Some Re-runsHere are two posts

Some Re-runs

Here are two posts that I originally put up as comments to an article that pitted the Intelligent Design theorists against those who are atheists for the sake of evolution. The occasion for the article was the Topeka school district’s decision to… teach something or not teach something: I don’t remember. The debaters were hotly contesting the nature of scientific method. I said:

The problem here is that science means two things:

a.) Any objective, dispassionate body of knowledge that is based in certain known principles and proceeds to certain known conclusions. (henceforth, I’ll call this “science a”)

b.) Any body of knowledge that begins with a falsifiable hypothesis, and through prediction and experiment establishes its truth. (henceforth, “science b”)

I have no doubt that every science “b” is a science “a”, but not every “a” must be a “b”. The problem with everyone these days is that they assume that every a is a b- as though every science must have one method: which makes no more sense than assuming every science must use the same instruments. The lamentable result of all this is that philosophy, theology, and even logic are not considered “scientific”- and hence it is viewed as ridiculous that there could be any such thing as a science concerning God. The evolutionists agree with this, and so they mistakenly deny that God is scientifically known; and the IDers hold that there is a science of God, but they mistaskenly try to force him into science “b”. Both positions are partially true, and partially false. The evolutionist is right to assert that there is no knowledge of God by science b, but he is wrong to assert that there is no science of God, and the IDer is right to affirm a science of God, but wrong to place it in science B (I stress the word “in”. As soon as God comes up, one is, by definition, not considering nature as such, for God is a supernatural being.) But it does not follow from this that there is no science of God. THIS is the science that the kansas folks should desire to know and teach…

“The study of nature” is related to the study of God, but the IDers, and the atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution crowd do not recognize the proper way in which God is manifest from the study of nature. The proof for this is in trhee parts:
I.) What is the study of nature?
II.) What Place does God have in the study of nature?
III.) What is metaphysics, and how does it relate to the study of nature?

The study of nature involves more than one science, and it has more than one method, just as it has more than one instrument. In fact, the study of nature means two things:
1.) the study of nature as nature. This science, however, has two parts, since nature as such is a principle of change- it can mean either:
a.) change inasmuch as it is quantified and measured, or understood in a way that is fit for measurement and treatment by mathematics, or
b.) change considered in light of the principles of change as such- matter, substance, form, causality, etc.

2.) the study of nature can also mean nature taken more particularly, for example, inasmuch as it is living (biology) or energy (thermodynamics) or composed of matter (chemistry). Any of these sciences might divide up further into, say, organic chemistry, or human anatomy.

God, who the IDers want to prove, and the Atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution want to deny, is found as the term of natural science 1b. This God manifests himself as the Unmoved Mover, who is immaterial and unchangeable. It is important to stress that God is the TERM of the science- he ENDS the science of nature 1b. This is not to say that the science of nature 1b is incapable of further refinement, but every refinement takes place prior to the proof for the unmoved, immaterial mover.
The problem with the IDers is that they think that God should show up in a science #2. Even if they’re right, they wouldn’t know anything about this God beyond proving that he made something. Even then, they would have no principles by which to come to a fuller understanding of this God- they couldn’t prove, for example, that he was eternal, benevolent, one, omnipotent, imperishable, good, immaterial, personal, living, a lawgiver, that he cares about men, that he was the highest end of human life, and a bottomless fount of other truths. All these things can be proven if we start with natural science 1b. For proof of this, read the Summa.
The other problem with IDers is that they don’t understand that God is the terminal point of any science of nature. The above critiques that say “if we believed in this God, it would end our science” are in a certain sense true. God is above nature- he is not natural- when we speak of “the divine nature” we use the word “nature” analogously.

Metaphysics involves the study of immaterial being. If it did not, then natural philosophy (which studies changeable things) would be the same as metaphysics. The problem with metaphysics is that its subject matter is not self-evident. As far as we can tell from simply opening our eyes, “to be” means “to be material”. Metaphysics, then, must prove the existence of its subject matter. This will happen necessarily if we begin with natural science 1b. it will not happen if we begin with anything else. We must consider matter as such if we want to have any hope of establishing the existence of something immaterial. Even if some specialized science were to do this (as can happen, for example, in the science of the human soul, or perhaps as happens in ID) this still requires an appeal to the principles that are laid down in natural science 1b.
Unless IDers turn to science 1b, they will continue to lose arguments, and they will at best end up with a concept of God that is totally infertile- incapable of producing a further science. They simply don’t have the tools to understand God in any deeper way. They will also be unable to answer the critiques of the atheist-for-the-sake-of-evolution crowd, who rightly claim that the positing of a God is a sort of term to the science of nature.


