1.) A thing exists where it acts.

2.) Some natural actions are non-local.

3.) All natural things are local.

Which goes?

1.) We mean that the thing – or “the principal agent” (PA) – acts either by direct contact or through subordinates that are in contact. These subordinates can introduce a time lag into the action that can allow the PA to pass out of existence while its subordinates keep acting, but this is an application of the principle, not an exception to it. Either collective actions transcend the PA that initiates them or they don’t, if so, then the collective is the PA;  if not then the collective action ceases as soon as the PA ceases to exist. Either the death of the general makes his orders moot or it doesn’t; if so, his subordinates are acting in vain as soon as he dies; if not then we are taking the army as the principal agent. Either way the PA is where it acts, whether this occurs because the subordinates depend entirely on the existence of the general or the whole army acts with the general as a subordinate part.

Because the order between PA, subordinate cause, and effect is active and passive, it is not and perhaps can’t be recognized by post-Newtonian physics. Since Newton, physics has been pure formalism.

2.) Only Aristotle and Einstein have succeeded in articulating cosmologies where all natural actions are local, but the first cosmology is false and the second is incomplete. Newtonian gravity is non-local since it works neither by direct contact nor the intermediate space and QM has denied locality from the get-go. Even Einstein has a hard time keeping everything localized (what portion of space is a black hole? If this one, then the black hole is spacial, if there isn’t one, there are no black holes).

3.) While non-locality is difficult to escape in our theories of the world, locality seems inescapable in our sensation of the world. Natural things are limited in space as a basic datum. It could be, however, that this is too close to their individuality to be captured in a theory.

One solution would be to drop the idea of contact from 1, and see PA as what acts either operatively or co-operatively. Newtonian gravity thus divides co-operation with local contact.

If, in sports,

If, in sports, we tolerated the same degree of collusion between a team and its referees that we now tolerate between regulators and those they regulate, or between those who determine who is in a voting district and those who are elected, then we would stop seeing sport as sport and start seeing it as sports-themed entertainment, like pro wrestling or a Rocky movie.

“no planned economy” vs. deregulation

Recognizing the impossibility of planned economies does not require advocating deregulation. This is first of all clear from the terms: “a planned economy” presupposes that there is “an economy” as a quasi-organic or at least intelligible whole while regulation needs to assume no such thing. Again, planned economies are fair only on some theories of justice while regulation is necessary on any theory. For Americans, the terms are also significant since the Constitution makes no reference to “the economy” while it marks out areas for regulation.

The easy slide from “no planned economy” to “deregulation” skips over why one would deregulate at all. Adam Smith had a clear vision of the world he was shooting for in a free market: maximized competition in order to cultivate the virtues of moderation, foresight, creativity, etc. But maximizing competition is something that requires a great deal of oversight, insight, and intervention. Just glance at the power and extent of Olympic regulatory agencies.

Free markets are competitive, but there’s an infinite distance between judges and referees allowing persons to compete with each other and the same judges announcing “Anything goes!” The point is not to caricature positions but to suggest that the analogy between fair competition in markets and sports suggests that fair markets require a massive amount of what will seem to everybody as invasive meddling.


Space-time as a successful model of hylomorphism

Space and body as a successful hylomorphic model

Or why not just force in body?

Soul and body as dimensions of human existence.

Nature – nurture hylomorphism. We oppose them only when we see them as substance-like when they are principle-like

“The conservation of energy demands determinism, the impossibility of intervention, the interaction problem, etc.” Only if energy is a primary agent and not an instrument.

Energy is used as an instrument all the time – it’s the first way we get familiar with it. Would we have bothered to study it if we couldn’t use it?

“But only energy pushes around energy.” Again, only if we assume energy must be a primary agent and not an instrument, when in fact we would not have bothered to…

“The tumble and cascade of infinite energy crashes together and eventually produces the living, the purposeful, the self.” This is pure mythology when compared to the everyday experience of plugging in an appliance, flipping a switch, turning sunlight into sugar, digesting oatmeal, dropping a rock on something, lifting weights…

Pre-contemporary thinkers were too optimistic about the extent to which persons are rational and deserved to be tempered by proofs that even personality is historic, animal, filled with evolutionary accidents, etc.. But one can also be too enthralled by the non-rational.

Self vs. nature

Schopenhauer: If a cannonball got a will, it would think it willed to fly, and it would be right.

What else would it want?

It would take the cannon, the order to shoot, the pulling the trigger, etc. as mere conditions for its decision; the explosion of the powder would not be something determining its action a tergo but an instrument to its intention, just as gravity is an instrument of one using a diving board or a paperweight.

It is true that if all is a determined flow then there are no selves within it but only the illusion of choice; and if there is pure unconditioned choice there is no pre-determination or prediction either. Some sort of middle position is the only one that can preserve experience, but it’s not at all clear how to flesh this out. A hylomorphism of nature and self is probably the only way to inaugurate a research program.

Determinism or predicatability is an idealization of activity without a self. It is opposed to the belief that selves transcend all possible conditions and are utterly self-making spirits. Rationalism and pure self-creative relativism are thus two extremes that either need to be blended or transcended.



Significance vs. Natural End

Humanae Vitae stands or falls on the claim that human sexual activity has a double significance. Not goal or natural end or teleology, mind you, but significance. Paul bases the significance in part on teleological considerations, but he unmistakably wants to speak about more than ends. So what is the difference?

