Annoyance and agape

I’ll start by assuming I have some garden variety negative feeling for someone, and that I’m distracted by an intense annoyance. It would be relatively easy to keep whatever is annoying me in place, but change one detail about the situation and dispel all my irritation. So maybe I’m annoyed they’re talking too loud, driving too slow, disturbing my class, a fan of some rival team, etc but then I suddenly discover they are a huge donor to my school. Suddenly I’m discovering I like them, my negative feelings lessen or perhaps never are allowed to arise, their unbearable qualities become endearing quirks etc. So if everyone had something I wanted or admired 99% of the negative feelings I have will never occur.

For a Christian, the admirable trait about others is their ability to acknowledge, give glory, and love the same God whom he loves. Like a fundraiser sees a rich donor, the Christian living out his agape sees the power of his neighbor to love the same God he loves. This is one way of understanding the integral connection between Christ’s two highest commandments, which achieves a special intensity in the Johannine corpus, where love of God and love of neighbor appear as two dimensions or parts of a single act of agape.

Pythagoras, Galileo, and Donald Duck

Call it the Pythagorean inference: you explain something in nature by a noticing its ratios finding some algorithm, and the thing explained fades into the clarity of its geometrical lines against a black background. One could just as easily call it the Galilean postulate, or the mathemagical one. Math is the language of nature or God or whatever.

While the power of this vision of things is inarguable the inference is superfluous. Nature is represented and reproduced by math in the same way that a symphony performance is represented and reproduced by a string of 1s and 0s on a CD or a series of peaks and troughs on vinyl, but this doesn’t make the 1s and 0s the hidden language of the orchestra.

Cosmological proofs demonstrate a finite number of causal steps between any given effect and the divine causality, which seems to indicate a penultimate cause that is properly and immediately caused by God. One wonders why he couldn’t locate this penultimate cause and prove God’s existence from that.

But this is just what one is doing, since the five ways for example prove the unmoved from the moved, the pure agent from the hypothetical agent, something necessary in itself from what is necessary by another, the measuring perfection from measured perfection, the directing intelligence from the directed. Qua moved, a thing immediately relates to the unmoved, but qua, say, a moved log it’s pushed with a stick or your hands or the central nervous system or soul or whatever. Taken in the latter way the list of causes can be indefinitely long, though perhaps in some ways motions will converge on a sort of mobile that is in immediate contact with divinity in other ways. So if we analyse the motion down to something moving with natural motion then the nature will have divinity the definition we form of it though its final causality: nature is the plan of the divine art given to things that they might act for an end, or as form nature is a manner of openness to divine action moving it according to its proper motion. If we analyze motion down to finite intelligence, this too will formally contain a reference to divinity since any cognitive power is in immediate contact with the cause of its formal object, and the formal object of the intellect is being.

Note on impeccability

If one could sin after his judgment then no judgment would be final, so after judgment neither the saved or the damned are able to sin.

Purgatory as participation in the passion

The souls in purgatory have the same amount of charity they will have in heaven and are incapable of sin. Given their impeccability, they cannot experience sorrow with complaint, timidity, regret, hesitation, or even an absence of fervor to take up their cross. They thus go through their passion as participating-Christs. Purgatorial souls are by grace another Christ, setting their faces to Jerusalem and walking straight toward it, come what may.

Exchange model sexual ethics

0.) Sex contributes to happiness through social structures that give heterosexual men and women what they want out of it. Absent this, social structures do not deliver happiness but incentivize the imposition of things contrary to men’s and women’s wills, and since there is nothing to violence except imposing things contrary to the will, such social structures incentivize different modes of sexual violence.

1.) In the early stages of heterosexual relationships, sex can mostly be viewed as a good women have and men want.

2.) Early stages means prior to a shared life and willingness to sacrifice for shared goals. After this, (1) is not as useful at explaining sex, though some explanatory power remains.

3.) The male wanting of the good is strong enough as to make more or less any cost acceptable.

4.) The female wanting of a shared life and willingness to sacrifice for shared goals is comparable to the male desire in (1) and (3.)

5.) If we make the cost for males shared life and and willingness to sacrifice for shared goals, they will take it as acceptable and women get what they want.

6.) This suggests a traditional sex-after-marriage ethic, but the our present beliefs about marriage are probably not a good fit for the ethic. Marriage is seen as a capstone event of such enormous significance that it requires extensive trial periods and experimentation, and can only be solemnized if one is willing to spend exorbitant sums. It’s seen entirely as a decision of the future spouses who, lacking as they do much experience in either sex or love or even life, take it as a burden to make an informed decision about marriage until after extensive experimentation with both sex and commitment.

