Apophatic anthropology, (2)

Contradictories in real things must be considered according to how they are divided.

Contradictories in the first principle of thought but be considered according to how they are united, i.e. so far as one enters into and is intrinsically constitutive of the intelligibility of the other. We can only understand being in such a relation to non-being, non-yellow in such relation to yellow, etc.

But thought is essentially and in its totality under the principle of contradiction.

Therefore thought is essentially and in its totality divided from real things.

Thought and real existence exist “analogously”, but the word blunts the shock of what we mean: we mean that if we describe all that exists but do not mention thought or mind, we have left nothing out; and if we describe all that exists but only mention thought or mind, we have left nothing out.

That there are causal pathways from thought to real things and back again is necessary and evident, but causes need to be understood formally as outside the totality of what is caused. Causes that are in one genus or order with their effects are causes only materially.

We can make some sense of what it is for thought to “exist”, even if it does not add some new thing to the real world. But we cannot at all make sense of what it is for thought to cease to exist. It doesn’t have the sort of existence/ non-existence binary that typifies the things I know.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. November 1, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Well, I hardly know how to begin. I guess I’ll just begin with the first sentence “Apophatic anthropology, (2),” and say that I don’t understand how contradictories can be in real things, as the sentence’s subject in indicates. Or rather, I think I understand that they cannot, as per the principle of contradiction.

    In response to the second paragraph, I simply fail to see how “one [of a pair of contradictories] enters into and is intrinsically constitutive of the intelligibility of the other.” I do see that, say, the concept, “non-being,” is constituted by the mental operation of negation of the concept, “being.” I don’t, however, see the reverse as the case. And, if it were, wouldn’t we be facing a troubling circularity?

    Then too the argument,

    [T]hought is essentially and in its totality under the principle of contradiction.
    Therefore thought is essentially and in its totality divided from real things.

    seems to be missing a premise.

    I have to admit that I find what you are saying to be too, perhaps, oracular for my pedestrian ways of thought. Perhaps, again, I have put too much or the wrong kind of reliance on the blog’s name, “Just Thomism.” And it doesn’t get better for me as I read my way through the last three paragraphs.

    • November 1, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      I don’t understand how contradictories can be in real things, as the sentence’s subject in indicates.

      Contradictories in can be in real things; the same thing might be black and non black. But as soon as we say this, we know we have to mean it is black in one part and not in another, or black at one time and not at another, that is, we immediately see there must be a way in which they are divided.

      But contradictories in the mind require that the positive term as enters into the meaning of the negative term i.e. that ‘black’ enter into the notion of ‘non-black’. The understanding must consider the two not as divided, but as unified. But this is a crucial difference; contradiction in things immediately implies they must be divided, in the mind it means the positive term must be intrinsically unified to the negative one.

      seems to be missing a premise.

      The missing premise is that all thought falls under the principle of contradiction, which Aristotle argues in Metaphysics IV and which was subsequently accepted by most of the Thomist tradition.

      About the name of the blog: “Just” has two meanings; “only’ and something more like ‘rectified’. The first is a limitation, the second is an ideal one strives for. I haven’t had a consistent sense of which one applied to what I was going for.

      • November 2, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        In view of what you say in the first paragraph, my problem with your saying that contradictories can be in real things reduces to little more, though perhaps a tiny bit more, than nit-picking: I would say that one black spot or area of some thing and one other non-black spot or area of the same thing are not contradictories.

        As for the “contradictories in the mind,” I agree and said as much that the positive term, as you put it, enters into the meaning of the negative, e.g., “black” into that of “non-black,” though not the reverse. I’m not at all clear on what you mean by “unified” when you say that the positive term must be unified with the negative one.

        I’m going to pick on that argument again: It looks like it has now assumed the following form:

        [T]hought is essentially and in its totality under the principle of contradiction.
        No being can both be and not be, in the same respect and at the same time.
        Therefore thought is essentially and in its totality divided from real things.

        It still needs repair.

        About the name of the blog: I like the tension of the two terms. It’s nice when a thinker owns up to a little bit of not being sure of everything.


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