A String Of Middle terms

A String Of Middle terms

Of course God exists. Things move, and cause, and exist, and are good, and act, and are definite, and happen by chance, and are evil, and we feel guilty, and I feel wrongs as wrongs, and the mind knows universals, and things are actually perfect, and simple answers are better than complicated ones, and the universe is intelligible.

As for the objectors: To posit evil is to appeal to standard of goods, Nothing in natural science is the same as its existence, Bertrand Russell doesn’t get Thomas Aquinas, and Nietzsche was the contemporary of John Vianney, Abraham Lincoln, Therese of the little flower, John Bosco, John Henry Newman, Mathias Sheeben, Leo XIII, Pius X, Bernadette of Lourdes, Frances Cabrini, Henry Clay, and millions of other visionaries, stigmatists, radiantly holy people, and guys who got their lives together with prayer and faith.


I am aware that the

I am aware that the Sophists have many brave words and fair conceits, but I am afraid that being wanderers and having no habitation in one city or another and having never had habitations of their own, they… may not know what they do and say in time of war, when they are fighting and holding parley with their enemies.

Spoken by Socrates

Timeaus 19e.

It is a very old observation that “experts” take their name from being “out of towners”. A second observation is that many of the experts are what Socrates would undoubtedly call “Sophists”, i.e. teachers of trendy sham wisdom. As Socrates points out here, the stumbling block for such trendy teachers is war, when they do not know what to do, or what to say. They experience things like patriotism and love of a community from the outside- and they no doubt believe this gives them a more objective or impartial view of things.

And so the sophist has a reason to despise all war- why bother to fight for a house or home or community life if you don’t have one? Without concern for any of these things, we can always believe that “war is not the answer”, since we don’t even have an ability to understand the problem. He doesn’t understand what is threatened.

The sophist also never gets the benefit of having to deal with people in all of their diverse corruptions and faults, since he merely teaches willing and obedient students. He has no family, and so has no pressing need to understand what it means to have to punish or endure the insults of people who you deeply love. He need not confront overmuch the mad irrationality of people- people who will only treat your attempts to reason with them as invitations to use you for whatever they want. War makes no sense to those who do nothing but teach at a college level- why not just have a seminar where al the sides can get together and work things out (i.e. listens to me and tells me what I want to hear?)


The Problem with Infinite Regress

Not every infinite regress is impossible.

Those that are usually are in some respect, though not in others. Forwarded e-mails are a good example. There’s no limit to the number of times that an e-mail can be forwarded before it gets to you. In this sense, one can have an infinite regress. But “to be forwarded’ is a way of being after, and since it is impossible that all things be after, it is impossible that all be forwarded. In this sense, there must be a beginning of the series, some “before” that corresponds to the “after”.

In the proofs for the existence of God, there is the added difficulty in allowing for infinite regress: for causes as such are simultaneous whereas in our e-mail example there is a temporal series and a causal series.  

How The Seven Deadly Sins

How The Seven Deadly Sins Impair The Apprehension of the Truth.

(randomly put down, with envy being left off for the moment)

Wrath: Makes compromise impossible, since compromise involves ceding something good to an opponent, while anger as such refuses to do so. It also makes impossible any sympathy with an opponent. Compromise is essential to apprehending the truth in political affairs, since reason in these affairs demands compromise; but it also hurts dialectic as such, which demands some measure of sympathy with opponents, even if merely for the purpose of converting them.

Wrath also places an unfitting emphasis on the particular, practical here and now- what should be done to this man or this particular set of men. But the apprehension of truth cannot happen until our concern is more about the truth itself, and not about what needs to happen to any particular group. It also causes us to see as “true” anything that harms an opponent- a disposition that is not obviously correct.

Pride: Perhaps the consequences of this are the best known: asserting one’s will as supreme over any given object; hating to have to accept something as true that we did not make and are not responsible for; the desire to be unique, which causes us to have a distaste for anything that has been already said by someone, or worse still, is commonly accepted by everyone and is in no way “revolutionary” or “controversial”, and which is liable to get us the brand of “a follower” or “a disciple” who doesn’t “think for himself”.

