What I’ve Been Up To

What I’ve Been Up To In The Meantime, Part II

Gotten into a long dispute about the natural law here and here.

Had a dispute about the Trinity at Brandon’s blog (some of the best philosophy on the net)

I found this site, again through Brandon, and left a comment about what I think “authentic thomism” is. he comment is in in his “Introduction To Scholastic Theology” given on 5/19/05.

Three Meanings of “End”

Three Meanings of “End” In Teleology

The word “end” has three meanings in teleological accounts of things, although all the meanings have a unity in being a “that to which” something goes.

On the most basic level, the word “end” means simply “that to which something goes”. Hydrogen and oxygen, under certain conditions, form water, under different conditions, they make hydrogen peroxide. Depending on the conditions, “water” or “hydrogen peroxide” are the ends of the process. Wood stuck in a fire will burn up, and so under these conditions, “burning up” is the end of wood, and “to burn” is the end of the fire. All that the teleological account of such things notices is a determinate result from the action. In condition X, result Y will happen.

On a higher level, the word “end” means “that perfection to which something goes”. Seeds grow into full plants, and eventually acquire the power to make other plants, which they did not have before. This end is called “maturity”- a concept that has no place in the first and most basic meaning of the word “end”.

On a higher level than this, the word “end” can mean “that perfection that something goes to knowingly“. The word “knowingly” means two things here- the knowledge of sense alone, and the knowledge of sense united to intellect. A dog can chase a Frisbee with the end of catching it, and a man can throw a Frisbee, with the end of enjoying himself.

The confusion of these three meanings makes a trainwreck of teleology. Confuse the first with the second, and you’ll think any number of impossible things: that hydrogen is somehow “better off” for making water, or that teleology is impossible, since we see no maturity in chemicals, etc. Confusing the third meaning with any of the others ends up making teleology seem like some bizarre occult belief that invests chemicals and plants with knowledge.

Chemical reactions have no good or perfection in themselves. The closest they come to goodness is the good they have by providing good to another. Water isn’t better off because it condenses in a cloud and falls to the earth, but rain is a good for crops, and crops are good for man. It may be interesting to speculate about how it is good for water to condense under certain conditions, or if there is any such good to condensation at all, but answering this problem is does not affect the consideration of condensation as teleological. Condensation has some term- it makes vapor water fall from clouds, as opposed to hovering there or floating up. Teleology demands no more than this.

All thins should make clear that there is no opposition between mechanism and teleology. Mechanism can be accounted for teleologically without any destruction of its findings. Teleology simply gives an account for the presence of ends in things. It considers ends as such, and famously sees that all ends require a participation in intelligence, and that this intelligence reduces to a divine intellect. But this consideration happens after we see ends for what they are, and see them as present in all things in one way or another.

Exegesis of Paul’s Letter to

Exegesis of Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter One.

From Romans Chapter One, v. 18-27, we can link together the following account:

1.) Certain persons knew the eternal power and divinity of God (v. 19,20),
2.) but they changed this truth into a lie (v. 25),
3.) and as a consequence/ punishment of this they began to use the natural power of sexual activity in an unnatural way (v. 26,27).

ad 1.) The knowledge of these persons is of God’s “eternal power and divinity”. Why these attributes? God has no limit to his attributes, so why is it that these ones are manifest? Now Paul tells us that these attributes are seen from “the things that are made”, and so the attributes seem best taken as relating directly to the things that are made. “Eternal power” therefore means “the power of making the world” and “divinity” seems to mean “the nobility that a creator has over the thing created”. The power is also explicity called “eternal”, i.e. it transcends the temporal world where things come to be and pass away.

