First Way, simpler

The relation between possessing and going toward possessing.

An attempt to re-write the first way without using the word “motion” or “infinite”

(like the first way, the proof is given in summary form, and the fullest defense of every premise is not always given)

The first and more manifest way is the argument from things that go from one thing to another. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things do this: they go from one place to another; from one temperature to another; from this size to that; from this color to another one. This action is is nothing else but having an ability to get to something followed by to actually getting it. But nothing can go to something unless what causes the thing to go to something actually possesses the endpoint. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, causes combustion in wood; and what is pushed into a room is pushed by someone who is aware of the room. Now it is not possible that the same thing to really go towards something, and yet really possess what is at it, except in different respects. There is therefore a real difference between what moves towards something and what is at it; and if that which is possesses also goes to the term, then what possesses is moved by something really different, and so on ad infinitum. But there is some limit to this process, because going to something is a way of coming after another, which requires that something come before. So what has but must also go to comes after what only has, but does not go to. Therefore there is some way of existing that already has what can be attained by labor or effort or change, but which has it in such a way that it can never go to some other state; and therefore what it possesses can never be lost, diminished,  increased, or cease to be. But this sort of existence is manifestly supernatural and divine.

Another division of the City of God and the City of Man

St. Augustine divided the universe into a City of God and a City of Man, and he made the principle of the division two sorts of love. Contemporary theology has done most of the groundwork to give another fundamental difference between the two cities: the City of Man is the city of the Accuser; the City of God the city of the Redeemer.

Satan” means the accuser, that is, the one that prepares the case against us. Like any good accuser, he records our faults, performs various experiments so as to make the faults more manifest (temptations) and prepares to set his case before the judge. Satan’s kingdom is, from this perspective, a large data collection agency which looks down from above and keeps a meticulous record of all that we are doing wrong. Satan has a clear and exact understanding of the law, and knows exactly when we deviate from it, and by what degree. Every detail is duly noted and compiled in its proper place in the case he is making. Notice to what extent Satan can appeal to the ideals of law, justice, order, fairness, or even dedicating oneself to a higher power!

The other city is that of the Redeemer. When Job is tested by the Accuser (who only strives to do an experiment with Job to prove a hypothesis) Job cries out to his Redeemer. The redeemer is no less aware of faults than the accuser is- both must meet in the same forum to discuss the accused- and the redeemer also values order, justice, law and dedicating oneself to a higher power. Everything the redeemer does is to preserve the order of justice, the demands of law, and the ideals that are higher than us- but he differs from the accuser in one crucial respect: he loves the accused. Redeemers hand over something of their substance to the accused. Notice that it is handed over to the accused, not to the accuser. Moltmann’s attempt to refute the notion that redemption pays a debt by saying that if this were so God would hand over his tribute to Satan is a very misguided attempt at refutation. The accuser does not want tribute, and he would not even take it if it were offered- he wants justice. The redeemer gives over his substance to the accused; it is up to the accused what he does with it.

So two views of justice make two cities. Both value the same justice and law, but they dedicate themselves to the accused in different ways.

“Original” intent?

While listening to two guys discuss Constitutional theory, I was struck by how odd the phrase “original intent” is. Original intent is just intent. What other intention is there? How can a text intend anything other than what its author did? How can a text even be anything except what its author intended? What is there to “being authored” except being what the author intends? To think a text can take on an intent apart from its author is yet another instance of the odd and absurd belief that Contemporary men have about tools being able to take in a life of their own (like when we fret or crow about how computers technology will improve to the point where computers will think- which is about as reasonable as thinking that towel making will improve to the point that towels will become chinchillas, or airplanes will become so graceful that they will turn into swans and pelicans.)

The ontological argument as a formal fallacy

While preparing a lecture on the formal fallacies I included a short note on formal fallacies that are proper to various sciences. In the sciences, for example, it is a sort of formal fallacy to violate scientific method- to have sample sets that are too small or not representative, to shun double-blind experiments, to ask leading questions on surveys, etc. Every trade has methods which, if they are not observed, violate any findings.

Metaphysics has a method too. Start with things given in experience and move to what exists without matter and motion. The ontological argument, or the modal argument for God’s existence are good examples of arguments that violate this method. They are formal fallacies, not according to logic taken as a particular method, though not as a general method.

Indeterminism as following from action or reception being of individual natures

Nature, an interior principle, is the principle of an individual thing. In considering the natures of things less familiar to us, this individuality becomes less vivid, which makes us view their activities as more and more homogeneous and undifferentiated. No one would assume two horses can run equally well, or that two dogs are equally good at learning tricks, but we easily assume that the activities of two atoms are utterly and completely uniform, and that every energy pulse or performed in exactly the same way. Our conviction of homogeneity is made even more intense by the mathematical formalism that is essential to scientific method. This apparent homogeneity silently convinces us that there is no variability in the things that physics or chemistry study- that there is no greater or lesser ability to act or receive. This belief is an abstraction from the individuality of natural agents and patients, from the composition of matter and form in all natures that act or receive. Determinism- which has faded in recent years, but still commands the imagination- is based on this homogenizing abstraction that imputes to things that act or receive a kind of uniformity that no group of individuals can really have. The determinist forgets that actions- whether of action or reception- are of individuals.