The substantiality of form and matter

Why say that soul (or any supposedly substantial form) is in the substantial order and not in the accidental one? If, for example, matter and its diverse arrangements suffice to explain life, why not make soul an accident of material?  

Substance is anything that exists by itself, and in changeable substance this describes both the matter that is common to this and that substance and the substance that is just this thing and not another. Protein is a substance common to both the pig and the pork, but the pig itself is no less a substance. Given that a pig is just itself and not some other substance, its substantiality comes from somewhere else than the substantiality of its matter, the latter consisting as it does in the ability to be both a pig and pork.

So we see in Aristotle a substance dualism so different from what now goes by the name that calling it such is almost ironic. Matter and form are both substantial as not existing in another substance and enduring throughout change, but the substantiality of matter is in its being neither this nor that substance while the substantiality of form is its being just this and not something else. Since the substantiality of form is prior to matter by rendering it intelligible and being that without which potentiality cannot exist, this dualism allows for a primacy of form that itself allows for a gradient, at the top of which is a form which is prior to matter not just by conferring actuality on it but by conferring an actuality that the form has of itself, and this description in turn is true, in different ways, of the human soul and of God.

1.) Substance is either simply itself or the principle of another. I can look at a pig either as itself or as sausages, and if the latter then as all the persons who might be built up by eating them. These two compose the pig. By the first it is just itself and nothing else; by the second it arose from the past and continues into the future as what it is not now. A pig is, in reality, in one way just a pig node in an all but infinite line of non-pig stretching infinitely before its conception and after its death; in another way it is the being as opposed to what existed before it was conceived and after it exists.

2.) Reductionism seeks to deny one element of this composition and keep only the infinite line in two directions; it denies that substance is form, it can only admit that substance is matter. This includes both the pure reductionism that denies all form and the qualified reductionism that allows for an emergence of form, though only one that does not constitute the substance. But to deny that things like pigs are substances is gives them only mental unity and therefore only mental being. This is denies the very thing we want science to explain; and it is no exercise of Ockham’s razor but simply an insanity that says pigs don’t exist, but they have real causes.

3.) The material element that pre-exists the pig and exists after it is necessarily a body, but not necessarily alive (e.g. it can be a sausage.) Therefore a living body is a composite of body and form as substance.

Aristotle on formal causality

Here is a very clear view of formal causality:

Now since that which is composed of something in such a way that the whole is a unity; not as an aggregate is a unity, but as a syllable is—the syllable is not the letters, nor is BA the same as B and A; nor is flesh fire and earth; because after dissolution the compounds, e.g. flesh or the syllable, no longer exist; but the letters exist, and so do fire and earth.Therefore the syllable is some particular thing; not merely the letters, vowel and consonant, but something else besides. And flesh is not merely fire and earth, or hot and cold, but something else besides.

Metaphysics VII c. 17

So is OT one syllable or not? Lot gives one answer and lotion another, i.e. the parts don’t decide the question but the role that they play in the whole. The explanation of unity thus runs from whole—> part, and so to explain anything from part—>whole requires denying its unity, or at most asserting a unity it has only in our mind.

The most familiar part—> explanation is the scientific one, whether in its strong reductionist form in the weaker form that allows for emergence, i.e. that something rises above matter but it exercises no whole—> part causality.

Just and sinner simultaneously

On the question of justification the claim of most Catholic apologetics is that the Catholic theory makes grace physically transformative whereas the Protestant (Lutheran?) theory makes grace an extrinsic imputation. As Luther put it, grace leaves us simul justus et peccator, or sinners justified because God chooses to look past our sins. Wherever one stands on the controversy, there does seem to be a very robust sense in which Catholicism needs to teach that the justification makes one simul justus et peccator, even while grace is physically transformative. The best evidence for this is the unbroken testimony of Catholic saints, who insist both that they were transformed by grace and who nevertheless went to their graves protesting that they were the worst of sinners. So the Catholic paradigm cases of transformed souls testify that their own transformation involves not the banishing of all sin but in its deeper and more contrite acknowledgement. To be sure, the saints overcome the worst of sins (the habitual mortal, the mortal, and the habitually venial) but they never reach a state where they don’t stand in need of new mercies. This is perhaps the heart of the matter, sc. God as revealed is most of all his hesed and so divine ascent consists in appreciating our need for him as he is, not in gaining that dream of the scrupler of a purity within himself making mercy no longer necessary.

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