What exists only by its body barely exists, for it is locked within the darkness of its own subjectivity. The first overcoming of this subjectivity is by life, which incorporates others into its being, even though it must destroy them to do so. The second overcoming of subjectivity is by sensation, where the accidents and effects of things can come together to form a unified world of sense experience. Things that exclude each other in their existence are unified together in a consciousness. The third overcoming of this opposition is by man, who unifies the very interiority of things in his consciousness. At the next level, there are those who can know the interiority of things without dependence on a lower mode of knowing. For us, this makes philosophy a preparation for death. 

Analogy as a logical problem

Thomists have been debating for years whether analogy is a metaphysical problem of a logical one. The debate usually seems to operate under a vague and unspoken assumption that if it were logical it would be somehow less dignified or less sublime. The sense is that it would be “merely” logical if it were logical at all. Not so. In saying that analogy is a logical problem (and I say it is at least this), we are saying that every branch of learning there is a need to understand the analogy of names, and a failure to grasp the analogy of names will inevitably cause a failure to understand the science. Failure to grasp when we are speaking analogously, metaphorically, or univocally will be just as much of a problem as confusing correlation with causality, arguing from the denial of the antecedent, or arguing from a syllogism with four terms.

The analogous extension of terms

While answering a comment to an earlier post, the question arose that if void is the absence of body (or mass) and matter decays into energy, is energy void? Is energy (sometimes) the activity of void? This doesn’t seem necessary, but it points to a more fundamental problem: the analogous extension of terms.

All science, philosophy, and even natural religion take their point of departure from our familiar experience of the world, but all of them, in one way or another, are seeking causes of it and are therefore ipso facto seeking things that are in one way or another distinct from the experienced world. If we simply saw the causes right away we would not seek them. The causes are therefore not familiar things. The difficulty is that all of our concepts and language are based on and taken from this familiar world, and so there is always the difficulty of how to extend the meaning of terms to speak of the things which we come to know. The possibilities for deception here are infinite, and the difficulties mount whenever we try to so much as understand what we are doing. There has been a tremendous amount of work in the analogy of terms in the philosophical analysis of the experienced world, especially in the way that we must speak about God, but comparatively little in other areas.    

Two ways of looking at nature according to their objectivity

The time,  motion and coming to be we experience can be understood in two ways. First, according to their successive character, which is grounded on their impermanence. As mobile and temporal, things are continually ceasing to be, or, considered positively, they are continually reasserting their existence against its passing away. Second, we can consider motion and time according to their quantitative aspect, that is, so far as they “leave a trail” of quantity as they pass. This is the way of modern physics, and of science in general. Taken in this sense, motion and time are viewed as permanent and actual. It’s not that the scientist must judge them as permanent or actual- he in fact doesn’t need to form any judgment at all about their reality as such.

Both modes of considering time and motion are objective, but oddly enough for our contemporary sensibilities, the scientific mode is less objective than the other mode of considering the world. The quantitative mode of time and motion is dependent on us as observers for their existence. To get at the quantitative existence of time or motion we have to treat them as certain permanent things or states. We judge them as having some of the existence that they have in our own memory in order to understand them in a way that is most proportionate to our understanding. This explains both why we can gather so much more exact and precise knowledge according to the quantitative mode of understanding, while at the same time as seeing this kind of knowledge as essentially less objective than the awareness of the world as imperfect, inactual, and impermanent. This latter understanding is one essential foundation of the religious understanding of the world.

(this post dealt with time, motion, and coming to be, which are essential to nature as such. the should be read in conjuction with yeaterday’s post, which makes similar points about bodily existence.)

To exist bodily involves existing by ones parts- which involves depending on things other than yourself in order to be yourself at all. But the very light and criterion we use to judge existence is the extent to which something subsists by itself, separately and independently (a man more exists than “jumping”). This is why those things that imagination tells us most exist in fact barely satisfy what we signify by the term. We imagine the cosmos is real because we can touch it, see it, etc, but this is more a proof of its unreality. 

The Centrality of Sin in the Christian Message.

Everything proper to the Christian faith relates to redemption, and redemption is a response to sin. The understanding of sin at the heart of understanding the christian message, so much so that without a consciousness of sin Christianity becomes unintelligible and even monstrous. 

Christianity without sin comes to be described much like one objector described it in a comment at Vox Day

Why put man into a position where you know he’s going to disobey without understanding that it is evil until after he has disobeyed? Why punish the descendants of that man for his crime instead of allowing each to choose? Why the 10 arbitrary rules? Why not 20? How does breaking off a piece of yourself and having it killed horribly somehow allow forgiveness of those made-up sins? No judge in the world would allow one person to take the death sentence for another’s crime. How is that justice? How does it make sense to condemn tens of millions of people to eternal torment simply because they had never heard of you? Why did he even bother in the first place? To amuse himself?

Is there something I’m missing?

