Hypothesis on the truth of things II

On one way of considering the truth of things, we are led to identify it with mathematical structure. What is harmonious or beautiful in the arch Augustine remembered below, or the proportions of an animal, or the structure of the face? The more these are studied according to mathematical proportion, the more mathematics seems to be the answer. The structure of the face and body clearly is according to mean and extreme ratio (the “golden ratio”), and the majority of natural motions follow rather simple ratios.    

Seeing the essences of thing in this way is one part of the scientific way of looking at the world. The other essential part is that the sort of mathematics we look for or impose on things is one that allows for pragmatic use and power. This is why we ignore real differences in quantity if they are not under our control. The first step in this is to ignore mathematics as a science and see it as an art. The second step is to ignore the difference between numbers and extended quantities. The third step is to ignore the difference between numerals and numbers.  

Sins are the answers to prayers never said.

Hypothesis on the truth of things

One account of the truth of things is simply that which measures our intellect. Another account is the truth that measures even the thing itself. Augustine has a perfect description of this sense of the truth of things:

Again, when I call back to my mind a beautiful and symmetrical arch I saw at Carthage; I remember a sight I had seen and transferred to the memory. But I behold in my mind yet another thing, by which that work of art pleases me- and by which I should correct it if it displeased me. We judge therefore of those particular things according to that [truth], and discern that form by the intuition of the rational mind.

The second sentence is the account- that by which the thing pleases, and according to which one would correct it. This thing can be seen with more or less clarity: everyone can see something about what makes people physically attractive, but women tend to see this more distinctly, and artists and cosmetic surgeons see it even more distinctly. Everyone understands something about what makes a good dog, or fetus, or pesticide, but the dog show judge, the obstetrician, and the chemist each see this intelligible standard more distinctly.

Just as truth exists in mind, yet measures it, so too the truth of things subsists in things, yet measures them. Just as the truth of the intellect does not depend on this or that man knowing the proposition, so too the truth of things does not depend on this or that thing existing. The truth in things is what Aristotle and St. Thomas call essence (so just in case you wanted to know what essence is, this is what it is).

Questions on infallibility (and Nazis)

Any question in Papal Infallibility must relate to this text from the First Vatican Council. Notice right away that “infallibility” in this context is an abbreviation- the full concept one is speaking of is the infallible teaching authority of the pope. The most relevant passage in the discussion of this concept is its formal definition, which should be memorized by any Catholic seeking to do apologetics, along with the the relevent explanations and scriptural passages cited in the text above it. The Definition:

 we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that

  • when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
    • that is, when,

      1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
      2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
      3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,
  • he possesses,
    • by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,
  • that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.
  • Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

The immediate question that pops up is “what kind of authority does the Pope have when he is not speaking this way?” This question is answered by a careful consideration of the previous article (especially sec. 9), which describes the power and character of the Pope. Infallibility is a narrower aspect of the power set down in this article.

The basis or both article 3 and 4 is laid down in- you guessed it- sections 1 and 2.

As to the question raised about excommunication: excommunication is clearly a matter discipline and government of the church. Compare section 9 of article three with the third specification of the requirements for papal infallibility. Clearly, discipline and government have been left out. And so we conclude that this aspect of Papal authority is set apart from infallibility.

This raises the question of what the character of non-infallible actions are. Most persons have too narrow and shallow an understanding of this. A big reason for this is that they are reading section 4 apart form section 3. All Catholics are still disciples of the pontiff, and owe him deference before other teachers. Even when the Pope is not speaking infallibly, his teaching and his acts are still binding on all Catholics.

As to the Nazi question: any particular case of excommunication has to take into account prudential factors, and I don’t know enough about the situation described to speak to them. one thing to keep in mind about excommunication is that its grounding text is 1 Cor. chapter 5:

It is absolutely heard that there is fornication among you and such fornication as the like is not among the heathens: that one should have his father’s wife. 2 And you are puffed up and have not rather mourned: that he might be taken away from among you that hath done this thing. 3 I indeed, absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, him that hath so done, 4In the name of our Lord Jesu Christ, you being gathered together and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus: 5 To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ

Pay particular attention to verse five. We excommunicate the person for his own sake, that he might repent. There are obviously other reasons too, but this one is included in them. To simply excommunicate without at least considering the interests of the one to be excommunicated is unscriptural and therefore against the faith. This might provide a certain light to seeing why the Holy Church excommunicates some people for what seem like lighter crimes, and fails to excommunicate others for far more dire crimes. There is more than simply the severity of the crime to take into account.

In responding to an objection about whether truth is more in thing or in the mind, St. Thomas argues:

The ancient philosophers held that the species of natural things did not proceed from any intellect, but were produced by chance. But as they saw that truth implies relation to intellect, they were compelled to base the truth of things on their relation to our intellect. >From this, conclusions result that are inadmissible, and which the Philosopher refutes (Metaph. iv). Such, however, do not follow, if we say that the truth of things consists in their relation to the divine intellect.

The argument has three elements:

1.) Truth involves some relation to intellect.

2.) Things proceed from the divine mind.

3.) Truth is caused by the human intellect.

 Given (1), then (2) or (3) are as contradictories. But one is true, and the third is false.

