Jottings on causality.

-Causality principally explains the composite, i.e. the union of diverse things, and so if we want to understand causality we have to see it in light of the old paradoxes about the one and the many, and their various solutions.

-Where there is one thing that is not a union of some multitude, neither is there a cause of that one thing. This is why the Second Person of the Trinity, though he proceeds from the Father, is not caused by the Father in any way.

-Causality involves being by another: the composite by its parts being at all, by its parts being brought together, by that which affects what brings the parts together.

-Causality, by extending to more effects, more penetrates into the being of each particular effect. This makes it the opposite of a predicate, which by extending to more particulars, tells us less and less about them.

St. Thomas on the difference between the cause of generation and terrestrial bodies

The terrestrial bodies move to a particular place, cause of generation does not.

The terrestrial bodies do not terminate all the potency of their matter, but the cause of generation does (it cannot become another, only be or not be.)

The terrestrial bodies are corruptible; the cause of generation, though bodily, is not.

The terrestrial bodies move to a particular term, the cause of generation does not, but is infinite.

The terrestrial bodies, if living, can account per se only for the generation of something like them in kind, and only as an individual; but the sun, a cause of generation, can account for the generation of many species, even as a species.

(Though St. Thomas judged that the sun was the cause of generation, most of the properties that he imutes to it can be verified of entities that are recognized, and essential to modern Physics.)

One indispensible condition for being a materialist is a failure to give any adequate account for what material is. The term is rarely defined, and when it is it is defined poorly. If, for example, one says material is any extended thing, then what are building materials? Extended buildings? What are course materials? Things that extend class? Similar arguments apply to calling material “what has mass” or any other such thing.

We call something material for its being what the Medivals called an “id ex quo”, a that from which or a that out of which something is made. Course materials are things that a course is made out of, building materials are things buildings are made from. Material is a certain principle which by nature is ordered to something else as its end and form, a building for example, or the end of a course. As material, moreover, the thing can’t account for why it moved to this end or term at all- this requires some action of a thing other than the matter. The case is no different for natural things, even the atom, is that from which something is made, insofar as we are considering it as matter.

St. Thomas claims that the celestial bodies are equivocal causes of generation. If such a statement is absurd, it is either because the celestial bodies are not such a causes, or because there is no equivocal cause of generation. Arguments for either thesis are rarely given, if ever, and this is unfortunate. If someone faced the arguments squarely, he would see that there is much more to them then one sees at first glance.

On the word is as saying what something is.

So long as one concedes that we say what a thing is, he concedes that what a thing is is revealed or manifested in our use of the words “be” and “are” and “is”. After this, the first distinction we can draw is between the times when we use “is” to indicate a certain absence or privation, and when we don’t. When we indicate a privation or absence, the word “is” can signify that the proposition is true (remember the relationship of sign to signified!) but it need not indicate more than this. On the other side of this distinction, there is being taken in a positive sense, and so there would be as many senses as there are positive predicates.

Thomistic Physics

(From Book III of the Summa Contra Gentiles)

1.) Prove that all agents act for an end

2.) Prove that every agent acts for a good (solve objections about the way in which agents are able to do evil)

3.) Prove everything, insamuch as it acts for a good, acts most for the sake of what is most good (God was shown to be the highest good in book I).

4.) Since God contitutes an end that one cannot become, therefore all things strive to a certain likeness to God, insofar as they act or the sake of their own ends.

5.) But, as has been mentioned since the beginning, there are are three species of end, for the end is either of some process or some activity, and the thing is either simply in motion, or in motion and causing another.

6.) The order od motions and mobiles follows the order of ends, and the order of ends follow the order of actualities; the universal source of generation (Which St. Thomas thought was the sun, but it is more the sun qua giver of energy) euces from matter form is various degrees.

7.) What is most formal is man, and so the activity of the cause of all generation is primarily ordered toward man’s coming to be, (most fittingly through some evolutionary process).

8.)  And so the universal cause of generation is primarily intended toward man’s coming to be, and so it must be being moved by an intelligence beyond nature, [for man, taken as an intelligence, is himself beyond nature.]  Whether this intelligence is God or some other being subordinate to the divinity is not treated.

Why the motions of chemicals and other natural things can be understood as motions of appetite.

We can talk about a tiger trying to get what it wants, and so appetites need not be rational things; but it also makes sense to talk about tree trying to get sunlight, and so it makes sense to speak of appetite apart from sensation. But it also makes sense to talk about chemicals trying to get eight valence electrons, or an atom trying to return to its ground state, or a virus trying to replicate in a host. And so we can meaningfully speak of a certain appetite even here. The term of the appetite is very faint, but it still is present, because no complete explanation of any natural motion can leave out the term to which the motion is tending. We can’t explain any motion without explaining what the mobile is trying to do.

I say more than that truth is good, or that it is beautiful- truth is our good father, and it is impossible and unthinkable that he would toy with us like a capricious god, or lead us on with false hopes like a flirtatious whore. It is easier and more characteristic for Truth himself to give us much than to give us little, for this is more in accordance with his nature.

The first conception of knowledge.

The simplest and most basic way to understand knowledge is to say that knowing, say, a rose means having a little rose inside one’s head, like a picture, and this picture is called an idea or concept. There is one part of this model that can never be taken away: knowledge involves the mind in some way becoming what it knows, and in this same sense the mind must be what it knows. And yet it is just as evident that the knower remains himself. And so knowledge means being another, yet remaining ones own self.

This “other” in one act of knowledge is one thing, for it is the term of one act of knowledge. This one thing can be taken in two ways on the part of the knower, or on the part of the thing known. This relation is not exactly the relation between a concept and the thing in reality, for this is only one particular case of a concept and a thing known. There is no necessity that any particular act of knowledge have some actual existing thing corresponding to it. The actual relation is one between sign and signified.

Sensation, II

If we saw even a  billionth- part more of the electromagnetic spectrum, what then? We would see everything clearly at night, although in completely different colors. We cannot imagine or name these colors (when we see in infrared or ultraviolet light now through special equipment, we only transfer the EM waves as they are into our own visible spectrum, with its colors green and red). Night would not be dark, and the colors we saw would not be less natural. The colors we would see through rose colored glasses would still be unnatural, just as they are now. Darkness (which would, in that different state only be in a cold, closed, unlit room) would still be known through the color black.

« Older entries