A ______ of Banez’ Commentary

A ______ of Banez’ Commentary on Aquinas’ 1 Q3, A4.

(I don’t know what to put in the blank. To call this a translation would be an abuse of language. I wasn’t interested in translating Banez so much as trying to find a voice in him.)

The conclusion of this article is de fide: Ex. 3 “I am who am”. The Fathers all agree to this conclusion. How then, can it be proved? Because we can understand many things, which to deny involves denying the faith.

This article contains very subtle ideas, and before we come to them, we should understand:

1.) How are proper accidents caused by essential principles? The cause here is a certain kind of efficient cause, not one making a new substance, but working through emanation, the way the nature of the sun produces light in the air, or the way ice makes water cold, or even as a stone can be said in a way to be an agent cause of its own fall.

2.) Why is it that no thing suffices to be the cause of its essence, if its esse is caused? We can, for example, account for why man can laugh, simply by pointing to his definition. Why can we not account for esse in the same way? We state, for now, that proper accidents already presuppose some essence in act, emanating the proper accident, so for esse to be a proper accident implies contradiction. A thing can only be said to cause its essence in the way that the transparent causes light. Esse, then, is received into essence composed from essential principles and it is specified by them. Yet esse receives no perfection from this specification, in fact, esse is more constrained by this- descending to the level of the secundum quid, sc. the esse of this man, or this angel- it is not perfection simpliciter. No Thomist would dare deny that esse is the act of all form and nature, or that it is other than received and perfective of what receives it. In a certain sense though, since it is received, we might say that it is because of this imperfect.

3.) Re. The second proof that Aquinas gives: Why is it that goodness, or humanity aren’t spoken of as actual, unless esse is spoken of as given? Cajetan says that this is grounded in the idea that nature stands to esse as potency; that goodness or humanity are only seen as actual when we say “humanity is”. The solution isn’t wholly satisfactory. Something is spoken of when it has a corresponding thought, but be can have a perfectly formed thought of something that does not exist- say, a circular orbit. When Cajetan responds to this sort of objection saying that esse is a sort of ultimate act, we say that esse seems more like the first act, than the ultimate one. It seems to me that St. Thomas means that with respect to how we understand esse, either it really exists, or it only exists potentially. Thomas’ doctrine is grounded in the fact that ens is the object of our intellect. In all things other that God, we can abstract from either esse actu, or non esse actu, and define according to this abstraction.

4.) Concerning the solution of the second argument: When we say “God is” we seem to mean “God has esse”. And so since it’s true to say “God is”, and yet at the same time we affirm that God is esse, the proposition seems both true and false at the same time. To this, we say that the esse of God is simpliciter what we seek in asking in the question “what is God?”, but it isn’t sought simpliciter in the question “does God exist?”, except as it is a sort of ground for the truth of the proposition. In natural things, we don’t seek esse when we ask “what is it?” And we seek esse simpliciter when we ask “does it exist?” Because of this, we don’t just understand the proposition to be true, but we also understand the very esse of the thing- and we know it in the very way it is knowable. When we answer the question “does God exist?” we understand esse as it relates to the truth of the proposition, but not as it relates to the very way God is knowable.


Teresa of AvilaSt. Teresa, a

Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa, a Doctor of the Church, saw one one of the greatest lights in the spiritual life as a good confessor. Her particular confessor was Domingo Banez, a man who claimed his theology did not differ “by so much as a finger-nail’s breadth” from the teaching of Thomas Aquinas. Banez, in fact, has claim to being the conduit of St. Thomas’ thought to the modern world. He was not simply an orthodox thomist, but an historic one.

Which makes this work one of the many faces of orthodox thomism. My suspicion is that one can gauge the strength of their spiritual life by how much of this book they agree with (‘agree’ taken in the broad sense. We can agree with a man, and food can agree with us.)

Also, from the same site, one can get the works of another, more straightforewardly Thomist mystic, John of the Cross.


