Intelligence outside the finite

Intelligence finds itself in diverse ways outside the finite or relative.

1.) Mathematics. Per Gödel’s theorem, there will always be something to find outside of a given system. The space in which mind dwells can’t be exhausted by any formal system.

2.) Morals. Placing relativizing qualifications on the normative is to step outside its character as normative, and in this sense there can be no finite domain of human action. It is true that a normative command like “Children should obey their parents” is restricted to some persons (children) but this is not the same thing as removing the absolute character of the command by setting it within a relativized domain (“Christians believe that Children should obey their parents”)

3.) Practical Intelligence. Planning, foresight, art, and providence all involve cognizance of the non-existent. This might be clearest in artificial concupiscence, which involves awareness of desire and so endows it with the infinite character of the self-reflective. We coin money, for example, to concretize and therefore facilitate this sort of desire.

4.) Speculative Intelligence. Being is not an item or genus on the Porphyrian tree. In going higher we both approach being as the most general predicate and distance ourselves from it by getting further and further from any concrete existent (which is also not an item on the tree). For the same reason, in descending on the tree we both approach being (though at an infinite distance) and place ourselves at an infinite distance from it. But talk of “infinite distance” is really just a metaphor or a clumsy way of saying that formal descriptions are outside the conceptual space of finite essence.


  1. Anonymous said,

    November 5, 2016 at 12:02 am

    About #2… are you saying that the non-actual is not finite?

    • November 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      “Indefinite” might be the better description of plans, future possibilities, contingencies, etc. They’re not infinite in the sense that anything is possible, but in the sense of being open to no given number of outcomes.

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