Equality and order

Equality or sameness is an absense of distinction, and order is the relation of something distinct to its principle. For this reason things cannot be both ordered and equal at the same time and in the same respect. Order requires that something be primary and something else be secondary, and so in the precise way we desire order we must deny equality.

For this reason, one of the radical temptations of a democratic people will always be to anarchy. This temptation to anarchy is a constant temptation for both the left and the right, for it belongs to a democratic people as such.

Anarchy is not the call for abolishing government, but rather a call for the government to spontaneously arise out of the desires and cultural inclinations of the people. On the left, this tends to manifest itself as a call for revolution, which often involves using the government as a tool to deconstruct established order. On the right, this tends to manifest itself as the desire to simply turn off the government altogether, or severely restrict its power. Both philosophies will appeal to simply letting the people decide what they want, whatever it might be. These two philosophies can each be good when they are used correctly (for there is a time for both revolution and restriction) but both philosophies become perverse when they are seen as primary, as though the primary goal of political action was either revolution or restriction.

Some of the gravest errors that left and right fall prey to cannot be seen clearly until we see them both as coming from a certain temptation that lies at the heart of a free people. Because equality is opposed to order simply speaking, we are tempted to think that equality must be opposed to order in one subject.


On the lowness of human intelligence

Man, the limit at the bottom of intelligence. Every distinct thing we understand can only be understood by its own distinct idea. This need is a way of knowing, not required by knowing itself. For knowledge, it suffices to have some other within the knowing power, and so knowing as such does not need a distinct thought in order to understand anything that can be distinguished by thought- still less does it require a knower to use many distinct thoughts in order to understand anything distinctly by definition (this need to define using a multitude of words is in fact a result of our needing to have distinct concepts for whatever we can distinguish in thought).

This lowness of human intelligence made it fitting, and in some sense necessary that man’s intelligence is the cause of life in a body, even though it does not need a body to work. Plato’s understanding of the intelligence as “falling to earth” is the best introduction to our existence, but it’s a riddle in need of interpretation. We can be said to fall because the sort of thing we are comes to be by its very nature at the bottom of existence, and yet it came from a much higher source: not taking “from” as expressing a place, but as expressing an agent that made it, and who exists outside the natural order. We also “fell” to earth, as though it were an accident, not in the sense that we don’t belong here, but in the sense that we are supposed to be living in a higher place, and we are constantly called to it.   



St. Thomas says that the Pre Socratics failed to get to the principles of nautre because of a weakness of intellect, and specifically out of a failure to understand coming to be and perishing. These comments seem both easy to dismiss and odd, but they are in fact perfectly stated and they get right to the heart of the matter. They seem easy to dismiss because it seems that every intellectual problem would be a result of some weakness of intellect, and they seem odd because it seems impossible to miss the fact that some things come to be and pass away, because to miss this reality amounts to missing the reality of life and death.   

The Pre Socratics were considering the problem of becoming. Briefly put, every becoming involves something becoming something different, and so becoming involves both “something” and “difference”. The difficulty with the “difference” is that one has to explain it in such a way as to not say it simply came to be from nothing at all.  All of the Pre Socratics explained this by saying the thing that was present at the end was actually present at the beginning in one way or another. By actually present we mean that everything that actually exists, or the substance of things, is sensibly present before anything becomes. For Democritus, the substance of things was atoms, for others, what was actual was present from the beginning by being very small and hidden. The difficulty here is properly speaking a failure to transcend imagination by intellect. Life does in fact become a mere accident, insofar as it was not already actually present from the beginning, as does death. What is most knowable becomes somehow impossible. Philosophy gets lost in a problem and somehow thinks the most reasonable solution is to deny the very things about which no one can doubt.

Notes on Metaphysics XII

Underlying all motions and becomings and changes, there is some subject that moves and becomes and changes. To deny this is to say that there is no motion unless something moves, no becoming unless something comes to be, no wave unless something is waving.

