Mechanism (II)

Mechanism= what is moved by a force.

Force = Something which, moving a mechanism, we could control or reproduce as we wish.

Work = a change we could reproduce.

Energy= the thing we could control to cause the change. Since we are in control of more than one thing that can cause a change (fire, chemical mixes, weights, the positions of heavy things) there is more than one sort of energy… Unless we could control them all by one process, in which case there wouldn’t be.

Mechanism/ force are divided as operating substance and that by which it operates, i.e. as subject and form, but we want a form of a peculiar kind: one that can be our instrument. To the extent that a force is determined, it cannot be instrumental to our ends or means. We cannot get it to run through or work on a piece of apparatus.

But, if it had no determination at all, it also could not be an instrument, nor would we discover anything about it by the way it ran through an apparatus. We want to know “what would happen if we were not there”. But this is a problem: what sense is there to speaking about what an instrument does when its agent is not there? What could the controllable-by-us do when it is not being controlled by us? If it is moved by another (other than us) then it won’t be unmanned when we want to use it. So it has to be moving by a blind force. Still, there is something impossible or ridiculous about this – ultimately force is something we can only consider in media res.


  1. thenyssan said,

    November 16, 2012 at 9:51 am

    This is a nice follow-up. I always enjoy your physics ruminations.

    You seem to be left at a “hold your breath” moment of suspension when it comes to the nature of forces that can be used. Am I wrong that you are suspending judgment on what it means to call a force “blind?” Why not just conclude that there are forces (at least the ones that are used by us) that are essentially ordered to use? The more I think about it, the more I think that this is a version of the Fifth Way as I remarked rather off-handedly in the previous post.

    (I’m not trying to dodge or collapse your concluding line, which I like very much)

  2. Brian S. said,

    November 16, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    Hello. I’m a recent reader of yours and I would like to say that I very much enjoy your blog post and ruminations on various topics related to Thomism. It is so difficult these days to find blogs as insightful and balanced as yours, which is why I plan to frequent this site from now on.
    As for the “mechanism” series, I enjoy it very much. What I like about your approach to science and Thomism is that you allow each to maintain their own boundaries and integrity. You recognize that scientist when doing their research, erect perimeters around the topic they are studying and as a result do not necessarily see much purpose for venturing outside the closed system they created in order to evaluate their data. The philosopher on the other hand views the data from a different perspective and so as long as he does not step outside his field of competence, that is making assertions about the natural mechanics governing all things, he has a freedom to frame it in the categories of philosophical thought, in this case Thomism.

    Just one more note, I was brought to your site when I googled “Thomistic evolution” and came across a blog post where you cited a beautiful passage from the Summa detailing the ultimate interior end of the universe and teleology.

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