Supernaturally, we alienate ourselves from angel guardians- who despise pride for the same reason that a Normandy Veteran would hate Hitler- remember that the Angels fought a War against angelic pride, and saw a third of the angels fall from the sky over it. Man’s intellect is so infirm that he needs help if he wants to get very far, just as a crippled man needs help if he wants to make a long journey.

Gluttony and Lust: Each makes us identify what is most real with what is the most extreme sensation. We trust extreme sensation for everything. It dependably rewards us when we do well, it dependably comforts us when we feel down or stressed, it dependably passes the time for us when we feel neutral or bored. We start t order our whole lives around extreme sensations, we plan for them, we make provision for them, they are the one thing in our life that we will not negotiate with for very long.

To the extent that we understand the most real, existent, and dependable things to be what causes extreme sensation, we think of immaterial things as less real, less dependable, less worthy of interest. Eventually immaterial things pass from our everyday life, then from our private moments, then even from our dreams.

Greed: Similar problems to lust and gluttony, but the sensible thing desired is not sex, booze, a drug, porn, but a sort of desire as such, since money is a sign of desire. We abstract from any particular material object and desire what stands for all material objects as desirable.

Greed also makes reason less desirable since reason makes it harder to extract money from people. It will sometime make it in our interest to get someone to give us money for something they should not and do not want. Similar problems attend lust and gluttony, but I put greed in a different class since it generally tries for a more widespread attempt to circumvent that reason in people that causes them to say “no”.

Sloth: The distaste for things because they are difficult or unsatisfying in some way. Getting the truth is difficult. We get mowed down on a thousand different pet theories we have; we have to content ourselves with a lot of negations and arguments from analogy; we look to the past and see a trainwreck of dead philosophies, sciences, opinions, doctrines, beliefs, sacred dogmas, unsatisfied desires, failed efforts, blind ideologies, good things that were forgotten and abandoned, noble endeavors that were defeated by irrational or trivial forces, vanity, vanity, vanity. Who could claim that there is anything here worth knowing or doing, and not doomed to perish? Even if we found it, what then? Isn’t it better to just get by, never claim to have gotten the final answer to anything (which we will no doubt find unsatisfying for some reason, right?) …why not just put in our time, make no bold claims, live out our life and die like everything else?

We don’t want to be proud or arrogant, right?


Reductions Reduction is an extremely


Reduction is an extremely interesting concept. I know of no one who has defined all its precise meanings. Reduction has the curious property of being both present and absent from something.

A few examples:

A point is not a quantity, but it is reduced to the genus of quantity.

“Material reductionism” means to assert that all things are nothing other than modes of matter.

One is not in the genus quantity, but is reduced to the genus.

Sensible substance is reduced to non-sensible substance, which is reduced to intelligence, which is reduced to the divine mind.

To reduce in size is to get smaller.

To reduce to the absurd means to show that there is an implicit contradiction in a statement.


The Imperfect Certainty of the

 Experimental science (most often called simply “science”) has imperfect certainty because of the sort of thing that it is.

1.) All the experimental sciences are based on the actual measurement of things, and all measurements are imperfect.

2.) All predicted things are in some way unknown, but to predict belongs essentially to the experimental sciences, so they must deal essentially with predicted things.

3.) Repeated experiments increase the certainty of science. Because there is no limit on the number of times an experiment can be repeated, there is no limit on the degree of certainty that experimental science can have. But certainty that can always increase is in itself imperfect., and also relatively imperfect with respect to all future possible experiments (which, since they are future things, become predicted things- see #2).

4.) To the extent that the experimental sciences are attempting to have some practical power over their object, they can afford to be indifferent to whether or not their hypotheses are completely true. Geocentrism is perfectly acceptable if all we want to do is predict eclipses, or steer a ship. There is no problem assuming the world is flat if it makes it easier to shoot a cannon.


Controversy for the Days of

Controversy for the Days of Last Decline, II

APA Drops Stigma On Bulimia

In a hotly contested and heavily argued vote, The American Psychiatric Association agreed yesterday to remove bulimia from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and agreed no longer to single out the behavior as a “disorder.”

“The conspiracy of silence is coming to an end” said Pamela Moreson of the Independent Womens Health Alliance, “Today the APA has sent a message of hope to the millions of women who live in silence and fear.”

