by others, the non-living. This marks the principle distinction in nature, and within this distinction there are multiple orders and hierarchies of self-motion and being-moved.

Descartes convinced us that we were “thinking things” first, and we soon became “knowing subjects” or just “subjects”. The argument has many variants, but we can summarize them like so: if you want to understand what you are, you have to think about it first. This makes you first a thinking thing Q.E.D.

 Philosophy after Descartes becomes an attempt to come to the rest of the world from the knowing subject. The first thing we come to is the “object”, which is experienced both as different from the subject, and as contained within it. The usual way the mind deals with this is to assume that since the object is within the subject, it is really just a modification of it. And so the object becomes just a certain way of being subjective. We arrive then at the well-known pan-subjectivity of the modern mind. The average college student can be brought to that state within minutes of reading the Meditations (that Descartes hated and utterly rejected pan-subjectivism is of little importance. All of his best arguments lead to it, and all his arguments against it are immediately seen as circular and weak).

The problem with Descartes main argument is not that it says that we are thinking things first, but that the argument implicitly understands “thought” as excluding all that is not thought, as opposed to seeing “thought” as being concomitant, with other things that are not thought. My experience of thinking is simultaneously an experience of being alive; even though “to think” does mean the same thing as “to be alive”. This awareness of being alive is just as inerrant as thought, and can even stand apart from an explicit experience of thought (in the same way that thought can be viewed as separate from life). If I am really dead and having all these experiences, what would this show except life after death? Let all be a dream, if you wish. Still, only the living dream. In a word, Descartes strikes on something we know first, but not the only thing we know first. The same sort of argument that forces us to see ourselves as “subjects” forces us to see ourselves as “living”: the same priority that we accord to mind we must accord to soul.

notes on c-p ecumenism (part II is now posted above)

1.) Catholic- Protestant ecumenism is like a very odd dinner party where everyone sits around saying polite and edifying things while waiting for the other guest to die.

2.) Whoever dies first will not be remembered well: we are pleasant to each other now but as soon as the other dies he will be ranked with the Arians, Donatists, Nestorians, Manichees..etc. Just another heresy that flourished for its season before it went the way of all flesh. Who has sympathy with the Arians, even though their Scriptural case is forceful enough to convince 90% of Christians, if it were only presented well? Who reaches out trying to understand the Donatists, even though they had Established Christian communities with buildings, and art, and services?

3.) A mystic or holy and pious person says “all is God’s work, none is my own”. Read as a mystical statement, it is perfectly correct. The theologian comes in and says “Ah ha! An affirmation of my doctrine concerning unchangeable predestination of God!” Well, no. The pious person didn’t mean to speak in a way that could clarify a theological doctrine. The theologian or law scholar seeks to express of a clear matter and so speaks in such a way as to convey clarity, the mystic is trying to convey an experience which is less clear and so he speaks in such a way as to convey its lack of clarity.

On the refutation of the Sadducees, Part I

The Sadducees argue that the Mosaic Law (concerning sisters-in-law) and natural institutions (marriage itself) are each incompatible with the resurrection of the body. Christ’s refutation of them, therefore, begins by saying that they understand neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. The “power of God” indicates natural theology: the invisible things of God, namely his eternal power and divinity, are clearly seen by the things that have been made (Romans 1:20).

 

Christ first corrects their error concerning natural theology: the children of this world marry and reproduce; the children of the resurrection do not. Reproduction allows us to participate in eternal life only according to our species; whereas in the resurrection, we participate in eternal life according to our own personal life. As we presently exist, our nature goads us to reproduce as it surges up toward eternal existence; but when it reaches the eternity it seeks, it no longer needs to surge toward it.

    

three notes on the Sadducees and their argument given to Christ

-The Sadducees, to hear them say it, were a sect of Jews who had come under the influence of the Epicureans. Their philosophy led them to a launch thorough critique of their own religion, which dismissed unenlightened and ancient Mosaic superstitions in favor of the more enlightened Hellenism and Romanism which was beginning to flourish in Judea. One aspect of this enlightenment was a textual critique of their own canonical books, and especially a critical evaluation of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, which is directly mentioned in the Book of Job and the book of Maccabees..

-The Sadducees place a riddle to Christ: a woman had a husband who died leaving her childless; so the man’s brother- by Mosaic law- married the woman and died leaving her childless… the Sadducees then multiply out this example seven times and conclude with the death of the woman herself. Notice that their argument would follow just as well if they had said only two husbands had married her and died, but they multiply it out to seven. This reference to the “seven times” has a pretty clear meaning in the Scripture as indicating something total or complete. Their argument, then, means to show a certain totality or complete dominion of death over the world.

-Notice the role of infertility in the Sadducees’ argument. How are we to understand the next life? in relation to continual copulation, leading to nothing, ending in death.

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