We understand two things about this underlying: it persists and it moves. It persists because if it underlies all changes, it underlies destruction and corruption a fortiori. It moves because we only first recognize it as necessary for motion. Because of this subject, motion must be always.

The subject of all change, as subject, must be potential, for we understand it as what can be or not be. But motion must be always, so the source of all things is actual. The potency of the subject does not explain the motion, still less its necessity. And so the subject itself cannot be without the activity of another principle, both actual and eternal.

This actual principle first reveals itself as the aboriginal source of motion, or act, in the subject that must be. But any source of motion or act of another has in itself the act it imparts, not as motion (for then it would be a subject) and so as an immobile act. But immovile acts are acts remaining in the the mover. And so this first mover or act is characterized by the actuality of knowledge and love, and from this knowledge and love all actuality proceeds. The slightest motion is not possible unless it is already being moved by the eternal mind.

Human powers as human, and as natural

 Artistic things are not from some natural potency, but rather they owe their existence to fulfilling some human desire. Since human desires clearly exist for the sake of human beings, all artifacts owe their existence to man and so stand to him as instruments stand to an end.

Man also has a nature of his own, and so has natural potencies that are fulfilled in natural ways. The difference between these potencies and the artificial ones is that the former ones regard natural human powers as human powers, and these latter ones regard natural powers as natural. The human mind has the power to create insofar as when we consider it as a human power, it has dominion over its own acts and can be a principle of existence (albeit existence through an accidental form). The human mind is also a natural power, and so is determined from birth to certain ends, like to the principles of contradiction, pros hen, and before and after.  

The human will can be considered in the same way. As a will, it has dominion over its acts, and so can choose to do more or less anything. As a certain nature, however, the will spontaneously moves to certain goods that it cannot not will: beatitude, for example, and all that is being seen as essentially related to it.

Why there is no natural potency to an artificial form

In the second book of the Physics, Aristotle says that to move from an interior principle is unique to natural things. St. Thomas objects to thisand says thatsome natural motions, like gravitational motions or the evaporation of water occur wholly from the outside. St. Thomas answers his own objection by saying that even though artificial things have some matter, there is no natural potency to an artificial form. Even in the evaporation of water, there is a passive principle in the water that by nature gives rise to steam, as opposed to giving rise to something else. But why is it the case that no natural potency could give rise to an artificial thing?

1.) It is evident that nature and art are different at the root. Our fist understandings of the natural are of what happen apart from human activity, and all art is a human activity.

2.) The only reason to speak of “natural potency” is to indicate what is able to become some nature. Even if, per impossibile, some artifact came to be from a natural potency, it would only come to be per accidens, like a plummer that doing heart surgery (after he went to medical school).

3.) If there were some natural potency to an artificial form, then this artificial form would come to be either by an artist, or not. If not by an artist, then some art would not depend on an artist, which is absurd. If an artist made it, he only did so by giving some accident to a subject that was already constituted in nature, and which thereofre is already essentially complete without the artist’s activity.

Profanity marks our failure to merit from annoyances.

On reasoning with children about discipline

As a rule, reasoning with children is one of most destructive things that one can do with them. It trains them to see reason as a tool that they use to get what they satisfy irrational desires, and by which they can overcome authority. No child with such habits, as such, is capable of philosophy or speculative knowledge of any kind.

Note on inertia

Why not just see inertia as a non-repugnance or indifference on the part of certain mobiles to the action of some agent? We then see inertia in the order of material cause, even though there is an extended sense in which it is under formal cause, for inertia is caused by whatever form or aspect of form a body has that gives it such non-repugnance (this form is perhaps whatever form makes the inanimate to be such- voluntary actions as voluntary are not characterized by inertia. We do not keep willing after we stop moving our will). It certainly need not be a form in the sense of some kind of “form of motion” given to a thing. At any rate, inertia certainly certainly is not in the order of agent cause. Come to think of it, I don’t think inertia was ever taken as an agent by someone who knew what he was talking about. 

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