1.) The possibility of exceptions. To say that a thing has a natural order does not suffice to show that it cannot be used for other goals. Screwdrivers, duct tape, coat hangers etc. all have a clear teleology – all are named after from the final cause – but all have a wide application outside of that. Not all natural ends are like this, and Edward Feser has done a very good job showing why the natural end of sexual activity does not have the same wide application outside its natural end, but Paul is coming to the same conclusion by simpler means. There aren’t exceptions to meaning, as though we sometimes use the word “cat” to refer to something that barks. This is either to lie or to change the meaning, both of which contradict Paul’s claim.

2.) Meanings can be equal and multiple. To speak of multiple ends means either that one is subordinate to another or that both are subordinate to some further end. But things can have multiple layers of meaning without having a subordination to each other (like two spiritual meanings of Scripture, or an intentional double meaning in the literal sense).

3.) Meanings are essentially interpersonal, and to act against them is always evil. This is in some ways a support for (1) but it is broader. Sexuality, like language, has an order to manifesting the truth of the person, and this can only be done by respecting the intrinsic meanings as we find them.

4.) Meanings have their end as actually present in the act of signifying, but natural ends need not be actually present in their acts. There is therefore something essentially fruitful in sexual union even where a child is not conceived. Actual conception is not merely separable from this, but there is a real completion and fecundity apart from this.

Hypothesis: Science gets a greater grasp of details only with a loss of its theoretical basis.

A confirmation from the history of Physics:

(a) Aristotle inaugurates physics in which all elements and physical causes could be sensed. Earth, air, fire and water could be handled and directly observed; moist, dry, hot and cold could be felt on the skin. Newton replaced these with an intangible particle pulled through a non-measurable absolute space and time by a force that acted instantaneously across any distance without contact or action on a medium. Physics got in immeasurably greater precision of detail, but it lost its theoretical basis in the sensation of its objects and causes.

(b) Newton did not totally sacrifice sensation but preserved it to some extent though the tangibility of force. Though he mostly sacrificed direct sensation, nevertheless by making the substance of things Euclidean he kept the world sensible to imagination. But Einstein’s Riemannian spaces and the Hamiltonian operators of QM are not even given to imagination. Again, while force is tangible, energy is a mysterious unity in heat, motion, chemical bonds, mass, etc. and while force is mechanical there is no clear mechanical meaning to either the fields of modern physics or the non-locality that has been unavoidable since Bell… The theoretical basis of physics in the sensation of its objects and causes is weakened even further.



-There is an inherent contradiction in advancing both rationalism and individualism. Rationality requires abstraction and therefore indifference to individuals.

-The self is not merely opposed to the abstract or scientific but also overcomes it. Is my abstraction abstract or particular? If not abstract, it is not an abstraction; if not particular, it is not mine. It is just this sort of existence that allows selves to have a shared life that mere particular things without selves cannot have. At the limit of this sort of existence, there is absolutely nothing of the self which is not shared with the other: the person just is the relation of the paternity, filiation, coming forth.

Narrative vs. logos. or narratio vs. ratio. Narratio is non-repeatable. The reason of the individual. You can tell me your story but not a you-theory… whatever that would be… John Smithology I suppose…

The difficulty of studying nature

(I) the set up for the problem (II) the problem


P = principle.

p = the thing that is from a principle.

We often use the same name for both, like Cheddar (the town and the product)* art (the skill you learn and  what you make with it) phone (the instrument and the action one performs with it) mower (the agent and his instrument).

We do the same thing with nature, which is both p (the thing you can look at, take a walk in, or preserve) and P (the system of causes that gives rise to it and which we come to know by study). Aristotle distinguished the senses and insisted that we only call P-nature “nature”, but he couldn’t overcome the tendency of language to make the analogous name.


Here’s the difficulty: p-nature and P-nature are different, but we use p to understand P and so have to assert some likeness between them. But the ways P and p are like or different are not given a priori.

Plato himself seemed to think that p and P were defined relative to cognitive powers, with p as given to sense and P as given to intellect. Aristotle’s critique  of this is based on his claim that p and P were both particular or individual things.**  Most materialisms take p and P as material or extended, with P being smaller than p, and as being a substance while p is just a cloud of multiple substances.  Berkeley seemed to think that p was human perception and P was divine perception.  Galileo and Newton took p as the subjective and P as the mathematical. Science makes the divine into subjective and algorithmic.


*All examples are P, p respectively.

For years I’ve wanted to write a post on the four causes as illustrated in names of cheese: formal causes like sharp, mild, white, yellow, blue; material causes like pepper jack; final causes like nacho… most are named after regions, however, and so could be taken either as named by the agent who makes them (the Swiss) or the region they come from.

**Cherniss has definitively shown that Aristotle’s position cannot be consistent, and any way he modifies it allows Plato’s system to be sound.

Science has always had the note of certain knowledge, but it shifted from seeing the certitude in the object and method to the certitude in just the method. We want the conclusions to be defeasible but the method to be able to divide science from pseudo-science (Popper’s criterion even makes these logically entail one another.) But there is a tension (a hypocrisy?) in our claims to be infallible in our methods but fallible in our conclusions. The method has to be based on insight into some natures – that they are this and not that – but then how can the conclusion never attain to this sort of universality? What insight going beyond induction serves as the basis that we can never get past induction?

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