Speech is objective, but the world was not spoken by us. The world, and each of the things within it, come with infinite name tags, each which has its own science/ art/ method. No discourse or field of discourses can exhaust the field of experience, or any of its parts.

This is naturalism: to confuse the thing we consider with the way of considering it; as if, since  nature is only one, there ought to be only one systematic and objective way of considering it. Naturalists commit the same error as the Aristotelians who would not look up Galileo’s telescope.

How many responses to naturalism cede them their absurd premise! “We can’t just have science, we need_______” Why? Nature isn’t many- it’s not as if it is composed of a _______  related part as opposed to a physical part.  There are times when its clearer we are missing something: a man who sat at the symphony and studied sound waves; the one who went to a physics lecture and thought about the fonts on the presentation notes. But what is this except to say that cranks and weirdos are always missing something?

Do we say there is no unity or interplay among sciences arising from diverse modes of considering? This goes too far. The ways of considering participate in the unity of the thing considered.

What would have to be the case if “blind forces” meant something?

Say it made sense to say that forces lacked foresight. This could only be so if foresight was something that a force by nature requires (there are other meanings of “blind” as when it means “to cause blindness in another”, but none of these could be what blind force means) A blind force would have to be one that needed to be joined to foresight to accomplish whatever it might accomplish. This seems true, in fact, since force can have no direction in itself. Of itself, force does not go one direction or another. In a tug of war, for example, it is exactly the same force in the rope that makes side A collapse if B lets go as makes B collapse if A lets go.

(or, go and read the Collins piece linked to below)

“Random” and different points of view

Random has far more than one meaning, and depending on what point of view we want to consider an event from, it can be at the same time random, intended, necessary, and given by some probability calculus. The Powerball number pops up. In one sense it popped up randomly (no analysis of this number could have determined that it would be the one to arise as opposed to another) on the other hand, it popped up intentionally (we established beforehand that the number would pop up at exactly this time- say, after the 6:00 news) In another sense it popped up as some given probability of chances (we know roughly the probability of winning beforehand) in another sense, it popped up necessarily (given immediate circumstance X, perhaps, this number as opposed to that one shot up the tube)

Natural goods and blind forces

St. Thomas borrows the principle “good is what all things desire” from Aristotle, and along with Aristotle he sees the “all things” as being said distributivity to include every single nature whatsoever. This absolute and distributive character of the good extending to all things arises from his understanding of natural science (notice that while Aristotle has a less dramatic presentation of the absolute causality of the good than Plato, he gives it a causality just as universal as Plato)

One of Aristotle’s most dramatic breaks with his predecessors was his insistence that there was a science of nature. This was an extremely controversial point in his day and it took a good deal of argument to establish. Parmenides- one of his main rivals- had a very extensive account of natural activities, and there would have been no contradiction if this account developed to the point of including all the things now known by natural science, but Parmenides considered this account of things to be mere opinion. This is why Aristotle deals with Parmenides at the very beginning of his account of natural science- he knows that the Parmenidean account of motion as not really existent needs to be dispelled first. (This idea of science as about “opinion” or “appearances” is familiar to us as Positivism.)

But what Aristotle recognized clearly, is that a science of nature requires nature to perform ordered processes as opposed to processes where absolutely anything can come forth from absolutely anything.  “Good” enters the discussion as the name of the cause which is responsible for why this anything-from-anything state of affairs is not so. Notice that good arises as accounting for the difference between any sort of order and absolute disorder. Aristotle was aware that there was more than one kind of order: some kinds of order in nature could happen by necessity, others only for the most part, others rarely but still intentionally (the perfect novel, the arising of perfect members of the species) others involve sheer chance (like Church bingo night, coin-flips at the beginning of football games, mixing in flour, pollination, and seed-scattering), but a discussion of the kinds of ordered process is logically posterior to the question of whether there is some ordered process at all. Such processes are for goals, i.e.  goods.

All this would be quite obvious, I think, if modern people were not bewitched by the gargoyle fear-totem of “blind forces”. This intrinsically absurd notion (forces can no more be blind than last Thursday can) is a false idol which in many ways is more insidious than Molech, since Molech only demanded the sacrifice of those goods which follow natural reproduction while the god “blind forces” demands that we sacrifice all the goods of nature absolutely. The speculative error in “blind forces” is that forces, as such, do not execute a directed process at all. Force only comes to have a direction when it is used as the tool of something with soul, as Sean Collins shows here (and which Plato showed long ago in the tenth book of the Laws)

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