A similar argument is possible with goodness, but it is trickier to make.

Alienation from sense

In one study of Muslim converts to Christianity, 27% of respondents claimed that dreams were a factor in their conversion. A friend of mine converted for the same reason.

Experience teaches that most dreams aren’t significant, and I doubt that any who experienced a conversion dream would disagree. Dreams are not even rational, for we cannot be blamed for what we do in them. The source of this irrational state is our alienation from the exterior senses, which are the source of our knowledge. The alienation from the senses, however, carries a sort of accidental boon, as St. Thomas put it:   The soul is naturally more inclined to receive these impressions of spiritual causes when it is withdrawn from the senses, as it is then nearer to the spiritual world, and freer from external distractions (ST I, 86 a. 4 ad 2)

Religion as a natural phenomenon

Religion arises naturally. The Old Testament gives a striking example of this:

And Adam knew Eve his wife; who conceived and brought forth Cain, saying: I have gotten a man through God. 2 And again she brought forth his brother Abel. And Abel was a shepherd, and Cain a husbandman. 3 And it came to pass after many days, that Cain offered, of the fruits of the earth, gifts to the Lord. 4Abel also offered of the firstlings of his flock, and of their fat: and the Lord had respect to Abel, and to his offerings.

Note that people simply start sacrificing. God institutes no sacrificial rites, nor do they learn any from their parents, nor do they reason to the need to sacrifice. The desire to sacrifice simply arises spontaneously in both Cain and Abel. Like all natural desires, religious desire admits of different expressions: some might be perverse and others legitimate; others might be more or less perfect; others might be simply different from each other.

Grace builds upon this religious structure that is naturally given in us. It does not create it. The study of religion is primarily a study belonging to anthropology or some other division of natural science. This does not change the essentially supernatural character of the Christian faith, but it does require that we locate it entirely within a natural phenomenon. So long as we study Christianity as a religion, there is no need to appeal to any supernatural principle, just as if a physiologist were to study Jesus Christ he would have no need to appeal to any supernatural principles. 

 The Christian faith involves the same scandal as the incarnation. Just as Christ was fully human and no scientific examination would ever prove otherwise; so too Christianity is fully natural and no religious or scientific analysis will ever prove otherwise. The same is true a fortiori of any other religious founder.   

To call religion natural in no way debunks it. This is Kant’s error- which even Kant had a hard time making himself believe. It is very foolish to think that calling religion “natural” implies it is false, as some have done: e.g. people thought that discovering the “God gene” or the psychological basis of religion would somehow debunk religion. Of course there is some physiological and psychological component of religious desire- there is obviously a physiological and psychological component to human beings! God genes or exalted fathers or theories of hidden agency might fail as hypotheses, but there is certainly something like them. The object of these desires is nevertheless a real being, and none of the sciences to which these theories belong is capable of disputing this (or even confirming it). Such a confirmation belongs to another science (metaphysics), which is itself natural. 

Given the natural source of all religions as religions, all religions have an interior and esoteric unity. Religions are all one just as man is one nature. The God that they worship is the true God, but only insofar as man can grasp him by his natural  powers. At the height of this worship is metaphysical speculation and the interior devotion to the God revealed by it, for in this activity man offers what is best in him to the divine. Metaphysical speculation is therefore essentially religious and all religion, as natural, is ultimately penetrated by a metaphysical analysis that sees the interior unity in all religion and can ground it in human nature. 

But all this leaves the supernatural element of Christianity completely untouched. There is a sense in which we can understand this supernatural element in a natural way: for example, for man by nature seeks the true God, and God himself is certainly supernatural. But the faith is not supernatural in this way.   

Why would someone deny God exists? Because he thinks the denial is true, or worth making the sake of some other truth.

What then? We deny God for some other eternal thing transcending our power. A denial of God for the sake of the divine.

Truth cannot exist without mind, but it measures the human mind. So some unmeasured, absolute mind measures man.  

Self: What are you?

Reason: Your reason

S: I can’t see you. How can I picture you?

R: Like a salesman and a support crew.

S: To whom?

R: Our Will.

S: What do you try to sell it?

R: Divine things.

The problem in the Euthyphro is Euthyphro’s own beliefs

In the dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates forces Euthyphro’s beliefs to a series of paradoxes, and in each case it seems that the only problem is that Euthyphro believes the wrong side of the paradox.  

If divine beings have different beliefs about good and evil, then what the gods love is not holy (8e).

(corollary, if divine being can have different wills for any reason, then holiness would not be necessarily a good) 

If divine beings are not the first cause of goodness, then a consideration of the gods is completely unnecessary when considering holiness (11b).

In the first, it is more reasonable to deny the consequent. In the second, it is necessary to do so. Who can define holiness without speaking of God or the gods?

If piety is a kind of service, it cannot give the gods some benefit (13c) or have any product (14) or give the gods a benefit in any way (15).

In both of these, it is necessary to affirm the antecedent, for piety or holiness involves doing something.  

Either the gods lack something, or what the gods love is holy.

More reasonable to affirm the second part, for the very imposition of the word “holy” is to signify those things loved by gods, while the imposition of the word “god” or “gods” is to speak to beings lacking nothing.

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