All of these questions arise because the author does not recognize the reality of sin. Note that the only time the author mentions sin is to call it “made up”. Because there are no sins, the 10 commandments become “arbitrary rules”. Because he sees sin as a made up thing, his only way to account for hellfire is an irrational response to “people not hearing about you” (and in fact, is the problem with the Christian message that people have not heard it? Before Christ existed, was the problem that people had not heard that they should live in the appropriate way before God? Our objector has heard the message of Christ- what good has it done him?) Because the objector cannot see the wounds of sin, the whole story of redemption becomes pointless- “why did he even bother in the first place? to amuse himself?” Because he cannot see sin as a kind of alienation, defect and wound which can belong to man as a collective and political animal who can somehow participate in the activities of his rulers, the idea of the fall becomes an arbitrary punishment for another man’s fault- not the result of a human decision effecting the human family. Now it is true that this latter kind of sin is sin in an analogous sense, and the consensus of theologians seems to be that it does not merit hellfire- but if you’re old enough to read this blogpost, you already have deeper problems than the sin that is a mere heritable state. You have already committed enough of the acts that are simply sins in the first meaning of the term. 

In fact, the objector’s whole argument could be made much more quickly. If you have no sin, you have no need for Christ, and the Gospel, at heart, becomes pointless and even stupid. No further elaborate argument is necessary. Just ask yourself: am I a sinner? If the answer is “no” then you have no need for Christ; in fact, if your answer is truly “no” you have already refuted all of Christianity.


As soon as you admit that you are a sinner (whether you are a christian or not) you have a rather immense problem on your hands. How are you going to solve the problem? How are you going to make amends for what you have done? How are you going to find favor with God? Given that you don’t deserve to have God as a friend at all, how are you going to cease being his enemy? And have you even tried to be good in a consistent and habitual way, without your all-too-frequent “sin holidays” that you can’t live without?

From the fact of motion we can go two ways: either we can treat motion according to its quantity, in which will divide motion according to a physical, numeral unit (which we get to make) or we can view it according to its way of being, which will divide it according to its principles of existence. In the first way, we get numerical values that can be combined and manipulated to yield an immense amount of power and knowledge; in the second way we get at what is most foundational and governing in our understanding of things. In practice, the first way requires a method that involves a specialized and controlled experience; the second method requires an analysis that stays on the level of our initial experience of things. To say that it relies on our initial experiences is not to say that it it uncritical or takes the experiences at face value. Both the kinds of endeavor are highly critical, analytic, and rigorous; but not according to the same methods.  

The success of the division of motion according to its quantity- modern physics- serves as a model for all the other sciences of its kind, are now called simply “science”. The success of this brach of science makes it seem to many that it is the only possible kind o critical, rigorous and analytic account of physical experience. This is unnecessary. Would it be less true if it were not the only kind of analysis? This would be like thinking that man is less true since he is studied by anatomy and anthropology; or because he’s seen and heard. 

Notes on Numbers

-We made numerals. Nature does not arrange itself in groups of ten. Numerals often correspond to numbers, though they need not. Similar things might be said about the operations we perform on numerals.

-“The Natural numbers”. 1, 2, 3, etc. A fatal mistake. Natural how? More natural numerals would be better. What do I mean by natural? I’m not sure. But I know that what we make is opposed to natural, even though it has some reference to it. In the natural numbers, this reference is perhaps strongest.

A more natural number set would exclude 1 and probably 2. The first is a principle of number, the second more a principle of even numbers. If you have a number of arguments against this, you have more than one.

-There is no Euclidian sphere in nature (except, perhaps, as an exemplar). But there certainly seem to be Euclidean numbers. Two wooden spheres are not mathematical spheres, the triangle on the blackboard is not the triangle the mathematician understands- and yet two wooden spheres certainly seem to be “two”.

-Mathematics involves considering a quantitative form apart from sensible matter. Quantity seems to be that accident by which reality first enters imagination. It renders substance extended, or at least apt to receive extension, which is an essential precondition for or imagining something. Given that we have to drag our imagination around with all of our thought, it is easy and inevitable to confuse quantity with “what is” simply speaking, as though to be is to be extended (in truth, once this becomes an ontology, we will extend quantity to both being and nothingness, as a sort of super-form that goes beyond the distinction of being and nothing)

-The development of our knowledge of quantity is the sort of knowledge most proportionate to our intelligence. It is human knowledge par excellance. But it is not what is most knowable simply speaking. In fact, we are so wedded to the quantitative aspect of things that all our knowledge above this will involve some negation of quantity. What is substance? Take away the extension, then take away the blackness it leaves.


Knowledge as opposed to other vital activities

 The human soul does not just give being to this body, but it gives being to another as other by its knowledge.

Given that the soul causes knowledge, why do we say that knowledge is being to another as other? Knowledge differs from eating and digestion in this: eating destroys the distinct existence of the other when it assimilates it to ourselves; knowledge preserves the distinct existence of something when it assimilate it into ourselves. To be eaten an digested involves being another as itself; to be known is to be another as another. The cow within me as eaten is me, the cow within me as known is a cow.

Knowledge differs from reproduction in this: the child who is conceived is the material unity of his two parents, and so is partly from one source and partly from another the way that a rose is part stem and part flower. But the known is not from the object and the mind in this way. Mind is wholly within the known just as the known is wholly within mind. The mind is wholly caused by the object even while the object can have no existence apart from mind as an object.   Reproduction happens when the living thing acts on another in virtue of conjoined material principles in both, but knowledge happens according to a conjoining of immaterial principles.

-When reading St. Thomas, I’m often struck that if I had come up with his objection to the question by my own reasoning, I would have thought it was the definitive answer to the question.


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