The Argument from Evil in Jn. 11:37

And some of them said, Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man from dying? Those who followed Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus discussed among themselves how a man who had healed the blind could not have kept his own friend Lazarus from falling prey to sickness. This discussion is a perfect paradigmatic instance of the argument from evil: men who are truly mourning and struck by sorrow, seeing God in relation to their own real personal tragedy, discuss among themselves whether God was too weak to help them, or perhaps whether he was too uncaring- which both amount to denying the existence of God altogether.

The radical dissimilarity of analogues

On the one hand, the mind cannot help moving by analogy from one analogue to another; but on the other hand, how very dissimilar the two analogues can be from each other! A man, and his image in a mirror are analogues, but the image in the mirror, as image, is a two dimensional thing; it is totally dependent on another in every way; it is not alive; it is made, and not the maker- there is even an obvious sense in which the image is not human, though when pointing at it, we call it a man, or even ourselves. The image, as image, contains almost none of the perfections of the thing it is the image of, and even those perfections it contains, it need not contain perfectly- for the image might be seen, in St. Paul’s words, in a dark mirror (“a glass darkly”).

Three senses of “Image”

According to St. Thomas, God is like someone giving his image to the mirror, creatures are like the image in the mirror, and our knowledge is as the image in the eye of someone else looking at the mirror. One could gather the same thing from St. Paul: we see God as in a dark looking glass, and the looking glass holds “the things made” which show “the invisible things of God”.

note on the definition of Metaphysics

St Thomas says that divine science studies being as being because it studies what is most causal. But a cause is a principle of union between an act and a potency.

continuous quantity

We first understand wholes, and then parts. But from understanding parts, we can go in two directions: we can negate the parts, or negate their union in some whole. The first move gives us the point (a point as that which has no part) and the second move gives us number. But that which is a union of parts is first in causality, and in knowledge. This union of quantitative parts is called the continuous quantity.

The right angle

The right angle is one of the most distinctive marks of human art, but it is almost never found in works of nature. This is because the right angle is the the simplest and most basic order that can be imposed on something, but nature does not impose order on some matter, but develops the matter itself from within.

Esse and the need for Aristotle

Many thomists speak about esse, but esse is a kind of act, and an act that is not seen in relation to potency is redundant, and therefore superfluous (unless opposed to potency, “being in act” simply means “the being that is”). But the distinction of being into act and potency is a solution to a problem in physics, for it is a distinction that is meant to explain mobile being. It is true that one can get some idea of act and potency from the distinction between a definition and the existence of the thing defined, but to the extent that we do not found the distinction on empirical things we will place some enmity between philosophy and science, and the scientists will always have some reason to claim that they are dealing with the real world of things around us, while philosophy deals only with airy abstractions.

Philosophy as a handmaid to theology

Philosophy is able to be the handmaid of theology because it is independent of theology, and based on its own principles. A philosophy that was neither independent nor truly and totally rational could not be an aid to theology, because it wouldn’t exist at all, much less help anything. Philosophy’s independence constitutes an essential part of its value as a handmaid.

It does not follow from this that philosophy is any less rational because it borrows various theses from revealed theology and then establishes them on rational grounds. This is in fact a rather unremarkable thing: just another instance of starting with something unknown and then finding a middle term to prove it.

St. Augustine on the contemplation of heavenly things.

The depth of Augustine’s holiness is shown in his relation to food. He came to see all food as medicine to deal with hunger, because he wanted to take joy and pleasure only in the contemplation of heavenly things.

The first argument in the Timaeus (27d)

Having prayed for God’s help, Timaeus first distinguishes between what always is and is never becoming, and what always is becoming and never is. The distinction, though not exhaustive, is sufficient, for all else can be explained through the two extremes laid down. Timaeus accounts for the two extremes through the different cognitive faculties that apprehend them: the changeless is only apprehended by mind, the changeable is grasped by sense, and can only rise to the level of opinion. This changeable thing requires a cause, says Timaeus, simply from the fact that it is becoming. One answer is that “to come to be” means “to come to be such-and-such” and this such and such serves as a pattern that is moving the thing that is coming to be: in fact, it is that which allows us to say that the thing is coming to be at all. But what Timaeus actually seems to have in mind  is more profound, and follows directly from his first distinction. For since coming to be is must obviously relate to what is, but what is most fully applies to the things of mind, then becoming relates most fully to mind to the things of mind, and this mind is a certain agent that must be moving becoming things in accordance with eternal patterns and forms.

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