We Only Know What Material Things Are

We only know what material things are, and yet one of the things we know about them is that they are being caused by something that not material. Said another way, matter reveals itself as something caused, or “after”, and so it could not be without something before (this is true a fortiori of material things, which are being caused by matter, and so after it)

(That matter is being caused by another follows from the first things we know about it, not the things we know about it secondarily by experiments or measurements)

And yet we find ourselves in the position of knowing that there is something before even though we only know what the things that come after are.

A few notes:

-Matter is indeterminate, and so when we define things that have it there will always be some lack of determination to something in the definition, or our clearest understanding o what the thing is. This need not be true of all the things coming before.

-Material things exist as individuals, but they are different from the type of thing they are. What the thing is differs from this thing. The definition of something and this defined something need not be the same. This is not true of the all the things that come before.

-Following on the above: the definition does not exist except as in the defined singular, which differs from it, as we said. This grounds a distinction between essence (shown by definition, or the intelligible nature of the thing) and existence (what for material things is only in the individual that differs from its type). Perhaps one way f understanding the identity of esse and essentia in God is to see it as the removal of the real distinction in us between the intelligibility of first substance and its existence in itself. This distinction is grounded on matter as contingent to many and therefore unintelligible as to one. We can apply the distinction analogously to what is necessary, and yet caused.

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