Jottings on the same topic

1.) The submission to the object is the most necessary and defining character of wisdom: see John 7:18

2.) sponsa entis anima.

(the soul is the bride of being)

4.) The object, formally, is something man receives from the world. In this respect, its opposite is art, which man creates in the world. When men reject submission to the object, they can do no other than turn to art. But by their very turning against the object, they will distort the very art that they fall into. Art will become revolutionary, since it will not desire to be measured by any kind of object, even one of art. One kind of art will define itself by smashing the art that came before it, and that art will get smashed by another art coming after it, that defines itself by smashing its art. We must be either contemplatives or revolutionaries.

5.) The goal of sophistry is to shock

Clement of Alexandria

Saying the Same thing Ten

Saying the Same thing Ten Times.

I see a rose
I see a rose in the world.
I see the world.
A rose is both in awareness, and in the world.
My awareness is of the rose in the world.
Something in the world sees a rose.
The world (through a part) sees the world.
Being sees Being.
Being sees itself.
Being comprehends itself as other.

God as Pure Act, IXJust

God as Pure Act, IX

Just as the worker determines the material, so the completion determines the worker. For both the material and the worker are ordered to the completion. And so if anything is in the process of determination, the completion must be given (in fact, there is no difference the determination and the completion, one could use the terms interchangeably in English: to be determined is to have the completion, either actually, or in the mode of intention).

But in all things that are in motion, we can distinguish two aspects of its ability to move, for ability to move can be considered either actively or passively. The man, the bat, and the ball are able to move. So whatever is in motion can be distinguished into worker and material, even if they are one in the same subject. And so whatever is in motion is being moved by its determination or completion. But the determination of the natural thing to a completion is though its participation in the mind of the author of its nature, and author which is intrinsic to the nature, by whose efficacy the very mobile being has a determite nature. This nature is in fact, in its truest sense, nothing other than a participation in the intellective determination of God. Said another way, the truest sense of anything’s nature is that way in which they are recieving their determination from the divine mind.

But if the actual existence of nature is, at its ground, nothing other than a sort of determination by the divine mind, then outside of this determination there is no such thing as nature. But we know nature by its mobility. Therefore the divine being is absolutely without motion. But every incomplete act is said, in english, of a mobile- So God is an utterly complete act. But he is not a complete act that has come to be, for then he would not be wholly without motion. Neither is he able to come to be, for then he would be measured by motion. We can only concieve him as having absolutely no ability to become in anyway. He is more than a complete act: we can only conceive of him as that which makes the act complete, without having to become complete, or with any order to becoming some new completion. This is why we first call God act only, or pure act.


God as Pure Act, orbiter

God as Pure Act, orbiter dicta

-Most who study Aristotle find it awkward that he defines maturing and augmentation (both called “growth” in English) as motions. When we want to speak about the wheat growing, or icicles growing on the eaves, we don’t say “look, the wheat is moving”. But this is not because we don’t see these things as motions, but only because we don’t tend to use the word m-o-t-i-o-n. It’s perfectly natural in English to use a synonym for moving, sc. “going”: “the leaves are going from green to red”; “the lake went from being totally open, to being frozen over”.

Another lovely English synonym for moving is “turn”, which since it is rooted in the idea of things that are rotating, contains the idea of the thing only being able to move in relation to something fixed. Wheels turn, colors turn, men turn. And then there’s that song we’ve all had beat into our heads “turn, turn, turn”. While I’m not sure that the Birds (Byrds?) got the Coheleth’s vibe, the song is pretty good at conveying the first idea we have of nature.

-As the previous posts should have shown, English speakers undertand the “completion” of a natural process a little easier than the “perfection” of a natural process. The words, however, are really synonymous: both the complete and the perfect are said of what lacks nothing due to it. The confusion happens only because we use the word “complete” so often only per accidens, as when we say that a paper is complete because we wrote five pages of garble, or when we say we’ve completed a test because we’ve given an answer to every question, no matter how awful (indeed, incomplete) our answers are. But we haven’t completed a test or a paper, except per accidens.

– The only difficulty people have with understanding the accepting the axiom “everything which is moving, is being moved by another” is how it can account for uniform motion in a straight line. It is not the case that projectile motion as such is difficult, because every projectile motion can be distinguished into the natural motion of falling to the earth, and the inertial motion of moving foreward. But no one doubts that the projectile, as moved gravitationally by the earth, is “being moved by another”- take away the earth, or the space/time medium in between the downward motion would immediately cease*.

