The lottery is not rigged because a man wins it by providence
February 26, 2004 at 10:21 pm (Uncategorized)
February 20, 2004 at 11:04 am (Uncategorized)
A False Inference About Infinite Regress
We prove the existence of God By showing the impossibility of certain things having an infinite regress (Motion, causality, contingency…etc.)
One of the most common inferences from this is that God’s causality in things must be very far away. After all, we are only sure that the causes are not infinite How many are there then? Billions?
When I was discussing this proof with a class yesterday, everyone in the class was quietly convinced that this God, even if he existed, must be very far away. If God acted on the here and now, he only did so with a very long pair of fire tongs, or through a universe of middle men.
But this is to profoundly misunderstand the proof. If we actually follow out lines of causality are probably not more than five intermediate causes between any action or being and God (very often there are none). All things which reduce to some natural motion or desire are in immediate contact with the Divine causality, for nature is nothing other than an openness to be moved by the divine mind in a certain way.
This is only to say that if there are intermediate causes, there usually are not many between the first and the final. To deny an infinite regress is not to assert an immense one.
February 14, 2004 at 12:59 pm (Uncategorized)
Part Three: Distinctions in the Word “Being”
The first principle of our philosophical knowledge requires that being and non-being are both absolutely universal, co-extensive, and mutually exclusive. They are absolutely universal because there are no words which can be said of more things than “being” and “non-being”. They are absolutely co-extensive in our minds, because there is no part of “being” which does not have “non-being” as its negation, and no part of “non-being” which is not the negation of being. They are absolutely mutually exclusive because being is, and cannot not be; which requires that non-being is not, and cannot be.
(note: some people include in the principle of contradiction the phrase “at the same time and in the same respect”. I have no objection to this, but the phrase is not necessary, and it opens the door to an indefinite amount of cumbersome qualifications, which do not add to the principle, but which only help some people understand what is meant by “being is and cannot not be”)
Non- being cannot be. Said another way, non- being is not able to be. Whatever is able to be must therefore be contained in our word “being”. But what is possible or potential is able to be. Therefore the possible and potential must be called being.
The possible is also opposed to the actual. But what is actual is manifestly a being. Therefore we call by the name “being” both that which is potential, and that which is actual. But to be possible is not the same thing as to be actual. Therefore the word being is not always used in the same way.
February 11, 2004 at 8:53 pm (Uncategorized)
Part One, The Meaning of the Word “Philosophy” To Us
In everyday usage, the word “philosophy” means a general statement of something fundamental. When an advertising executive talks about his department’s “marketing philosophy” he means that his company has a general understanding of how it does marketing, and this understanding in some way lies at the heart of all the marketing decisions. The statement is, of necessity, general and is somewhat vague. It is not vague as to it’s meaning, but it is very vague-in fact it has practically nothing to say- about how exactly the philosophy will be applied in the particular actions of, say, picking out colors for ads, or going to meanings, or deciding who has to talk to which client. One could, however, tie all these decisions in some way back to the “marketing philosophy”- though no one would ever really be inclined to do so.
Philosophy is by nature a statement of something fundamental, and for that reason it must have a general character (because it must apply to many particular and diverse actions). Because it is of a general character, it must be indistinct (general and indistinct are here synonymous) and every indistinct thing is in one sense vague, but also very complete. It is vague because it does not tell us about all the particular things in their particularity (what does a “marketing philosophy” tell someone about, say, allowing a casual Friday?) But at the same time, the philosophy is present in each of the particular decisions (it is, after all, a statement about what the employees are supposed to be doing there). The philosophy tells us everything about the whole marketing department, taken as a whole: but it tells us nothing about the whole marketing department in terms of its various particular parts. Some other more particular knowledge tells us about those.
And so any thing calling itself a “philosophy” has at least three characteristics: 1) It is a thing which concerns fundamental things; 2) It is general, and for that reason indistinct; 3) it concerns the whole, taken as a whole. Philosophy simply speaking (as opposed to a “marketing philosophy” or a “legal philosophy” or “my philosophy of life”) seeks after those things which are most fundamental, most general, and which concern all things inasmuch as they are all things. Philosophy does not tell us about the particulars inasmuch as they are particulars. Philosophy does not tell us about how to do particular things, neither is philosophy distinct knowledge of any particular thing- since it applies to all things generally taken.
February 4, 2004 at 6:08 pm (Uncategorized)
The Unity of The World in Time
Chronology is the placing of events on a timeline. This is something we ask five year olds to do, but it used to be a serious science, because there was no universally accepted calendar among the ancients. One city said “this happened under the archonship of Cleosthenes” another would say it happened in the fifth year of the sun (by which they meant a 353 day lunar year) another would say it happened on the ides of Janus, another that it happened in the sixth olympiad. Calculating these dates was a good deal of hard work, and some guess work. A “history of the World” was an unthinkable task. There was no way to correlate enough dates with any accuracy.
Imagine the ancient mind. Everyone’s history was a self contained universe. With us, the dates of many people can be “lined up”, and we can do this without a thought. We have reckoned everything in years- all the way back to the big bang. We can relate all events with certainty (in time) even though most have nothing to do with each other. We instictively know that there is one history for all things- that there is a unity among all men.
Think for a moment about the event that made this calendar possible (it’s the year 2004 of what?) That is the cause of the temporal unity of the world. That is the reason we can truly have one history for all men.
February 3, 2004 at 5:19 pm (Uncategorized)
What the church calls “perennial philosophy” is often scoffed at as being too dry, and lacking anything to stir the heart. We are told it lacks mystery, that it makes everything too pat and obvious, that it neglects the higher and more profound parts of the human person. Everyone who has studied perennial philosophy has thought this at least once, even if they went on to become a disciple of it.
These criticisms may not be correct, but they are not irrelevant. Philosophy does claim to satisfy human longing, and so whatever is in itself not satisfying cannot be true philosophy.