Yesterday’s decision is widely viewed as being the most significant yet in a decades long battle to show compassion and understanding to bulimic Americans, who have suffered for years under the stigma of being considered outsiders in public life. Dr. Irvin Weinstein, who was among the first physicians to question the psychiatric status of bulimia when he was a young intern at Dow Chemical, remembers the furor that his original findings caused only ten years ago: “All the therapists were fixated on a model that understood bulimia as a ‘binge-and-purge’ behavior. Anyone who actually dealt with bulimics could understand that this had more to do with a societal aversion than with real science. The therapist would simply look at the client and say ‘yuck’, and the woman would be left to deal with a stigma by herself.”

The move is widely viewed to be an endorsement of Savinol, the antidigestent drug which has encountered heavy resistance in its bid to be approved by the FDA. Hearings were delayed last week when a small number of doctors questioned the medical findings of the FDA, findings which assert that the drug can be safely taken by women over the age of twelve, say Women’s health advocates. While the delay has caused some concern over whether the drug will be approved, the final decision rests on the decision of the Fifth District Court, which last week ruled that the drug can be safely given as an over the counter health supplement. But even with the status of the drug remaining uncertain, Bulimia Advocates have been quick to seize upon the APA’s declassification of bulimia as a significant moment in women’s health. “We will continue to advocate for women’s health options, clearly,” said Raisa Cheril, of the women’s health group Silent No More “but we feel that today’s decision by the APA is a great step forward toward recognizing bulimics as full persons in the eyes of the Scientific Community.”

Many advocates point to yesterday’s decision as the most significant moment yet in the understanding of bulimic persons, who have long been ostracize by Conservative Christians as living the sort of life that characterized ancient paganism. “The third century Christians were quick to distance themselves from any taint of the pagan world” said Harvey Callish of Harvard Divinity School, “for a third century Christian, the Vomitoria and the Purgatorii (ancient structures for purging food after Roman feasts) were inseparable from the worship of Juno and Pan. This quickly lead to a condemnation of bulimic persons, a condemnation that carried on in various ways even until the 1970’s. Contemporary scholars have tried to reinterpret the idea of bulimia on an older tradition in Christian thought, one that places an emphasis on the denial of appetite to achieve the spiritual self worth of a person.”

Other religious scholars were quick to show support for the action of the APA. Ishani Apuisha, of the Center for eastern studies in Santa Cruz, Ca, points out “the idea of denial is often viewed in the sort of absolute terms that do not allow for a fullness of ones desires. People are often quick to condemn bulimics for having both fullness and self denial, when in fact what they have is a more complete understanding of denial and satisfaction.”

The Finding of the APA came as a great relief to Persia Ward, a 15 year old Arkansas Woman who was being held in a Little Rock psychiatric Facility under twenty-four hour surveillance. “Everyday Persia has been forced to live like a sick animal” said Audrey Alcott, a lawyer who has fought for Ward’s release, in a press conference that followed Ward’s immediate release, “but now we know that millions of women just like her will no longer have to live in a world that treats them like sick people who have to be brainwashed into accepting some definition ‘healthy and normal.’ that takes away a woman’s right to make her own health decisions.” Ward spent three months in the facility under court order, after her stepfather voiced concerns over his daughter’s health in a custody battle.

“My client finally can step out into the world as what she is, without fear of stigmas” continued Alcott, “She finally knows what it is like to be free at last, free at last.”


On the Reason for Creating

On the Reason for Creating Material Things

Material things mark the place in the universe where things begin not to exist. Material things are marked by having what is not actual as an intrinsic principle. Angels have no such principle of their being, properly speaking. There simply is no part of them that can become something else.

There is a great mystery in why God created anything at all, but even given that he did create all things, why did he create material things? What good do we shadows serve to the universe? I do not use the word “shadows” lightly. We, like shadows, have a form- but it is the form of something that when viewed in a certain real way, is a privation (see Aristotle on whether the principles of being are two or three, i.e. matter viewed as the receiver as the form is potency, matter viewed in another way is privation.)