The real reason that uniform motion in a straight line is viewed as having no cause per se is because the first measure of something is not measured, physics deals with motion as measured, and uniform motion in a straight line is the measure of all motions (because all motions are measured in relation to traversing some uniform space in a uniform time).
I believe that it’s true that we must not explain uniform motions in a stright line as being moved by something moving- but then again, the ancient physics was always able to tell you that the cause of the first moving thing was not itself moving. The question of “what is moving things in uniform motion in a straight line” is not a question that is contained within the science of physics. The answer can only be found after (in Greek, Meta) physics**.
*this is one of the many ways in which modern hypothetical physics is better at supporting Aristotle’s physics than Aristotle’s own hypotheses. On the ancient account, if the earth were to disappear, a falling rock would keep moving toward the center of the earth, even though there was no body at the center to act. “the center” is not a place, if separated from a body. The modern theory can give us a per se place to which motions tend. Gravitational force absolutely cannot be without body.
**and yes, this is the coolest pun that I have ever managed to eek out.
(real dorks will be able to spot another pun in even the line just said)


God as Pure Act, Part

God as Pure Act, Part VII

Where this argument completes to:

1.) as to an account of what “act” means: Every completion is called such because it lacks nothing intended or desired
The word “act” in English, relates to completion.
So the word act relates to the idea of lacking nothing intended

but whatever lacks nothing intended or desired, English calls “perfect”
So the idea of an act necessarily relates to perfection.

2.) As Pure act can be shown to exist:

a.) as a being who moves all, but is immobile in every respect (not simply as the end is immobile, with respect to this action)
b.) As the one which causes, but is wholly uncaused (unlike the worker, who’s work would cease without the end.)
c.) as the creator of all things, even of those things which may have always been in time
d.) as that to which all things are ordered absolutely, and the measure of all perfections (unlike an end or a measure which is only an end or measure for some.)
e.) as the intelligent director (what is purely completion or perfection cannot lack the highest intelligence, and all intelligence desires to direct, and not to be directed.)
f.) and from other ways that are based on things seen in the world, and seen within the inner life of man.
g.) In any way that pure act might choose to maifest himself, and give to man what he could not have found by his own powers, either absolutely speaking, or in the case of his own powers being too weak to see what reason of itself can see.

We choose to verify his existence in the way that appeals to what is most well known to us- that things move. To this point, we have only dealt with the sorts of motions about which it is true to say are incomplete acts.


God as Pure Act, Part

God as Pure Act, Part V

The relations between the various aspects of incomplete acts

Every incomplete act has three aspects: that to which, that by which, and that out of which. All three are necessary for an incomplete act, so much so that if any one of these aspects were to cease being, the incomplete act would immediately cease to be. If the completion ceased to be (that to which) the act would immediately lose any reason to be called “incomplete”, for it was only named such by its completion. That the thing completing is necessary for the incomplete act is too obvious to mention (the “completing thing”can be either that by which, or that out of which). If we lack either things to build out of, or builders, we won’t have the act of building either.

There is also a relation between all three aspects as regards moving and being moved*. That out of which something is being completed (the materials) is wholly being moved; that by which a thing is being completed (the worker) both is moving the materials and being moved by the completion, and the completion is moving the builder and is itself not moving. The sense of “moving” is not absolutely identical in each case, but there is a proportion between them- we can be moved by ropes, and moved by beauty. As there is a relatin of moving and being moved, there is also a relation of order.


God as Pure Act, Part

God as Pure Act, Part III

Three related meanings of “an act” in English, and the first principle needed to explain what pure act is, and whether it exists.

In English, the noun “act” relates to completion or being done. This happens either because an act is complete, or it is completing. Some acts are complete, either because some process was concluded (an act of congress) or because the process is complete in itself (like seeing or thinking or loving). Some acts are completing, like the act of building or maturing or running a circular track.

Acts which are completing can be called “incomplete acts” and they all involve changing. Whenever the particular incomplete act is complete, the changing must stop. For example, nothing can keep building what has been built, nor can something mature keep maturing. To be more exact, the incomplete act involves changing because the incomplete act simply is a process of changing.

So an incomplete act is changing. This is the first principle we need to understand to understand about act in order to understand God as pure act.

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