Cosmos vs. Universe

Universe and cosmos often get treated as synonyms, but they are as a whole to an infinitesimally small part.

God creates a thing (a) to exist and therefore act in itself and (b) to find its supreme good in what is in fact the supreme good, namely God. But things only act of themselves to the extent that they set their own ends, and things only set their own ends to the extent that they are intelligent. God, himself intelligent, therefore made the universe in order that the fullness of intelligences might exist, which means that every sort of intelligence that can exist does exist.

Intelligences have a means of understanding and an understandable thing, sometimes called concept and object or idea and object. There are infinite understandable things since the understandable is being as opposed to the impossible, and this is not a finite genus. The means of understanding, however, are fewer in higher intelligences. God understands all understandables distinctly by understanding himself while we would understand this only by infinite ideas. There is therefore an infinite distance between man and God in which beings might exist that understand all things distinctly by some definite plurality of ideas. Such are the angels, from which it follows that the angels are actually infiniteHumanity is therefore the outermost limit to angelic plurality, which like any limit is both a term of approach and an essentially different species.

When object and concept are distinct, the object is the perfection of one who understands, meaning the knower as knower is greater than the known as known. Created intelligence thus demands ontologically transcending some object. Because angels are actually infinite, every angel ontologically transcends something essentially spiritual and of its same kind, even as they transcend humanity. Humanity, however, demands this same transcendence, but it cannot transcend something of the same kind as itself. Thus the cosmos or the physical universe was necessary as a fulfillment of the universe. Taken formally, the cosmos is that which human intelligence properly transcends and therefore knows quidditatively.

The universe and cosmos are therefore very different:

The universe. This is the totality of creation in which the angelic : non-angelic :: infinite : finite.  Non-angelic creation exists only at an infinitely distant last outpost of creation before vanishing into an infinitesimal obscurity that is not of itself able to fulfill the purposes of God creating at all.

The cosmos: Material creation of itself has no reason to exist – it does so only because human intelligence would be incomplete without something that it formally transcended. In making the cosmos, God created something that he would never have created by itself. The cosmos is therefore not necessary for human knowledge simply speaking, but only that it might know quidditatively.

As intelligence, humanity transcends cosmos but as material it is the terminus of cosmic activity and so forms a single entity with it. Humanity is the point of material existence and the point where it stops being material, in the same way that making it to the finish line is both the purpose of the race and the point where one stops racing.

All this would probably be a point of hilarity for Naturalism, but I’d suggest that it better account for the truths in Naturalism than the doctrine itself can. On our account, the cosmos really does have no purpose in itself, and “The more the [cosmos] seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless“. There is an ontological sense to the mechanical view of nature, which sees all values in nature as relative to human values. There is no ethics to “the biological” or “the natural” as such, though this tells us nothing about what either of these realities might be in union with human life. In other words, our account allows for the unintelligibility, chaos, and pointlessness of nature can be made a part of an intelligible plan and therefore of a scientific account.



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