Thomism 101 should* tell of how God created a multiplicity of things so as to have the fullest possible expression of his perfection. God could not but create things that have finite essence (see I q. 7 A. 2) and so to have the fullest possible expression of his perfection, God had to create a full plurality of essences. But finite essences arrange themselves in at least five grades.

“Essence” here means “the thing considered inasmuch as it corresponds to a definition”. Now this happens in two different ways. We can consider the definition itself, or the individual thing inasmuch as it corresponds to the definition. Both of these ways manifest themselves if we say “God willed to create individual things of a certain sort“. The “certain sort” indicates the definition of the thing that exists, the “individual thing” indicates the thing in which the definition is present. Simply put, everything that God created was an individual thing with a certain finite essence or nature. But there are five different ways of being an individual with a nature.

The first and lowest way that a nature can have individuality is to have it only in the smallest material part. Granite is an example. The only individuality that granite has is in the smallest part of granite that cannot be divided any further and still yield that kind of rock. Physically speaking (as opposed to considering the mere quantity) there is a limit to the number of times one can divide a sort of rock and still have that same sort of thing (this is obviously true on atomic theory, but St. Thomas knew it too, for different reasons.) This is the lowest possible way to have individuality, because it is an individuality that is nothing other than mere indivisibility, taken in the brutest sense of being unable to break something up into any sort of smaller parts.

The second way that a nature can have individuality is through the perfection of being alive. A plant has a greater individuality to it than merely its smallest part; rather, through its being alive, makes many diverse parts be a part of itself. The plant can act for itself inasmuch as it eats, and grows. It can even go further than this and have an activity that regards itself not as an individual, but as a bearer of a species. It does this through reproduction, through which the plant, inasmuch as it is a sort of thing, performs an action which is ordered to the perpetual existence of the plant inasmuch as it is a sort of thing (a species).

The third way that a nature can have individuality is through the sort of animals that have sensation. This happens in two different ways, that correspond the mere senses on the one hand, and memory on the other. Through the “mere” senses** an animal can have an individuality that is marked by a containment of the whole universe inasmuch as it can be apprehended through that sense. Through memory, an animal can have even a fuller individuality, for he is able to be aware of the continual existence of objects (an animal doesn’t think its prey disappears when it runs behind a tree) and through memory he has some grasp of motion, because motion requires memory to be seen as a motion, since the mobile itself needs to be remembered as being here and then being there. This sort of existence is said to augment individuality because it augments the number and quality of the things that the being has by and for itself ,because all the animal’s memories and sensations are uniquely his own. It already has all that the plant has, and more- and even what it has in common with the plant it has in a better way. The animal cannot move itself to feed, for example, and it cannot be aware in any way of its own progeny.

The fourth way that a nature can have individuality is through having knowledge that is derived from sensation. While the animal is aware, the knower is aware of his awareness, and can reflect upon it. Even if it is granted that a mere animal has an awareness of his awareness through his memory, he does not have an intellectual awareness of it. This intellectual awareness adds to the awareness of motion, for example, not only an idea of motion as such, but also an idea of motion as having a before and after, sc. Time. As a knower, the one who derives knowledge from sensation is also able to have some awareness of things that are beyond sensation by denying or negating all that is properly sensible in the things that he knows.

The fifth way that a species or nature can have individuality is through the very individual being the same as his finite species. Whereas all material things differ from their species through the individuality of matter, an angel, who is a being without matter, is an individual who is the same as his species. At this point, there is a perfect identification of an individual an its finite species, and no higher created being is possible.



*I say that Thomism 101 should include this. In point of fact, what we all expect it to include is a slapdash overview of the five ways, an uninformed reading of the treatise on law, and a chortle about the immaculate conception, which is no doubt intended to make us feel like we are smarter than St. Thomas. Absurd.

** I say the “mere” senses because as a point of teaching. I would call them the five senses, or the external senses, but anyone who has studied pit vipers might suspect that there are more to the external senses than the ones we have.


Existential Awareness of a Theological

Existential Awareness of a Theological Paradox

Some terrible event happens. It is a consequence of our folly, wickedness, negligence, apathy. The results are so shocking that they jar us to remember good things and to do them. We know in our hearts that only this event, or one like it, could have saved us. Is this justice or mercy?


« Older entries