This knowledge of God is also not a knowledge of God founded on scriptural revelation. We could prove this in any number of ways (Paul is writing to the Romans; “wise men” in Paul’s letters
are always Pagans “the Jews seek signs, and the Greeks seek wisdom”; this knowledge is clear always, whereas the truth of God as revealed was hidden to the world, etc.) but though we could prove this, it would be to labor the point. No one has ever called into question the fact that, in this passage, the knowledge of God that Paul speaks of is the kind of knowledge that man has apart from revelation.

ad. 3) Why is this the consequence? Paul is clear the this did not happen because God forced it to happen, rather God “handed them over to their shameful passions”. There are two things to point out here: first, the passions in question are “their own”; and the passions in question are “unnatural”, in other words, they presuppose some natural state that was corrupted by some cause. The ultimite cause of this corruption is the rejection in practice of a speculative truth that is naturally known, apart from scriptural revelation, namely, God’s eternal power and divinity. In our own time, we tend to call “speculative truth” “theoretical truth”. I have no substantive objection with this, so long as the two are understood to mean the same thing.

Paul’s doctrine here (or, for those who believe in scriptural inspiration, we would say “God’s doctrine”) can be summarized as follows:

-human passions, if they are to be saved from perversion, must act in accordance with the speculative truth that man knows about God, apart from revelation. In other words, they must be in accord with the truth that is known by reason.

This doctrine of Paul (or, again, of God) is an infinite treasure house of truths for many different sciences. It is a psychological truth, for it shows us that the human passions have a necessary and per se relation to God; it is a theological truth, for it understands human nature as explicitly related, through reason, to God as “eternal power an divinity”; it is an ethical truth, for it provides the necessary condition for virtue, which consists in the dominion over the passions; and it is a political truth, for it makes explicit a necessary condition without which human persons will degrade to the tyranny of passion, and the anarchy of uncontrolled and unnatural emotion.


Argument Sketches: Architectonic Syllogisms(note to

Argument Sketches: Architectonic Syllogisms

(note to self: Get the argument, then the details)

Thesis: Political rights require God

Political rights exist
God is the cause of existence

Political rights reduce to the natural law
The natural law is a participation in the mind of God

Political rights are founded in the nature of man
Nature is a divine logos.

Any human action, political or not, can be judged by an order that transcends human action
All order proceeds from intelligence

Political rights are ordered to the enjoyment of an imperfect good
Every imperfect good is measured by the highest good, and God is the highest good.

If political order were the highest authority, than there could be no authoritative judgment of a depraved regimes.
It would be unfitting if there were no authoritative judgment of depraved regimes.


Distinguish:Democritus gives a scientific understanding


Democritus gives a scientific understanding of atoms.

Dalton gives a scientific understanding of atoms.

Nils Bohr gives a scientific understanding of atoms.

The Principle of DignityFrom a

The Principle of Dignity

From a book by Benedict XVI, in which he quotes a man approvingly who says-

The body is the visibility of the soul, for the soul is the actuality of the body.

My thoughts:

– As noted below, English does not have a word in common usage that means what “soul” used to mean. If it did, then Atheists, Scientists, Catholics, and everyone ease would not be disputing over whether the soul exists, but what the soul is. The word “soul” used to mean “that by which living things live”, but over time, the word came to mean “a spiritual substance” or “the ghost of a man”. With this new imposition, the “soul” was by no means a self- evident thing, but a rightly disputable thing. We lost the root meaning of the word, and were left powerless to take that root meaning and expand its notion to include the particular truth that the human soul is immortal.

The concept and reality of the soul, however, remain- just without a single commonly used word denoting them. This wordless concept is an indispensable one- one that cannot be replaced by other terms like “person”. This lack of a word to denote an essential concept throws a thousand different all- important disputes into the shadows: it hamstrings any discussion of what a man is, or what human dignity is, or what a person is, or whether abortion is wrong, or embryonic stem cell research, or euthanasia, or the nature of life after death, or the place of the resurrection of the body, or the relation of God to man- and any other dispute that is related to these ones.

-I take issue with the theologians that claim the soul is “a Greek concept”. Strictly speaking, it’s not a Greek concept, it’s a Greek word. The Greeks simply had a word (“psyche”) for what English speakers have to understand without a single commonly used word. We have to get by with the clunky phrase “that by which living things live”. We can dispute about whether the presence of this is thing constitutes an essential difference from non- living things (that is, whether a word like “soul” is superfluous, or whether it should properly be said of machines too); we can dispute about whether this thing is the brain, or the order of the body; we can dispute whether this thing is spiritual or not- all these opinions are up for grabs just as they were when the Greeks used the word “psyche” or “soul” but what is not really open for dispute is that there is something in virtue of which a living thing is alive.

The theologians, however, do have point- even though we have access to what the concept of the Greek word “psyche” means, our lack of a single word to denote it affects our ability to know it, and structure our arguments, lives, and cultural practices around it. We also have words for things the Greeks had no words for- e.g., our word “right” which means “a man’s relation to justice inasmuch as something is owed to him”. The Greeks could dispute about, say, what was owed, or if anything was owed to a man simply in virtue of his humanity (they actually did dispute about these things, without recourse to the word “right”), the Greeks could have even gone further and asked if there was a “right to life” or a “right to affordable housing”- but they lacked the word “right” to use as a locus for discussion. If you tried to explain the idea of “human rights” to the folks in the Agora you would be met with a lot of confused faces. Anyone who wanted to understand what you were saying would have to study what you said for a few years. Nevertheless, the absence of a word for a concept doesn’t destroy the concept, only the quick access to it, and still less does it destroy the reality of the thing the concept represents.


A Teaching with a Missing

A Teaching with a Missing English Word

Anything changeable is both
i.) what it is, and
ii.) capable of becoming something else. .

So i. and ii. are parts of a changeable thing (parts meaning “distinguishable in some way”). These parts follow directly from the meaning of the compound word “changeable thing”, and are therefore judged as “essential” to changeble things.

A changeable thing is one thing, but not always in the same way. A thing is one inasmuch as it has a unity, but not all unities are the same. Some have a unity through cooperation, like an army or the parts of a bicycle. Some others also have the unity of living.

For what lives, to cease to exist means to die. But to cease to exist means for a thing to cease being what it is, and hence to no longer have part i. that was mentioned above. English does not have a term in common usage for part i. when said of living things.

Turns of The Phrase “Nature

Turns of The Phrase “Nature is Mind”
(to compare and contrast)

Thales says “all things are full of gods”

Thomas Aquinas says “Nature is a divine reason, given to things”

Arthur Eddington says that the universe is composed of “mind stuff” because “now that we are convinced of the formal and symbolic character of the entities of physics, there is nothing else to compare it to.”



The Glamour of EvilThe baptismal

The Glamour of Evil

The baptismal vows require us to reject the glamour of evil. What’s glamour?

The word, in English, first shows up in 1720 as a Scottish variant on the English word grammar, and it denoted occult practices like casting spells. Apparently, there was some association of occult practices and erudition- hence grammar (a similar thing has happened in our own time with the word metaphysics.) It took another hundred or so years for the word to take on its present meaning of “alluring charm”.

The etymology of the word tells a story about what glamour is. Glamorous charm is an alluring quality hiding a dark side under the cover of sham erudition. The erudition is a sort of worldly wisdom- usually called “sophistication”. This word seems itself to have a similar etymology to “glamour”- as it originally meant “the using of sophistical arguments”.


Knowledge, an account I don’t

an account I don’t know if I want to refute of accept

Intellectual knowledge, as opposed to opinion, is unity with what is self-evident to the intellect. This unity is either identity (the thing known is in fact self evident) or logical unity. Logical unity means two things, since the things that are self evident to the intellect are universal, and the universal divides in two parts:

1.) Demonstrative unity- unity said of a perfect universal.
2.) Hypothetical unity- unity said of of an imperfect universal- a universal that is by nature falsifiable.

Perfect universals are of two kinds: those which give a true definition, and those which give something in place of a definition. There is gradation of the second kind of perfect universal, and when one gets to a certain point one has fallen too far away from the perfect universal, and they must work with imperfect hypothetical universals.

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